Whatever happened to those Gaulfests, and other wonderful crisp winter outings that SOTA used to enjoy between Christmas and New Year? The weather has been truly awful. Then again, I did get out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
The next opportunity had to be carefully planned. New Year’s Eve saw both G3CWI and myself with pass-outs from our respective XYLs. However, the Met Office rain radar was painting a gloomy picture across the UK.
Call it clutching at straws if you like, but I reckoned that if we didn’t start too early, and had things wrapped up before too late, then a window of opportunity existed in a narrow band between two bands of heavy rain, centred on the Clwydians in the middle of the day. Richard was content to trust in this optimistic view and we planned to visit Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051 and Moel Famau GW/NW-044.
This was an especially nice day for me as Richard offered to do the driving. When we first arrived at Bwlch Penbarras, it was tipping it down. We needed to delay our start. Me buying a pair of new waterproof overtrousers (my old ones were ripped to shreds) and us both taking a full cooked breakfast in a cafe in Ruthin wasted the necessary time.
This time, as we parked up on Bwlch Penbarras, the rain had all but stopped. We commenced the haul up Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051, with me stopping for rest breaks and gasping for air and betraying my lack of exercise and serial over-indulgence over Christmas.
As we set up our respective stations on summit, the rain returned with intent, and we both quickly pulled our bothy bags over ourselves and our gear. I found that 12m CW was open, but seemingly only to a small specific region. For the only two QSOs I made were to EA9 and ZB2! I resorted to 2m FM from the handheld, which brought the two I needed to qualify the summit.
Richard GW3CWI/P set off on his descent, reporting around 40 QSOs on 40m CW. I made one final call on 12m CW, and worked Roger MW0IDX. This gave me a new DXCC for 2012 on 12m, so many thanks Roger! The rain stopped, and I took a little extra time on summit enjoying my steak & potato soup, knowing that Richard intended sitting in his car drinking coffee.
After meeting back up following my descent, I strode out on the low path to Moel Famau GW/NW-044. Again I struggled with my fitness, and the pace was slow. So slow in fact, that as I approached the junction between the low path and the middle path, there was Richard ahead of me coming off the middle path and pressing on with his faster stride, presumably assuming that I was still ahead. I never saw him again until the summit!
The summit of Moel Famau was not as windy as it had been on Foel Fenlli, and the fact that it had remained dry throughout the ascent was a bonus. I could see Richard’s 40m dipole erected by the fence. I decided to use a patch of the flat grass on the North-East side of Jubilee Tower to set up the 12m vertical.
This time, the band was in much more useful shape. Mike DJ5AV called me for the first QSO, then it was USA all the way, with eight consecutive QSOs into the US. I packed up, and to Richard’s horror put out a CQ call on 2m FM with the handheld. To Richard’s further horror (he is clearly a cold-blooded reptile like Jimmy, and gets cold when it’s cold), I then enjoyed a run of seven QSOs on 2m FM. But it is good to consider the needs of the chasers who had not the opportunity to work the summit on CW, I always feel.
We walked back down to the car park, somewhat surprised at the vast numbers of ill-equipped people, some with toddlers in pushchairs, making their way to the summit in fading daylight and soon worsening weather. Sure enough, as we got to the car, the heavy rain began. Perfect timing!
73, Tom M1EYP