Monday, 31 August 2009

Brecon Beacons Wild Camp Trip Report

Nicky and Myself with Max the border collie visited South Wales this weekend to see our good friend Kate Gilliver, also known as Metric Kate on the Outdoors Magic forum. We stayed at the Chateau Gilliver where we were treated like royalty. We drove down to South Wales the old fashioned way down the A49 through Cheshire and Shropshire, a trip that we did a lot when I was a child. We stopped off at Church Sretton where after driving up to the Long Mynd we met the friendliest sheep ever and watched a huge storm roll over the hugely understated and beautiful Shropshire Hills. At one point the temperature outside the car dropped from 17 degrees celsius to just 7 degrees celsius!

Kate and Nicky ascending Fan Hir

We reached Penarth a lovely leafy suburb of Cardiff on Friday evening and had fish and chips before a night time stroll down to the sea front. Saturday morning we headed for our starting point at Glyntawe in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. We went via Up and Under the outdoor gear shop in Cardiff to collect my new Thermarest Neo-Air regular matress, which was haveanly by the way! We set off early afternoon from the layby on the A4067 opposite the Glyn Arms public house. The first person we met was a rather grumpy farmer who confronted us about the route we had chosen, according to him the map was wrong and a diversion around his property had been created, a matter which Kate is looking into for verification as she has always used this particular route. To save ourselves from any arguements we took the detour which wasn't a problem and we were soon onto open moorland, much to the delight of Max who was then let of his lead.

Max, Nicky and Kate dwarfed by Bannau Sir Gaer

We ascending up the the southern ridge of Fan Hir, Kate clearly fitter then Nicky and Myself at the moment stormed on ahead with her usual solid and progressive pace assisted by her trusty Pacer Poles which I too had purchased in the previous week and was using forthe first time after a few tips from Kate and watching her effective method. As we got towads the top of Fan Hir I started to get excited as the views of the escarpments I'd longed to experience were starting to show. I had told Kate when I first met her that I'd always wanted to see these picture postcode escarpments of the Brecon Beacons and this weekend she held up her promise of showing me the best of them!

Llyn y Fan Fach

We found shelter on the impressive round stone summit shelter at the top of Fan Brycheiniog which stands at an impressive 802 metres above sea level. The shelter had a worrying stench of urine and wasn't quite high enough to shelter our heads from the now prevailing gales. The weather stayed good though despite the wind it didn't rain at all and the sun was out in force between the huge dark clouds whch were actually beneficial to the photography of the day. We headed towards Fan Foel and saw more of the numerous stunning wild horses of the area.

Wild Horses of the Brecon Beacons

After taking in the views from Fan Foel at the northern tip of the escarpment we headed west following the northern side of the escarpment which to my surprise and delight was even more spectacular than the eastern side, Bannau Sir Gaer being the most impressive. We headed along the escarpment in sunshine until we reached the western side of the cliffs above Llyn y Fan Fach and just before the ascent to Waun Lefrith we headed south ascending grassy ground and following the most bizarre line of rock downhill. Kate rightly said it looked like an NCP car park had been blasted and left on the hillside. It was a dark rock with hundreds of tiny pebbles within it resembling man made concretes, at times strangely ugly and then made beautiful by small streams using it as an easy course downhill.

Wild Camp by Afon Giedd

We eventually met with the faint bridleway at the bottom of Brest Twrch and easilly crossed the River Twrch to continue along the bridleway until we met the River Giedd. From here Kate took us to her prefect wild camping spot with running water, flat and dry grass and views only of hills, skies and valleys. We set up camp in good weather and were all quite hungry by now so once camp was set the stoves went on and an assortment of meals were gulped down. Once we had settled in for the night darkness fell over our small valley, the skies cleared and the moon finally made an appearance. Kate joined Nicky, Max and Myself in our new cavernous Golite Shangri-La 3 tipee syle tent and we sat talking and laughing until it went completely dark then all headed off to bed.

Wet and wild in the morning

Morning brought a very different feeling to the adventure as it started raining at around 7am just as we were all waking, and hearing Kate unzip her tent and say something along he lines of "Eugh! its bloody awful!" we knew it was going to be some contrast to the previous day. We all had breakfast and packed up. The original plan was to go over the hillocks of Carreg Goch and find the remains of an old plane crash site, however visibility was down to a dozen metres and it just wasn't worth tramping around on the hills with heavy packs in this weather so we headed back to the bridleway and followed its obvious line back down to Glyntawe. It being bank holiday and Sunday we struggled to find anywhere open on our way home for a brew and breakfast so instead settled for a few pastries and coffees from Tesco at Pontardawe which I have to confess was naughty bit very very nice!

Wet and smelly dug Max

I used several pieces of shiny new gear on this wild camp including the Golite Shangri-La 3 shelter with nest inner, Golite Jam 2009 version rucksack, Pacer Poles carbon and the Thermarest Neo-Air regular mattress. I will do a write up of the gear and my first impressions at a later date. Thanks Kate for a brilliant weekend, great hospitality and a fantastic introduction to the Brecon Beacons! I will write up a full description of this walks route at later date and put it in the Walks section of the website.

I have uploaded the photos from the weekend here.

Route Map...