Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

Didn't we have a lovely time...?

…the day we went to Bangor. But what a long day it was. Very enjoyable though, and the SOTA didn’t even start until the following morning.

Now what is the most perfect way to begin the bank holiday weekend? How about running the XYL to the airport? Can that be beaten?

Well, so it was, and an almost Gerald-esque get-up was at 4.45am on Saturday morning, so I could drive Marianne to Ringway. She was spending a few days in hospital with her dad in Larne, Co. Antrim (now happily making a very good recovery from his operation on Friday), so there was I with the lads to entertain for the weekend. Which I did, although I just can’t bring myself to add up the cost!

After returning from the airport run, we got our cases and rucksacks packed, and got in the car. First port of call was Knutsford for the fair. I had promised Liam a few rides and a look around, so we spent an hour attacking each other on the dodgems and eating burgers and corn-on-the-cobs.

Continuing westwards, we drove to Chester, and the Deva Stadium for Chester City v Macclesfield Town, the last match of the season for two teams now safe from relegation and therefore nothing to play for. And it showed. After one rocket against the crossbar from a certain John Rooney (younger brother of Wayne) in the first half, the players on both sides seemed to call it a day for the season and saw out the remaining hour or so at a rather pedestrian pace. Mind you, I couldn’t blame them. In contrast to the forecast of three days’ heavy rain over the bank holiday, the sun was blazing in to the Deva Stadium in oppressive fashion.

Westwards again, this time on the A55, after securing three beds for the night at Bangor Youth Hostel. Approaching Kinmel Bay, we 'phoned Roger MW0IDX and called in for a drink and chat for about an hour or so. It was nice to meet Roger’s XYL Sue for the first time and have a look at Roger’s shack and guitars, while Jimmy and Liam played ten-pin bowling on Wii.

After that most pleasant interlude - and sensible rest from driving having been up since the early hours - we were on the road again, but only a short distance to our rendezvous for dinner - the Bengal Palace restaurant in Colwyn Bay. This is a favourite of ours, and we weren’t disappointed.

We checked in at Bangor Youth Hostel, a new one for Jimmy and I, but not for Liam, who had been here on a school trip in recent years. The boys went more or less straight to bed. I sat with other hostellers in the lounge attempting to stay awake while watching Match of the Day. I failed, gave in and hauled myself up to bed during the highlights of only the second featured game.

No SOTA on the outing yet! We very nearly did Hope Mountain GW/NW-062 after the match, but thought better of it. But at least we were now on the doorstep of our target hills ready for tomorrow - or so we thought!

Tom M1EYP

As usual, the agenda was all about repeating the hills we had already done, but prior to Jimmy becoming licensed. Hence the plan of action for the Sunday was Mynydd Nodol GW/NW-048 and Mwdwl-eithin GW/NW-047.

We would start with the former, there being a chance that Roger and Sue would meet us later on the latter for a joint afternoon walk and activation. In fact, Bangor was nowhere near Mynydd Nodol, and nearly an hour’s drive was required. We had tried to get beds at Capel Curig, Betws, Ffinnon Wen etc which would have been more convenient, but booking last minute on a bank holiday weekend in Snowdonia is never going to produce a wide portfolio of Youth Hostel options!

Our circuituous route via Blaenau Ffestiniog had us approaching Mynydd Nodol from the East, and we decide to attempt to approach the summit from the south-east rather than south-west, further up the road between it and Arenig Fawr GW/NW-011. A large parking area at SH861384 was used, and we set off following the wall and indistinct path up towards the summit. Upon reaching a wall, Jimmy called out that he had found a red seat foam mat tucked between some stones. It was a ‘Hi-Gear’ make one, exactly the same as one we lost as it blew off Snowdon in July 2003. It even had the same bits damaged as Liam had done to ours back then, scratching bits off rubber out with his fingernails! Could it really be the same one we had lost nearly five years ago? I declared to the boys that it was, it had to be (plus we needed a new one anyway, and I had forgotten to buy one on the way across). So - reunited. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Beyond the wall, we reached the steeper flanks which were covered in thick deep heather. We slowly zigzagged a way up through the gaps, eventually emerging by a cairn at the edge of the summit plateau. A more distinct path now swung around from the right, indeed the way we approached back iat Christmas 2004. We followed this path to the summit, marked by a large cairn. Although there was slight wind and fine patchy drizzle, it was a much less hostile place than 3.6 years ago, and unlike then, we got some decent photographs.

With another summit to follow, one that I remembered to be less than trivial, I decided to reclaim the time lost on the steep heather ascent by undertaking a 2m handheld activation, using the RSS. Jimmy and I quickly made plenty of contacts in short order, and we were on our way.

The steep drop down the heathery bank was just as slow and uncomfortable as the ascent, but once at the wall we could relax with only a short easy grassy stroll to the car remaining. We sat down on the wall and served up the first portion of soup of the day. I had remember to pack extra cups, so we were able to enjoy the soup together! Today is was Heinz Soups of the World Indian Mild Chicken Curry soup. The Heinz Soups of the World range come in larger 515g cans, so just two of them (as opposed to 3 normal sized cans) fill my 1 litre flask.

We returned to the car and set off for Mwdwl-eithin NW-047.

Tom M1EYP

From Mynydd Nodol GW/NW-048, we made for the A543, looking for the disused quarry that marks the start point for Mwdwl-eithin GW/NW-047. The conversation in the car journey became anxious, as Jimmy struggled to rationalise the summit heights and SOTA reference numbers:

GW/NW-046 Rhialgwm 540m
GW/NW-047 Mwdwl-eithin 532m
GW/NW-048 Mynydd Nodol 539m

We knew that there was at least one other Mwdwl-eithin in North Wales, but that was even lower at 470m ASL. What if there was a third, and my two previous activations were null and void? We decided to go for it anyway, confident that the summit activated also by Roger MW0IDX and Shirley MW0YLS must be the right one. (And happily confirmed since we got home that it is!).

We pulled in at the disused quarry at SH899548, sat down on the pleasant grassy banks and finished the soup ahead of the ascent. The weather remained mild and dry, despite news of the storms and downpours that were reportedly hitting the Lleyn, Anglesey, Cheshire and Lancashire. It seemed we were lucky.

The walk over the bleak moorland towards the raised summit of Mwdwl-eithin was a joy. It was surprisingly firm and level under foot, making for good going and rapid progress - even by Liam! We turned right at the fence and followed it to the foot of the main summit lump. Here, we followed a well-trodden albeit muddy track through the heather to the summit, featured with two large cairns, trig point and large walled shelter.

We had made good time, so I decided to go for an 80m HF activation. The trig point still had a deep hole in it with the cap missing, so erecting the pole was easy. We didn’t make many contacts, but more than enough, me on 3.557 CW and Jimmy on 3.660 SSB as usual. We relaxed in the shelter, munching on Hob Nob flapjack bars, noticing that the skies were darkening. Looking around, while we remained dry, we were completely encircled by heavy rain and black skies. I instructed Jimmy to lead his brother on a start to the descent, while I packed everything away. Jimmy informed me of the navigation strategy for the descent, and set off into the gloom.

I set off ten minutes later after packing all the gear away, and followed in the boys’ footsteps, following Jimmy’s instructions. Occasionally I caught site of them in the distance. I did catch them up about a third of the way into the descent, but then, as usual on here, we “missed” the direction to the track down to the quarry and ended up 100m north of it on higher ground. That was soon corrected, and we were soon back at the car.

It was now time to start 'phoning around the hostels again, and our first choice - Bryn Gwynant - was full. To my surprise, our second choice - Pen-y-Pass could accommodate us, so it was to there we headed. And what an excellent hostel. Great staff, large and spacious on the ground floor, comfy beds in rooms, good en suite shower, delcious meals and a bar! Great! We didn’t eat out; we stayed in and enjoyed the very good home cooked fayre.

Bedding in Youth Hostels seems to have evolved this last year. No sign of sleeping bag sheets anywhere. Now, you get a packet with two pillowcases, fitted sheet and duvet cover. It is much more comfortable.

Tom M1EYP

I awoke early on Bank Holiday Monday morning - before 6am, so left Jimmy and Liam sleeping and went downstairs to make up the flask of Chinese Chicken & Sweetcorn soup (another Heinz Soups of the World) and fill the bladders. I peered out of the front window of Pen-y-Pass Youth Hostel with dismay. It was a hot sunny morning, with Crib Goch standing before me dissecting a clear deep blue sky. Doh! If Liam was at home, then Jimmy and I would have been straight up the Glyders on a day like today. Still, it wasn’t to be, and Glyder Fawr GW/NW-003, Tryfan GW/NW-006, Y Garn GW/NW-004 and Elidir Fawr GW/NW-005 will have to wait for another day.

I had tried to book in to Pen-y-Pass Youth Hostel on a bed-only basis. Not to be, the hostel only offered bed-and-breakfast accommodation. So it was more costly, and forced us to endure an extra hour in bed (well, the lads at least) and a full buffet breakfast.

We certainly tucked in to that breakfast, returning several times to the buffet as we worked our way through courses of yoghurt, fruit juice, cereal, croissant, pan au chocolat, toast, tea, and of course bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, beans and hash brown. Excellent it was too - recommended. In fact it was a brilliant youth hostel all round - we will be back.

Slightly reluctantly, I backed my car off the front of the hostel, turned it around and dropped down the hill. We turned right down the A498 towards Beddgelert, and down past Nant Gwynant (site of the first SOTA barbecue and camp in 2003) and the start of the Watkin Path. We parked in a lay-by at SH612493 and commenced our walk through a gate on the opposite side of the road.

We were soon walking around the south end of Llyn Dinas, and staring with awe at the mountains high above use, all poking into that empty blue sky. The day promised much, even on the lower hills. Mind you, we still had a fair old climb ahead of us, as you do when you commence as 50m ASL!

We were soon heading southwards, cutting steeply upwards away from the lake on a fine mountain path heading over towards Beddgelert. This was brilliant, scenic and immediately rewarding mountain walking, up along Grib Ddu. We bore left at SH604481 and again at SH604477, as we then, more or less, followed the wire fence to the summit. Doing so directly necessitates several steep scrambles, but we found more graded paths around most of them. However, we couldn’t find a way around the tallest steepest and nastiest little scramble, so it was hands to the floor and face to the rock time! After that, the path continues to wind upwards, uses a coupl of ladder stiles to go back and forth either side of the wall and fence, and pulls out onto the lofty narrow summit, our destination for the day.

We weren’t planning a second summit, so we took it easy and relaxed. It remained hot and sunny, with clear uninterrupted views. Snowdon GW/NW-001, Crib Goch, Y Lliwedd GW/NW-008, Yr Aran GW/NW-019, Moel Hebog GW/NW-014, Moelwyn Mawr GW/NW-016, Moel-ddu GW/NW-045 and Moel Siabod GW/NW-010 surrounded us, standing tall and proud, punctuated only be the Irish Sea at Tremdog Bay.

I spent quite a while getting the pole up with both the 80m and 40m dipoles on it. The fence running over the summit ridge was useful for supporting the pole, but I don’t know why I bothered with 80m. It was too near the middle of the day and too near the middle of the year for it to be any good. It was flat as a pancake. 40m wasn’t in much better shape, but I did make 7 contacts on 40m CW, including a S2S with Ian GW8OGI/P on Glyder Fawr GW/NW-003. Other S2S came on 2m FM courtesy of Alun 2W0CYM/P on Moel Eilio GW/NW-022, Steve 2W0KPO/P on Y Lliwedd GW/NW-008 and Iain MW3WJZ/P on Pen Llithrig y Wrach GW/NW-013. In fact, Jimmy’s four contacts were made up of exclusively S2S with those four hills, but with Eleri MW3NYR/P on the microphone on 2m FM for the first one.

We lounged around for about three hours on this wonderful little oasis in Snowdonia, lapping up the sunshine, sipping soup and water, taking photos, staring dreamily at the other mountains and, every now and then, making a few contacts. Reluctantly we started to pack away as the afternoon wore on. Liam commenced his descent, and to my surprise (and pleasure), he was already safely down all the steep scrambles by the time Jimmy and I caught up with him.

We then walked with a chatted to three ladies from the Netherlands as they too descended the same route after walking up from Beddgelert. Liam cracked up laughing as he spotted a couple of young children skinny-dipping in Llyn Dinas, and we were soon at the car.

It was a long drive home, especially with the notorious bank holiday jams on the A55. I skirted round most of the worst of them using the coast roads, but it was still near midnight by the time we had got home, had a pudding and chips supper, had baths and got all our school stuff ready for Tuesday morning!

A fantastic day in Snowdonia.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:
Nice reports Tom… Thanks.

…No sign of sleeping bag sheets anywhere.

What! No straitjackets any more? The YHA must be going soft (commercial?)

73 Marc G0AZS

I was talking about this with Richard G3CWI yesterday. YHs now have TVs, licensed bars, restaurant style menus, night-access codes/keys. You can stay there as a non-member (£3 supplement), and now, to top it all, the beds are comfortable!

For a family, it’s hardly any cheaper (if at all) than staying at a hotel, bed & breakfast or Travel Inn. But they are quieter, in nicer locations, and attracting, generally some nicer like-minded people who are also there for the peace and quiet.

Yes, I very much enjoyed these last two hostels, and the comfort experienced was in a new league. It’s only cheap if I stay on my own these days though! Which Jimmy will not allow me to do…

Tom