SOTA activation Report of Snowdon (GW/NW-001) & Y Lliwedd (GW/NW-008) on 09-11-07.
G(W)4YSS using GC0OOO/P. Unaccompanied. 2m FM revisited. All times UTC.
This was the first day of a long weekend in Llandudno. Once again we booked a Shearings (self-drive) short break, staying at the Marine Hotel. Cost was £85.50 /person for 3 nights DB&B, which I think is good value. An added bonus is that I can now say good morning in Latvian, Russian, Polish or Hungarian (but sadly not Welsh.)
My XYL and her friend Ann were to accompany me on this one but their plan was to ‘activate’ castles, coffee shops and sales outlets only. For the very first time, we ‘risked’ the evening entertainment which tragically I am now old enough to quite enjoy. These activations were scheduled for October but the hotel (a different one) got Norwalk and it was closed. That had its down-sides. Less daylight plus the reversion to UTC and as it turned out worse WX.
We left Scarborough at 05:00, which was the earliest time I dared to impose on the two ladies and arrived at Pen-Y-Pass via the A55, at 09:05.
The last time (2003) I used the Watkin Path to activate NW1, NW8 & NW19 (Yr Aran) but that was in May. I could only hope to do Swowdon & Y Lliwedd in the time available and gentle pressure was brought to bear, regarding a reasonable hotel check-in time and evening meal. The ‘bidding system’ resulted in a compromise time of 16:30 (or earlier) back at Pen-Y-Pass. Meanwhile the rest of the team would explore Betws-Y-Coed. ‘Don’t forget to turn that phone on!’ ‘Yes dear.’ We soon realised that it had no coverage at Pen-Y-Pass, so I handed them a PMR radio and 2m FM scanner, connected to a 2m band 5/8 on a mag-mount.
They drove off at 09:27 as I walked past the notice at the PYG-track start. ‘No trains, no shelter, no café, no facilities.’ I took my own facilities; an umbrella and a cheese sandwich. I know that the P.Y.G. track (apparently named after a local inn) is a means to an end but it is very efficient, the views aren’t at all bad and I wanted to try it; having used the Miner’s track for my first ever SOTA activation in early April 2002. Walking beneath the recently infamous Crib Goch made me think. An 11 year old boy had been fatally injured on that route in October and I noticed a couple heading that way today. Not for me, with wet rocks and low-cloud causing unacceptable delays. The well-defined PYG track flattens for a time, dropping a little, then climbs more steeply, rounds some hairpins and delivers you onto the ‘railway ridge’ at SH 6078 5485, whence the hard work is over. All well documented stuff (yawn) but I describe it anyway.
Pausing at the summit railway station for photos of the new construction works was just a formality. Little was visible in the rushing fog but where there were once trains there was now a crane lifting a load. Workmen in bright yellow jackets mixed concrete, as lumps of rhyme-ice detached from the perimeter fence by a strong, gusty wind, crashed audibly to the ground. Currently, the new structure closely resembles a boat’s hull.
The actual summit was white-over on the windward side but moving to the east of the trig-point and down a couple of metres, gave some respite from the chill factor. A lot of the time, I had it all to myself. I am always surprised by the sight of grass here at nearly 1100m. What a difference a few degrees of latitude can make to the climate, though I know it can be a mean and dangerous mountain in bad WX. The bigger the mountain, the bigger the weather. A solitary Herring Gull closely watched the activation; its noisy demands for food being copied by some of the chasers. Pickings must be poor without the Café.
YR WYDDFA (SNOWDON) GW/NW-001, 1085m, 10 pts, 11:09 to 12:09. 0 or 1 deg C. Cloud-base 950m lowering to 800m, 35 mph NW wind.
Under the circumstances, it was already decided that a lightweight approach was appropriate and that meant the VX150 H/H with 2W or 5W to the J-fed vertical half wave. Regrettably, this excluded the more distant stations but it turned out to be the right decision for me, bearing in mind the ascent, distance and, weather but chiefly the time constraints.
With no pre-warning in place, this was a job for the reliable G4SSH ‘phone-a-spot’ service which thanks to Roy, who had no chance of collecting on VHF today, quickly got results locally. Starting with Mike, GW0DSP and ending with Don G0NES, sixteen ‘regular’ stations, including S2S’s with Frank and John (GW3RMD/P & GW4BVE/P) on NW25, were logged in half an hour. For Don, I hand-held the single element antenna horizontally and squared it up in the Birmingham direction, by peaking-up his extended call. With Graham (G4JZF) acting as ‘controller’ we were (at length) able to correctly exchange reports and Don got his well-earned 10 points. Mick 2E0HJD was there too, no doubt appreciating the quiet band and approving of the mode! Along with a few others, all six of the SSEG weekend activations would eventually appear in Mick’s log. With 145.375 now ‘dry,’ it was time to get moving again.
The route to Lliwedd, NW8 is not difficult once the left turn down Watkin Path is found at SH 6087 5420, marked by a large finger-shaped rock-monolith. Initially it’s steep, loose and ill-defined in places but starts to become a little more civilised by SH 6094 5418. From here I marked some more path waypoints which were SH 6121 5413, SH 6150 5406 and SH 6195 5366; the latter being the Watkin / Lliwedd Path junction in the 744m Bwlch. The zig-zag NP8 ridge ascent via SH 6203 5357, is sometimes a mild scramble and is cairn-marked in places (e.g. at SH 6213 5345.) A little care is needed to recognize the abrupt direction changes in low-cloud but the small pile of stones marking Lliwedd’s summit (SH 6223 5333) is soon reached with an ascent of little more than 150m. There is no man-made shelter but some comfort is obtainable if the wind is northerly.
Y-LLIWEDD, GW/NW-008, 898m, 8 pts, 13:08 to 13:58. 2 deg C, low-cloud occasionally lifting, 30 mph NNW wind.
Here, the mobile was useless so I pitched-in with a CQ on S20. There was immediate success and a welcome posting from Stuart G0MJG brought in ten more ops in 22 minutes, before it went quiet. While he was ascending NW35, Frank GW3RMD/M thoughtfully called in with the details of my intended route down to the Miner’s Track at Llyn Llydaw. It always gives me a boost to get first-hand information because I had never walked this particular section before and I now knew to expect nothing onerous.
After some more minor ascents of secondary high-points, the path down from NP8 was as described by Frank; easy to follow, though quite steep in places and craggy around SH 6305 5354. It passes over a footbridge at SH 6328 5439 and in a further 300m, meets the Miner’s Track which got me to Pen-Y-Pass for 15:10.
I was well ahead of time and without O2 phone coverage, could not book an earlier ‘taxi’. The lady in the café pointed out a payphone but it transpired that the shop in Betws-Y-Coed where my XYL and her friend were ensconced at that moment, was not covered either! As they closed the café, I sat on the wall with a cup of tea, pondering whether I should hop on the Betwsy bus which had just arrived. All was well; my transport turned up before 16:00 and we were booking into our hotel an hour later. What luxury; not having to drive 150 miles or more after a good day’s walking and the two friends had enjoyed their time in Betws-Y-Coed too. Everybody was happy.
Since they pre-dated my ability to report, the summaries for the 2002 and 2003 Snowdon activations are shown below, with 2007 for comparison.
Summary, 05-Apr-2002: 766m ascent, 12 km. 8 hrs gross, 6 hrs net. 2m FM, 4 W to omni vertical. Icom ICT7E H/H. Miners track, accompanied by William for his first ever mountain and my first ever SOTA. (Made video).
NW1: 4 QSO’s GW2DLX (Gwilam in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. My first SOTA QSO!) plus GW0MHK, GW0TXM & MW0DAA. 10 points.
Summary, 25-May-2003: 1423m ascent, 14 km. 2m FM using 4 W to omni vertical. Icom ICT7E H/H. Watkin Path & down Clogwyn Brith incline. 10.5 hrs gross, 7.5 hrs net. 24 points. (Made video).
NW8: 4 QSO’s.
NW1: 7 QSO’s.
NW19: 5 QSO’s.
Summary, 2007: 900m (2953ft) ascent, 12 km (7.5 miles). 2m FM, 2/5 W to omni vertical. Yaesu VX150 H/H with 6 x 2.7 Ah Ni-Mh, AA cells. 5.7 hrs gross, 3.9 hrs net. 18 points.
NW1: 16 QSO’s.
NW8: 11 QSO’s.
The Scarborough Special Event Group ‘GC’ call was heard once again, if only on VHF. The activations averaged under an hour each. HF multi band/mode would have required over two so I would have been late down. The sound quality of FM is refreshing and the kit is light and simple.
THANKS TO ALL STATIONS WORKED and assistance from Roy G4SSH for alerts & spots. Thanks to Mike GW0DSP & Stuart G0MJG for spots.
GW/NW-040, GW/NW-006, GW/NW-003 & GW/NW-004 to follow.
73, John G4YSS (using SSEG Club callsign, varied for Wales to GC0OOO/P)