Aran Fawddwy NW-007 and Glasgwm NW-015
8th March 2007
I had fancied doing this pair of summits for some months and had even prepared an itinerary in readiness. However, due to the trepidation of doing these on my own during my first winter of SOTA activations and knowing their reputation for having a soggy access route, I had put my plans on the back burner. To my surprise, John GW4BVE posted his intention to do these on Thursday 8th March and I raised the possibility of “tagging along” with him when we spoke a day or so before this. It transpired that Frank G3RMD might also be in tow and my main concern therefore was that we could all have worthwhile and valid activations of the summits. My personal preference was to qualify the summit on 2m and then move to another band, possibly 10MHz CW for the remainder of the stay. It seemed likely that 2m could initially be shared to allow this to happen. In the event, Frank went further north with Richard G4ERP and activated Foel Goch and Mwdwl-eithin.
In an effort to minimise the impact of an early escape from the home QTH upon Bev’s working week, I had decided to sleep on the settee. I need not have bothered, since in the end this in itself had a negative effect. Bev woke early and wanted to make herself a brew, but did not do so for fear of disturbing me. We met at 0345 at the bottom of the stairs! I sent her back upstairs and went to make the brew for us both and the fact that she was awake made it much easier for me to get ready. I left her reading a book at 0426 with the alarm clock already set for 0645 when she had to get up for work.
There were no problems en route to Welshpool, though I noted the greater amount of traffic on a weekday as opposed to a Saturday. A quick call on S20 half a dozen miles out from John’s QTH enabled me to order the second half of my breakfast and I duly arrived there at 0630. After taking on board a brew, toast and marmalade, we transferred my kit to John’s new motor and set off at 0653.
John had indicated that he wished to try a new route. His usual route is documented on the SOTA website, but this time he wanted to approach Aran Fawddwy on a more northerly direct path, so avoiding a double trip across the board-walk between Aran Fawddwy and Glasgwm. His intention was to make this a circular route. A suitable parking spot was located by 0815 and we were kitted up and ready for the off at 0830. I don’t know how John remembers where to drive to for these summits. I know that I am doing uniques and every summit is a new challenge, but I do wonder whether I rely upon Sally Satnav a little too much.
The first part of the route was through farmland. The local sheep were obviously used to being fed and we had a noisy chorus-line follow us for the first half mile or so and then we were into some pleasant woodland tracks, appearing out at the edge of an open area which we had to cross towards the summit. This turned out to be quite boggy and the line of the track was soon lost. We therefore decided to take a line to the north of where we thought the track was since this offered a drier route and eventually our line was confirmed as we picked up a row of marker posts to the south running roughly parallel to our route. Even though we were on firmer ground than the track, John managed to put a boot into a soft spot and sank half way up his gaiter. I went one better and trod on a plant, which it turned out would have been at home in a pond and being committed to the move I left three deep holes in the foliage in exchange for water over the top of both boots!
The walk in to Aran Fawddwy was quite long, but the conversation kept flowing, broken only by me dropping back in order to work Richard GW4ERP/P on Foel Goch NW-039 at 1024 using my C528. A little after this we were on much firmer ground making for the summit, but now my right hip started playing up and this slowed us somewhat. As per the previous time that I had been out with John, it seemed that I was destined to see his back for much of the ascents and he mine for much of the descents! Eventually we arrived at the summit at 1130 and John elected to set up for HF on a plateau just below the peak. Activating just 2m, I made for the high spot and found a suitable position to the north of the trig, a few metres from the precipitous eastern edge. I bungied my aluminium mast to a large boulder, used the one adjacent as an operating table and a third as a seat and I was soon up and running on SSB.
I started with a chat with Ian 2E1INY in Stoke, followed by three similarly leisurely QSOs to qualify the summit before Graham G4JZF found me and headed a run of regular chasers to make a total of 15 on SSB. I then broke off for lunch (such luxury), took some photographs and generally tried to warm up to overcome the windchill on the summit. My return to 2m was on FM where I was nabbed by Steve GW7AAV at the head of a run of 6 contacts. The old boy network then came into play and I was notified that Richard ERP was now operational from Mwdwl-eithin NW-047 and so I made off to 144.320 to make the S2S. All this left us behind schedule. John was already packed up and ready for the off, similarly having a log of 22 contacts in the bag, his lot from 80m, 60m and 40m.
We left Aran Fawddwy at 1330 and made for the boardwalk. This was much drier than John had anticipated, but it was still capable of all of the tricks that he had told me about – splashing, bending, tilting, the odd slippery patch. Near to the Glasgwm end, John found that lightning does strike twice in the same place – well going base over apex on the same spot does! I like to think of this as John doing his utmost to undertake an accurate demonstration!
As we approached Glasgwm, John checked to see whether I was up for the challenge. I indicated that I was and we decided that as time was running very short we would take a direct approach up the steep northern face. This took a little time to accomplish, but it was extremely rewarding. I was not going to let a potential 6 pointer (plus the 3 bonus points) pass me by when it was so close, especially as I really wanted to do these summits as a pair.
We arrived on the summit at 1530, just the time that we should have completed our activation and been ready to depart. A quick activation was therefore our only option to qualify the summit and we set up a joint station using my 817 and 25 watt linear to a horizontal dipole working on 2m SSB. Graham G4JZF started the ball rolling at 1539, followed by Dave G6LKB and Marjorie M3ULV, then John M0JDK and Don G0RQL to make it 5 contacts each in a total of 8 minutes. I then put out a number of calls, but there were no further takers, so we packed up at around 1550 and we on our way just 5 minutes later. The reason for the quick activation was that John had to be back home to get ready to go out for the evening, so we were aiming to be at the car by 1700 at the latest. Apologies to anyone who arrived too late to grab us.
The descent of the steep slopes of Glasgwm had to be taken with considerable care since this was over rough ground with ankle twisting vegetation. We forded the stream part way down and headed for the forest track described by John on the SOTA website and then made a good pace along this back to the car, arriving there at 1720. The total distance walked was 16.38km and the total ascent 957m. We were back at John’s house at 1845 where I was treated to some excellent food and a brew before I made my departure at 1920. Despite a stop to speak to Bev on the way back, I arrived home at 2125 leaving me ample time to unpack the car and feed the bird before retiring for a surprisingly restless night. No doubt I was over-tired.
Thanks as usual to the regular chasers on all of the bands that we activated. Apologies for not posting my intentions beforehand – I just ran out of time the evening before. Maybe my next sortie with John will be a little less eleventh hour!