Further adventures in GW/SW - February 2023

A few weeks ago, I identified a 3 day period which looked free of work and other potential commitments, so accommodation was duly booked for another trip into GW/SW land. As departure date got closer, the consensus from all of various weather predictions was for a period of fairly windy weather, but at least looked likely to be relatively dry and mild for the time of year.

So, Friday 17th dawned, and I was off down the M4 to Wales. The drive was fairly uneventful, although the car was subjected to the odd bit of buffeting from the wind from time to time, giving me a preview of the predominant weather conditions I was going to experience on my trip!

Day 1 - GW/SW-011 & GW/SW-026
First up was Sugar Loaf. I had timed my arrival to avoid the worst of the predicted winds, and parked up at the Fro Car Park at about 11.30. I activated this summit for the first time last October in horrible cold, windy and wet weather with poor visibility, so this time it was nice to see what the scenery actually looked like on the walk up!

I had a pleasant walk up, and I was starting to wonder if predictions of heavy winds had been exaggerated, but as soon as I reached the ridge I realised they hadn’t! Some of the most severe winds I’ve experienced on a summit to date. Thankfully though I found a sheltered spot to tuck down in on the North side of the hill.

Sugar Loaf has an excellent take off on VHF, and knowing that had only walked up with 2m gear in the bag (using the Slim-G from Spectrum Communications and the 817). As I expected, contacts were fairly easy to come by, and I had 8 contacts including a S2S with G0KYS/P who was on G/SC-001.

After a sip of tea and a moment to enjoy the fantastic views, I headed back to the car, and after pausing to eat some lunch, I set off for GW/SW-026, Bryn Arw which can be accessed from the same car park. The walk up was quite steep, but only took around 30 minutes. Compared to Sugar Loaf, this was a much quieter summit. I think I only saw one other person on my time there.

As there was much more space here, and I wasn’t intending to activate any more summits on this day, I set up for HF, starting on 40m SSB. What followed was the most intense pile-up I’ve experienced as an activator! Someone did mention that I had been spotted as activating a WWFF area which I think added to the number of callers. Without wishing to sound ungrateful, I was a little relieved when the pile-up finally ended. It did get a bit shouty at times, but most of the time everyone was well behaved! I then moved onto 20m for both some CW & SSB, and also had quite a few contacts here including some nice DX with N4EX on the key. 73 contacts in all, which is the most I’ve ever had in a single activation, and it included a S2S with OE6ADE/P from OE/SB-340. Phew!

Day 2 - GW/SW-013, GW/SW-023, GW/SW-009 & GW/SW-015
Once again all of the predictions were for a day of strong winds on high ground which created a bit of a dilemma in my mind as to which summits to attempt. In the end I opted to try for GW/SW-013, Tor y Foel first as I was keen to try and grab some more winter bonus points, and and as this one is a fairly short ascent from the parking area, I could always turn back if conditions were really impossible without having expended too much time!

Whilst I was getting my bits and pieces together in the car, a few of the local residents decided to come and see who had disturbed their morning routine!

The weather conditions weren’t too inspiring, although at least from the foot of the summit, the winds were not too strong.

I did have some hf gear in the bag, but I was keen to see if I could have a relatively quick activation just using 2m as it was fairly damp! Although the wind wasn’t too bad (considering the predictions) when I first arrived at the summit, it suddenly increased dramatically makings things fairly tough going! Still, I was able to get on the air and managed 7 QSOs, which included S2S contacts with EI4JY/P who was on EI/IE-013, and MW0KXN/P & GW4BML/P who were both on GW/MW-001.

I didn’t have any desire to stick around and do some hf with such strong winds, so a quick pack-up and descent was the order of the day. After checking on my phone, I decided to head for GW/SW-023, Allt yr Esgair next as it wasn’t too far away, and hopefully likely to be a little bit more manageable on the wind front. The local residents were still much in evidence as I started my drive!

A short drive to the layby off the A40, and I was ready for summit number two. A nice walk up in improving weather and conditions, and thankfully the wind on top was not as strong as on the previous one (though still breezy!). I setup off the path as there were few walkers around and tried 30m CW where I had a nice run of contacts including a S2S with F/HB9EVF/P who was on F/JU-051. I also had a nice conversation with a passer by who was intereted in what I was doing. I did my best salesperson job on amateur radio and SOTA in particular, so you never know! After that I had a quick go on 2m, using the seat in the wall which many people mentioned last time I was up there. Remembering to take a quick photo just before I’d completely packed up!

Once again I felt a bit undecided as to what to try next with the windy weather. However, I was keen to try and get some more winter bonus points if I could, and as both GW/SW-009 & GW/SW-015 were nearby, I couldn’t resist driving over and having a try, reminding myself that I could always turn back if the winds started to get too dangerous!

A short drive, and I arrived in the parking area which lies between the two summits. I went for GW/SW-009, Mynydd Troed first.

Not the nicest of climbs up as bits of the path were quite slippery, but I made it to the top and found someone to nestle down near the trig point where the views had once again taken on a fairly overcast and dull theme.

The weather felt like it was closing in, with some light rain adding to what again were strong winds, so I setup for 2m, again hoping for a short activation. I had 5 fairly quick contacts, including a slightly scratchy one with Robert, MW0RWX who was on his way to GW/MW-009. This gave me a heads up for a potential S2S for me on the next summit, so as there weren’t any further callers, I was happy to pack-up, get out of the worst of winds and head for the last summit of the day, which was GW/SW-009, Mynydd Llangorse.

I was monitoring 2m on my handheld during my walk, and heard Robert start his activation, which helped speed my ascent. Nothing like a potential S2S contact to provide some extra impetus! I heard Robert talking to some other callers about his new shelter setup which was helping to keep him out of the worst of the elements, which of course made me rather jealous after a day of being battered by the winds! :grinning:

Anyway, once I was safely in the activation zone I setup the Slim-G (which made a big difference to the receive signal compared to the rubber duck) and worked Robert for a S2S. One down, three to go! Some further calls, and I had 2 more contacts in the log book, but then nothing after repeated calls on the calling channel. I knew that Kevin & Ben were due to do one more summit so there was potential for that 4th contact, plus another S2S, but I wasn’t sure how long they were going to be, and I was keen to not linger for too long. I had brought along an hf antenna, this time with the SW-3B, so decided to have a quick go on 30m CW, which as usual yielded some rapid contacts, including Steve HB9/M0SAW, whom I recognised as a frequent local chaser when I’m Wales. Whilst I was on 30m I saw a spot from Kevin, MW0KXN/P who, along with Ben, had made it to GW/MW-007, so once the calls on 30m dried-up, I was able to give Kevin a quick call on the handheld, and finish the day off with a final S2S. Perfect!

I drove back to my accommodation feeling satisfied with my day’s efforts. Although the wind made it harder going than it might, in general I was expecting a lot worse, so I’m glad I didn’t get put off by the predictions! Particularly thanks to Lee, 2W0LPU for working me on all four summits.

Day 3 - GW/SW-041 & GW/SW-016
After a relaxing evening, and a slightly strange dream about being forcibly taken off to a CW boot camp in Spain (perhaps for another thread?) I was ready for the third and final day.

First on the agenda was GW/SW-041, Black Mountain, which I accessed from the Gospel Pass car park, which was busier than I expected. In fact I got the last parking spot! I guess it was a sunny(ish) Sunday morning though! Starting from this car park means a fairly steep initial climb onto Hay Bluff, but then a fairly easy walk to afterwards to the summit of Black Mountain.

As I arrived at the summit, the clouds dispersed to reveal a lovely sunny picture. I set up well off the path and settled in for what I was hoping to be a longer and more relaxed spell of operating.

And indeed it was. I had a lovely 90 minutes of operating CW & SSB on 40, 30, 20, plus S2S QSOs on 2 & 70 with the only spanner in the works being the wind. It probably wasn’t as strong as yesterday, but it was icy cold! :cold_face: 41 contacts in all, including the following S2S QSOs:
M0WIV/P on G/DC-001
2E0BIA/P on G/SP-004
HB9AFI/P on HB/VD-048
MW0JLA/P on GW/SW-007
MW6BWA/P on GW/SW-006
IK2LEY/P on I/LO-318
SV2RUJ/P on SV/MC-076
EA2CCG/P on EA2/NV-151
M1EYP/P on G/SP-015
A perfect activation for me. Lots of contacts including some some S2S, without it ever feeling too frantic.

Once back at the car I decided to squeeze in one final summit, GW/SW-016, Ysgyryd Fawr as I would be passing by it on my drive home, and was somewhere I hadn’t activated yet. There was plenty of space in the large car park (which you have to pay to use) and a much steeper climb than I was expecting through some woods onto the ridge. It was a beautiful sunny day now, but the wind almost knocked me sideways as I emerged from the trees!

The wind was as strong as anything I’d experienced on my trip, so I was hoping that I might get away with just using the handheld with the rubber duck. I was hopeful as it looked like a site which would have a great VHF takeoff. As I made my way into the activation zone my phone alerted me that Viki, MW6BWA/P was on the air on 2m from GW/SW-007. Thankfully I could hear her just with the rubber duck, so I gave her a call. I really must apologise to Viki for what was no doubt a torrent of wind noise with the odd word thrown in! I could get out of the wind by tucking down off the ridge, but it was the wrong side for the Brecon Beacons and there was no copy from that position! Anyway, Viki patiently worked me, and then suggested we tried 70cm. It was even harder going here (remembering I was still on the rubber duck), but after a lot of repeats, we made it! Thanks Viki for your operating skill in enabling us to complete the contact. I did get some strange looks from some passers-by who wondered what this strange man was doing crouching close to the ground and shouting some numbers into a radio!

Once I had completed with Viki on 70cm, I was called by Stewart, G0LGS, so we QSYd to another frequency on 70, where I also worked Matt, 2E0MDJ. Brilliant, maybe I would be able to get away with the rubber duck. I said as much to Matt, and then amazingly had another caller on the same 70cm frequency - James, 2E1EMK, over in Devizes. Brilliant, job done, and all with the rubber duck! I had found a relatively sheltered spot off the ridge, so before leaving, I put a few calls out on 2m, and enjoyed brief chats with Jeff, 2E0XOW who was out on a run in the Bristol area, and Chris, M7TPE near Hereford who I’d also worked from one of the summits yesterday.

Time to head for the car and the drive back home, after a few more snaps of the scenery, which was stunning! If it hadn’t been for the wind, then this would have been a very pleasant place to have spent some time playing radio.

Wow, what a weekend! Typing this report has made me realise that I packed in much more than I was expecting! Despite the strong winds, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and had one of my most enjoyable SOTA trips so far. I probably won’t have the chance to do a multi-day adventure for some time now, so I’m really glad I was able to set aside the time for this. Many thanks to everyone for the many contacts over the weekend. Although I was by myself, somehow it never felt like that with lots of familiar callsigns appearing on the key or microphone!

If you’ve got to the end of this report, than many congratulations! I couldn’t resist writing this one up, especially as it has helped delay my return to real life just for a few more hours!

73 all, and thanks again for all the contacts!
Matthew, M(W)0JSB


Nice report Matthew

. Thanks for working me from Wengen in Switzerland.

Steve HB9/M0SAW


Thanks Steve, and I’m glad I didn’t get the wrong person! Thanks for working me on Saturday. It always takes me a few attempts to get those longer callsigns on cw when someone is operating in a different country, so your patience was appreciated!

Looks like you were in a lovely location. Hope you had or are having a nice time in Switzerland.

73, Matthew