Saturday 3rd November 2007
Discussions about this outing started with Paul G4MD some four weeks before it took place. As part of Paul’s activation planning strategy, his first target was to pick up the least activated SW’s which came within a second strategy of activating all the “Swansea” summits. That put the extremely rare summits SW-036 and SW-039 immediately into the frame, each having had only one previous activation. These summits were also the farthest of the SW’s from Stourbridge and Northampton, so that aspect of the planning created its own problems. After several rounds of emails, we agreed upon a group of 5 summits starting with the little activated summit SW-032 Mynydd Allt-y-grug. I prepared my usual schedule using Excel and passed it to Paul for comment. Within a short time we had this honed with arrival at the final summit timed for dusk. Leaving the “soft” summit of SW-036 until last we were confident that we would be able to carry out our final activation of the day in the dark.
The alarm went off in Northampton at 0245 which gave me the usual 30 minutes to get ready and get out of the door. As Paul would driving from Stourbridge, I had packed a lot of my kit into a large bag – 25AH of SLABs, BNOS 150 watt linear, 70cms 25 watt linear, clothes, food, drink…… nothing left to chance of not qualifying these summits! I could hardly lift the bag, but this proved to be the easiest way of transferring kit to the car and I was quickly loaded up and on the road by 0315. There was little traffic on the road at this unearthly hour, so I arrived at Paul’s house at 0435 to find him in the process of packing his car. My early arrival allowed us time to have a leisurely drink while Paul completed his preparations. We were then able to set off at 0500 as planned and despite meeting some foggy patches en route we arrived at our destination on the west side of the hill at 0728, a decent 22 minutes ahead of schedule.
Mynydd Allt-y-grug SW-032 turned out to be much better than our expectations. Exactly why this delightful summit had not previously been activated by anyone other than Peter G3TJE we could not understand. Peter had kindly added a description of the route onto the summit webpage and the watery path he described turned out to be worse than we had anticipated, but with care we managed to get by without getting wet feet. Higher up the path was very pleasant as it rose through woodland and at the change of direction in the path close to the fence line we found a bench overlooking the valley to the south. There was no time for a rest though and we made our way out of the woodland onto the hill. The total ascent took us just 40 minutes. On the summit the weather was very pleasant with a mix of warm sunshine and cloud with a light westerly breeze. Paul had decided to operate on 60m during the day while I had taken equipment for 2m and 70cms. It was my intention to use this first summit to establish the parameters for the power levels used during the day. I had with me my usual 20 watts on 2m, but had decided initially to try out the 817 barefoot on 70cms with just 5 watts output.
Paul seemed to be off on a flyer on 60m before I had fully set up. I started on 2m SSB at 0840 and initially found the band very quiet, probably because we were 20 minutes early. Kevin MW0VKD called me after a few CQs and then Dave G0ELJ was on the ball to follow on when the chat with Kevin ended. A number of regular chasers then called in including Frank G3RMD. After exchanging reports on 2m, we made a quick move to 70cms where signals were 55 each way. This was a promising start, made even more promising by Don G0RQL calling in. After the two contacts on 70cms I made a general call to no avail and then moved back to 2m where Don was waiting to restart the run which then included S2S contacts with Steve 2W0KPO/P and John MW0JDK/P who were on Stingwern, MW-030. In all 12 contacts on 2m plus the two on 70cms. One rather amusing thing happened on this summit – as I was operating I started to smell perfume. Presumably this was carried on the breeze from a manufacturing source in the valley to the west, but having mentioned this on the air, all sorts of comments came about, some of which included Paul in the equation – enough said here!
Operations on the summit concluded at 0920, so maintaining our 20 minutes in hand. We made good time on the descent, cutting the corner off the route we had ascended by to take a direct approach to the crossing into the woodland. Our feet remained dry on the return journey through the footpath ponds and all was well as we set off for our second summit of the day, Mynydd Uchaf SW-031 (pronounced Ach-av, as in Achtung! – info: Heath, GW3HWR). This summit was found to be very open and exposed, though nonetheless rather pleasant. There is some shelter on the west side of the hill where sections have been dug out, presumably for the benefit of livestock. However, the weather was fine so there was no need for shelter, so we set up close to the summit. At the car it had looked a little threatening with dark cloud overhead, but that had now passed and we were once again bathed in sunshine while operating.
For this summit I took the 25 watt 70cms linear with me in order to improve the chance of working Richard G3CWI who was due to be on Tarn Crag LD-026 at about the same time. Being early again, it took 5 minutes of calling CQ before Chris G4DJJ up in Skipton started the ball rolling at 1112 and we moved to my usual working frequency of 144.333 MHz. This time the run was more sustained and again it included S2S contacts with John and Steve who were now on Y Golfa NW-061. After making 16 contacts in 25 minutes the frequency went quiet. I was then alerted to the fact that Richard was now QRV on 144.270 MHz. Contact was quickly made and after exchanging reports, Richard announced that he would be on 70cms in about 5 minutes, so I moved there to wait for him. Ever vigilant, Don G0RQL was waiting for me on the designated frequency of 432.210 MHz and we exchanged 59 reports – off the back of my beam! I was expecting Frank to pop up as well, but I couldn’t hear him, so I quickly went back to 144.333 to see if I could raise him. This allowed Barry M3PXW to work me and then Peter GW3TJE/P called in for an S2S as he was on Mynydd Llangorse SW-015. Moving back to 432.210, Don was still on frequency and he told me Richard was now QRV on CW. Then I heard Richard call me and we had a cross mode QSO with reports 419 / 41. Having concluded his run on 60m Paul came over to listen to the contact and then I turned the beam and called for Frank who was now waiting for me. So a good bag of 19 on 2m and 3 on 70cms from his summit with the 25 watt linear proving its worth.
The extra activity pushed us back onto the scheduled time of 1200 and so we packed up and made our way to the car for lunch. We extended our lunch break by a few minutes, but managed to arrive on the summit of our third hill, Mynydd y Betws SW-028 a few minutes ahead of schedule. Paul pulled into the single parking spot at the summit and we decanted the equipment a few hundred metres away from the road and set up. We found the summit to be extraordinarily damp for no real reason. This hill has a flat top summit with grasses and ground cover planting which was easy to set up on, but we had to pick our positions to avoid the worst of the wet ground. Once set up and the beacons checked, it took a full eight minutes of calling before Frank G3RMD replied at 1335. The run this time was 14 contacts in 20 minutes including a third round of S2S contacts with John and Steve who were now activating one of my favourite summits, Allt y Main NW-059. Moving to 70cms and running the 25 watt linear, I was immediately called by Don G0RQL, but I could not find Frank and after a period of calling him both on 2m and 70cms, I reluctantly closed down at 1405 and dismantled the station. We now had a 20 mile journey over to Mynydd Llangynderyn SW-039 out to the west.
Despite being close to civilisation and not looking especially enthralling on the map, we were pleasantly surprised by what we found at the summit of Mynydd Llangynderyn. Paul parked up in a small informal lay-by at the side of the B road and we walked up the road to the farm access road / bridleway along the northern edge of the OA land. This gave us our only major sighting of wildlife during the day – a Buzzard was pole sitting at the junction between the track and the road, presumably waiting for a road kill. At Tygwyn Farm we involuntarily collected the friendly farm dog, a monochrome grey and black Heinz 57 with not much between the ears, which accompanied us to the summit where we found a newly painted trig point. Paul chose to use the trig point to support his mast and duly accepted the loan of my bungies. I moved south about 40 metres and set up at the end of a little escarpment which provided me with a stone to sit on and others to place the equipment on. With Don out for the afternoon setting up the Holsworthy Rally, I was not expecting any success on 70cms from this summit. I had therefore decided to leave the linear in the car in favour the guarantee of having ample SLAB power in the form of my 12AH lump. On seeing the decent take off from this lowly site, I was now regretting my decision.
By the time we had set up, we were again ahead of schedule and starting at 1537 I had an even longer period of calling CQ until Graham G4FUJ responded. However, signal strengths were reasonable so I was hopeful of qualifying the summit without a problem. After the contact with Graham, Don G0NES called in and after the usual exchange he asked me for a repeat of the summit reference. I confirmed that it was SW-039 and Don advised me that this activation completed his South Wales summits, the activation of SW-032 earlier in the day having been the penultimate SW unique for him. Such news was most welcome and a truly rich reward for carrying out this series of activations. A further nine contacts were made after Don. Unfortunately we were now out of sync with John and Steve, so no S2S contacts were made from this summit. My activation concluded with a 70cms contact with Frank G3RMD running the 5 watts from the 817 with 52 / 51 reports exchanged. As we packed up, the sun started to set and sent some beautiful colours across the landscape. The farm dog had briefly disappeared, but picked us up on our descent tracking us back to the car. After a couple of near incidents with cars, it got the message and went home, thankfully unscathed.
Our final summit of the day was Mynydd Sylen SW-036, another “park up and walk a couple of hundred metres” summit. We arrived at dusk and set off up the bridleway towards the masts on the summit. Paul elected to utilise the fence to support his mast and this time I used the trig point which I found to have no cap. This was a welcome luxury indeed in view of the rapidly approaching darkness.
Paul found 60m had closed as we had thought might be the case, so he opted for 80m instead. While, unknown to me, he struggled to get his antenna to work on the band, I had a flyer starting with Don G0NES and ending with Barry M3PXW. In all 15 contacts in 26 minutes. During the course of this run, several people advised that Paul had not been spotted. As he was around 200 metres from me and was wearing headphones, I had no means of communicating directly with him in the dark (note for the future – 2m or PMR handhelds?). At the end of the run of contacts I therefore ran down the hill to find he was still having problems, with only one QSO in the log. I advised there was an audience waiting for him on 2m SSB and so he started to pack up his equipment. Once back at my station I announced Paul’s imminent arrival and then arranged a quick QSY to 70cms where I managed to work both Don and Frank by holding the 6 element yagi above my head. Back on 2m I confirmed that everything was ready and shortly Paul came up to join me. Special thanks to John GW4BVE, Don G0RQL, Don G0NES and Frank G3RMD for waiting to ensure that Paul qualified the summit. We ended our operations spot on the scheduled time of 1820.
Packing up in the dark was its usual arduous task. I managed to temporarily lose an end cap to the tube that my 70cms antenna is carried in, but once that had been found and the area thoroughly checked, we made our way back to the car for a well earned tea. The drive back along the M4 gave us time to reflect on the day. Busy it had been, but we felt we had done justice to the summits and had provided a good number of chaser uniques along the way. We were treated to displays of pyrotechnics every few miles on our journey home – one of the perks of activating on the weekend of bonfire night. Paul got us back to Stourbridge by 2127 which enabled me to get home by 2300. On entering the house I found that I had lost my voice, so was not able to offload the day’s event to Bev, but she got the story bit by bit over the following week.
As usual thanks go to those that tracked us around the summits, with special thanks to those who spotted us. Personally I would like to thank Frank and Don for the 70cms contacts which have given me the boost that I needed and I now aim to take this band with me on future outings. I must also thank Paul for taking the lion’s share of the driving - a whacking 347 mile round trip from Stourbridge. By comparison my 160 miles from Northampton to Stourbridge and back was small beer.
73, Gerald G4OIG