Brecon Beacons: a frozen ridge-top walk

It has been grey and damp most days since I arrived home.  But not all.   A modest snowfall followed by a week of continuing low temperatures meant that when the sun was forecast to come out for a day I decided to walk up the ridge from Pontypool to Abergavenny.

Boggy ground has meant that it’s a walk which in recent years I have only tended to do either after a long dry spell in the summer or when the mountain top is frozen in winter.  With the effect of climate change in northern latitudes being a trend to weather dominated by grey and wet, temperatures a few degrees either side of zero in all seasons it’s a walk I nolonger do as regularly as I used to.  I prefer to trek the dry, barren mountains of the Greek islands or the snow-covered frozen mountains of the Canadian Rockies rather than squelching through the boggy Brecon Beacons.

But inactivity since I arrived back from the Rockies meant I forsook my personal crusade against the hairy bittercress which is trying to take over the vegetable garden and shot out of the front door with considerable alacrity and enthusiasm as soon as blue sky appeared.

The ridge is the southernmost tip of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the boundary reaching down from the ridge-line to the Abergavenny and Brecon Canal a thousand feet below.  The height difference is enough to ensure that temperatures in the valley struggling to reach a heady 2oC mid afternoon, have up there remained below freezing ever since I arrived home.

The result was a ridge-top with little snow still left but frozen hard, standing water from previous heavy rainfall with a crust of ice.  Snow persisted on east and north facing slopes and in the lee of stone walls but elsewhere the small amount which had fallen having been whipped off by strong winds.

Views are expansive: west across the other ridges separating the South Wales Valleys; northwest and north to the core area of the Brecon Beacons; northeast to the Malvern Hills; east to the ridge bordering the Wye Valley; south to the Severn Estuary with Somerset and Devon faint in the haze.

By far the most enticing view on the day was towards Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du, gleaming white with still a full covering of snow.  “Maybe tomorrow” I fantasised, but inwardly grimaced because I knew the sunshine was a ‘One Day Only’ offer.  The forecast for the next day and beyond was back to grey and damp. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I didn’t have to take the car out of the garage.  I had got to the ridge-top in half an hour from the house and then northwards along it the 13 miles to Abergavenny and saw on-one else the whole way.

Starting out under blue sky, deceptive but not yet Spring

Starting out under blue sky, deceptive but not yet Spring

On way up to the top of the ridge a beech tree still clings onto its autumn leaves despite the wind

On way up to the top of the ridge a beech tree still clings onto its autumn leaves despite the wind

On the ridge top, carved up by illegal off-roading the ground is frozen hard, puddles crusted in ice.

On the ridge top, carved up by illegal off-roading the ground is frozen hard, puddles crusted in ice.

Remnant of snowdrift in the lee of a stone wall

Remnant of snowdrift in the lee of a stone wall

Zooming in on the core of the Brecon Beacons, enticing but miles away

Zooming in on the core of the Brecon Beacons, enticing but miles away

Remnant of snow on northeast facing slope

Remnant of snow on northeast facing slope

Snow ablated by sun and wind, small cumulus cloud marking the curving edge of the ridge

Snow ablated by sun and wind, small cumulus cloud marking the curving edge of the ridge

Solitary rock

Solitary rock

Black cloud coming over promising but not delivering more snow, dissipating in less than an hour

Black cloud coming over promising but not delivering more snow, dissipating in less than an hour

The north face of the Blorenge sees no sunshine at all in winter, very steep and icy, on the day difficult to negotiate safely

The north face of the Blorenge sees no sunshine at all in winter, very steep and icy, on the day difficult to negotiate safely

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This entry was posted in Grey Britain, Hiking, Landscape, Monmouthshire, Mountains, Photography, Pontypool, Wales, Weather and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Brecon Beacons: a frozen ridge-top walk

  1. You could take your revenge on the bittercress by eating it in a salad or soup garnish! I’m rather fed up of grey skies too. Love the ‘lone rock’ photo and ‘the north face of the Blorenge’ ~fab name!

  2. BarryH says:

    I could supply every restaurant in Wales with bittercress and still have a problem. Maybe I should find a way to market it. If you know anybody who wants any, let me know. Perhaps I should advertise PYO outside the house, or organise ‘foraging expeditions’.

  3. Ian Smith says:

    Lovely photographs, Barry, as always…

  4. BarryH says:

    Thanks Ian, always appreciate your comment

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