FIELD REPORT

BLACK MOUNTAINS

ADVENTURERS: NAT WAGSTAFF & FREDDIE REAY

Black Mountains

ACTIVITIES

Two day hike across the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons, Wales.

WEATHER CONDITIONS

10 to 15°C, sunny during the days, wind and rain overnight

PACK

Gregory Stout 45

PACK CONTENTS

SealLine Blocker Dry Sack 20L with Vango Latitude 200 Sleeping Bag
FORCE 10 Aero 3 Compact Mat
Team Rubicon Deployment Cap
Bush Dump Bag – tissues, Mora Knife and antibac gel
Side pocket of pack: blister tape, ibuprofen and Stinger energy bites
Paracord bundle
Paracord bracelet
Gregory Stout 45 Pack with Petzl Carabiner and HiGear walking stick
Prometheus Design Werx Stash Pouch (plus Ru Marker) containing a power bank and cable, a few medical bits, vaseline, ClimbOn!
Stash Pouch (plus Ru Marker) containing a few bandages, Trauma shears, Israeli Bandage/tourniquet and a few other FIRST aid bits
LumiAID PackLite Max
Other side pocket of pack: engraved silver dog tags with key dates my wife had made for me, old knackered AA FOURSEVENS Quark torch, Petzl Headlamp, Zippo Lighter (1941 Replica)
Glowstick
2 x Klean Kanteens
iPhone 6
Seiko watch with PDW Expedition Watch Band Compass
Spyderco Urban Lightweight
Weatherproof map (thanks Tony D!)
Camelbak 2.0L
Pack Towl – Large
Snow Peak titanium bowl and mug
Titanium Spork
Jetboil Zip
SealLine Blocker Dry Sack 10L with all our rations
Platypus 1.0 container
Mechanix Insulated Gloves
Merino Hat
Triple Aught Design Stealth LT with Team Rubicon Ops Patch –Wordsworth

Not visible:
Nikon D3000 with 35mm Prime Lens
Exped Dry Sack for camera

What I wore:
TAD Force 10 ACs
Sprayway Waterproof Trousers (thanks Freddie!)
TAD Huntsman Henley
TAD Quantum Half Zip
TAD Ranger Hoodie
Meindl Walking Boots

Other:
Freddie carried the tent which was a Vango Latitude 2, that he’d used on a World Challenge. They don’t seem to make this model any more but it’s similar to the Hydra 200.

Field Report

The route: A good friend of mine, Freddie, and I travelled down to Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales on Friday night to camp over in Llanthony Campsite. It’s essentially a field with a tap and public toilets, but that was all we needed. The parking was free and there was an old ruined Priory that still had enough shape for us to admire before heading off on Saturday morning.

Knowing we’d spent the majority of our route traversing the ridges of the Black Mountains, I wasn’t confident in finding water along the way, so we each were carrying around 4.5L on top of all our other gear. This ended up being just(!) enough, but an absolute killer for the first ascent of 400m within 2km. Not having to spend time seeking out water did mean we could cover more distance.

Field Report: Black Mountains 37281106006_8bb9e5e21a_b
Field Report: Black Mountains 23476472488_3b7baee1c6_b

The first day was filled with great views of miles of Welsh fields, hills and valleys. The route was pretty straight and largely resembled the Dead Marshes of Middle Earth, including a dead sheep in one of the pools and a couple of skeletons along the way. At lunchtime when we descended a small amount into Gospel Pass and, after restoring our energy, we ascended towards Lord Hereford’s Knob(!).

Field Report: Black Mountains 37281107806_4f8dcffb02_o
Field Report: Black Mountains 37281106556_78d69c617b_o

We pushed ourselves to the top of Rhos Dirion (a casual 713m above sea level) before heading along a much more isolated trail with a smaller, muddy path. With various rain clouds approaching in the distance and most of the ground being waterlogged, we eventually found a great spot on dry(ish!) grass to make camp.

Mrs Pack Config had spend hours of her time off to create us home made MREs and despite being largely experimental, they proved to be massively morale boosting. After shovelling down a tuna pasta that we struggled to keep warm due to the sudden strong wind blowing across our camp, we sheltered in our tent shortly before the heavens opened above us for the next 5 or so hours.

After suitably refuelling blueberry and cinnamon porridge, we pressed on. Having covered way more than we’d expected on day one, we decided to extend our route slightly to at least take us up to lunch time. This added to our adventure significantly, as despite frequently checking our position on the map, the turning down into the valley never presented itself.

This led to us taking probably the most gruelling path our of adventure. It was a long downward slope with shoulder (or higher) bracken the whole way, with many patches of thorn bushes, brambles and nettles to drive through – we were even climbing over and under fallen tree branches. The track was tiny, muddy and filled with smooth hidden rocks to slip on. On top of growing knee pains, we both emerged truly battered by the seriously unused “path”.

The last leg was generally gravel track or road, which was a welcome break, as our bodies, having smelt the end, were giving up. Thankfully there was a pint and a greasy burger waiting for us in Abergavenny.

You can check out our roughly marked out route here.

The Gear: There were a few pieces of stand out gear that I wanted to mention. It was the first outing for my Gregory Pack, which is the first larger, top loading pack I’ve ever owned. It truly blew me away with how well thought out things like access to pockets and adjustability were.

It never once felt uncomfortable, and made it easy for me to shift the weight about as we travelled over different terrain. Due to the mud, rocks and down-right-nasty final descent, it had definitely taken a bit of a beating. Despite this, it resolutely powered through with me and didn’t once hinder. There’s no question in my mind that this will be my pack of choice for many more adventures.

My Prometheus Design Werx Watch Band Compass proved a brilliant tool to the quick orientation, without the need to carry a bigger compass. Coupled with the weather proof map lent to us by a good friend and regular hill hiker, Tony Darnell, this was a winning combo.

Having never used one of the collapsible water bottles before, and being sceptical of their durability, I kept our Platypus largely unprotected on in the expanding sleeve of the Stout Pack and we treated it with a bit of distain too. It held up, and proved useful as once used it saved us space too. We both still want to see how durable it’ll be over time.

This was the first time I’d taken out my newly purchased Jetboil (Zip), but it definitely impressed us. With only hot water needed for our meals it was perfect and performed as expected.

We’d both look to save weight on our next adventure, but we were largely happy with our set up.

Configeer #002

Credit to Freddie Reay for the dramatic action photos (i.e. any that have me in them!)

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