Destination: Brecon Beacons (Fan Fawr)
Gear: Thermarest TrailPro, Alpkit Dirtbag Mat, Alpkit Brewkit, Mammut Sleeping Bag, Rab Down Sleeping, Merrell Grassbows, FiveTen Guide Tennies, Patagonia Down Smock, Marmot 3in1, Sweet Protection Salvation Jacket.
It was a less than streamlined start to the weekend (I had failed spectacularly in packing the night before) but we kept the getaway quickish in the end. Campercar was reasonably empty for us, we were sticking to walking this weekend so left the boats and mats at home. In our never-ending mission to pimp out the old gal we bought some cutlery and bowls at Newtown Tescos, so gourmet meals are always on the menu now! We were headed to South Wales, AKA J’s homeland, with plans to sleep somewhere in the Brecon Beacons that night at least, but as usual the plan was vague to say the least.
See, the problem with campercar is that cars, well, they’re cars. They need to be parked, and sleeping in them means you also end up parked and often in the strangest of places. As darkness fell we neared the hills and the question of exactly where we were going to bed down for the night became quite pressing. Pulling in to Pen Y Fan car park, I spied some vehicles parked in the corner and not wanting to part of the South Wales Guide to Dogging immediately cried “Nope, no way, nope. We are not sleeping here!” After more driving around we settled on parking up in Penderyn and bedded down for the night.
Come the morning, we took an early drive over to the bottom of Pen Y Fan for breakfast in our PJs and ate coco cops as we watched the world wake up. I had never really been to Brecon and got a bit of a shock when we first pulled up – not one but TWO diesel generators hooked up to burger/icecream vans. I just kept looking up at the hills, and then down at this car park (which was very rapidly filling up and overspilling) and couldn’t quite believe this was happening. It was a tourist trap in some of the worst possible ways, and the sound and smell of diesel generators and the sight of people in flipflops and shorts walking up the hill just felt so wrong (come on guys, it’s still May…). I’m not being snobbish am I? Maybe a little. But honestly, this is a national park where you can’t even get permission for a bloody shed without 10 rounds of paperwork, how is this allowed? It felt kind of ruined for me, and by the time we had eaten and dressed, we had firmly decided against joining the hoards (not even joking here, literally hundreds of people in lines going up the paths).
J lived for a year at Storey Arms Outdoor Centre which was about 2 minutes down the road, so luckily we had a bit of insider local knowledge and instead of starting up PYF we jumped off the path and headed down to the right following the little river until we came to the tunnels. Easily one of the coolest things I’ve done on a walk; we had to hop across stones to get river right and on the edge of a wide tunnel and then a tricky little manoeuvre to get both our feet above the water onto the tunnel sides. It felt really cool for some reason, and a little bit like being a secret agent… After the tunnels, which threw us out on the other side of the road, we hiked up the boggy slopes and started a fairly gentle ascent of Fan Fawr. It felt good to explore without having to deal with a huge amount of gradient. We spotted a rocky outcrop to explore and it turned out to be a great spot to look all the way down the valley (and to have a bit of warning of mini weather fronts that just kept sweeping up between the hills).
The May weather was kind to us, and despite a 5 minute hailstorm halfway up it was a very pleasant and easy walk. The last 100 metres is the steepest so naturally we stopped for pringles and twixes before we started the final ascent. We had also managed to avoid any human contact all the way, and it was only when we got to the top and were making fools of our selves with trig pillar and cairn (I don’t know what the welsh call a cairn?) selfies that we met another walker (typical!). Deceptively high and with amazing views on all sides, the flat topped Fan Fawr was pretty awesome! Our meander back down saw us strip off down to our tshirts and descend the other side of the hill, sweeping down and across back towards the road side and over the gulleys that line the hillside. These gullies were pretty cool – we like a secret stream and these didn’t disappoint. If only we were tiny people in tiny kayaks…
A quick scramble back through the tunnels and we were back in the Pen Y Fan car park. It was still fairly early thanks to our al fresco breakfast, so we whipped up one of our one-pot-brukit meals of filled pasta, pesto and smoked sausage before we finally headed down to Cardiff. Awesome walk, awesome weather and in Cardiff for a evening cider, what more could you ask for?
Until next time #campercar out.