Activation Report: NW-019 and NW-030

Yr Aran NW-019 and Moel Cynghorion NW-030
Friday 12th February 2010

As I set the alarm for 02:15, I was thinking more of the enjoyment to come rather than the chore of getting up so early. Both Paul and I have come to love the Snowdonia area and this was to be the day when Paul would finish the GW/NW summits and the next visit for him to activate a North Wales summit would only be once he had finished chasing Uniques. Certainly this would be some years hence.

For once I slept reasonably well and awoke at 01.55 in time to slide out of bed and prevent the alarm on my watch going off. I was away from Northampton by 02:45, arriving at Paul’s house at 04:05 and then back on the road by 04:24, this time chauffeured by Paul. For once the traffic was reasonably light and delays were minimal, so we reached the parking spot at Rhyd-Ddu at 06:57 well ahead of schedule and just as dawn was breaking to what looked like a reasonable day.

We set out up the path towards our first summit, Yr Aran, at 07:20 and made good progress along the track to the abandoned mine, taking some time to take in the industrial archaeology along the way. Some sections of the track were still covered by deep icy snow, but it was easy to avoid these – well at least I did – Paul seemed to relish a walk across the icy surface, no doubt reliving the escapade a couple of weeks previous on the ascent of Red Screes. At the col between Yr Aran and Allt Maenderyn, we turned right along the line of the stone wall and were soon in debate as to which side offered the best route. One steep section tight against the east side of the wall offered an icy scramble which I baulked at and transferred myself to the west side while Paul tackled the slippery surface. We met up slightly higher up and then ascended the steeper section of Y Geuallt together. I particularly enjoy this type of surface as the scramble limits the progress to a steady pace and so allows me to maintain a sufficient supply of oxygen to my legs. Unfortunately my lungs have never been able to maintain sustained physical activity and I well recall having crippling stitch in my side while on cross-country runs at school.

Higher up the path turned right along a line of the remnants of a number of fence posts which led us right to the summit where we arrived at 09:24. Yr Aran is a pleasant summit and there was sufficient room for us to set up both our stations and make use of the two conveniently positioned posts close to the highest point. There was a light but chilly breeze blowing across the summit, though thankfully we both managed to get some respite from this once we had set up and sat down to commence operations. The sun broke through the clouds and added its warmth to make us more comfortable.

Paul was first on air on 60m, receiving an immediate reply from Paul G0HNW to his enquiry whether the frequency was in use. 60m was in very good shape and Paul made 18 contacts around G, GD, GW and EI between 09:41 and 10:14. Moving to 80m, a further 7 contacts came between 10:21 and 10:35 headed by Walt G3NYY.followed by Rodney EI7GAB.

This was the first outing for my new FT-857 which had arrived just two days previous. I had set the 2m power at 25 watts to keep the drain on the batteries to a reasonable level and this worked well. Mike G4BLH was ready waiting when I opened up on my working frequency at 09:48 and after a brief chat we moved to 70cms where signals were significantly lower in strength and there was evidence that I had RF feedback problems. I ended up reducing power to 10 watts and sitting on the LiPo to deal with the issue. Once I had returned to 2m SSB, the pack had assembled and Graham G4JZF was first to get into the log followed by a stream of regulars. At 10:17, I worked Tony G7OEM/P on Longridge Fell SP-014 for my only S2S of the day – well, it was a Friday! Reg G3WPF called me on CW and I obliged by responding in kind to bring the total on 2m to 12 contacts. Moving to 70cms, Reg called to exchange reports and then I carried out some more tests on SSB with Mike before working John MW1FGQ. Unfortunately I missed the call from Don G0RQL after I signed on CW with Reg and Don had disappeared by the time I got around to swinging the beam in his direction.

By the time I finished it was 10:50 and Paul was already packed and ready for the descent. I managed to get the unfamiliar kit packed away in good time and after a quick round of photographs from the summit, we set off on our descent at 11:05. We were able to pick the quickest route from our experiences gained on the ascent and even cut the corner to avoid part of the quarry by skirting the small lake. Our arrival at the car at 12:27 was ahead of schedule despite leaving the summit 5 minutes late and so we were able to have a reasonably leisurely snack lunch before setting off down the road to the car park serving the Snowdon Ranger path. After a quick change of battery power and a few adjustments to the kit, we were back under foot power at 12:50.

The Ranger path was everything I expected to be – a well prepared grit path designed for the aspiring off-roaders. It was pleasant enough as we ascended the zig-zag section and after the morning’s efforts it even gave us another opportunity to get out of breath. The path off towards Llanberis was well signposted, though a complete contrast in that it was a faint impression going steeply uphill on grass. The angle soon flattened out and for a time it was a reasonably pleasant walk, but once we got to the col at Bwlch Maesgwm the trudge uphill parallel to the fenceline began. As we gained height it became more windy and by the time we eventually reached the bleak summit a right hoolie was blowing in from the north. The pathetic pile of stones marking the highest spot just about said it all!

Paul and I set up using the fence to support our poles and I anchored my plastic tarpaulin in a fashion to provide me with some shelter from the fierce wind. Paul used a sheet of plastic to similar effect. Once again Paul was on air before me and it was Graham G3OHC who was first in the log this time. 60m was still in fine fettle and another run of 18 contacts was worked including an S2S with Walt G3NYY/P on Bradnor Hill WB-011. The move to 80m resulted in a very interesting S2S with Rodney EI7GAB who was activating Loughermore GI/SM-014 and so prefixing his call with MI – a rare one indeed. Another 5 contacts were made following that with Rodney, despite heavy QRM from a pair of continental stations that opened up on virtually the same frequency. This run included a QSO with Steve GM7UAU, the only contact made with Scotland during the day.

On 2m SSB, I opened up with some trepidation knowing the reputation of this hill as being well screened and difficult on VHF. As we were early it took a little while calling before a response finally came from John MW1FGQ and then Alun 2W0CYM nearly blew the rig off the hill with his rock-crushing signal from just down the road. My fears of non-qualification all came to nought as regular after regular called in, many signals clearly coming directly over the top of Snowdon by knife edge diffraction. Reports were variable, but everyone was Q5. After working Phil G4OBK, the frequency went quiet and so I got out the key and put out a call. This was answered by Ian G8ZVZ down in Hereford which was pleasing on two counts. Firstly we were working over an obstructed path and secondly the fact that a former Class B licensee was using CW.

After completing with Ian, I moved to 70cms and without much ado worked Don G0RQL at 51 both ways making our earlier lack of contact all the more annoying. I had to use CW to work Mike G4BLH and Phil G4OBK, but having three contacts on the band on a weekday certainly shows more or less anything is possible when you have dedicated chasers to work. At 15:40 I moved back to 2m to see whether there were any stragglers and was called by Ian G8ZVZ for a fairly lengthy chat on SSB to prove the contact on morse wasn’t a fluke!

It was interesting packing the kit up in the strong wind, though thankfully the clouds did not deposit anything on us. We set off downhill at 16:13 and the terrain that was a tiresome trudge on the ascent afforded us rapid progress, so much so that we reached the car at 17:07 with quite a lot of daylight left in hand. We had a most welcome snack of soup and sandwiches before setting off homeward at 17:33 – 37 minutes ahead of schedule! Even the traffic flowed in our favour and we reached Stourbridge by 20:28 which translated to an arrival in Northampton at 22:02. It had still been a long day, but certainly a very enjoyable one.

Many thanks to everyone that came on to work us. Without you all we would find these weekday activations all the more difficult. The level of commitment is very high and we certainly appreciate the effort that people make, particularly those that wait for me to swing the beam their way. Hopefully we will be in contact with most of you when we give the Lake District the once over during the coming months.

73, Gerald G4OIG