Nickie and I were holidaying in Llanaber, just north of Barmouth for a week. This was not specifically a SOTA holiday but there are certainly lots of SOTA summits in close proximity. Sadly the WX had been much better the previous week â€“ but such is life! However, Sunday 9th September looked to be a reasonable day and so we decided to have a go at Cadair Idris, GW/NW-009.
We arrived at the Ty Nant car park, booted up and set off for the start of the Pony Path. Initially all was fine, nice and sunny, temperature 18C â€“ only a T shirt required. Care had to be taken through the woodland to not catch the pole sticking out of the rutsack. Then onwards up the rocky Pony Path, which varies a lot â€“ sometimes it climbs gently but is quite steep at times. After a while we reached the ladder stile at SH691135 (which BTW you can ignore and simply go through the adjacent gate!) whereupon the temperature suddenly dropped and it became very windy. However, this was nothing compared to later! As we continued the visibility became worse as we were now in cloud. Time to stop and put on extra layers. By the time we climbed up the steep rise to the ridge at SH704131 the visibility had worsened and the wind had increased a lot. It was very hard indeed to make out the line of cairns that mark the ridge, much care needed to be taken. I think this section is called Bwlch y Gwynt or â€˜Windy Passâ€™. Not kidding, I was glad of the walking poles that were useful in bracing oneself against the onslaught of the side wind, the bulk of the rutsack adding to my own frame. The ridge section is very narrow in places and we had to steer a course well from the edge that we were being blown towards. Eventually we came to the final scramble to the top, which is quite tough. Thankfully it isnâ€™t too long and finally the summit cairn with trig point atop came into view.
It was unbelievably windy and almost zero visibility at the trig point and I thought HF operation would be impossible. Nickie managed to just make out the summit shelter just down from the top and we headed towards it having taken some pics against the trig point. The stone summit shelter turned out to be a godsend and is fortunately well within the activation zone. Just to the right of the shelter opening is a wooden bench. I managed to bungee the pole to the bench and attached the dipole centre. However, the wind was so strong that I could only safely raise the apex to a little over 3 metres AGL to avoid the pole snapping. This meant that the 60/40/30M link dipole ends were very low indeed and I was only able to use the 40M section â€“ 60M operation was therefore impossible. It also meant I couldnâ€™t erect the 20M EFHW vertical and so 20M operation also out. This was disappointing as I was hoping for some transatlantic QSOs. Having set up the antenna, it making a high pitched whistling sound from the wind, I set up the FT857 inside the shelter. The shelter is surprisingly roomy but with somewhat narrow bench seating around its perimeter. There are a couple of windows but they donâ€™t open so the coax had to be brought in through the opening. The dipole was so low I thought I would struggle to get contacts but I was wrong. 40M SSB turned out to be mainly UK but I managed 3,3 from EA2DT. Conversely 40M CW was mainly European, the condx must have changed. VHF FM turned out to be a great disappointment. OK I only had my Alinco HH 2.5W but I thought I would be able to get out reasonably OK from Cadair Idris. Despite lots of CQs on my spotted freq of 145.4, I only managed one contact with GW4ZPL who was first in the log on 40M SSB.
During the Activation Nickie did a good job of advertising SOTA and answering the obvious questions to other walkers who were also inside the shelter. Apparently they were all amazed at how far I was reaching!
At 1315z I decided to QRT. Nickie helped me pack up so we were soon on our way (although somehow I left the headphones in the shelter, dâ€™oh). The visibility had improved a lot and the summit cairn could now be easily seen from the shelter. There were also short glimpses of Llyn y Gadair far below. However, if anything the wind was even stronger as we returned across the â€˜Windy Passâ€™ â€“ but at least we could easily see our way now! The descent down to the ladder stiles at SH691135 was uneventful and I hoped that after that we would get respite from the wind, which turned out to be correct. As we continued to descend the muscle group that is used for that purpose became very weary and I had to slow down and take regular rests. This happened to me when I descended Ben Nevis some years ago â€“ I donâ€™t have issues ascending but long descents appear to be a different story. Just before we reached the woodland section it started to rain hard so we had to stop to put on the waterproofs and the waterproof cover over the rutsacks. But not too long afterwards we made it back to the car!
So Cadair Idris turned out to be a lot harder than I expected, I would say harder than Ben Nevis. When we reached the ridge section we almost turned back because of the wind and very poor visibility but I am glad we persevered and achieved the summit. It was a very rewarding experience. Anyone who activates Cadair Idris will have my respect, especially if you were carrying a reasonable load.
We used some new gear on this trip. I can thoroughly recommend the Vantage Contour 50+10. At 5ft 7in I have a smallish back and this particular rutsack suits me very well. It seems ideal for SOTA and all the radio gear fitted inside nicely.
Thanks to all those who contacted me. The condx were difficult so if there are some transcription errors in my Activation Log then please email me and I will correct. At times I heard Chasers thinking incorrectly that they had worked me, so some will be disappointed not to get into my log. I found 40M CW a bit of a struggle at times with the pile-up, probably because I was tired from the ascent. Realising this I slowed my sending speed to 18WPM in the hope Chasers would match my speed - some did, some didnâ€™t. My rule of thumb as a CW Chaser is to match the Activatorâ€™s speed. As usual I struggled to send G4SSH correctly - Roy I must practice sending your callsign offline HI! I will also be thankful when the â€˜Oscarsâ€™ in UK callsigns disappear, as an Activator it can be confusing at times. I would advise Chasers not to use the â€˜Oscarâ€™ or other strange prefixes to make it easier for Activators.
2 x 5AH 4S LIPOs, one partially used
40M Inverted V, apex 3-4M at best, ends nearly touching the ground
Alinco HH 2.5W
Part 2 to follow â€“ GW/NW-074 Craig y Castell
73s Andrew G4AFI