Meet report by Alix Harrower
In stark contrast to the meet report for Yorkshire in September, by late November in South Wales, we were catapulted into winter conditions.
The meet was fully subscribed at 24, based at the Cantref bunkhouse right at the foot of the ‘Three Peaks’ of Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big (cue tittering). Sleet and snow flurries greeted many of us on Friday night. By morning it was possible to see the peaks heavily dusted with snow from the roof- lights in the upstairs common room, whilst those still snoozing in bunks below cursed the marching band practice which seemed to be going on above.
At 9.20am there was rare, or possibly unique, occurrence of an MMC party setting out ahead of their planned ETD. John Edwards, Simon A, Caroline W, Alix and David Dees floated down the lane on a cloud of disbelief to tackle the three peaks starting with Pen y Fan, over Cribyn and descending via Fan y Big with the wind on their backs.
Shortly after a team including Bea, Tomasz, Rick, Lena, Matty, Alistair, Simon M-C, and Nick set off for the same route in reverse, into the wind. Oh well.
The northerly wind was strong, gusty and very, very cold. A plume of spindrift blew along the ridges giving the day a real expedition feel. The tops were icy and in the teeth of the gale. But to compensate, the sun shone all day long. All it needed was prayer flags and a few Gompas and you could have been in the Greater Ranges.
Sarah G, Sarah W, Jules, Cath, Ian, Greg and Maija walked up Fan y Big and descended from the saddle of Cribyn. “It was a fearsome wind tunnel of Himalayan standards resulting in loss of some kit. But after turning into the shelter of Cribyn we could relax and return home very satisfied. All the joy of Pen y fan without the pain!” Sarah G reports. Gosia rode a horse. Robin and dogs went for a run.
Bea’s group was supplemented by a very keen local hillwalker in the form of a wire haired Jack Russell terrier with an exceptionally sociable disposition. ‘Pepa’ as she became known, was eventually returned to her home in very good spirits and well fed after a long day on the hills. The owner had spent a long day in the valley driving around leaving contact details everywhere including the bunkhouse.
Uncharacteristically for a dinner meet, everyone was off the hill way before dark and chatting over tea and beers in the bunk house for some hours before heading to the dinner venue.
A reconnoitre party years before had found the White Swan the day after a very disappointing annual dinner meal in the Brecons. It was a great venue for the event. The food was either adequate or really very good depending on what you ordered. The staff were very professional and accommodating and the overall effect was a success.
Robin, the previous holder of the Cliff Hanger Award had scant material with which to offload the thing onto someone else. But one name cropped up more than any others, Simon M-C. Neither Simon nor the rest of us are entirely sure what he received the award for – but receive it he did. Robin’s trusty velvet suit and ruffled shirt lent a sense of occasion in a year light on incompetence. Unfortunately Robin kept up the 1970s-bad-taste theme with a bit of sexist humour which went on echoing by email in the following week.
On Sunday morning one member described the mass planning for the day as ‘too amorphous’ with 6 parties and about 8 plans. These eventually coagulated around the lift shares with most setting off in cars for their outing. Some of the action was: Maija, Greg and Cath took advantage of the horse riding on site and then walking up Table Mountain. Simon A, Caroline W, Alix, David D, Sarah W, Robin and dogs headed off on foot, up the fourth unexplored ridge in the range. Reigning in David’s ambitions for forays ‘over the other side’, they persuaded him to descend by the bridle track down from Cribyn. It was nonetheless nearly 6 hours on the hill.
Sarah G, Jules, Ian hit Tor y Feel [sic] starting from Llangynidr, with great views of The Black Mountain/s and the previous day’s walk when they got to the top. It was a pleasant amble back through trees and meadows to return on the canal. One of the highlights was walking through a field of Shetland ponies on the way up which got a bit close for comfort on the return and made a snack of maps, rucksacks and people’s extremities.
All in all a successful dinner meet with only a few (!) early nominations for next year’s Cliff Hanger Award, if indeed the Award survives another year. Votes, and suggestions for alternatives, on a postcard to the committee please.