So another year passes and it is time again for the Pen Y Fan race, a short sharp event that takes you to the summit of the mountain and back down again. Spread over about a 6 km distance the climb works out at about 588 meters for the first 3.5km then the same again for the decent but over the remaining 2.5km.
I have taken the below description from the Brecon Fans website (see my links on the main page)
The race starts from the bottom of the field just beyond the last farm building (now a school bunkhouse). Please note this is about 10 minutes walk from registration, so give yourself plenty of time.
The first quarter of a mile or so is on an old cart track, or to the left of the trees through the field, then out onto a grassy slope getting steeper up to a fence and stile. After the stile, a walkers’ path keeps to the right-hand side of the valley, climbing steadily and narrowing towards the skyline. The path levels out as you reach the main scarp, passing the obelisk in memory of Tommy Jones, a small boy who got lost and met his end here. You will probably be feeling like joining him by now, but please give a cheery wave to the marshal anyway.
NB do not take a sudden left at any point from now until after the summit of Pen y Fan – there are precipitous drops.
Now the steepest part of the climb begins, about half a mile up the man-made path up to the summit of Corn Du. Another marshal will be at the summit cairn (cheery wave please) – you should keep going straight on across the summit plateau (remember… no left turns, but don’t turn right either unless you want to go to Merthyr). Then a loose scrabbly descent takes you to a large path across to Pen y Fan, climbing on a man-made path onto the large summit area. Keep eyes peeled for the rather nice sandstone ripple-bedding, and then give a lovely smile for the marshal at the summit cairn. Note in passing that the cairns on Corn Du and Pen y Fan are Bronze Age burial mounds, each having several stiffs within (possibly eminent fell runners of the day).
At the cairn, you may now turn left, in fact you must, while making a mental note that Keith Anderson descended from here to the finish in 7 minutes. Try to leave the loose eroded path as soon as you can, in order to take a straight-line grassy descent. If you get off the path within 10m of the top that’s fine, but it is quite steep. You can go further on down the path and ridge if you want, but if you go too far before turning left you run the risk of having to cross the valley where the stream turns into a ravine.
The descent is steep and a bit tussocky, with enough sharp stones to make you think twice about rolling down. Head straight down the slope, until it levels out, when you should bear a bit right across the rougher ground.
I’m not sure how to find the perfect line across here, but if you head for the right-hand end of the hills on the opposite side of the valley, you won’t go too far wrong. This bit can be marshy, with a couple of small streams to cross, but you should find yourself re-joining the outward route not far above the fence and stile. From there it’s about another half mile to the finish – many runners stay in the field to the right of the line of trees, instead of following the track.
As you can see it’s a pretty hard going event, rated as “AS” or in the words of the website “brutal but it doesn’t go on for long”. Last year I came second to last place with a time of 01:05:14 (although had I done that time the year before I would have been mid to back pack as the longest was 1:38ish). I would like to say that I am looking to improve the time over last year but given the weather we have been experiencing across the UK I can see it being longer, if it goes ahead at all!
Fingers crossed we get a bit of dry weather, if not a little bit of rain and not the deluges that have been occurring recently. The race has mandatory kit requirements so I will be packing a variety of jackets from my Salomon light jacket to my full mountain ready Berghaus Goretex Paclite jacket and waterproof trousers (god I hope these aren’t necessary). If it’s the latter I will probably need a backpack but I am not sure the Salomon S-Labs will be able to fit it so it may have to be the OMM 15litre which is a bit overkill but its all I got.
I will try and get some photos for when I write my race report, but for now below is the hill profile of the race “gulp!!”