July brought a heatwave and the Angels’ first wild camp as a team in the black mountains of Brecon. It may not have been the freezing temperatures of the Antarctic but the weather certainly brought a taste of coping in extreme conditions. The Angels deliberated over packing their bergens and the food they needed for the four days as well as clothing and essential items such as cooking equipment and shelter before meeting up in the mountains for their adventure.
Day 1 saw the LAFAs navigating their way across difficult terrain with their bergens packed to the brim weighing in around 20–25kg; they headed to meet George who had made an early start to find a camp for the night. Things seemed to be going well until the London team thought they had spotted George around 10km in waving at them. They proceeded to go off the main track down the mountain, passing a dead sheep, negotiating barbed wire and climb back up the other side of the valley to get to who we thought was George. After a real scramble across a boggy field they finally got to the camp only to realise the person wasn’t George but a random camper!
It was a testing time for the LAFAs, being very hot and now having to climb back down the steep mountain and up the other side again, at some points crawling due to the angle. At this point the light was now fading and the LAFAs were starting to formulate plan ‘B’ if they couldn’t get to George in time. As they talked about sleeping on the hill in their bivvy bags there was a sudden cheer of relief as George was spotted stood next to her tent waving at them. She had picked a great camp next to a stream, which was welcomed for a good wash after a stressful few hours of walking! The camp was set up for the night and ration packs eaten before turning in for a good sleep in the tents.
The next day started at 7am with wild toilet activity and a fresh bath in the stream before more rations for breakfast and purification of the water for the day’s hike. Tents were dismantled and bags packed before heading off towards Lord Hereford’s Knob and down towards Hay Bluff where the Angels were picking up Alison. The LAFAs and George made good progress and enjoyed magnificent views on their way across the Beacons and up on to the Knob. After a few hours they met Alison and continued on their planned route to camp 2, now as a full Angels unit.
During the hike Nakita rolled her ankle, setting off a previous injury which saw Nikki and Bex having to carry and drag her bergen as well as their own, using a tarp as a makeshift sled for the rest of the day’s hike. The hike ended up being extremely challenging down a steep narrow mountain path barely fit to cross at some points. The Angels really had to work as a team and lean on their resilience as the hours went by in the stifling heat of the day. The team finally made it to camp 2 before dark, very tired and sore but the waterfalls made up for a challenging day and another refreshing bath before refuelling and bed.
As the sun rose on the waterfall the next morning the Angels started the same routine again, washing, eating, packing up and preparing for their day’s hike. Thankfully after a good night’s rest Nakita’s ankle was good enough to continue and she soldiered on with some duck tape and painkillers! They headed back towards Tympa and dropped off Alison as she had to head back for work and then traced their footsteps back along the same path passing by camp one to the reservoir where they decided to settle for the final night. There was a good few hours of the evening left so Nikki took the Angels through a recovery yoga session. It was a tranquil spot and the Angels watched swallows feeding on the water and sheep running across the bridge to find night-time shelter, and reminisced about the few days camping and what is to come in the Antarctic as the sun set over the water.
The following morning everything was packed up, remaining food eaten and water organised before heading off on the last leg to the car park. The drive home involved a stop for essential burger and chips, which tasted so good after four days of rations! Imagine how good these will taste after three months in Antarctica!
Wild camping was a great success for the Angels with many lessons learnt as well as inhibitions as a team dealt with after many a naked bath and wild toilet activity! It was great for the Angels to spend some quality time as a team and overcome difficulties as there will be many in Antarctica. They are all looking forward to the next camp, but maybe minus the detour!
By Rebecca Rowe