SOTA Activation Report for Moelwyn Mawr, GW/NW-016 on 09-05-11.
Moelwyn Mawr - 770m, 6-pointer.
G(W)4YSS using GC0OOO/P - HF QRO on 40 & 160 / 4m FM QRP.
IC706-2G to Link Dipole (80 thru 20) with loading coils for 160m. 9Ah Li-Po battery.
IC-E90, 3.5W on 70,425 MHz to extended 2m helical with counterpoise. 1.3Ah Li-Po battery.
All times BST (UTC plus 1) UOS.
This was an opportunist activation during our weeklong family holiday staying in a delightful 13th century watermill in Betws-y-coed. Today the family planned to take the train from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Tan-y-Bwlch so I got them to drop me off at Tanygrisiau for an attempt on Moelwyn Mawr - GW/NW-016-6. As they waved goodbye, I was given just four and a half hours in which to turn this one around. This was to be a completely new mountain for me.
I had a route which I’d devised a few years ago which would take me in linear fashion taking in NW25 and NW16 but I never got the opportunity to put it into practice mainly because transport would have been needed at both ends. Obviously that route would not suffice for what I had in mind today which gave rise to some hurried map & GPS work the day before. Two things dictated the ‘new’ route and start point. Firstly it was near the Blaenau Ffestiniog railway station - convenient for dropping off - and secondly I could see that I could make it into a ‘G4YSS style minimum work’ approach in keeping with my lazy streak (or so it seemed). In fact it was looking less than 4km each way but nonetheless but with a fair amount of ascent (about 600m plus).
Between throwing a tennis ball for my Grandson in the mill garden and alternately finding it, I was able to come up with a few waypoints up from Tanygrisiau at the head of the reservoir near a visitor centre marked on the 25k map. Accessing the path requires walking around 100m up the power station service road from the start point (SH 6810 4500 at 195m) and turning right off it at a footpath sign directly after the railway level crossing. Alternatively you can continue up the metalled road to a gate (SH 6776 4460 at 235m) then pick up the same path after climbing the gate and turning sharp left up a grass slope. The latter probably saves some effort but I didn’t find this out until the end of the expedition. The path is not a well trodden way and it can easily be lost if care is not exercised. Even so, I made it up to the Llyn Stwlan Reservoir dam, via two stiles (SH 6730 4454 at 322m & SH 6709 4446 at 375m) a ladder stile (SH 6685 4432 at 420m) and crossing Afon Stwlan stream (SH 6723 4451 at 341m) without error.
I had less success after that; missing my way at the dam wall and partially climbing Carreg Blaen-Llym before realising the mistake. I wouldn’t mind but the viz was excellent and I had the reservoir in full view! I could try claiming that I was misled by a sign and some concrete posts but the reality is that I was probably not concentrating. After walking a large semicircle with the intention of retaining height, I arrived at Bwlch Stwlan with the feeling that this was taking far too long. However, from there it’s straightforward up Craigysgafn to the summit but unfortunately some re-ascent is necessary if the main path is to be followed. By now it was looking and owing to my shirt sleeved attire, feeling like rain but I wasn’t going to wet my waterproofs on an afternoon jaunt when more serious summits might be in the offing later in the week (WX allowing). It was bad enough just discharging the batteries. In the end, the ascent took from 11:26 to 13:06 which rather killed the idea of an afternoon ‘picnic’ type of sortie.
When confronted with the high dam wall just in front, turn left up a steep gully to reach water level.
In my opinion, the proper procedure is to climb over the dam wall which is only 1m high at SH 6654 4427 (510m). The correct path, which passes along the south shore of Llyn Stwlan and leads up to Bwlch Stwlan (SH 6610 4409) is thus revealed.
MOELWYN MAWR GW/NW-016, 770m (2526 ft) 6 pts, 13:06 to 15:00. 12 deg C. Overcast with threatening rain squalls and 25 mph wind plus gusts. Static crashes & static conditions in rain. Views of the Welsh Coast. Good phone coverage on all parts of route (Orange). (IO82AX, WAB:SH64.)
The dipole was set up on grass a few metres east of the trig point which is the true summit and which was carefully GPS marked at SH 65826 44862 & 773m (top of pillar). There is a shallow natural depression in the ground which gave minimal respite from the wind without having to go ‘over the lip.’ The setup did look a little intrusive but the five visitors who turned up later were all of the friendly and curious variety. There is just about sufficient soil for free-standing masts and end supports before rock is encountered.
40m CW - 17 QSO’s:
After leaving a message on G4SSH/A’s answerphone which he probably wouldn‘t pick up until later, I heard Roy trying to contact a SOTA activator on 7.032 but after moving up to 7.033 he came right back to my first CQ. Here’s a man that can be in two places at once. Nothing surprises me with Roy‘s operating skills though he had no idea I’d be going to the mountains today. The ever vigilant Dan F5SQA was next in the log but there was none of the expected multiple calling; just a steady stream of one or two at any time with a few CQ’s needed.
The breakdown was seven UK to ten overseas chasers with the locals consistently louder. After a few 599’s, I realised that the rig had been left on big power from last time. 30W is usually more than adequate for this band & mode. The following is how it went after the first two aforementioned: DJ5AV, G0BPU, HB9AGH, HB9BIN, G4WSX, DL2HWI, G0NUP/P, PA0WDG, G0TDM, F2LG, F/HB9AFI/P, G0NES, G4OWG, DL2EF and HA2VR/P.
I must apologize for several QSY’s between 7032 and 7033 with 7031.5 thrown in for good measure. At times I thought I detected other activators coming on so moved aside to give them a chance. Wherever you go in ‘SOTA Alley’ you soon get rediscovered. Nonetheless, I mishandled the S2S with Kurt (F/HB9AFI/P). He wasn’t strong but the static crashes were and they always seemed to obliterate the same centre parts of his callsign. It was then that Roy (SSH) phoned to ask what my intentions were. After a brief conversation he told me that F/*A/P was in fact Kurt who must have been relieved to receive his callsign and name ‘letter perfect’ on a seemingly abandoned frequency when I returned. Thank you for the S2S Kurt but mainly for your patience and tenacity!
The final station worked was HA2VR/P. He was exceedingly weak and faded into increasing static brought on by an angry looking sky and the onset of windblown light rain. The reports were exchanged which is all that matters but his QTH was not received. Powers were 80W for the first six and 30W to 50W thereafter. I couldn’t stay long on this one so battery longevity was not an issue.
160m CW - 1 QSO:
Roy G4SSH QSL’d ‘RR’ when I announced a QSY to Top Band from 40m CW and kindly spotted me for 1.832. Pre-annunciation is essential to success on this backwater. On this occasion much would depend on the WX as well as on band conditions. A look around while fitting the 160m coils showed that I was in for a wetting. Instead of the S meter ‘needle’ resting on the stop, which is what I’m used to as a Top Band activator, it was already floating around S4 when the rig was switched on. It was lucky for Pete EI7CC that he called when he did. I could just about hear him through it and we exchanged without too much trouble.
Further CQ’s resulted in nothing but why would they? The static roar, accompanied by crashes, was now rapidly rising above 9 and eventually to the dizzy heights of around 35 over! Beat that in Dublin! Not only that, the log was soaked and a squally wind was threatening to carry it over the side. All I could do was to switch off the rig, place the only rock on the summit over my log, draw my knees up, put my head down and wait. I didn’t bother with the coat - just a further waste of time. The grounding lead could not easily be deployed but what difference would it have made anyway? Within a few minutes the weather was receding in front of me as I watched the S reading resettle gradually below S1 again but more CQ’s between 13:20 and 13:25z did not have the desired effect. Pete’s callsign stood alone in the 160m log.
Power used was 100W throughout. Of course it’s not a true 100W - that would need 13.8 Volts to produce it but it‘s the best I can do with a 3-cell Li-Po which starts life at 12.6V.
4m FM - 2 QSO’s:
After packing up the dipole, thoughts turned to 4m from up at the trig point. At first nobody came back. When they did my problem was logging them in the brisk wind without loosing the log. Using the IC-E90 and 3 Watts to the extended duck and counterpoise, I worked Kevin MW1CFA/M, who was climbing Holyhead Mountain - NW69 (59-59) and 4m regular Mike G4BLH (58-55). The second QSO surprised me; I didn’t think I was high enough in this mountainous area. Mike asked ,on Frank’s (G3RMD) behalf, if 160m ops were finished but sadly the dipole was already in the rucksack.
With a deadline in mind of 16:00 at the pickup point, I left at 15:00. The return did in fact take me exactly an hour but one or two route details got straightened out on the way down. Apparently it is also possible to walk up a metalled reservoir road as far as Llyn Stwlan from a start point (SH 6835 4530) at Tanygrisiau but my feet are not fond of hard surfaces and it‘s further anyway.
Walking: 615m (2,018ft) ascent, 2 x 3.8 km = 4.8 miles up & down.
Time: 4 hrs - 34 minutes gross. 2 hrs - 40 minutes net walking time. 1 hr - 54 minutes summit time. Navigation: GEKO 301 GPS (inc altimeter).
40m CW: 17 QSO’s.
160m CW: 1 QSO.
4m FM: 2 QSO’s.
TOTAL: 20 QSO’s.
As for NW16? A nice grassy mountain but it took more doing than I’d first bargained for. The activation had to be scaled down to fit the time available so apologies for not doing SSB.
THANKS TO ALL STATIONS WORKED and spotting assistance from as yet unknown ops. Also to Roy at the other end of the mobile phone.
As I write this (Wed) the local WX forecast for the next two days is for heavy showers & wind am - easing pm which doesn’t bode particularly well for full day ops.
Yesterday afternoon (10-05-11) I did activate Great Orme (GW/NW-070) as an incidental to a family trip on the tram and visit to the playground. Despite bad QRM on 2m from the local mast I did work two on there plus two on 4m where there was no such interference. 4m FM - 14:12z: GW3XRM Dave & G4ZRP Brian. 2m FM - 14:20z: MW6UPH/M Aled & GW0ETN Peter. Peter only worked me to find out what the ‘C’ meant in the club callsign!
73, John G4YSS
(using SSEG Club callsign varied for Wales, GC0OOO/P).