Cambrian Mountains - Expedition 1

For 2016, I set myself a challenge and a big one at that. Complete my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and Queen's Scouts Award by the end of the year.

So what do I need to do to complete these awards?
Skills challenge - Photography
Physical/Sports challenge - Archery
Voluntary challenge - Scout leader
Expeditions - Two trips to the Cambrian Mountains with ExpedsWales
Residential - to be confirmed (Something outdoors related)

The skills, physical and voluntary challenges must be completed over a 6-12 month period. Residential must be a week period in an environment you don't know, teaching or learning something.

The expeditions, two must be completed one practice and a qualifying in a remote area. E.g. Breacon Beacons, Lake District, Snowdonia, Cambrian Mountains/Mid Wales etc.
By remote, I mean no phone should work, you'll likely only see your assessor and your team for that week and the wildlife. Wild camping* is a bonus but makes the whole experience more rewarding. *A good looking field to pitch a tent/ Toilet - hole in the ground.

Were into June now and I've completed my skills and voluntary challenges as well as one of the expeditions. This expedition happened 28th May - 2nd June.
As the premise is on a location you don't know and remote, both the Lake District and Snowdonia are off ground for me as I've been to both a lot.
Breacon and Peak District, been to both as well. This leaves me with one place left, short of going to Scotland.

Mid-Wales, in particular the Cambrian Mountains, east of Aberystwyth.
Well known for Devil's Bridge and wind farms, besides this, its very remote! A lot of mountains, few trees, a lot of boggy land and farm land.
So if you're looking for a technology detox, this is a the place to go - I lost signal around Welshpool and some of the farmers around this area use generators for electricity, no mains running underground.

For some reading this, this might sound like a nightmare. Personally, its a little bit of heaven.
I work on a computer daily, fixing problems and making things. Don't get me wrong, I love my job but every know and then you need a detox, unwind and get away from it all.
The only working technology I had was my camera!

I was hoping to capture the expedition and all the views we would encounter, now the camera of choice would make a lot of professional landscape photographers and several others I know, question my sanity or choices.

The Olympus PenF. Yep, its not weather sealed, M4/3 and small.
Here's why it was brilliant though:

1. Weather sealing - nice to have but a camera this well built will hold off a good rain shower.
This is tried and tested with me. My Nikon D50 which is 12 years old, plastic and has met many a rain and hail shower and still works perfectly and has never been in for repair.

2. Art filters - when you are limited in what equipment you can carry as during the expeditions you are carrying a 18-20kg rucksack with everything in for the week.
YOU WILL be cautious on what kit you bring.

Art filters allowed me to mimic infrared, vintage, monchrome, vibrant, tilt shift and so on.
No extra weight. Perfect!
I had the M.Zuiko 17mm F/1.8 pancake lens plus a 28-80mm Tameron zoom/macro lens*
M.Zuiko - 35mm / Tameron - 56 - 120mm equiv.

3. Light weight but doesn't comprimise on quality - Standard RAWs are 20megapixels and the highres worked with the rucksack as the tripod - 60+ RAWs or the bracketing feature, compressing 6-9 20mb photos together with ease.

So what happens next?
The first expedition was a huge success for myself and the team. Considering we had only met in person the Saturday we were leaving and by the end were all laughing and joking with one another, it was a huge motivation boost and when your walking near 85km over a week, it makes the difference.

The next expedition is on the 10th July, so as I write this on the 10th June its a month to the start. My kit is essentially ready, however the only new investments required were a new pair of boots. (R.I.P Karrimor Blacks - Served me a long 6 years) to my new Karrimor D30 Jaguars, as well as a new rain cover for the camera.

Previously I was using a plastic cover which I bought fairly cheap on Amazon, I would still recommend this product but not for anything to arduous. I have upgrade this to a Peak Design Shell, which is 4 times the price of what I paid previously but is worth every penny. Between these two new items, I am now complete. Its the fun of route planning now which I will keep you updated on how we are getting on.

Day 2, in which I am working on is clocking in at 18.9km with approx height gains of 200m+ through woodland, more wind farms and to lakes and waterfalls.

So watch this space.