Tal y Fan – or pining for the hills

For some inexplicable reason I find myself compelled to explain why I haven’t been out on the hills much recently. I don’t normally write expedition reports – rather I prefer to add details for the particular summit. In this case, however I thought I would make an exception.

In the past few months, every spare waking moment has been spent rebuilding one of our racing cars for another method of climbing hills. I had promised to get it going for a special meeting a couple of weeks ago. In the world of Speed Hillclimbing, it’s quite a famous car and it still has class records to it’s name despite my not having driven it in anger for six years. There was a lot of pressure to get it going again.

It was always going to be a difficult task getting it ready in time. We made it, but without shaking it down somewhere first – which is always risky. The only running it got was at home where it happily left two black lines on the drive.

At the meeting, I had to delay my first practice run while I sorted out a couple of minor problems but we finally made it to the start line an hour late. That’s where it all went properly wrong. As I tried to leave the line the engine died. Permanently. So now, rather than a sigh of relief and a relaxed return to hill walking, I’m faced with an engine re-build.

So, here goes. Tal y Fan GW/NW-040, 19-6-2010

The lanes up from the Conwy valley to the normal parking spot for this easy 4-pointer are narrow and a challenge in a big vehicle – like our motorhome. We had a few days of garden visits planned in North Wales so when Gill unknowingly booked us a spot on the Caravan Club CL closest to Tal y Fan, the temptation was too great.

The problem was how to get up to the summit and back without disrupting the day’s main activity. It was long before the sun had reached the depths of the Conwy valley when I started walking up the lanes and away from the site just south of Tyn-y-groes. The walk was about 4.5 miles with 1900 ft of ascent so having done almost no hill walking since the South Downs Way I allowed a little extra time.

I could see the summit on and off and it was in the mist when I left but as I walked, it slowly emerged and by the time I reached the summit it was in the clear with the odd glimpse of sun about. It was, however, very cold and I was regretting having left my balaclava at home. My face was going numb.

Lawrie G6XLL in London came back to my first call at 0615 gmt and I worked a total of 11 stations on 2m ssb before I needed to head back down. I was a little disappointed to have missed some old friends, but I guess it was a bit early for most.

My return route was the reverse of my ascent but I needed to get back and trying an unknown route using unknown footpaths at that point wasn’t a very clever idea. I was back at the site by 0845 gmt.

It was great to be back on a summit – albeit briefly. I don’t seem to have lost any fitness which is good news. I was also trying out some new boots in anticipation of using them on the Offa’s Dyke Path later this year. Actually, they’re more like trail shoes so I was anxious to give them a good test as soon as possible. They were excellent, giving a bit more cushioning than my hill boots on the tarmac lanes that made up 7 out of the 9 miles of the walk.

73, Richard (still pining for the hills)

In reply to G4ERP

Ah, Another touring man. I’d appreciate a note of where this CL is. Sounds very interesting, and closer to some other NW goodies than our favourite site at Caernarfon. I’m at:


Off to Hawes in a week and a half.

Dave, G6DTN/M0DFA, Abbey Vogue GTS 418, towcar: Honda CR-V

In reply to M0DFA:

Hi, Dave.

You should have an e-mail with the details by now. Not eactly centrally-located for all those NW summits but nice and quiet.

Touring? Well, sort of. We bought a motorhome to give us accomodation when we’re away competing and we use it to tow. If it wasn’t for that, we would probably go for a caravan to give us the convenience of having sensible transport at our destination.

(edit) Much more suitable for SOTA.

Enjoy the NP trip.

73, Richard

In reply to G4ERP:

Any pictures of the hillclimb car Richard?


In reply to MM0FMF:
Hi, Andy.

Here’s one of the single-seater (ours is at the top of the page - obviously):

The saloon is more difficult as we haven’t run it in recent years – in other words since the advent of digital photography – and of course it never made it up the hill last month. This is the best I can do. You’ll have to excuse the tatty unpainted bits. I did say I only just got it ready in time … Scroll about ¾ way down the page to car 67.

If you’ve never been to watch, try this for a taster:

73, Richard (seriously OT)

In reply to G4ERP:

I went to Harewood Hillclimb many times when I was a student. Sometimes to watch hillclimbs and sometimes for the Lombard and Mintex rallies. Always great fun, especially as we (a bunch of engineering students) used to “borrow” the fire extinguishers from the halls of residence and turn up at the event and claim to be from the local motor club and that we were marshalling. A quick wave of the extinguisher and we were in for free and could stand on the inside of the best bends. You can take better photos that way.

I sure “elfin” safety wouldn’t allow that now! :wink:


In reply to G4ERP:

Very interesting pictures Richard. I will be making my annual pilgrimmage to the VSCC Prescott weekend at the beginning of August assuming I can get back from VP8 land in time, so will probably be dodging them golf balls at some time as well. Hope to catch you on the air and glad you have been enjoying our local summit!


Rick GW0VMW and VP8DND

In reply to GW0VMW:

Good afternoon, Rick.

It looks like there are at least three SOTA afficionados who also appreciate other methods of climbing hills!

Unless something goes wrong, I should be walking Offa’s Dyke Path and getting my fill of summits at the time of Prescott VSCC meeting otherwise I would be delighted if we could meet. Whatever the status of the engine, I’m taking time out (probably …). Do you ever come to “modern” meetings?

(edit) I live three miles from Prescott BTW.

I’m not sure I understand the reference to golf balls unless it’s to do with Cleeve Hill.

Yes, I really like Tal y Fan. A walk which is as long or short as you want it to be and some avoidable easy scrambling to boot. Great views from the summit. What more could you want from a mountain?

73, Richard

In reply to G4ERP:

It looks like there are at least three SOTA afficionados who also
appreciate other methods of climbing hills!

Make that 4. I used to own a pub outside of Malvern, so I used to frequent Shelsley Walsh whenever a meet was on. If we felt posh, we`d go to Prescott.