So, somewhat exhilarated and euphoric, we drove away from Knutsford High School on GCSE results day, Thursday 27th August 2009, after making the essential 'phone call to mum to report the good news. Also with us were my younger son Liam, and Jimmy’s mate Craig who, sufficiently impressed with the walks Jimmy led on Shining Tor, Shutlingsloe and The Roaches, now wanted a taste of the serious stuff!
We had a clear run down the M6, and just before getting on the M54, we availed ourselves of lunch from a greasy spoon van at the roadside. After the M54 was the A5 and then the A49 down through WB land. After Leominster, Jimmy directed me to the village of Talgarth, Powys. Why Talgarth? Well, this was the area of a few SW (and one MW) summits that I had activated, but Jimmy hadn’t - so they needed doing. But also, we fondly remembered the Bell Inn pub in the village that had served such lovely meals and made us feel so welcome back in 2005.
Hence the idea was to camp as close to Talgarth as possible while doing the SW summits! We eventually found availability at the Lakeside site near the village of Llangorse, and hence a couple of our later target summits - Mynydd Troed GW/SW-009 and Mynydd Llangorse GW/SW-015 towered above our camp. The tent went up really quickly, and having an extra pair of hand in the form of Craig made a real difference.
The first objective though was Black Mountain GW/SW-041. We had both activated this one a couple of times, but when it was G/WB-001, before the RHB people reallocated it into Wales. I had selected this one as simple and easy enough to grab in an evening activation, straightfoward enough to descend by torchlight, but sufficiently strenuous to “encourage” the boys to sleep well in the tent!
We had always gone up from the stone circle under Hay Bluff before, but this time went for the higher starting point at Gospel Pass. After parking and kitting up, we ascended the steep grassy bank onto the edge of the plateau leading to Hay Bluff. At the trig point, the weather began to deteriorate into fog, drizzle and buffetting wind, so extra waterproofs were added before continuing on.
Jimmy and Craig pressed onto the true summit of Black Mountain, along its long flat ridge. Liam and I save ourselves a couple of kilometres of walking by getting into the activation zone above 680m ASL, easily determined by the next ‘pull up’ after the Hay Bluff plateau.
Jimmy opted for 2m FM as usual, but struggled to get his four contacts. Thankfully Richard G4ERP was on hand to alert the other Cheltenham chasers, and Jimmy got his qualification of the Welsh version of Black Mountain - although he operated for the English side of the border as M3EYP/P!
I set up on the Welsh side and added to W to my prefix. 40m CW wasn’t very busy, but I did work 9 QSOs into 5 DXCCs. I packed everything away and waited for Jimmy and Craig to return. We then set off together on the descent.
It was necessary to pause again near Hay Bluff trig point. This time, it was to don the headtorches, as the light was fading fast. Very soon after switching them on, it was pitch black, and then some thick fog rolled in! I hadn’t really noticed how indistinct this moorland path was in places, on the ascent from Gospel Pass, but I was now concentrating hard not to mislay the route.
In contrast, Jimmy was full of confidence, and pressing on with gusto. He had typically memorised all the tiny details on the ground from the ascent, and was able to keep a good pace going on the descent. I have been walking with Jimmy for many years now, so I got my head down, relaxed, and trusted him.
Sure enough, the torches were soon reflecting back at us off my silver Picasso, we dekitted, and drove down into Hay-on-Wye in search of food. It was pretty late about 10pm, and too late to consider the Bell Inn at Talgarth, but the Red Indigo Indian restaurant was happy to let us have a table for four. The food and service was excellent, but there wasn’t any Cobra, Bangla or Kingfisher on the bar - only Stella!
We returned to the campsite to get some sleep and reflect on a successful and enjoyable day.