My first wild camp took place in the Brecon Beacons in April 2008. It was fiercely cold with snow still on the peaks of Fan-y-Big and its neighbours and I was lumping a Berghaus Crag, a Mountain Hardwear PCT1 and some other less than lightweight kit. I'd learned from my earlier experiences as a twenty-something but now, bold and experienced, I was still burdened with a heavy, mountaineering pack - a poor choice. Whilst reasonably comfortable, it was simply too heavy.
Still, overcome with excitement, I grabbed the train from London to Newport and then onto Abergavenny, from which point I took my pre-arranged cab to a campsite in Talybont-on-Usk. Raining and, by now, very dark, I pitched in a field which, even in the grim, inky blackness, I could see what mostly mud. Nevertheless, I ploughed on and pitched. The days were yet to come where I would have the erudition to bring a MSR pack towel to soak up dampness after pitching in the rain and I simply got my kit out, shuffled into my bag and tried to sleep. It was 4C and the rain kept me awake most of the night.
In the morning, I packed my kick with mounting excitement only to discover a field full of lush grass, perfect for camping. Only one part of the field was muddy...
Undeterred by this omen, I headed into Talybont, grabbed some sustenance for brekkie and for lunch and made for the hills. I took the path past the YHA and Talybont reservoir up to Tor-y-Foel and Bryniau Gleision. The views were amazing and I realised that everything that had gone before was well worth it.
As I continued on, the wind got stronger but, for all my gear faux pas, I was warm. A decent shell was recalcitrant against the wind and a fleece beanie from Les Deux Alpes bought at the last minute on a skiing holiday was perhaps the most welcome bargain of my life at that moment. Eventually, navigating across Access Land for the first time, I found myself on Pant-y-Cregiau (and began my obsession with photographing Trig Points). Not much for the view, I have to admit but an amazing wilderness milieu.
After this, I dropped down to Torpantau, ready to seek out what I had planned as my wild camp for the night. However, I had not reckoned on my fierce pace and early start - it was only 1pm! Somewhat wary of the snow and the fact that I had not slept well at 4C the night before, I was not content to head up to 650m+ and Craig-y-Fan-Ddu so opted for the easier option instead - I took the Taff Path all the way back to Tor-y-Foel. All in all, I must have clocked up 28km that day and I was shattered!
Every time you go hillwalking, you learn valuable lessons on kit selection, preparation and route planning. I was fortunate that I had selected a route that allowed me the chance to head back to an easier place to wild camp - pitching in the snow or at a height where I would have been far too cold is clearly not the best introduction to wild camping but, in the end, I found a place reasonably ok and enjoyed my time. The next day, I took the valley path along the River Usk (a river, coincidentally, I would some years later kayak in a Dagger Mamba 8.0 on Grade I and II whitewater) to Abergavenny - I learned nothing from that walk except that my feet ached and my rucksack needed replacing.
Oh, and I have not taken the train since - it's far easier to drive, have a change of clothes in the car and not be tied to cabs and trains which, on a Sunday, are not frequent...