A Very Windy Weekend in the Black Mountains!

Quick post to say that the strong winds experienced through the UK over the past week or so have also visited the Black Mountains down here in South Wales. This was all well and good but I had also managed to book myself up for a quick weekend getaway!

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View towards Grwyne Fawr reservoir
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I had a planned walk, overnight wildcamp and walk out the next day from Saturday into Sunday. This was going to be a chance to strip down to the bare essentials and have “fastpack” trip. The basic idea was to use the Hilleberg Unna as a tarp tent and the Mountain Laurel Designs Soul Bivvy as a lightweight “inner”. I was also aiming to have as low a packweight and packsize as possible (Unna not withstanding!) so that I could use the OMM 32L classic pack. Because of the relatively mild conditions, I was aiming to also use the Pacific Outdoor Elite AC 2/3 mat instead of evazote (which although light can be quite bulky and not always easy to shove in a 32L pack!). My kit list was therefore looking quite lean by the time I had finished preparing for the trip.

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To be truthful, my head starts to hurt when I look at the definitions  of what is base weight and what is included in carried, worn, consumables etc. “Skin out” is a pretty reasonable measure with a note about how much water/food you start off with and how much you finish with. For this trip I ended up with a “skin-out” weight of just over 8.5kg. Of that, 1kg was water and 2kg was worn as clothing/shoes. If I had ditched the Unna and just taken the tarp, this would have been closer to 7kg all in. Of course being light is all relative to the conditions as selling yourself short is not a fun place to be if it all goes Pete Tong.

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The weather on the Saturday was relatively good although there was a mention of strongs winds so that only reinforced my desire to test out the new “lightweight” option for the Unna (just under 1.8kg including the bivvy bag as an inner). My wildcamp destination was over 2000feet in elevation and near to an escarpment so I was expecting wind to be fair!

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The walk started from the last car park prior to Grwyne Fawr Reservoir and the intention was to walk up through the south-western flank of Mynydd Du Forest and off to summit Crug Mawr. From there the route took in the reverse of my Horseshoe walk from the other week heading North towards Pen y Gadair Fawr and Waun Fach. After reaching Waun Fach, instead of continuing on the reverse horseshoe, the route went north towards Rhos Dirion. The views from here are stunning on a good day being able, if you are lucky, to pick out successive waves of escarpments and mountains tops…..Y Grib, Mynydd Troed, Pen-y-Fan & Corn Du, Fan Gyhirych and finally Fan Fir and Fan Brecheiniog in the far west. The view on the Saturday was indeed splendid being able to pick out all these features with dappled sunlight and cotton-wool clouds abounding. 

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The path then twisted to the North East following the North escarpment via Rhos Dirion to just below the rise up to Lord Hereford’s Knob. At this point is possibly one of the finest wildcamp spots in the whole of the Brecon Beacons. It sits proudly 2000ft up and along the edge of the escarpment facing North towards the Powysian and Herefordshire undulating hills and plains. A brilliant view along the escarpment to the west gives this spot a multi-faceted view. It may not include lofty peaks or granite strewn mountains but it is a fantastic view and even more special when treated to a full on sunset.

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Having pitched up with the Unna, it was apparent that the wind was going to play a major part of the duration of the stay. Gusting at around 30mph in the evening wasnt too bad but during the night the gusts got up to 50mph and the fly of the Unna did move about a bit. Luckily the cavernous amount of space within the tent allowed for restful sleep away from the billowing fly wall facing the wind.

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The morning was grey and drizzly but because I was up with the larks it felt refreshing rather than something to be avoided. I had a 7 mile return to car walk and actually really enjoyed the low cloud clinging to the high points and the shifting light patterns. By the time I reached the car I was already reflecting on a great mini weekender of 20miles and a glorious wildcamp.

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My appetite has just been sharpened for doing more of the same. The kit list worked and I felt happy with my choices. The only changes would be to ditch the Unna under favourable conditions and just take the tarp and bivvy combo thus reducing the load by another kilo or so. I cant wait to get out again….

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About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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16 Responses to A Very Windy Weekend in the Black Mountains!

  1. Nice one , good trip report. When will you get hold of the Oookworks inner for the Unna ?
    Mark

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Mark,

      will be ordering the inner soon. I have decided to go for a PU floor rather than anything microlight. I have to send the tent off for a full measure up and “fitting”

      I’ll let you know as and when

  2. R MacE says:

    Looks like there’s loads of space under the Unna fly, the kit does look spartan but if you have all you need why carry more. It’s quite surprising when you set up camp and discover that once you’ve laid out your sleeping kit and cooking gear/food your rucksack doesn’t take up any space as it’s empty.

    Look forward to your tarp exploits.

    Richard

    • backpackbrewer says:

      absolutely Richard! The rucksack goes under my legs as part of the sleep system so it isnt even on show!

      The Unna is really huge without the inner and I must admit I quite liked the space to spread out under. I am just getting back into the swing of things and now have the bug again.

      The next trip will be a tarp job so long as its not a horror story on the weather front

  3. 343_Guilty_Spark says:

    Thats a pretty light pack weight Dave. Any chance of posting an overnight gear list? Would be interesting to compare and contrast your set up.

  4. backpackbrewer says:

    Hello (or should that be Halo? 🙂 ) Guilty Spark,

    I was thinking of whether or not to post my kit list but you have now prompted me….

    will pop it on tonight

    cheers, Dave

  5. Martin Rye says:

    Light and fast. Like it. The idea of using an outer fly is great. Lots space and good stability. Nice to see you got out.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      thanks Martin,

      yes it was great to get out and the Unna as a fast pack tent really worked for me. Ok, not uber light but light enough and compact enough for a 32l pack

  6. Hi, interesting read thanks. I spend quite a bit of time on the Beacons myself (on the bike mainly) I have my eye on an MLD Soul Bivy as a shelter for bikepacking & ultras where I won’t want the added weight of a tarp. Could you give an approximation of the Soul’s pack size please? Cheers! Mark.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi Mark,

      I have the older version of the Soul Bivvy (momentum fabric which is water resistant not waterproof). My bivvy packs down to approx 20cm x 8cm so the new version may be a teeny bit bigger than that but still packs down quite small

  7. Mark Goldie says:

    Sounds good thanks. It’s not cheap but there’s little else out there that ticks all my bivvy boxes. Cheers!

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Yes, it is expensive but then again it is made out of e-vent and cuben fibre!!!! Looks a really nice bivy and if I didnt already have the older version od the soul bivy, I might have been tempted!

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