Sunday, March 01, 2015

Walk In The Park...

If said park has a snow and hail machine and a massive cold air wind turbine....

I am, of course, referring to the conditions that presented themselves half way through the Tour of Torpantau. As I arrived at the car park in the middle of the mountains, conditions looked good. Vera did me proud in her herculean effort of hauling her massive frame up that bloody steep hill up to the car park, albeit if down in 2nd gear. Cold wind. Strong wind. Still, you can't grumble at not raining and some blue sky. Blue sky I tells ya - not sure why I went a little pirate there, moving on.

For those not in the know. The Tour of Torpantau - or TT as we don't call it - is not for the faint-hearted. Not only do you need to take a compass, more importantly, you need to know how to use it. A Full Kit Required fell race. Real belt and braces stuff - although they aren't mandatory. It is what we in the West Country call 'a proper job' fell race.

This year, being crap, old and slow, I decided to try something a little different and went west of Craig y Fan Ddu on the way out (and also on the way back but I always do that). I think it has some merit and if I could have found the trod I found on the return it would really be a goer. Said trod is around the 650m contour at the northern end and 620m at the southern end but doesn't go quite all the way to the main path.

Anyway, I pootled my way over the hill and far away, finally making it to check point one, summit Fan y Big. Conditions were starting to turn though. No longer was there blue sky. Pen y Fan now shrouded in hill fog and the wind felt a little more biting.

From there it was down into the valley and straight into the slog up to Cribyn. The first part is steep before becoming a more gently upward ridge run to the summit and check point two. Here conditions full on took a turn for the worse as the weather gods let rip with missiles of hail and a little snow - and that, my friends, is why we take full kit even when the sun is shining in the car park...

The return off Cribyn is normally a lush, fast descent. Today it was just a descent and I was glad when the hail eased a little. Face stinging with the cold, I took my normal slightly wider line on the approach to the steeper section, despite adding a little distance I find I can bomb down far quicker without having to apply any breaks.

At the bottom it was straight the final climb and before long - okay, who am I kidding - after many minutes I final got to the top ridge. The hail kicked in again on the climb before turning to rain. From there I retraced my steps back towards the southern end of Craig y Fan Ddu. Found the trod and the rest, as they say, is history.

I was glad I took Vera. There is nothing better than being able to change out of wet clothes without the wind and the rain lashing you. Okay, there are actually tons of things better than that but at that precise moment I couldn't think of any.

Thanks to the brave marshals at Fan y Big and Cribyn. It was not a day to be stood on a mountain. Well done to the runners and riders who braved the elements and lastly but most importantly, thanks to Andy B for putting the event on. His races are proper races and long may they continue...

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