Doing things the hard way has always added a little spice to being outdoors for me and although there’s (nearly) always an ‘out’ should things get a little too crazy, there’s only been a very few occasions that I would consider got out of hand.
I would never subject any one else to the same situations because its unfair and if the crap hits the fan you’ll have no idea how they’ll react (and that’s too far into the unknown even for me).
With that in mind and coupled with the need to get some wild camping done over this holiday season (especially with storm ‘Frank’ on the way), I headed to Wales on Monday night to try an off season camp on a place called ‘Twmbarlwm’ in South Wales.
Getting to the Start Point
Never one to keep track of days has got me into trouble before but not realizing it was a bank holiday turned the bus journey to my starting off point into a very long affair. The problem was that although the route into Risca has an excellent bus service Monday to Saturday, I was dealing with a greatly reduced Sunday service.
This meant a fair amount of hanging about as I’d just missed one bus and saw it sail past just as I left Newport train station 🙂 . This did shave a big chunk off the available daylight but if I pushed it up the mountain, there was still enough time to get sorted.
Hunting ‘D’ Cells
Two torches are the bare minimum I like to have in my gear (no matter where I’m camping) and even though all my camping kit was ready to go, my big Maglite’s batteries were almost dead.
Didn’t think this was a problem at the time because there’s plenty of shops in Risca, but had to go through 6 before I found one that had these big batteries for sale. This took another slice out of the daylight and by the time I started climbing up to Twmbarlwm, I knew I was pushing it too close.
Pitching Up in the Dark
Spending the time getting batteries for the big torch meant by the time I reached the summit it was already dark and a lot more windy than I thought it was going to be 🙂
Putting up the tent in almost total darkness with a 30 mile an hour wind doing its best to screw it up, was absolutely hilarious and if there was ever a reason to get a camera with night vision, this had to be it.
Dropping a heavy rucksack inside does help to keep the thing in one place as you attempt to get the poles in the ground, but that level of wind still makes getting the tent together great fun.
Doing the best I could given the circumstances still left a lot to be desired and had to double peg nearly everything if the tent was going to stay put for longer than an hour.
One Wild Night
Just when I was getting used to the level of wind and how it was trying to rip the tent apart, it went up a notch and bought the rain with it.
Getting up about every hour to take a quick look at the way the tent was pegged down became impossible once the rain had set in very heavy and even opening the front of the tent meant letting a huge amount of water into where I was meant to be sleeping.
Resigned to the fact that I’d just have to wait and see what happened, I made sure all my gear was waterproofed while moving my sleeping bag into my waterproof bivy. Don’t really like using the bivy (its like a big plastic condom), but if the tent did disappear, it would save me a good soaking 🙂
Even with all the wind noise, I heard the crack as one of the tent poles broke and thought that the game was up. The tent seemed to loosen up a bit, adopting a worrying sideways rocking motion, but thankfully stayed where it was.
I imagine that all the messing around putting the tent up badly in the first place didn’t help and it was a few scary hours before the wind and rain finally gave up trying to ruin my night (around 4am).
Wrong tent, wrong weather and the wrong place, but I enjoyed every minute of it 🙂
A Totally Different Day
Still managed 4 hours sleep despite the mental night I’d just had and peeled myself out of the tent to a beautiful sunny and surprisingly Welsh morning.
After doing my best to square the broken tent away and get my pack together, I did the usual sweep of the area to make sure there was no rubbish or bits and pieces left behind.
Feeling fresh even after only 4 hours of sleep, I ignored the easy route back down to Risca and decided to enjoy the morning by hiking the 5 miles or so over the mountain to Pontypool and the train home.