Winter Sunrises on Pen y Fan

Fighting the wind in my favourite soft shell, winter in Brecon Beacons
Corn Du and Pen y Fan in background, Brecon Beacons

Corn Du and Pen y Fan in background, Brecon Beacons

I talked about big adventures in my last post, how inspired I was by Leo Houlding’s story. But I think that we can all define what adventure means to us and we can set ourselves some challenges on a much smaller scale. Winter is coming, so this is a post for you about my super-early-morning winter hikes on Pen y Fan and maybe you will try as well. Strangely enough, some people look at me with the mixture of respect and doubt in my mental health state when they hear my answer of how I spent the weekend.

Pen y Fan in winter, Brecon Beacons

Pen y Fan in winter, Brecon Beacons

Pen y Fan is the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons range in South Wales. It is only 886m above the sea-level and the hike is quite easy, especially if you skip a short scrambling section to the top of Corn Du (often mistaken for Pen y Fan). For a winter sunrise I would start at the parking lot just off A470 as the smaller roads might not be accessible. There are two car parks close to each other, I prefer the one more in the forest (with the toilets), not the one opposite the Storey Arms. The route from the latter one is more up and down, up and down and so on… I am not too keen on hiking up just to go down again to loose all the height I have gained. My usual route is easier, you just go up all the way. It is not too steep for most of the way which usually makes my knee ache on the way down though.

Corn Du at dawn, winter in Brecon Beacons

Corn Du at dawn, winter in Brecon Beacons

What you need:
– Check the forecast, the hike is easy but not in a snow storm.
– Get up far too early. It is the most difficult bit as to experience sunrise at the top, you need to start at least 30-45 minutes before. Plus driving to the car park (which takes me about 50 minutes).
– Have appropriate gear: headlamp (as you start in darkness), windproof jacket (I love my Mountain Hardwear soft shell for how it isolates me from the wind), insulated jacket (to put on when on top), hiking boots (when it’s snowy and icy) or shoes when warm (but not high heels which I have seen on Pen y Fan not once, it is a mountain for god’s sake!), trousers (avoid jeans as they just freeze).
– Some food and drink if you want to. I usually take chocolate and a thermos of tea to keep me warm. Maybe an apple. But it is not a long hike and you can get something from a food van at the parking lot after coming down.

Fighting the wind in my favourite soft shell, winter in Brecon Beacons

Fighting the wind in my favourite soft shell, winter in Brecon Beacons

Looking cold on summit of Corn Du, winter in Brecon Beacons

Looking cold on summit of Corn Du, winter in Brecon Beacons

To be honest every time I do it, I curse myself a bit on the way up. It is cold, slippery, often windy and sometimes cloudy or foggy. I have to pose to the photos taken by my dear photographer. I am not a graceful model and more often then not you don’t see my face in his photos. Because according to him I look cold. Why would I look cold when standing on the edge of the mountain covered in snow in temperature below 0 degrees? Anyone?

So why do I still do it in winter and at sunrise? Well, if you take photos (or your beloved one does), you know why, the light is awesome at this time of the day. But even if you’re not into taking photos, it can still be the best time of the day, the air is cold and crispy, everything around you is waking up for the day. You can almost inhale the beauty around you. It is not very often when I can experience real winter in the UK and being on top of Pen y Fan reminds me of home. And I absolutely love the feeling of hiking down when I feel so good and I still have the whole day before me. I know that I have accomplished something and I can look at people just starting the hike with a bit of superiority…

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

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  1. […] Na koniec dodam jeszcze, że dość popularną formą interakcji z Pen Y Fan jest zdobywanie go jeszcze przed świtem. Przy życzliwej pogodzie wschód słońca zaprze ci dech w piersiach i wynagrodzi wszelkie niewygody związane ze wspinaczką przy świetle latarki i wstawaniem w środku nocy. Ta próba jeszcze przede mną, ale piękne fotki z takiej wyprawy można sobie obejrzeć TU, […]

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