What an excellent two days me and the lads have just enjoyed.
Without checking back against my original alerts, I couldn’t be sure how accurate or otherwise I was, but I think it wasn’t far out, and we managed a bonus summit too, ending with six activated summits - we had alerted for five.
We set off from Macc around 7am on Wednesday 11th April 2007, and made straight for Lymm Truck Stop for a full English breakfast (2 sausage, 2 bacon, fried egg, fried bread, tomatoes, 2 hash browns, mushrooms and a mug of tea for less than a fiver - it’s a favourite!). Getting into the car after breakfast I realised that we had left the overnight clothes bag on the landing at home, also containing the toothbrushes and Liam’s inhalers. Drove back to Macc to get it, and back out to the M56 junction again - one hour lost already!
The first objective was the lesser-spotted GW/NW-073 - Mynydd Rhyd Ddu. I had fully intended to follow BVE’s described route, but Jimmy had been studying the map and wanted to “just check out” the line from the highest point in the road to the south. Surprisingly, there was a convenient parking spot right at this point, and the gate into the field was open. A fairly well trodden route ran from here to the summit, albeit with several fences and gates to be climbed. At the summit we were joined by several farm workers in tractors, JCBs and 4WDs. They had witnessed our approach to the summit and our radio gear, but come to talk to us. One of them did give us a wave goodbye as we made our way off the summit though! I was concerned that this hill would be difficult on 2m FM, but it proved not to be so. This was a unique for us.
The sun was now beating down with a ferocity normally associated with August - in Spain. Stupidly, I had not brought any sunblock or sunhats, so a second irritating but necessary detour of the day was required. Down to Corwen. The best I could find was a bottle of factor 15, but it did a decent job when reapplied every two hours over the next couple of days.
We then took the very short drive to Llangwm, and beyond to the parking spot ahead of Foel Goch GW/NW-039. This, like the remainder of summits on the trip, was one that I had activated 2 or 3 times before, and that Jimmy had ascended 2 or 3 times before, but all before he attained hi amateur radio licence. So they all needed to be revisited so he could get the points!
The walk up was painfully slow, with Liam in reluctant and unenergetic mood. I tried to cheer myself up by reasoning that it was improving my fitness having an extra 11 stones of dead weight to shove up each hill! Extra to the 17 of my own. He’s his father’s son alright!
Jimmy on the other hand, one has to wonder. Nearly as tall as his father, but a stone lighter than his little brother, he skipped away from us and up to the summit. No problem though, this routine was utilised for the rest of the trip, and he would use his early summit time to send a SOTAwatch Spot using Spotlite on his mobile 'phone, and then have the SOTA Beam set up and ready for me to add the guys and feeder upon my arrival.
In fact Jimmy also made his first contact - Ron GW4EVX - with his handheld while waiting for us, but then even with the FT817 and SOTA Beam, neither of us could elicit another response for 20 minutes. Then the remaining 3 contacts each required presented themselves suddenly in an 8 minute spell!
Down at the car, it was nearly five o’clock local, and would normally have seen an end of the day’s activities. But we were booked in a local Travelodge, and the time was our own. Jimmy was allowed to navigate to get us across to Moelfre Hall, our preferred start point for Gyrn Moelfre GW/NW-049. The route was tortuous, high, winding, poorly signed, seemed to go on forever, bore no resemblence to the map, mileages all wrong etc. “This road seems to be going a lot further and in different directions to the map” remarked Jimmy. “Welcome to Wales son” I replied.
I rand the doorbell at Moelfre Hall to ask permission to leave my car in the large yard while we walked up to the summit and back. “About two hours” I estimated. The lady was agreeable, so I thanked her and commenced this early evening walk. We were now able to recall that it was indeed April. The early afternoon heatwave had plummeted and it was now very cool, demanding full deployment of fleeces, jackets and hats.
The walk up the steep channel was again sluggish with Liam, but not as bad as Foel Goch earlier. Again, Jimmy had skipped off ahead. To save time messing with guys, we mounted the upside-down walking pole in the wire fence, and then added the WASP and SOTA Beam on top of it for a quick and easy set-up. “There’ll probably be no-one around with it being so late” remarked Jimmy. “The opposite” I replied, “There will be evening nets all over the place, and we have the best take-off towards Merseyside, Manchester and Cheshire we have had all day”. It was indeed an easy activation, 9 contacts in 17 minutes, with at least 8 from known SOTA chasers.
I was now very tired, as were the boys. Every time I planted my foot down on the descent, my entire leg shuddered in exhaustion, making this a rather unpleasant descent. On the lower reaches, the light began to fade quickly. Use of headtorches was avoided, but full darkness did fall as we finished packing rucksacks away into the car boot at 9pm local.
At least with a Travelodge you can turn up however late you want, so we left that for now and drove into Oswestry and the first Indian restaurant we could find. I think it was called the “Shimla” or something similar, but it was outstanding, with all three of us enjoying one of their speciality Bengal fish dishes at some stage in our meal. We eventually made the Travelodge, at Oswestry Mile End service area, at about 11.15pm. Liam had the pull-out floor bed, Jimmy had the settee-bed, while I had the big double bed. It is important to teach children about the importance of hierachy. We all slept soundly and deeply.
To be continued…