I had 5 days leave to use up before the end of the year and it is Winter Bonus period so time for an excursion and some activating! I had previously activated the G/WB set back in February so from my QTH in the South the Brecon Beacons beckoned.
On Monday 9th Dec my XYL Nickie and I set off straight after work to the guest house in Abergavenny. A quick check in and then straight out again to the recently opened Gurkha restaurant in town (other eating establishments are available), highly recommended.
The next morning, after a leisurely start and hearty breakfast, Nickie and I set off for the GW/SW-009 and SW-015 pair. The single track road up to the col between these two summits is rather narrow with sparse passing points so I was hoping not to meet any vehicles coming in the other direction. Near the top a farm is passed with a closed gate on the road. Once at the col there was no problem parking as we were the only car. After boots on we proceeded up GW/SW-009. This is fine to begin with but soon does get rather steep getting the heart thumping somewhat. Thankfully there are easy footholes made by the hordes of previous walkers, although I think in wet conditions they could be very slippy and therefore potentially hazardous but no problem today. Nickie struggles up steep slopes so frequent stops were necessary. Near the top we took the obvious easier path that skirts around the east side of the summit before winding its way to the trig point.
To reduce the weight carried a bit, I decided to only take my newly acquired Sotabeams MFD with me (other 2M dipoles are available). I set the MFD up as a vertical dipole, self-spotted for 145.4 and called CQ SOTA. And called CQ SOTA and called CQ SOTA. No replies to my CQs at all. Hmm I was now regretting not taking the pole and HF antenna and wondering if I was going to activate this summit. I tuned down into the SSB section and heard a GI from Belfast calling CQ who was S7 with the dipole still vertical. He heard my call so QSO #1 in the log, 3 or more to go. We moved to 144.29 and the GI station left me the frequency. Next in the log was Don, G0RQL initially at S1. I asked Don to wait as I changed the MFD to horizontal and that made the obvious massive improvement. Then followed 8 more stations into the log, although patience was required with Colin G4UXH but we finally made it. Phew summit activated! I think GW/SW-009 is a good VHF location but I was probably unlucky with the day/time and there were few chasers around on 2M. I quickly packed up and then back to the car for some hot soup and a drink.
Having fully refreshed Nickie and I set off up G/SW-015. This time I totally abandoned 2M and took the pole and HF antenna. This was a newly acquired Sotabeams 12M dipole that I acquired at a bargain price (yes, yes – other HF dipoles are available) and then added a Sotabeams Linked Dipole Hardware Kit to convert it to a 40M/20M linked dipole. I will probably add more links later. Once at the summit I set up as a 40M dipole and self-spotted for 7.114. This time no problem activating as the usual 40M pile up ensued, which I enjoy very much. I drunk this dry and then switched to 12M. It was now just after 15:00 GMT and 12M was very lively. Straight in the log went N4EX followed soon by several other NA stations all booming in. My furthest contact was with CU2GC, again very strong sigs. I was about to switch to 12M CW but Nickie reminded me of the time. I very much appreciate her joining me on activations as she maintains a sensible head. She was correct, time to pack up so that we could return back to the guest house before darkness set in.
On Wednesday morning after breakfast Nickie had to return to work whilst I was continuing my journey up to Preston for a pre Xmas visit to my sister and elderly mum (91 in Feb). However, before departing the area I had planned a quick activation of GW/SW-011 Sugar Loaf. From Abergavenny it only takes 15 mins before parking up where there is plenty of room for loads of cars. It was very misty so I wondered how it would be at the summit. The walk in was most enjoyable. It is fairly flat for quite a while before it steepens up to the summit. At the trig point I found myself above the low clouds and so the view was excellent. Somewhat blustery though so I had a little difficulty erecting the 40M/12M dipole. I started off with a nice S2S contact with HA5LV/P who was activating HA/KD-010. I missed out on a S2S with GW4ISJ/P who was on a nearby G/SW summit but he had already QSYd to 20M. Even though I would have had a bad SWR on 20M I should have tried a contact but I didn’t. Back to 40M SSB and another welcome pileup. This included a S2S contact with GW6DTN/P on GW/NW-049. After 40M I tried 12M but this time at the earlier circa 12:00 GMT, which proved to be too early for NA chasers. A surprising number of G stations made it in to the log on 12M, although none very strong.
On Friday it was time to travel back to home from Preston. I couldn’t resist a deviation to G/SP-004 Shining Tor, the home QTH of Mike, 2E0YYY. The weather forecast wasn’t promising with rain predicted. I went for it anyway and parked up at the pull in described by Mike in his summit report. Here the visibility was very poor and it was very windy too. What would it be like at the summit? The ascent from the parking spot was easy peasy and I got to the walled corner with the two benches and finger post in 25 mins. Again I only took the MFD as surely it cant be difficult to activate Shining Tor on 2M can it? I strapped the MFD to the finger post but wasn’t careful enough with the top bungee and a sudden high gust of wind cracked the top PVC coupler and brought the vertical dipole down. Not a disaster but some repair action required once home. I managed 8 FM and 2 SSB contacts in 30 mins so I found it a bit disappointing. I must be unlucky on 2M? After 30 mins of activating it started to rain so I decided to pack up and get home.
So, all in all a very successful set of activations and 22 activator points gained. I very much enjoyed walking in the Brecon Beacons so I hope to be back there early next year whilst still in the Winter Bonus period. Based on my experience to date though I may just stick to the safe HF and avoid VHF.
Best 73 for Xmas