Sunday, 25 April 2021 (From my Blog)
Its now over a year since I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and dilated cardiomyopathy, which doctors call heart failure. The condition means that my heart lacks the ability to pump blood around my body at the rate it should. Despite being on optimum medication for this condition, my heart stills pumps at a rate of only 32%, when with normal heart function it should pump at 55%-70%, which mine did until two years ago when my heart became damaged - the doctor thinks by a virus (not Covid-19). So having optimised my medication without much improvement I was fitted with a CRT-D Pacemaker (which includes an on board defibrillator) 10 weeks ago. The heart can fail at anything less than 40% ejection fraction so at 32% this little unit could save my life. The pacemaker however, does not appear to have made much difference in terms of my fellwalking ability, although my atrial fibrillation has been fixed, with the unit inside maintaining my heart rate at 60+ when sleeping and 80+ during the daytime. So this one day trip to Wales was a test to determine if I could come anywhere close to my fellwalking ability in the years before my heart became damaged and allow me to continue hill walking and SOTA activating.
GW/NW-035 Manod Mawr (661m)
After leaving my home QTH in North Yorkshire at 0545L I was parked at Manod Mawr slate quarry at 0930L. This was an excellent Sunday morning 200 mile drive with no hold ups whatsoever, on a lovely sunny day.
A path to the rear of the slate workings leads up to the summit. I followed a GPX track by Simon G4TJC which I downloaded from the SOTA Mapping Project. A discernible path took me right to the summit shelter less than a one mile walk from the car, with 500 feet ascent - 30 minutes walk time, I would grade the walk as easy.
I was carrying fairly heavy 2m FM gear - a Yaesu FT-1500M mobile radio, 4 AH LiFePo battery, 5m pole and vertical dipole. I had a Yaesu FT-4X handheld and RH770 whip in the sack as backup and a bottle of water. 2m was buzzing with activity when I switched on at 0925z, and the Welsh Association Manager, Roger MW0IDX was first into the log! Great to work an AM who is still active in SOTA having been in the role since 2002. I noticed that many AMs appear in name only in association manuals and no longer take part in chasing or activating.
Several nets, the RSGB news etc meant I finished up on 145.300 MHZ where I made 16 QSOs. The most welcome contacts were S2S with Tom M1EYP on Cloud G/SP-015, Neil and Karen 2E0TDX/2E0XYL on Foel Goch GW/NW-039. It took me 22 minutes to return to my car after an enjoyable walk and activation. My best DX was Alan 2E0AGB in Dewsbury.
GW/NW-027 Arenig Fach (689m)
A ten mile drive from NW-035 west towards Bala on the B4391 and A4212 roads, brought me to a gate at the foot of GW/NW-027, Arenig Fach. I parked on the very dry grass verge by the A4212. In wet conditions I would have driven on for 300m and parked in the layby. It was here that I spoke to the only person I saw walking all day, a man about my age - and I met him again on the summit. Before setting out I had some lunch, a pork pie and a pear. All I then had to carry was a small bottle of water plus the radio gear. The walk started well enough on grass, however once I passed through the intake gate in the stone wall at SH 823403 I was into rough heather and the climb became less enjoyable. My heart condition means I now have to stop from time to tiime for a minute or two rest on a climb of this nature. I would have expected to climb this in around 60 minutes a few years ago, but today it took me 95 minutes to climb the 1.5 miles to the summit shelter. This involved an extended “comfort break” behind a wall, if you know what I mean… (Too much information)… There was just under 1200 feet in the climb and the fellwalker I spoke to at the bottom appeared from my left as I approached the shelter. We exchanged a few socially distanced words and then he left the summit to me.
It felt great to be on the summit but bashing through that heather was damned hard work and not enjoyable one bit! It was now 1245z and I switched on the 2m FM band to find plenty of summits audible on the air. Moel y Gamelin, Easington Fell, Tryfen and Shining Tor were all logged for S2S. I logged 12 QSOs in 35 minutes before packing up. When I worked GW4TJC/A Simon he confirmed that my last planned summit of Mynydd Nodol GW/NW-048 nearby, was just as heather crusted as the one I was now on… Maybe I should head back home after this? I decided to wait and see how I felt when I got back to the car. The walk back down to the car took me just 50 minutes, not much slower going down than the old days!
GW/NW-048 Mynydd Nodol (539m)
After a drink and an energy bar and despite Simon’s warning about another heather bash to the summit, I decided to spin the car round and go the the cattle grid parking place for Mynydd Nodol which was only two miles from my current parking spot, but more like 3 miles by road to drive to get around Llyn Celyn reservoir, which is to the north of GW/NW-048:
After following a track for a while I climbed the (unmarked) fence at SH 860394. The unavoidable heather came into my climbing line as I went up by the fence. My arms and legs had little strength left in them now, so it was a case of climb for 25m, rest, then continue. I must have had to stop around 10 times for a minute or two to enable me to complete the short climb. It wasn’t breathing that was my problem but the lack of strength in my arms and legs… Eventually I topped out at the fence corner SH 865392, and a short walk over a small col took me to the summit cairn for my 3rd activation of the day😀
It was the same distance as the walk up Manod Mawr (0.9 miles) with 600 feet ascent, but this climb took me 53 minutes as opposed to the 30 minutes easy walk up to Manod Mawr. The difference being the terrain - easy gradual path compared to a bash through heather on the steep section going up to Mynydd Nodol.
I was on the air at 1545z and made nine QSOs in 20 minutes including an S2S with M7BIA/P Martin, on Gun G/SP-013. I packed up and took the left side of the fence going down which had less heather on it than my route up, until I got near the bottom track, and was back at my car at 1640z. Time out from the car less than two hours and another unique summit bagged.
The drive back to North Yorkshire was uneventful. I took the C road from the summit parking down to Bala and then the usual Chester bypass, Manchester M60 western circuit, M62 and A64 home. I stopped off at Tesco Prestwich for fuel and McDonalds Whitefield near there, for the lousiest burger and chips I have had in my life. I won’t be going back there, it was dreadful - lukewarm chips and a cold big mac.
The trip leaves me with 79 unique summits left to activate to reach my target of 1000 SOTA Completes - that’s 1000 summits chased and activated. I’m hoping that travel restrictions ease soon and we are able to continue with SOTA Touring into Europe again - which should enable me to reach my target before the end of 2022. I was home for 2200 local in time to catch the news and in bed an hour later I think on future trips like this into North Wales I will consider activating with just a 2m handheld and whip. I could have easily qualified the summits with much lighter gear and enjoyed the climbs without having to keep stopping for rest which made my day less enjoyable. Total distance walked 7 miles, 2350 feet ascent, 395 miles driven.
73 Phil G(W)4OBK/P