For Backpackers session 3, I elected to try Tal y Fan GW/NW-040. It wasn’t a great contest site. It could be, with more activity from EI, GI, GD and GM - but there wasn’t. But more of that later.

Of course, we couldn’t consider a run out to Tal y Fan without bagging the easy point from Great Orme GW/NW-070. Well, me anyway. Jimmy M3EYP had already done this one in 2010, on a trip with his mates in which they, rather nobly, walked up Great Orme from Llandudno town centre. This time however, we would be using the summit car park!

I began the day by picking up Jimmy’s mate Craig from Bollington at around 6.40am. I then returned home to pick up Jimmy and Liam, who was having a rare outing with us today. This gave the lads the extra minutes they seem to need to get ready compared to me! We then drove to Lymm Truck Stop for a slap-up cooked breakfast, before hitting the M56 and A55 to Llandudno.

Parking fee just below the summit was £1.10, and we exited the car into fierce westerly winds blowing across the coast. The idea was to get a very quick handheld activation done here, but it was to prove otherwise. Only one QSO each could be generated from such operating conditions, so we had to set up the SOTA Beam. Still QSOs were hard to come by, but eventually I got five and Jimmy got three. He already had his point, so that was not a problem.

As we retreated to the car, the wind was stronger still, and we were being bashed from side to side as we picked out way across the car park. Already, we were nearly one hour behind schedule, and resigned to a late start in the Backpackers contest.


Jimmy directed me as I drove from Great Orme GW/NW-070, through Llandudno Junction, Conwy and Rowen, up to the parking spot for Tal y Fan GW/NW-040. The pull-in nearest the stile was available, so we snagged that one and set off in light rain. The ground underfoot was firm - handy because both Liam and I had gone for this one in trainers - and the rain was being blasted across us from west to east. The notable effect of this was that the rainwater was beading on the right sleeves of our jackets, but wetting out on the left!

Rather than tackle the direct scramble to the summit on the ridge, we walked around it on the north side before cutting up a steep grassy bank. The weather was particularly grotty on the summit, with persistant rain and exposure to the very strong wind. It wasn’t optimum for a VHF contest, but I had no option other than to elect a position to the east of the summit and about 5m lower to afford some kind of meagre shelter.

By the time the tent was up, and the 2m SOTA Beam, it was 55 minutes into the contest. It was generally slow going all the way through and conditions weren’t great, but even so, 45 QSOs wasn’t great! Jimmy made a handful of QSOs, mainly to grab the S2S contacts that were on offer. I normally finish second to Rhys GW4RWR/P in these contests, but I think I will be struggling to achieve that this time!

Soup of the day was Baxters Cullen Skink (“luxury cream of smoked haddock”) which was excellent, plus various items from a stash of chocolate in Liam’s rucksack. Liam sat in the tent happily playing on his DSi throughout the four hours, while Craig enjoyed the views from the summit once they cleared after 3pm.

Jimmy, Craig and I were packing everything away when I noticed that Liam had disappeared! Craig said “He went up there” pointing to the sheep track back up to the trig point. Aha - that would be the descent route. Remembering Liam’s liking we beginning his descent when packing up started, I sent Jimmy off in pursuit. Shortly, I received a call on S20 from Jimmy to say that Liam had been found, and was indeed on the descent route.

By 5pm, we were all reconvened at the car, and setting off for home. After dropping Craig off, I took the lads to the Weston Balti for a treat for their tea. A good day out, if a rather mediocre contest performance.


Whenever we’ve been up there it’s always been via the wee scrambly route and I’ve seen that crazy-steep grassy track you’re on about Tom but my war-wounded knee has always put me off descending that way. I’ve seen people arriving at the trig from the East side. Has anyone ever walked around and been up this way? Never fancied those rocks if they’re slippy so it seems like a possible safe escape route if the wx turns.

Chris M1DTJ

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom, there seemed to be plenty of activity on Sunday from GI/EI on 2m SSB, certainly more in my log than ever before. Maybe they did not all hang around for the Backpackers. It was certainly very quiet for the last hour where it did not coincide with VHF field day, but I guess the 25th hour of a contest is not going to yield much new for those who had been on since 14:00 the day before. No GD or GM in the log here Sunday either, but I am told it was wall to wall high winds and driving rain from the Lakes up, so I guess the Backpackers packed their bags and went home.

Took me a long while to get through to you and Jimmy on Great Orme. It is not a good path from here but I now have the vertical elements on the beam. I was chucking 50w in to the 10 element and beaming straight at you, but when ever I called you did not hear me. When I called Jimmy he got me straight away, which has happened in the past as well. I think Jimmy’s rig must a fair bit more sensitive than yours ;0)

It took me a while to get you on Tal-Y-Fan as well but that was because I was not hearing you. I knew where you were working by hearing others working you. I gave up several times and then after a little session working John as GX0OOO on 80m from NP-008 Great Whernside and Caroline DL/G0WRW on 20m from DM/BW-642 Hochkopf I came back to 2 SSB and there you were, just in time, in the last few minutes of the contest.

Thanks for the chaser points. I just wish I had been around all weekend because I had loads of fun Sunday. It has surprised me that since the weekend so many people have said they did not realise it was VHF Field Day or the Backpackers. Some Field day stations did not stay around for the Backpackers either which was a pity. Maybe we need to shout about these things more before the events so more of us tune in and take part.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

Cheers Steve,

Wx on Great Orme was horrendous, and as you would expect, Jimmy’s 2m HH copes better than my wideband VX7 with the QRM up there.

Because the gales were still going strong on Tal y Fan, we reluctantly set up in a dip on the ridge, so were quite poor in a couple of directions. And deliberately beaming in any particular direction was virtually impossible!

I have done quite well in previous Backpackers in the face of poor weather, but you do need the good fortune of a wall that happens to be perpendicular to the prevailing wind!