Y Llethr GW/NW-017 and Moelfre GW/NW-041
Friday 18th December 2009
Having only just returned from a three day expedition in North Wales, it wasn’t long before I realised that the dose of shack fever that I had succumbed to in November had not been cured. Work was continuing at a frustratingly slow pace, everyone seemly having already finished making decisions before Christmas. Against this background I hatched a plan to escape at the end of the week and once the idea was cleared with the boss, there was no stopping me. I was running 4 summits behind Paul G4MD in North Wales and it was therefore logical to go for a couple of these. After due consideration, I decided for a slightly longer driving session and the single parking spot for Y Llethr and Moelfre. Y Garn and Rhobell Fawr would have to wait.
I set out at 04:06 with 5cm of snow lying on the ground and a flurry in the air. It was minus 2 degrees C and more snow had been forecast for the area. The Quattro made light work of getting away from home and by the time I reached the M1 motorway, there was little evidence of the white stuff lying on the ground. There was plenty of traffic on the roads, but I had a very smooth and easy journey westwards. The temperature dipped down to minus 4 degrees C en route, but the gritting lorries were out in force and my car’s paintwork was sand blasted several times. Just outside Dolgellau I pulled in to phone Bev and was told that it was indeed snowing again in Northampton. She was wondering about getting to work – there I was with the 4 wheel drive when it was she who needed it to get to work. Bad decision!
Heeding the warning from John GW4BVE about the gates on one of the access roads, I had set the satnav up to take me via Llanbedr and Pentre Gwynfryn to the parking spot at SH632258 where there is a deep passing place. I parked parallel with the road at the back of the passing place precisely at my scheduled time of 08:10. After recent activations, it was somewhat strange to get ready in the light, but I wasn’t complaining. The temperature was minus 2 degrees C with a light wind – I hoped it wouldn’t be much worse at a higher altitude as I set off at 08:28.
The ascent to the col between Y Llethr and Moelfre was very straightforward (as described on the Summitsbase website) and relatively easy going, though the ground was frozen hard and the streams running across the path were sheet ice. At various points I had to traverse to avoid this hazard. Once through the top gate, I struck off left along a track to the corner of the wall and then ascended parallel to it. A short rocky section was easy to negotiate, the rock surface being relatively dry due to the this part of the ascent being on the south side of the wall and so reasonably well protected from the icy wind. A boggy section higher up was frozen solid, though my weight did depress the surface. Overall this was reasonably easy going and it was not until the steep final ascent that I experienced the need to stop to catch my breath. The wind increased considerably with altitude, but once on the top I was pleased to find a sheltered spot at a change of direction in the wall and a convenient timber post to attach the pole to. Even so, it was minus 2 degrees - quite chilly to say the least.
I was glad of the 5 minutes extra set up time afforded by arriving at 10:10 and was on air at precisely 10:30 as alerted. John M0JDK was ready on frequency waiting for me and once I had control of the beam, we exchanged 58 reports. Control of the beam was to be the challenge of the activation. Thankfully there were plenty of chasers sitting in their warm shacks on this Friday morning and a steady and very pleasant run of contacts ensued. I worked Walt G3NYY/P who was on Ruardean G/WB-021 and Robert GW0PEB/P on Gyrn Ddu GW/NW-050, almost within visual range. I was particularly pleased to work Paul G4MD since he has an indoor antenna at home. Mark G0VOF acted as overseer for the contact with Mike G4BLH who runs a vertical. After working David 2E0DAI the frequency went quite and after calls to all quarters I moved to 70cms. Since Frank G3RMD was not around, the only likely contact was down to Don G0RQL in Devon. I could hear something on the frequency, but copy was extremely poor and so I decided to go QRT. With hindsight I should have stuck at it as we later made a contact from Moelfre which is considerably lower down.
I started to pack up at 11:25 and was on my way down by 11:40. Mindful that Robert GW0PEB would already be well on the way to Yr Eifl, I made the best pace that I could across the frozen ground. Once back at the col I used a quad bike track to ascend the spine of the hill and then moved over to the wall and up to the rocks over which I had to clamber to get to the summit. Fortunately the ladder stile over the wall has been relocated and is now at the highest point of the wall more or less opposite the summit. After a quick clamber up the summit rock pile to get my hand on the highest stone, I set up to the south side of the summit to minimise the effect of the wind which was so much more prevalent on this summit. The sun certainly helped keep me warm – it was now 12:50 and a warm 2 degrees C – positive that is.
I managed to find a crack between the rocks to hold my pole and used a couple of bungies attached to larger rocks to provide restraint against the wind. Even so it took me 20 minutes to get properly set up. My first call was answered by Robert who was waiting for me and I took the opportunity to open my flask of tomato soup as we sat chatting. Conditions in the Rhinogs were evidently that much more pleasant than in the Rivals. After finishing with Robert, a short run of contacts was made. It was difficult to log and control the beam, but I managed to do it, though I was quite alarmed by the noise the pole was making as the wind turned one section inside the other! The majority of the contacts were across higher summits, Y Llethr amongst others doing its best to block the way. At 13:50 I beamed down to Devon to let Don G0RQL know I was moving to 70cms and shortly afterwards we made contact on SSB though conditions were not at all good. After working Don, I swung the beam northwards and called Robert GM4GUF/P using CW, but later found out that he had been on earlier. Having a few minutes in hand, I decided to try 2m FM and flipped the beam to vertical polarisation. Vic 2W0VSW on Anglesey provided a contact after a couple of calls, but there were no further takers until just as I was getting ready to pack away, I heard Bob M3UHG in Skelmersdale call CQ and a successful QSO followed. That brought the QSO tally to double figures which is my personal target for each summit and I was happy to pack up at the scheduled time of 14:30.
On the descent I took a slightly more direct route to the top gate and was back at the car at 15:25 – still daylight and an opportunity to get some way towards home before darkness fell. I ate the sandwiches that had been frozen and inedible on the summits and had a drink of water before setting off. It was a real pleasure to drive along the west coast road with the sea beside me before cutting inland along the northern side of the Mawddach Estuary towards Dolgellau. The roads were reasonably clear right up to Welshpool and I later made a brief stop near Telford to phone home. The signs advised of congestion on the M6, but this did not materialise and although the motorways were very busy, I was home by 19:26 – strange to think that less than 4 hours previous I had been on the west coast of Wales. Such is modern life!
As usual I was very pleased with the support that I received, particularly the 16 contacts made on 2m SSB from Y Llethr. Apologies to anyone who didn’t make it over to Moelfre – the summit is well screened. Special thanks to Graham G4JZF for the spots for both summits on 2m and to Don G0RQL for 70cms on Moelfre.
P.S. I’ve not forgotten the write up of the Porthmadog Expedition - I just wanted to get this out of the way first.