For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin–real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.-- Alfred D. Souza
Whenever there is something to be done, be it for business or pleasure there are always a thousand more reasons for not doing it than for doing it. The weather and lack of time are the favourite excuses.
In 2006 Joe GW7KDZ and I had planned to activate Cyrn y Brain (GW/NW-043) and Moel y Gamelin (GW/NW-042), we had talked about it for long enough and on the morning of the 10th February we set out. We activated Cyrn y Brain in the best of weather; there were patches of snow on the ground but the sun shone and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. However we underestimated the ascent/descent times and spent too long on the summit so that there was no time for an activation of Moel y Gamelin. We still planned to go back but every time we set a date it would be raining or I would be called in to work or something else would crop up.
After Helen GW7AAU and I had activated G/SP-004 Shining Tor (17/6/2007) she suggested that there were not a lot more of that group and maybe we could have a go at doing the rest; she knew that they were mostly easy one and two pointers. I was up for that but I felt I had unfinished business with Moel y Gamelin and I wanted to do it first.
The night before we had charged the batteries, set co-ordinates in the GPS and we were ready to go. We will get an early start this week I suggested but although I got up early enough when I saw the grey skies I left Helen to sleep in. As the day went on it seemed to brighten up and we prepared to leave. Helen sent the girls over to the corner store to get some coke but as they came back though the front door the rain started again. What should we do? I suggested we drive to Horseshoe Pass and see what the weather was like there.
En route we went through the four seasons in not just one day, but sometimes in under a mile. The conditions on the way left everything to the imagination as to what to expect when we got there. Surprisingly the sun was shinning as we parked the Discovery opposite the Ponderosa Café, but looking over towards Moel Famau the sky was as black as a barbequed sausage and over towards the coast there was a nasty band of rain moving in. The wind seemed to be taking the clouds up over Cyrn y Brain away from us so we made our move and started up. The chosen route took us SW from the parking area straight up Moel y Faen. It was some time since I had investigated the route and had forgotten that the first summit was in fact Moel y Faen and that we had to descend via the track W before the SW ascent to Moel y Gamelin. The realisation came when we stood on the summit of Moel y Faen and the GPS told us we still had 8/10ths of a mile to the summit. A quick call to Mike GW0DSP confirmed the locator we had set in the GPS was right and we still had some way to go. After a quick gulp or two of water we got going again and arrive at the summit cairn at 14:38 UTC.
John GW4BVE says in his route information, “The summit is marked by a low cairn, which does not provide much shelter from the wind.” I had to laugh when I saw the cairn, from what I saw it is not big enough to provide any shelter to anything bigger than a field mouse. If I was a field mouse then it might be just the place to hide from the various circling birds of prey, which seem to becoming more of a feature of the countryside than I can remember at any time during my lifetime. Where were my binoculars? The same place as the camera, next to the PC – Arrr!
Another quick call to GW0DSP to get the spots ready and then we had a little struggle getting the SOTA pole and antennas to stay aloft in the wind. While Helen and I got set up Caroline wandered off with the GPS and soon found Charlie G0PZO’s SOTAcashe. Helen was soon into full flow and the calls came thick and fast on 2 metres FM. She worked 28 stations and only called on S20 once in an hour of operating. I started on 5.3985 with an almost instant reply from Alistair GW0VMZ and then nothing. I kept calling because I had seen how variable the conditions had been on 5mHz before I left home and eventually got two more contacts. At that point the first of the raindrops started to splatter the logbook. I then got a report that Peter ON3WAB was picking me up on 5mHz so I decided to go over to 40m in the hope of working Peter and some of the other EU chasers, however every time I got up to remove the dipole links I got another call. Eventually I was getting no more takers and moved on to 7.068. I was unsure but as I removed the dipole links I thought I heard Martyn GD3YUM calling me on 5mHz; it had been, but a few minutes later Helen called me to say she had just worked him on 2m so at least he got the points.
40m was the usual zoo and I called and called and called. Splatter from adjacent channels and a high static level made things difficult but eventually a good contact was made with Lionel F5NEP. A lot more calling and just when I was thinking of giving up Peter ON3WAB made contact. Similar to the contact with Lionel I got his report easily enough but a lot of patience was required for me to get mine over to Peter. Thanks for persevering, guys!
In the end I logged one contact on 2m FM, eleven on 60m SSB and two on 40m SSB. Only one summit to summit this time was with Charlie G0PZO/P on G/LD–046 Lambrigg Fell. It was great to have at least limited success on 40m but my most prized contact was George GI4SRQ in Amagh as I had never worked GI on 60m before.
By the time I had worked Peter the rain was getting heavy and Helen’s second battery was starting to get low, so after a quick last call on 5mHz we started to pack up. As we took the antennas down the low cloud engulfed us so that standing at one end of the dipole you could not see the mast. Packing up took a little longer than we would have liked because we could not feel our fingers, strange how we had not noticed them getting cold. Getting gloves on wet hands proved a bit of a challenge too.
Soon we were on our way trudging through the muddy puddles that just over an hour earlier had been simply hollows in the track. We had only seen one other person on the summit, a fell runner, apart from an identical Land Rover Discovery to ours which had shot passed at about 40 mph as we operated. I almost wished we had driven up and to hell with the consequences the rain was so bad, but however much fun off-roading is when you see what damage it does…I guess I’ll walk. The rain continued to fall in football size drops until we arrived at the car.
No sooner than we were sat in the Discovery than a call from the ever present GW0DSP came over the radio and surprise, surprise he was activating GW/NW-062 Hope Mountain. Mike kept us company as we drove home, and as we got closer he began to try to persuade Helen to activate Hope with him. Eventually Helen gave in and when we reached the junction opposite the Bridge Inn at Pont y Bodkin we turned right and headed for Hope instead of left and home.
Mike was set up on 2m FM as we arrived and Helen worked Mike for the chaser points from the car and I worked him on the 817 as I started the walk to the summit. It was not much of a walk from where we had parked to the activation area but the day’s excursions were telling us both. On the summit Mike and I left Helen to it (her report is already on the reflector) and tiptoed about trying to catch glimpses of the wild life, which consisted mainly of about a zillion rabbits. It was that point in my twisted mind I saw three strange slightly overweight characters + antennas + a round hill with lots of bunnies = Oh No we must be the Tellytubbies! It was okay probably just a low sugar level.
We packed up and while Helen and Mike exited the activation area I stayed behind to give Mike the point before walking back to the car. We had watched the black line of rain moving towards us for half an hour and now as the other two were sitting snug and warm I felt the first drops of rain on my neck. By the time I was in the cars I had received my second soaking of the day, but we not far from home and a nice hot coffee.
A great day despite the discomfort and some unfinished business finally put to bed. South Pennines look out we will be heading your way again soon but GW/NW-073 Mynydd Rhyd Ddu and GW/NW-053 Moel Gyw are very close and we have not done those either.
Regards Steve GW7AAV