G4YSS: GW/NW-001 Snowdon on 11-04-17

G4YSS Activation Report: GW/NW-001 Snowdon on 11-04-17
Issue-2: Names & sota ref. corrected

Yr Wyddfa on 160-80-40-2m-70cm
G(W)4YSS using GC0OOO/P
Unaccompanied from Pen-Y-Pass & back

Radio Log: UTC.
All other times: BST (= UTC plus 1)

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF (80 thru 10) 50 Watt linear amplifier with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20 with loading coils for 160m
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks

BATTERIES (11.1V Li-Po):
One 5 Ah
One 2.2 Ah

Baofeng UV-5R, 2-Band, 5W V-UHF H/H inc. 1.8Ah battery (200gm)

Packweight (HF): 10.0kg (22 pounds) inc. 1,000ml water & electrolytes

Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB Radio

Two SOTA activations were carried out during a one-week family holiday staying in Llandudno at the Marine Hotel. Snowdon is the second of the two, the first being Tal-y-Fan NW40. There are separate reports for each.

This was my tenth expedition to Snowdon for SOTA purposes since April 2002. Early activations were on 2m FM with progression to HF QRP using an FT817 and later QRO with an IC706-2G. Though a bit lighter than the latter setup, I was taking QRO today because I wanted to put on 160m.

Adding NW8 (Y Lliwedd) on the way back was considered until I saw the weather forecast of 0C; low-cloud and 25mph westerly wind at 900m ASL. In fact the HF operation was almost canceled in favour of an easier VHF option. This was because it is difficult to erect a full sized 80m dipole on this mountain, even in good conditions.

Apart from two, all my activations have used the Pyg Track from Pen-y-Pass (359 m ASL) which involves a height gain of 2,400ft and a round trip distance of 11km but it’s the easiest and quickest option. The drawback is the cost of parking which is ten UK pounds.

Sneaking out of the hotel as quietly as possible at 4:15 am, I was surprised to see the night porter vacuuming the lounge. The moon was full and conditions seemed fairly settled outside but as we know, mountains are another world when it comes to weather.

The 30-mile drive to Pen-y-Pass took about 45 minutes. It’s unusual but the car park was only quarter full when I arrived at 5am. The car thermometer read 5C but the moon was now covered by cloud.

Taking my time to don the footwear and lose a ten-pound note to the ‘highwayman’ in the corner of the car park, it was now a waiting game. The alert was for Top Band at 08:15 but knowing what it would be like up there, I didn’t wish to arrive too early. At about 05:15, two chaps left their car wearing headlamps. ‘Going up, are you?’ They were doing Snowdon but were routing via Crib Goch; the latter name sounding great in a Liverpool accent. I was looking for efficiency not excitement so Crib Goch wasn’t given a second thought. To me it’s a bit like Striding Edge; a waster of valuable SOTA time.

I left Pen-Y-Pass listening to an MP3 player, with headlight on at 05:40. This after the unpleasant task of downing the customary litre of cold water, a process which does not get any easier. At the more exposed Crib Goch turnoff, the wind increased as it often does.

The next section always seems like a long way but at length, I reached the coin posts and Zig-Zags, entering cloud at 825m ASL. Next is the 998m col at the start of Snowdon’s NW ridge, along which runs the railway line. Apart from the odd Engineering unit, there are no trains to the summit until May, which means no café either. Until then the top station is Clogwyn, a mile and 1,000 feet below the summit. If all four of us (three adults and a child) had wanted to go there, it would have cost £81. Had it been available, the summit price would have been £104. From a SOTA viewpoint, the lack of summit trains is an advantage.

Touching the deserted trig point at 07:22, I did the summit photos, which weren’t up to much. The brass plate was rime coated and visibility was down to less than 30m. Care was needed going down the steps due to the high wind speed. Usually you don’t see anybody until about 8:30am, which was as far as I could see, the case today.

Dipole Positioning:
On the way up, it was decided to go for the best position from a radio takeoff viewpoint, to offer the best chance of qualifying 160m (see ‘Option-2’ below).

There are only two viable choices of where to put an aerial of this size. One is over the rock field between the summit plinth and the café but precision is needed if you are not to garrote people using the paths at either end. Also I know from experience that the steep slope and loose rocks add further difficulty both for personal safety and infuriating snagging of the wire. You also have to be prepared to build small cairns to keep everything vertical.

It can be done but it’s best to go early in the hope that there aren’t too many people about and plan for a short activation. That’s fine if you need to be off to Lliwedd afterwards. Having abandoned that option today, I knew I would be on NW1 for some considerable time. In fact I wanted to be. Though we were in the middle of a family holiday in Llandudno, the XYL had kindly given me the whole day off! What better way to fill it (in theory at least) than on a 10-pointer?

Though it’s very exposed, as far as I can see the only other place that is large enough to accommodate a long horizontal wire antenna is the northwest ridge. I have only erected a dipole there once and that was on snow in a light easterly wind. There is a narrow area of (nominally) grass that stretches down from the trig point. In some ways it is easier to deal with than the rock field but the grass is shallow; maybe 5cm with rocks underneath. It is also fully exposed to wind as well as to the steep drop-off immediately beside it, which is over 45 degrees average and more than 60 degrees in places.

The mast position is pre-determined by a quarter wavelength of wire for the 3.5 MHz band and it’s obvious when you look that it’s best to start at the trig point plinth, into which you sink one of your end sticks at head height. There are gaps in the rocks for this. Pacing out 19 metres going NW along the mountain’s steep edge, I started probing for the deepest soil. The best you can get, no more than 10cm, is on the edge of a 1.5m vertical drop that ends at a narrow grassy ledge, which runs along from the trig.

With a west wind blowing, going down to the ledge for the activation can provide some shelter. The problem is that at 19 metres from the trig, both drop and ledge have petered out to become a steep slope that ends in a lake 500m below. At this point the ridge’s gradient increases sharply and the second end stick has to go way down beside a turn in the path. The result is a NW-SE sloper.

Today I was doing all this at zero degrees in a 25mph plus, gusty wind that was doing its best to blow me off my feet and over the northeastern precipice to Glaslyn below. In exposed places, the steep grass and rocks had ice crystals on them due to the freezing fog. Mittens were a necessity that made handling the mast sections and dipole-reel a bit of a nightmare. Nothing could be placed on the ground without weighting it with stones. Of course, I’ve known worse but I was hoping for a bit of luck today.

Because I don’t use guys; rather the end sticks are adjusted so that the included angle balances the mast vertically against the wind, the ‘Hobson’s choice’ positioning meant that it was far from vertical. In that state it would never support the 160m loading coils so I had to use the coax as a windward guy, by looping it round a rock. What was left of the feeder was barely sufficient to reach the sheltered operating position, at which point I realized that today would be more of a survival exercise than an activation. I was out of options; nature’s geometry had made the running and in order to avoid screening on 160m, this was the only place to deploy.

I had no windbreak, tent or even umbrella with me, so sitting down in a fleece and Primaloft jacket, I shuffled as far out of the wind as the coax would allow, which wasn’t very far. The wind direction was not exactly westerly but instead it blew from a bit north of west. I was still getting most of it and the temperature was right for both soaking me and the equipment, whilst turning to ice on the antenna. Everything was soon cold and soggy and by now it was 08:15, almost an hour after arrival.

After just one text to my XYL, the phone signal was too weak to be useable so once again I would have to rely on amateur radio for spots. Thank goodness that Roy G4SSH would be supporting me again.

YR WYDDFA (SNOWDON) GW/NW-001: 1,085m, 10 pts. 07:22 to 14:18. Zero degrees C increasing slowly to 4C at the end. Wind: 25 mph plus, dropping to 15 mph after 12:00 noon. Freezing fog causing moderate antenna icing conditions until 10:30, then low-cloud until 13:45. No precipitation. (LOC: IO73XB, WAB: SH65, Trig: TP-6043). Unreliable or non-existent EE phone coverage from the HF QTH (probably OK at the trig?)

1.831.4 CW - 1 QSO at 07:28z:
My heart dropped when I saw sky-high SWR on the FT817 but adjusting the 160m coils soon got rid of that. 1.832 had a data transmission on it so I nudged down a bit.

I had hope but not much expectation when I started calling CQ at 07:15z with 50 Watts. Five Watts has got me two Top Band contacts twice from NW1 and in 2009 I logged 7 stations using 80 Watts.

A lot of CQ’ing brought nothing for 15 minutes but eventually a strong signal came into the headphones. Thank goodness, it was Mark G0VOF working me just before leaving for work. I was delighted as we exchanged quickly at 579/ 559. The equipment was working after all and I knew I could rely on a spot.

1.843 SSB - Nil
I called CQ in CW on and off for another 20 minutes, interspersed with SSB on 1.843 +/-but all without further success. I could hear two stations chatting on 1.845 but they were weak and couldn’t hear me.

In the middle of this session, I was taken aback to discover that both ends of the dipole were sagging alarmingly with the 160m coils touching the ground. No wonder I wasn’t getting contacts. The RG178 was almost the diameter of RG58 and the weight of ice that had formed on the wire was sufficient to bend the mast in an inverted ‘U.’ I had to walk the complete dipole to clear it between gloved fingers. Considering the proximity of the NE face, reaching up to do the centre sections was not without its dangers but at least the activity was welcome. Sorting out the aerial made no difference but I was grateful for the single contact.

An investment of over half an hour and quite a lot of battery power had been expended. Apart from Mark, who’s QTH was more or less line of sight and mostly a sea path, there just weren’t the conditions. Yet another winter of experience has shown that 160m is rarely up to much an hour after sunrise compared with an hour before sunset and it was now April.

The log had degraded into something that resembled wet toilet paper upon which an HB pencil could barely make a mark without making a hole. The wind was blowing it over on itself. The choice was to hold it down or try and write on it but not both. Tiny bits of it appeared on my clothes like dandruff and the operator was shuddering in pulses. Lumps of ice were flying off the antenna and mast with every fifth one clouting me on the back of the head. Morale could hardly have been lower but carry on we must. This is our chosen hobby. This is how we have fun!

3.557 CW - 6 QSO’s:
Chilled to the bone, I went back up to remove the 160m coils and clear more ice that had formed. After this and despite the wind, the antenna looked a lot more youthful than before but I knew I’d be back there doing it again before the next QSY.

Now success or otherwise was down to conditions on 80m. Another mood swing, this time upwards. G4SSH (Scarborough) came straight back to my call followed two minutes later by Nick G4OOE in the same town. Both were 589 on the meter. Roy gave me 559 but Nick only 229. Next in was Bill G4WSB - Swindon, 599 both ways and David G3RDQ in Stockbridge with 599/ 579. The last two logged were G0ANV Daryl - Cambs 599/ 559 and G0BPU Mike in Ipswich, 599/ 579.

Mainly because of logging difficulties, it took 10 minutes to work these six stations but 80m was delivering in style and whatever happened from here, the summit was at least qualified. The CW was terrible because of numb fingers in numb gloves on a tiny key but it was mainly down to the shivering. The chasers didn’t seem to notice. Power was 50 Watts and Roy picked up and spotted the QSY to 3.724. All good!

3.724 SSB - 21 QSO’s:
Starting at 08:10z and sticking with 50 Watts, the following SSB QSO’s were logged:
G0RQL Don in Devon; GI0AZB Ian - Dungiven; G8ADD Brian - Birmingham; G3VNW Nick in the Yorkshire Dales; G7AFM Phil - Hereford; M3FEH Karl - Saltash, Cornwall; G0TDM John - Penrith; GW0AXY & GM4YMM Ken & Christine in Edinburgh.

From 08:23z: GI4ONL Victor - Bushmills; G0VWP Terry - York; MM0XPZ Steve - Greenock; G6LKB Dave - Ulverston; G4SSH Roy in Irton; G7BGA Geoff nr. Shrewsbury and my controller for OV00 three weeks prior; G4OOE Nick - Threshfield; M6HMK Helen - Glossop; G3RMD Frank - Cheltenham; G0FEX Ken - Leicester; G4PDF Bob - Market Rasen and at 08:37z, G4WHA/A Geoff at the shop in Penrith.

Incoming signals were all 57 to 59 apart from a couple of 55’s. I got mainly 57 to 59 also but a few had a poor copy on me. These were GI4AZB (44); M3FEH (34); G0TDM (41); and G4OOE (44).

I was still busy ‘dying of exposure’ but these cheerful chasers lifted the spirits again. Logging was a bit slow due to the conditions and I can’t properly read some of the callsigns in the degraded log, for example MM0XPZ looked like MM0XBZ but I have worked Steve before and an error was avoided. Luckily most were either SOTA or WAB chasers who I knew.

At least two more stations called me but I was now at the bottom of the first log page and needed to turn over. I announced this, saying it would take some time but that I’d be back. However, the pages were wet through and stuck intimately together by surface tension. After doffing the mittens, I had to be really careful not to tear the delicate paper especially with the wind tugging at it and the spring clip would not go back easily with numb hands. By the time the job was done and soggy mittens pulled back on, a full five minutes had elapsed and the chasers were gone. Further CQ’s brought nothing. I ask you? Five minutes just to turn over!

The session took over half an hour. So far there were 28 QSO’s in the log but considering the investment made, I was far from satisfied with that. On the other hand I was suffering badly in the wind-chill but the more I suffered, the more I had to make the suffering worthwhile.

When Roy G4SSH came in on 3.724, I asked his advice as to where to go next. My brain wasn’t working properly; most of it being preoccupied with physiological issues. According to Roy, it seemed that conditions weren’t too good on 40m and 20 might be better. I couldn’t think about it for long, so flipping a mental coin, I went for 40m and asked Roy to spot me on 7.033 CW in 10 minutes, followed by 7.160 SSB afterwards. He said, ‘Send me a text for any further QSY’s.’ The trouble was, I’d already made five attempts to phone Roy without success. Apart from 3 seconds of ring tone, there was nothing to show for it.

A couple of cheese and onion sandwiches and some exercise helped restore some well being but I didn’t warm up much.

7.033.5; 7.034; 7.032.5 CW - Nil:
After getting up stiffly to open the 40m links and clear further ice, I checked out the SOTA channels. 7.033 and 7.032 were both occupied by what sounded like SOTA activity so trying my best to fit between or beside them where I would be found, I called CQ after CQ for what seemed like a very long 20 minutes. I thought with a spot from Roy and chasers milling round the other channels, a 50-Watt signal would be easily found but nobody so much as squeaked. Just my luck in this situation. On a nice warm sunny day, I would have been inundated. Another mood swing. You can guess the direction!

At some point around now the 5Ah battery failed and had to be replaced by the reserve 2.2Ah. This was another gloves-off job but it’s a lot easier since I standardized all batteries and rigs with EC5 connectors.

7.160 SSB - 2 QSO’s:
Though I’d tried on and around 7.160 during the failed CW attempt without result, I returned to SSB again. After thrashing away for such a long time it was good when Dan SM6CNX came straight back at 09:18z. I know Dan - he’s a well-known and dedicated WAB chaser from Svenljunga, so in addition to the SOTA, I gave him the WAB square and trig point number.

If the log is to be believed, I called CQ for a while before getting a second contact in the form of what looks like PI4ADL who gave his name as Albert. If I’m right this is a club station ‘National Aviation Theme Park Aviodrome’ in Lelystad. All four reports were 59 so I was certainly getting out on 40m.

7.033.5 CW – 5 QSO’s:
Again the log is hard to read but I think I got these five contacts on 7.033.5. Starting at 09:30z I worked: YL3CW; MM0CYR Peter - Caithness; DL2HWI Dietmar; F5SQA Dan and at 09:37z, ON7CC. Power was 50 Watts and reports ranged from 559 to 599; mostly the latter. That made an even greater mystery about why nobody had found me the first time around 45 minutes earlier but Roy was right; 40m was a bad choice.

Packing up HF:
After two and a half hours of HF work sitting in half a gale of wind and freezing fog, I felt thoroughly drained but at least I now had something to look forward to. Namely to pack up and move to the summit proper for VHF. Before doing so, I walked round it to find the best place to get out of the wind, which was looking down the SE face towards Llyn Llydaw and Y Lliwedd (NW8). ‘Looking’ is not the right description; I couldn’t see either feature at the time. However as far as comfort was concerned, this might have been a different world and in the next couple of hours, it was to get better still.

145.400 FM - 37 QSO’s:
It had taken well over half an hour to get the HF antenna and everything else into the rucksack and move from the exposed place overlooking the NE face. The J-pole was now set up more or less vertically on the summit plinth but only a couple of metres from the trig point. This position offered welcome shelter and a place where the damaged logsheet could be carefully folded up and put somewhere safe, to be replaced by another damp but otherwise unsullied one. The FT817ND and its battery were due for a rest, so out came the UV-5R reserve 5 Watt H/H which I never thought I’d need.

It was now late morning and after the solitary confinement doing HF in a place where no sane person would venture, I was shocked at the number of people filling up the steps for their individual summit photos. One problem was QSB caused as each one passed the antenna but I was not to find this out until later.

After a check that the operating frequency was clear, I called CQ on S20. The next two-and-a-half hours saw a total of 37 stations in the log but the mist didn’t lift until nearly one o-clock. When it did the view, as always, was breathtaking.

Stations worked with 5 Watts from 10:20z to 12:48z were as follows: GW0PLP Don - Cardigan; EI9GLB Jim - Wexford; MW0BYT Ross – nr Bethesda; M0CQE Paul - Oldham; G7OEM Tony - Blackpool; M6HPE Paul - Stafford; GD6WRW/P and MD0YHB/P Carolyn & Helen S2S on GD/GD/002 and MW6LBI/P Ian – Trearddur Bay, Anglesey.

From 10:52z: GW4ZPL/P John - Bangor; G4BLH/M Mike - Clitheroe; GW8NZN/P Dave S2S on Hope Mtn GW/NW-062; G4VPX Allen (normally a GW) S2S on G/LD-024 Blisco; 2W0GWK Keith - Caernarfon; M0WBG Neil - Wirral; G0NAJ John – Dukinfield.

From 11:17z: G0BJK David - Stretford; MW6BWA/P and MW0JLA/P Viki & Rod S2S on GW/MW-009; G0OHY Arthur - Worsley; 2E0MIX Derek - Whitehaven; G4LTM Graham - Dukinfield; G0PSM Peter – 6m S. Mchr; M6ITH/M Ian – M62 J23/24 whereupon the UV-5R battery failed.

Next came a break after which I dug out the FT817ND, first reworking Viki MW6BWA/P on 70cm (see below). After that it was back to 2m-FM.

Carrying on with 145.400, at 12:05z: 2E0DIJ/M Duane - Oldham; G4WHA/M Geoff on lunch break near Penrith; M0JFE John - Fleetwood; M6HMK Helen - Glossop (worked earlier on 80m); MW0JCQ/P James S2S on GW/NW-005 Elidir Fawr; G1OHH Sue – Lancaster.

From 12:31z: 2E0LDK/M Lee - Liverpool; G4PGJ Dave at Burton-on-Trent; 2E0DGP Phil - Chorley; M6WVW Bill – St.Helens; M6NSV Neil - Stafforshire; GW3XRM Dave - Anglesey and finally M6HTU/M Tony in Liverpool; then frequency was clear.

Time wise, I could have squeezed in a bit more CQ’ing but judging by how long it took to recharge, there really can’t have been much power remaining in the 2.2Ah reserve battery.

On this and on the activation of NW40 two days prior, many people asked me about the ‘C’ in my callsign. I explained that it was the Scarborough Special Event Group club callsign varied for Wales. In fact the ‘C’ could actually represent Cymru (Wales). ‘S’ is the Scottish variation, ‘X’ is for England and ‘T’ is for the Isle of Man.

433.475 FM – 1 QSO:
After swapping rigs in the middle of the 2m session, I reworked MW6BWA/P Viki S2S on GW/MW-009 at 12:00. A keen 70cm operator, this had been a request from Viki but at the time, I didn’t know how to get the UV-5R onto 433.475. While flicking through the FT817’s memories, a voice suddenly came from the speaker. Conveniently Viki was calling CQ and despite the fact that I have no antenna for 70cm, she heard me first call. The exchange was 57/ 52 and I was using 5 Watts into the 2m vertical J-Pole.

At least the VHF sessions had been done in comfort, which was a welcome change after the privations of a long morning. The temperature was up to the dizzy heights of 4C by now and the sun was threatening to make its first appearance of the day. Snowdon was no longer a threat to my health and safety which made me savour the final half-hour.

By now there were people everywhere. For a minute I thought they must have gone back on the decision to start the trains in May, especially when one roared out of the station. However, it was just an engineering loco pulling a cart. I checked the café before leaving, just to satisfy myself that it was in fact closed.

The Descent:
At 14:18 a start was made on the journey back to Pen-y-Pass but what a contrast from the morning. As far as the eye could see, the PYG Track, deserted on the ascent, was now being used by hundreds of people and most were still on their way up. In places there were minor traffic jams. Because of this and in deference to my right ankle, sprained in a fall on NP17 in March, it took until 15:52 to reach the car park.

The 30-mile drive back to Llandudno was completed between 16:08 and 17:00.

1.832 CW – 1
1.843 SSB - 0
3.557 CW - 6
3.724 SSB - 21
7.160 SSB - 2
7.033 CW - 5
145.400 FM - 37
433.475 FM - 1

Walking: 735m (2,411ft) ascent, 11 km (6.9 miles)
SOTA points: 10

Elapsed times:
Pen-y-Pass to NW1: 1hr-42 min
NW1 to Pen-y-Pass: 1hr-34 min
Total walking time: 3hr-16min
Summit time: 6hr-56 min
Gross time: (Pen-y-Pass to Pen-y-Pass) 10hr-12min
Gross time: (Llandudno to Llandudno) 12hr-45min

I love Snowdon but it would seem the feeling is not mutual. This is at least the second time I have suffered on this mountain. The last time was 2013 and that was down to similar weather conditions. Then I had wet low-cloud and the same soggy log problem but the temperature was 10 degrees C. Today it was much colder and the mountain forecast had stated, ‘Walking widely arduous where exposed on higher areas, mainly Snowdon range where significant wind chill.’ They were right but it’s one thing doing hill walking and quite another sitting around shivering in it for seven hours. Icing conditions caused the aerial to come down but the worst thing was probably trying to log on weak, wet paper.

If you put the antenna where it’s screened by terrain, somebody is going to miss out on 160m. In this case I went to the trouble of erecting it in the worst possible place exposure wise but with the best takeoff. For my trouble, I got just one QSO because daylight was too far established. Arguably and judging by the signal reports, the contact with Mark G0VOF could probably have been made semi-screened from the rock field. Such is life! No, I didn’t get the ‘magic’ four or more Top Band contacts but the next best thing is getting any contact at all.

80m did a good job with strong signals but 40m was mostly a disappointment. Top scorer by far was 2m-FM with 37 contacts and quite a few summit-to-summits. I could have avoided a whole load of trouble by forgetting HF altogether but it was worth it in the end.

73 QSO’s in seven hours! Many activators might have got into three figures in that time or maybe half that time. However discounting 160m, it boils down to about 4.5 hours air-time which sounds slightly better. When weather conditions are playing rough and the terrain is tricky, all the many small tasks required to keep the activation on track can eat up a lot of time.

This was intended mainly as a week’s holiday for our Grandson Jack and his Mum Hazel and we had mainly good weather. We stayed at Shearings, Marine Hotel on Llandudno seafront. It was convenient, comfortable and the staff very friendly.

Sadly from Jack’s point of view, the hotel swimming pool was out of action until May to enable roof repairs. Instead we went three times to Llandudno’s modern public pool. At £7.70 a throw for the two of us, I thought it expensive but it is a superb facility’ The best bit was when we learned that the hotel manager was refunding the entrance fees!

Jack got to visit a Butterfly house on Anglesey, a deep slate mine at Llechwedd, a copper mine on Gt.Orme, the Home Front Museum, Llandudno pier amusements, a kids activity place called Bonkerz and we had a speed boat ride too.

A GW4YSS/M log extract:
14-April-17; 09:25z; 145.450 FM; GW4ZPL/P; John - Bangor. Worked from Llandudno when leaving to return home. Rig: Moonraker MT270M & 25W to a 5/8. Unfortunately we lost each other long before the A55. It would have been good to have a proper chat about our mutual interest - SOTA. 73 from me to John.

THANKS TO ALL STATIONS WORKED and for spotting by G4SSH, G0VOF; F5SQA; GW0PLP; M6HPE and G4TJC. Special thanks to Roy G4SSH for being on the right frequency at the right time and to Mark G0VOF for that vital 160m QSO.

73, John G(W)4YSS
(Using SSEG Club callsign, varied for Wales to GC0OOO/P)
See previous report GW/NW-040 Tal-y-Fan on VHF, 09-04-17.
G4YSS: GW/NW-040, Tal-y-Fan on 09-04-17

Above: 5am at Pen-y-Pass car park. Insert a ten pound note.

Above: Snowdon guide post near the PYG track/ Crib Goch path junction at around 6am.

Above: The PYG track/ Miner’s path junction.

Above: Summit of Snowdon GW/NW-001 at 07:20 BST. 0C, wind and fog.

Above: Summit of Snowdon GW/NW-001. Putting up the loaded dipole for 160m on the NW ridge.

Above: Snowdon GW/NW-001 activation. Dipole badly affected by ice accretion at 08:37. Mast bent down and 160m coils at ground level.

Above: Snowdon GW/NW-001 activation. HF operating position but little protection from the wind.

Above: Snowdon GW/NW-001 activation. Coax used as a guy line to counter the wind. Clearing the ice.

Above: GW/NW-001 HF activation. Saturated 40m band log sheet.

Above: GW/NW-001 VHF activation and the reason for the reported QSB.

Above: GW/NW-001 Snowdon activation finished at last and cloud finally lifting. View of Y Lliwedd GW/NW-008.

Above: GW/NW-001 Snowdon. Rigs used for VHF. UV-5R and FT817ND

Above: Looking down on the PYG track from the summit of Snowdon.

Above: GW/NW-001 Snowdon trig point. The start of a busy afternoon.

Above: GW/NW-001 Snowdon. Looking down from trig to café (closed) & railway.

Above: GW/NW-001 Snowdon. Looking up from café to trig point. This is the site of dipole option-1 but precision is important.

Above: GW/NW-001 Snowdon. Summit railway station.

Above: Leaving GW/NW-001 Snowdon. Avoid the crowds by walking half a km down the railway to the start of the path back to Pen-y-Pass.

Above: Heavy traffic on the way down Snowdon.

Above: Snowdon’s PYG Track route. One of two coin posts.

Above: Snowdon - looking back.

Above: Back at Pen-y-Pass, 10 hours after leaving.


Great report, John.

73 Mike

Nice report, thanks for the photos. Seven + hours on a summit that looks quite exposed to weather is impressive. I’ll be in the UK for work travel in a year, and I’ll tack on a weekend before and after for some activations. I’m staring to think about what summits I’d like to do.

Good old Snowdon, a prime people magnet!

I was listening towards the end of your 160 metre session but nothing heard except distant lightning, so it was a relief to hear you so strongly on 80 metres.


Thanks for the s2s and the chat John. Excellent report as usual.

73 Allan GW4VPX

Marvellous account and pictures. Can’t decide whether you are extremely hardy - or extremely daft! Thanks for the contacts but please note MW6BWA and MW0JLA (usually called Rod!) were on GW/MW-009 Beacon Hill which is a lot lower and easier than where you had put us (NW-009). sorry to hear of the log problems - were you using ‘waterproof paper’? I do agree it isn’t - but it is better than nothing.

Think it may have been our first S2S and I look forward to the next.
Viki M6BWA

Don’t complain about the car park, you paid the money and got a space. You should be chasing the rogue that sold you a radio that is defective by design. You paid the money and got well and truly ripped off.

In fact how much do you want for your Baofeng (considering it’s useless)? I’ll buy it off you and you can put the money towards a radio that functions. I’m quite serious. There’s no point you taking a radio that is known to be a poor performer and I don’t have enough minutes left in my lifetime to waste them chasing deaf radios. Let me help you get a handheld that works properly for next time! Hell you’d be better off with an old FT290, an RX that works and hardly any battery consumption!

You were 55 most of the time (peaking 57 when I held the antenna just right) using your Baofeng and J-pole on my VX170 + rubber duck when I was 200km North in GM. I spent 30mins calling you but nothing. Not even “there’s something weak there”. No problem using 0.5W + rubber duck to work Carolyn on the IOM. LOS path. The path to Snowdon grazes over the sea but is LOS too. You can’t be 55 with me and not hear me unless the radio is defective (manufacturing problem) or defective (design problem) or both.

This is fine example of why these radios are a waste of money along with real world tests Pedro CT1DBS has done.


Anyway +1 from me for being daft enough to sit up there for so long. Look at all those people… nightmare!

Andy, you are out of order and riding perilously close to the edge of the AUP with your irascible comments. Cool it!

We all know your opinion of Baofeng, but a radio that got him 37 contacts cannot be all that bad, can it?

Brian, this is the radio that the Swiss licencing body banned for out-of-spec TX purity. Samples tested by ARRL showed the same problems. They don’t work well on receive, so yes it is all that bad.

The thing is, it got him 37 contacts. Thirty seven is a lot by anybodies standard, its a page and a half in my medieval paper log, so it could not have been working all that badly on receive. OK, he didn’t hear you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the receiver is duff, it might have been capture effect, or just bad luck with the QSB, who knows? I mean, my 817 isn’t that bad a radio, but it cannot cope with FM pile-ups, the audio just degenerates into a horrible noise. On the evidence above I wouldn’t mind dropping thirty quid on one myself!

The thing is Brian, if you accept amateurs using radios with marginal spectral purity then you cannot complain the next time your neighbour turns on his plasma TV and wipes out your reception.

No, that isn’t the thing, Andy, although it isn’t a negligable point. The thing is that a radio that you characterise as deaf has worked well in John’s hands, so that sample clearly isn’t all that deaf. As for spectral purity, I have recently seen a scan that shows it is quite acceptable. Now I don’t know if that means the quality is variable, or there was just an early run that was bad, or some are better aligned than others, or whatever, but I don’t think the case is closed.

As far as TX purity, that is up for debate, and I agree it is a concern that should be considered. As for listening, the receiver on my Baofeng is better than my Yeasu VX-8R with the stock antenna. I regularly chose the Baofeng for activations over the Yaesu.

You have some reasonable concerns, but maybe you are taking it a stretch too far? And are the concerns so egregious that they make up the cost difference? I would say no. Baofeng radios are a cheap entry point to the hobby and they work acceptably for what they cost and what they are expected to do. I wouldn’t ever hook one up to an amp to avoid amplifying harmonics, but a 4/8W depending on the model, they work fine.

I agree there are two issues here - can’t comment on the TX purity.

John mentions above, and in other posts, that he carries it mainly as a spare. It is clearly capable of qualifying a summit. It’s a good idea to test anything that you carry as a spare.
I hold my hand up to having used sub-optimal equipment / antennas occasionally to qualify a summit, so no criticism from me on that point.
Who would spend 30 minutes calling an activator who clearly can’t hear them? - must have time on their hands :wink:

73 Adrian

Replies to All:

Thanks Mike. Roy said he spoke to you at the rally. Hope you had a good day and moved on plenty of batteries. Keep up the great work digging out the DX! 73, John.

Hello Kevin. Thanks for your comment. Hope you enjoy your time in Britain, but bring your umbrella! The bigger and wilder summits are in GM Scotland but there are plenty of good ones in GW, GI and G too. If you’re stuck for GPS routes I can help you with a few of them. The majority of UK summits have no trees on them, so they can be rather bleak especially in winter.
73, John

Hi again Brian. Yes, there was a vast difference between 160 and 80. Just as great as the difference between Snowdon at just gone 7am and what seemed like another mountain entirely by 2pm. You could be forgiven for thinking quite mistakenly, that the trains were running but they won’t actually be starting until May. They could have run them in April this year, as there was no snow on the line. I can’t imagine Snowdon ever being too popular with you Brian. Too many people and not enough climbing I guess. 73, John.

My pleasure Allan. So difficult to keep the ‘W’ out of your callsign but you managed it! Thanks for the S2S.
73, John

Hi Viki. Seems I spelled (spelt) your name wrong as well as moving your QTH tens of miles north and called Rod ‘Ian.’ Three errors in one paragraph! Seems the summit ref. was a typo as it’s ‘MW’ in the paper log. Rod is in there too, not Ian. Blame it on old age!

I don’t know about hardy but I am quite used to it. Despite that, this one didn’t come easy. The main difficulty was the wind direction but summer heat is my main enemy.

I haven’t tried or even seen any waterproof paper. G3CWI Richard of SOTAbeams used to sell a thing called a ‘Waterlog’ years ago but it may be discontinued. I was thinking of laminating a blank log sheet for use in this situation. A special pen or pencil would be needed but perhaps it’s worth investigating.
Thanks for the S2S.
73 to you & Rod, John.

Thanks for the detailed reply Andy. Sorry I didn’t receive your signal. Another S2S would have looked good in the log. We will probably never know for sure what caused the failure to work S2S but please refer back to your UV5 thread at Baofeng UV5 (Post No54).
Best regards, John

Brian, Evan & Adrian, Thanks for presenting a balancing argument as regards the UV-5R-2. As to whether it’s a good or bad rig, I can’t fully decide as yet but please refer to test results carried out on it this week. Baofeng UV5 (Post 54).
All the best, John.


There is no doubt that conventional paper disintegrates fairly convincingly when wet. Even ballpoint ink appears to, essentially, vanish when the paper is sodden.

There is a notebook series sold in Australia with the name “Rite in the Rain”. The paper is apparently not conventional paper. The notebook I bought came with a stylus for writing on the pages. It was bought for use on a wet activation, but have since avoided all wet activations somehow, sometimes by using a sun shelter, ironically. But the notebook looks to be ideal for sota logging. And if you use the stylus instead of a pencil, it looks like the pages might be reusable, though retaining original logs is always a tradition of mine.

I don’t know where this product originates from, but there are various sizes and the suggested use is by surveyors, builders and others who must take notes in wet weather.

73 Andrew VK1DA VK2UH

You can get it here.

Rite in the Rain is great stuff. The pocket-size notebooks are awesome, but choose your favorite, they have a lot of options.


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Thanks Andrew & Walter, If I just had one or two sheets permanently in the rucksack on standby it would be good. Like you, I tend not to go for rotten WX activations but sometimes it happens. I used to get it half the time before I retired because I only had the choice of Sundays or Friday afternoons and had to take what was dished out; sometimes dreadful.

I too keep my original logs. I have the full set going back to 2002 and they’re all scanned too. Though I could still scan, going waterproof could disrupt this habit and I do like to have the paper logs as occasionally you do need to refer back to basics. In fact I had to do it for this activation to see just how I managed to get two names and a SOTA ref wrong. Answer was, I didn’t. All was correct in the paper log, albeit it was hard to read.

I will look at the links and see what’s what or maybe try to devise something myself based on my preferred log sheet which has all the required boxes in the header.

I did see something in the outdoor shop last week but it was a bit heavy and bulky.

Thanks again, 73 John.

Rite in the Rain makes printer paper. Laser printed sheets should be waterproof. You can format your own favorite log format and print it.




Thanks for the contact John, great write up & some lovely pictures, hope to work you again.


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