Wild camping in the Black Mountains - a Microadventure
We had 24 hours......
With our daughter staying with her grandparents for the night we had from 12 o'clock on the Friday through till lunch the following day to enjoy our "Microadventure" and the Black Mountains was selected as the ideal place as it's pretty much the closest near mountainous area to us (nr Winchester) and we fancied a high level bivvy.
With 6 hours "lost" to driving we planned a circular route from the Blaen-y-cwm car park (which lies at the top of the Mynydd du Forest (10 miles or so north of Abergavenny) that would take in the peaks of Pen Twyn Mawr (658m), Pen y Gadair Fawr (800m) and Waun Fach (810m) with between 6-10 miles per leg depending on the route we took.
Packing is, for me, half the fun and deciding on the kit to take and trying to remove as much of the unnecessary weight as possible was key for this trip as we wanted to be fast and light and we tried to keep Donna's rucksack down to a 24l bag so as not to put too much stress on her back which wasn't 100% better from the disc problems she'd experienced earlier in the year.
Because of this I just couldn't get everything in to my 25l bag so took my trusty Deuter Guide 45+ which comfortably contained all my kit plus the cooking kit.
Just in case it's of interest, here is my kit list from the trip. Donna's was pretty much the same less the stove and plus food;
The camera choice was maybe slightly overkill for the trip and it did add a bit of weight and take up space but I wanted to try and get some good pictures along the way and it's less bulky than the 5D so in it went!
|Final checks before heading off|
We arrived at the car park just after 5pm and were ready to set off around 5:30 after the final kit adjustments and map checks.
|Smiling in the evening sun|
|The boring bit - along the road from the carpark|
Which would have been fine if the tracks on the map had translated a little better onto the ground - I'm not saying they weren't there, they were just very overgrown and made progress hard work. We persevered until we met up with the path we'd originally planned to be on - did we save any time or effort? No!
|Route check - "yes, that's the path we'd originally planned to be on!"|
|Forest paths like this make the going very easy - unless you head off into pines!|
|On the map this is a nice wide logging track.....|
|We met lots and lots of sheep on the walk - well it is Wales!|
|Another logging track|
|Up through the trees|
|Pine plantations have a sound deadening quality that's quite eery|
|Grwyne Fawr or Gadair Ridge?|
|The edge of the forest and the start of the ridge top|
|Pen y Gadair Fawr|
|Pen y Gadair (800m)|
|The summit cairn of Pen y Gadair (800m)|
|Waun Fach summit (810m)|
We found a flat patch of grass - there was a lot of grass so that bit was easy, finding the flat bit was less so - and then I moved us to a place where there was a slight indent which would help us rig the tarp over Donna's trekking poles to shelter us from the wind which, by now, was blowing around 15mph.
So with the tarp set up and warm clothes on (I'd been in shorts and t-shirt until that point) we started heating up the pre-cooked lamb stew that we'd made earlier in the day.
The Trangia was taken on this trip due to versatility while still remaining lightweight - the recent addition of the gas burner attachment meant that the meths element could be dispensed of and the cleaner/more controllable gas bottle could be used instead.
Warm food and a hot drink was pretty much all we needed before climbing into sleeping bags and bivvy bags and settling down for the night...... Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said I moved us to a "better" location - well in hindsight it wasn't! The wind shifted so that it blew straight through the tarp and the ground was sloped so that Donna constantly rolled into me - but we still slept so can't have been that bad!
Morning! The pattering of rain on the tarp and the buffeting of wind led to me hopping out of my warm bag and changing the direction of the tarp to offer us a bit more protection from the elements and once this was done breakfast and coffee were called for.
Essentially its dehydrated sweet potato and apple which you heat in water and then add nuts and raisins - sounds a bit odd but it tasted good, was hot and gave us loads of energy!
|Cooking breakfast in the mist|
|Sweet potato porridge|
|Slightly different clothing for day 2!|
|Walking into the mist|
|Grwyne Fawr Reservoir|
The steep path down to it and its proximity to the steep back pretty much keep it out of sight which I guess helps with its decent condition - everything you'd need for a very basic, but dry, night was there including a wood-burning stove and we both said that it'd be fun to come back on another trip and make use of it.
The last leg is along the bank of the reservoir itself, passing the dam and then the last 2 miles or so following the path of the river before entering the forest again and dropping back down to the car park where (thankfully) the car was waiting.
In an example of perfect timing the light rain that had held off since leaving our bivvy started again just as we were packing out kit into the car so we decided to forego the post walk cuppa and head back along the M4 to England, and home.
While it may have been around for some time before him, the concept of Microadventures has been made popular by explorer Alistair Humphreys and it's well worth a click onto his site/blog for more info as they are an accessible form of "adventure" for pretty much anyone regardless of time or money.
Walk details via Garmin Connect, recorded on my Garmin Forerunner 935;