Bank Holiday Monday 2nd January 2012. A new year, and points to be had. Jimmy M3EYP edging towards his mountain goat award, and Liam continuing his recently rejuvenated enthusiasm for SOTA days out with the boys.
By 8am, we were tucking into hearty cooked breakfasts at Lymm Truck Stop. By 9.30am we were pulling into the car park at Ponderosa Cafe on the A542 Horseshoe Pass. Here we met Richard G3CWI and Wee Wah who were joining us for the first summit - Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042.
It was cold, around 3 degrees Celcius. This wasn’t too bad in itself, but anywhere away from shelter found a strong wind carrying a significant windchill, and disruption to setting up antennas! Most of the undulating path to Moel y Gamelin’s summit was covered in light snow.
Jimmy MW3EYP/P struggled to set up the SOTA Beam, and when up, results were not great. Sure, it doesn’t help when one of the crocodile clips keeps disconnecting, but problems were greater, and the coax has been dispatched for expert examination. He ended up with better results just using the standard helical antenna on his HT.
Richard GW3CWI/P was continuing his PP3 challenge campaign, and further added to his cumulative QSO total. Wee Wah sat alongside him, but inside a purple bothy bag. The meagre shelter afforded by the bump in the ground on which the summit lies was sufficient for the rest of us to remain outside our bothy shelters.
Liam had racked up another ten Playcoins on his ascent, so sat happily playing on his Nintendo 3DS. I set up the 10m groundplane vertical (MM10) and made a few contacts on CW. I tried calling on a self-spotted SSB QRG, but drew zero response. As such, I didn’t bother with 10m FM. VK6HD was heard with big signals calling CQ on 28.012MHz CW, but it was soon obvious that I wasn’t going to break his increasing pile-up!
Richard, Wee Wah and Liam had all set off back to the Ponderosa Cafe some time ago, so Jimmy and I finished out packing up and walked together down to our lunch rendezvous. The cafe was busy as usual, and no wonder. The steak & kidney pie with chips, peas, carrots and gravy was a tasty gargantuan feast as ever, and enjoyed by three of us at the table. Mr & Mrs G3CWI set off back to Macclesfield, while the EYP clan pressed on for the afternoon walk up Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043.
The easy walk up the track to the summit was “rewarded” by even more intense wind blasting across the top. Jimmy had already qualified the summit on his HT by the time Liam and I got there. I decided to press on with 28MHz. After quite a struggle, I managed to get the antenna in the air, and had a listen around the band. A KP4 station was putting in good signals, but again I couldn’t break the pile-up.
I went to the frequency on which I had self-spotted a few minutes earlier. Here I found Rich N4EX calling me! Rich was worked, but then just as we were saying 73 etc, my mast collapsed! Jimmy and I worked together to re-erect it, but various sections of the pole weren’t having it and kept collapsing. In the end, and with the wind getting yet fiercer and colder, I gave up and decided to do the 2m handheld hit and run thing. I gave Jimmy the car keys and told him and Liam to get off down the hill.
Four QSOs were made on 2m FM to add to the 10m CW QSO with Rich N4EX. I was happy to be setting off down the hill, getting my legs moving again, and most importantly, with my hands back inside the warmth of my gloves. A swift descent saw me back at the car, where Jimmy and Liam were waiting inside, in about 25 minutes.
Our route back out to the A483 took us via the Five Crosses pub where we briefly adjourned for a pint of EPA each and a game of pool. Liam had a J2O and a bag of pork scratchings. The journey home was soured somewhat with the news that Macclesfield Town had lost 4-0 at Accrington Stanley (who are they?), but very slightly reprieved with the fact that Port Vale had lost at home.
Today was not a great day for radio operating, and much less of it got done compared to what I prefer to achieve. However, that fresh air, exercise, company and grub was all good. I made a note-to-self to stick to dipoles in windier weather in future. Thanks to all who worked us.