Arenig Fawr NW-011 and Moel Llyfnant NW-018
Saturday 21st April 2007
This activation was meant to be a rush around the Clwydian mountains taking in up to five summits, but the preceding week was a week when all of the arrangements that I were making were to change. Family descended on us for the latter part of the week plus the weekend and the idea of activating the hills on the Sunday pulling in SP-016 for the SP Fun Day went out of the window. After some discussion, it transpired that various family members were undertaking a number of activities on the Saturday which did not require me to be present, so I managed to transfer my activation day.
Concurrent with this, by email I was discussing forthcoming activations with Richard G4ERP, We had arrived at the point where we realised that we both had the desire to activate Arenig Fawr and Moel Llyfnant as a pair. Since the Arenigs are known to have the potential to be windy summits, the window of opportunity would be restricted, but it transpired that the forthcoming weekend looked hopeful. After several email exchanges, we considered each others itineraries and agreed an outline schedule and arrangements were made to meet up at the parking spot at SH822393 at 0730UTC on the Saturday.
Richard advised that he would call me on S20 when he reached Shrewsbury to see how I was doing and this he did. My response was “Don’t look now, but you’re being followed”. Indeed I was right behind him and we continued along the A5 until a couple of slow cars intervened and we lost visual contact, though continued with occasional communication on S20. Arriving at the parking spot some 20 minutes early, we introduced ourselves. I felt it was good to meet out in the field where we do what we love doing. We made due preparations and set off at 0730UTC, still 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
The ascent route has been well documented on the SOTAwatch website by Richard and we kept to his route including the minor scramble up Craig y Hyrddod. Nothing difficult here. We were basically working to Richard’s itinerary and he had this section of the walk as 1 hour 35 minutes. My schedule had allowed another ten minutes. In the event we were just 3 minutes behind Richard’s timing, but early on the summit, commencing operation at around 0922 UTC. Weather conditions were sunny with a moderate breeze across the summit plateau.
We had agreed that I would “piggy back” Richard’s first 4 QSOs on 2m SSB so that I could qualify the summit on VHF and then go and play radio on 7MHz CW. Richard was to activate 5MHz SSB after he had completed on 2m. This arrangement worked well and after working G0LGS, GW4BVE, G0NES and G3RMD I was up and running on HF by 0935UTC to find Laurent F8BBL/P on FC-192 for my first French SOTA activation contact and S2S. Making a small QSY enabled me to make a further 4 QSOs with well-known continental chasers. Then a move down 2kHz brought a further 5 contacts. Richard and I both suffered from a little inter-station interference between 5 and 7MHz, but it was tolerable.
Richard had packed up and he appeared from the other side of the summit as I was finishing off. He sat having his lunch as I packed up - I had eaten mine while operating - an advantage of CW operation! We were ten minutes late in commencing our descent from the summit at 1050UTC, but were held up a few minutes more by S2S QSOs with Martyn M3LUH/P on Helvellyn LD-003 using our handies.
The trek down Arenig Fawr towards the col between the two summits provided stunning views of the countryside. Fortunately we were benefiting from the continued spell of dry weather over the previous weeks and there were not many boggy patches to avoid. Our assault of Moel Llyfnant was directly up its north-east face. The route was steep and was therefore under constant review and Richard led the way. By the time we were ready to make the final push I was wishing the summit was 20 metres lower and so I took a minute or two out while Richard made the summit on his own. A couple of minutes later I looked up to see a rather worried Richard returning to see whether I had disappeared off the face of the hill.
By the time I attained the summit at 1218, I was 13 minutes behind schedule and when I was set up and ready to go at 1235 Richard was already on QSO number 3 working Frank G3RMD. Fortunately he had lined up John M0JDK and Graham G4JZF on the side to come in when I appeared. Many thanks chaps! The fourth QSO on 2m was with Don G0NES and I then dropped down to 7MHz to work another 10 QSOs including Roger MW0IDX and an S2S with DL/LX1NO/P on SR-055. Again I had scoffed the second phase of my lunch while operating and Richard again sat eating his second lot of sandwiches while I packed up. We were ready to go at 1348UTC.
By strange coincidence, history repeated itself and we were once again held back from our descent, this time by Richard MW0EIQ/P on Glyder Fawr NW-003, again contacted using our handies. As we descended, I mentioned to Richard that I had made four 2m SSB QSOs and ten 40m CW QSOs on each summit plus the 2m FM S2S as we departed. Somewhat below the activation zone, Richard responded to a call from Charlie GW0PZO/P on Cadair Idiris NW-009 and to help Charlie qualify the summit, I stopped, got out my C528 handie and gave him a second QSO from the slopes of Moel Llyfnant. This made it a good chaser day as well as a good activation day.
We descended to the pleasant track along the valley and back towards the cars. The track became increasing boggy as we reached lower ground, but this did not particularly bother us. The weather had continued as it has set out and for both of us, the day in the hills was one of the most enjoyable that we had had since starting activating SOTA hills. Back at the cars we compared notes and re-hydrated while Richard got out of his boots and made ready for driving home. I kept my boots on - I was fired up and keen to activate Mynydd Rhyd Ddu NW-073 on my way home. We said our goodbyes and departed, not quite in tandem, at 1530UTC.
While Richard returned home along the route we had arrived on, Sally Satnav took me towards Bala and then northwards to join the A5. After a small hold up en route, I arrived at the parking spot for Mynydd Rhyd Ddu at 1606UTC and prepared for the activation. This summit is on private land, but the owners are friendly. Being at a meal time I did not expect to see anyone and there was only one person driving a JCB down the valley. I was on the PROW anyway while I was in his view and the hill shielded me as I made my way across the pastures to the trig point. This was a very pleasant 25 minute amble and I was surprised to find that I had made the ascent in one stint without a stop. Perhaps I wasn’t as tired from my earlier efforts as I had thought I was!
Having predominantly done HF earlier in the day, I decided to activate the hill on 2m. This one is quite well shielded since it is set amongst higher hills, so qualification was in no way guaranteed. My first few calls on 2m SSB brought no response whatsoever, which did concern me slightly. Recognising that 145.500 would be monitored by more people than 144.300, I moved to FM and put out a call. I was right - back came John GW4BVE. We moved to 145.450 and were joined by Richard G4ERP/M who was conveniently now at Wenlock Edge. After these two contacts, I was called by Alun 2W0CYM in Caernarvon and then Richard MW0EIQ/M, also on his way home. A further seven contacts were made on 2m FM, including an S2S with Mike GW0DSP/P on Hope Mountain NW-062. I also had a very pleasant chat with Barry GW4USK/P at Abersoch on the Lleyn peninsula, so it would appear that the summit is not as bad as it would seem at first sight. Certainly there are hills all around, but there are also gaps between them. In all I made 11 contacts in 39 minutes, allowing me to pack up at 1730UTC and take a leisurely descent. I missed all of the football traffic on the way home and incurring no delays I was back home for 2044UTC.
My particular thanks go to Richard G4ERP for a most enjoyable day and for his patience in waiting for me as I ascended the first two summits in stages - with many stops to take in the scenery.
When I activate summits, I always take two dipoles with me in the car. The reports on 2m SSB from Arenig Fawr and Moel Llyfnant were not that spectacular. Several people said that I was considerably weaker than Richard, so for Mynydd Rhyd Ddu I used the spare dipole. Later when I checked out the antenna, the main dipole was found to be working just fine - the spare dipole had a problem with its matching and was presenting a high SWR. This makes the activation of Mynydd Rhyd Ddu all the more amazing… and satisfying.