I conquer the Pen-y-fan!

Half past six and the alarm wakes me from a night of seriously broken sleep. The pain in my wrist was excruciating, my big toes constantly feeling like they are rubbing on something although I do not even have socks on and my back and right shoulder were so uncomfortable. This was not what I needed for the night before my attempt to get to the top of the Pen-y-fan in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Never the less I got up and carried out the normal daily routine and with that out of the way it was time for breakfast, this would be a must to get some fuel for my body for the day ahead. At eight o’clock my mobile phone rang, it was my friend Sean and he simply said; “Morning Georgie boy, I’m on my way, even though it is pissing down! See you in twenty!”

Sean is from 675 (Rifles) Squadron Army Air Corps. He was Rifles before the change and before joining the TA he was a regular soldier with the Grenadier Guards. I have known him since I joined the TA 13 years ago and when I spoke to him about my desire to attempt the three peaks challenge he told me that we should first attempt the Pen-y-fan to find out what my Overlander could do and gauge the likelihood of our success. He is a mountain leader who has started his own outdoor activities company and he told me that if going up mountains was something that I wanted to do, then he would get me there. It is something that I have wanted to do since I got my off road mobility vehicle a few months ago but needed help to attempt it and so Sean asked if any of the guys or girls in the unit wanted to go for a st-roll up the Pen-y-fan with us to offer support if needed then they were more than welcome. We had chosen the Bank holiday Monday so that people would be able to do it if they wanted and also because the “Fan” would be busy with people so if things went wrong we would be able to appeal to people for assistance. As well as Sean three of my friends also from the unit came along; “Reedy”, “Oozi” and “McLeod” said they would join us for the walk and help if needed. Sean brought his Daughter Gracie and also her friend Emily and his two dogs, similarly “Reedy” took his two dogs along for the walk so it was going to be a really nice day out. Now we just had to wait and see if the Overlander would complete the challenge.

We arrived at the Storey Arms car park at the base of the “Fan” at around half past ten. The sky was blue with some cloud and it was warm. There did not seem to be any immediate threat of rain and so the rain macs were packed in the various back packs we had. My Overlander was removed from the “Chucklebus” and I got myself in to it while Sean parked the “Chucklebus” and we met with the rest of the group. It was in this car park that we met up with a guy who was in the Army with Sean, they had not seen each other for some 17 years but he had seen on Sean’s Facebook that we were going to attempt to get me up to the top and he had decided to join us for the walk. A really nice guy who was interested in potentially joining us if we attempt the three peaks challenge which is something he is doing next week to raise money for Diabetes UK. While he is undertaking this he is going to recce routes for us now that he is aware of what the Overlander is capable of, this will save us some problems hopefully when we attempt it ourselves. I’ll use this space now to give you a link to his just giving page should you wish to help him raise the money by sponsoring him; ¬†www.justgiving.com/Robert-Ross3

We set off from the car park and immediately came across a bit of a problem, the big gate which would allow me to get to the track for the “Fan” was locked with a chain and padlock. The pedestrian gate next to it would open but not far enough to allow the Overlander through, this was a rubbish start but Rob was having none of it and simply lifted the pedestrian gate from it’s hinges and after I had gone through, replaced it. Through the gate and I was faced with a steep slope leading to a river crossing.

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I haven’t tried anything quite like this in the Overlander before and so it was very much a learning experience for me to get to grips with how far it will lean and what gradients it will go and down, this trip would be a great way for me to get to know the Overlander. At the base of the slope was a shallow river with plenty of rocks for the Overlander to deal with. I was able to go down the slope in a controlled manner by simply adjusting the speed setting on the control module, this enabled a slow and sensible decent until the bottom where I turned the speed up again for the trip across the rocky stream.

I wanted to see how much of this day out it would do in 2wd and so in the stream you can see that although I had to reverse and alter course very slightly but it did indeed get across the rocky bed in 2wd. With the river out of the way, and despite there being a footbridge for pedestrians the kids, dogs and guys all went through the river anyway, we started on the rocky st-roll up to the top of the “Fan”.

The terrain was varied with some parts smoother than others and then some really rocky places. Across the track there were gullies made of rock and stone for the water to get across without causing the track to erode away and with these gullies came the need to engage the 4wd. Some of the gullies were wide enough for the wheels to drop in to completely, this meant that you were unable to simply hope that you could rely on the rear wheels to push you back out although someone who’s arms and shoulders are stronger than mine may have been able to keep the steering from turning while trying to drive out of the gully, instead I had to be able to allow the front wheels to pull themselves free. In the picture you can see how deep the gully is, “Oozi” is just engaging the front motors for me although it is something I can do myself. The public were fascinated by the Overlander and were always stopping to talk to us and watch what we were doing.

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Once clear of the gully though we would simply disengage the front motors and revert back to 2wd. I did contemplate trying to use the front wheel drive only but with the gravelly nature of the track I thought it best to keep the rear wheels as the drive as the weight of me, (of which there is now a fair bit which “Oozi” kindly pointed out more than once!), would be over the rear wheels and thus give better traction.

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A couple of times where one of the rear wheels did spin I could gain that traction by a quick bounce in my seat, in the next clip though, “Oozi” does just give it a little shove. It was not required as had my bounce not worked I could have simply engaged the 4wd. You can also see how some of the gullies were quite wide, this was not one of the bigger gullies though.

As I said, we were constantly being stopped by people who were intrigued by the Overlander and were impressed by what they had seen it do. It was a perfect opportunity to tell them about not only the Overlander itself, but my intention to attempt the 3 Peaks Challenge and other fundraising ideas that I have to give back to charities that have helped me, shamelessly spreading the word of my blog site! It has clearly had some effect as I gained 22 likes on the Blogs Facebook page yesterday. I have also had nearly 800 people look at the pictures that I put of me on the “Fan” too. Anyway, as we progressed up the track, talking to many people on the way, the weather was such that we had some amazing views of the scenery.

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There were an incredible amount of people walking up to the “Fan” which was nice to see, so many of them slowing to walk alongside me chatting as they made their way to the top.

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Eventually we made it to the top. I was really hoping that we would have got more video and pictures of the last couple of hundred meters of the ascent as it was rough as a badgers ass and steep, the Overlander breezed it in 2wd but it was hard work for me as I pulled myself forward due to the steepness of the gradient.

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So many people turned to see us as I drove on to the top of the “Fan”, many of them coming over to congratulate me on getting to the top.

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We had some lunch at the top while we appreciated the views and I spoke to more people who came across to chat. The dogs had a run around and the kids had a rest, no sorry, the dogs had a rest and the kids ran around. After about a half hour of sitting and enjoying the warm sun we had a group photograph to show that we had indeed made it to the top which was kindly taken by a member of the public that I had been talking to.

Pictured from left to right;

Standing:”McLeod”, Rob, Sean and “oozi”.

Sitting: Gracie, Emily, “Reedy” and Me.

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Having made it to the top we then of course had to head back down, this I did again by adjusting the maximum speed of the Overlander on the control module which meant I could hold the lever fully open but the Overlander would not travel any faster than the slowest possible speed, this eliminated the need to use either the motor brakes or the disc brakes that I had fitted and allowed a fully controlled decent on the gravelly surface. There were a few times that I had to engage the 4wd for the gullies again just like on the way up but this was to be expected.

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When we finally reached the bottom, I had to cross the river and ascend the slope to the gates again where Rob again got me through the gate. With all of us down we had a BBQ courtesy of “Reedy” and “McLeod”.

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While the girls “cooled down”.

Gracie 2 Gracie and Emily

All in all it was an amazing day spent with good friends and a new acquaintance. Now Sean and I are going to organise our attempt to complete the 3 peaks challenge amongst other things which I hope that you will sponsor me to do. Until such time though, please keep reading my Blog and share with friends. If the Overlander is something that you think may help a family member or friend who for whatever reason is no longer able to walk in the hills or over rough terrain then have a look at the review I did for it when I was looking for something to allow me to enjoy the hills and forests again. www.georgepas.co.uk/overlander here you will also find a link to the company who build it. Be sure to tell them I sent you!

Good evening all.

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