Esgeiriau Gwynion NW-031, Bryn Amlwg MW-015 and Garreg-hir MW-017
Saturday 5th May 2007
My fortnightly “escape” to the hills was set to be activating a group of four single-pointer summits in South Wales and I had everything planned, but in browsing the Mountains of England and Wales website, I was reminded that I had not completed sector 30E, Bala to Welshpool. The outstanding summit was Esgeiriau Gwynion, the report for which, authored by John GW4BVE, I had read several times. It seemed to me that the approach to this summit would require the wearing of waders and for that reason I had it on my summer list. I was mindful that we had had a sustained period of dry weather which would make the approach route viable in standard hill climbing apparel. My plans for South Wales were therefore set aside and I started to look for suitable summits to tag onto this one.
My first thought was to add Arenig Fach (NW-027) to the activation, but Richard G4ERP and I had discussed that one and I had it down as part of a possible joint activation day. Similarly Carnedd y Filiast (NW-032) was out as in my preliminary planning it was a possible pairing with Arenig Fawr. Therefore my thoughts turned southwards. The pairing of Rhobell Fawr (NW-021) and Foel Offrwm (NW-055) was similarly set aside, so I moved on to consider the MW’s. Carnedd Wen (MW-012) and Esgair Ddu (MW-020) at first looked promising, but then I read John’s access information and decided I did not want to be wandering around in the hills until midnight. I therefore decided upon Bryn Amlwg and Garreg-hir as the second and third summits for this activation.
I set the alarm for 0430 (oh, how disgustingly late in I hear you say) and for once I slept like a stone. Apologies to Bev came automatically from me as I fumbled for my watch to stop the alarm, only succeeding in knocking it to the floor where it continued with its electronic piercing tone. This ensured that a placative brew would need to be made. I delivered the cup of tea to Bev without verbal intrusion, collecting my toothbrush with a squeeze of toothpaste from the en-suite bathroom as I made my retreat. With a large bowl of cereal and a cup of tea inside me, teeth duly polished and the car packed, I was off into the grey calm dawn by 0502BST / 0402UTC.
The drive into Wales was uneventful. The motorways were fairly quiet and I made good time. By 0600UTC I was nearing Llyn Efyrnwy and the roads were deserted. It was a real pleasure driving around the lake and as I did so, the sun started to get the better of the clouds and it looked to be set fair for the day. I arrived at the parking spot at Bwlch y Groes at 0635UTC, some 25 minutes ahead of schedule. Even a leisurely undertaken preparation for the ascent did not reduce the time I had gained on the road and I set off at 0650UTC noting that even at this altitude there was virtually no wind.
The access route is well described by John. The peat hag is a major feature of the first part and there is not really any way of getting around this. Fortunately my reasoning in respect of the weather paid off and the hag easily supported my weight with only a few occasions where I went into the black stuff to the depth of half a boot and even then the boot came out clean. Visibility was around 500m with the sun gaining strength minute by minute, but I was to reach the summit some time before the mists were burnt off. The early morning dew was thick on the heather and ground cover and I was annoyed to have forgotten to apply waterproofing to my boots as they got soaked and with them my socks!
The main problem was finding a reasonably direct route through the landscape. The route adjacent to the fence was not always the best and I detoured slightly where I felt it was appropriate. I also cut the corner as suggested by John, though perhaps not soon enough to gain maximum efficiency. I realised that I should have loaded a suitable route into my GPS since this summit is covered by the Memory-Map version that I have. After the rise at Llechwed Du, the route goes downhill before the final ascent of around 90m over the final kilometre up to the summit of Esgeiriau Gwynion. My generous allowance of 1 hour for the ascent had been mopped up by my detours through the landscape and arriving at the summit I found that a further 8 minutes had been taken in addition. This still left me ahead of schedule with an easy set up using the fence across the summit.
I opened up on 2m SSB at 0816UTC with an immediate response to my first CQ by John GW4BVE who just beat Graham G4JZF off the mark. After these two QSOs on 144.333, regulars Don G0NES and Frank G3RMD followed on with a further 11 in tow, including Klaus DJ9UX in JO31 with whom I exchanged 59 reports. When the frequency went quiet, I made the move to 5MHz and worked a run of 16 contacts there, my 2.5 watts doing combat with the “fish phone” on FE. I then moved to 40m with the intention of trying SSB around 7.060MHz, but the band was crammed full of southern European stations all with their 30dB attentuators switched into the receive line. I therefore moved up to 7.115MHz and put out a few calls there, but received no response. When I worked him on 5MHz, Don G0RQL had mentioned that he had missed me on 2m, so I returned to 144.333 to see if he was listening and indeed he was. Surprisingly Nigel 2E0NHM was also in line for a QSO, bringing the total for the summit to 33.
The weather was now warm and sunny and I was able to take some photographs of Aran Fawddwy before packing up on time and making my descent. The same detours presented themselves on my descent and again the 45 minutes allocated was extended by a further 8 minutes. Brunch was taken at the parking spot which enabled me to have a decent chat with a couple of bikers that had ridden up Bwlch y Groes - rather them than me!
The slight delay in getting away to my second summit was made up through the easy access on the tracks to the wind farm. Bryn Amlwg seemed to be even larger than any wind farm than I had been on before. My visit was in complete contrast to that undertaken by Richard G3CWI in that the breeze was no more than 5 mph on this occasion, yet the blades were still turning at a reasonable pace. I set up around the 480m contour close to some cairns and again used the fence to support the mast. My first CQ at 1234UTC on 2m SSB resulted in a response from Andrew M0LKB who lives local to me. We moved off to 144.333 and had a chat before I got into the main group of chasers. After working Graham G4JZF and Don G0NES, the northern lads called in - M0GIE, G4OBK and G4DJJ - before the southern contingent of G3RMD and G0RQL. The frequency then went quiet and so I moved onto 5MHz and worked Clive M1YAM/P on Fairfield LD-007 for my only S2S of the day. Clive was just vacating FE, so I stayed on the frequency making a total of 13 contacts. Again a look at 7MHz revealed the same scenario as earlier and again I could not raise anyone on 7.115MHz, so back to 2m it was where I had a chat with Trev G2KF/P down in Cornwall. Who says you can’t get out from these MW single pointers? I worked a total of 22 QSOs from this summit.
I could now feel that I was getting a little sun burnt, so I was pleased to be moving on. I collected my first mozzy bite of the season as I packed up and was back at the car in good time. The short drive over to Garreg-hir was more or less on schedule, though problems were just around the bend - quite literally. Driving up the lane off the A470, Sally Satnav announced my arrival at the parking spot, but there was nowhere to park and no bridleway or track to walk along. I pulled in at the side of the road and got out of the car to investigate After finding nothing but hedges and fields, I decided to drive a little further as sometimes the destination is announced slightly prior to reaching the parking spot. A further half a mile up the road I noted a bridleway crossing the road and a suitable pull-off which I parked up in. I still wasn’t sure I was where I wanted to be as the layout did not appear as it should have from the information on the map. However, time was pressing on, so I started to get everything together and was ready to make the ascent when rather surprisingly a police car came around the corner. They stopped and asked the obvious question, “going for a walk then?” Resisting making a sarcastic reply, I ceased the moment to get some expert local knowledge as to where I was on the map and was advised where I wanted to be was just up the road. Unfortunately just up the road turned out to be another half a mile and a good 10 minutes walk - uphill.
Once I had found the correct track, it was an easy and pleasant walk through the nature reserve to the summit of Garreg-hir. I chose to keep to the PROW and climb the north-east flank once in the OA land, but on reflection it would have been easier up the spine of the hill. I arrived at the summit about 10 minutes after the time I had posted, so was somewhat late getting onto 2m. My calls on 144.300 came to no avail - I wondered, had my audience deserted me? I checked the equipment and all appeared to be working well. Then I decided to see whether anyone was monitoring my working frequency and despite it now being 25 minutes past the time that IO had posted, there was Graham G4JZF. Many thanks for keeping the faith Graham!
2m SSB provided a short run of just 7 QSOs, the remaining “qualifiers” on this summit being from the north - 2E0HJD, G4BLH and G4DJJ. Quentin GW3BV called in from the west, then Don NES and the short run finished with a brief chat with fellow DMUARS member Neil, G3RIR. On 5MHz the band seemed to be in good fettle and strong signal reports abounded - 10 contacts in all here. I decided against trying 7MHz again and opted for 70cms instead, having been advised earlier in the day that there would be a contest in progress and with it the potential for a few contacts. Operation on 70cms had not been planned, so I was restricted to the FT-817 barefoot to the 2m dipole. Unfortunately in my rush to get up this summit I had not changed the 3.3AH SLAB and I was still running with the one that I had used on Bryn Amlwg, so with the voltage sinking I was restricted to just 2.5 watts. As I announced the move to 70cms while on 5MHz, Frank G3RMD asked me to “beam” in his direction, which I did, but nothing was heard from him. The band did not appear to be in particularly good order and despite the contest being in full flow, signals were few and far between. Three contacts came easily, but I then struggled for number four. On hearing some CW from GD0EMG, I got the key out and gave him a call, but he didn’t even get a whisper from me. CW did bear results though with a cross mode QSO with GM4HAM/P in IO74 who asked me to QRS as no-one at that end read morse very well. Maybe I should carry the 6 element beam more often, or at least take it with me in the car.
After making this contact, I decided to pack up as the wind was on the increase, no doubt heralding the more unsettled weather that had been forecast. Before leaving the summit I made phone calls to Bev and also to my mother to finalise arrangements for a family lunch the following day and after taking some photographs, I descended still bathed in the evening sun. Back at the car I ate my tea and then made for home at 1850UTC, arriving there at 2112UTC. Bev was out at a party, so I decided to make headway with the unpacking and I had all of the equipment and most of the clothing stashed away before she arrived home. All in all a very enjoyable day.