The Pimple and The Electric Mountain :
Mynydd y Cwm NW-076 and Elidir Fawr NW-005
Saturday 20th June 2009
Something special for the Summer Solstice? Well that was the intention – provided the weather allowed us to do something special. The plan was to make an early start and get to the car park at Idwal Cottage before most of the punters, take the G4ERP “easy” route up Tryfan NW-006, then follow that with a trek over to Glyder Fawr NW-003 and finish the day on Y Garn NW-004. Flaming June however didn’t play ball – not as though we wanted high temperatures, just a lack of precipitation.
It looked reasonably okay until a couple of days before the activation, then it went downhill. MWIS were predicting 5 degrees C at 900m, cloud base at 700m, 30 mph winds and showers. We could cope with the cold and wind, but water on the polished rocks of Tryfan presented a potential problem. After an exchange of emails we decided to move to Plan B, with Plan C waiting in the wings should MWIS be making light of the situation on the hills. In the end, their forecast was perhaps erring on the side of caution, though the cloudbase at around 400 metres was considerably lower than predicted.
First up was the new summit Mynydd y Cwm NW-076 which teeters on the edge of Marilyndom…… we thought, better get it done before it is declassified. So I hit the road at 03:20z and having collected Paul, we set out from Stourbridge at 04:50z to make the parking spot by 06:42z – early as is often the case! It had been damp en route and there was still rain around as we got ready and set off. Once in the wood we were sheltered from more or less everything – except the large drips from the trees! We ambled up to the summit in 12 minutes where I bagged the highest spot for what it was worth and Paul set up about 10 metres away in a small clearing.
I was first up and running at 07:20z calling CQ on 432.222MHz SSB - bad idea. Should I self spot? No I decided to keep going and see whether the chasers that Paul worked would add 1 to 1 and make 2 once they worked Paul on 2m SSB. The problem was we were 40 minutes early and everyone was still downing their breakfast cereals. Paul’s first contact was with Laurie G6XLL at 07:29 and it was not for another 5 minutes that he managed to get going in a more convincing fashion. By that time I had temporarily given up on SSB and was in QSO with Peter GW0ETN in Kinmel Bay on FM. John MW1FGQ followed which was the cue for a trial on 23cms, my 280 milliwatts unfortunately not cutting the mustard through the wet trees, even though John was just 8 miles away. John M0JFE provided a third contact on 70cms before I tried 4m. John FGQ was my only contact there, though Steve GW7AAV was looking for me. So it was back to 70cms after working John for another session calling CQ on 432.222MHz using SSB and CW without any success. Still only 3 in the bag.
As Paul was quite close to me, I could hear clearly what was going on – outgoing reports of 43 were not very encouraging. Was this another RF black hole or were we just unfortunate having wet trees all around? I wandered over to check who Paul was working – it didn’t look good for working Frank G3RMD or Don G0RQL on 70cms as they were not strong on 2m and there was no sign of Graham G3OHC or Phil G4OBK. Paul said he would try to help and get someone to look for me for my fourth contact and I went to change the 70cms beam to vertical. Paul made contact with Mike GW0DSP who moved up to 70cms and qualified the summit for me. An outing for Mike’s second callsign and a contact with Steve GW7AAV sealed the activation. Paul worked a total of 13 on 2m SSB with Don G0RQL as best DX and only David G6LKB in the log from north of the Welsh Coast.
Back at the car we had brunch before setting off westwards at 09:00z for Snowdonia. Our route was straight along the A55, onto the A5 near Bangor, down to Bethesda and off south-west to the parking spot near Deiniolen which gave us a generous 360m start on the ascent. Setting off at 10:07 past the debris of former quarry workings and up an uninspiring tarmac track was not exactly what brilliant activations are made of. However, the ascent from the end of the Marchlyn Fach reservoir was actually rather magical, probably on account of us being unable to see no more than 50 metres at best. The steepest part was the ascent to the spine of the hill leading up to Elidir Fach. Here the hillside was covered with miniature fauna and flora worthy of close inspection whenever we paused for breath. The gradient eventually eased and we then struck off towards the base of the scree that we knew to be on the western flank of Elidir Fawr, NW-005.
We were heading for a diagonal track across the scree running up and left to within 100m of the summit, but in the poor visibility we missed this by quite a margin. It was perhaps good that we did, as we ascended an altogether more friendly landscape to the south-western end of the summit ridge. It was then an interesting up and over rock scramble with false summit after false summit appearing out of the gloom before we eventually made the summit proper at 12:22z. We knew that we had arrived as rent-a-crowd were occupying the stone shelter and two other people were sheltering close by having their lunch. Our arrival seemed to be the catalyst for the main group to move on, but we declined the luxury of the shelter in favour of a couple of convenient positions out of the wind on the south-east side of the ridge.
I knew Alun 2W0CYM had alerted for Cadair Idris NW-009, so my first action was to recover the C710 from the backpack – no sign of Alun, so I decided to call CQ on 145.500MHz at 12:24z. Back came Ross MW0BYT in Bangor at an obvious rock-crushing strength. We moved down to 145.450MHz to chat and Alun appeared for the S2S after I signed with Ross. He had just set up on an extremely crowded summit – weather conditions there seemed to be similar to our summit. I called across to Paul to advise him of the potential for an S2S. As Alun and I were signing, we were jointly called by Wyn MW0AQZ in Holyhead. I exchanged reports with Wyn first and left Alun to follow on and after their QSO Paul made contact with Alun. Back on the calling frequency, I had a quick exchange of reports with Dave MW3MWD before deciding to move up to 70cms and release Paul onto 2m SSB. So far so good – it was only 12:40z and I already had four in the log. However, thereafter it proved to be very challenging.
Paul started up on 2m SSB at 12:43z with a blistering signal from Jim EI3GE. It took a few minutes to get the run going, with Frank G3RMD heading a reasonably steady trickle of takers, only a few of whom were coming in at any real strength. In all Paul worked 18 on 2m SSB to add to his S2S, finishing at 13:35z. On 70cms I tried everything, initially concentrating on 432.222MHz SSB and CW, particularly looking for Frank G3RMD and Don G0RQL. At 13:15z I was fairly certain I copied Frank calling me and I went back with a 419 report, but thereafter nothing was heard. Out of the depths then came CW from a most unexpected quarter – Mike G4BLH. Thanks Mike! I stuck with it and soon I worked John GW3GUX on Anglesey to make the log look half decent. After signing with John, I put a few more CQs out on SSB and another signal appeared – the best DX of the day: Don G0RQL, with reports at 41 both ways. Looking at the path between Elidir Fawr and Devon, I’m not sure how we managed it.
Looking over to Paul I could see he was packing up. I decided to try FM before we left the summit as it had been successful earlier and so changed the yagi to vertical polarisation. Ten minutes of calling CQ on 433.500MHz to my total amazement brought no response whatsoever. Just seven contacts in the bag for almost one and a half hours of operation – good enough, but nevertheless rather disappointing for an activation from such a prominent summit. I switched off at 13:50z and was ready for the off by 14:05z. Paul was first to vacate his operating position – an exclamation from him standing on the ridge hurried me up. The mist had at last cleared and the marvellous views out to the west were at last there to be seen. It was still misty behind us, but we didn’t mind, this was a real reward for our effort.
Now the mist had lifted, we soon found the diagonal track down the scree, then cut across to the spine of the hill beneath Elidir Fach and retraced our route to the head of Marchlyn Fach reservoir. We could now see the main Marchlyn Fawr reservoir located higher up the mountain, which is used as the high-level water source for the Dinorwig power station. The good visibility stayed with us back to the car, though looking back from the lower reservoir we could see that the summit was once more disappearing in the mire. It was 15:10z when we arrived at the car and after getting changed and downing some food we were on the road by 15:30z. It seemed to be so early, but we had another 2 uniques in the bag adding 9 points to our totals. The drive back was fairly slow as we met a lot of traffic on the A5 and we arrived at Stourbridge at 18:18z. After a welcome coffee at Paul’s house, arrival at home in Northampton was at 19:58z, early enough to allow me to sort most of the kit out.
Discussing the activations while on the way home. Paul said that what had surprised him the most was the low signal strengths on both summits. While this might be expected from a pimple like Mynydd y Cwm, it was not what was expected from a high summit like Elidir Fawr. For me, I was generally disappointed by the lack of activity on 70cms. It certainly shows that the band is not yet sufficiently popular to be used as a prime band, but at least it had been used on two more summits and every little helps encourage those that do make the effort.
Thanks as usual to everyone we worked, especially to those that spotted us – to Frank G3RMD in particular who spotted me for 70cms CW, but didn’t have the satisfaction of making contact. I will continue to champion the band and it is encouraging to see others using FM on the band in increasing numbers.
73 to all,
Distance walked – 9.3km. Time taken – 3 hrs 42 mins.
Total ascent – 610m (nominal)
Mileage driven - total 421 miles (672km). Time taken – 8 hrs 8 mins