Activation Report: Rhobell Fawr GW/NW-021

Rhobell Fawr NW-021
Thursday 11th March 2010

This was a return to deal with unfinished business, required on account of impassable roads on 20th February when I managed to activate Y Garn NW-037, but not Rhobell Fawr NW-021. For once I had a lie in and it was 07:00 by the time that I left Northampton. Unfortunately, like the last time that I attempted this summit, the journey was going to be a difficult one. First up this time was the closure of the M1 between junctions 15 and 15A, right where I wanted to join it. The result was 20 minutes delay getting across Northampton in heavy traffic. Next was the stop-start-stop routine on the M6 between junctions 4 and 9. It was therefore 11:10 by the time that I parked up at SH7992564, as close to the summit as I could get. I had decided to try a route I had worked out that accessed the summit from the north rather than the other direction as described by John GW4BVE.

The access point was firmly on Forestry Commission land at a high point on the track where I found a suitable parking place. The Forestry Ranger passed me in his 4WD as I sat on the boot lip at the back of my car putting my boots on. I raised a hand and received a stare in return, but he motored on by no doubt wondering how I had managed to grab some time off work on such a beautiful day. It was so warm I was in two minds as to what to wear, but opted for full wet weather kit for which I was later thankful at the summit on account of the cool wind.

I set out from the car at 11:27 and headed west down a grassy track, striking north when I reached the trees and then shortly afterwards north-west up a ride between the trees which seemed to be far narrower than it appeared on Google Earth. The terrain was not particularly easy going and I had to scramble up a couple of sections, but worse was to come higher up where the ride swung to a south-west direction. Trees felled by winter storms blocked the ride and there were expanses of icy snow to traverse. My ice axe would have helped here had it not been back at home. I had to take to the trees in a couple of places, but eventually I exited the tree line and could clearly see my way south towards the summit.

I wasn’t fooled by the rocky outcrop to the north of the summit proper. A false summit it may be, but it was only a short distance to the trig thereafter. I reached the true summit at 12.30 which was 45 minutes later than planned. My first task was to self-spot and in the interest of getting on as soon as possible, I used the trig to support the pole and erected the dual band beam on its own without the HF dipole. I was set up and ready to go by 12:45 - no time to check for beacons, so it was straight to 144.333MHz where my first call was answered by Frank G3RMD. After working Frank, a very steady run of contacts ensued with many regular chasers calling in. Heading the run was Pete MW0COP/P on Corndon Hill MW-013 for the only summit to summit of the day - Pete had waited especially for me to appear which was much appreciated. A few contacts later, turning the pole to work Don G0RQL caused it to collapse. Only a slight delay was incurred, fortunately so as Don was waiting to go out. Another one hanging on for me!

As usual, I arranged with those who had 70cms to spray a bit of RF in their direction after finishing on 2m SSB. I moved to the higher band at 13:12 and after a few calls on the key, I was called by Frank. We decided to move to SSB after exchanging reports on CW and had a brief chat. Afterwards I aimed the beam in the appropriate directions, but nothing was heard and later conversations on 60m indicated that nothing had been heard of me either.

I had intended an extended activation and the operation was a fairly lazy affair. I lay on the rocks at the summit with the sun on my back, keeping a low profile to minimise the affect of the cool wind. At 13:30, I decided that all I was achieving on 70cms was to expend my battery, so I lowered the pole and added the multi-band HF dipole, setting the links initially for 60m. There was some weak CW on FE and also some adjacent channel interference, so I put a call out with the intention of moving down to FL. Frank was again on hand to help orchestrate the move, but Steve GW7AAV got the spot on first. After finishing with Frank, I announced QRZ and was called by at least three stations. I went back to Steve and gave him a 59 report - a somewhat bemused Steve replied since he hadn’t yet called me. Now he knows that I really am a joker! The run that followed took the total up to 14 contacts on the band, all incoming signals being between S8 and S9+. Paul G4MD provided the last contact, which was a real pleasure as we don’t often have the opportunity to work each other since we are usually on the same hill.

Moving to 10.118MHz, my first CQ brought back Gerd DL4FCK who had been alerted by a post kindly placed by Graham G3OHC. To keep my hands warm I had to put my gloves on which resulted in some less than perfect keying, though everyone seemed to understand what I was sending and the operating was slick. In all I had 20 very enjoyable contacts around 12 DXCC before the frequency went quiet just after 15:00.

As I had not managed to work Mike G4BLH on 2m, I decided to self-spot to indicate that I would be taking a final look around on 144.333MHz. This resulted in a successful CW contact with Mike and in hindsight, I should have suggested trying on 70cms. However, by now the sun had lost its heat and the wind was strengthening, so it was time to get down off the summit.

I started to dismantle the station at 15:10 and once everything was in its proper place in my backpack, I decided to try a short-cut back to the car avoiding the forest. This initially went very well, though part of the route was very steep. I didn’t mind that, but I did mind the boggy ground that came afterwards and several times I found myself having to extract my boot out of a water which was half way up my gaiter. Fortunately my feet didn’t get wet, but it was not easy going and the difficult terrain continued as I struck a direct line across a cleared section of forest back to the car. Despite this, the descent took just 43 minutes, so I was at the car by 16:18. After stowing the kit and getting out of my walking clothes, I had a snack and a drink before setting off home at 16:45. It was 20:15 before I reached home, the M6 again doing its best to delay me, but not unduly so this time.

My thanks as usual go to all the chasers that came on to work me, especially as it was a weekday activation. Particular thanks to Frank for being there to help start my operations on 2m, 70cms and 60m and to Steve and Graham for the spots. All in all I had a very enjoyable day in excellent weather - a truly fine way to finish off the GW/NW summits!

73, Gerald

2m - FT-857, 25W, 5 element at 4m, 13 contacts
70cms - FT-857, 20W, 8 element at 4m, 1 contact.
60m - FT-857, 15W, multiband dipole, 14 contacts
30m - FT-857, 15W, multiband dipole, 20 contacts