Author: Nick Kemp
In some ways Brecon is the poor relation of meet destinations. It boasts neither the rock climbing potential of the peaks nor the mountainous grandeur of Scotland and indeed an autumnal meet will promise neither dulcit sunshine not the crisp bite of snow and ice. The walking too seems to follow an extremely predictable pattern of marching up and down the humorously named Fan-y-Big and Pen-Y-Fan. So on the face of it in the game of meet destination bingo Brecon barely scores a single number, let alone a winning line. So why with all this against it does Brecon seem to be so popular with club and doubly so for a dinner meet?
Like the unwanted ugly puppy in the pet shop window it may be that Brecon is popular mainly because it appears to have so few attractions, there must be SOMETHING there, it can’t be all bad and more prosaically the lack of attractions qualifies it almost uniquely for an autumn meet when the climbing season is closed and poor weather is to be expected rather than feared. Also the resurrection of meets in 2021 and an absence of the previous years dinner meet would have been an added spur in one of the meanest months of the year with the summer a fading memory and Christmas too far in the future.
Which is all a roundabout way of saying that there was a very decent number of enthusiastic MMC’ers who hammered down the M4 en route to Brecon.
It is surprising how often en route to a meet one bumps into fellow MMC people at motorway service stations but this trip proved exceptional. No sooner had Nick, Simon, Lena and Julie got stuck into their Whoppers (guilty motorway pleasure) at Leigh Delamere than Sarah G and Sarah W showed up, swiftly followed by Cath and Marie and then amazingly Harry and Phil. Predictable remarks were made about being quorate for the AGM there but for the lack of Lee until Lee himself hove into sight.
And so the journey continued up to the Langors adventure centre where the bunkhouse excelled only in its adequacy.
The Saturday activities split into three main groups, a navigation training party, a swimming party (sic) and a walking party.
The walking party consisting of Alix, David, Cath, Katherine, Simon, Lena and Julie was joined by Rick and Angela who had got married only two months before and were still as happy as newlyweds. The walk was a healthy yomp up Pen y Fan and then down Fan y Big. The weather was agreeably mild but with a drizzle and claggy feel which impeded the views at the top.
Having done a two car shimmy at the start so as not to have retrace their steps too much the waiting party had an entertaining half hour or so picking around the local church and graveyard. A pleasant though basic church with a tower somewhat too squat for architectural satisfaction and boasting neither apse nor narthex to relieve it’s dour functionality. An impromptu census of the graveyard did reveal a great deal about the social structure and gene pool of the village.
In-house Mountain Leader expertise in the form of Stephen and Harry had attracted Mark, Matt G, Oli B, Philip and Sarah and they all headed to Llwyn-on with maps, compasses and warm layers. Starting at the reservoir, the group made their way through a forested area to Cadair Fawr (Big Chair) and back, taking it in turns to plan, describe and lead legs over sparce and shakehole dotted ground, using the skills being imparted by the MLs. No one got lost and they made it back in time for dinner, which must be considered a success.
I’m not quite sure what happened to the swimming party. What I do know is that they went for a stroll to Pen y Fan and ended it with a dip in the cold in Llyn Cwm Llwch! For some lake facts: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brecon-beacons/features/the-legendary-lake-of-cwm-llwch
Wild swimming has become increasingly popular over the last few years, both in terms of venues and taking a dip in inclement climes but the key thing here is that the swimmers enjoy the full experience, for good or ill, by not using wetsuits. Our swimming group came back with a large collection of wetsuits in various thicknesses and dimensions but hey it would have been a very brisk experience whatever protection you had.
The whole meet managed to get back to the bunkhouse in good time for the dinner, the AGM having been sensibly postponed to a post prandial slot. Dinner was held in the adventure centre café which boasted a surprisingly impressive climbing wall.
AGM minutes do not need to be regurgitated here save to thank the committee for keeping the club going and thriving over the last two difficult years. The rest of the evening past by in an enjoyable yet civilised fashion as people were healthily tired from the day’s activities.
Thanks to this, Sunday, dawned brighter and chillier with barely a hint of a crapula amongst the attendees.
Despite the aforesaid paucity of rock climbing Anna Z, Ben, Chuck, David D, Mark, Oli B, and Christine had exploited Rickipedia Sewards to seek out Tirpentwys Quarry for what was promised to be a sheltered crag, and one suitable for a winter’s climbing day.
No one was quite convinced as the approach was cold to say the least, but where there’s a will…
Hopping over a fence and past a CLIMBING PROHIBITED sign, the group found themselves in a veritable suntrap and had to start shedding layers immediately. To confirm, access was checked prior to attending (https://thebmc.co.uk/modules/rad/view.aspx?id=1001) and it was agreed if the landowners attended and did not want the group there, they would immediately leave.
They paired up and got stuck into the hard, well-bolted sandstone ticking off Ledge and Braces (5a), Mental Mantles (5c), Rocky (6a), The Chimney Finish (6a+), Lundy Boy (6b), The Cragmeister (6b) and The Tactless Teacher (6b) between them – many lines seeing ascents by multiple pairs. The bright weather caused the place to be a sun trap and the group de layered until the sudden shade in the mid afternoon brought the chilly autumnal weather sharply into focus.
The walking party, largely similar to the previous day’s party was swollen by the inclusion of the navigators who were keen to exercise their newly acquired skills. They ventured to the Black mountains to the conquer the ‘ Dragons Back.’ This no doubt good in reinforcing their instruction but it did have the effect of slowing the group down to a glacial pace. Every trig point, fence, sheep and blade of grass that hove into sight required an extensive arrangement of maps, compasses and theodolites to confirm that the group had covered 200 metres since the last check point. Nick and Lena bounded off ahead at one stage and arrived back at the carpark a full half hour ahead of the others.
Matt Gibson, our fantastic mountaineering training secretary who organised the navigation training meanwhile was covering far more ground far more quickly on a mountain bike ride.
Thanks very much to Sarah Glover for organising such a good meet and spare a crumb of sympathy for Paolo and Jasmine who had encountered van trouble on the A40 and never got closer than that to the Brecon Beacons.