Arenig Fach and Carnedd y Filiast
Tuesday 1st December 2009
Week after week of rain made up November. After our first activation of Lakeland summits, we had planned to return to bag another 4 single-pointers before the winter bonus set it. The activation was planned for some time around the weekend of 14th / 15th November, but as the rain fell and flooded the Lake District, the activation was put back and back and back again. Eventually the inevitable happened – it collided with the following activation that we had planned for the start of the winter bonus. Ah well, at least we have a day of activations ready planned for 2010.
So we came to Tuesday 1st December and our target of Arenig Fach NW-027 and Carnedd y Filiast NW-032 looked like being a distinct possibility. A weak ridge of high pressure came over late on the Monday and with the clear skies the temperature plummeted. It was 2.5 degrees C below zero as I left Northampton at 03:20 and another degree colder when we departed from Stourbridge just over an hour and a half later. It was five weeks since our last activation and we were keen to get out…… so keen that I had left home without my pole and antenna! This came to light as we were driving out of Stourbridge and Paul asked whether he had put his pole into the car. I realised he had, but mine was over 80 miles to the east of us. A quick about turn and return to Paul’s house effected the loan of a pole and his 3 element SOTAbeam. Next time I will double check everything.
The temperature remained below zero for the entire length of our journey. At times it dipped to 5 degrees below, but it was a balmy minus 2.5 degrees at the parking spot. I thought that we would be taking the generally favoured route from the south-west. However, having spent a lot of time peering at Google Earth and with reference to a route described by Roger MW0IDX, Paul had determined that the best ascent would be from the south, as this would take advantage of a track that led almost to the summit. Seeing my look of puzzlement, Paul’s ever-democratic mind swung into action and he offered the south-western route as an alternative. Following a brief outline of the proposed route, I was more than happy to go with Paul’s choice.
We started our ascent at 07:45 from the parking spot at SH830400. It was a case of red sky in the morning as we gained access to the Open Access land via a gate and then along a short section of very rough land between two walls which quite boggy. At the end we turned right over rough bridge across a stream and then ascended the hillside on a light track through the vegetation which took us to a position higher up the stream. Here we had to jump cross. Had we kept close to the fence on the left once we had crossed the bridge, then we would have found another rough bridge crossing back over the stream – it’s often amazing what you find on a descent.
A wall ran across our path and we were obliged to climb this to get to higher ground. It was then a case of heather hopping and avoiding boggy ground until we found the track. The ascent was quite steep in places and the terrain quite tough going, but once we found the track, it was much easier going. Looking across the valley to the south, we could see that Mynydd Nodol NW-048 had avoided the snow despite its 550 metre height, but Arenig Fawr NW-011 at 854 metres was well endowed with the white stuff. At around the 450 metre level we encountered lying snow on our hill and this got deeper as we neared the summit. The wind also increased in strength the higher we got and it was surprisingly chilly even though it was coming from the south. We were pleased to see the summit shelter and trig point which would afford us some shelter. The average depth of snow was hard to estimate as there were quite a lot of drifts, but it seemed to be around 10 to 15 centimetres.
It was 09:16 when we arrived at the summit – later than planned on account of my forgetfulness – and in the cold conditions (5 degrees below plus wind chill) it took a while to get ourselves sorted out. After a brief discussion, Paul elected to utilise the trig to support his pole and I set up inside the shelter. The rocks were frozen together and very stable, so it was easy to find a suitable support for the pole.
I was the first to open and my first call at 09:34 raised Roger G0TRB who was patiently awaiting my arrival on 144.333MHz. Roger’s spot brought in a decent run totalling 11 contacts on 2m SSB, including an S2S with Walt G3NYY/P on Ruardean WB-021. Generally signals were not spectacular, but adequate. Moving to 70cms at 10:00, I again worked Walt who then helped set up a contact on CW with Frank G3RMD. Frank started at 419 and ended up a good Q5. Another contact was made on 70cms SSB, this time with John MW1FGQ who was also worked on 23cms FM using the C710 and the quadruple quad. It was too cold to stand around on the summit and I was pleased to be able to get back behind some shelter and start to dismantle the kit.
Paul started on 60m at 09:37 and worked John G0TDM followed by Steve GW7AAV who spotted him. Signal strengths were quite good and a steady run ensued with 14 contacts around G and GW made on the band. After working Stewart M0HED, the frequency went quiet, so Paul moved to 80m and at 10:08 worked Brian G8ADD followed by Roger G0TRB and Phil G0ABY. QRM from an adjacent station did not help matters and Paul was getting quite chilled sat with just the trig for shelter, so he decided to call it a day and went QRT more or less at the same time that I did.
We started our descent at 10:36 and set off into the cold wind – Paul remarked that someone had kindly left tracks for us to follow. It was not easy retracing our steps through the white landscape and it would have been considerably more difficult had we been snowed upon, but the weather had held fair and that hadn’t happened. We walked to a lower point on the track than that which we had accessed it and then cut right at a bend descending the opposite side of a gulley that we had ascended earlier. Descending was considerably easier than ascending through the heather and bog. We got back to the car at 11:26, just one minute later than scheduled and so were able to have something to eat and drink before setting off for the parking spot for our second summit, just 4 miles down the A4212, back towards Bala.
We parked at SH861411 at the bottom of the track leading to Carnedd y Filiast and set off at 11:51, having added headlights to our kit as part of our descent would be in darkness. The track initially rose quite steeply through the forest and then out onto the moorland via a gate and stile. Here we were able to take in the view of the eastern flank of Arenig Fach and further north the Glyders could be seen blanketed in snow. The gradient continued steeply for the first part and we had to take care on the uneven track, but the going got easier as it levelled off. It is a long walk to this summit and the ascent actually takes in a descent of 100 metres. Of course this is an ascent on the descent. The track headed north north east and then turned east in front of the summit of Foel-boeth where it peaked at around 560 metres before running downhill. At SH870426 we took the left turn and continued our descent in a north easterly direction to the stream marked as Nant y Coed on the map which we found to be in full spate. Carefully positioned stones allowed us to cross without getting wet feet and we passed to the east of the summit of Brottos before ascending steeply to the summit of Carnedd y Filiast. The route was easy to follow, but we had to take care as it was icy and the surface very rocky in places – just the thing for my weak ankle!
The final section up to the summit was deep snow though we managed to avoid the drifts. We were both exhausted by the time we arrived at the shelter at 13:58, though there was little time to recover. After an initial recognisance and consideration of the options, I suggested that Paul use the trig to support his pole. This was located in the centre of the stone shelter. I set up on the north side of the shelter against its outside face. This meant we could both get some relief from the wind which was stronger on this summit and which continued to gain strength during our visit.
I was up and running ahead of schedule at 14:16 and spent a couple of minutes calling to white noise before John MW1FGQ came to the rescue. A short chat with John warmed up the frequency and I then went on to work David G2BOF and Laurie G6XLL. David used his second call G1POK to ensure qualification of the summit for me while Laurie posted a spot. That rallied the troops and a steady run followed on including a most welcome S2S with Gordon GW0EWN/P on Corndon Hill MW-013. Walt G3NYY was out again portable, though this time he was at Birdlip to the south of Cheltenham. In all, despite having to fight the beam which wanted to beam south-east, 16 contacts were made on 2m SSB. At 15:00 a move to 70cms was not successful. I could hear Frank G3RMD on CW again, but this time his signal faded out and I heard no-one else call. Mike G4BLH must have been copying me since he posted a spot for me, but I heard nothing from him though the beam was side on to him. The wind was now severe and I decided that enough was enough. However, I had the presence of mind to squirt some 23cms FM towards John MW1FGQ once I had lowered the pole and again we made contact. John asked about a contact on 70cms, but I had really had enough battling against the wind, so I decided it was best that we left it and I went QRT at 15:16.
Paul again started on 60m, but conditions were somewhat different this time with long skip and deep QSB. The first contact was made with Ken GM0AXY at 14:24 followed by Christine GM4YMM. Paul then had his first contact with Norway on 60m, Aage LA1ENA coming up on frequency. Paul managed another 4 contacts on the band before the frequency went quite and he moved to 80m. Again there was QRM from an adjacent station that came on after Paul started calling, so it was necessary to QSY. Brian G8ADD and Frank G3RMD both found Paul and spotted him. In all Paul made a reasonable run of 9 contacts on the band before going QRT around 15:05. There was a weather front coming in and we both saw it, so our timing could not have been better. Dismantling the HF antenna was not an easy task in the strong cold wind that preceded the snow.
Setting off downhill at 15:30 precisely on schedule, we walked into a light blizzard, but despite this made good progress retracing our steps. Down sometimes meant down into drifts as both of us went into the snow full length of leg, something we had avoided doing on the ascent. I was keen to get beyond the stream before we lost the light and despite having to take great care on the slippery steep sections of the track, the slip factor now enhanced by the snow, we made this in good time. In fact we had conquered the ascent section and were back up at the 560 metre level before the dark was upon us and even then there was sufficient light reflecting off the snow to see our way until we neared the forest. As expected, the light snow turned to light rain as we descended.
We arrived at the car by 17:14 a whole minute ahead of schedule just as heavier rain arrived. With care we managed to transfer the minimum of the wet into the car and by 17:26 were sat in the front eating cobs and drinking soup. Paul pulled out onto the road at 17:37 and we were back in Stourbridge by 19:50 at our scheduled time. It rained the whole journey and continued to do so as I later continued my journey to Northampton where I arrived at 21:30.
Thankfully this turned out to be another well planned and executed activation. The decent weather helped, but it was the hard work put in by Paul, particularly in respect of the route up Arenig Fach, that made our task much easier than it could have been. According to Paul’s GPS and Memory Map, we walked a total of 16.68 kilometres with a total ascent of 929 metres. This rivalled our most taxing expedition to date – Tryfan NW-006 and Mynydd Mawr NW-026 which worked out at 11.2 kilometres with a total of 1,212 metres of ascent. The prepared itinerary closely reflected what we achieved in practice, my forgetfulness in respect of the pole and antenna making a 20 minute dent into the first part of the schedule which was recovered on the descent of Arenig Fawr thanks to Paul’s excellent route planning.
As usual we were not disappointed with the support that we received. Most of the regulars turned up on frequency for which we were most grateful. We hope to work most of you on our next outing. Special thanks to G0TRB, GW7AAV, G8ADD and G3RMD for the spots for Arenig Fawr and G6XLL, G3RMD, G8ADD and G4BLH for the spots for Carnedd y Filiast.