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Winter Training: A night in the Brecon national Park

Posted in: Training winter


Training in winter is never easy, but this year, the added complication of COVID has made getting out in the hills extra hard. Finally, this weekend, after months of delays and cancellations, myself and a friend ventured to Wales to get some training in.

Under UK guidelines, physical training like this is allowed if you gain permission and follow restrictions. So, I waited for the ‘go-ahead’, gathered a friend and headed out to camp in the Brecons for the night. The virus meant not only dates, times, and location of the trip were affected, but so were the number of people who could come, and which friends felt they were up for struggles and hardships of an umcomfortable night of winter training. Despite the challenges, I was overjoyed to finally have the opportunity to be out in nature again, doing what I love most.

Our journey began on Friday 30th January and we headed across the country to the beautiful, hilly landscape of the Brecon Beacons. It had been a while since I’d been out and was a little worried I’d lost all map reading skills prior to the trip. Being confident that what you’re reading on the map is actually what is in front of you, is quite important and not always that simple. Thankfully, I’ve still got it-it woulda been a pretty miserable weekend had I failed on the navigation front!

Our time of arrival meant we spent a lot of time trekking in the dark. We ventured across hilly landscapes and through forest getting soaked-through pretty much the whole time which is to be expected in mid Wales at this time of year. Trekking and camping in such conditions throws up a whole new bunch of challenges which is part of the reason I love getting out in the Winter. We faced many hurdles on this short trip:

  • deciding how to cross fast flowing rivers and streams
  • thinking about how high we should trek 
  • deciding how long we should walk considering the conditions
  •  choosing a safe location to set up camp for the night. 

It all takes a little bit of extra thought in Winter. Not only do you have to factor in what is humanly possible, but you also need to be mindful of safety. It is important to ensure you are able to exit easily when needed, or be somewhat reachable by emergency services should danger or an unpredicted accident arise. With this in mind, we were on the map every 400 metres in the pitch black, wind and rain, to ensure we were on track.

As night fell, around 8pm we realised it would be a good time to set up camp for the night. After a mile of incline we reached a flat plane. We had been aiming for a settlement nearby which we arrived at by 8.30pm. The chosen location was:

  • 1 mile from a road
  • had access to fresh water 
  • surrounded by historic crumbling buildings

These three things made it the perfect camping location. The road meant we were safe if anything untoward was to happen. The buildings gave us a little protection from the winds which got up to 40mph, and the fresh water when filtered and boiled made cooking our dinner of tuna and rice a whole lot easier! So, despite the challenges of setting up camp in the dark, treacherous conditions, we found the ideal place to spend the night. 

Training in winter is important as the bitter weather conditions allow me to somewhat replicate the unpredictable conditions of the Darien gap which I still hope to cross one day this year. As my failed attempts keep me motivated to train hard even though I am stuck in the UK for now. Of course, the climate will always be different here in the UK, but facing the cold, rain and snow is vital to preparing your mind and body for bigger expeditions so winter provides a great opportunity to push your limits. We certainly picked the perfect weekend for our mini training trip with temperatures dropping below zero, and sleet, snow and rain attacking us from all angles. Just to make it harder for myself I carried a 20kg backpack with all my kit in. When I’m on bigger trips my backpack weighs at least this so it is helpful to test my endurance on these smaller adventures. Not an easy trip but one full of challenges and exhilaration which is all part of the fun!

Winter training like this might be uncomfortable and is also known as getting wintered, but it sure is what I needed  to prepare for my future adventures in the world. I found much enjoyment in being back outside and witnessing the unpredictable conditions that mother nature has to offer. Lockdown restrictions have made me value my time outside even more and I hope you feel inspired to get outside, even if it is just to your local park or forest, to connect with the natural world as often as you can during these tough times. 

A few principles to go by in these hard time and famously coined by Ross Edgley.  

To read into these the principles

  • Resilience is strategically managed suffering.
  • Learn to get wintered
  • Interval training
  • Strength matters 
  • Science of a smile
  • To be well fed simply as a morale booster and to keep energy up
  • To get comfortable being uncomfortable
  • Sleep yourself stronger
  • Controlling the controllable and accept the uncontrollable
  • The power of purpose.