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Friday 08 January 2010


Dawn Patrol


-11 C when I started up from the 'toilets' car park this morning at 7.20am


It was clear for about 10 mins and then it socked in. Snowing lightly, blowing mightily (at times).


No ice on the path, just bootpacked powder smile


Dropped in just before 9 after waiting for as long as I could take it standing around hoping for some clear skies.


By the time I got down half way, the visibility got much better.


The skiing was fantastic. Smooth, wind packed powder, 5-10cm of powder on top of a firm rain and freeze crust, and frozen tussocks.


Still able to ski right back to the bridge. Easily.


The icicles on the banks of Blaen Taf Fawr were getting pretty impressive





By the time I'd packed up, the sun was out.





Anyone heading up after I was done was in for a treat smile

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We can only add to the previous compliments, about the quality of photographs superb Mike.Being a very proud Welshman,and having been over and through the Beacons many times, i felt a certain amount of nostalgia and a small amount of home sickness viewing them.


Again wonderful pics.Diolch yn fawr iawn.

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quality Mike, great to see your getting your turns in.


On a lighter note, some of the names of places are incredibly bamboozling...Welsh throws up words with letters that really shouldn't be together!! smile

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Thanks mate



Saturday 09 January through to Wednesday 13 January 2010


Light flurries Saturday, Sunday and Monday didn't amount to much but cold temperatures and snow already on the ground meant that what did fall stuck around.


Tuesday started off cloudy and windy with the salmon hue of snow on the way. Flakes started falling around 3pm and the storm went through the night.


Wednesday morning greeted us with 14cm of light, dry powder on top of a settled base of 9-15cm around the house.


The roads in and out of the Beacons were closed, so it was a case of getting the gear ready for tomorrow and going to sleep hoping that this storm would offer up powder and new lines.

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Thursday 14 January 2010



I had hoped to make an early start on the summit of Pen-y-fan, but commitments at home kept me from the trailhead until 11am


This turned out to be a blessing, as the bootpack from the 'toilets' car park was well established and had hardened by the time I set off.


The early morning mist still sat in the valley bottom, but it didn't take long to break out into the sunshine.


Remarkably for the Beacons there wasn't a lick of wind and this made for a quick and very enjoyable ascent


Cefn Crew, Fan Fawr and the Black Mountain from the summit of Corn Du





Fan Fawr from the summit of Corn Du





The slope from whence I came (which had already seen turns from a group of snowboarders) and the drop into Cwm Llwch looked very inviting with the 20-30cm blanket of fresh, light powder but I carried on to the summit plateau of Pen-y-Fan to see what Cwm Sere had to offer.


Cwm Llwch and Pen-y-Fan from the summit of Corn Du





The army were out on manoeuvres and there were two guys packing away their tent as I arrived on the summit plateau.


I had a little look over the edge down the NE face and one of the soldiers asked if I was going to ski it. Before I could answer, he told me that a snowboarder had already ridden down.


In that moment I was excited knowing that someone had made turns and deflated knowing that they'd beaten me to it.


When I asked him where he had dropped in, he pointed down the right hand flank looking towards Cribyn.


I saw the boarder bootpacking back up and traced his tracks to a great looking line in one of the gullies. Turns out it was Sninhosa from the snowheads forum.


Sninhosa's line off Pen-y-Fan








'Winter had gripped the mountains for some weeks. An iron frost bound the land. We had trudged up the wild valley through some six inches of snow and a dense mist. Then as we arrived at the foot of our climb, the clouds began to lift, breaking in great masses of swirling grey vapour, and rising slowly upwards under the sun rays. Soon the entire mountain was clear of the mists and we gazed upwards at a scene of really awe-inspiring grandeur. Seen from the base, the north east face of Pen y Fan, in such winter conditions as prevailed that morning, loks every inch like an Alpine peak. Even in summer it looks savage and forbidding, but to-day, in its snowy covering, it appeared quite terrific. There was scarcely a spot of black to be seen on the whole great precipice. Huge icicles hung from every ledge and buttress of rock. The almost vertical grass slopes between the rock wals which run along the entire face, were deep in snow.


Delicate drifts had formed along the steep slopes and were moulded by the winds into weird curves and lines. And high above, outlined against the blue winter skies, the great summit rampart of vertical cliffs which guard the top, looked the very embodiment of grim inaccessibility.


Let those who declare that South Wales possesses no real climbing, gaze at this place under such conditions, and they will quickly change their opinion.


We stood there for some time and examined every foot of the huge face.


"Well..."? exclaimed Davies..."what about it?"


I confess that I did not know what to think.


"We will just see how it goes..." I answered.'


R.G. Sandeman writing about his and Alfred Davies' first ascent of the Central Gulley, NE face of Pen-y-Fan in 1939


R.G. Sandeman 'A Mountaineer's Journal' 1949 from Chris Barber's anthology 'The Romance of the Welsh Mountains'

The Romance of the Welsh Mountains



I went back to looking how I could get in to the main spine on the NE face.


There were two guys preparing to walk down into Cwm Sere to ice climb back up the Central Gulley and I managed to convince one of them, Andy from furtech to belay me onto the face. His partner Neil got this brief clip of me about to go over the ice and rock buttress.


Without Andy's help I wouldn't have been able to downclimb / scramble into position.





After negotiating the ice and rock and clicking into my skis on the windblasted, icey slope I undid the knot and signalled for Andy to pull the rope back up.


The overhang prevented me seeing Andy and Neil, and them seeing me. I wanted to take photos balanced below the buttress, but quite frankly I had other things on my mind.


The slope is not as steep as it appears in the photos, but any mistake on the bulletproof upper section would have seen me careening off the central spine into either the Central or Right Hand gullies.


I sidelipped, jump turned and picked my way through the rocky and icey upper section and then hit paydirt about a third of the way down and started to flow through the 20-30cm of fresh powder, the slough racing me down to the flats of Cwm Sere.


With my skis back on my pack, I stood and looked at this magnificent wall, this magnificent amphitheatre of snow, rock and ice, soaking it in. I'd been waiting over 10 years to be in this spot looking up at my line. It felt very good.


Central spine of NE face of Pen-y-Fan flanked by the Central Gulley (l) and Right Hand Gulley ® taken from Cwm Sere





Central spine of NE face of Pen-y-Fan taken from Cwm Sere





Bootpacking up the central spine of NE face of Pen-y-Fan with the boulder strewn Right Hand Gulley loomimg above





Looking over the overhang to the face I'd skied





I skied round to Bwlch Duwynt, bootpacked to the top of Cefn Crew and traversed to the far right of the ridge as you look up from the 'toilets' car park. The ski back to the bridge was effortless and fast under blue skies.


A wonderful day in the mountains.


I contacted Chris Barber to see if anyone had skied this line and received this reply:


"Congratulations on your achievement.


Yes, I am sure that this is the first time that such a descent has been achieved and that you are justified in making the claim.


I am pleased that my book gave you inspiration.


Best wishes


Chris Barber"



1st descent line on the NE face of Pen-y-Fan





Friday and Saturday brought milder temperatures and torrential rain leaving no trace of winter on the hills around my home.


The window of opportunity had closed.

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It's a great story.

I strongly suggest getting these pictures on this thread and your story published. well... you have in a way. You are very gifted and you have shared it with many others. Good on you.


May this moment stay with you for ever. Bet you will do it in your dreams over and over.

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