Black Mountains Wild Camp

Black Mountains Wild Camp

Jake // May 28, 2019

A couple of months ago me and my girlfriend Shanie bought ourselves a Landrover with the goal of converting it into a camper which we could use on our mountain trips to have more flexibility and save money. We designed and built a wooden folding box from scratch which becomes a small “double bed” when it folds down. This allowed us to keep the rear seats while still having lots of space for our gear. This weekend we finally got to take it for a spin! Our last mountain trip, to Snowdonia, had horrific weather conditions. We only had three days spare this time so decided to head to the Brecon Beacons which fortunately boasted a nice weather forecast! The trip would provide an opportunity to test our Landrover, practice some skills and try out some new gear we had picked up. The last time we were in the area was for the Beacons Way which wasn’t a good memory for Shanie. I was hoping this trip would ease her back into enjoying it, we would be taking it slow, taking time to enjoy the mountains and each other’s company.

For the first day we kept to the lowland and just had a nice walk over various terrain with very little ascent, the weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful. We did some basic navigation practice and found a huge hole! One day maybe we’ll come back and check it out.

We camped overnight at a car park near, Blaen llia. We remembered it from the Beacon’s Way. It’s a nice quiet area, sheltered with a small river running through it. Technically it’s a no camping area but as we follow a no trace policy I don’t see a problem with it. For such a basic set up we were surprisingly comfortable, we identified a few areas that needed some work but overall it was great!

For the wild camp we decided on the Black Mountains, with the nice weather the main areas of Brecon were going to be busy. The route we planned meant we wouldn’t link up with the main tourist route until the end of day 2 allowing us to have the mountains to ourselves. We left from Abercraf and began to carve our way across the landscape, practicing navigation along the way and reaching loads of minor summits. Aside from finding the summits the navigation challenges we set ourselves were quite tough the ground is quite featureless and with the hot weather lots of water sources had dried up so our contour interpretation was key. We both did well and didn’t see a single person the whole day.

I’m usually a slave driver when I’m out mountaineering so it was nice to have a trip where we walked at a chilled pace, we stopped quite early and got to enjoy the sunshine before it set. After setting up our shelter we even had a river wash. It was a fantastic night of wild camping, I was testing out some new gear as well. Traditionally I have always used a foam roll mat, the last time I tried a blow up one  it didn’t survive one night. Recently though I had picked up a new blow up mat from… Lidl of all places for £5. I was sceptical but weighing in at under 500g and packing down smaller than real Thermarests I had to give it a try. To my surprise I woke up in the morning to a fully inflated mat. I love a good bargain! There are lots of people who disagree with the usage of tarps and yes I agree they are not ideal in poor conditions although I have always been fine myself. But in conditions like this tarps are amazing you get to see the sun set from your sleeping bag and get a real wild camping experience.

After breaking camp we made our way straight to the edge of the black mountain ridge which is the highlight of anytime spent in the Black Mountains, you have quite the view from the top and we were able to see the route we had taken the day before, it’s quite interesting how different ground looks for different perspectives. We linked up with the tourist path and traversed the ridge before heading down to the road. We met some other hikers and there seemed to be a few DOE groups in the area. You can always tell by the huge packs they carry governed by their over the top kit lists!

If you’re looking for an easily accessible but truly remote wild camping experience I can’t recommend the Black Mountains enough, apart from the ridge itself the area isn’t very popular, you can walk for 30 minutes and have the mountains to yourself while having the piece of mind you could always make it back to civilisation if something went wrong.

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