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What the Winter Bonus is all about


#1

For me, it has always been about selecting decent mild nice weather days, and pleasant straightforward summits in the 500-600m height band. Like the Ponderosa Pair of Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042 and Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043 on a sunny February day, making the 4 points transform into 10 each. And that is precisely what Jimmy M3EYP, Edward M6NSR and myself did on Saturday 12th February 2011.

We left Macclesfield at about 7am and headed directly for Lymm Truck Stop. Here we each availed ourselves of the 7-item cooked breakfast and a mug of tea. The breakfasts here were always good, but now they are better with much higher quality black puddings than previous years.

After continuing along the M56, M53 and A483, Jimmy directed me a few turnings and onto Horseshoe Pass (the A542) up to the Ponderosa Cafe. It would put us behind schedule, but we all agreed to go in for another brew before commencing the walk.

We motored quite quickly up the semi-steep pull to the subsidiary summit of Moel y Faen, before dropping down again ahead of the steady kilometre’s climb to Moel y Gamelin’s summit. Jimmy and I were equipped, unusually, with a flask of tea today. Ponderosa is a must for lunch on these days, so soup was unnecessary. But a hot drink was nonetheless welcome.

Jimmy and Ed got going with their handhelds and SOTA Beam on 2m FM, working a decent number each including several summit-to-summits. I was having a bit of a change by doing 80m, first on CW and later on SSB. Obviously the QSO rates were not what I enjoy on 20m and 40m, but it was very enjoyable to be working friends in G that I rarely get on the higher bands.

As we began to pack away, we were all surprised by the start of a rain shower. The day had been confidently forecast as completely dry, so I told Jimmy and Ed that in all likelihood, it would very soon be over. The rain turned to sleet and then light snow, before stopping quite quickly as the bright sunshine and blue skies returned.

When you look from the summit of Moel y Gamelin across to that of Cyrn-y-Brain, it looks a fair old distance, especially knowing that every step will be walked. It isn’t all that far, and it is just a lovely walk which I am happy to repeat year-in-year-out. I might even return to Moel y Gamelin for one of my Backpackers entries this year, even though there won’t be any more SOTA points available.

Back at the Ponderosa Cafe, the place was heaving. As expected, the car park was nearly full, and half of it by an array of impressive motorcycles. The queue for food was considerable, but we joined the end of it in confidence. This place is a very well-run establishment, and as usual, we were served within a couple of minutes, despite the volume of customers going through. I had the homemade steak & kidney pie with chips, peas, carrots and gravy, and a large sized drink of Irn Bru. The grub was of exceptional quality, and served in large hiker-sized portions. A very good plate of nosh for £4.85.

Now it was time to head out behind the cafe and climb the other one - Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043. Although the net height gain is not too dissimilar from here as the earlier Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042, I explained to Ed that there would be none of the undulation, and this, by comparison, was a much easier walk.

We were on summit in good time, and setting up again with Jimmy and Ed on 2m FM, with myself on 80m CW. There were more S2S QSOs available for the two lads, while my activation was another relaxed, unhurried and friendly affair on 80m.

On the descent we enjoyed the wide-ranging stunning views that had blessed us all day long on what had been a very satisfying day. We reached the Ponderosa just as it was closing up for the day, with the proprietor lowering the flags in the car park. I had a Saturday evening dinner date with my wife, plus M0GIA and XYL in Macclesfield, so we skipped the usual post-match beer at The Moors Inn and got straight back on the main roads and motorway.

So another really enjoyable day on the Horseshoe Pass. My thanks to Jimmy, and his mate Edward, for their excellent company all day, and to every station that worked any of the three of us. A super day out, ten points in the bag, and what the winter bonus is all about!

Tom M1EYP


#2

In reply to M1EYP:

I’ve always enjoyed myself from Cyrn-y-Brain, both as a SOTA activator and back in the 90’s contesting from there with a car full of kit. What I enjoy about it from a SOTA activating perspective is that you can work contact after contact using nothing more than a simple J-pole and a 2m FM handy. Better still is the way the chasers still sound as pleased to have yet another QSO with someone on a very commonly activated summit as they did when it was a unique for them.

For some reason I’ve only been up Moel y Gamelin once. It was when I’d first started SOTA with Brian G4ZRP, we were trying to do Moel Famau, Foel Fenlli, Moel y Gamelin and Cyrn-y-Brain all the same day at the start of the Winter Bonus. With both of us very much less fit than now we were slow up and all the activations were a smash and grab. So I can only vaguely remember the summit.

As for mild winter days… I have to disagree. I don’t want bad weather but I feel the best activations come when it’s “proper” cold, with lots of snow and one of those blue skies that scream high pressure. But no wind!

Like this http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf/4222340999/in/pool-sota_pics/

-12 or so at the top, tons of fluffy, light snow, sunset colours to die for. Mrs. FMF had brought a selection of Christmas comestibles so the nosh was good as well. It only felt cold (oh boy cold) when the sun went down.

I could do with some of that today instead of being sat here looking at the rain and low cloud, with a bit of a cold that’s been lurking for a week now. :frowning:

Andy
MM0FMF


#3

In reply to M1EYP:

You’re a maths teacher arn’t you Tom?

Peter
G1FOA


#4

In reply to G1FOA:

Go on then Peter, what anomoly have you noticed in my report? I’ve just checked though it myself and found several opportunities for mischievous misinterpretation, but can’t decide which one you are most likely to have pounced upon. Please, put me out of my misery!

Tom M1EYP


#5

In reply to M1EYP:
Whats 4+3?

Peter


#6

In reply to G1FOA:

(2+3)+(2+3)=10


#7

In reply to M1EYP:

…Lymm Truck…we each availed ourselves of the 7-item cooked breakfast and a mug of tea. The breakfasts here were always good, but now they are better with much higher quality black puddings than previous years.

Back at the Ponderosa Cafe… I had the homemade steak & kidney pie with chips, peas, carrots and gravy, and a large sized drink of Irn Bru. The grub was of exceptional quality, and served in large hiker-sized portions. A very good plate of nosh for £4.85.

I had a Saturday evening dinner date with my wife, plus M0GIA and XYL in Macclesfield, so we skipped the usual post-match beer at The Moors Inn…

Think I have it sussed now Tom - obviously you are spinning a tale for my benefit in the hope that I will take up the idea that mountains of scoff are what is needed before carrying out activations. Good try, but I’m afraid it won’t work. You’ll have to find some other way of slowing Paul and me down… and we don’t move that quickly anyway! :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG


#8

In reply to G3CWI & M1EYP

(2+3)+(2+3)=10

I see now it was the “each” after the 10 that threw me. Not having looked up the hills I had assumed that they were 4 pointers.

Peter


#9

Gerald,

You are missing the joy. SOTA is a wonderful trinity of hillwalking, amateur radio and fine dining. To be consistently omitting one of the essential elements of SOTA sounds an utterly hideous way to go about participating in the programme!

Lunch at the Ponderosa - might just be the hook you need to encourage you to revisit one (or two)!

Tom M1EYP


#10

In reply to M1EYP:

I reckon they’ll have to run a pipe cleaner or two through Tom’s arteries in a few years the way he puts the lard away! :wink:

However, the Ponderosa does serve exceedingly good tea. It’s on a par with the Bridge of Balgie tearoom for flavour but you don’t get a china cup, teapot and milk jug. But not quite as good as the Glen Ogle burger bar. The tea there is fantastic, you get a proper mug and a refill is included in the price. That’s not any burger bar. No! They sell venison burgers with bacon. Can you imagine anything more sublime than deer and pig in a roll?

Andy
MM0FMF


#11

In reply to MM0FMF:
"I reckon they’ll have to run a pipe cleaner or two through Tom’s arteries in a few years the way he puts the lard away"
When the time comes, an exercise ecg is a exquisite means of torture. They festoon you with wires, fixed with the sticky stuff that hurts when they pull it off, then make you exercise until it starts hurting and they can see something on the trace.

In reply to M1EYP:
SOTA is my excuse for a breakfast - the bigger the hill, the longer the walk in, the bigger the breakfast I can justify. Roll on the summer and some 10-pointers.

Regards, Dave, G6DTN


#12

In reply to M1EYP:

Lunch at the Ponderosa - might just be the hook you need to encourage you to revisit one (or two)!

Ah, so that’s your plan, eh Tom? Sorry to tell you that you are doomed to failure. Now if you could persuade me that a couple of pints of Lakeland Golden bitter or something similarly nectar-like was a pre-requisite for the remaining LD’s, then you might be onto something. For now I’ll stick to my bowl of cereal at 02:40, followed by a cup of coffee at Paul’s at around 04:20 and maybe a snack bar somewhere en route to the first summit (at the risk of getting indigestion of course!).

As for 3 cooked meals in a day… no comment!

73, Gerald G4OIG


#13

In reply to G1FOA:

Yes - the “each” referred to the activators, not the summits!

In reply to everyone worried about my health:

My routine of ascending The Cloud far more times than I actually need to, and playing football and squash every week, in addition to any ‘proper’ SOTA in weekends and holidays, affords me a little more scope to enjoy my food.

A game of squash sometime Gerald?

Tom M1EYP


#14

In reply to M1EYP:

A game of squash sometime Gerald?

You must be joking Tom. At my age! I gave it up years ago - wasn’t that impressed when a 40 year old chap at the local club dropped dead on court. Sort of put the wind up me a bit seeing he was younger and considerably fitter. I moved onto Badminton, but it didn’t enamour me much. Then I tried the gym (yawn), swimming (double yawn + chemicals) and eventually went back to what I have always liked best - walking in the fresh air in them thar hills.

Regardless of how much exercise I do, I still try to keep within 2500 calories a day, but the odd beer-session does tend to muck things up a bit. Therefore the aim is for the weight loss due to hill walking to be equal to or greater than the weight gain caused by the beer sessions. Well, that’s the theory! :slight_smile:

73, Gerald G4OIG


#15

In reply to G4OIG:

Temperatures here in northern New Mexico have been sub-zero (F) for weeks, setting all time record lows. Last time such temperatures approached was 1971, and the time before that was 1939. … There are a lot of SOTA peaks near me, and most have no trails, will be challenging to get to. I have been working on light weight simplified equipment. As soon as the weather moderates a bit, snow melts off the 4x4 trails that get close to the base, I will try to give folks some 20 mtr CW SOTA peaks to try to work. 73 - Fred KT5X


#16

In reply to M1EYP:

In reply to G1FOA:

Yes - the “each” referred to the activators, not the
summits!

All is now clear! My apologies for casting apersions.

My routine of ascending The Cloud far more times than I actually need
to, and playing football and squash every week, in addition to any
’proper’ SOTA in weekends and holidays, affords me a little more scope
to enjoy my food.

Living in the Essex flat lands (here anything over 60 feet is a hill) I don’t get the opportunity to do many activations. I keep my hand in at carring the radio kit up hills by carring a 20k bag of laundry on each shoulder in and out of pubs, restaurants & hotels as my job.

Looking forward, I hope, to be able to visit GW land second week of March and Im looking forward to that.

Peter

G1FOA


#17

In reply to M1EYP:

I’m just back from LD, having done an activation on Saturday, sat out a day of rain yesterday (typical LD, it cleared up at sunset!) and fled a brisk day of snow, sleet, rain and wind today. I like the Bowderstone and the antics of the modern generation of boulderers on its overhanging east face are a source of quiet amusement, but two days of staring out of the window of Bowderstone Cottage at it was a little too rich for my blood! Anyway, back to the winter bonus. Saturday was a little limited in that it was the turn of Pauline and I to do the communal meal on Saturday evening for eleven hungry climbers, so I had to be back early for the cookery, also the start was late as some extra shopping had to be done, more people having turned up than expected, tempted out by the good forcast for Saturday! I finished up with a four hour slot which ruled out the real big 'uns like Skiddaw, so I got Pauline to drive me to Honister Pass and did Dale Head (G/LD-020) from the easy side, up in a little over an hour, back in 45 minutes and 10 contacts on 2 metres FM and a half-wave whip in the 817…and this time my butties weren’t frozen, though I only just rescued them from a passing dog!

So, where does the winter bonus come in? It doesn’t. My game plan would have been just the same without it. It was a nice mild day, with just a few little remnants of snow to remind me that it was winter, and if the hills had been white I would merely have taken an ice axe instead of walking poles. Winter hold no fears for me, I’ve always walked at all seasons of the year, I know when I can go out and when I should fester in the pub, and I still remember the skills gained in climbing icy gullies in Scotland. Three extra points? Kerching, Ta nicely, but not a real inducement, its the hills that call to me, not the points! No doubt the points do tempt some people out, and I am sure that if the weather is gracious they feel a much greater reward than the three points, and that is perhaps all the justification the bonus requires.

And for those amongst us that are gourmets and not gourmands (just kidding!) the meal was a pork and apricot casserole, gently cooked in cider with the evocative name of Cripple Cock! It went down a treat!

73

Brian G8ADD


#18

FB Brian. I think you know, or at least can tell by my activator log, that it is the hills, and not the points, that call me too. Not many of my activations have points attached!

But it would be nice to see Jimmy attain MG during this year. So some points - and some winter bonuses might just be worth having!

Tom M1EYP


#19

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi, Tom, my comments weren’t directed at you of course, and I agree it will be nice to see Jimmy get to his MG!

Reading my comments about Dale Head, they may have come over as dismissive. It is of course easier from the Honister Pass as the slope is relatively gentle and you have a high starting point, but the route has a terrific kick in its tail as you top out to the summit and find yourself teetering over that tremendous view of the Newlands Valley! On the other hand you have to look at that quintessentially ugly tourist trap at the top of the pass as you descend, it looked better when it was an honest slate works…

73

Brian G8ADD