The Talyllyn Trio
Saturday 23rd May 2009
Three fairly rare single point summits, steep slopes, a lengthy itinerary and a hard slog…… well, that just about sums up the trio of summits to the north-east of Twywn on the Welsh coast. We decided to activate the easiest and farthest west summit Fridd Cocyn GW/NW-063 first, but even this one had a bit of spice.
It was a 02:30z start from Northampton which translated to a 04:02z departure from Stourbridge with Paul behind the wheel on this run. As usual at this early hour, we made good time and arrived at the parking spot by the Woodlands Caravan park (SH619034) on the B4405 at 06:10z. We missed this at first – for some reason I was looking for a lay-by on the southern side of the road. I’m not sure what Paul was expecting, but after turning round, we easily located the lay-by just east of the caravan park entrance in a shady spot beneath tall trees. A number of campervans and touring caravans were close by within the caravan park, so we were prepared to be quiet while preparing for the ascent. However, we need not have worried as the trees were full of rooks giving their all – it was hard enough for us to hear each other, let alone for anyone to hear us!
We set off up the footpath through the woods a few hundred metres east of the parking spot to find the slope immediately to be quite steep. Well, what should we have expected when we were starting from near sea level? The path was very slippery due to overnight rain and we had to take great care. The path joined a tarmac road within the caravan park and then 100 metres farther on struck off right, going steeply uphill with more slippery ground underfoot until we were able to leave the woods at SH618038 at about the 130 metre level. The route continued steeply up two grassy fields, past a local television repeater on our right and we made the summit at 07:12z. The weather forecast had been for sunny weather, but it was still cloudy at this early hour and a cool breeze was blowing. Paul therefore selected a spot along the fence just west of the summit while I found a sheltered spot on the high ground in order to maximise the take-off on VHF.
Paul opened up on 60m at 07:24z and found the band in good order with plenty of activity. Frank G3RMD was first in the log and with the spot that Frank placed a steady run of contacts ensued. Despite the early hour, conditions were quite reasonable with signals at decent strengths all round. Paul made a total of 19 contacts on the band around G, GM, GW and EI.
Unusually, I was to have problems on this summit. My FT-817 had just returned from being repaired after it got wet on Allt Fawr GW/ NW-025 back in March. Unfortunately the repair didn’t last for long. With two calls in the log, transmit on 2m failed, just after reports had been exchanged with Steve MW0BBU down in Milford Haven. I was initially somewhat unsure as to the cause of the problem and suspected the microphone connection, since FM was inoperative as well as SSB. However, on carrying out further tests I discovered that I had no output on CW either. Changing to 70cms, I was immediately back in action and checking other frequencies showed me that the problem was band specific. Back on my working frequency of 144.333MHz, I could hear people calling me on SSB. I therefore decided to try 2m FM on the frequency using the Standard C710 handheld to drive the linear in the hope that someone would twig I had changed mode. Unknown to me, Graham G4JZF had spotted me on SSB and was probably one of those calling me, but unfortunately I was not successful in getting anyone to change mode and so was getting nowhere.
I kept trying until 07:45z and then wandered over to Paul to tell him the problem and he suggested that I use his rig once he had completed his activation. I told him I was trying FM and Paul obviously passed this information to Mike G4BLH since Mike spotted me at 07:55, noting that I would be using horizontal FM. Later once Paul had concluded his operation on 60m, Frank spotted me on SSB indicating that I would be using Paul’s rig. In the meantime, having had no success on 144.333MHz with FM, I had put a call out on 145.500MHz and had raised Robert MH6RHD located in Llangybi on the Lleyn Peninsular. After signing with Robert, I got set up with Paul’s rig and was quickly in business with another 10 calls making the log. Don G0RQL managed the double on 70cms, though signals were well down on those on 2m. It was also good to work Jim EI3GE after many months. I concluded my activation at 08:37z.
We started our descent at 08:51z and soon realised the slope was every bit as steep as we had thought it was on our ascent. The path in the woods was particularly treacherous going downhill. However, despite this, we were back at the car in 25 minutes and were on our way to Abergwynolwyn just 3 minutes later to find a suitable parking spot for our second summit, Gamallt GW/NW-065. After a recce to find the start of our access route, we parked up in the centre of the village and had a snack before setting out at 09:46z. The weather was now warming up and it was difficult to gauge the amount of clothing that we would need up on the hill. I don’t think that either of us got it quite right.
The route to Gamallt from Abergwynolwyn was simplicity itself – we crossed the bridge at SH 675070 and took the bridleway through the gate into the OA land and then headed for the corner of the forest on our left – very steeply uphill. There were some excellent views from the ascent route which were much appreciated as we needed to take quite a few stops to regain our breath. On reaching the corner of the forest at SH669069 the path became much clearer, but there was no respite from the steep gradient until the summit area was reached. Paul set up on the fence line along the edge of the forest, while I again took the highest ground I could find. I was pleased to be able to strip off several layers of clothing as it was now rather warm, with bright sun tempered only by a fairly stiff breeze.
Paul was up and running on 60m by 10:59z with John GW4BVE first in his log. Peter EI7CC followed and spotted Paul. In all 15 chasers made Paul’s 60m log in half an hour, before he moved to 80m. Conditions on 80m were rather poor and Paul made just two contacts with Frank G3RMD and Jeff G4ELZ before he moved onto 40m. First up was an S2S contact with Lutz DL3SBA/P on Strauch DM/NW-209 – this was Paul’s first Continental S2S. Contacts with Peter ON3WAB, Lars MM0DWF and Ferdinand ON8BN followed. Paul was chatting to Ferdinand as I came over to him indicating that I just had 2 contacts in my log. Graham G3OHC had found me at 11:18z and Frank G3RMD ten minutes afterwards. I was experiencing the proverbial VHF RF Black Hole and it didn’t feel good!
I returned to my station and continued calling while Paul applied some thought to my situation. Just as I was called by Stephen MW3CYU, the brother of Robert whom I had worked from Fridd Cocyn, Paul came over to say he was going to rouse the troops by asking for some assistance on 60m. This he achieved through Jake G1YFF who relayed my predicament to John GW4BVE. Signals between Paul and John were marginal. Within a minute or two I had worked John at 58 both ways and John very kindly spotted me. He then stood by to assist with an attempt to work Roger G0TRB which unfortunately was not successful. Chris G4DJJ called in to bag this second summit from me and Graham G3OHC called back to provide a sixth call for my log by using the club call G4GRG. So, a radio solution for a radio problem – thanks all round to everyone involved. It was just as well this method worked, as neither of us had any mobile phone coverage on this hill. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this summit for a 2m handheld activation.
The delay in getting the summit qualified took us to 12:40z, 25 minutes behind our schedule. Most of the delay was clawed back by a quick descent, which took its toll on our ankles and knees, but we did not want to be late for our third summit. There was no time to hang around in the car park at Abergwynolwyn either, as our parking spot was being vied for as we put the kit into the car. The next planned parking spot was an area at SH 662079 at the junction of several minor roads some 2 kilometres to the north-west of the village, but on arrival we found it to be full of road grit. From this point we could see the steep ascent up the side of our next summit Foel Cae’berllan GW/NW-057. After considering the map, Paul suggested that we park at the Castell y Bere car park at SH668085, about a kilometre to the north-east and then use the better graded footpath from there to cut out part of the steep climb.
Relocating delayed us slightly and we were 13 minutes late in starting our ascent.
However, Paul’s on-the-spot re-planning turned out to be very sensible, as the lower part of the steep incline ran between two fence lines between which stood around 50 ewes and their lambs. With the revised route we only had to access the top 10 metres of this area at around SH665078 in order to get onto the OA land. Taking care, it was easy to displace the few animals that were there in an orderly and safe manner. Once into the OA land, it was then a stiff climb on grass before we reached a track running north-west which offered a slightly easier ascent almost to the summit. We arrived at the summit at 15:00z, the time we were due to be on air.
Once again I operated from close to the highest point at a position selected to provide some shelter from the breeze which was now quite cool. Graham G3OHC was first into the log at 15:15z. A test with him on 70cms proved to be negative, so with his spot in place, I made a reasonable run just on 2m SSB. Chris G4DJJ worked me for the third time during the day – an excellent achievement from his QTH in Skipton, particularly as I had to beam directly over nearby Cadair Idris GW/NW-009. At around 15:34z Paul came up to tell me that Robert G0PEB was calling for me – I knew that as we were already in QSO. Conditions were good enough for a quick contact, but the QSB was so deep that signals on 2m faded out for minutes at a time. It took two attempts to work Stewart G0LGS, but once we had exchanged reports, signals were Q5. Such is life. In all, 10 calls made my log followed by an unanswered round of CQ’s to all points of the compass taking me to 15:55z.
Paul again started on 60m once he had set up in a sheltered spot to the north of me. Don G0RQL was first to be worked at 15:21z and the one to place a spot. Conditions were now on the wane on the band and Paul had to make quite a few CQ calls. Several people that I worked said that they could not hear Paul. After 5 contacts, the last of which was with Ken GM0AXY, Paul moved to 80m where he was found by Frank G3RMD. In all just 6 contacts were made on 80m, with Don G0RQL being the only one to make it on the two bands. Having finshed my activation, I descended to Paul’s position and suggested that he have a look around on 40m before packing up and he was pleased that I did as he again worked Lutz DL3SBA/P, this time on Barenkopf DM/NW-198. Paul decided to leave it at just the one contact on the band as we were now 25 minutes behind schedule and we were due to call in on a friend of mine in Abergwynolwyn on the way home.
We started our descent at 16:25z and were back at the car by 17:05z where we ate our tea and got out of our walking gear. By 17:36z we were back in Abergwynolwyn where we had a refreshing brew and we then left my friend’s place at 18:04z. Before driving home, we carried out a recce for a suitable parking spot for the Tarrens (GW/NW-033 and NW-036), our next venture. We arrived at Stourbridge at 20:50z and after the usual welcome cup of coffee at Paul’s house, I set off home at 21:25z to arrive there at 22:45z. A long long day, but another very enjoyable one!
Thanks once again to the regulars, particularly to Frank G3RMD who seems to be able to be there for both Paul and myself no matter what frequencies we are using. I worked Frank on 2m SSB from all three summits despite the path being obstructed. Don G0RQL and Graham G3OHC are also keen supporters of our activations and ones that actively seek us out – sorry we didn’t make it on the second one on 2m Don. Several others were worked by Paul on all three summits and many made it into our logs for two of the three.
As noted above, the Tarrens are our next venture weather permitting. At least it shouldn’t be such a struggle from those summits…….… well, in theory anyway. After this day of activations, I’ll never take anything for granted ever again!
73 to all,