9th May 2015
Paul and I set up this outing for several reasons, the main one being that we could assess our level of fitness, an important factor with a week in Scotland coming up and our outings being few and far between nowadays. We also had the idea of spending several hours on a summit to work a larger number of bands than usual. I also wanted to evaluate the performance of my new 20m vertical against the multiband dipole I had been using on the band. We would therefore have a reasonable weight in our packs to facilitate these ideas. After some discussions, we decided upon Cadair Berwyn GW/NW-012 which would give us a reasonable work-out on the ascent and provide us with a suitable activation zone to set up within.
I left home at 04:40 clock time (03:40z), wondering how I manage these early starts. An extensive speed restriction on the M1 delayed my arrival at Paul’s QTH, but after a quick coffee, we were away by 04:58z. The 60 mile journey to the parking spot near to the Pistyll Rhaedr Waterfall, the highest single drop waterfall in Wales and always a delight to see. It appeared that the waterfall was in fairly full spate when we arrived at 06:28z. Without any strict itinerary to work to and a loose activation time alerted for 09:00z, we took our time getting ready and were not on our way until 06:52z, just in time for the rain to start! It was just 7C at the car park.
As we ascended, the rain got heavier causing us to make a number of short stops to take suitable measures. The wind was unusually cold for the time of year and it gave me a headache - putting on my fleece hat under my jacket hood to cover my forehead solved that. Neither of us had experienced such conditions in early May – it was more like February. Paul told me that one forecast had suggested the temperature with chill factor would be minus 4C at the summit and it certainly felt like it!
Our chosen route was over Moel Sych and conditions underfoot were difficult. It was extremely wet and boggy in places and several detours to find drier ground were required. We found that we were somewhat out of condition, the ascent taking us 2 hours and 10 minutes, so that we arrived at the summit at 09:02z, two minutes after we should have been on air.
With the conditions on the summit just as bad as they had been on the ascent, we agreed that the only practical solution would be to use the summit shelter in the hope that few people would be out on the hill. We decided to review the situation after we had activated the summit on 2m and 70cm, as it would be necessary to set up on the fence line if we were to attempt HF. Paul expressed concern that running harmonically related bands might be an issue from the confines of the summit shelter, but apart from a small increase in the background noise on 70cm, we had no problems at all. Sat just 3 metres apart it was quite revealing as to how good the filtering in the FT-817 is.
I set up the 6 element DL6WU yagi on the third section of the telescopic pole and initially deployed the antenna at around 2 metres, holding the pole between my knees and using my left hand to steady it. Paul did the same with his 3 element SOTAbeam. I was first on and my initial call was answered by Rob G7LAS at 09:20z. Not expecting to hear him, I incorrectly read his call as G0LGS and beamed south-east towards Cheltenham. The matter was soon corrected and reports exchanged. Paul had a similar prompt start on 2m working Rod M0JLA. He next three contacts for both of us were Bob G6ODU, Karen 2E0XYL and Graham G4JZF in succession. Bob said that signals were stronger on 70cm – I joked that it was down to the extra elements on my beam, but it was probably down to me risking raising the antenna to 3 metres during the first contact, Graham was using his 2m beam for the contact.
While I was catching up on the news with Graham, Paul worked Nigel M6TZJ, followed by Don G0RQL. Don M0HCU/P then called Paul from Titterstone Clee G/WB-004 for a most welcome S2S. Once I signed with Graham, David M0YDH called me using a hand-held 6 element beam and we had a chat with decent signal strengths both ways. Don M0HCU/P was another using a compromise antenna, but putting in a rock crushing signal. Paul completed the run on 2m by working Paul M0TVU/M (who had driven up to Barr Beacon since he hadn’t been able to hear anything at his home QTH), Dave G0ELJ, David M0YDH and Gerry G1SWH. My next contact was with Don G0RQL down in Devon, 52/51 reports being exchanged with Don using a revamped 48 element Jaybeam. Gerry completed my log as well with his 5 watts producing a huge signal from near Wigan.
After a further few minutes of unproductive calling, we came to the conclusion that after an hour of operating we had exhausted the available contacts and a move to FM was considered. We agreed that as the weather was closing in, with visibility down to little more than 15 metres, we would be wise to pack up and make our descent, thoughts of an HF activation from the fenceline being dismissed very quickly - a decision which was vindicated when we stepped out of the shelter and into the bitter wind that at times made standing difficult.
It took us around an hour and a half to get down to the car. As the wind was coming from the west, we decided to descend on another route by the lake to give us some respite from the cold and it proved to be rather pleasant. We had to take great care with the water-logged path being close to the precipitous edge, not as though we could see the drop, on the upper reaches at least! The weather improved considerably as we descended and once down near the lake, we looked back towards the summit which we could see was still enveiled in the clouds.
Once back at the car, we got out of our wet gear and carefully stowed it before purchasing a drink at the cafe. We were joined by some delightful Chaffinches that came down to take some seed that had been put out on the fence posts.
I must say that despite not having achieved anything like what we set out to do, we had a really enjoyable day. It was really good to get back to a simpler activation, so much so that further 2m + 70cm outings are likely to be planned in the near future. Keep an eye on the alerts.
73, Gerald G8CXK