I once read a Trail article on how to introduce your little one to the great outdoors properly for the first time.
It included lots of advice on choosing a route which was short, with plenty of diversions and not too ambitious. Good planning it said was key and the little people should be involved in it.
He certainly felt part of it even if he identified the A470 as a reasonable “path” to follow and was actually planning a route on the wrong side of the double sided OS Map – although he is only 4.
Despite all this, the vision of a golden bracken covered Ysgyryd Fawr glowing in the autumn sunshine that morning meant the “not ambitious” part went straight out the window. We were going to climb a proper mountain – well one big enough to feel like one, with a proper summit and steep climbs in all directions.
As for the entertaining part, I am now well versed in selling a little geocaching as “treasure hunting” to my pirate obsessed son and with three evenly spaced caches located along the spine of Ysgyryd Fawr, there would be plenty enough to keep him moving when the going got tough.
If you’ve never come across geocaching before, think treasure hunt using a GPS (or mobile with the Geocaching App) and the choice of 3 million across the UK to find – check out www.geocaching.com. I even decided to climb with the Osprey Poco Plus on my back in case he needed a rest although this was definitely Plan B as despite being an awesome bit of kit, it was untested with a 20kg Toby in it…
The climb from the car park winds steeply (very steeply) up through Caer Wood on the lower slopes of the mountain. Despite regular checks, chocolate bribery and the first treasure hunt halfway, Toby remained resolutely in the backpack. As we emerged from the woods, the path climbs across open ground to reach the long ridge that leads to the summit.After a brief discussion, Toby decided we had both (really?!) worked hard and deserved a break so we stopped for some snack action – another very important tip for little people adventures. The view from here across to the Sugar Loaf and the central Brecon Beacons beyond was not at all bad.Toby, for a 4 year old, summed it up very eloquently – “you can see REALLY far Daddy”.
Of course, being a Springer Spaniel this realisation doesn’t really affect his behaviour at all – he continues to sprint off at breakneck speed ahead of us before sprinting back and checking in every couple of minutes – he just sleeps longer when we get home!
Before we went any further, Toby and I had to have a heart to heart though. I was done. Any further and we’d be calling Mountain Rescue so he’d have to walk or we’d have to turn back.
Thinking back to the Trail article they’d said something about “being prepared to not meet your objectives and turn around early” – I just hadn’t realised they were referring to me! However, fortified with another box of raisins, the lure of more treasure and a gingerbread man at the summit Toby bravely decided he could walk on. Run on actually – he was up and sprinting up the ridge in no time which was hardly surprising with his fresh legs.
We managed the rest of the ridge in stages, setting mini objectives for rests (that rock pile there daddy, no not THAT one THIS one etc...) and a final treasure/geocache just short of the summit which involved a slightly dicey descent down a step bank to retrieve (don’t tell mummy).
Once on top we celebrated with a high five and a fist bump (yes we’re cool) and the aforementioned gingerbread man and a series of summit selfies.
Perhaps not quite up to the Hillary/Tenzing effort from the top of the world in 1953 but then I don’t think they had the presence of mind to play “serious photo, silly photo” like we did. Then again, their atmosphere was an awful lot thinner at 8,848m than our 486m effort.
Toby’s smile, chattering about how far he could see and his roly polys on the gentle grassy slope below the trig point made every step in the early stages with 20kg of toddler in my rucksack worth it.
He spent half the journey down pointing out other mountains he was going to climb and the other half racing Barley at full speed. I’m not sure I have ever descended from a peak quicker.
With all the Geocaches found we turned to more natural diversions on the descent. It’s amazing how much fun one 4 year old can have with a moss covered log.
He asked me to film him jumping off with the inevitable botched landing which will be safely stored ready for his 18th Birthday…
It certainly got me thinking, probably too ambitious for our first multi day trip but it has to be on the list.
In all, we were out for less than 4 hours, covered less than 5km and climbed just over 300m.
However, we found 3 spectacular geocaches, bagged a prominent summit and I think, most importantly of all, I managed to pass a little of my mountain fever onto my little man!