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G4AFI Wales Hol - Part 1

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 – 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 – 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 – 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 ‘Windy Pass’. 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 isn’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 – 60M operation was therefore impossible. It also meant I couldn’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 don’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, d’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 ‘Windy Pass’ – 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 – I don’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 didn’t. My rule of thumb as a CW Chaser is to match the Activator’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 ‘Oscars’ in UK callsigns disappear, as an Activator it can be confusing at times. I would advise Chasers not to use the ‘Oscar’ or other strange prefixes to make it easier for Activators.

FT857 10W
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 – GW/NW-074 Craig y Castell
73s Andrew G4AFI

In reply to G4AFI:

Realising this I slowed my sending speed to 18WPM in the hope Chasers would match my speed - some did, some didn’t

A valid problem that John G3WGV pointed out to me is how hard it is to quickly vary the speed of most rig’s internal keyers. He suggested an external keyer with a speed control pot was essential. With them it’s so easy to wind the speed up or down.

When I ask someone to QRS 3 things happen. 1) They don’t QRS and I don’t work them, 2) They QRS by keeping the character speed the same but putting in gaps or 3) they slow down to about 8wpm.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that I prefer option 2 to option 3. Slowing down the chars just flumuxes me. Inserting a gap, or even big gap works fine. When someone calls me at 30wpm I get the 1st and maybe 2nd char and that’s it. But with a 1 char gap they’re down to 15wpm which I can do just about. But at 8wpm I have to concentrate as hard as at 30wpm.

Glad the spotter worked for you and that you had fun.


In reply to MM0FMF:

A valid problem that John G3WGV pointed out to me is how hard it is to quickly vary the speed of most rig’s internal keyers

I don’t know if this works on the FT817, but on my FT857 I leave the main menu set to 030 - Keyer Speed. Then all I need to do is hold the Func button down to access that menu item and adjust the CW speed.

Andrew, G4AFI

In reply to G4AFI:

I don’t know if this works on the FT817, but on my FT857 I leave the
main menu set to 030 - Keyer Speed. Then all I need to do is hold the
Func button down to access that menu item and adjust the CW speed.

On my FT857 I have set up the “Select” knob function so that when I click on it once, it becomes a keyer speed control.

Walt (G3NYY)

In reply to G3NYY:

Same with my FT-897 Walt

  1. Enable extended Menu Mode N0.001

  2. Select menu 57 which selects the function which is engaged when you press the MEM/VFO CH knob

  3. Turn the main dial to CW SPEED

  4. Exit memories

Now when you want to change CW speed you just press the MEM/VFO knob and turn to increase speed faster or slower, then press the knob again to exit.

Takes about 2 seconds to change speed without using the menu’s.


In reply to G4SSH:

But sadly not available to the 817 user. At best you can leave the operating menu set to #10 so that holding down button C for 1/2 sec will bring up the speed menu. But if you have it set it something else then you have to go fishing. Not easy when you have gloves, it’s cold and you have big paws like me!


In reply to MM0FMF:

You could always become a Luddite and use a straight key! If a W/OP in a Lancaster bomber could send legible morse code at an altitude of 25,000 feet whilst wearing thick gloves and palming the key, its got to work on a summit!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to MM0FMF:
On the 817 it’s easier to turn the keyer off and work a single paddle as a straight key than phaff about with the deeper menu. CW is blinking hard anyway - I prefer QSOs in Welsh, French, Danish or German for brain stimulation!

Cadair Idris was tough for my family and I because it was our rest day event on the sixth day of our cycle tour from home in 2009. The walk up the Pony path was fine. Our sons joined a pair of twin boys their own age and they forgot about the effort in ascent. The activation on 2m phone went fine but I had to sit outside on the bench. The weather turned foul afterwards and the wind was like you described it and with sheeting rain. We had less than optimum gear due to the confines of cycle luggage so getting down was a struggle. It rained heavily for 24 hours at our farm campsite near Kings YHA Well done Andrew and Nicki - there’ll be other activations like this and you’ll have earned your sunny SOTA summit days when they come.
David M0YDH

In reply to G8ADD:

You could always become a Luddite and use a straight key!

Oi, I might be from Nottinghamshire and I might use a straight key, but I’m no frame breaker! :slight_smile:

Straight key = instant QRS and no buttons to press. Simples!

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to M0YDH:
Being a Palm Paddle user the Palm Code Cube is the answer. Super wee addition to the paddle. The knurled wheel controls the speed www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4l96wkxOps And of course as you are using the same unit independent of any rig’s keyer you only have to remember how to ‘drive’ this keyer.

Another tip. I use an ‘Oyster’ type spectacle case to hold the Paddle, Cube and connecting lead. Provides protection and keeps everything together.


Jack (;>J

In reply to GM4COX:

Straight keys… Gordon Bennett people will be suggesting the use of spark next!

I can use one and I don’t think my sending is too bad with one. Especially because I learnt to send using a Morse decoder I designed and built many years back (6303X CPU and LCD display) which was very strict with the timing. I know I’m tempting fate here but some of the antics you hear with straight keys makes even a novice like me suggest the sender would be more legible if they took their shoe and sock off before using their foot to send!

The PalmCube is nice but I have Ernie Wise Syndrome. No not short and fat with a syrup but I have great difficulty opening my wallet in order to buy one! :slight_smile: