Flying solo on GW/NW-002

Carnedd LLewelyn 18/03/09

This week the weather has been brilliant and with the forecast for settled conditions in North Wales a trip out was going to be inevitable.

Carnedd Llewelyn (GW/NW-002) has been on my hit list for quite a while being the last of the Welsh 10 pointers I had to do; Snowdon (GW/NW-001) was done last summer via Crib Goch and Glyder Fawr (GW/NW-003) in the December snow. I had attempted Carnedd Llewelyn last year, but in hindsight the conditions were too atrocious and without suitable equipment it would have been foolhardy.

Neither of my usual walking companions could make the day so I decided to do a solo assent as conditions look so good. I’m quite happy being out in my own company in the wilds but this was going to be the biggest climb I’ve done all on my own.

I started the day by getting up at 5:00am and bumbled about getting ready and packing things leaving home at 5:45. A quick 2 hour run up a quiet A5 and I arrived at the campsite at Gwern Gof Isaf where I paid my £1 for the parking. The walk started just after 8:00 by strolling to the reservoir service road. The roadway to Ffynnon Llugwy climbs steeply away from the A5 and by the time I had reached the bridge over the leet my calves were burning. The views down the valley were stunning with Tryfan (GW/NW-006) standing majestically in the morning sunshine with Adam and Eve on the summit silhouetted against a blue sky. Many of the higher summits sill had the remnants of the winter snow clinging stubbornly in a white patchwork as a reminder that it is sill early in the year.

As I reached the top of the road near the reservoir an amphitheatre of rock greeted me with no obvious path up and at this point the climb looked daunting. Here I also had my first view of my goal. As I got closer the slope became less intimidating with a well walked path being easy to follow. This first climb is relatively easy up to the ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog the next part looked more challenging though. You have to scramble to get over Craig yr’ Ysfa, not too difficult if you like that sort of thing but would not be pleasant if you don’t. This lump of rock leads to the gentle incline across Penywaun-wen with beyond that the steep climb to the summit.

The large, desolate, bolder strewn summit was reached just after 10:45. The climb up had been very pleasant with the temperature being just on the right side of being comfortable for such a walk. I sat for a while taking in the scenery and the quiet serenity of it all as I was the only person there. Views were limited by a mist which swathed the mountains in a gentle blanket but most of the summits I have been on recently were easy to pick out, it was good to be out on one of the big mountains where I could see where I was going for a change.

After a while I began to erect my HF dipoles. There is no possibility of using guy stakes so loops were tied suitable small rocks as there was no wind to worry about. My operating position was adjacent to the cairn sufficiently far enough away from the summit shelter to not disturb people, but that still did not stop a steady stream of people coming over to chat. It is not easy being inconspicuous with my set-up, a number of people asked if I had brought such a large structure up on my own, I even had one chap come over to me saying he saw the antenna from Carnedd Dyfedd and wondered what it was. It’s a good job I’m not shy.

I started the activation on 80 metres with a short chat with Helen (M0YHB) who said she felt ill and was going to stay at home and spot any band/frequency hops I made. I quickly worked through the subsequent mini pileup and then moved up to 60 metres. Once things had dried up I then went back to 80 to make 3 more contacts before being told that there was a 2 metre summit to summit possibility if I had the capability. I’ve done very few VHF activations since the HF bug bit so don’t usually carry any antennas but I’ve discovered the HF dipoles will receive and radiate on 2 metres (the SWR is high-ish but my FT-817 copes ok without the power folding back too much). Tuning to 144.320 MHz Nigel (G6SFP) was loud and clear and contact was made, the first of 4 for the day (actually 5 if you counted Caroline (M3ZCB) and Martyn (M1MAJ) separately). Just before I packed away I decided to make a few tentative calls on 40 metres not really expecting much with 5 Watts. A spot from Helen for 7.098 helped in making 3 contacts, not too bad for a band that was not at its best.

At 2:00pm I started to carefully put things away while still enjoying the vista. Before leaving the summit I had one last task to do. I will rarely search for geocaches on my own (and knowing Helen is unlikely to go to this summit because of the scrambles) I was instructed to look. I headed to the coordinates to be confronted by a boulder field with the clue for the cache hide being under a rock! Needlessly to say I found it, signed the log and replaced it where it was found. One last look around from the summit and it was time to leave, everyone else had left and you could see them making their way down the various routes with two groups heading across Penywaun-wen. It was now 3:00, plenty of time to get down safely. I had decided to go back the way I came up, anything I can climb up I can climb down is my reasoning.

I caught up with the groups I saw at the scramble down Craig yr’ Ysfa and followed them down. Chatting to them I found out that one group was an organised adventure walk and the second was a group of lads from the army. I past both groups while they rested before walking down the steep path to the reservoir, I’m a plodder once I’m moving I like to keep going. The decent took an hour and a half in the lovely afternoon sunshine. The trip had been highly successful; brilliant weather for late winter, good contacts and friendly people on the mountain, a day to remember.

Thank you to all the people I chatted to via radio, sorry if I missed any one who called.

Carolyn (G6WRW)

Equipment used: Yaesu FT-817nd @ 5 Watts on internal batteries: Antenna used was my HF hybrid linked/fan dipole for 80/60/40 metres, apex at 5 metres.

Contacts; 15 on 80 metres, 16 on 60 metres(including 2 summits to summits), 3 on 40 metres, 4 on 2 metres ssb (including one summit to summit) and one 2 metre fm summit to summit.

In reply to G6WRW:

Another very interesting report from you Carolyn incorporating a most useful description of the route - good information for those of us yet to climb this summit. It seems that the lengthy ascent really does make decent weather a pre-requisite and given good weather, the opportunity to undertake a lengthy stay on the summit playing radio certainly appeals. This could just slip out of my winter bonus folder into the summer one.

Well done on the successful undertaking of a challenging activation.

73, Gerald

In reply to G6WRW:
Hi Carolyn,

Thanks for a nice report which recreated the atmosphere of the mountain. I felt strangely calmed after reading it!

You had a nice day. I like the bit about the aerial being seen from the next-door mountaintop and the use of the dipole for 2m. I have also found that they work very well. What they loose on matching they gain on window size.

Your description of the summit area I remembered but I haven’t activated 002 since 2003 (with 013) & would love to go back.

What luxury to flit from band to band and take your time. I too am looking forward to some of that now that WB is over. Hours and hours on one top!

You met some nice people; mountain people are of course. It’s surprising how many ask about the activity and I have yet to receive a single adverse comment. Once we leave our cars behind we all chill!

You had no companion but I think the safest place for a lone girl is on a mountain (rather than a city street, for example).

I once came accross a Geocache quite by accident but I had little idea what to do with it until you mentioned it.

Yes, you really are a ‘Shirley type.’ She would have wanted to go up there with you.

Take care on the hills & I hope Helen got better,

Thanks for the FB S2S the other day,
73, John G4YSS.