Saturday 2nd May 2009 – International SOTA Weekend
Endorphins are good for you. I know this to be true as the brilliant idea of activating Maesglase NW-029 for the International SOTA Weekend was spawned within a few hours of activating Moelwyn Mawr MW-016 when the endorphins were running rife. It was Saturday 4th April and we’d just completed one of our most challenging days to date and were on the way home via the route between Dolgellau and Welshpool which just happens to pass the foot of Maesglase. A long walk-in single summit day certainly appealed to us both as something different.
Paul agreed to set up an itinerary as a guide to timing, even though it was a single summit day. This gave our other halves some idea of our start and return times, but we tempered the whole event by saying that we could be early or late depending on the weather. No need to get them stressed out worrying why we weren’t our usual accurate selves!
The single summit meant a late start – the alarm went off at 5 minutes to 5 in the morning waking both myself as intended and also Bev, who tried in vain to get back to sleep…… result: Brownie points already down at minus 5. Oh well, at least leaving at 04:30z in the light made a pleasant change. It was quite a cool morning with the temperature hovering around 4 degrees and not significantly higher at Stourbridge when I got to Paul’s. We transferred my kit to Paul’s car and set off at 06:10z and arrived at our intended parking spot at the end of the narrow lane (SH848154) a little before 08:00z. Paul said that from the views on Google Earth it looked like there were a couple of potential parking spots along the lane. We therefore continued on up to the point where the tarmac surface turned into a track, just before it crossed the Nant Maesglase stream. Here we found a convenient flat grassy verge to park up on (SH839151).
We were now the best part of a kilometre closer to the summit and the weather looked to be ideal for the task ahead. There was a lot to pack for our extended stay and it was not until 08:29z that we set out, initially back up the road a short way and then off in a south-westerly direction down a grassy farm track past innumerable new born lambs all daubed with red marks. A number of stunning waterfalls enter this valley and I was soon stopping to take photographs of the scenery. This was lovely countryside, more akin to mid-Wales than the north.
The track took us along the west side of a conifer plantation, after which we came to a very wet section just before some derelict stone buildings and old mine workings. Behind the workings the track went up diagonally a fairly steep incline to a flatter area before running parallel to the edge of a larger area of conifer planting. This was slow going as the incline was steep and there had been considerable rain over the past week making the ground was slippery. At around 400m, we had to make a decision – continue to the west south west in order to get to more level ground or take the steeper and significantly more precarious route along the top of the crags to our right. This was one of those frustrating days when my legs were working fine, but I was seriously out of breath – well it was hay fever season after all, but I did not expect it to be a problem since my “speciality” is oil seed rape…. last seen east of the Welsh border! Anyway, that decided us – the somewhat easier, but longer route it was to be. At least this afforded us views of the area to the west of the summit.
The track continued up to a fence close to the end of the forest and then turned right to strike north west along a steady incline which took us over a small rise marked as Cae Afon on the map. A few hundred metres beyond Cae Afon the fence and the track turned right heading north east. After another three hundred metres we stood looking at the marker post and the meagre pile of stones that marks the summit at Maen Du. Not exactly a worthy monument to this pleasant summit from which many other notable summits can be seen such as Arans and the Rhinogs.
We had allowed plenty of time for the ascent and were a little over 10 minutes ahead of schedule, so we were able to get set up in a reasonably leisurely fashion and be active for our alerted time of 11:30z. I used a fence restraining post to support the mast and created a makeshift wind shelter by using my lightweight plastic tarpaulin sheet. With another sheet of plastic to sit on, I was soon well sorted for a stay of a few hours. Paul chose a position farther along the fence and relied upon his warm clothing while I stripped off a layer…. I think a plastic sheet might be finding its way into Paul pack in future!
Paul started on 60m and was immediately into an S2S with Jim G0CQK/P on Ros Hill SB-009. Signals were in and out like a cuckoo clock mechanism, but that didn’t stop Paul from making 5 of his 7 contacts on the band summit to summits. The others were Jack GM4COX/P on Coulter Fell SS-049, Robin GM7PKT/P on Meall a’Choire CS-041, Martyn GW1MAJ/P on Arenig Fawr NW-011 and Carolyn G6WRW/P on Black Mountain SW-041. The chasers that were fortunate enough to make it into Paul’s log were Richard GM0OGN and Don G0RQL. Those in the middle distance lost out in the propagation wars.
At 12:10z Paul moved to 80m where some redress was made with 5 regulars in the log headed by Steve GW7AAV taking around 20 minutes in total. Further calls produced nothing at all. Conditions were not good, so Paul deemed that it was time for lunch and wandered over to see how I was getting on. I had started out on 2m SSB. Calls on 144.333MHz produced no response, so I dropped down to the calling frequency and was immediately bagged by Laurie G6XLL who spotted me. The pace was very relaxed by normal standards and only on a few occasions did I have more than one caller at the end of a QSO. I was also quick to score an S2S as Geoff 2E0BTR/P on Cleeve Hill CE-001 gave me a call at 11:40z to make my 4th contact. Other summit to summit contacts followed interspersed with chasers and a couple of non-SOTA ops. It made a pleasant change to be without time constraints.
In all I worked 7 summits, 3 of them with two operators on, the best distance being up to John GM8OTI/P on Scald Law SS-125 near Edinburgh. His signals managed to slide down the side of Aran Fawdwyy NW-007, but that summit was obviously having some effect as many of the northern regulars were not heard. I did however manage to work Roger 2E0BMO in Standish near Wigan. In all I made 25 contacts on 2m SSB in a little over 2 hours and all on the same 4AH LiPo battery! I was absolutely amazed how the battery held up. I had taken a couple of 3.3AH SLABs to the summit as a precaution since this was the first time that I had used LiPos. As it was, the SLABs made useful weights for keeping the plastic sheet pinned down and I count the 2.3kg addition to my pack as having been a useful keep fit aid. Had I needed to use them, the pair would have given me around 40 minutes operation time. I guess they will now be permanently relegated to the back-up box.
After lunch, Paul decided to have a try on 40m SSB, a hitherto painful experience. First in the log on this band was Steve G1INK who spotted Paul and a steady run of 10 contacts were made including S2S contacts with Helen M0YHB/P on Black Mountain and Richard G1JTD/P on Aye Gill Pike NP-023. A “cross-scheme” S2S was made with Lutz DL3SBA/P on a GMA summit. Paul was working Mike LA5SAA as I wandered across to see how he was getting on after my 2m session and that contact was followed by one with Borek OK1SDE.
While I was on my feet, I took the opportunity to self-spot for 432.222MHz SSB and after changing the LiPo I found Graham G3OHC waiting for a contact. John GW4BVE almost took my ears off when Graham signed and that was with John using his 2m yagi on the band. After a pleasant chat with John, I was called by Mick M0ICK, who was operating the Bolton Wireless Club call G1ONE/P, and we chatted until the contest started. We signed after exchanging the mandatory 001’s and I then heard Don G0RQL call me off the back of my beam. Swinging the mast around made the sections collapse and it was a case of quickly raising it to exchange 51 reports with Don. A few more calls produced nothing and it seemed suspiciously quiet which prompted me to look up at the antenna – I could see the croc clip had come off the dipole, so I had worked down to Devon on a croc clip and quarter wave counterpoise!
Reconnecting the feeder made the band come alive, but I found the number of contest stations on rather disappointing. GM6MD/P in IO75 was a huge signal – they asked me for 23cms and when I said yes, but FM, they told me they hadn’t got FM. How frustrating can it get? Anyway, the best DX on 70cms was with PA6NL in JO21. Time was now running out, so I decided to leave the band with a view to giving 40m CW a go. I went over to Paul to see what he wanted to do to find him just pulling the plug on 20m SSB where he had only managed to work Helen M0YHB/P. Paul suggested I use his station rather than set up a new antenna, so I went back to my operating position to set it up for 6m, deploying the delta loop that I had made in the week. Paul took up my intended duties on that band and worked David GW3XRM on Anglesey and Chris GW4YJT/M. In hindsight I ought to have placed a spot for Paul to make it easier for him. On 40m CW I certainly did not need to self-spot and worked 20 regular chasers in a period of 28 minutes despite the cuckoo clock propagation. It was now around 15:15, so we decided to get packed up. Unfortunately there was no time left to put up the slim jim and try 4m FM.
After packing up, which took us longer than usual due to the amount of kit we had, we made sure we were well hydrated and set off down the track at 15:45. I suggested to Paul that it might be worthwhile returning along the edge of the crags to make it a circular walk. However on occasion I wondered whether I had made a wrong call as it was very slippery under foot and the path is less than a metre from the edge in many places. Needless to say, we took great care. The bonus was the views from this route… and the lizards that darted across the path in front of us.
Descending the steeper parts of the route was quite difficult and we had to take great care where there was bracken laying over saturated ground. Despite this we managed to make reasonable progress and were back at the car in just over one and a half hours. After decanting our kit and a snack were on our way home by 17:36. Paul made up time on the journey taking us only 12 minutes past our ETA at Stourbridge. A slightly longer than normal stop at Paul’s house meant that I was a whole 20 minutes late getting home – not bad after leaving the summit an hour later than planned. Overall, the suggestion to activate Maesglase for ISW turned out to be a truly inspired idea and we both greatly enjoyed the day.
Many thanks to everyone that we worked. Special thanks as always to our spotters – G4BLH, G6XLL, GW7AAV, G3OHC, G1INK and DL1FU.
73 to all,
G4MD – FT-817ND, tuner and inverted vee doublet at 6m. 2 x 2.2AH LiPo 11.1V
G4OIG – FT-817ND plus Microset 144 and 432MHz linear – 20W out
2m / 70cms dual band yagi (5 and 8 elements), 5m 5D-FB semi-rigid coax, 5m pole
Wouxun KG-699E (70MHz FM), 4m slim jim – 4W output (not used)
Standard C710 (1297MHz FM), 23cms quadruple quad – 280mW output (not used)
2 x 4AH LiPo 11.1V 15C (12.5V fully charged, 11.05V post activation)
2 x 3.3AH SLAB (not used)
Total weight incl survival kit, water, lunch, etc: 17.3kg
Maesglase GW/NW-029, 674m asl
16 deg C, rising to 19.2 deg C, cool wind.
Visibility good though a little hazy.
G4MD: 60m SSB – 7, 80m SSB – 5, 40m SSB – 10, 20m SSB – 1, 6m SSB – 2
G4OIG: 2m SSB – 25, 70cms SSB – 9, 40m CW - 20
Total distance walked – 8.6km taking 4 hours 8 minutes; total ascent 534m
Mileage driven – 330 miles