Waun Rydd SW-004 and Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn SW-014
Saturday 9th February 2008
This was the second activation on two consecutive Saturdays, again on a 6 point and a 2 point summit in South Wales, again to a relaxed itinerary and to a similar timing. However, that was where the similarities ended…
I got up at the now customary 03:45 and left home at 04:22, there being no cup of tea required on this occasion. The weather was calm, dry and the temperature minus 0.5 degrees Celsius. I arrived at Paul’s house on time at 05:40. This time it was my turn to drive, so after a cup of coffee, Paul loaded his kit into my car and we set off from Stourbridge at 05:54. Good progress was made to the parking spot to the south of the summit close to the end of the Talybont reservoir and was the first to park up there at 07:54. There was a large van in the parking area that had obviously been there all night - it was still there when we left and no sign of life emanated from within. This was a contrast to the previous week - no crowds here at this early hour.
We started walking at 08:14 up the pleasant track ascending from near to the cattle grid at the car park entrance. The landscape was already sun-lit, with a light wind of about 10 mph present. The track is quite steep and some of the lower sections were running with water, so we were pleased that the temperature was above freezing. Care still had to be taken as it was slippery underfoot on a number of sections. Soon the camera was in action and it continued to be in and out of my fleece pocket during the ascent as new vistas came in to view. It was an amazing day - mist lay in the surrounding valleys, while the tops basked in the morning sunshine. The ascent to this summit is very pleasant, though rather steep on the lower part. All in all it was brilliant day to be out doing a SOTA activation.
As we ascended, others less heavily laden passed us with the customary greetings. Once we gained height the wind increased and above 600 metres the path became rather boggy for long sections providing evidence of the popularity of this area for walking. The path is being improved on the lower sections, but further up it is becoming badly eroded.
On this occasion I had purposely taken my FT-290R with me rather than the C528 FM hand-held. At 08:50 I called Richard GW4ERP/P who was activating Coity Mountain SW-012 on 2m SSB. Richard reported that I had RF feedback, so I decided not to pass the microphone to Paul in favour of a swap to the C710 with a view to grabbing Richard on 70cms a little later. I was hopeful that we might manage an S2S contact. Unfortunately we had not gained sufficient height by the time Richard was ready to pack up, so we made a couple of quick contacts on 432.220MHz using FM as he concluded his activation.
In contrast to the pleasant walk up, the summit area is rather featureless and so Paul and I attempted to find what shelter we could from the wind which was now running at 30 mph and more. Paul was more successful in finding a suitable hummock to hide behind than I was. I ended up guying the mast with three guys into the wind with a single back guy. Paul was up and running on 5MHz at 09:53 well before I was on 144MHz and I could hear that Paul G0HNW was first in his log. He had a straight run of 16 contacts around G, GW, GM and GD, including an S2S with Barry GM4TOE/P on the summit of Craigendarroch ES-078.
With Paul well underway, I decided to appear on my usual working frequency in the hope that someone would be waiting for me. I called on 144.333MHz at 10:00 and immediately received a call from Frank G3RMD. Frank was 59 and he gave me 56. He explained the website was running slow, but said that he would try to spot me. After working Frank I called for ten minutes with no response - Frank called in to say that he had been successful in getting a spot on during this time, though to make a second contact I had to go to 144.300MHz and call CQ in order to raise Graham G4FUJ. Reports were 58 / 55. After speaking to Graham I had two minutes of calling CQ on 144.333MHz before Don G0RQL found me - well at least this contact was 59 both ways. Again no-one tail-ended, so I moved back to the calling frequency where, after a few CQs, I received a call from Geoff MW3SFN/P on Tarrenhendre NW-036. Reports were 57 / 54. I was now ready to give up on 2m, so I announced a move to 70cms and put a call out on 432.200MHz. Don G0RQL was on the ball and signals were 59 each way. Don wrestled with putting a spot on for me and after a few minutes I had Frank G3RMD and Alistair GW0VMZ in the log. Don called in to say he had asked Peter GW3TJE/P on nearby Tor y Foel, SW-013 to give me a call once he had finished on 5MHz. Peter followed Alistair into the log in good time and we arranged to meet up after our activations.
Paul had come over to see how I was getting towards the end of my 2m session and had advised that lots of people were saying they could not hear me. I told him that it was hard going and I couldn’t understand why. Unfortunately I had left my brain back in the car park as the penny didn’t drop - to my mind it was inconceivable that I could have a problem. Paul went off to have a try on 80m SSB while I moved to 70cms. Even the significantly better signals on that band didn’t throw the switch in my head.
I concluded my activation on 70cms at 10:55 and we started our descent at 11:10, some 35 minutes ahead of our schedule. We had to take care on the wet and boggy track so no time was made up on the descent. We were back at the car for 12:25 where we put the kit into the car and Paul grabbed a sandwich before we set off to meet Peter G3TJE in the lay-by on the A40 near Talybont, arriving there at 12:48. It was good to meet up with a fellow activator and chat took priority over lunch, the latter being completed at the parking spot for our second summit.
We left Peter at 13:20 and were parked up at the junction of two tracks on the edge of Nantyglo just twenty minutes later. Our ascent of Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn SW-014 started at 13:54, the views across the valleys being excellent with many SOTA summits clearly identifiable. We made the summit cairn after 50 minutes of reasonably relaxed ascent. Paul used the trig to support his pole and I moved east some 30 metres to a clump of heather to set up. This time we were both ready to activate by 15:00, but only Paul got off the mark. I could hear him working a good run of stations, but meantime my calls on 144.300MHz went unheeded.
It took a while for the thought that I might have a problem to sink in. After ten minutes I decided to take a check on the beacons and I could hear GB3VHF in Wrotham weakly, but no others. The band seemed rather quiet on tuning around, so I decided to change the feeder and set about linking sections of coax together with the spare balun section that I had made up. On re-erecting the antenna, it was clear that I could now hear - GB3ANG was S5, GB3VHF over S9 off the side of the beam! I quickly found Martyn 2E0RSM/P on Dodd Fell Hill NP-016 on 144.310 and called in to make an immediate start to my log. Announcing a move up to 144.340MHz when signing, the run of a further 13 contacts started with Don G0RQL and ended with Hugh MW0DSZ/P on Stingwern MW-030. As I was working Hugh, Paul came over to say that he had completed his run of 22 contacts around G, GM, GW, GD and GI on 5MHz. I inquired whether he had worked Frank G3RMD. Paul advised that he hadn’t, so I told him that Frank had gone to 5MHz to look for him. Paul duly went back and made contact. I moved onto 70cms and again Don G0RQL headed the mini-run, having pre-posted me on the band. The contact was followed by a run of the Cheltenham Mafia - G0LGS, G3RMD and G4FUJ. As Graham called in the SLAB died and so I asked him to QRX and changed over to run barefoot with 5 watts. The final contact was a complete surprise - Mike G0BPU in Ipswich who was running with an extended feeder, much of which was RG-58!
Paul had again packed up by the time I concluded my operations. We set off at 16:16 and were back at the car by 16:52. We had parked just beyond a gate across the track and a cyclist came by and asked whether we were going shortly as he would see to the gate for us. As we prepared for the journey, he came up from the gate and chatted with us. Not wanting to keep him unduly, we decided to find a lay-by on the journey to have our snack and so at 17:07 we bid him farewell and set off for home. We arrived at Stourbridge at 18:41 where we decanted Paul’s kit and after declining Paul’s kind offer of a coffee, I set off for Northampton arriving home at 20:03 to find a pizza and beer ready waiting. The 6.3% proof ale did its worst and I was soon asleep on the settee!
Thanks once again to all those that contacted us. Paul had another excellent day on 5MHz with a total of 39 contacts. I made minimal qualifications on Waun Rydd with 4 contacts on each band, the combined total on Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn being 19. Particular thanks to those that spent time attempting to post spots on the website which was having a bad day.
So what of my problem on 2m? I found a complete break of the centre conductor of the feeder where it is soldered to the croc-clip connector that attaches to the dipole on the SOTAbeam. The joint was held together by self-amalgamating tape and so only a small capacitance connection was made between the feeder and the antenna. It is amazing that I made 4 contacts and even more amazing the linear survived well over half an hour of punishment. I packed my spares - next time I’ll pack my brain as well…
73, Gerald G4OIG