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Activation Report: NW-056 and NW-016


#1

Moel y Dyniewyd NW-056 and Moelwyn Mawr NW-016
Saturday 4th April 2009

The change from GMT to BST produced the usual annual culture shock – not on the weekend of the change this year, but on the day of the first activation after the change. It just didn’t seem right to be working to a departure time of 02:50 for a two summit day in Wales, but I eventually persuaded myself that a departure time around four in the morning was in fact in line with my normal practice. It must have sunk in and permeated my internal clock as I slept well to wake ten minutes before the alarm that I had set for twenty past three. Knowing that a cup of coffee would be waiting for me at Paul’s QTH at Stourbridge. I decided to shun an early morning cup of tea in favour of not having to cross my legs during the journey over to near Beddgelert.

I was just 4 minutes late leaving home which meant that I had a reasonably relaxed journey to arrive at Paul’s QTH for 04:10UTC. As usual, I let the car do most of the driving! We left Stourbridge at 04:28UTC and arrived at the NT car park for Cwm Bychan (SH597461, £4 charge, decent toilet facilities) at 06:57UTC. We were the first to park up and were away from the car on our ascent of our first summit, Moel y Dyniewyd GW/NW-056, by 07:22UTC before any other vehicles arrived. The walk through the archway beneath the narrow gauge Welsh Highland Railway (due to open mid 2009) past the old copper mine workings and up the Cwm Bychan valley was a delight. We made a steady pace and allowed ourselves some minutes to look at the abandoned mine machinery higher up the valley (note – an information board at the car park explains all).

At the top of the valley we easily located the track off to the right and ascended to the summit without any problems. Sections of the track were rather steep and we had to scramble a bit, but it was very enjoyable and for once we had good walking weather. The summit area itself is rather small, but a little lower down a fence provided us both with suitable supports for our poles. We were 15 minutes ahead of schedule and Paul started on 60m at 09:00UTC. He called without having any success for some time before abandoning the band in favour of 80m at 09:09. The Orkney beacon was a good S7, most likely indicating long skip. First in the log on 80m at 09:11 was Fred GM0GOV, followed a while later by difficult contacts with Steve GW7AAV, Mike GW0DSP and Barry 2E0PXW. Steve and Barry spotted Paul and a steady run of a further nine contacts ensued at improved signal strengths including one with Andre ON4CAP and another with Don G0RQL/M on holiday down in Cornwall. All stations reported high noise levels and QSB. At 09:45, Paul decided to revisit 60m where he worked Frank G3RMD at 59 both ways. Despite Frank placing a spot, just 3 contacts were made on the band. A contact with Mike G4BLH on FA orchestrated by Frank was incomplete due to very high local noise at Mike’s end.

My activation started on 2m SSB at 09:05UTC when my initial CQ call resulted in a call from Roger 2E0BMO who was 59 with the preamp in circuit - not at all bad for this shielded summit. Being first in the queue gave us the opportunity to chat for a few minutes before the troops arrived……. well, what troops there were. Ever vigilant Mike GW0DSP was second in the log, followed by an equally vigilant Graham G3OHC who kindly spotted me and also tendered the club call G4GRG so I would at least qualify the summit. Swinging the beam round resulted in three more for the log, but during the last one with Frank G3RMD conditions seemed to drop out and I was left calling to an empty band. After a while calling CQ, the voltage on the SLABs dropped below what the VFO on the rig found acceptable, so my thoughts turned to other bands and I decided to put a call out on 4m FM. No contacts were forthcoming on 4m, so I then decided to have a look at 70cms and 2m FM, initially on horizontal polarisation for those with beams and then vertical – absolutely nothing was heard, not even on the repeater frequencies. I therefore decided to call it a day at 09:45.

Paul concluded his activation fifteen minutes after me. I took several photographs and then we set off back to the car at 10:22 arriving there at 11:17. On our descent we made a few more stops to chat to some of the groups of people who were now walking up Cwm Bychan. We had lunch before driving off to Croesor which would be the starting point for our next summit, Moelwyn Mawr GW/NW-016. We arrived at 11:53 and took the last available parking spot. Obviously this is a popular location, probably because it serves the nearby well known summit of Cnicht which is amazingly not a Marilyn. It certainly looked very impressive on the ascent of Moelwyn Mawr.

After another hydration session, we set off down the road at 12:05UTC taking the route described by John GW4BVE on the Summitsbase website. This avoids the slate graveyard on the Ffestiniog side of the mountain, though there is still quite a lot of interesting industrial archaeology to take in as the route in part uses an old inclined plane. The first kilometre of the walk is along the road which then turns to a track and the going on this section is very reasonable. However, the inclined plane is rather steep with moss and slate underfoot and we could only make progress up this in short stints. Legs that had easily ascended Moel y Dyniewyd in the morning were now quite tired and we ran largely on will-power for the last 2.4km. There was a brief respite of around 100 metres on the level at the top of the inclined plane. The final section of the ascent to the summit was initially up a steep grassy slope and then farther up a track zig zagged up steeper sections with well worn foot marks akin to those going up Caer Caradoc. The final walk to the summit was along a narrow ridge which would need great care in poor visibility.

My legs were involuntarily shaking when we got to the summit and I actually kissed the trig in relief. We agreed where we would operate from and Paul set up his station at the trig while I moved off slightly to the east. The breeze was quite stiff across the summit and I therefore used the guys for the pole in a 3 upwind / 1 downwind format. Paul guyed the doublet into the wind. I used a plastic sheet to sit on as the mossy grass was holding on to the rain it had received during the previous night.

It was my turn to make the first contact on this summit at 14:38UTC with Graham G3OHC waiting to pounce to work a new one. Once again the club call G4GRG was deployed and then Graham G4JZF called in to start a decent run totalling 21 contacts. The summit certainly was a totally different VHF prospect to the previous one, with 19 of the outgoing reports being 59 and only the obstructed path down to Cheltenham caused me to give out 57 reports to Stewart G0LGS and Frank G3RMD.

At the end of the run, Mike G4BLH called back in to say that Andy MW0FMF/P was on Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043 with 23cms and had I got my handie with me? Of course I had the C710, but I hadn’t expected to use it. By routing information via John MW1FGQ to Andy, the S2S was set up. On switch on, I could hear Andy on 1297.500MHz while I was sitting on the ground – standing up improved the signal strength and when I called him and he turned the dual quad in my direction, the signal strength indicator went end stop! I think Andy was even more surprised to learn I was running 280mW to the flexi-whip supplied with the C710.

During my run on 2m, Paul had come across to my position to see how I was getting on. Fortunes were reversed on this summit and by 15:05UTC he had only made 3 contacts on 60m and 1 on 80m. Unfortunately the skip was still long on 60m with just Robin GM7PKT coming in at 59. The other ones to make it on the band were Robert G0PEB and Jake G1YFF. The contact on 80m was with Phil M0DEG/P on Harter Fell (unfortunately not the correct one), but Paul was unable to raise any other contacts. Paul went back to his station after speaking to me and eventually worked Peter EI7CC on 60m for a fifth contact.

On seeing me using the handie, Paul came over and I suggested that he try on 23cms with it, but unfortunately Andy had moved on to work someone else and then disappeared, so a contact was not made. I returned to my kit to try 70cms FM and worked Mike G4BLH who spotted me, but no further contacts resulted. We were now well past our scheduled departure time, so I tried a quick call on 4m FM just using the small rubber whip. Unfortunately I had not put up the slim jim as attempts on the band had not been a success from the nearby summit of Manod Mawr NW-035 in early March nor during the morning’s activation. The whip did not enable me to make contact with Mike, but I did work John MW1FGQ. John said he had looked for me on 23cms, but had not heard anything. Paul said that he did hear John call on 23cms when he had the C710, but there is a considerable difference between the power that John runs and the handie. If only I had taken the quadruple quad!

Reluctantly I pulled the plug at 15:55 and we started to pack up. A few photographs were taken of the magnificent views from the summit before we set off at 16:15, a full half hour behind schedule. I had one of those “punch your hand in the air” moments as we set off down the ridge.

We descended on a slightly different route down to the top of the inclined plane in order to avoid the grassy section which was quite slippery. We then decided to avoid further agony by not descending the inclined plane, but continuing along the ridge, later dropping down the steep hillside to meet the track. This saved us about 0.4km and we also made up some time. After depositing the kit in the car and getting out of our walking gear, we decided to sit on the wooden bench at the end of the car park to have a snack before our departure. Even the dog from the nearby café could see we were in a relaxed mood and came over to beg a morsel from us.

We pulled out of the car park at 17:59, just 19 minutes behind schedule and Paul made up some time on the road. Our return journey took us down the A470 past the Rhinogs which were standing proud to the west – summits for the future. We also spotted a number of other SOTA summits on our way back, pleased to be travelling at least some of the way in daylight. Our arrival at Stourbridge was at 20:32 and after a coffee I was on the road again half an hour later to arrive home at 22:20UTC. It had been a long day, but very rewarding and one that we will both remember for a long time.

Many thanks to everyone that came on to work us. It is a shame that 60m was in poor shape and that I was compromised somewhat in equipment terms. Hopefully matters will be resolved on that front soon. Particular thanks as always to our spotters – 2E0PXW, GW7AAV, G3RMD, G3OHC, GM7PKT, EI7CC and G4BLH.

73 to all,

Gerald G4OIG

Equipment:

G4MD – FT-817ND, tuner and inverted vee doublet at 6m. 1 x 2.2AH LiPo 11.1V

G4OIG – 144MHz SSB: Trio TR-7010 plus MML144/30 linear – 25W output
70MHz FM: Wouxun KG-699E – 4W output
144MHz / 432MHz FM: Standard C-528 – 5W output
1297MHz FM: Standard C710 – 280mW output
2m / 70cms dual band yagi (5 and 8 elements), 5m 5D-FB semi-rigid coax, 5m pole, 4m slim jim
2 x 3.3AH SLAB (NW-056), 1 x 12AH SLAB (NW-016)
Weight incl survival kit, water, etc: 14kg (NW-056), 17kg (NW-016)

Moel y Dyniewyd, GW/NW-056, 382m asl
8.6 deg C, rising to 10 deg C, cold strong wind.
Visibility good with cloud on higher summits, improving
G4MD: 60m SSB – 3, 80m SSB – 13
G4OIG: 2m SSB – 7

Moelwyn Mawr, GW/NW-016, 770m asl
8.2 deg C, dropping to 5.6 deg C, cold strong wind
Visibility excellent, though a little hazy – views of the Arenigs, the west coast, the Lleyn Peninsula and over to the north of Snowdonia
G4MD: 60m SSB – 4, 80m SSB - 1
G4OIG: 2m SSB – 21, 23cms FM – 1, 70cms FM – 1, 4m FM – 1

Total distance walked – 11.8km taking 5 hours 48 minutes; total ascent 1000m

Mileage driven – 400 miles

Sorry, no soup to report on.


#2

Hi Gerald

As usual, an excellent informative report on the days events !
Thanks for the new one, always a pleasure to talk to you

73
Graham G3OHC


#3

Another Excellent Report.

Thanks for the two new ones (in my Chaser Log) Gerald. After I looked at the path profiles for both these earlier in the day I was quite surprised that there was any Part to reach Cheltenham at all.

Stewart
G0LGS


#4

In reply to G4OIG:

Another excellent report. Yes, 23cms was great fun and I was really pleased to get an S2S on my 1st use of the band for SOTA. I’m only sorry that a few potential contacts escaped, Paul G4MD, Mike GW0DSP, Mike G4BLH and Denis G6YBC. That would have taken me to 10 contacts!

(Just trying to arrange an escape up to GM/NS land for Easter)

Andy
MM0FMF


#5

In reply to G4OIG:
Thanks for the report Gerald and well done to you & Paul. 400 miles is 20 more than my all time record for a day’s SOTAing but your car is a little better than mine. No punctures this time.

Interesting you are making contacts using (what seem to me) close to ‘lazer freqs.’ The double quad at the other end is probably not as heavy as one might imagine. It was certainly effective.

Craigysgafn must have been the narrow ridge? I know what you mean about exposure; it’s somewhat dependent on the WX. Interesting that everybody handles it differently. My tolerance is not that great. I’ve been seriously scared 3 or 4 times now.

A fine selection of bands. Those new Chinese 4m rigs really seem good. Looking forward to some (elementary) VHF myself but not with all the gear you carry. A change is as good as a rest. 30 to 37 pounds is quite a lot.

We’re back to the ‘hard-won points’ season again, to say nothing of sweat!

73, John.


#6

Many thanks for the comments on the report. I hope to get some pleasure from my reports when I read them in my old age - some say I’ve reached that already, but I still don’t have a bus pass, so I guess they are wrong!

Thanks for the S2S Andy. I was interested to hear about your double quad. My quadruple quad has been upgraded - it was “on the bench” on 4th April, so just the rubber duck for our QSO over the 55km path.

John, you’d be really surprised just how small decent antennas can be for 23cms. In old money, the quadruple quad is about two and a half inches square by ten inches long plus the overflow pipe mount. I have carried my 15 over 15 up a few hills, but have come to the conclusion it is really overkill when the increased likelihood of making contact (due to the increased gain) versus the inconvenience of carrying it is taken into account.

As for the approach to Moelwyn Mawr, we came in from the west. The ridge can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/18897403@N00/3421806842/in/pool-sota - not especially sharp, but I wouldn’t want to attempt it in poor visibility.

Hopefully the weight of the kit will be down to a sensible level soon. The 817 is partially back in the land of the living.

73, Gerald