DofE 16.0

15°C falling to 0°C under clear sky.

Gold Qualifying expedition, Brecon Beacons. Long drive in fine conditions, rolling mist filled some fields near the coast. That reminded me of some of the early season trips this year. In in the tent now as the air rapidly approaches freezing. It’s going to be a cold one! I met my two groups earlier and they seem lovely.

DofE 16.1 Friday: sorting out a lad who woke feeling and looking rather ill took so much time this morning. He was so pale, he looked almost green. I was ready to pull him out and the other staff agreed. The school wanted to try warming him up and persuade some food into him. Their approach turned out to be right. After the warm minibus ride to the start point, they set the group towards an old railway line. My plan was to drive to a point half way, walk in and intercept the trail on foot. The valley held a temperature inversion, fog pooled in the bottom like a sheepskin rug. It was very dense once you descend into it, cold too. It did burn off quickly, a photo opportunity missed, I can’t stop when I’m working. It took too long to decide on a parking spot. This area has a terrible reputation for car break-ins.

I got up there and saw no groups. Even walking a few km SW revealed nobody. That’s good really because he must be okay. So, off to the next checkpoint after walking for about 4km.

In the evening we inevitably cooked in the dark, no problem with that. The nearby woods attracted the most tawny owls I have ever hear in one go, at least five. There was a barn owl calling in the valley too. Another call in the mix I didn’t recognise, the night sky is clear too.

DofE 16.2: Fan-y-Big and Cribyn.

Drove round to the finishing campsite and walked up to the Bwlch next to Fan-y-big. One of my groups was there and were planning an addition to their route because they wouldn’t be out long enough. I suggested more time spent on their aim. Eventually they decided on the path NW of Cribyn. It’s a narrow ledge which should be spectacular.

Then I went up the summit to find my other group. They were visible from the Bwlch, clearly making navigation decisions so I guessed where they’d be. Sure enough, they were relaxing on the summit.

From here, I went to the summit of Cribyn, not because I needed, to just to bag it. From there to the bwlch the other side so i could re-trace the route my group 2 had taken an hour earlier. There was damage from a landslide half way along.I hoped the gold group were okay. If they weren’t, I’d find them. I didn’t.

DofE 16.3: the alarm it set for 05.40 to give time to organise groups and myself. We’re relocating, so the tent has to come down. However, above blazed the stars in Orion, Gemini and Auriga. Before dawn, before breakfast, I gazed through binoculars. This was a chance to see clearly without light pollution. Sirius and all of Canis Major was visible down to the horizon. I’ve never seen it like that before. Twilight would soon show.

Back up Cribyn. Leaving the tent to dry, I set off after 3 groups who had started. The other staff reassured me that it’s okay to overtake them to man the summit.

Here they come.

Here was another spectacular day, crystal clear and deep blue above, from the vantage point, the very top of Sugar Loaf mountain can be seen in the distant east. From here, I watched the two groups climb the north ridge. They were so thrilled to get to the top; many selfies were taken.

DofE 16.4: last day, a simple walk up the Taff valley. Weather was cool but bright and dry; good for us then. Debrief would be 2km from the finish to prevent a rush to board the coach. Debrief is payback, I know I get money for this job but feedback from the kids is a kind of pay. They were lovely too, grateful and charming. I got a sense that they will genuinely develop a love for the hills, their kit will be used again.

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