Microadventure #1: Snowy Brecon Beacons

 

A microadventure is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, mostly since I finished my summer work where I lived in the forest, sleeping out in a bivvy bag every night on kids’ bushcraft camps. I got used to the breeze on my face and waking up seeing nature around me. Moving back to my parents house took some getting used to. There were walls all around me and these strange things called doors! For a good month after I moved home I’d sleep with the window open and an extra blanket, just because it felt weird without hearing the wind and feeling a light breeze across my face.

When the Winter Solstice microadventure challenge came up I thought this would be my chance to try it with someone else, but nobody else was up for the challenge. The idea of going out by myself scared me too much at that point, so I bailed on the idea and figured I’d wait a little longer. I mean eventually someone would be free and up for the challenge, right?

So the new year came with a new “Year of Micoradventures” goal with a different challenge every month. I thought, “Wonderful! THIS will surely make me get out there and try it!” but I was wrong. January’s aim was to start small (maybe sleep out in the garden) as it’s winter and a chilly time to get started on this challenge. Yet even that I didn’t manage. I knew that being outside overnight wasn’t what was stopping me – I’d done it for 5 months with work and I enjoyed it. I gave myself some slack for January as I had been bivvying all summer, and waited for the February challenge when somebody else might want to come with me.

February came and none of my friends nearby seemed keen on the idea, but timing for this realisation was perfect as the Cardiff Microadventures facebook group had just started and they were already planning the first one! Yet another brick wall was hit when all the group adventures planned were on days/nights that I couldn’t do.

It looked like at this rate I’d miss the February adventure too, with no hope of persuading my friends at the last minute. This month did indeed pass without a sleep out, but it was made up by what I saw as the perfect opportunity to try it at the start of March. As an agency worker I go all over and work different places every week. I’d been booked in for two long day shifts just north of the Brecon Beacons, an hour and a quarter drive away from home. It looked to be a very tiring few days driving back and forth to Cardiff just to get home, sleep, wake up and drive all the way back for another 12.5 hour day at work.

So I bucked up the courage to finally get my first microadventure done, and admitted that if I didn’t do it alone then it would probably never happen. I picked a vaguely familiar location – a layby I drive past every time I go north in Wales on a hill that I’d seen many times before. I posted the plan on facebook to publicly announce what I was doing, meaning I’d be held a bit more accountable if I chickened out.

I still didn’t know what I was so scared about, as the normal anxieties of doing this sort of adventure were no trouble for me. I wasn’t fussed about being away from civilisation, not being comfy in a bed, not having a bathroom, or not having a tent. My main concern (and that of my parents!) is that I’d be alone. Completely by myself apart from a few curious animals maybe.

After my 8.30pm finish, I drove around 15 minutes in the direction of home. I pulled over in the layby that I’d already found on a map, noticing some slush on the ground, and contemplated what I was about to do. It seemed a little bit insane. The moon was nearly full and I could see pretty well so I got out the car to have a little look at where I was. After realising how beautiful it was to be outside again, even if it was a bit nippy and dark, I decided I was indeed going to go up the hill and sleep there.

Back inside the car I changed out of work clothes and started piling on the layers of thermals and fleeces, then finished packing up my rucksack. A quick text to a few people to let them know where I was, and with my rucksack on my back I went through the kissing gate and started up the path. Just as I’d started walking up the hill a lorry pulled in to the layby, and it suddenly struck me what I was most scared of on this adventure.

Paradoxically, after putting off this adventure for so long due to lack of company, I realised that it was meeting other people there that scared me. I carried on walking up the path, looking over my shoulder. What if the lorry driver got out and saw me? Would they wonder why I was walking up the hill, not down? Would I have to explain what I was doing? And most scarily, isn’t this how all those bad stories you hear about start? Someone alone, nobody around to help.

I had to tell myself that it was just a lorry driver pulling in for their night’s sleep just like me – only they were doing it in the lorry and not the mountain. Up the tree lined path I went, over a stile where I had a choice of paths – right following the brick wall to where I knew there were some trees further down, or straight ahead further up the mountain. I decided upon neither of these options – a path meant the possibility of other people (maybe early morning walkers) . I headed between the two, uphill on rough ground with no sign of cover to protect me from the wind. I kept going but kept bumping in to the path because it curved around to the right. I wanted to be on this open ground because the emptiness felt safer. Being near woods would mean lots of creatures making noise and possibly being curious. The exposed side of the mountain felt safer as I could see around me, and I knew I’d get a view when I woke up.

With the moonlight to guide me I found myself a tree to sleep under giving me a bit of cover if it rained, and something to hide behind. I set up my bed – bivvy bag, roll mat and sleeping bag. I got my stove out and cooked some pasta to warm me up and fill my stomach before bed. It felt good, outside in the open with beautiful moonlight scenery. Food done, I packed everything in my bag, popped the rain cover over it and went for a quick wee before snuggling in to my cocoon.

It was perfectly snug and cosy and not too cold – I had thermals, fleeces and a winter sleeping bag. Noises were the biggest thing to get used to, as being curled up not being able to see, your imagination runs wild with what the noises could be. I quickly realised it was the wind playing tricks, and most of the noise was my raincover flapping around. Annoyingly an hour after going to bed I had to get out again for another wee, despite making sure I went before bed! I blame the last minute cup of tea at work!

Back in to my cocoon and the rest of the night was fine. I was used to the noises and was nice and warm. I woke a few times in the night to hear (what I thought was) rain, turn over or take off a layer of clothes, but quickly went back to sleep. Morning came and my alarm went off. I wriggled up out of my bag and popped my head out of the bivvy to be greeted by a wonderful view of the tree above me.

Snowy branches
Snowy branches… maybe it wasn’t rain I heard at night!

Wriggling up even more I poked my head out and was greeted with a blanket of snow around me which made for a great view!

You can just see the bottom of my bivvy bag in the middle!
You can just see the bottom of my bivvy bag in the middle!

I lay there for a while admiring the view and how great it is that THIS is what I’m waking up to. The snow was a nice surprise as I may not have wanted to go if I thought it would be snowy and cold.

My bed for the night
My bed for the night

Even though I was on a mountain, I still had work to get to so I dragged myself out of bed. I packed up my gear, took one last look at where I’d slept all night, before bounding back down the hill to the car. A quick change, a de-ice of the car, a text to let people know I survived and I was on my way to work. It was exhilarating, and a much better start to the day than waking tired in a house, having to drive all the way from Cardiff.

After my shift at work I drove all the way home to the comfier bed in my room with a duvet, mattress and central heating. Soft and cosy, but not nearly as adventurous as the night before!

More adventures:
After completing my first mission solo, I then got others involved the next time: Microadventure #2: Solar Eclipse
Microadventure #3: A Sandy Mess

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8 thoughts on “Microadventure #1: Snowy Brecon Beacons

    1. Haha if I revealed the exact location to the general public then probably, yes. I only allowed my friends to see the post, and only told the exact location to very worried family members 🙂

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