HomeAdventureWild Camping and Hiking in the Brecon Beacons James Burnham June 16, 2015 Adventure, Europe, Photography, Travel, Wales 5 Comments Wales is home to the stunningly beautiful Brecon Beacons. It’s a mecca for any hiker and I’d be mucking in and getting to grips with 3 of the Brecon’s mighty peaks. Fan Y Big, Pen Y Fan & Cribyn. That’s right! I have officially conquered a massive Welsh FanY. (Don’t tell Gabby). WILD CAMPING OUT IN THE STICKS I arrived in the Brecons around 8pm on a Friday night. Myself and 2 friends had set off from Buckinghamshire straight from work and after a pit stop for a few previsions, we parked up at the end of a typical Welsh valley and along with all our gear, got straight to finding a perfect camp site for the night. This soon felt easier said than done. A half hour later and still walking in the dark, there was no flat camping ground to be found. It was pitch black by now and we couldn’t see a thing. A sheep could have been staring me straight in the face and I’d have been none the wiser, let alone any clereances in the distance or more importantly any signs warning you to, ‘Keep Out!’ ‘Private Property!’ or ‘Beware! Killer Sheep!’ …. That last one was a joke. Another half hour back down the track, then a little further, we finally saw a clearing just before the darkness of heavy woodland. This would be perfect. We could hear water but couldn’t see it. Hear sheep but couldn’t see them either. All we were focused on was putting our tents up and getting a good night’s kip before the morning’s hike. As happy as Larry…if Larry was in a tent. (I don’t actually know anyone called Larry) GOOD MORNING WALES It was 0600 hours. What does the 0 stand for? 0h my god its early! 6am soon came round and on peaking out our tent, we were able to take in where we were… and it was quite a spot. Rise and Shine The clearing we had camped in was now teaming with sheep and lambs. The water we could hear was coming from mere meters away behind a hedge by a reservoir and to the side of that were the ruins of an abandoned hydro plant. Not a bad find in the pitch black ey? GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES Man wash done, baked bean breaky polished off nicely and tents away… It was time to begin hiking in the Brecon Beacons. Baked bean breaky….nobody walk behind me for the rest of the day. Another bonus of where we had camped was that we were only minutes away from the route that would lead us to the 3 peaks. We had lucked out and it was only 7am. The path we followed took us through marshy bog land (not the easiest to walk on), across a number of small streams and along a rocky track made up of slippery slate and white quartz until we were finally faced with the peak number 1 …. Pen Y Fan. Unlike some mountains, such as Mount Snowdon, Pen Y Fan wasn’t overly rocky and lush with green grass, making for staggering views and many photo opportunities. One peak down. Two to go. We were doing alright though a little out of puff. These peaks are popular training grounds for the army who run up and down the mountains like they’re mere speed bumps. They were making us look light right nancys. We’d show ’em though. Peak 2 was in our sights…. it was Fan Y Big. The reward at the top of Fan Y Big was… well, not too shabby….. The descent down Fan Y Big is pretty steep. So pick up a little speed, and you’ll get a great run up into peak number 3. The sun was starting to set and Cribyn was casting its shadow across the mighty Brecons. Now the sun was setting we found ourselves against the clock if we wanted to make it down off the mountain in daylight. We were still a good 5 miles from the reservoir where we began our hike but it was in sight from here. We had two options. Option number one; stick to the path and hope our one torch doesn’t fail us. Or, option number two? OPTION TWO: A VERY STEEP DESCENT My suggested option number two was initially laughed off by my mates but somehow (don’t ask me how) they decided to trust me….. god knows why! Personally, as soon as I put option two into motion, I began to mistrust my own sanity. Considering we could see the reservoir, I looked over the edge and although steep at first, it looked as if it would level off shortly after. My plan was to use the long reeds as leverage and to lean back almost lying on the ground and slowly scramble down the mountain side. A couple of seconds in (on taking the lead) I realised the reeds were set in marshy, bog like ground. As I grabbed a handful of them to keep my balance, their roots came loose from the land. When I used the word scramble I didn’t intend for it to be more a case of gliding on my heels, quite out of control, down a boggy mountain side with handfuls of reeds. Adrenaline was soon kicking in and I was suddenly very thankful I had opted for wearing brown trousers. So, as I ‘scrambled’ down I looked back to see my mates doing exactly the same thing and catching up with me at great speed. Mere minutes later, I came to an abrupt halt! Suddenly the land became harder and the reeds didn’t give way. Hallelujah! We had made it down and surprisingly without a single injury. Back at the top I thought we were staring certain death in the face but alas, we were very much alive. DISCLAIMER: If you take anything away from this post then let it be the knowledge that I am not endorsing this kind of idiocy. Or as they say on the tele. Do not try this at home! … Or in this case, in the Brecon Beacons. On a positive note, we had reduced our remaining hike time from 5 miles in possibly 1.5 hours to half a mile in 7 seconds. It was back to the car for us, and after a change of underpants, we were off home. I loved hiking in the Brecon Beacons. So many places I have visited around the world remind me of this beautiful Welsh mountain range… from the hills of Vang Vieng in Laos, to the Blue Mountains on Australia’s East Coast. If you find yourself in the Valleys at any point, grab a camera and some comfy walking boots and give yourself a treat. TweetShare on TumblrPrintEmail http://travellousworld.com Maaike (Travellous World) Stunning nature! I found myself in Wales a couple of times and the country has stolen my heart (the kind of settings as shown in your photos being the main reason!). Maaike http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers Thanks Maaike – it’s a beautiful place isn’t it. Hard to do it justice in photographs but so pleased you like them :). Just about to have a read of your latest post, looking forward to finding out more about London’s hidden gems! Giselle Correia Wow, that looks absolutely stunning. So many places we have to add to our list. PS- Love the photo of the sheep in the hills. http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers Thanks Giselle – the sheep pic was a lucky shot, he posed perfectly! Really pleased you like the photos. Definitely worth visiting the Brecon Beacons, make sure it stays on the list :). Thanks for stopping by! Naomi86 Absolutely love this, stunning pics as well! Wales is so beautiful! We have hiked in Snowdonia before (Cader Idris was my favourite!) but planning to do something similar to your story above (minus the gliding down a steep mountain) in May. Have never been wildcamping before though, do you have any tips?