Near the summit of Corn Du
Originally uploaded by aledt.

Well, the exercise got cancelled so I decided to head off on my own.[1]

I drove up to Storey Arms, some fantastic scenery on the way. I wish I’d been able to stop and that I had a decent camera. Anyway, when I got to Storey Arms, it was fairly busy already, despite it being not-quite-lunchtime. I got my kit sorted, grabbed a cup of tea from the burger van and headed up the main path. My route was to head around to Tommy Jones’ Obelisk, over the top of Corn Du, drop down to the Bwlch and up Pen Y Fan, before heading back through the Bwlch and down the other main path, known as “the M4”. That would take me to Pont Ar Daf, and then a few hundred yards back to the car.

The ground was icy, and it was tough going. There was a very strong, bitter wind, that picked up the fresh, loose snow and threw it around. Wherever it landed it created an icy layer – in places over an inch thick. The top layer of snow was hard and crunchy and I decided to stick to the main path until I got into the valley. I turned left and started through the fresh snow – not a common path this one, I didn’t expect to see anyone for some time.

Before I got to the obelisk, I already had crampons and snow goggles on, and ice axe out. I’d battened down the hatches and the clouds were now dropping a fine drizzle which in the horizontal rain was freezing on contact. I’m glad I was paying attention to what I was doing, because I came across a path, at right angles to my own. With the cloud down, the drizzle horizontal and the snow being whipped around where it wasn’t covered in ice, I’d found the path along the top of the North face. A few steps confirmed it – a sheer drop in front of me. I headed up the side of Corn Du in strengthening winds and stopped to take this photo near the top of the newly laid path from Storey Arms. A few crampon tracks led up to the summit. I carried on for a bit, but stopped short of the summit. I lifted my arm and the wind blew the ice axe at about 60 degrees from the vertical. I was struggling to stand up in this wind – time to head back down I think.

I turned around and now that the wind was behind me, I realised just how strong it was. I headed off the path, until I was about 15m from the edge before heading back down. The wind dropped rapidly as did I and I came across two walkers coming towards me. They stopped and asked how far the summit was. I looked down, then back up. Light waterproof jackets, scarves, gloves, a small daysack with a half-frozen bottle of water in the side. Waterproof trousers and walking boots ( No ice gear. I told them the path up ahead was pretty much sheet ice, and the wind was probably hitting the Met Office’s report – 40-45mph. They thanked me then headed down with me.

Back at the layby, I took stock. 3 hours walking through fresh snow, my clothes were drenched – the 2-3mm of ice that was covering me had melted as I came down and soaked me. My Montaine was incredible, still warm even though I could feel the odd wet patch, the hood was frozen solid. I had another cup of tea from the burger van, before I sat in the car, defrosting.

Back home, I still had to break the ice off my rucksack. Everything hung out to dry, I settled down to a cup of Ovaltine. Next week in Scotland is going to be fun!

[1] Important note here – I left details of my route and intended return time with a trusted friend, just in case. Even Mountain Rescue can get into trouble.

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