Tuesday 8th July 2008
Most people that make contact with Paul G4MD and myself will have realised that we are both interested in activating unique summits and we both currently hold a 100% record. Another factor that we have in common is that we have both almost completed the GW/SW series of summits and we are working towards completing the set by activating Hirfyndd SW-017 and Trichrug SW-022 as a joint activation. In order to achieve this aim it came down to me having to activate three summits near Cardiff.
Having just three summits to activate, I took the opportunity for a lie in and got up at 06:00 local time and was pulling off the drive by 06:52, only to be halted by the need to put the dustbin and the paper for recycling out for the bin men. That task duly done, I got underway and took what looked like the easiest option of using the motorways to get down to South Wales. The M42 near Birmingham had a mandatory 50 mph system in force and roads further south sported a series of roadworks culminating in some major works on the M4 as I approached Cardiff. I clearly was not paying attention as I got myself into the contraflow system and realised that the roadworks were going beyond Junction 32 which was where I wanted to leave the motorway. Once past this point, the satnav reprogrammed itself and advised I should leave at Junction 34 which I duly did. Unfortunately as I closed on the area of the summit I managed find more roadworks including a set with the lights stuck on red. A local van driver remonstrated with the man in charge of the lights and the issue was soon resolved. All this left me arriving at the parking spot for my first summit, Mynydd y Glyn SW-027, five minutes adrift of my schedule.
By being quick getting kitted up, I was able to set off for the summit on time at 09:10 UTC - amazing, already half way through the morning, a time when I would normally be approaching my second summit of the day! The route up the private lane, which is also a footpath and bridleway, was straightforward and where this ended by the entrance to Langton Court Farm I went straight ahead through the farm gate and continued up the track. Once into the fields beyond the track petered out and I just followed the line of the stone walls against which the bridleway continues…… well, at least on paper it does. I had to climb over a barbed wire fence at one point, probably at a change in ownership of the land, but otherwise it was very straightforward. The only worry was the route from the bridleway to the trig point, but this proved to be easy with some indication of access on the ground.
I arrived at the trig point at 09:42UTC just a couple of minutes before it started to rain. Therefore by the time it came to operating I was suitably soaked…… well, between the bottom of my anorak and the tops of my gaiters. Using the trig for shelter in the stiff breeze I switched on the rig at 09:57UTC. It was tuned to 144.310MHz and immediately I heard Paul GW4MD/P operating from Bryn Amlwg MW-015 at a good 59. Paul was finishing a contact, so I was able to jump straight in and start with an S2S contact before moving up to my usual working frequency of 144.333MHz. Frank G3RMD followed me there and kindly spotted me which brought a steady run of contacts. This was really most gratifying for a weekday activation and the total on 2m came to 14. Moving up to 70cms, I was contacted by Frank G3RMD and Don G0RQL and then I was told that Phil G4OBK up in IO94 was looking for me. I changed to CW and gave Phil a call and we had two way copy of signals for a while, but unfortunately not sufficient for a QSO to be made. I copied both calls from Phil, but the QSB came in just as he gave me a report.
The rain had stopped part way through my activation, but the breeze had stiffened and I found I was fighting this in trying to keep the small 6 element 70cms yagi on heading. The attempt with Phil had taken me over my allotted time on the summit and so I reluctantly had to accept I was not going to manage any HF from this one. At 10:58 I went QRT and was making my descent 10 minutes later. I saw no-one on my descent until I was back in the lane where a couple of young men erecting fencing greeted me with a wave and a “dydd da”: good day. Obviously my Welsh ancestry was showing through!
At the car I had a quick lunch, despite not having scheduled any time for this, which left me 12 minutes adrift as I set off for my second summit at 11:42. Despite it being lunchtime on a weekday, I was very surprised how little traffic was on the road and I arrived at the parking spot for Garth Hill SW-034 just 4 minutes behind schedule. The route to the summit is part of The Ridgeway walk and as I ascended I met a local on his way down. I was informed (in English this time) that the wind was quite fierce at the summit and this proved to be entirely true when I arrived there at 12:22UTC.
The summit of Garth Hill is on a tumulus and is rather exposed. I set up on 2m using the trig point to support the mast and was on slightly ahead of schedule to find Robert G0PEB/P on 144.320MHz activating High Willhays DC-001. Again I was straight in for another S2S start to my activation before moving up to 144.333MHz. This time Graham G3OHC was the one to find me and Barry 2E0PXW kindly provided a spot which added many voices to the fray. I was not to work Barry for another 30 minutes! Again the run included an S2S with Paul GW4MD/P, now on Garreg-hir MW-017 which is a favourite summit of mine. Unfortunately the location is very exposed and Paul was getting the brunt of the fierce wind. We were both sheltering in the lee of the trig points. Also worked in this session were Ken AXY and Christine YMM who were at staying in Caerphilly just down the road. The total on 2m came to 16 and the move to 70cms again netted Frank and Don, but I did not hear anything from Phil on this one despite calling him in CW. I pondered whether to overstay on the summit and activate some HF, but my fight with the antennas was even harder on this summit than it had been earlier. I therefore decided to press on and see how the weather was when I got to my final summit of the day. I went QRT at 13:38UTC and was making my descent by 13:50, arriving back at the car just 9 minutes later.
At this point in my itinerary I had 10 minutes built in for a snack, but I made light of this and set out at 14:04 for my third summit of the day, Craig yr Allt SW-037. The journey took just 20 minutes and making a quick ascent of this narrow ridge, I was setting up by 14:44UTC. This time I made some preparations for an extended stay as the wind had abated a little, though a brief shower did provide me with some doubts! After checking the GM beacon (yes, S2 from this minnow of a summit in South Wales), I put a call out on 2m - silence! A further call brought Ken and Christine to the rescue…. No doubt they heard me breaking though on their audio system as I was located quite literally just above their location! After signing with them I had to make a couple of CQ calls on 144.333MHz before Roger G0TRB found me and kindly spotted me. I knew that I was ahead of schedule, but I wasn’t aware that it was a full half hour. Anyway, the spot did the trick and soon we were in full flow, the total run of 14 ending with Paul G4MD who had called in at the Long Mynd on his way home. On 70cms I again worked Don and Frank. Don gave me a second contact with his club call M0OMC/A in case I could qualify the summit by working Phil G4OBK, but again nothing was heard. I tried a few CQ calls on 70cms using both SSB and FM, but just couldn’t find anyone to make a fourth contact and I wasn’t that desperate to try to drag someone off a local repeater, so I decided to give up and get onto 7MHz CW.
Opening up on 7.032MHz at 16:20UTC, it took a few minutes to make a contact and this was with Peter G3TJE who put on a spot. Gino IK3DRO followed Peter and then the band went crazy. It took me a whole minute to pull a single call out of the melee, that of Frank DL2EF. Gradually the numbers calling thinned out and I ended up with a respectable 18 contacts covering G, I, DL, HB9, F, S5, LA, ON and SM. There was a little unruly overcalling, but I ignored that as being enthusiasm and everyone that called got a QSO. I was in a good mood as the wind had dropped considerably, the sun had at last shown its face and the grass was soft to lie on…… just the stuff a summer evening activation should be made of. I was therefore tempted to have a go on 5MHz SSB, but decided that I needed to get off home before tiredness set in, so reluctantly went QRT at 16:55UTC.
Packing up the three bands took a full 15 minutes and a further 9 minutes later I was back at the car. It had been my intention to set off for home at 16:45, but after getting back into “civvies”, a snack and making a phone call home, it was 17:40UTC by the time I set off. The satnav said 3 hours using the motorways, but I knew from experience that ignoring the M5 turn near Bristol would reap rewards and so it was that I managed to get home in 2 hours 30 minutes via Swindon and Oxford. The car drove itself most of the way, cruise control being just the thing after being on my feet. These had been easy ascents, but being somewhat out of condition after my recent illness certainly had an effect.
Many thanks to everyone that came on to work me, especially to Frank G3RMD and Don G0RQL again ever attentive! I wish there was more interest in 70cms, but I accept that it is still a minority band and to qualify a lowly summit on a weekday is perhaps asking too much. Special thanks to Paul G4MD for synchronising his activation with mine. Finally apologies to those hoping to find me on 7MHz CW on the first two summits. In the future I will try to plan in more time on my activations, but allocating more than an hour on each summit will inevitably mean an earlier start and later return.
So now it is on to the final 2 SW summits…… plus another 8 MW summits in a 2 day expedition with Paul. Unfortunately we have only 45 minutes activation time on these summits. In the longer term, 200 unique summits looks a possibility by the end of the year, though the financial situation may curb that.
73, Gerald G4OIG