Saturday 16th February 2008 – G/WB-005 Long Mynd - Pole Bank Activation
After baking in the sun on GW/NW-051 Foel Fenlli on Wednesday no-one could have suspected that when the brilliant weather broke that it would return for an encore so soon, but it did and as intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded those winter bonus points with envious eyes, and slowly but surely drew their plans, we joined them. The WB mission originally planned for last weekend was on. The chances of us doing more than one summit were a million to one I said, but still we came.
Although we had a plan in place from the previous week we needed to get all the way points into the GPS and the parking spots into the SatNav. We also needed to pack the rucksacks and make our lunches. These things should have been done Friday night but as often is the way forces beyond our control conspired against us and we crawled into bed in the early hours of Saturday with nothing ready.
Saturday morning and much rushing around later the car is packed and Helen is still having problems with the GPS, her PC has decided it doesn’t want to talk to it. Several reboots and reinstalls later we are waiting to get going and my eldest daughter appears in her pyjamas. It is all perfectly normal for us but we wanted an early start and it is getting on. We had not had time to make lunch so after stopping at the local supermarket for pasties and drinks we got on our way. At 10:44 somewhere en route I grabbed my first chaser points of the day from 2E0RSM on G/NP-005 Ingleborough.
SatNav makes driving to and between summits so much less stressful most of the time and this trip went without any serious hiccups so just before noon we were driving up the slightly worrying road that leads to Long Mynd. It is narrow with quite a drop and there were a number of idiots. As we reached a parking spot the SatNav told us we had arrived so we parked up and changed into the walking gear. With our rucksacks on back we powered up the GPS and glanced at the route, we seemed to be a long way from the summit. Ah! Was this one of Richard G3CWI’s routes we had? This was the perfect spot for an easy walk on a nice day but the icy wind and the desire to do as many summits as possible meant that we wanted to be a bit nearer. We unpacked and moved further along the road. The GPS bleeped and we pulled over into another parking area. We jumped out and looked around but missed the summit at first so we started walking in the opposite direction for about 100 feet before the GPS found it’s proper lock and we turned around and headed back the way we came. At this point we saw the summit and realised we were still about a mile away.
After two false starts we found the right car parking spot and headed for the summit. By 12:25 we were set up and after a number of questions from the muggles on this very busy summit, I made contact with Robin GM7PKT/P on GM/CS-083 Meall na Leitreach for the first summit to summit of the day using 60 metres. I worked fifteen more stations on 5mHz before getting my second summit to summit with Dave GW0AOD/P on GW/NW-043 Cyrn-y-Brain. Conditions where poor on 5mHz and 40 metres was full of contesters below 7.100 and commercial broadcast stations above, so after calling on 7.096 and 7.115 for ten minutes I gave up and packed away my kit. Before I took down the mast I added Colin M0CGH/P on G/LD-007 Fairfield to my S2S tally on two metres FM by pinching the mic from Helen. Helen (G7AAU/P) also managed 17 contacts all on FM including Colin and Grant G4ILI/P on G/WB-024 Aconbury Hill. Wanting to cram in as many hills as possible in we made a rapid departure for the next summit, but not before I had taken a few photographs.
Long Mynd is a really beautiful hill and deserves a little more attention than we gave it but that would have to wait for a return visit hopefully on a nice summers day when we can extend the walk in by starting from where we first stopped and spend a few leisurely hours working all bands.
Saturday 16th February 2008 – G/WB-002 Brown Clee Hill
Helen’s SatNav took us straight to the next summit often using bumpy single track lanes that seemed perfectly suited to the Landrover Discovery, but scary whenever you met something coming the other way. The advantage of SatNav became clear, because as a passenger you cannot shut your eyes when navigating from a map, but as Helen pushed the 4x4 to near the legal limit I was able blot out impending death and destruction while she enjoyed scaring the life out of little old ladies in Fiat Unos and laughing as they tried to reverse out of the hedgerows behind us. Just joking!
The contrast between different summits never ceases to amaze me; the difference between the moor land of WB005 and the rolling meadows of WB-002 was case in point.
We parked on a grass verge with room for a couple of cars a little way on from the access gate to the bridleway and walked back, through the gate and up the bridle way. Eventually we came to a gap in the hedge and crossed a couple of fields going up at about 45 degrees to the bridleway until we met a place where two fences crossed. At this point there was a way over the horizontal fence and we stepped over following the other fence to the summit. This last bit was really quite steep and the ground was slippery under foot. At the top of the rise we checked the GPS for the height to make sure we were in the activation zone, we were within 7 feet and so I dumped the rucksack and went for a quick look at the transmitter buildings and towers that adorn the summit. If there is a trig on this one I didn’t see it, but I do not think there is one anyway.
First in the log for me on 60 metres was Jack GM4COX/P on GM/SS212 Meigle Hill who had joined us on our Scottish trip in August on our ascent of GM/SS-064 Tinto. This was followed by a succession of 13 contacts consisting mainly of regular chasers but with a couple of callsigns that were new to the log. After working Martyn M1MAJ the calls on 5 mHz dried up and I tried 40m. I called for a while on 7.096 and was going to try on 7.115 but the broadcast stations were just too strong.
Helen had been going great guns and had already had a summit to summit with Scott M3UUM/P on G/NP-008 Great Whernside and as I packed away my gear I took the chance to grab a couple of her S2S contacts on two metres. I worked Eleri MW3NYR/P on GW/NW-040 Tal y Fan and Carolyn GW6WRW/P on GW/SW-004 Waun Rydd, while Helen worked these two plus Eleri’s OM Ian GW8OGI/P and another Helen MW3YHB/P on Waun Rydd with Carolyn. It was great to hear so many YL stations on together all on summits. Helen worked two other YL stations from this summit Marsha 2E1MSC and Sharon 2E0NBR so it looks like SOTA is an equal opportunities hobby at last. Total contacts for this one were GW7AAV - 16 and GW7AAU – 15.
After Helen had finished with her S2S contacts she left them the frequency to work each other. We quickly packed the rest of the gear away and made a rapid descent. At the bottom of the steep part I stopped and waited for the others to catch up. At this point I remembered the camera and took a few snaps. I looked back in time to see first my daughter Caroline and then Helen making a fine pigs ear of it and sliding down the hill on their backsides. I called out to them to watch for the broken barbed wire from the fence and I fumbled to get the camera back out of my pocket but was too late. From the look on Helen’s face maybe it was as well. “Maybe we should find a new hobby?” she said.
Saturday 16th February 2008 – G/WB-004 Titerstone Clee Hill
I was not convinced we could make it in time to Titerstone Clee Hill from Brown Clee Hill as the air already had a slightly pinkish tinge. Helen once again pulled out all the stops and the SatNav had the fastest route programmed in. Apart from one point when Helen, pointing out a flooded road/ford said “Let’s forget the hill I want to drive down that!” we seemed to be making good progress but the light was going rapidly as approached our destination.
As we reached the car park there was water running across the road and it had frozen to slush, not a good sign. We arrived at the car park and I said to Helen “We are not leaving the car here!” as there were a group of youngsters on trail bikes pulling wheelies and generally having a great time of it. We moved the Discovery to the start of the track to the radio/radar masts and parked just opposite the sign saying ‘No vehicles except on official business’.
We got out to an almost Arctic wind that froze the breath to my facial hair. We left the girls in the car and headed up the radar station road. Despite our yomp up the hill we still had teeth chattering when at the other side of the Radar dish I asked Helen to check how high we were on the GPS. We had got to within 40 feet vertical of the summit although we were unable to see the trig point in the failing light. “That’s it!” I said and dumped the rucksack and set up the station.
Helen started well on two metres with Sharon 2E0NBR first in the log. I started with DON G0NES of 5mHz but I was getting a little desperate when the crucial forth contact did not appear. I was also shaking so much with cold that I could not write in the log. I took the opportunity to grab Graham G4JZF after Helen on 2FM. As soon as I moved away from the FT-817 the calls came in and I ended up with ten in the log while Helen got nine on 2 FM. There were no summit-to-summit contacts but I was glad to get anyone on 5mHz, as the band is usually unusable by this time.
We packed up in deep gloom working as fast as we could with frozen fingers, despite the gloves and yomped back to the car again. On the drive back the water running across the road had frozen solid and it was a very tentative crossing with the passengers shutting their eyes and waiting for the crunch, which fortunately never came. Hours later and back at home we were still shivering until a hot meal and a shower brought us back into the land of the living.
Monday 16th February 2008 – GW/NW-044 Moel Famau
My mantra of late, as I mentioned in a previous report, has been “One day the sun is going to shine on me!” and so I couldn’t believe it when it came out to play for me on Monday 16th February. It was seriously more like August than February and boy did I love it. This activation would take me past 100 points and what a way to do it!
I dropped my youngest daughter at school and then my granddaughter and her mum at the nursery school and headed for GW/NW-044 Moel Famau. I parked at the top car park between Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051 and Moel Famau. The sun was shining but the crisp early morning air was perfect for walking. All my recent activity was showing as I made good progress only stopping to take photographs three or four times, well that is how I cover up stopping to catch my breath back, until I arrived at the bench just before the steep bit. I did not feel I needed a rest at this point but knowing what was to come I took off my rucksack sat down, drank some water and just enjoyed the view. There was very little haze and Cader Idris, Arenig Fawr, Tryfan, Carneddau, and of course yr Wyddfa – Snowdon stood out proud on the horizon.
The final push was easier than I had remembered but I am no mountain goat and so I was glad to arrive at the top breathing heavily, slightly light headed and red in the face but without my legs buckling and my knees burning. Oh to be fit instead of fat!
I had intended to set up with my dipole along the fence just down from the trig point but as I sat in the lee of the monument I got comfortable and set up were I was in the doorway shaped niche to the north side facing the trig. It was a bit early for 5mHz so I started with two metres FM and at 11:00 hours my old friend Arthur GW1LDY was first back to the call. There seemed to be a bit of a lift on and there were French stations on two FM though I never worked any. Louise 2E0GIZ in Luton and Pat 2E1PDQ in Kent seemed worthy of note, not bad for 5 watts into my home brew J-pole.
Despite not having a beam, I QSYed on to 2m SSB, in an attempt to work Gerald G8OGI/P on G/DC-001 High Willhays. I will never know if we would have made it as I was too late but Graham G4JZF answered me to tell he was gone. I was pleased to work a handful of stations on 2m SSB including Rob G4RQJ who I had heard on FM but could not get back to.
Barry 2E0PXW informed me that Mike G4BLH was on G/SP-008 Boulsworth Hill - Lad Law and I worked Mike on two FM to set up a 23cms contact. Leaving all my gear unattended I climbed to the top of the monument and stood on the highest point and called Mike. Fortunaty my stuff was untouched when I came down. Only 5/1 each way but with 500mW from the handhelds into rubber duck antennas I was well pleased with my summit to summit. I was just as pleased to get a second call, 5/9 each way this time, on 23cms from John MW1FGQ, who is a fellow member of the Mold and District Radio Club. I now have his telephone number so the 23cms gear will be packed a little more often on activations.
I then tried 5mHz working a disappointing six stations (not six disappointing stations) mostly regular chasers but with one new call sign for my log. One of the problems was the dipole ends were too close to the ground but I suspect that good weather had drawn people away from the radio and outdoors and who could blame them? I tried 40m getting nothing on 7.098, but on 7.115 I worked Peter DL8YR who was 5/9 and gave me 5/5 so where were the other EU chasers? After half an hour on 40m I tried 60m again and added John M0JDK and Brian G8ADD to the tally.
By this time it was 13:00hours and I tried 70cm FM from the handheld and 14.285 SSB without any success before finding a French station calling on 2M SSB. I called him for fifteen minutes but depleted batteries and my vertical J-pole antenna were not quite up to the job. I started packing up to leave and remembered the camera. A few snaps later I was on my way down.
I had intended to try and descend with out any stops and I ploughed on as quickly as my legs would carry me. Just when I thought my knees would give up I reached a flat bit and so kept going at a pace that would be impossible when I am out with Helen and the kids. I was in sight of the car park when I was muggled. “Is that a radio aerial?” Half an hour and two thousand questions later I was back at the car.
As I changed out of my walking boots at the car I spotted smoke on Moel Famau. “That couldn’t have been there on the way down” I thought “or I would have been choking on the fumes”. I quickly took a couple of shots of the scene with the camera and headed home. As I drove away I was almost forced off the road by a fire engine. My thought was that it was a controlled burn of the heather and some kindly member of the public had called the fire brigade. It turns out that it had been a controlled burning but got out of hand. At 19:00 hours there were still seven fire appliances fighting the flames that had spread to the forest above the car park. I had intended to go back and photograph the resulting damage but when I was up there on the 23rd to work Gerald GW4OIG/P on GW/NW-001 Snowdon the weather was too bad and the light was not good enough.
Wednesday 27th February 2008 – GW/NW-034 Cyrniau Nod
I was warned that SOTA was addictive and I long ago knew I was addicted to the chaser side but the draw of activating has been stronger of late and although not long ago the thought of ever achieving ‘Mountain Goat’ would have been laughed off now I think maybe it will only take me another ten years or so.
The weather on Tuesday had been good once again and Mike GW0DSP asked if I was activating anything. I had a few too many chores to do on that day but I suggested later to Mike that I might do one of the Horseshoe pass pair. He suggested that GW/NW-034 Cyrniau Nod and GW/NW-040 Tal Y Fan were relatively easy for seven points rather than five with the winter bonus. Mike had already done Cyrniau Nod but as there was a Landrover track most of the way he would join me if I was doing it the easy way.
After doing the usual school run I picked up Mike and we set out in pleasant sunshine. The drive up to Bala was enjoyable with very little traffic on the roads, a complete contrast to the last few trips I had made this way. At Bala we turned left passing the large car park on the left and then the lake its self to the right. We followed the road until we saw another forking off on the right sign posted Lake Vyrnwy. This road is mainly single track with few passing places and of course we met a logging truck. Fortunately I was close to a passing spot and I pulled over as far as I dared with branches of a tree touching the window. I pulled in the wing mirror and the truck squeezed past with about 2cms to spare, a few seconds later we both breathed a sigh of relief.
A little way on we turned up out of the valley on to the Landrover track. Mike was impressed how the Discovery ate the hills on the rough track and we soon bounced and splashed our way to a suitable parking place were we could turn around later and parked up. It was not very far to the summit kern from where we parked and I made a sortie to find it. Mike had pointed out where it was and so when the heather and gorse became too long and the ground to boggy I gave up the idea of setting up along the fence found a firm bit and set up. Mike set up some way away and was calling on CW before I had my mast erected.
I self spotted and my call on 3.666 mHz was answered by Barry 2E0PXW and although I called him back he could not hear me. Eventually I gave up on Barry and John GW4BVE called me. John and I tried for a contact on 23cm but as John expected the path was poor between us. The only other call on 80m was from Graham G4JZF and after 30 minutes on the summit I only had two contacts. 5mHz was a little better with some of the regulars bringing the total to eight. As usual I tried 40m on 7.096 and 7.115 and as usual no one came back. Yet another clear case for using a bit more power if only on 40m.
I had been lent a 2m/70cm Maspro portable beam by Paul GW0WTT to try so I had high hopes that a switch to 2m SSB would prove fruitful. However the swr on the SSB portion was acceptable but not good and results were disappointing.
First in the log on 2m SSB was John MW1FGQ and another attempt was made at a 23cm contact. Unfortunately John had a problem with his beam and couldn’t get it far enough round to point in my direction so the first contact on 23cms from this summit is still waiting to happen. Again, this was a disappointing tally of only six on two metres SSB. While the beam was horizontal I tried 432 SSB beaming through from north to north, in 45-degree steps. After turning the beam vertical I tried again on 70cm using FM, again no contacts. An attempt on 2 FM only brought in one more station Bob MW0RHD, which amazed me.
After crying in the wilderness on 2 FM I had started to pack up when I heard Mike call saying “Hope you are watching the time!” I needed to pick up the Granddaughter at 14.45 in Connah’s Quay. After a quick drink we headed back down the track trying to keep to the high side of the track to stop the tow bar grounding. It was only the next day when I remembered the button on the dash that jacks up the suspension for off-road use. It also never occurred to me that the descent control was available either, not that it was needed or the diff lock or four-wheel drive.
Just as we were about to leave the track the back end of the Disco’ took a slide to the right. I thought nothing of it but as we drove back towards Bala I said to Mike “I don’t remember this road being so bumpy” and got out. I expect to find we had picked up some rocks in the tread of the off-road tyres but not two four-inch slashes in the sidewall of the passenger side rear. There was no damage to the alloy rims so it must have happened just as we got to the bottom of the track. I drove very slowly to the nearest passing place and parked up.
I was not a happy bunny! I knew we would be laughing about this later but there was going to be problems. First I could not remember where the jack is, on my mark one Discovery it was under the rear seat, in this mark two it was under the bonnet with a plastic cover, so we missed it the first couple of times. Then I could not find the wrench; it was in the compartment in the back door. I realised I was doing a headless chicken impression and took a few deep breaths.
Once that was over the real problems started. I recently had to get new locking nuts and a key after some tyres were replaced as the key had been damaged and the nuts rounded off, it cost me if not an arm and a leg then the price of a new hand held radio. I was utterly gutted when exactly the same thing happened when I attempted to remove the locking nut on the wheel with the puncture, especially as I had fitted them myself using the recommended torque settings. I have since found out that Landrover wheel nuts are meant to be ‘self-tightening’. The other nuts were just as tight and we could not move any of them.
We were in a valley between two mountains there was no mobile phone coverage, we were at least 6 miles from Bala and we hadn’t seen anyone in half an hour. I walked back halfway up the mountain before I got a signal on my mobile phone. I spent a frantic fifteen minutes on the line to National Breakdown trying to explain the problem and where we were, standing very still and expecting to loose the weak signal at any minute. When I finished with the nice lady I rang that really nice lady, my XYL Helen GW7AAU to explained the situation. I could not get a signal. I went further up the track but nothing. I started walking back the two miles I had come and at about halfway I suddenly had a signal. I got the message across.
Back at the car I took some photographs of the puncture and the beautiful valley we were stranded in and all of a sudden my mobile rang. It was Helen and she just had time to say she had sorted things her end when we were cut off. I could not get a signal again. We waited and waited. We discussed SOTA and we waited. We discussed music and we waited. We discussed the meaning of life, the universe and everything and we waited. We sat in silence and we waited. A number of cars stopped and their occupants asked if they could help but there did not seem much they could do.
Eventually I decided to climb up he the hill again and see if I could get through on the mobile, first though I tried from on side of the hill above the car and much to my surprise I got through to National Breakdown, but was put on hold. No sooner than I got to talk to a human than I sorted our rescue vehicle. I will never be able to listen to the tune “Rescue me” in the same way again.
‘Cletus’ emerged from his small white Ford van and I expected the sounds of claw hammer banjo and a bloodhound. I told them we needed recovery and they send this joker! He was completely useless and had no real tools other than a socket set and two trolley jacks. “I needed to go for some tools” he says and disappears for another hour and ten minutes. Returning with a Stilsons pipe wrench and a length of scaffolding pole he somehow managed to remove the locking nut. After slackening the rest of the nuts he decided it was his job to sit with his foot on the brake while I choked the wheels, jacked up the car and changed the wheel. Just what am I paying for here?
Five and a half hours after we finished the activation I dropped Mike at home and headed for a much needed shower. Cost of the outing not including fuel for activators or the Discovery £120 as Richard G3CWI said “It serves you right for driving up”. I have to admit that I found that the lack of effort required made the whole thing less satisfying but I did really enjoy the driving off-road despite what happened and the final ascent, of about the same distance and height of that for the Gun G/SP-013, was on foot so the letter of the law was kept. I found this a quite a dismal hill in such a beautiful area, so I will not be returning in a hurry and if you are thinking of walking in it is about 3.5 miles from the single track road and there is really no-where to park. I would warn against smaller vehicles than mine venturing even a short way onto the track to park and would suggest that 4x4s should have a 4-foot Jackall, a good wheel wrench and spare wheel at least. As someone once said “We live and learn!”
Where to next? If the weather comes good again before the end of winter bonus then either Tal y Fan or one of Horseshoe Pass two are beckoning, after that I would like to finish off the South Pennine summits this year, but my Devon and Cornwall trip is not far away; I hope to get plenty of support on these.
Best regards Steve GW7AAV
The above will eventually appear on my web site at: gw7aav2