Rhobell Fawr NW-021 and Y Garn NW-037
Saturday 20th February 2009
Paul G4MD had completed the North Wales summits when we were last out activating on 12th February and being just two summits behind, I was keen to reach the same stage myself. After a mixed week at work, made somewhat unpleasant by a quite severe head cold caught from the wife, I was keen to get out and get some fresh air. Unfortunately the weather was slowly closing in and threatening to ruin my chance of getting out. After much deliberation I decided that I was prepared to get a light soaking in order to get the job done – indeed leaving it might not provide me with any better weather, as snow seemed to have been on the menu since November.
I placed alerts on SOTAwatch and noted that my proposed activations spawned a number of sympathetic activations from Richard G3CWI and Mike G4BLH. Unfortunately neither of them managed to carry out their proposed activations, so there were to be no S2S contacts in the log for me this time around.
It was minus 3C when I left Northampton at 03:45z. Unknown to me, the journey was going to be a difficult one. First up by way of complication was the closure of the M6 between junctions 10 and 12 – no straightforward access to the M54. I therefore decided to throw money at the situation and used the M6 Toll motorway and the A460 to get me to where I wanted to go. Road conditions were clear until I had almost reached Bala on the A494, then it started to snow – seriously heavily! At one point I was down to 10mph and it was a toss up whether to find somewhere safe to pull over and get some sleep or carry on. After a while it eased and I joined a procession of vehicles heading west towards Dolgellau which gave me a reasonably clear road. The situation was completely different however once I turned off the main road with around 4 miles to go to the parking spot for Rhobell Fawr NW-021. I managed to get up the steep untreated snow-covered lane for less than a mile before the 4 wheel drive became as useless as a chocolate fireguard. Investigation of the road surface revealed about 8cm of snow covering a layer of ice – Torville and Dean would have been pleased with the quality of the surface. It would take time for this lot to melt, so my only option was to carefully return downhill to the main road in low gear with the ABS rattling away when I needed to ply the brakes.
Ironically, as I motored on towards Dolgellau to take a look at the parking spot for my other summit, Y Garn NW-037, conditions dramatically improved. The minor road up to the parking spot at SH713216 was snowed up, but lacked the ice layer beneath and so the four wheel drive worked perfectly. I arrived at the parking spot at 07:25 to find a Volvo S40 gaily abandoned at an obtuse angle. Fortunately I managed to squeeze in alongside and leave sufficient room for the remainder of the lay-by to be used as a passing bay – no need to annoys the locals!
My timetable was now well out of kilter. Before kitting up I placed a spot advising there would be a change in the running order and then got everything together and set off to find the end of the permissive path running in a south-westerly direction. The track made for easy walking, which I was pleased about for as it was slippery underfoot with the new snow which was around 8cm in the valley, thinning somewhat the higher I climbed until it was about half that depth at the summit. The route had kindly been supplied by John GW4BVE and although it had been hastily placed on the Summitsbase website, there was sufficient detail to work with, particularly after a peek at Google Earth. Barking dogs caused me some embarrassment as I passed Ty’n-y-Llwyn – do farmers lie a-bed at the weekends? – anyway, I saw no-one until I was well up on the ridge. The people turned out to be a couple from Cornwall enjoying a last look at the landscape before returning home and not the local GOMLs, if indeed any exist in this area.
Despite the lying snow, it was easy to follow the track to the summit. The views were stunning – sepia and white abounded, masked periodically by drifting cloud of variable density, most of which fortunately looked to be fairly lightly laden in terms of snow. I reached the summit at 09:28 after a slippery slog – later than I had hoped, but it could not be helped. The summit was in cloud and visibility was about 50 metres and a variable though light wind did nothing to make me don my hat or neck warmer – it must be Spring I thought!
I was set up and ready to go by 09:50 and spent the first couple of minutes checking for beacons – no sign of the Kent beacon, but the Angus beacon was peaking a good S5, so all was well. Moving to 144.333MHz, my first call was answered by Mark G0VOF. We had a chat while Mark spotted me and thereafter a very steady run of contacts ensued with most of the regulars on parade. I arranged with those who had 70cms to spray a bit of CW in their direction after finishing on 2m SSB, but the summit is well screened, so I wasn’t hoping for much. A little after 10:30, I was called by Mike G4BLH/M on his way home – access to Moel Famau / Foel Fenlli had not been possible when he arrived and it was therefore a wasted day for him. I had already been advised that Richard G3CWI had cancelled his activation of Shining Tor SP-004, so exit potential S2S contacts.
At 10:52, Reg G3WPF called me on CW and we had a chat on the mode – 599 both ways. It looked good for 70cms later. After signing with Reg, I heard a weak call on SSB and found this to be Alun 2W0CYM squeezing his vertically polarised signal between the peaks. After that there were no more calls on 2m, but I wasn’t complaining – 20 is a decent bag in anyone’s log from a remote and screened summit like Y Garn. At 11:15, I moved up to 70cms and sprayed RF to all corners of the compass, landing in the direction of Mark G0VOF for a pleasant contact on the band. Despite further calls, I didn’t hear anything from Frank G3RMD, Don G0RQL or indeed Reg G3WPF which was somewhat disappointing, but as I often say, c’est la vie!
While I was operating, the sun had broken through and the wind had dropped, so it was a very pleasant 6C on the summit for most of the activation. I took some photographs of other summits that I recognised, though I never saw a totally clear view of the Rhinogs or of Cadair Idris.
Packing up at 11:30, I took my time to pack everything carefully and then called home – no reply. Oh well, at least I knew I was safe and sound! It was relatively easy to retrace my steps, taking care on the steeper sections so as not to go onto my backside and I arrived at the car at 12:35, just 45 minutes after setting out from the summit. The Cornish contingent were just leaving for home when I arrived, so after another brief chat, I was able to transfer the kit to the car and get my lunch in peace before setting off at 13:10 to have another look at whether I could get to Rhobell Fawr. This time I managed all of a couple of miles off the main road before the gritting ran out – that would have left me two miles of forest track to walk before I could start my ascent proper. I did the maths in respect of timings and decided on balance to leave it for another day.
John GW4BVE had kindly offered me hospitality en route, but over lunch my head cold showed signs of returning, so I decided not to call in at Welshpool. It was really strange motoring home during the afternoon, but the journey went smoothly despite the traffic being quite heavy. I stopped at Corley services to get a drink and phone home to warn Bev of my imminent arrival and walked in my front door at 16:48. Most of kit had been put away and I had had a shower and a shave within the hour – just in time for steak and chips!
My thanks as usual go to all the chasers that came on to work me. Particular thanks to Mark G0VOF for monitoring my alerted working frequency and also for placing the spots for 2m and 70cms. In hindsight, had I known of what would happen in respect of access, I would have packed the HF multiband dipole and given the band a really good go from Y Garn, but otherwise I was pleased to make what I could of the day.
2m – FT-857, 25W, 5 element at 4m, 20 contacts.
70cms – FT-857, 10W, 6 element DL6WU at 3.6m, 1 contact.
Platte du jour: Baxters Mulligatawny, Spicy Chicken in seeded wholemeal (yes and real butter as well!), Nairns Mixed Berry Oatmeal Biscuits.