The Myarth SW-035 and Waun Fach SW-002
Saturday 11th August 2007
On Sunday 5th August a very special email arrived at my computer Inbox. This was from Paul G4MD, updating me on his communication with the Glenusk Estate about the possibility of having access to The Myarth SW-035, reference to which had been made on the SOTA reflector. Paul told me that he had been granted access to the hill for himself and another and would I like to join him. Obviously there was no hesitation on my part, this being high on my activation wishlist. Through further communication with the Estate, Paul set up the visit for Saturday 11th August and travel and timing arrangements were made between us via email. Our intentions were to operate 2m and HF in opposite phase with Paul starting on 5MHz and myself on 2m SSB.
Expectations were high as I arrived at Paul’s house in Stourbridge at 6.50 a.m. The only downer was the fact that the SOTA website was not functioning and we therefore wondered how many chasers would be available to make contact with us. After a welcome brew, we decanted my kit to Paul’s car and set off for South Wales via the M5, M50 and A40, the route being dictated by my satnav rather than Paul’s road map. We arrived at the parking spot designated by the Estate at 09.05 a.m. and wisely took time to apply mosquito repellant before making our ascent. The route up to the summit had been designated by the Estate to avoid their on-site operations and they had provided a good map for us to use. The route was clear on the ground and the walk extremely pleasant through a mix of woodland and more open areas. Nearing the summit we came out into an open area and this provided more than ample room for us to set up two stations both with HF antennas.
We had posted for 0900UTC, but by the time we had sorted out our stations in the brambles it was closer to 0915. Part of the delay was due to cracking open a couple of bottles of Morland Speckled Hen that I had taken up to the summit to wet the head of my new Grandson Nathaniel who had been born the previous Wednesday. At 5.2% ABV I thought this a better option to the Fullers Golden Pride that Paul had kindly offered - a whopping 8.5% ABV!
I called on 144.300 running a little more than 100 watts output to the 5 element and immediately received a response from Graham G4JZF. We moved to 144.333 where Graham advised that the SOTA site was still down and so we would have to make the best of it. I was hoping that Paul was fairing okay on 5MHz where the channels make it easier to find an activator. From his voice coming over the distance between us I could tell that he was at least making some contacts. After I concluded with Graham, Frank G3RMD was on frequency for a contact, but afterwards there were no more takers, so it was back to 144.300 for another CQ call. This time Dave G4UKP came straight back and I chose a more common frequency to QSY to, just ten up from the calling frequency. However, this worked out no better and only Don G0RQL called me after the contact with Dave. However, I was very pleased that I’d at least qualified the summit and in just 16 minutes too. I found MW0VKD for a fifth contact and then changed over to 7MHz CW. Paul made a run of 9 on 5MHz, but unfortunately then was consigned to listening to white noise as he vainly searched for contacts on 2m FM. I contacted a total of 6 on 7MHz, starting with Cris GM4FAM at a colossal 599 and finishing with Peter GW3TJE/P just down the road in his caravan. Several stations called me, but did not respond once I had given them their report making me wonder whether these were non-SOTA operators. I moved to 2m FM to make a further contact with Peter using the C528 handie just as Paul came over to see how I had got on. We “chinked” bottles and it was smiles all round as we started to pack up our stations. I think we did the summit justice under the less than perfect circumstances and it is still rare enough to be a worthy target for chasers.
On the descent we located the edge of the activation zone using my Garmin GPS. We decided to have a couple of QSOs across the boundary on 70cms FM and Paul walked back up the hill while I walked down a fair distance to ensure we were both appropriately positioned before making contact. Places were exchanged to allow Paul to make contact with me within the activation zone and so the rare Myarth was bagged for a chaser unique for us both. To some this may seem to be rather contrived, but neither Paul nor I have adopted this approach before, so we felt it was a reasonable course of action having made the effort to put the summit on the air. We arrived back at the car about 20 minutes behind schedule delayed by this activity.
After a brief lunch break, we used the satnav to get us to the parking spot for Waun Fach, the POI file taking us to the car park. The valley was heaving with mountain bikers. We got kitted up and left the car park and walked along the road to find the bridge over the small river. Having read Richard G4ERP’s advice, I knew we had to turn right after the bridge and this we did, but the track soon started to ascend into the forest. It was not clear from the map where the crossing point out onto the open ground to the north of the forest would be, so I made the assumption that the crossing point was at the end of the first ride. This proved to be wide of the mark and soon we were making our way along the edge of the forest. Being a good distance away from the river, it would have been quite a task to back-track, so we ploughed on in the hope of finding a way through or out of the forest. The problem is that the rides on the lower reaches do follow the map quite well, but they totally disappear without warning higher up the hill. Whatever happened to fire breaks? We therefore ended up in dense undergrowth and eventually were forced to retreat back to a track running in a southerly direction in an arc more or less on the 550m contour. In the debacle Paul lost half the dipole on his SOTAbeam as it caught in the pines. We found the end cap for the boom on our retreat, but not the metal rod.
After a walk of over a kilometre, we were able to find a way up through a thin section of forest to an area that had been felled. This made for a steep climb, but one that was manageable. We then came up to a rough roadway that went northwards into the forest. Having been bitten once, I was keen to avoid a second dose of pine needles. I therefore dragged Paul around the edge of the forest until we located the main pathway running along the ridge. After passing through a band of trees on a muddy section of track, much to my relief we came out on the south-east slope of Pen y Gadair Fawr quite close to the summit. My navigation was back on track - quite literally. After visiting the summit of Pen y Gadair Fawr, where the bung permanently detached itself from Paul’s SOTApole, we made our way across the coll to Waun Fach, relieved to find the ground quite dry and easily passable.
In my schedule for this activation I had allowed a reasonably generous 1 hour and 50 minutes for the 4 kilometre ascent of Waun Fach. In getting the route so wrong, I had managed to inflict a total of 8 kilometres on Paul and a walk of a little over 3 hours. We were therefore well past our posted activation time and so decided to do a quick activation using 2m SSB and FM with the 817’s and flexible antennas. This proved to be reasonably effective and it easily allowed us to qualify the summit, but I would apologise to those that lost out because we did not set up our full stations. Paul made 9 contacts on 2m FM and myself 10 using SSB, with the Cheltenham Mafia out in force and including an S2S with Roger G7RSM/P on The Wrekin. Operating in this manner allowed us to make up some time on our schedule and so get back home at a reasonable hour. Many thanks to all those that made contact with us.
Once we had completed our contacts on 2m, I suggested that Paul make a start back so that I could offer him the summit for chaser points by way of recompense for the extra leg-miles. Again contact across the activation zone boundary was made using 70cms FM. I joined Paul at the coll and then we returned towards Pen y Gadair Fawr before striking off to locate the track that we should have used for the ascent. In the event, we bettered my estimate of 1 hour 25 minutes and arrived back at the car in good time. The car park had officially closed at 5.00 p.m., but the warden had kindly left the barrier unlocked. We were therefore able to extricate ourselves and the car at 6.45 p.m. and wend our way back to Paul’s house, initially with the aid of the satnav, then by Paul’s knowledge once we made the A roads.
Despite the G4OIG-inflicted problems on the ascent of Waun Fach, we both thoroughly enjoyed the day. Amazingly, the experience has not put Paul off doing another Joint Activation with me. Hopefully next time we will not have any problems, routing, equipment or otherwise.
73, Gerald G4OIG