[Trip report] Brecon Beacons one night wild camp

Discussion in 'Trips Reports' started by Walkertg, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. Walkertg

    Walkertg Trekker

    Last bank holiday Saturday I had a 40th birthday party in Cardiff, so I took the opportunity to also visit the Brecon Beacons for the first time. I spent the Saturday night in a £25 single room at Nomad’s backpackers (cheap and basic). Sunday morning I had a very reasonably priced fry-up at an underground cafe in the Castle Quarter. I mooched around in cafe Coffee #1 until time for the hourly bus to Storey Arms (note: not a pub, despite the name!), which is the most popular access point for Pen-y-Fan. The bus was actually free - I’m not sure if that is always the case or just on bank holiday weekends. The bus was a little late and we got held up a bit behind a horse-drawn cart pulling a car up the pass (this is “The Vallys” you know...). The weather was pretty minging, but nevertheless the carpark was full and there were quite a few people milling around, there was a burger van and portable toilets. There were also a squad of Imperial Stormtroopers posing for pictures.

    I got a few strange looks in my waterproof skirt (or “kilt” if you’re insecure in your masculinity...), but there were plenty of people already soaked through in shorts, football shorts, thin hoodies, yoga pants etc. so I didn’t feel the least appropriately dressed.

    It’s not a very difficult walk up to Pen-Y-Fan, the path is pretty good, it’s not overly steep and you can’t really go wrong, even as the weather had closed in. Hence the popularity of course of people looking to knock off the highest UK mountain south of Snowdonia in a couple of hours from their car.

    When you get to the top it’s slightly more complicated, so I used the downloaded map on ViewRanger on my phone and the compass functionality to make sure I was heading in the right direction. I have to admit that I use the GPS as a bit of a crutch when conditions are bad or I’m tired - I should really force myself to use map and compass more so that I’m well practiced when the phone inevitably dies as an inopportune moment. I did manage to overtake a father and his ~6 year old daughter and of course there was the obligatory group of teenagers on some kind of outdoor course cluttering up the summit cairn. Fair play to them, I did the same in the Lakes a couple of times at that age.

    Despite the cloud covering all the views if was still quite something to peer over the edge into cloudy nothingness. I cracked on fairly quickly, and the weather improved. My initial aim was to traverse the whole ridge and camp somewhere on the Waun Rydd / Craig Y Fan plateau. (I had not been put off of reports that it is haunted due to the Second World War plane crash, remains of which are still extant.)

    However for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe it was because I got throughly rained on, or perhaps it was because it was still quite early (about 2pm) and so I didn’t really fancy just hanging around until it got dark enough to set up camp. So I checked the timetable and found I could likely make it into Merthyr Tydfil for the last connecting train back to London if I didn’t hang around. So I forwent Fan-y-Big and headed off along what was my day 2 planned route. I was jogging/yomping, but my pack was heavier than it would have been in the morning and I had a few stops for photos, filtering some more water etc. I overtook and was overtaken in turn by a couple walking quite quickly and loudly talking about work (urgh, the “w” word...) and somehow I must’ve been overtaken by the 6 year old and her Dad as I caught up to them again (or perhaps a different but similar fatherly bonding experience was underway...).

    The weather was really nice now as I ran along the reservoir and heard the little steam train puffing along the other side.

    Well everything seemed to be perfect so I stopped for a snack and convinced myself I would camp out after all. I sat enjoying the sun for a bit and waiting for evening so that I could set up without being disturbed.

    I filtered water for my dehydrated whole milk and Tribe protein powder mix which was really tasty and satisfying, good calorie count for the dry weight too - would definitely do this again. Nestle Nido is the milk powder - mix with cold water and it produces something very close to fresh whole milk.

    At one point I left my pack and wandered back along the track to try and get a phone signal to check in back home, it I had to return pretty quickly when I heard shouting. A family had seen my pack with no one around to claim it and thought I might have fallen down the steep slopes or stream nearby. I apologised profusely and thanked them for their concern. Lesson learned.

    I tried my new Trekmates flameless flask. It works using water-activated chemical pouches. The first one didn’t seem to work pretty well (maybe a dud due to age) but the second one got up to a decent heat. I think it’s probably best directly heating something like soup or instant coffee though as by the time I’d poured the water into my meal pouch and waited for it to rehydrate it wasn’t the warmest. More testing needed. To be honest I should probably just go cook-less for short summer trips.

    I unrolled my Snugpak SF bivvy with my neoair and sleeping bag & quilt combo already inside. I pegged out my poncho and propped it up win my trekking poles, but after checking from the road I lowered the poles and just slept on top of it, with the poles ready in case I was woken by a shower in the night.

    I had a very quick skinny dip/ bath and settled down as evening arrived. I felt a few tickles on my uncovered face which in hindsight might have been ticks, but nothing bothered me too much and I didn’t have have bites in the morning. I should’ve used my insect repellent but I didn’t bother. I slept pretty well actually and woke up soon after dawn.

    By 5:30am I was packed up and running again for the first train out of Merthyr.

    Changing at Cardiff central I managed a quick wash in the sink and changed into what clean clothes I had left. I also bought an eagerly anticipated egg baguette that I managed to eat half of before a very aggressive seagull snatched it away from the top of my bag while it was within arms length. I’d already shoo’d it away twice, persistent bugger. Anyway it seemed almost as hungry as me. In consolation I paid the £15 upgrade to first class and was home in London before lunchtime.

    I used my Quechua Arpenaz 40l unframed pack. Not the best pack for running with but manageable until I can justify the spend for a Ultimate Direction fastpack 45 or something. My total pack weight was about 7kg with food and water but that included carrying round my fancy dress costume from the night before as well! I was left with lots of food but that’s because I had a sandwich lunch before I set out and I was back in town before breakfast whereas I’d planned to potentially be out past lunch, so really I had 2 lunches and a breakfast leftover.






    qy_, Davy, WilliamC and 3 others like this.
  2. Diddi

    Diddi Thru Hiker

    Nice and glad you decided to stick it out in the end :thumbsup:

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