Allt Yr Esgair, Bryn Arw, Ysgyryd Fawr and Graig Syfyrddin
Saturday 2nd June 2007
It was a whole four weeks since I had been in the hills and what a four weeks it had been. I had been due to escape on 19th May 2007, but decided to stay at home to help in the garden and also to help Bev look after a nest of 10 Blue Tits that we had inherited from some friends, their darned cat having scoffed the parents! Staying at home when one should be out enjoying scenic views is dangerous, especially when one is required to relocate a rather wet bag of compost. An unguarded moment, a quick slip and out goes a disc in the lower back – no doubt many reading this have done the deed and got the tee-shirt. That might have put paid to going out the following week, but what happened on the following Wednesday certainly did – the heater matrix exploded on my car. I was therefore without transport, though Bev did actually offer the use of her car which wasn’t itself in tip-top condition. Not fancying a second encounter with the RAC inside a week, I decided to stay at home.
My sights were therefore set on Saturday 2nd June, but I left everything until the last minute so as not to get too excited. There was still a question-mark over how my back would fair and I put off thinking about it, so much so that I forgot to trickle charge the pack of four 3.3AH SLABs and had to trust to them having retained charge from three weeks previous. On the day, my back held up very well and I really only had a problem with the relatively unimportant bit of the day – the driving. I managed to brace myself by having the seat a notch forward and pressing my left foot hard onto the rest by the clutch pedal. When walking, the 15kg backpack actually applied pressure to the site of the problem and I had no difficulties. The SLABs were another matter however – well, number 3 was. As a precaution I decided to take two SLABs up each summit. Unfortunately number 3 showed 10.8 volts on switch on, so I activated my third summit with battery number 2 which held up well since I had only been running SSB and CW.
I left home in the light at 0333UTC and made good progress with very light traffic conditions. It was cold inside the car – the replacement heater matrix was still on order! I therefore arrived at the parking spot for Allt Yr Esgair SW-023 with rather cold feet and so was pleased to put on my thick socks and walking boots. Checking my timings, I realised that I had an error on my schedule for the day, in that I had only allocated 2 hours and 45 minutes for the 153 mile journey. Despite this I was still five minutes early as I parked up on the road verge at 0610UTC. The bridleway access to this summit is a real delight. With the state of my back unknown, I had allowed plenty of time in my schedule for my ascent, indeed a colossal 45 minutes - even taking my time it only took 30 minutes. In that time I was able to enjoy being verbally accosted by a Wren, swooped past by at least four species of Tit and visually delighted by several Goldfinches, with many other species around, including a number of well voiced Welsh Robins.
Once out of the vegetation, the panorama available from this lovely summit starts to unfold. I can thoroughly recommend this summit for those that enjoy views. A camera is a must. Visibility was good and I was able to see over to Pen Y Fan in the west and to Waun Fach in the east. The summit has a wall with seating to both sides, so I set up on the east side using bungie straps to hold the mast to the wall. Despite being twenty minutes early, my first call on 144.333 brought Graham G4JZF straight back. We had a ten minute chat after which Phil G4OBK called in. There was then a pause before John M0JDK came back and a longer pause of a whole seven minutes before QSO number 4 with Ken G3LVP was in the bag. Graham G4FUJ made it a total of just 5 on 2 metres. It was clear it was going to be one of those days when many would be out with the family at the end of a wet half term week. A move to 60m did not provide many more contacts – just 7 for this band. Alastair GW0VMZ kindly spotted me for 10.115MHz and I made 4 good contacts there, but got clobbered by a slow HB9 wanting to know every detail of my location which left me packing up slightly later than planned. A total of 16 contacts for this summit.
The easy descent enabled me to depart on time. I was keen not to lose time at this point since I was intending to access Bryn Arw SW-026 from the north via the route described by Dave M0DFA rather than from the south-west which is the programmed parking spot in the Satnav. This meant travelling beyond the POI on the Satnav. As I drove up the valley I managed to miss the car park – it is low key and only holds three or four cars. I therefore wasted several minutes, but again I had allowed plenty of time for the ascent. Despite walking up the north side of the hill in the stifling heat without the benefit of the southerly breeze, I was only slightly late by the time that I got on air. The walk along the boardwalk through the woods is recommended – I wished that I’d had more time to explore. The bird song was absolutely marvelous, with many calls that I did not recognise.
My activation started on 2m SSB and Graham was once again waiting for me. Contacts were again slow in coming. I worked Don G0NES/M who was waiting for Pete M0COP to return from activating Heath Mynd WB-007 and then I had two non-QSOs as I responded to Mick 2E0HJD and Dave G6LKB, both 51 with me, but neither of whom could copy me. Despite running 25w output, the quiet environment on most summits coupled with the low noise preamp and 5m run of 5D-FB low loss cable means I can often hear stations that can’t hear me. All very frustrating! Anyway, the Cheltenham Mafia were on hand to qualify the hill and I did make it to Chris G4DJJ up in Skipton and Mike G4BLH/P just up the road from his home. After 40 minutes and a total of 7 contacts I moved to 60m and had the obligatory QSOs with Alastair GW0VMZ and Paul G0HNW plus a second with Mike BLH. Then the frequency went dead, so I moved to 10MHz where I couldn’t raise any interest. Eventually I extracted a single contact from 40m and then decided to pack up with just 11 contacts in the bag.
It was very warm descending the north side of the hill and I was pleased to make it back to the car for a quick lunch. I departed for Ysgyryd Fawr SW-016 some six minutes late and arrived at the parking spot on time only to find the parking space full to overflowing. I therefore turned back down the hill and parked up in the wide entrance to the wood on the south side of the road. This meant a small walk up the road to access the track up to the summit, but again I had plenty of time in hand. It was hard work ascending in the heat of the early afternoon despite the walk being through the woods, but once out on the top the breeze helped. I set up to the north east of the trig, away from Joe Public and his hoards of youngsters. No-one bothered me – I was not even asked what I was doing. Amazing! Perhaps using headphones helped.
My initial call at 1420UTC on 144.333 received no response, so I moved to the calling frequency where Graham was waiting. Contacts were slightly easier on this summit and I managed to keep the run going. A total of 12 contacts including Chris G4DJJ and Mick 2E0HJD were made before I made the move to 60m. Here I had a real surprise – no-one responded to my calls on FE. Whether this was just circumstance or due to the flare that had occurred earlier in the day, I can’t say. Perhaps there was so little activity that everyone had fallen asleep after having lunch. This occurrence put me off moving to 10MHz, so I decided to pack up and then I spent some time on the phone to Bev while I had mobile coverage. The descent was easy and took just half an hour, so providing time for a leisurely tea before driving to my final summit for the day, Graig Syfyrddin (Edmunds Tump) SW-020, slightly earlier than planned.
I arrived early at the parking spot on the east of the hill. The report penned by Richard G4ERP for this hill had worried me slightly with his description of a parking spot only suitable for a 4 x 4 and narrow lanes. The reality is that there is a wide verge on the side of the road just to the south of the access up to Dawn of Day Cottage. I found that I could get the whole of my fairly wide vehicle onto the grass with at least 15cms of grass between my wheels and the tarmac. The ascent to the summit is easy and straight forward. I did a reccy from the footpath before deciding to access what is private land and approach the trig. The field was planted with a spent crop of turnips with sheep grazing on them – impossible to do any damage, so I thought the risk of being accosted was worthwhile for the extra height gained. I set up with the mast bungied to the fence about 30 metres south of the trig – this position had much fewer sheep droppings. It seems even sheep use trig points as a means of shelter.
My call some twenty minutes early at 1720UTC brought back Stewart G0LGS with Graham JZF a close second this time. I was then fully occupied with social chat QSOs for an hour and a quarter, having decided not to deploy the HF dipole. As I operated it was clear the weather was on the turn and the sun slid behind the clouds and the breeze started to bite giving me a slight headache. I was pleased finally to make a QSO with Dave G6LKB and again Chris G4DJJ was on frequency for a third contact with him. The final QSO that I made was with new licensee Geoff M3SFN/M sitting in the car park on Titterstone Clee – Geoff is the father of 2E0BYA. Hopefully we will have an S2S soon.
The descent from the summit took a leisurely 12 minutes and after a further snack and drink I was en route by 1904UTC, arriving at home just 2 hours later. I drove in my boots to keep my feet warm!
So four very pleasant summits. Allt Yr Esgair is spectacular for it panoramic views and Peter G3TJE and I have started an Appreciation Society for the hill. Ysgyryd Fawr is just spectacular in itself – was that Cambridge I could see in the distance? All in all, I can thoroughly recommend these four and I’m surprised that they aren’t more popular.