Activation Report: SW-006 and 007

Fan Nedd SW-007 and Fan Gyhirich SW-006
Saturday 15th March 2008

This activation was planned months in advance as a “finale” for the 2007 – 2008 bonus period when the day would be a decent length and the weather reasonable. Oh yes, well that was the theory. While it was pleasant to be able to drive some of the way in the light after the depths of winter, the weather was not to be on its best behaviour.

This was another “standard” 04:00 planned departure from Northampton. Although Bev was still not well, I did manage to get a few hours kip in bed rather than on the sofa, rising at 03:30 as usual. For once I was on time departing and arrived at Stourbridge at 05:16 where Paul provided a most welcome mug of coffee before we loaded his kit into my car. The weather was rather grey with fine drizzle as we set off at 05:36, the roads initially reasonably dry, but with an increasing evidence of recent downpours as we approached the Welsh border. By 06:00 the first signs of light were showing indicating that it would not be too long before early activations would become a practical proposition.

On this occasion we had the luxury of two satnavs, Paul having pre-programmed the parking spot at SN895222 into his unit. We used this to guide us once we were within 10 miles of our target and so drew up in the wide entrance to the track up the hillside at 07:46. The weather was very similar to what it had been in Stourbridge, perhaps a little more of the damp stuff being in evidence. A light breeze was blowing as we made ready for the off, which we achieved at 08:07. As on previous occasions, we decided to start all kitted out for everything the weather could throw at us – gaiters, waterproofs, gloves, etc. – though Paul did have just three layers on in an attempt to keep reasonably cool.

The first part of the route to these summits from the north is on a good track with a fairly even gradient. The route is amply described by Peter G3TJE on the SW-006 summit page and we made good progress until we reached the junction on the track. As we were intending to activate Fan Nedd SW-007 first, we started off along the left spur which lost height fairly quickly. Feeling that our descent rate was too rapid and that we weren’t heading in the right direction, we cut back to a fence line. In doing so all that we achieved was to arrive at the sheep pens further along the track via a more circuitous route than had we taken the right spur. The path down to the col where the ascent of Fan Nedd begins was, however, very clear from this point and so we set off downhill once again. As we descended the weather improved and for a short time we were able to see up the valley to the north where the paragliding takes place.

The cloudbase was around 520 metres and we entered this to find visibility much reduced to around 50 metres. It was quite steep up to the cairn on the northern edge of the summit plateau, with erosion in evidence in a number of places. Once out of the shelter of the mass of the hill, the cold wind from the south-east became evident and with visibility reducing to 20 metres or less, the trek across the plateau seemed to take an inordinate length of time. Eventually we reached the trig and after the customary “hand on concrete” ceremony, we returned the short distance to the half shelter. Unfortunately the wind was blowing straight into the open side of the shelter and it was raining fairly steadily, so it was a case of finding what respite we could behind the shelter which is only a couple of feet high. Where we normally operate a reasonable distance apart, on this occasion we were forced to set up our antennas and stations in close proximity, but no problems were experienced in doing this.

I decided to risk mounting both the 2m and 70cms antennas on the mast, which would leave mounting the 23cms 15 over 15 as an option later. The problem with doing this I discovered was the fact that the 15 over 15 was still in the boot of the car at the parking spot! Paul set the 60m dipole up with one leg into the wind and we were both ready to operate by the posted time of 10:30. On switch on Paul announced to me the presence of a lot of noise on 5MHz and it soon became evident that it was not going to be an easy activation. I called on my working frequency of 144.333MHz without any response, so I moved to 144.300MHz and called CQ. “Good morning Gerald, QSY to the usual frequency” was the response. “Certainly Graham” I replied and the first contact with G4FUJ was in the bag. Meanwhile Paul was still calling CQ, fortunately to be heard by Alistair GW0VMZ who spotted Paul and noted my details in the spot as well. My run on 2m SSB was fairly fluid, whereas Paul had to spend over 10 minutes calling before Don G0RQL copied him, followed by Barry GM4TOE. When I worked Graham G4JZF he told me the MUF was only at 4.3MHz, so it was a case of keep trying on 5MHz. By 11:01 Paul was still only on 3 contacts, so Don kindly re-spotted him asking for a fourth contact and Martyn M1MAJ was able to oblige, followed by a number of others. At around 11:15 Paul joined the queue for Allan MM1BJP/P for his only S2S of the day, thereafter rounding off with contacts with Brian G3NIJ and Don G0NES. On 2m I had 15 logged in reasonably short order, with G0RQL and GW0VMZ providing contacts on 70cms as well. Don and I tried a test on 23cms, but without a decent antenna this was very much a lost cause.

With the slow performance of 5MHz, I was finished and partly packed away before Paul completed his run of contacts. This is unusual as it is normally my prerogative to be the last one operating……. well usually faffing around on 23cms. In the cold wind it took a while to get everything stowed away and we started our descent at 11:50, just five minutes behind schedule. The persistent rain had not soaked into the ground and we had to take care going downhill as we were walking in a stream. The going was easier once we got to the col and then we were able to select the best route that we could find up to the track at the sheep pens. It was then a case of a steady walk up the track until we were more or less due west of the trig on Fan Gyhirich SW-006, followed by a walk through the soggy grass tussocks in the mist with visibility still at a meager 20 metres. Locating the trig point accurately was totally down to Paul having programmed his satnav.

After considering the trig with its moat, the ancient cairn and the minimal protection afforded by a couple of grassy tussocks, we opted for the latter and set about getting our stations set up rather than having the scheduled lunch break. It was now 13:25, the wind had increased considerably and we were keen to get the activation underway so we could get off the summit as soon as possible. I decided to set up just one band at a time and for the first time ever I opted for the stubby 3 element section instead of the full 5 element SOTABeam. This proved to be surprisingly successful and the windage on the mast was much reduced. I was ready to go by 13:45 and on switch on I was immediately aware of two things – static rain and local QRM. The QRM was coming from Neil MW0ECX/P on Fan Brycheiniog just across the valley and I called in to make my first S2S of the day. The static was so bad at Neil’s end that he actually gave me an R4 report!

As the contact with Neil ended, Barry 2E0PXW managed to get through the static and we moved to 144.333MHz to make contact. The static soon passed and I was then able to make a steady run of contacts. This time Paul was having better conditions and he too worked through a steady run on 5MHz. Both of us were having some difficulty with the weather, as we had to lie down to minimise the effect of the rain. I used by rucksack for shelter, but it was still a challenge to write on the Waterlog as I had to write through a film of water. Changing pages was a near impossible task as they were stuck together.

My run on 2m SSB ended at 14:00 with 9 contacts in the log. Barry had alerted me to the fact that Eleri MW3NYR/P was on Foel Fenlli NW-051 on FM, so I moved up the band to find her and made contact. A further S2S was then made with Geoff M3SFN/P on Stiperstones WB-003, though a fourth was to elude me. I worked Richard GW0MAV and then tried to make contact with Tristain M3VXX/P on Ruardean WB-021, but the pile up was quite large. I therefore moved off the work Don G0RQL and Graham G4JZF, before returning to 2m SSB to make contact with Don again and then have another QSO with him on 70cms SSB. Don asked me to try to make contact with Helen G7AAU/P on Christ Cross DC-005, but I failed to do this despite having heard her in QSO earlier. In the end, the weather just got the better of me and by 14:40 I had to admit defeat, wanting nothing but to get off the summit. My QSO tally on this summit was 14 on 2m and the single contact on 70cms.

Paul had finished at 14:15 with a clean run of 12 contacts and was ready waiting for the off. I packed away as quickly as the weather would allow me to. Paul noted that the rain now had ice in it, so working to Paul’s satnav, we started off at 14:55 going as quickly as we could and on the shortest route back, joining the track some way below where we had left it. By 16:12 we were at the car ready to unload everything and remove our boots and waterproofs which, in the pouring rain, which was even heavier, was not at all pleasant. Both of us once again found out that our waterproof trousers weren’t actually waterproof. My new boots, however, proved a total success and I had dry feet. We had a late lunch at 16:30 before we set off back at a very early 16:45, arriving in Stourbridge at 19:00. It rained all the way! After another welcome cup of coffee at Paul’s house, I left for home at 19:30 and was back in Northampton for 20:54 where I set about spreading the damp kit around the house before having something to eat. Needless to say, the electronic pieces of equipment once again spent the night in the airing cupboard!

So that was the day we completed the main South Wales summits. We kept reasonably close to our schedule and overall, despite the bad weather, we enjoyed our day out. Many thanks to everyone that came on to make contact with us, especially to GW0VMZ, G0RQL, 2E0PXW, GM4TOE, G8ADD and G4JZF for the spots. The next assault of the single point SW’s is likely to be some time in April.

73, Gerald G4OIG