Expedition: Black Mountains, Brecons

Each year, my friend Andy and I go forth to conquer and explore somewhere wild in the UK. This time we thought we would try the Brecon Beacons.

Things have been incredibly busy of late and I’ve not had tons of time to plan the trip. What has been a huge help though is Bing Maps. I have to admit to never really taking much notice of Bing with Google being my go-to online map but they have one killer feature – an Ordnance Survey map layer. This is incredibly handy!

Black Mountains 2015

After a slightly late get away from London we made it to a mountain road at one end of the Black Mountains (part of the Brecon Beacons) at nearly 4pm. We quickly made for the hills knowing that we only had, at most, two hours to get into the wilderness and make camp.

Black Mountains 2015

The weather was a bit grey and there was a bit of nip to the air but it was still ace to be up in the hills. The general plan was to follow the route of the ‘Beacons Way’ as far as we could and then head back along the same path. We made it as far as Foel Fraith and made camp on a flat but boggy piece of ground half way up. The ground in this area was either boggy or rocky (or both) which made finding a tent sized pitch quite a struggle!

Black Mountains 2015

Black Mountains 2015

The night was fairly mild and it was pretty cosy inside, despite the howling wind and lashing rain. The morning, however, gave us a blanket of mist and sporadic showers and we were in no rush to emerge from our den of warmth.

Black Mountains 2015

Eventually we bit the bullet and in a small break in the rain quickly struck camp and got on our way. I’m sure the vista was superb, however, we will just have to assume that as we couldn’t see any more than a few feet in the fog.

I’m pretty pleased with my navigation skills as we spent the entire morning following compass bearings with hardly any features to go by. This is adventure!

Black Mountains 2015

Black Mountains 2015

We did come across some wildlife on our journey, some alive, such as this lovely frog but quite a bit dead, such as the many sheep bones we found. i have to say that it was quite macabre walking across a misty heath stumbling across piles of bones. It did make me think about ‘American Werewolf in London’ – ‘don’t leave the road’, ‘beware the moon’ (seriously, there was a full moon that night).

After 7-8 miles of low visibility I was pleased to only find myself a few hundred metres off of the path as we descended down into Llanddeusant. This did mean negotiating our way through a farm where we were sarcastically (and possibly harshly) asked ‘can’t read a map?’ by the farmer.

Black Mountains 2015

It was still raining heavily so we sheltered in the porch of the (closed) Youth Hostel. At least this allowed me to brew up a coffee and have a dry(ish) lunch. We also assessed our options. Head back the way we came and trust my navigation was going to work on the way back or head back via the road?

We were soaked through and andy had some bad blisters so the prospect of slogging over the hills (with no view) seemed a bit masochistic (even for me). The road it was then. The only minor issue on this plan was that the road went off of my map so it was ‘fingers crossed’ that it actually joined up.

It was actually a fairly pleasant walk and the cars on the country lanes were few. Late on in the afternoon the sun even came out for a lovely sunset (that I managed not to photograph). Back at the car, in the last bit of daylight, we were shivery and damp and the (now) clear skies promised a sub-zero night. I guess we could have ‘manned up’ and slept out again but I have to confess that we didn’t fancy it much in our current state. Hotel it was.

This proved to be a wise move as I came down with some kind of food poisoning in the night and while this was awful, it was have been catastrophic in a tent in the wilderness.

Black Mountains 2015

Black Mountains 2015

Before going home, we spent a very lovely couple of hours at ‘The Mumbles’ on the Gower. The sun was shining and it was glorious – if only we had had this weather the day before!! The luck of the draw I guess. Despite the harsh weather, it was great to be out in the mountains and i’m proud that we gave it a go.

All the photos from the trip on Flickr.




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