Or… my current favourite ascent with possibly the worst SOTA summit I’ve been on so far. Activation date 23rd July 2008.
Life on the edge, Snowdon (GW/NW-001) via Crib Goch.
A phone call from a friend to say the weather was going to be good for a walk (or that’s what my friend said it was going to be) in Snowdonia and how was my head for heights?
The plan was to follow the Pyg track, which starts at Pen-y-pass at the top the Llanberis Pass, then turn off to the right at Bwlch y Moch to follow the path (path is used very loosely in this case) along Crib Goch to eventually pass the trig point at Garnedd Ugain then the tourist path to the summit of Snowdon.
I had seen pictures of the edge we were going to traverse but that does not prepare you for the reality of this adventurous route. Crib Goch rated as a class 1 scramble is a serious undertaking and has had a number of deaths on its slopes (some involving experienced rock climbers) so care and concentration is constantly required.
Initially there is a defined path but that disappears very quickly as you get closer to the imposing lump of jagged rock that begins to tower over you. We weren’t the only people working our way up so at various points I was asked what the pole was for (in my wisdom I carried my home built J-pole which is mounted inside a 5’ (1.5m) PVC tube) to which I at first replied “amateur radio” and later during the morning added “to make the climbing more difficult!”.
There is no one single route to the beginning of the ridge so it was just a case of carefully picking your way up as there is no definitive path, it’s just a case of making your own. The ridge itself is extremely exposed with a vertical drop on the right side (big fall and certain death!) and on the left a very steep slope with pointy rocks (big fall, lots of injuries then death!). Chatting to people who had done the route before the consensus was to go over all the pinnacles and not to try to go round them! At least two have vertical drops to one side on the easiest climbs though.
As we traversed the ridge you could easily see in the distance the hordes of bodies, looking like ants on a branch, working their way up to Snowdon. I was so pleased to not be among them but knew soon I would be. But before that there was the respite of Bwlch Coch and the climb over Crib y Ddsgyl to complete.
Eventually we made it to the very quiet trig point at Garnedd Ugain to enjoy the tranquil views of Snowdonia and to assess what we’d just completed, a spot that seems to be over looked by the people desperate to join the throng at the building site which will be the new station and café on the summit of Snowdon. Unfortunately to clam the activation I had to join the crowds of screaming children, complaining teenagers, arguing couples and building noise! All this on a week day, I wondered just how bad it is on a weekend.
My J-pole was wedged in some rocks and connected to my 817. Contacts came quickly so the requisite 4 was no trouble. I had checked the frequency I intended to use before calling CQ but after a short while (and a number of contacts) I heard 2 weak stations move on frequency and start a conversation only to complain about others calling someone on a hill! The reason I changed frequency.
While on the summit we were treated to a fly past by not one but two of the RAF rescue helicopters which circled round a couple of times before flying into the distance.
The descent was via the Pyg track back to where we were parked which gave a good impression of the route we had taken. Would I do it again? The answer is definitely a yes but without SOTA gear next time :o)
I think this activation has possibly equalised out the very easy ascents and nice summits I did in Germany and Switzerland. The next hill planned in the area will probably be Tryfan, I’m quite taken with scrambling :o)
Thank you to John (GW4BVE) and Mike (GW0DSP) for the spots.
Sorry to any stations who heard me but was unable to make contact. During the short activation 13 stations were worked, all with FM.
Equipment used: Yaesu FT-817, 2.5W (except for final 4 contacts @ 5W) into a home built J-pole at ground level.