Christmas 2013

The Christmas 2013 meet was held on the last weekend of November in the Talybont-on-Usk youth hostel, located at the foot of the Talybont reservoir in the Brecon Beacons.

Despite the blue skies on Saturday, only Steve Newman was in a mood to go climbing but, unfortunately for him, no one else was prepared to belay him (all the crags in the area being north-facing quarries).  Most people decided to go for a walk.

I ended up leading (although I did warn everyone in advance what I was planning!) a walk up to the hilltops, along to Pen y Fan.  Once we had reached the exposed ridgeline the wind was bracing (to put it mildly).  We’d all worked up a bit of a sweat on the sheltered and sunny slog up the slope of Twyn Du but then we all raced to don windproofs, hats and gloves to keep us toasty!  Of course there was at least one runner who sped past us wearing only short shorts and a vest…

Anna left us at Bwlch ar y Fan to return to the hostel, while the rest of us pushed on up to Cribyn.  On the way up to Pen y Fan we bumped into Steve and Jacqui, and then Claire, DAJ and Joe.  John Mair met one of his accomplices from the ill fated Moroccan adventure.  Early afternoon was quite a social time of day on the Brecon Beacons!

After taking in the views at the summit of Pen y Fan we returned to the valley floor via Corn Du and the ridge leading southwards from there (the map provides several unpronounceable welsh names but I’m not sure which one I need!).  The interesting part of the walk ended once we reached the Taff Trail.  We debated the origin of the trail as we plodded down the ever-so gently downhill path towards the hostel.  (Wikipedia says that this portion of the Taff Trail was once the Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway (B&MR) which closed sometime in the 1960s.  It notably gained the unfortunate nickname of “Breakneck and Murder Railway” owing to a certain tendency towards having accidents – which, owing to the steep gradients, were generally rather severe.)  As a precautionary note, I should warn everyone that this path is over 8km long and you only glimpse the reservoir for the first time after quite a long walk – and then it’s still another long trudge alongside the water until you reach the hostel!  However, everyone was in agreement that because we didn’t use headtorches,  we had finished in daylight – a successful walk!

The main event of the weekend, the meal served on the Saturday night, was immense.  Chris and Andy cooked up some magic in the (helpfully industrial spec) kitchen and we were treated to a Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings.  The fancy dress theme of ‘climbing’ resulted in some inspired costumes.  My Lightning Wall outfit was easy to identify, but the restricted arm movement meant I had to remove it before I could eat/drink/sit down!  (Nearly) everyone got into the festive spirit, with mass sing-a-longs to Christmas tunes in-between courses (correct lyrics optional) and a lot of noise being made from all the party poppers and whistles.

Climbers looking silly (for a change...)
Climbers looking silly (for a change…)

The Talybont-on-Usk hostel was a great location for the meet.  We had plenty of space for everyone and an industrial-spec kitchen for Chris to work her magic in (and everyone else benefited from the huge dishwasher).   They even had leather sofas in the lounge – very luxurious!

On Sunday we had a champion breakfast of fried leftovers, including Christmas pudding.  After the speedy clean-up most people went walking.  Anna and I explored Table Mountain – an old fort (Crug Hywel) sits on top with great views of Sugar Loaf to the east and the walk we had done the previous day to the west.
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