Moel Siabod and Tal y Fan
Saturday 31st January 2009
At last the weather looked decent enough to activate Moel Siabod GW/NW-010 followed by Tal y Fan GW/NW-040 – basically dry, but windy. Just how windy we wouldn’t know until we got to the summits. It was an early start for this pair which meant an alarm call at 2.30 a.m. After the usual pre-activation broken sleep pattern I was a bit sluggish and so didn’t get away until 03:06. However, I made excellent progress with little traffic on the roads at that early hour and arrived at Paul’s QTH at 04:20 where the usual welcome mug of coffee was served. Paul was once again doing the driving honours and had pre-packed the car, so after the quick transfer of my kit, we were away by 04:35, a little earlier than planned.
The traffic was reasonably light, even along the A5 and we made good progress with only the odd slow car holding holding us back. The temperature wavered from just above freezing to a heady 3 degrees C by the time we reached the lay-by parking spot close to Plas y Brenin at 06:40. Two cars were already parked up, but neither showed signs of having been used since the previous day, so it seemed likely that we would be the first in the day to ascend Moel Siabod from this location. We were 20 minutes ahead of schedule and it was still quite dark and there was little wind at the parking spot, but we knew conditions would be different above 800 metres. I used my headlamp to light the area at the rear of the car so we could see to get our waterproof clothing, gaiters and boots on. Although the day was likely to be dry, we agreed that the extra layers would not go amiss. This was indeed to prove to be a good decision.
We set out at 07:05 and made steady progress through the wooded area at the start of the track. Once we were out into the open we started to experience the cold easterly wind that was blowing. We made a brief stop so that Paul could put on his neck warmer (I was already wearing my Buff) and change the batteries in the GPS which had rapidly expired. This enabled me time to take some rather monochromatic photos of Pen Llithrig y Wrach GW/NW-013 and Creigiau Gleision GW/NW-028 across the valley. A number of other summits were noted in the dawn light, but as usual we had not brought with us a suitably scaled map to identify each and every one of them. Continuing our ascent, the classic shape of Tryfan GW/NW-006 came into view over the top fo Glyder Fach and eventually the whole of the mass that is Carnedd Llewellyn GW/NW-002 farther away.
The path was partly snowed up from around the 450m level, with conditions gradually worsening right up to the edge of the boulder field around the summit. The snow was frozen solid with a hard crust and difficult to traverse which delayed our progress. We each developed our own technique to get across – mine was a sort of goose-step, digging my heels in at each step, though in places I ended up almost knee deep in snow. Crampons would have been as asset. Eventually after considerable effort we made the summit at 09:32 and in the icy blast running that was running over the mountain chose our positions to set up. I decided to hunker down inside the rather dilapidated stone shelter, while Paul selected a much more exposed position at a lower level in order to take advantage of flatter ground for the HF antenna.
Conditions were very raw on the summit, with the wind gusting to over 40 mph. I arranged stones to support the mast and decided to erect a dipole to see how this fared in the wind. It was immediately evident that putting up the 5 element beam was not an option and the telescopic sections of the pole collapsed before I could get on air. I was using some of the stones around my position to improve my shelter when I was suddenly was hit on the top of my head by the antenna. Eventually I got everything sorted out and a quick glance over the side of my shelter revealed Paul was making good progress with getting his station sorted out. The temperature was reading just 0.5 degrees C on my thermometer and this was to slowly rise to 1.9 degrees C by the time we had completed the activation.
A couple of test calls on 144.333MHz initially brought no response, but at 10:00 Mike G4BLH out at his spot near Edenfield, in the vicinity of Hail Storm Hill, came back with a huge signal. Second in the log was David G2BOF to the south of London, so I knew that the system was working okay. It then got rather manic and unusually for SOTA, there was a lot of over-calling during QSOs, which quite frankly I was not at all pleased about. I can appreciate frustration having to wait to work a summit and the 8 points on offer were attractive, but there was no need for impatience. I always try to work to the end of the list and as such everyone one should have had an opportunity to work me. I know several people gave up which is disappointing, but on a positive note I did work 26 before the frequency went quiet at 10:32. During this period my mast collapsed a total of six times requiring me to ask for a QRX at quite regular intervals. A strong gust of wind also blew a quite a large stone off the top of the shelter which landed on my hand as I was logging. The run included a most welcome S2S with Clive M1YAM/P who was suffering similar weather conditions on Pen-y-ghent G/NP-010. Mike G4BLH was still listening on my frequency when the run ended and tipped me off about a couple of potential S2S contacts on FM, one of which I bagged in the form of a contact with Neil G4HUN/P on Shining Tor G/SP-004. I then tried 2m AM on 144.550MHz as I had advised I would on the VHF-AM Yahoo group, but heard nothing at all.
I moved to 432.222MHz and put a call out for Frank G3RMD. Signals were very weak both ways and SSB was not readable, so we moved to CW. Unfortunately conditions were on a downwards roll and we failed to exchange reports. Mike G4BLH was 59 as was to be expected and we moved to 23cms where his signals were 58 (1W to rubber-duck) and mine were 57 (280mW to a quadruple quad). Mike told me that when he had been listening to me on 2m SSB he had actually heard the bang when my pole collapsed, but the reduction in height of the antenna had made no difference to the signal strength at his end. After finishing with Mike, I decided to try again on 2m AM just in case anyone was listening for me, but again nothing was heard. Later I was to learn that Brian GM4DIJ in Edinburgh was QRV and had actually called me on CW while I was working the pile up on SSB – the disappointing thing was that I had copied his signal in the melee.
On HF Paul worked a 20 contact run on 60m covering G, GW and EI, headed by Paul G0HNW at 09:58 and ending with Dave G3RDQ at 10:25. Paul had no need to call CQ as he had 3 spots up before starting as a result of his test call on FE. Signals on 60m were excellent and Paul exchanged many 59 reports. After the run John GW4BVE found Paul a clear frequency on 80m and a further 8 contacts were logged including one with Andy MM0USU. Paul suffered no problems with his antenna system and was ready to pack up by 10:44, about the time I was working Mike on 70cms. Paul was therefore ready and waiting for me to pack up when I finished at 10:58. Not having a beam to dismantle, I got things quickly sorted, though it seemed to take ages at the time. We started our descent at 11:07 and took the most economical route that we could across the snow fields. I did manage to take a few photographs on the descent and we briefly stopped to speak to some of the steady stream of people that were now ascending the hill, including quite a few women with some very young babies. Many were ill prepared for conditions on the summit, so we hoped they would be stopping well short.
We reached the car at 12:30, a full 50 minutes ahead of schedule. The temperature was 3 degrees at the car and it was therefore quite pleasant as we sat on the wall running along the side of the lay-by taking a leisurely lunch. A relaxed drive around to the parking spot for Tal y Fan brought the time to 13:24. The ascent to the summit was quite leisurely on account of us both having fairly tired legs. We reached the summit at 14:22 and were both up and running 20 minutes later. The stone wall across this summit provided us with adequate shelter from the cold wind and the timber post and wire fence alongside provided support for our poles. The temperature at the start of the activation was 2.5 degrees C and the pole on this summit stayed aloft and I was able to deploy the full dual band yagi.
Paul once again started on 60m and was straight into action courtesy of Frank G3RMD. This time the tally included 4 Welsh stations, with Peter EI7CC making the log for the second time in the day and a pleasing S2S with Robin GM7PKT/P on Binnein Shios GM/WS-239 just before the run ended. Signals were still good throughout the run which ended with a contact with Mike G4BLH at 15:10. Paul was then able to move to 80m and found a useable frequency between a couple of large continental signals, but somewhat away from 3.666MHz. The ever vigilant Frank G3RMD soon found Paul and after Frank had spotted him, an excellent run totalling 15 contacts took Paul through to 15:42. Andy MM0USU again got in on the action. Signals on 80m were not as good as on 60m and Paul was surprised to have such a good run. Even so, he finished well before I did on the higher bands.
On 2m SSB, once again I had to make a few CQ calls before David G2BOF popped up on frequency, closely followed by his friend Laurie G6XLL. Both are avid WAB operators. Frank G3RMD caught up with me next and then the run started in earnest. At 15:22 another S2S was made, this time with Geoff 2E0BTR/P on Pen y Garn GW/MW-004. This run of contacts was altogether more orderly than the morning session and came to a very satisfying total of 29. Robert G0PEB and Don G0RQL waited patiently until the beam came round in their direction towards the end of the run. At 15:36 I had a quick look at 144.550MHz AM without success, before moving up to 432.222MHz to work Mike G4BLH who placed a spot for me. Another four contacts followed and then Frank G3RMD was worked on CW providing me with consistent signals at 539, while in return I received a 339 report. There were no further calls from the south or east, so Mike and I tried 23cms FM, but nothing was heard either way despite Mike having made a contact previously over the path. At 15:59, I put a call out on 4m and worked Mike for a third time from the summit followed by a contact with John MW1FGQ.
The temperature had now fallen to 1.8 degrees C and the wind speed had increased, so we were pleased to have completed our activation. Paul had a problem with his pole which caused damage to the outer section, but despite this was ready to descend long before I had finished. To speed up the dismantling of my station, Paul helped break down the dual band yagi and we eventually got underway at 16:20 and arrived at the car half an hour later. With snow lying between the rocks around the summit, we had to take as much care on the descent as we had done on the way up.
It was sufficiently light enough for us to stow our kit and get change into “civvies” and we then had a bite to eat before leaving for Stourbridge at 17:11. Two hours and thirty five minutes later we arrived at Paul’s QTH where the temperature had fallen to zero. After a mug of coffee, as equally welcome as that drank nearly 16 hours earlier, I set out for home at 20:15 and pulled onto my drive at 21:33. Another enjoyable day of activation in the bag.
We continue to be thankful for the support that we regularly receive from chasers. Again there were a few new voices in the throng, particularly in the afternoon on 80m when there were few repeats from the 60m session. Many thanks to Robert G0PEB, Stewart G0LGS, John GW4BVE, Frank G3RMD and Mike G4BLH for the spots and to anyone who had theirs removed as duplicates.
73 to all,
Moel Siabod GW/NW-010
60m SSB – 20 contacts, 80m SSB – 8 contacts,
2m SSB – 26 contacts, 2m FM – 1 contact, 70cms SSB – 1 contact,
23cms FM – 1 contact
Tal y Fan GW/NW-040
60m SSB – 20 contacts, 80m SSB – 15 contacts,
2m SSB – 29 contacts, 70cms SSB – 6 contacts, 4m FM – 2 contacts