It has been a few weeks since my last activation, Drosgol (GW/MW-008). That time a bumped knee meant I finished the walk in agony which had restricted my excursions for a short while. Feeling recovered I thought a “gentle” stroll up a mountain would be ok :o)
I arrived at the home of my walking companion at 6am and were heading our way up the A5 by 6.30. As we got closer to the mountains they looked stunning in their white winter overcoats and I wondered if conditions were going to prevent us from attaining our goal like our failed attempt of Carnedd Llewelyn (GW/NW-002) in October. We arrived at the nearly empty car park at Pen-y-Pass at 8.30-ish and started the adventure at 8.45.
The initial walk from the car park at Pen-y-Pass is across very boggy ground with several places difficult to cross with dry feet. Eventually we came to the first of the steep grassy sections which, even though was wet, was easily climbed. At 550 metres ASL the snow line started, little patches in the nooks and crannies of the rocks with some held in place by the tufts of grass and coarse vegetation. The marked path up the steep rocky scramble was difficult to follow because of the snow so often we took a more direct route than was intended. As the gentler slopes were reached the cloud cover closed in which reduced visibility by blurring the distinction between the snow covered ground and sky, which only got worse the higher we went. Navigation was also hampered by hidden 2 foot deep drifts which made walking tiring, but occasionally we crossed large flat areas of pristine snow which had a crust which could bear our weight without showing any sign of being walked on. The higher we climbed the stronger the wind became and the nearer the summit the sharper the grains of ice whipped up were felt on our faces. Eventually the desolate summit was reached (an hour later than intended), the frozen surface was almost flat because of the wind and snow was piled in large drifts on the lee side of the large rocky outcrops. One of these outcrops was chosen for shelter and out of the wind it wasn’t too bad considering it was well below freezing. Wishing to make contact with Robert (GW0PEB) on Moel Siabod (GW/NW-010) I called out several times on 2m FM hoping he was going to be monitoring but knowing we were going to be a lot later than predicted knew the chance was going to be slim for a summit to summit. I didn’t really have any intension of using 2 metres so wasn’t surprised by having no reply to my CQ call with a hand held transceiver, except I made one contact with Andy (MW0WEE/M) sheltering from rain in his van near Aberwystwyth.
Considering that we took one of the easier routes to the top we saw no signs of other people out in these extreme conditions till after the antenna had been set up. I had just settled and voices were heard followed quickly by two shapes which turned out to be two very well equipped women (crampons and ice axes) which made us think we were possibly pushing things again in the conditions we were in but we were fine. They both came over to say “hi” and were intrigued by what we were up to. Most of you must have had comments from other walkers along the lines of “are you trying to get, channel 5?” but one of the women came out with one of the best I’ve heard. “You know mobile phones work up here” and “when you get through tell your partner you’re having fun and dinners in the oven” :o) The only other person we saw was a lone walker who looked very bemused by the antenna.
I struggled to erect the antenna in the wind and several times the central pole collapsed just as I was about to settle into the activation requiring me to get up from my comfortable position. Eventually the pole seemed to freeze into place and ice formed on the dipoles and feed line. Because of the conditions I initially thought I would do a quick activation and only use one band (60m) even though I had alerted more. Propagation on 60 metres seemed to be very hit and miss with high levels of QSB which I thought was being due to a problem with my antenna. The strongest, most reliable, contact was with Don (G0RQL) who told me everyone was suffering with the same problem not just me. He also relayed and spotted my hops around the 5MHz channels. I qualified the summit easily but decided to try 80 metres to give the non N.O.V. holders an opportunity but I must apologise to Peter (ON3WAB), if I’d known he was monitoring me I would’ve tried 7MHz. I since noticed that I’ve been the first to activate Glyder Fawr on 80 metres, quite surprising after 60 previous visitors.
The walk back down was just a case of following our foot steps in the snow. As we dropped below the cloud covering Glyder Fawr the afternoon sunshine glinted off the snow covered mountains of the Snowdon horseshoe, Moel Siabod and Crib Goch ridge providing spectacular views on the descent. We eventually got back at the car at 3.30.
Equipment used for the activation: Yaesu FT-817ND @ 5W on its internal batteries, 80 and 60 metre inverted v dipoles (5 metres at the centre, 1.4 metres at the ends).
Contacts; 1 on 2m FM, 12 on 60m SSB and 13 on 80m SSB.
Thank you to all the chasers, without you the time on the mountains would be a little less enjoyable and thank you to Don for the spots and QSY relays.