As we get off the bus in the Brecon Beacons National Park, we are instantly blown away. By the vast hills, sure, but mostly by Storm Dennis, wreaking havoc all over the UK. Water gushing down the slopes has turned the hostel’s driveway into a small stream and by the time we walk the 300 metres to the reception, we are properly soaked.
“Oh good, the bus is still running then,” the bubbly receptionist sighs in relief as we check in. “I just sent a lady to the bus stop. She got too scared to drive all the way to Cardiff and popped into the hostel. Poor thing.”
The Mountain Weather Forecast printout on the counter does not sugar-coat our predicament. We are to expect a windy, showery day, with high likelihood of gales and snow fall on the tops. Chance of sunlight: none. “Oh, it’s looking grim out there,” the hostel owner confirms.
When rain covers break free
We decide to confront the weather gods nonetheless and attempt a shorter loop by Craig Cerrig Gleisiad. The first kilometres are pleasant enough, but as we commence our ascent, a gust of wind sends our backpack’s yellow rain cover flying down the valley. Our cue to descend.
Unwilling to admit defeat, we complete the lower circuit in the pouring rain before dragging our body weight in drenched clothes back to the hostel. There’s only so much rain gear can take.
After hiding out for a few hours, we force our sorry feet back into soggy boots for a quick evening walk. As we follow the river, the destruction becomes clear: trees toppled over, swathes of land washed away and meadows with the texture of sodden carpets.
"You'll have to make a judgement call"
The news of flooded towns and ongoing evacuations pours in the next morning. Luckily, we appear to have been spared, so we set off for the high point of this trip: summiting Pen y Fan, the tallest peak in south Wales at 886 metres.
The elements are kind, allowing us to reach the top of Corn Du – Pen y Fan’s slightly lower twin brother – in little over an hour. “You’ll have to make a judgement call,” three veterans resting just below the summit warn us. “Pen y Fan is across that exposed ridge, but the clouds are coming in fast.”
As we evaluate the situation, a father and his ten-year-old son approach: “This little one just walked across without a problem, it's wide enough.” Heartened by his words, we cross cautiously and leave the snowy patches behind as we continue our loop down the valley.
After hail comes sunshine
Our bravery is rewarded by a display of rainbows popping up left and right. Even the three hailstorms battering our faces on the way back fail to dampen our spirits. When we finally hit the trail leading back to the main road, the unthinkable happens: the sun breaks through the clouds for a heroic finish.
We are overtaken by a frisky pooch on our way down, sprinting left and right in what can only be explained as an attempt to break the sound barrier. In the parking lot, we strike up a conversation with the owner of said little ball of energy and are offered a ride to the hostel.
“One of you will have to crouch in the back with Monty, though.” My pleasure. A poor attempt at not ruining the trunk with my mud stained clothes is cut short with a wink: “Oh, don’t worry about that. This is my son’s car.”