Training in the Brecon Beacons

Training in the Brecon Beacons

If you’re a teenager of middle class stock from the suburbs of London, it’s fair to say that you wouldn’t have much of an idea of what a three week expedition, on a tight budget, in a third world country, entails. So to that end, a bit of training to prepare the girls we’re taking out there next summer was very much in order!

As last time we went out there, we’re heading to Tanzania with a company called Wilderness Expertise. A company that specialises in organising overseas expeditions for young people, their tagline ‘developing potential’ sums up their ethos. Their trips are so much more than taking kids out on a jaunt. It’s also about their personal growth and development too, and a ‘mini expedition’ training weekend is very much part of the process.

Now, it goes without saying that we were never going to be able to replicate the conditions we’ll experience out in Tanzania in the brief time frame of three days and two nights in a UK National Park. But it was possible to structure things so as to give them all something of a dry run, and learn some of the skills they would need to employ out there.

The group, stood near Crickhowell

Given that their collective travel experiences involved them being chaperoned everywhere by their parents/a tour company/similar, with no need to book, budget, plan, check details or any other number of things that your average traveller does, and you can see already that it’s a learning experience for them. Throw in a need to do things such as learn navigation, camp craft and cooking meals on stoves for not just themselves but 18 others…and well, let’s just say comfort zones were very much left behind!

Part of being stretched and pushed to your limits is to allow mistakes to be made (so long as they never got dangerous). The first major one was their managing to overspend on the food budget for the weekend when we did a ‘food challenge’ supermarket run. Not only that, but definite mistakes were made with the quantity and variety of foodstuffs too.

Once we arrived at the campsite, after a journey in which I did my best to teach the girls some of my native Welsh, we got down to business. Teamwork is key during sessions such as these, and I’m pleased to say that the girls were very good at organising this, pulling together to ensure things got done and that all tasks were divided fairly.

Case in point…the food. With quantity being a little on the thin side, they showed great maturity and responsibility in ensuring that everyone had a fair share, and that dietary requirements and allergies were catered for. Selfishness was nowhere to be seen; selflessness was, and that was heartening indeed.

Perhaps a little less successful was the washing up aspect. Not because of laziness, more because of disorganisation and inexperience. Whilst there was a ‘washing up’ team, their system wasn’t quite as on point as the cooks, and the same seemed to apply when we rotated the teams around to see if other girls could do better. Another thing to learn from!

Tastier than it may look, trust me…

Of course, one big part of the weekend as a whole is the physical challenge of trekking. Our leader from Wilderness Expertise really pushed them by getting them to do back to back treks on each day, with the longest being on the middle day.

Now the Brecon Beacons are renowned for their lush beauty, but they’re equally renowned for the rugged conditions underfoot and the unpredictable weather patterns. There’s a reason why the SAS do training exercises here; and there’s a reason you take teenage girls who are embarking on an expedition to Tanzania out there as well!

A bit of Welsh humour!

They have the natural fitness of youth on their side, yes, but whereas I, for example, have done the UK Three Peaks Challenge, climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and completed the Inca Trail in very wet conditions, their trekking experience is considerably more limited. So when the fog descended and we could barely see in front of us, halfway up the mountainside, the whinging and self-doubt set in.

Just to give you some idea of the visibility…

But, again to their credit, they knuckled down and pulled through, by turns using humour, encouragement and logic puzzles (yes, really) to take their minds off the adversity and make it to the top. It was very cold and blustery at the summit, so the girls gratefully huddled under the emergency blankets we’d brought along. Not an emergency situation, sure, but if it made them happy…

Then, on the way down, the sun came out and we had some glorious views at last!

Before it was time to pack up and go, we did some scenario training – lost person, medical emergencies and, my personal favourite, we acted out a scenario in which our bus had broken down and we had to transfer all our bags on to one that was about to depart in five minutes…and in the middle of it, someone steals one of our bags – and finished up with some reflection.

As expected, they acknowledged that there was room for improvement with budget management, the food shopping and overall organisation. But everyone said they were looking forward to the trip, and when asked what they enjoyed most about the weekend, the most common theme was that they enjoyed getting to know each other better.

Which all bodes well. With camaraderie in place already, the nuts and bolts skills can be developed as we go along, and they will teach themselves and one another this as we go along. There’s still some work to do, but they’re off to a good start.





  • Dan

    November 15, 2017 at 4:27 am Reply

    Looks like it was quite an adventure before the big adventure that awaits. I bet everyone learned a lot about the trek and about themselves.

    • Joe

      November 15, 2017 at 6:06 pm Reply

      They did indeed Dan. It was very informative for us adults as well, in terms of seeing how they would cope out there!

  • mark wyld

    November 17, 2017 at 10:18 am Reply

    Seems like everyone here was in preparation mode for the upcoming main event. It’s good to look inside yourself before taking on the real challenge and making sure you are prepared

    • Joe

      November 17, 2017 at 11:51 am Reply

      Absolutely! Couldn’t have put it any better myself 🙂

  • Justine

    November 17, 2017 at 10:57 am Reply

    awww that’s so nice to know that the girls were selfless. I’m sure with your help and that awesome training they had they are more than prepared to go to Tanzania! Can’t wait to read what happens next!

    • Joe

      November 17, 2017 at 11:52 am Reply

      Thanks Justine 🙂 Will be updating this in the build up and during our time out there 🙂

  • Marteen

    November 18, 2017 at 9:46 am Reply

    What a wonderful experience for the girls to give them life skills like budgeting and cooking! And great way to prepare them for their expedition to Tanzania. I can’t wait to find out how they get on 😊

    • Joe

      November 18, 2017 at 12:27 pm Reply

      Thanks Marteen. The budgeting and the cooking were definitely two things they struggled with, but subsequently, I reckon they’ve learnt a lot from!

  • Shreya Saha

    November 18, 2017 at 3:21 pm Reply

    This is a very good blog. I like how the girls learnt about lifeskills. Good job Joe. Great adventure!

    • Joe

      November 18, 2017 at 3:24 pm Reply

      Thank you 🙂

  • amit

    November 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm Reply

    Really enjoyed reading this, and great that you gave the girls this kind of training before the actually trip. I have to say as a solo budget traveler all of my travel education came from roaming around the world but I have come across so many people over the years that just didn’t know what to expect. A lot of people see the pretty pictures and think it’s just going to be a extended holiday but the realities really hit them hard. So something like this which prepares them before hand is great, and you can see from this training with the girls being selfless they had already started to lean a big lesson, because as you probably know when traveling it’s about helping each other 😀
    amit recently posted…Travel memory: San Gil, ColombiaMy Profile

    • Joe

      November 18, 2017 at 4:42 pm Reply

      Hi Amit. Thanks for these very valid and wise words. It is, of course, possible to have a ‘sanitised’ travel experience if one so chooses, but yes, travel that has an added angle of helping others does lend new perspectives, and can alter how you look at the world. They are good kids at heart, and my hopes are high that they will get much from the upcoming expedition. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Ritika

    November 18, 2017 at 4:25 pm Reply

    Looks like you all had a great adventure together..wish u good luck for the big adventure..and u have climbed some most gorgeous peaks..kilimanjaro, inca trail r my 2 fav peaks..too..thnaks for sharing ur experience..

    • Joe

      November 18, 2017 at 4:43 pm Reply

      Thank you Rikita! I hope you enjoyed the Inca Trail and Kiki as much as I did 🙂

  • Medha Verma

    November 19, 2017 at 3:58 am Reply

    It’s so cool that the girls were trained on skills that are not just going to be useful on the big adventure but also in life. Especially things like budgeting, food, cooking and most importantly, teamwork! All the very best for the adventure, looking forward to reading how it all panned out.

  • Followingtherivera

    November 19, 2017 at 10:21 am Reply

    This is so interesting, and I’d never connect the two places! I went to the Brecon Beacons many years ago, and it was lovely. I can see why the SAS train there, it’s very challenging, and in the weather too!

  • Carol Guttery

    November 21, 2017 at 12:11 am Reply

    The Brecon Beacon’s are beautiful. It is said that Tolkien used to live there and I can see how the landscape would inspire the Shire.

    • Joe

      November 22, 2017 at 7:17 am Reply

      Absolutely! It’s classic British landscape in many ways, which is what the Shire is all about, naturally 🙂

  • michele h peterson

    November 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm Reply

    It sounds as though the Brecon Beacons were an ideal training ground for the epic journey ahead. I can’t wait to hear how it goes

    • Joe

      November 22, 2017 at 7:17 am Reply

      Thanks Michele 🙂

  • Jillian

    November 22, 2017 at 3:05 pm Reply

    Well done! What a unique experience. Fog is so disorienting, great work keeping them calm and working through it. Those views are absolutely stunning.

    • Joe

      November 22, 2017 at 4:54 pm Reply

      Thanks Jillian. Yes, getting lost in the fog was an instructive experience…and an amusing one too, if I’m completely honest 🙂

  • Becca Talbot

    November 24, 2017 at 4:52 pm Reply

    The “Developing Potential” project in Tanzania sounds amazing, definitely the kind of thing I wish I’d experienced when I was younger. And your training plan for the kids was a great idea – you can also see how well they get along with each other, and earmark any problems that could arise when abroad, hopefully limiting them. Good luck with all the rest of the training and the expedition itself x

    • Joe

      November 25, 2017 at 9:19 am Reply

      Thank you Becca. You’re not the first person to tell me they wished they had such an opportunity when they were young, and I certainly count myself in that camp as well 🙂

  • Juliette S

    December 3, 2017 at 5:32 am Reply

    This is awesome – and I think all teenagers should participate in something similar! It’s so important for them to get out of their comfort zone and realise things about personal responsibility and budgeting etc. Sounds like there’s a good group together though for the upcoming trip. They’ll learn heaps, for sure, and yes they will be stretched to their limits in Tanzania but will become stronger more independent women as a result. I wish I had done something like this too! Adventure camps were always my favorite activity during my teenage years.

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