After plan A for the goat activation failed last month, with the weather initially looking good then not so good, a new plan was hatched to do Glyder Fawr on Sunday 4th March. I very nearly cried off the day because of the weather forecast for the weekend again being poor but hoped that the forecasters were wrong this time.
Helen and I had an early start to the day leaving home just before 6am to pick up my walking companion Bea from Telford before calling at John’s (GW4BVE) for the first (as it turned out) of two breakfasts. Bea and John have been with me on many of my adventures so it was fitting that they would come along for my goat day.
It was already raining when we left home and as we approached Welshpool it had turned to sleet; the summit of Moel y Golfa (GW/MW-027) was white over I was already thinking Glyder Fawr (GW/NW-003) was not going to be possible. We arrived at John’s at 7.30am and over coffee and muesli discussed options, including cancelling the day, again. Checking the various on-line weather radars showed a band of rain/snow crossing from west to east which would possibly clear in the afternoon and a warning of freezing conditions above 500m; Glyder Fawr is 999m. Glyder Fawr would not to be fun in these conditions; I have been up there before in winter in a freezing white out!
If not Glyder, then where? John suggested a smaller summit to get Goat out of the way as I had been putting off my activation for far too long; it has been restricting me as I had wanted to finish on a high (pun intended) but the big ones will be there another day.I had started the path to Goatdom on a 10 pointer (Ben More GM/SS-001) on the 9th June 2007.
The idea was to head towards Ruthin, via the Horseshoe Pass, and have a look at either Moel y Gamelin or Cyrn y Brain. As we climbed the road towards the Pondarosa the weather closed in with freezing rain and sleet making the hills white well before reaching the summit.
The Pondarosa opened just after we arrived so we thought it would be more comfortable to be inside to make plans; outside there was a high wind, horizontal snow/sleet and it felt no more than freezing. While we wondered what to do and where to go (I decided to have a second breakfast), the nearest summits didn’t look appealing so we decided to go off to the pair of summits near Ruthin and then come to a decision.
Even though the summits of Moel Famau and Foel Fenlli are less that half an hour away from the Pondarosa the weather was much improved. At the car park between the summits it was a choice of the very steep short climb or the longer more gentle walk. The decision made, so on with our kit and off we went to Moel Famau (GW/NW-044).
The walk up was pleasant and we hoped it would stay clear for the time we would be there. On reaching the summit it was apparent that the wind, which we were sheltered from on the way up, was going to limit where John and I would be able to set up our stations. We both took to the fence either side of the style which is towards the north-east of the folly where we were able to be sheltered from the worst of the wind. This was not ideal as it turned out because we caused each other mutual interference via what we think was induction in the fence; I would normally try to be out in the clear as my verticals don’t require additional support. We don’t usually have a problem when out together.
I set up the antenna and radio reasonably quickly and settled into my activation on 40m. First in my log was Mark (G0VOF) in Blackburn whose call was the first I could recognise in the mini pile-up followed rapidly by Robert (G6ODU) and Brian (G4ZRP). My qualifying contact was extremely apt as it was with Don (G0RQL) down in Devon; we have had 194 QSOs spread over various bands while I’ve been on my 259 activations (233 unique summits); he started chasing me from my second summit on the 18th July 2007.
I was coping with the QRM from John OK but 10 minutes into the activation the wind picked up and freezing rain started to fall, this was accompanied with 9++ of static noise making even the strongest signals impossible to hear. Not wanting to damage my radio I disconnected the antenna; I have seen (and felt) static discharges jump the gap in a PL259 on more than one occasion!
I had easily qualified the summit with 13 contacts before temporally closing down for a while, an ideal break to celebrate finally reaching Mountain Goat; Helen had carried up a full sized bottle of champagne. The champagne had been chilled (in nearby snow) to exactly the right temperature so it tasted superb.
It was half an hour before the sleet began to ease and on reconnecting the antenna found that the static had cleared so I recommenced the activation but struggled with QRM, QRN AND QSB. I finally finished with 30 contacts on 40m before the static became too much again. Sorry to anyone I was unable to make contact with. I had intended 20 metres as well but the high level of contest traffic put me off trying.
As I started my trek to 1000 points on 2m I decided to complete on 2m making 10 quick FM contacts before finally closing down.
By now we all had started to feel the chill (we’d been on the summit nearly 2 hours) and were ready for the walk back to the cars. It wasn’t the preferred hill for my Goat day but with the good company of John, Helen and Bea it was an extremely enjoyable and memorable day. Thank you for the company.
Yaesu FT-817 @ 2.5W
HF Packer Amplifier @ 35W
2 x 4000 mAHr Li-Pos
Full 1/4 wave vertical on 40m
2 m homebrew J-pole
It has taken me just shy of 4 years and 9 months to travel this far and I still use my original FT-817 but with help from a small amplifier and have progressed from a rubber duck on 2m to a full set of efficient antennas covering HF and VHF and I’ve made my progress a little more difficult by trying not to activate a summit twice on the same band or used bands not previously used. SOTA has given me the impetus to gain a good amount of practical experience on the mountains and hills, not only portable radio operation but mountain skills as well.
Plans I have as I progress towards the next 1000 points; finish all of Wales (only 32 left), complete DC (3 left) and SC (5 left) during the summer and qualify all the WBs on 70cm.
Thank you to all the chasers that I’ve had contact with, hope to make many more in the future.
Some stats, for those interested:
Activated 11 regions: G, GW, GM, GD, EI, F, DM, ON, HB, W5 and W7
6805 contacts over 259 activations (233 unique summits including 12 first time activations)
Average of 1 activation a week with just over 26 contacts per activation.
Those who I have had more than 100 QSOs (including multiple bands on the same summit):