Four North Wales summits
On 13th January of this year I was forced to abandon activating a third summit because of high winds and driving sleet. My second summit on that day was Rhialgwm (NW-046) which is not that far from Welshpool, so I was duly lured to the GW4BVE QTH at Pool Quay to partake of a brew and the opportunity to dry out. During my visit, John suggested that we might undertake a joint activation sometime and I considered this to be an excellent idea. While nothing was decided at that time, we agreed to think about this possibility.
A fortnight later I was to be found up in the NP’s with non-Amateur friend Barry activating NP-005 and NP-004. John was the first to respond to my initial CQ from my first summit Ingleborough and during our QSO he asked whether I had come to any conclusion as to the joint activation. As I had been rather focussed on preparing for the North Pennines trip, I advised John I would be in contact via email. Late that week I offered a set of dates to John, but nothing was decided upon until we had again been in QSO, this time S2S between a pair of South Wales summits on 3rd February. We then set Friday 16th February as the date for the joint activation, with John having the option of Saturday 17th February as a second joint activation day. I was invited to stay overnight at Pool Quay.
The morning of Friday 16th February saw me awake at 0430 and en route by 0508. The target was Pool Quay by 0730 which was reached before time despite having taken my time along the motorways. I found that there was considerably more traffic on this weekday morning than usually found on a Saturday. Tea and toast awaited me at John’s house, ordered via 2m FM en route. After this second phase of my breakfast, the equipment was transferred to John’s car and we were off to the parking spot between Moel Famau (NW-044) and Foel Fenlli (NW-051) by 0755. It had been agreed that John would activate HF which gave me the opportunity to concentrate on my preferred band of 2m. I took the 70cms beam along with me and offered the band on request.
John and I soon found we were reasonably well matched in terms of our capabilities, though I would say that I am certain that John was kind to me on the ascents and perhaps I to him on the descents which are my forte. We made the summit of Moel Famau by 1005 and both selected parts of the fence to support our masts rather than utilise the trig point. The weather started well enough, but it soon started to rain and became increasingly wet, so we both had to don our waterproof trousers.
John and I both had a reasonably successful activation. We both had a QSO with Mike G4BLH/P on 1297.500 using John’s IC-81TE handie – a most impressive 59 both ways. John recorded 20 QSOs during our stay and I had a total of 19. My main operation commenced at 1018 with the customary working frequency of 144.333 being used which netted me 13 contacts. As is often the case, Graham G4JZF was first off the mark. During our QSO on 2m SSB, Frank G3RMD suggested a trial on 70cms SSB and so he monitored the frequency while I worked through those calling. I then plugged the 6 element DL6WU yagi into the 817 and pointed it at Cheltenham and heard Frank already on 432.220 calling. A good 2 way QSO ensued with 52 / 51 reports exchanged which was very gratifying. Even this single contact made carrying the 70cms beam worthwhile. After we closed on 70cms I returned to 144.333 and plugged in the key and yes, Frank called for QSO number 3. There were no other takers on the mode so I then moved to FM where I had another 3 QSOs before it was time to depart. John was already part packed up and once complete he brought his rucksack over to me and took the Icom handie off over the summit to contact Steve GW7AAV on 23cms.
We made good time on our descent and after a brief stop at the car for me to pick up a fresh 3.3AH SLA battery, we were off again ascending Foel Fenlli by 1234. The rain was now incessant and well set in for the day, but spirits were high and we took a photographic break part way up the hill. After our arrival at the summit we were joined for a while by a family out walking in the wet. It was not a particular pleasure having to guy our masts in the rain, but there is no other option on Foel Fenlli. John had a marvellous 46 QSOs on this summit and I managed 18 on 2m. I started on 2m SSB as usual and the initial call provided another run of 13, again headed by Graham. The signals exchanged with Frank were somewhat lower on this summit, so a test on 70cms was not attempted, but John M0JDK asked for 70cms FM. Although I tried for quite a while, no signals were heard, though I did upset a couple of QSOs on 435.550 and 435.450 by announcing my presence in an attempt to find John.
Returning to 2m, I moved to FM and was called by Phil 2E0PHL/P on Loughrigg Fell for an S2S. Phil was struggling for contacts so I tried to drum up some interest and in doing so worked a further 3 contacts without increasing Phil’s tally. John came to the microphone provide a third QSO for Phil and then happily Ron GW4EVX called in and managed to exchange reports with Phil. I rounded off my operations with an contact with Ron to bring my total up to 18.
It was still raining when we reached Pool Quay in the late afternoon, but the Saturday forecast was much better. John decided that he would come with me to activate Moel Y Gamelin (NW-042) and Cyrn Y Brain (NW-043). We then set about drying out two sets of kit, including my walking boots which were thoroughly soaked. John kindly Nik-waxed them and they were stuffed with newspaper to get them ready for the following day. After all this effort, it was a real pleasure to get ready to go out and we went to a local hostelry to partake of some excellent food and a worthy amount of Black Sheep Ale. We eventually retired around 2330 at the end of a lovely evening.
Saturday brought a problem with John’s wife Judy being rather unwell. John had to abandon the plans for the day and so I set off at 0745 from Pool Quay with dry kit on my own. It was a new experience having less than 30 miles to drive before making my first ascent and I arrived fresh at the parking spot at around 0830 after a leisurely journey. Fortunately we had passed by the parking spot the day previous and John had pointed out the routes up Moel Y Gamelin and Cyrn Y Brain to me. I was glad of this since I could see no more than 30 metres this particular morning!
I took a very careful hour and a bit to ascend Moel Y Gamelin during which time the wind rose considerably, but even so it failed to dispel the mist which limited visibility to 15 metres on the summit. As I approached the final uphill section, I heard Richard GW4ERP/P on Fan Gyhirych SW-006 come up on the FM calling frequency on my C528 handie. Once on the summit at 0950 I called him on his working frequency with it laid over horizontal to achieve 59 reports both ways. I was around one hour earlier than I had scheduled, so Richard was surprised to hear me. A check was made against Richard’s second summit ETA and if I maintained the hour difference it seemed likely that another S2S would be a possibility.
As the wind was gusting, I decided to deploy 3 of the 4 sections of the mast and use just a dipole antenna for the activation and this proved to be quite successful. Graham G4JZF again headed a run on 2m SSB, this time 21 in total. Don G0NES then alerted me to the fact that Martyn M3LUH/P was on Horse Head Moor NP-021 on 144.310, so a quick QSY made the second S2S of the day. After this I decided to have a final look on 144.333 and to my surprise I was called by Paul GW4MD/P on Mynydd Troed SW-009 for a third S2S from this summit. At the very end of this QSO the 817 switched itself off – I discovered that it had been running on its internal battery pack! Just the linear amplifier had been on the SLA battery. Anyway, the overall result was a respectable total of 24 QSOs for this summit.
Packing up took some time since my hands were cold after an hour’s operating in the wind. For once the mast and antennas seemed to have a mind of their own and they definitely did not want to be strapped together. After some mild cursing I started my careful descent in a visibility of 15 metres and was back at the car for a short stop to pick up SLA battery number 4 by 1204. I easily located the track up Cyrn Y Brain and made good time in the improving conditions. Three quarters of the way up I was met by a lady and gent who showed great interest in my mast and antennas. I started to explain about SOTA only to find out that they are friends of Charlie G0PZO and are into SOTAcaching. It turned out that I was the first SOTA activator that they had met actually on an activation!
Having been advised by John of the possibility of RF breakthrough from the large amount of radio services up on the summit of Cyrn Y Brain, I had decided to operate from the end of the fence beyond the first mast. However, the lure of the stone shelter near the first mast close to the true summit was too much and as the C528 handie was not suffering at all I decided to give it a go. On my ascent I had heard Martyn M3LUH/P now on Fountains Fell NP-017 come up on FM, so I followed him to 145.450 ready to make contact. Martyn seemed to be into a reasonable run and in no particular rush to conclude matters, so I checked the FM calling frequency to find Richard GW4ERP/P on Fan Nedd SW-007 calling. Again the C528 was laid out horizontal to make the QSO with 55 / 52 reports exchanged. After this I quickly raised the 5 element beam and located Martyn to make a second S2S. I then moved to 2m SSB where my first CQ resulted in yet another S2S, this time with Paul GW4MD/P now on Mynydd Llangorse SW-015. Paul and I chatted for about ten minutes on my usual frequency of 144.333, then we parted company and this started a run of 17 SSB contacts before the frequency went quiet.
After a brief halt in the proceedings, I moved to FM and started my operation with a pleasant chat with Graham M3XGA in Liverpool. 3 FM contacts later the SLA battery suddenly expired! Realising immediately what had happened I switched the rig back on, quickly asked for a QRX, changed over to the C528, apologised for the 10dB drop in signal and continued more or less as though nothing had happened! The C528 netted me another 7 contacts before I decided to call it a day, but then I found Martyn M3LUH/P was now on Pen-Y-Ghent NP-010 and so I bagged another S2S for chaser points. A quick look around the FM section revealed Nick G0HIK/P on Hutton Roof Crags LD-052 for yet another S2S. After this, announcing a QSY down 25 brought a further contact. Then while packing up I heard Simon M1AVV/P come up from Loughrigg Fell LD-047, so I nabbed him for a sixth S2S from this summit. This one was made on the C528 with the Yaesu whip since the beam was already packed up in readiness for my descent. The total for the summit therefore totalled 34.
Knowing that I must be fast running out of all battery power, I decided to switch off so preserving what was left of the C528 NiMH batteries for emergency purposes. The descent was swift and totally uneventful and I was back at the car by 1600 wondering whether I should have undertaken a third summit, but also quite happy to be going home. Before doing so, I devoured what was left of my provisions, including a second round of truly excellent BVE ham sarnies. I then left the parking spot at 1610 and was back on my own drive at 1826.
So an excellent two day activation. It looks as though John may entertain another joint activation sometime and hopefully next time we will be blessed with considerably better weather.