Backpacking activation

Many factors influenced this idea. Perhaps the earliest were in the relatively early days of SOTA, and reading about the backpacking SOTA expeditions of John G4YSS, Jon GM4ZFZ and Richard G3CWI. I certainly wanted to try that for myself, and had indeed sampled it with a cheap £7 tent on local hills, to at least get some ideas about what I would need to do it properly.

I was also interested to see how many QSOs I could make in a single activation, and I wanted to file a highly competitive entry in the August session of the RSGB 2m UK Activity Contest series. All this came together to plan an overnight stay on Cadair Berwyn GW/NW-012, 830m ASL, with activations on the 2nd and 3rd of August 2011.

In the planning and prep phase, I exchanged emails with Phil Facey, proprietor of the Tan y Pistyll cafe, a usual start point for Cadair Berwyn. Phil said there was free parking back down the road a bit, or overnight parking in his locked field and retreat campsite for £4. I decided to go for that, and Phil emailed me the access code for the gate, as I would be arriving before the cafe opened.

Also required was a proper backpacking tent, and I went for the Karrimor Ultralite, which I picked up from my local Millets at a reduced price. I did consider getting a lightweight self-inflating air mat as well, but decided to take one of my existing foam sleep mats. This will be reviewed for next time, as I didn’t have the most comfortable night’s sleep!

A lightweight down sleeping bag was also needed, and I picked up a duck down mummy bag from Tesco - for £7! This was light, and kept me warm at night, so proved good value. The killer was going to be the two 7Ah SLABs I figured I would need to operate HF CW all day then a 2.5 hour VHF SSB contest!

The rucksack was quite a weight when I picked it up, with the radio, key, mike, 40m dipole, 20m MM, SB5, decent Aircell 7 feeder, plus 2 litres of water and three meals worth of grub added. Furthermore, it was a hot and humid morning when I arrived at Tan y Pistyll, so the microfleece and Berghaus jacket were added to that!

I had set off from Macclesfield around 5.30am on Tuesday 2nd August 2011, and made for the M56. Chester services provided the McDonalds breakfast before I turned down the M53, A55 and A483 towards Oswestry. From here, the directions were simple - follow the B4396 until I saw the right turning for the waterfall.

At the cafe, I entered the code and the gate swung open for me. Before setting off, I downed a bottle of Tropicana orange & mango juice, a bottle of water, a can of Red Bull and a Mars Bar. I wasn’t going to allow hydration or energy shortcomings get in the way!

I pulled on the heavy pack, and it was - heavy. But comfortable, so I powered myself along with my Leki poles and climbed into the field with the public footpath. It was rapid progress along the track to the footbridge, and I looked forward to one of my favourite sections of walking in SOTAland. This is the path that contours along the side of the U-shaped valley up to Llyn Lluncaws, quickly gaining height, but without the usual physical strain associated with doing so.

After negotiating the boggy section, I was climbing steeply up above Llyn Lluncaws. Halfway up, I was tired and decided to sit on a rock for a while, and pore over the map. Once resumed, I was mindful to work my left a little to avoid the exposure of where the path is very close to a steep edge for a time. I overcompensated and worked my way on steep grassy ground that slowed my progress. When I attained the main path just below Moel Sych, I stopped for another rest and a snack, and 'phoned Jimmy with a progress update.

The rest did me good and I was up Moel Sych in no time when I got going again, and the traverse from there onto Cadair Berwyn was similarly rapid. So far so good, I had reached the summit of Cadair Berwyn with my heavy pack in reasonable time. I paced around assessing the best place to pitch my tent, and selected a grassy area in between the large stone shelter and the rocky outcrop at the true summit.

The Karrimor Ultralite went up reasoanbly well and should be a breeze to put up and down in the future. I decided to set out my sleeping mat and mummy bag before erecting the 40m dipole. The weather was nice, so I sat outside the tent and began my activation on 40m CW. But after only a few QSOs, the rain started to come down, so I announced “QRX RAIN” and dragged everything inside the tent. Some stations continued to call me repeatedly, while some tried to tell them about the QRX, and others just sent “HI”!

The first run of contacts stopped after 20 on 40m CW and 1 on 40m SSB. It was time to put up the 20m vertical with groundplane and enter the Lion’s Den of the WFF pile-up! This then brought about a run of 82 QSOs in 63 minutes.

With the frequency empty, and the weather much improved, I decided on a change of scenary. I walked up to the very summit and perched on the rock there with my handheld, with a very steep and long drop plunging ominously beneath my feet. I tried not to look down, but as I was only using handheld with rubber duck at this point, I needed the best vantage point possible.

It ended up being a pleasant interlude of 15 contacts on 2m FM, mostly with known friends, acquaintences and family(!) and a further six on 70cm FM. The first S2S of the activation came with MW6BDV/P on GW/NW-055.

I returned to the main stations to play 20m once again, and the hour gap had been sufficient to liven up the interest in working me once again. I worked pretty much continuously for the next 2.5 hours, all CW apart from one S2S QSO with HB9BQU/P on HB/OW-025. A CW S2S was made with CT1BWW/P on CT/MN-033. Another break with the handheld brought only Ron GW4EVX on 2m FM before a mad session on 20m CW of 27 QSOs in 18 minutes! I put the 40m dipole up again, but attracted only five more stations into the log.

It was now about 50 minutes before the start of the 2m contest, so I had my dinner - aromatic duck wrap and Ginsters Pepper Steak Slice (recommended by some Manchester comedian who once did the warm up slot for a blues band gig I did) and made the decision to set the SB5 up right on the summit.

The wind had dropped considerably, so I felt it would be OK to set up right at the top. I spotted an (apparently well-known) “armchair rock” at the summit that I could sit in for the contest, and set up the SB5 at 4m AGL on the SOTA pole close by. I carried up my 817, SLAB, microphone etc up from the tent and settled down for the contest.

It was very busy, and finding a frequency was difficult. This certainly affected my QSO rate in the first hour, as I was playing S+P instead of running, but at least it meant that the bulk of the multiplier squares were safely in the log. By the end of the contest at 10.30pm BST, I had made 86 contacts, into 16 UK multiplier squares. Outside the UK, I worked F1VNR/P in JO10AT and my best DX - DF0MU, 727km into JO32PC. S2S contacts were made with 2E0DHT/P on Winter Hill G/SP-010, Matt M3WDS/P on Cleeve Hill G/CE-001 and an astonishing genuine 59 both ways QSO with Robert GM4GUF/P on Tinto GM/SS-064.

It had been a good contest, but I felt I ended up short by around 20 QSOs and 2 multipliers. At the time of writing I am 2nd in the AL section behind M0MST/P (IO92) but ahead of G4HGI (IO83). The night was still mild and still, so I flipped the SB5 over to vertical polarisation and called on 2m FM. To my surprise, this initiated a most enjoyable hour of chatter, distributed across 22 contacts.

I then needed to spend some time carefully dismantling the 2m set up in the dark on Cadair Berwyn’s summit, before re-erecting the 20m antenna next to the tent. 20m CW ops resumed at 2330z, and were also enjoyable as I received calls from known SOTA chasers in North America. As well as USA and Canada, I also worked 7X (Algeria) and CE (Chile) which were very satisfying. Mark G0VOF in Blackburn was also worked!

In fact Mark was the first to call me after midnight UTC (1am BST) to claim his “double points”, and I was rather pleased that VE2JCW amd NS7P did likewise. After working seven, no-one else called, and I couldn’t find any DX that I wanted to call. I was absolutely shattered, so rather pleased to be bedding down in my new duck down mummy bag.

In the morning, I put up the 40m dipole, hoping for a Cloud-before-work style pile-up on 7.032MHz CW, but it wasn’t to be with only F5CEL being worked. I would have liked to have called again on 2m FM via the handheld prior to leaving the summit, but I had exhausted the battery.

After packing everything away, my rucksack was not as heavy, as the weather was not as great as the previous day, so I had my fleece and jacket on. Also, I had eaten nearly all my food, and drunk a good proportion of my water. I cracked on with the descent, but found myself clutching for the map when the ground in front of me appeared to be rising up again!

It turned out I had missed the swing to the left to descend the way I had ascended, but it as OK as this was the path that took a more direct route back to the cafe. The steeper descending required towards to top of the waterfall was not so welcome, but I was soon on the old mine track and droppng down to the footbridge.

Back at the cafe car park, I bumped into Phil Facey. I thanked him for his email help in the planning stage, and to my surprise he started asking me about amateur radio, and how he could go about getting into it! It seemed he was already well aware of radio amateurs beginning their SOTA ascents of Cadair Berwyn from that point. Maybe the Tan y Pistyll will become an iconic amateur radio/SOTA cafe in the future!

A chocolate fudge brownie and a can of Red Bull was, by design, waiting for me in my car. I was worried that I was going to be feeling very tired for the drive home, but this sugar and caffeine fix seemed to work, as did spending most of the journey chatting on repeaters to my son Jimmy M3EYP.

The final totals for the activations were as follows:

Tuesday 2nd August: 369 QSOs
40m CW: 25
40m SSB: 1
20m CW: 212
20m SSB: 1
2m FM: 38
2m SSB: 86
70cm FM: 6
DXCCs: 41 - 4X, 7X, 9A, CE, CT, DL, E7, EA, ES, EX, F, G, GD, GI, GM, GW, HA, HB, I, IS0, LY, LZ, OE, OH, OK, OM, ON, OZ, PA, RA, S5, SM, SP, SV, UA9, UN, UR, VE, W, YO, YU

Wednesday 3rd August: 8 QSOs
40m CW: 1
20m CW: 7
DXCCs: 4 - F, G, VE, W

Many thanks to all the SOTA chasers that worked me.


Good report Dad, thank for the QSO’s and the chat on the repeaters.

Jimmy M3EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Well done on the overnight activation Tom & a fine total of 377 QSO’s for both days.

Unfortunately I was not by a radio to work you on 2m during the contest so sorry for not being able to give you some points. I was however by a radio later on & saw that you had been spotted on 14.013 MHz CW. Since I have been dabbling with PSK31 for the past couple of weeks I have let my CW slip a little, but I could still read you without any problems & I don’t think I made too many mistakes in my sending.

Being used to working you on SP-015 signals were a little different from GW/NW-012. Despite the extra height you were weaker on 20m to me than you would be on The Cloud. I listened using both my antennas that will tune on 20m & the only one that gave me a readable signal from you was my 10m vertical. Shock horror! an Antron A-99. Yes I have seen the examples that were pulled apart, but I have never expected more performance wise than you could expect from an end fed half wave, but that is not why I bought mine, second hand, around 18 years ago. I bought mine purely for it’s fibreglass construction which proved to be a good decision as it has lasted several times longer than an equivalent aluminium “silver rod” would have done in this location & even more time longer than a 5/8 or higher gain aluminium vertical would have lasted. Would I carry one up a hill to play radio?

Not on your life, not when you could knock together something that performs better & is a fraction of the weight from a few bits of wire & a fishing pole.

That is not a dig at Mike 2E0YYY by the way, who as he has demonstrated on numerous occasions, does extremely well with his chosen MO. My personal MO is somewhat different, maybe that is why I don’t do so well?

More power to your elbow Mike :slight_smile:

Anyway, I have digressed.

I had to strain a little to read you but I copied my report OK on our QSO at 2338z, after which I switched off & prepared to go to bed. A short while later, while still preparing to go to bed, I realised that midnight UTC would soon be around & that you had alerted that you may continue beyond that time.

I powered up again & listened, while doing a bit of late night research on Nantwich Brine pool of all things! Isn’t the interweb marvellous Hi!

With a few minutes to go before 0000z the frequency went quiet & I assumed you may be sorting out your log or just having a break so I carried on listening.

Seconds after 0000z you commenced calling again so I called you again & after exchanging reports I thanked you for the double points (16 in total) Spotted that you were into the second day of the activation & finally decided to go to bed.

I did see the spot from Jean VE2JCW & I am very glad to hear that others also worked you again after midnight for the extra 8 points :slight_smile:

Thanks again for the 16 points & sorry I wasn’t around to give you any points in the contest.

Best 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0VOF:

Would I carry one up a hill to
play radio?

Not on your life, not when you could knock together something that
performs better & is a fraction of the weight from a few bits of
wire & a fishing pole.

Hi Mark,

Ah, the timeless Antron A-99, sadly, all too quickly maligned by just about everyone except CBers. Although not a great antenna (that spot is reserved for the Imax-2000) nevertheless, it is a very good antenna. As someone who has done an activation using the Antron A-99 as well as some non-SOTA /P work, I can certainly vouch for it being far from a lightweight and most certainly not designed to lug up and down even the easiest of summits.

Coupled with the two (and in my case) three poles required to erect it, plus carrying another antenna for VHF/UHF and of course a tuner, suddenly, you’re dealing with a whole heap of weight issues.

Having said all of this, if there’s just a sniff of an opening on the higher HF bands when out /P, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one… As the saying goes, “no pain, no gain” though.

Talking from my own personal experience, the A-99 /P will out perform a fishing pole and wire antenna 17m thru 10m, however, YMMV.

Catch ya on the flip side, Mark… :wink:

Mike 2E0YYY

PS. Apologies for my last aborted activation attempt of G/SP-11 Freeholds Top, I hope to work you from there in the not too distant future.

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom,

Well Done on what will always be my “Favourite Summit”, I only wish I had the confidence to camp out overnight on it!!!

Excellent report also, including the usual Gastronomic Menu! Hi

I like the 86 contacts on 2m ssb, it reinstates my belief in that band/mode.



Thanks Steve, Mark, Mike, Tony & Jimmy.

The webpage is now complete at

The photos are all on there, including my backpacking tent on the summit, and the remarkable “Armchair Rock” which provided my shack/operating position for the 2m SSB contest and subsequent 2m FM ops.

Already starting to formulate some plans and ideas in my mind for a repeat expedition in 12 months!



In reply to M1EYP:
Wow Tom,

This is an awfully good read and a great achievement in QSO’s. It is wearying to keep operating so long but you must have felt great after you got back. Just the sort of thing I love doing minus a couple of hundred QSO’s HI.

Like the sleeping bag at £7!!

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:

Like the sleeping bag at £7!!

I was in big Tescos at Handforth Dean yesterday and it’s back up to its normal price of £39.95 again. Looks like I got a bargain. It’s light (900g), very compact, and it worked - kept me warm and cosy through the night. It certainly won’t have hi-spec performance at that price, but for an August campover on NW-012, it was up to the job.

Thanks for the nice comments John.


In reply to M1EYP:
The trouble with down bags is that although they have superb loft and can be very warm, they are very compressible so give practically no ground insulation, this means you have to pay attention to ground insulation by other means. I prefer a good hollow-fibre bag myself! That said, what a fantastic bargain!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to M1EYP:
Hi tom it was great to work you nw012 and even better reading about your exploits on the summitt from your web page keep up the good work hope to work you again soon Dave M3XIE

Ever since the 2011 backpacking activation of Cadair Berwyn, I have longed to do something similar again. Several objectives and aspirations were wrapped up in this. Could I make an ever higher number of QSOs from a single activation? Could I win the 2m RSGB UKAC (10 watt section)? Could I get Liam to accompany me on a multi-day backpacking expedition?

Having identified the dates (4th, 5th and 6th August 2014), secured Liam’s willingness to come along and decided I would camp close to the trig point (827m) on Cadair Berwyn GW/NW-012, it was time to prepare a few things.

From Maplins, I purchased a couple of solar charger units - handheld battery packs with a solar panel on one side. From eBay I obtained the lead to connect Liam’s Nintendo 3DS to a charger (USB) for overnight topping up. I already had a USB to Samsung connector lead for my phone.

We already had sleepmats from previous camping trips, but they have seen better days and I saw a couple of foil-backed sleepmats at a very cheap price in Tesco. The same store also had a ultra lightweight duck down sleeping bag for Liam (I already had one).

My initial choice for antenna was the end-fed + Micro Z tuner for lightweight multi-band capability. I later changed this to the 20m groundplane - a proven antenna for amassing large numbers of QSOs and with DX potential. Also going along would be the SB5 beam for the 2m contest.

The final thing to sort out was the grub. I decided that we should start the expedition with a hearty cooked meal at the Tan-y-Pistyll Café (at Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall) on the Monday - and end it in similar fashion on the Wednesday. In between we would need five meals, and we sorted this with a bit of shopping at Booths in Knutsford (where we also had breakfast) on the way out on the Monday morning. The meals chosen were: Goat’s cheese tart, Duck and hoisin sauce wrap, Scotch eggs, Thai style chicken wrap and steak & kidney suet pudding. Chocolate covered Kendal Mint Cake was added for back-up sustenance and energy-boosting.

We arrived at the cafe around 2pm on Monday 4th August 2014, and after a wander along to the waterfall, had lunch there. For me, this was cannelloni and chips. We also paid for a couple of nights’ parking in the secure retreat campsite beside the cafe. After lunch we returned to the car, and booted and kitted up. Our packs were heavy; it was a beautiful warm sunny afternoon, so fleeces and coats added to the payload on our backs. “It’s pretty heavy” remarked Liam, and I assured him that it would get lighter before the descent, as we would be eating the food and drinking the water. If he thought his was heavy, he should have tried mine!

It was busy at the cafe. It was busy at the waterfall. And it was busy on the steep route between the two. “Nearly there now” we were assured by daytrippers setting off back down to the cafe from the top of the waterfall. Of course, they had no suspicion that we were heading for Cadair Berywn summit, and we still had a fair old way to go.

That first section of path from the cafe to the top of the waterfall was new to me. However, from this point, I would be backtracking along my 2011 descent route, but this time in good clear weather with stunning views. This ridge walk traverses the tops of Trum Felen, Moel Sych and Cadair Berwyn itself. While hardly congested, plenty of people were out walking between the cafe and Cadair Berwyn.

However, at Cadair Berwyn summit, that’s where everyone else’s interest ended. Liam and I continued to the trig point on the next rise in the ground, the trig point at 827m ASL. The saddle between at 808m was just about high enough to mean that the trig point area was unquestionably in the activation zone. I just figured that this might be a marginally quieter spot on which to set up camp for two nights. I wasn’t wrong - we didn’t see a single other soul on there!

My Karrimor backpacking tent went up without a hitch, and Liam assisted in setting out the sleepmats and down bags. I outlined a plan for storing our rucksacks and boots in the tent porch area, and got on with the main business of doing some radio. I decided to kick-off, uncharacteristically, with 2m FM. Between 7.15pm and 9.23pm, I made 39 QSOs on VHF, with all containing a good old natter. The weather was stunning and I really enjoyed sitting out in the setting sun in shirt sleeves, and enjoying the wonderful views. “This is what wild camping is all about” I thought - somewhat prematurely as it transpired.

After business dried up on 2m FM, I replaced the beam with the 20m GP on the SOTA Pole, and attended to the important matters of an evening meal (Scotch eggs) and medication for both Liam and I. It was now time to resite the radio gear in my corner of the tent, just by the top end of my sleepmat. The side pockets of the Karrimor tent were useful in arranging my radio and accessories conveniently.

The first thing I heard was VA2VL/P on VE2/QC-027, but I couldn’t get through the pile-up. As such, 20m kicked off with an SWL logging! Just four contacts were made on 20m CW. It was nearing 11pm local, and I decided to get some sleep, and simply start operating again whenever I woke up - however early that was.

I awoke shortly after 0300 UTC (4am local) on Tuesday 5th July 2014. By 0325z I was QRV on 20m CW and working a long run of stations. Liam remained fast asleep alongside me, although I was sorely tempted to wake him up to share my excitement at being called by VK2KM and VK8AV. I was surprised to have a reply coming back from KC9W (TN) at 0654z.

The SOTAwatch page on my phone indicated a couple of 20m S2S opportunities, but like the first, both got no further than the SWL log. These were OH3KRH/P on OH/JS-022 and SV2KGA/P on SV/TL-059. I then moved onto 20m SSB, and enjoyed another lengthy run. This time I did make the contact with OH3KRH/P on OH/JS-022. Liam, now awake, and I celebrated with a breakfast of duck wraps.

Contacts continued apace on both 20m CW and SSB throughout the morning, and at 1103z, I finally netted my first S2S of the expedition - F/ON4OOO/P on F/NO-073. Like London buses, this was then immediately followed by CT/OE5RTP/P and CT/OE5IRO/P on CT/AA-002.

I continued to flip between 20m CW and 20m SSB, and continued to enjoy plenty of interest and busy frequencies. More S2S came courtesy of EB2GKK/P on EA2/VI-001. The goat’s cheese tarts were consumed for lunch. Around 2pm, I was pottering around outside the tent and noticed a thick grey vertical wall advancing quickly from the south. Views to all other directions were clear - until the thick grey stuff enveloped me. Soon I was being pelted by some of the largest raindrops I have ever seen, and this soon became a downpour. I quickly retreated into the tent, and attempted to resume operating. But all I could hear was loud clicking across the band, quickly followed by the unmistakable blanking effect of noise caused by static rain. I grabbed a dry sock and used it as insulation while disconnecting the feeder from the radio.

This was a major blow to my ambitious QSO total aspirations, but sensible decisions had to be made to look after own safety, and indeed that of the rig. I waited for the rain to pass, then waited for another hour to pass without interruption. By now, the sun was out and the views were back. The QRT break lasted 1 hour and 49 minutes, but at 1522z I was QRV on 20m SSB once again.

As traffic dried up on 20m CW around 5.30pm BST, I took the opportunity to take down the 20m GP and put up the 2m beam. I did so with vertical polarisation initially, in order to work some 2m FM contacts. A 50 minute break was taken before the contest, and Liam and I noshed our tea of steak & kidney puddings and Thai style chicken wraps.

My planning was thrown into chaos around 6.30pm with another heavy rain shower, and the station was quickly returned inside the tent. I had really wanted to operate “alfresco” for the UKAC, but it was not to be. I harboured hopes of being able to relocate outside at same point in the contest session, but the weather had other ideas. Even after 10.30pm BST I had to brave the worsening wind and rain as I swapped the antennas once again.

I continued operating on 20m until twenty minutes before midnight, at which time I decided sleep was a better option. But with radios off (and disconnected from antennas), and with lights out, Liam and I could focus on the rapidly deteriorating weather. This poor weather simply had not been forecast but a rather hideous and slightly frightening storm was in progress right around us. Fortunately, there was no evidence or observation of lightning or rumbles of thunder, but the wind and rain was violent nonetheless.

At least, my Karrimor backpacking tent was subjected to its first major examination, and it came through with flying colours. “Should we abandon the expedition?” asked Liam. I replied that if it was daytime, we most likely would. However, an attempt to get down this mountain at night in dreadful weather, would be even more stupid than camping there in the first place! Fortunately, I was tired, so was not prevented from getting to sleep.

On Wednesday 6th August 2014, I found myself awake shortly after 5am. The weather was persistent light rain, but with no indication of any static when I started listening to the background noise on 20m. I managed to make plenty of contacts on both CW and SSB.

Liam awoke and immediately reflected on the rain he could hear falling on the tent roof. “I think we should just stay here in the tent until the rain stops before unpitching and descending”. That suited me, and I was in full agreement. A bonanza of S2S was enjoyed in this morning session, with S52CU/P on S5/CP-025, OE5YYN/P and OE5AUL/P on OE/KT-116, OE/DM5ML/P on OE/VB-420, F/HB9AFI/P on F/AB-414, TK/DL1ASA/P on TK/TK-103 and OE9FWV/P on OE/KT-222.

At 0938z (10.38am BST), I worked G3OKA. Several G stations had checked my spotted frequency during the morning, with the surprise result that the skip was short. But with the G3OKA contact, the frequency was empty. Moreover, the rain had stopped and looked like it would finally remain stopped. Packaway, with Liam and I working in unison, was very quick and we were soon commencing our descent.

I intended making a circular of this walk, and so curved leftwards ahead of Moel Sych to follow the main path down to Llyn Lluncaws. This path is notoriously “airy” in places, and the paths was wet, muddy and greasy. I elected to walk a few metres to the right of the path, keeping the hell away from that cliff edge! By the time we were nearly down at the Llyn, it had become a scorching hot sunny afternoon. Liam and I delayered and consumed some water and Kendal Mint Cake.

Liam’s body responded well to the KMC and he was soon tearing away from me on the green path back down the valley to the cafe. I couldn’t move myself any faster! We were at the cafe around 1.30pm, which was very busy, as was the waterfall area and paths nearby. Liam and I agreed to have a “starter” of ice cream to cool down. Liam then enjoyed lasagne and chips, while I elected for the magnificent steak and mushroom pudding.

Radio summary as follows:

Monday 4th August 2014 - total 44 QSOs
20m CW: 4
2m FM: 40

Tuesday 5th August 2014 - total 419 QSOs
20m CW: 206
20m SSB: 106
2m SSB: 87
2m FM: 20

Wednesday 6th August 2014 - total 127 QSOs
20m CW: 96
20m SSB: 31

Totals - 590 QSOs
20m CW: 306
20m SSB: 137
2m SSB: 87
2m FM: 60


On Monday morning, 11th August 2014, Jimmy M0HGY, Liam and I set out to pick up Edward 2E0NSR (Jimmy’s mate), not so much for a backpacking activation, but we would be under canvas again just a week later from Liam and I’s Cadair Berwyn wild camp (see above).

In order to avoid some unpleasant recent experiences from antisocial people and ineffective management on campsites, a few days earlier I joined the Camping and Caravanning Club. We booked a pitch on the members only site at Rhandirmwyn, near Llandovery. We arrived on the Monday afternoon to find a quiet, clean (the toilet and shower block was in fact, unfeasibly immaculate) and very well-managed site. The three night stay ended up being very peaceful and disturbance free - so joining the club appeared to be a sensible move.

Before bed on the Monday night, we set out to get an activation under our belts. Jimmy directed me to Craig y Llyn GW/SW-010. This was not exactly close to the campsite, but Jimmy had identified it was being a very easy and accessible walk to do on our arrival afternoon, and at 600m ASL, a four-pointer as well.

The walk initially follows the roadside from a small parking area with a terrific view over steeply plunging ground. This road is nearly at 500m ASL, hence the 1km walk to the summit was never particularly steep. The path follows the edge of the escarpment and then the edge of the forest. Eventually, we turned left into the wooded area and found the trig point. And several portcabins, normal road cars and workers. It turned out they were working on a gas pipeline.

After photos we retreated from the site area and back to the woodside path. As we pondered a suitable site to set up, along came Mal GW6OVD who Jimmy had been in touch with. This was a most pleasant surprise; it is always nice to meet the local SOTA people when away from home.

Jimmy and Edward got their four each on 2m FM, but I struggle on 40m CW. My memories had somehow all mashed up on my Palm Cube, so I was having to key everything. 25 minutes operating netted just three QSOs on 40m CW, so with the clock approaching 8pm, I tail-ended one of Edward’s 2m FM contacts to get the all-important fourth.

After descent, it was a long drive back to Llandovery, and kebabs and pizzas from Ozzy’s take-away for supper. The campsite had a curfew of 11pm, at which time the gates would be locked, so we were conscious to be safely back on site by then. As usual, an excellent night’s sleep was had by Edward, Liam and myself, and a rubbish one reported by Jimmy.

The next morning we would head to Fan Brycheiniog GW/SW-003.


Tuesday morning, 12th August 2014, nearly became Tuesday afternoon. All four of us were absolutely whacked after the previous day and ended up dozing around in the tent until gone 10am. Eventually, Nutri-Grain breakfasts were consumed and we were on the road back through Llandovery, following Jimmy’s directions.

The target this time was Fan Brycheiniog GW/SW-003, one of the iconic summits in the Brecon Beacons. We parked in the small off-road area at SN852217, from where a PROW was not indicated on the OS Explorer map we had, but was advised to Jimmy M0HGY by Mal GW6OVD. Sure enough, this path does appear on the online OS Get-a-map facility.

Anyway, the path was definitely there, albeit faint and easy to mislay in places. The line was obvious though, as we headed for the lowest point of the ridge ahead Bwlch Giedd, with the distinctive summit of Fan Brycheiniog rising to its right.

A sudden and heavy shower slowed our progress as we neared the climb onto the ridge, beside the beautiful water of Llyn y Fan Fawr. Our trousers all got completely soaked, but the shower was short lived and the wind soon got to work on drying us out just as swiftly. I even managed to enjoy watching the rain helplessly and harmlessly beading on the surface of my lovely new Berghaus jacket. Nothing penetrated my new boots either, a budget £45 pair of Hi-Gear boots which are almost weirdly light and very comfortable. How long they will last is another matter!

Jimmy handed round the Kendal Mint Cake ahead of the steeper climb onto the ridge. This was relatively easy though, for almost out of nothing, a well-made path now appeared beneath our feet. I had to admit to being a little unnerved by the very steep drop down to the lake, lurking uncomfortably close to the edge of the path. I pressed on and tried not to think about it!

The final amble to the summit was easy on a well-established path, but the summit itself was hostile and unpleasant, being battered by gale force wind. There would be no chance of setting up proper VHF or HF antennas in such conditions. First priority though was to hunker down in the substantial shelter on the summit, and have our sandwiches for lunch.

Although all the gear had been carried up, we unanimously decided to attempt to qualify using just the 2m handheld transceivers. This wasn’t trivial, and took about half-an-hour for all three of us to get the requisite four QSOs. We descended by reversing our ascent route, and Liam tore off ahead, showing the best energy of the four of us, something that he would repeat on these South Wales activations. How times have changed!

After reaching the car, we started to think about food and drink ahead of our intended evening activation of Mynydd Eppynt GW/SW-018.


An early tea was in order ahead of the contest activation on Tuesday 12th August 2014. We liked the look of the Usk & Railway Inn in Sennybridge, and went in around 4.15pm. “Are you doing food?” I asked. “Yes, if you don’t mind waiting 45 minutes” was the reply. That was fine by us, so we did. However, when we did try to order some meals at 5pm, we got told to wait a further 45 minutes as a table for 15 had just come in and there was a mix-up in the bookings. I expressed that I was unimpressed and left.

Further down the road was a clubhouse for a caravan park that was serving drinks and food to non-residents. The ham, egg and chips went down very well, and we were then set to head out for Mynydd Eppynt GW/SW-018.

In the preceding days, Jimmy M0HGY had been in touch with the military office regarding firing times and access to the summit. This was denied regardless of firing times, with the stated reason being the presence of unexploded ordnance in the area. We pulled the car off road into the military road entrance at SN963466 and walked the short distance to the barrier at SN962466. At approximately 465m ASL, this spot was around 13m lower than the true summit, which lay around 300m to our south west. Hence we were comfortably inside the activation zone under SOTA rules, although it was disappointing nonetheless not to be able to access the actual summit.

That sense of disappointment eased somewhat after dark, when loud bangs could be heard from that area, together the horizon being lit up by a firy yellow and orange glow! Meanwhile, I set up the 70cm SOTAbeam, hoping to have at least some take-off for the UKAC. Jimmy and Edward set up the SOTAbeams MFD for 2m FM.

The two 21 year olds both got their required four QSOs on 2m FM, while I made a lowly yet sufficient 14 on 70cm SSB. Jimmy wandered over to my station and made three QSOs in the 432MHz event for a token entry, while Edward added a fifth QSO on 2m.

By 9.30pm it was clear that extracting much more from the 70cm contest was going to be taxing, so I packed up and adjusted my aspirations to the Royal Oak at Rhandirmwyn near our campsite, for a nightcap. A local cider and a Penderyn whisky provided such most agreeably. Another good night’s sleep beckoned.


The forecast for Wednesday 13th August 2014 was much the same - showers with sunny spells. Rather than a full day’s expedition on Fan Nedd GW/SW-007 and Fan Gyhirych GW/SW-006, wich had been originally pencilled in by Jimmy, we opted for a couple of one pointers with a drive between them, ensuring that shelter was never far away.

For Trichrug GW/SW-022, we accessed the public byway south of the summit, and drove up to Bwlch y Gors where I parked. For the ascent, we followed the fence as it clung to the ridgeline. This was not the best approach as it required us to stride over a barbed wire fence about a third of the way up. By this stage, we could see a better and unimpeded line below us to the left. That was earmarked for the descent later.

At the summit, I set up the end-fed and tuner, and wedged myself in a narrow sheltered spot between dry stone wall and barbed wire fence. Just five QSOs on 40m CW, and one on 40m SSB. The band did not appear to be in great shape and I wondered about trying on 20m instead. I checked on the progress of Jimmy and Edward, and found that they had both qualified on 2m FM. So I abandoned thoughts of 14MHz operation and started packing up instead.

We descended down the line identified during the ascent, and this worked well. A spectacular drive over the Black Mountains followed, and a brief lunch stop in Cwmllynfell, before we made our way to Mynydd Allt-y-grug GW/SW-032.


The second summit of Wednesday 13th August 2014, and the final one of five on our camping trip, was Mynydd Allt-y-grug GW/SW-032. We drove up steep roads through a housing estate out of the Swansea Valley, then onto a minor road where we parked at SN742073.

After initially walking a few hundred yards along a level path through the woods, the situation on the ground lost all resemblance to the OS Explorer mapping. We bore right onto a long straight ramp type path gaining height up the side of the hill. At the top of this, the path angled right again reaching a wall corner at SN746077.

The path turned right again to gain a little more height along side the wall and fence. We hoped there would be opportunity to cross at some point. Sure enough, at the highest point of this section of path, there was a clearly well used option to step over the fence and onto the more level paths and tracks that criss-cross the summit area. Ten minutes or so later, we were standing at the official summit, which is the south-west one of the pair of twin peaks.

It was another unremarkable activation for me radio-wise, with just six QSOs on 40m CW. Again, with both Jimmy and Edward reporting success in qualifying on 2m FM, my thoughts turned to getting back to the campsite in time for a shower before dinner. A couple of instances of short-lived light rain threatened on the descent, but nothing to worry about.

An enjoyable night was spent in the Towy Bridge Inn, eating faggots, chips, peas and onion gravy, and drinking Welsh OSB ale and Penderyn whisky. The forecast for the Thursday was bobbins, so we agreed to simply unpitch the tent and head home the next morning.

This year’s camping trip was quite unlike 2013, when we had a full week in the Isle of Man, and excellent weather thrown in. Time was limited between my Sunday Blackpool gig and Edward’s Friday photography work, and further pressured due to some rather damp weather. Nonetheless, five activations that were all new uniques for all three of us was not too bad a return.


In reply to M1EYP:
Too bad the weather turned against you.
South Wales has seen some splendid weather this year.

Beginning of July saw me wrapping up again to fight off the cold north wind on Fan Brycheiniog for the first time since April!
Obviously not as windy as your recent visit, but the summit shelter (shared with 5 other hikers) was very welcome!
At least the sun shone.


Great video Pete, I enjoyed that, especially so soon after my first ever visit to that mountain, and using exactly the same route you did.

Fortunately the weather wasn’t a complete washout, and we were able to duck and weave within three consecutive “heavy shower days” to get five activations done.

The most challenging weather was that Liam and I faced up to on our Cadair Berwyn wild camp - details further back up this thread - the week before. That was proper threatening stuff, but we had the experience, knowledge and gear between us to survive 3 days / 2 nights on the mountain - and make rather a lot of SOTA QSOs!

Thanks again for the FB video.


I have now entered my logs for the Cadair Berwyn 3-day / 2-night backpacking activation, and with elimination of dupes, adjust the totals as follows:

Monday 4th August 2014 - total 44 QSOs
20m CW: 4
2m FM: 40

Tuesday 5th August 2014 - total 419 QSOs
20m CW: 206
20m SSB: 106
2m SSB: 87
2m FM: 20

Wednesday 6th August 2014 - total 127 QSOs
20m CW: 96
20m SSB: 31

Totals - 590 QSOs
20m CW: 306
20m SSB: 137
2m SSB: 87
2m FM: 60