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Nw-008

Hi All

Apologies for only doing 2m FM from Y Lliwedd today - a decision taken in view of the uncertainty of topography and weather conditions. Many thanks to all who worked me, and all those who were unsuccessfully listening for me; and those who passed on their regards via Gerald! Also to Richard G3CWI for a most unexpected S2S.

During our ascent and descent, we sought to determine whether the East Peak was actually in the Activation Zone, by determining the height of the col between the East and West peaks. Unfortunately, in every traverse my GPS indicated a corrected height of 873m for the col, ie 25m below the summit height. As the given spot heights on the OS map, and the readout on the GPS, are only to the nearest metre, an absolute answer has not been discerned. My queries arising from this are:

  • has anyone got any definitive data that would settle the question?
  • since the mapping data is only to the nearest metre, are my readings adequate to define the East Peak as being in the AZ anyway?
  • Anyone got the appropriate surveying equipment and fancy lugging it up there to take more accurate measurements :wink:

All this is not entirely academic - it would appear to be far easier to erect HF antennas on the East Peak, and I have made a pact with myself to return and do this one on HF when I’ve had enough of uniques…

73 de Paul G4MD

In reply to G4MD:

Can’t help with your Query Paul but I do understand the difficulties associated with putting up an antenna on that particular summit i.e. the top of the highest cliff in Wales.

What are snow/ice conditions like up there?

Rick

In reply to G4MD:

Hi, Paul. The mapping data is given with a precision of 1 metre but its accuracy is poorer than that!

Did you have a measured drop of 25 metres from the summit, or did you take the summit height as given on the map? If you have a measured drop of no more than 25 metres from the summit then my feeling is that the AZ encompasses both summits as there is continuity.

IMHO the second finest summit in Snowdonia, the finest being Tryfan!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to M0RCP:

What are snow/ice conditions like up there?

Hi Rick

Thawing rapidly - ice limited to the summit area, snow patchy. Path was 99% clear - just a couple of gullies full of snow to make the climb “interesting”!

Full report with all the gory detail will follow shortly :wink:

73 de Paul G4MD

In reply to G8ADD:

Hi Brian

I measured the drops, (and indeed the rises when climbing back up!) then calculated the “absolute” height of the col based on the heights of the peaks given on the map. I’m not sure what the errors associated with the measurement of the altitude are, but as I’m effectively using comparative rather than absolute readings they’re probably not too far out. (GPS has barometric altimeter)

Y Lliwedd and Tryfan have certainly been my two Snowdonia favourites, but I couldn’t decide between them!

73 de Paul G4MD

In reply to G4MD:

In reply to G8ADD:

Y Lliwedd and Tryfan have certainly been my two Snowdonia favourites,
but I couldn’t decide between them!

73 de Paul G4MD

Actually they are my favourites out of the SOTA summits: my ultimate favourite is Crib Goch but that wouldn’t feature in SOTA even if we went to P100! :frowning:

As for the heights, I would say it is “close enough for jazz!”

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

If I remember correctly the height error in measurements from the 3rd levelling done by the OS increases as you move North through the UK. So the error in spot heights could be 3m around the latitude of Snowdonia and gets to around 7m in far North of Scotland. I’m not sure how many spot heights have been updated since the orignal inch to mile maps appeared. I know that in recent times a few almost-Munros and Munros were resurveyed privately to see if necessary “914.4” magic was present. The OS were happy to update their data with the results obtained.

However, the absolute height doesn’t matter only the relative height between the marked summit and the place where you operate from. So it’s simply a case of seeing what your GPS says at the summit and what it says where you operate from. As long as you’re GPS says you’ve not dropped 25m below the height at the summit on the way to the operating point you’re kosher. I’m sure over all the activations there’s bound to have been many people who ended up operating outside the correct AZ. Not because they were trying to cheat but because they’ve made some silly mistake. Technically an invalid operation but nothing I’m going to loose any sleep over!

Andy
MM0FMF

Y Lliwedd had originally been scheduled to be done together with Snowdon on 23rd February 2008. Foul weather had however forced the curtailment of that expedition after the activation of Snowdon; this was thus a return visit to complete “unfinished business”!

Planning this expedition was a long and tortured affair. Gerald and I had three summits remaining to be done in Snowdonia – Y Lliwedd, Yr Aran and Moel Cynghorion. The problem being to combine them in the minimum number of visits to achieve maximum VFM. The legion alternative routes and combinations were studied at length – even the possibility of a marathon summer expedition taking in all three in a day via Snowdon – but eventually we decided the best approach to be Y Lliwedd as a single from Pen y Pass, and the other two from the West as a 2-summit day a bit later in the year when the days lengthened. With extraordinary prescience, Gerald prompted me to add an extra 30 minutes to the ascent time for Y Lliwedd to allow for winter conditions – the wisdom of which would become fully apparent later!

The first opening in our schedules was for w/c 18th January. Following our recent spell of “proper winter”, the weather would be critical to an attempt on Y Lliwedd, and we watched the forecasts closely looking for a suitable window of opportunity. Friday looked good, and continued to get better; so on Thursday we decided to “go for it”. Concern remained about the conditions on the mountain however. All reports indicated rapid thawing but would the summit and it’s approaches be sufficiently clear for a safe ascent? The several webcams in the area seemed to indicate the snow line to be around 750m, so a plan B was evolved, where we would divert to Yr Aran, starting from Rhyd Du, if Y Lliwedd looked questionable. This would leave Y Lliwedd and Moel Cynghorion as a long, but feasible day later in the year.

MO was also subject to considerable debate, given the uncertainty about the conditions we would encounter and the feasibility of erecting antennas on the very restricted and potentially busy peak area. We eventually decided on a “travel light” policy, where I would operate 2m FM and Gerald would take 2m and 70cm sideband; if necessary we could even take it in turns, one of us holding the antenna while the other operated! To avoid desensing issues in the event of simultaneous operation, Gerald would operate 70cm first while I qualified the summit on 2m. A further issue was that Gerald would only be using the FT817 barefoot on 70cm, following equipment problems on the previous expedition.

Being a single summit day, the start was comparatively relaxed and Gerald was able to lie in till gone 3am on this occasion, while my alarm was set for a lazy 0430; although as is often the case before a big expedition, we both slept fitfully only to be woken by our alarms just as we slipped into deep slumber. Despite the efforts of sleepy early-morning lorry drivers wandering to and fro on the M6 Gerald made good time to Stourbridge, and arrived slightly early, catching me finalising my packing up. My turn to drive, so we quickly transferred his kit to my vehicle, downed a restorative coffee and were ready to set off by 0536, a whole 4 minutes ahead of schedule.

The first part of the journey progressed well, despite several patches of dense fog. As we made our way North West, we passed through several bands of heavy rain which we interpreted as a good sign – the forecast for Snowdonia having indicated that Thursday night’s heavy rain would move out to the East early on Friday morning. However, turning onto the A5 at Shrewsbury we were confronted with a cryptic sign indicating that the A5 was closed ahead, followed by an irritating drip-feed of information on successive signs that finally told us the blockage was 8 miles west of Corwen. Consulting the road map, any main-road diversion would add a considerable distance to the journey – and none of the signs actually indicated what length of the road was blocked anyway – so we decided to get as close to the closure as possible and try to find our way around it on the multitude of lanes that we knew criss-crossed the general area. As it happened, that was the right call – arriving at the closure, we found a left turn which took us down a lane (albeit with a horrendously damaged surface, with rough stone repairs that in places scraped at the floor pan of the car!) that ran parallel to the A5 for a couple of miles, finally returning us to the desired route just after the west end of the closure. Despite the loss of six minutes in this diversion, we arrived at the Pen y Pass car park at 0808, two minutes ahead of our scheduled time.

As we travelled beyond Betws y Coed, we were increasingly encouraged by the high cloud base, lack of rain and freedom from mist on the hills. Approaching Capel Curig, we could see the summit of Moel Siabod was clear, and carrying much less snow than when we had activated it just a few days less than twelve months previously. A little further on, and our target came into view. The summit itself was just hidden within Snowdon’s cloudy cap, but enough of the approach was visible to see that tackling Y Lliwedd was a reasonable proposition. After a brief conference we ratified the decision and duly paid the £6(!!) parking fee. In a mood as bright as the morning sun that was now spilling into the valley, we kitted up and (after a short delay, the reason for which delicacy precludes disclosure) set off up the Miner’s track at 0835, five minutes behind schedule.

I realise it’s a cliché, but the first section of the track, up to Llyn Llydaw, was like a motorway – on this occasion complete with cones, piles of aggregate, roadworks signs and an excavator! Remnants of snowdrifts covered the track in places, but not enough to impede progress. As we rounded successive bends in the track, the full panorama of the Snowdon Horseshoe came breathtakingly into view. By the time we reached the point in front of Llyn Llydaw where the path up Y Lliwedd diverges from the Miner’s track, the mists had receded, only the summit of Snowdon itself now being obscured, and the jagged peaks of Crib Goch and Y Lliwedd standing out, starkly outlined against the bright sky. Patches of brilliant white snow littered the dark rock of the surrounding slopes, adding to the fairy-tale appearance of the scene.

After negotiating a deep drift across the path round the Llyn’s shoreline, we crossed the footbridge (still shown as a ford on the maps) and started on the climb proper. The lower parts of the path have been paved into a staircase of huge blocks of stone, and progress was rapid if tiring. As we ascended, a few stretches of the path were under deep drifts, some of which we trudged through and some of which we avoided by taking to the bare rock alongside. At around 640m we encountered the biggest challenge of the climb; the path ascends a steep narrow gully to the col below Lliwedd Bach, which was on this occasion packed with deep snow. It was however, being on a north-facing slope, still very firm and provided some excellent sport as we climbed to the col. Once there, the path opened out into a surprisingly good track that led, with a few nice diversionary scrambles to avoid snow-filled gullies, round the back of Lliwedd Bach and up onto the East Peak of Y Lliwedd itself. We paused here to take in the grandeur of our surroundings. Full sun was now shining, and the views from our lofty pinnacle were staggering. Snowdon had lost it’s misty veil, and all around light was glinting off the remaining snow. Surely Snowdonia doesn’t get more beautiful than this!

Focussing our attention more locally, the Peak itself was more expansive than we had expected, and appeared to offer considerable potential for antenna erection. However it is not clear whether this peak is within the Activation Zone – close inspection of the maps had given no closer an answer than “maybe”, the height of the col between the East and the West peak being indeterminable to a sufficient level of accuracy to be certain. Our true target was always of course the higher West peak, and I determined to take altitude measurements with my GPS along the way to resolve the issue. Our next challenge then became apparent; the section of path that ran across the very top of the East peak, right on the cliff edge, was a sheet of solid ice. The idea of assuming we were in the AZ suddenly became very attractive, but pedantry won the day and a combination of strong nerves and straddling a large boulder to gain safer passage further away from the precipice saw us on our way down to the col between the peaks, where a check on the descent indicated that the East Peak may well be in the AZ. Climbing to the summit of the West Peak, we discovered a smaller area with somewhat less opportunity for antenna erection. Our ascent time had been 2 hours and 43 minutes – two minutes short of the time we had allowed ourselves in the itinerary, and spectacularly justifying Gerald’s “winter bonus” extension to the algorithm we use to calculate our timings. While Gerald searched for a suitable rock to bungee his pole to, I took a further measurement of altitude, which indicated a 25m ascent from col to summit; not sufficiently conclusive to settle the AZ argument either way.

Having finished playing with my altimeter, I found a flattish rock just below the ridge and, with the addition of my foam mat, used it as a convenient seat. As I was only using the RSS antenna, setup was very quick, involving only standing the rucksack with antenna attached upright, and plugging the feeder into the radio! I was thus ready to go by 1128, two minutes ahead of our alerted time. A couple of calls on 145.500 soon brought back Dave G7SKR, who after enduring several minutes of me waxing my lyricals graciously spotted me. That triggered a very gently paced run of 11 contacts, including an unexpected but very welcome S2S with Richard G3CWI/P on Gun, SP-013. After a final contact with Bob, M3UHG in Skelmersdale no further calls were forthcoming so I went QRT at 1216.

Seeing that Gerald was still engrossed in his operating, I took the opportunity to take in the glorious surroundings. Snowdon was still clear, and I could make out the slightly unnatural shape of the end of the new café complex. The Watkin Path down the southern flank of Snowdon was highlighted in white – a crampon and ice axe job for sure! Several people appeared at the top while I watched, but none ventured down – probably very wisely. I had the surreal experience of watching a helicopter carrying out training manoeuvres in the bottom of Cwm Llan 500 metrs below me, while beyond on the other side of the valley stood Yr Aran, free of snow as predicted; and further south Moel Hebog. To the west, the Glyders, Y Garn and Elidir Fawr prompted memories of recent expeditions, and Crib Goch provided reminders of youthful adventure.

I was wakened from my reverie by whoops of excitement, and turned to witness Gerald performing a triumphant dance across the narrow peak, having just qualified the summit on 23cm! He had had considerable difficulty in setting up, eventually finding support for his antenna by bungeeing it to a rock and his rucksack. Calls on 432.200 and 432.222 failed to elicit any response, which prompted a check on the 2m beacons, many of which were audible despite desensing from my 2m FM operation. A return to 70cm eventually brought a response from Mike G4BLH/M at 1117, followed by Dave G7SKR who placed a spot. Stalwart chaser Don G0RQL was next in the log, followed by Reg G3WPF using his favoured mode of CW. Richard G3CWI then found Gerald, after an unfortunate mix-up over which band he would be on, for an S2S from Gun.

A move to 23cm brought contacts with Mike G4BLH/M, John MW1FGQ, Tony, M0ATV and finally Mike G4CPS/P to qualify on the band – the contact which triggered the aforementioned callisthenics!

Returning to 70cm, the true gentleman of SOTA Frank G3RMD was patiently waiting for a CW contact, having been heard calling during the changeover to 23cm. An ssb contact with MW1FGQ completed 70cm operation. 1230 saw a change to 2m, for which Frank kindly placed a spot. Mike GW0DSP headed an excellent run of 14 regular chasers, and Gerald eventually closed at 1258 a very happy man!

We packed up quickly, and left the summit at 1310, 25 minutes later than planned, having taken another summit height reading. Another measurement at the col again indicated it to be 25m below the true summit, and a further reading on the East peak corroborated this figure. On the strength of these figures I am happy to accept that the col is 25m or less below the true summit, and thus the East Peak is within the activation zone.

Having concluded our measurements, we commenced our descent in high spirits. The scrambling downhill and care on the snowy patches took a lot of concentration, but we made good time and soon arrived at the snow-filled gully below Lliwedd Bach. From above, a clear way skirting the gully could be seen, so we took this rather than risking a more hazardous descent on the possibly loosening snow. After this we still managed the occasional disappearance up to our waists in drifts, but the worst was over and we were very soon back at the car, having taken 2 hours and 3 minutes to descend. We had the unfamiliar convenience of changing into our “civvies” for the journey home in daylight, and after partaking of a soupy snack departed at 1545, just 15 minutes later than scheduled despite spending an extra half hour on the summit.

This was a magnificent expedition for many reasons, not least for the excellent support from the chasers, particularly Richard ‘CWI and Mike ‘BLH who went out themselves in awful weather especially to work us. So many thanks to you all, and we look forward to doing it all again from another summit very soon!

Vy 73 de Paul G4MD and Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4MD:
GM Paul,
Thank you for an excellent report that really captured the prevailing conditions and outstanding beauty of the location. What was definitely understated, was the undoubted effort and skill required to activate Y Llywedd under winter conditions. Richard (ERP) and I did the same route in summer, returning via Snowdon and the Pyg path, and found it exciting enough! Well done to you both. Winter bonus was well earned on this occasion. I was very pleased to work Gerald on 70cm CW. His perseverance paid off, for me anyway.
73, Frank

In reply to G3RMD:

Yes Frank, Paul was so enthused by the mountain and the experience that I suggested he might like to write the report this time and what a gem it turned out to be!

The perseverance in respect of our 70cms CW QSO was all yours Frank. I was pleased how well the QRP worked from the summit. I will soon be suitably amplified using BNOS power and hard switching, so hopefully no more trips for the 817 to ML&S for a new switching diode.

73, Gerald

In reply to G4MD:

A fantastic report Paul & Gerald, & one which for a very small moment made me think that maybe I could actviate GW/NW-008 myself on HF…

Hmm…

After looking at where GW/NW-008 actually is, I thought maybe I could take the train to the top of GW/NW-001 & then have a casual stroll down to GW/NW-008 & activate both in one trip.

After further study of the topography I now realise that maybe for now, I will just have to dream…

The term “Proper Mountains” came into my head several times while simply looking at what would be involved.

I’m sorry I missed you, but congratulations to both of you on a successful activation of a quite scary summit, in winter conditions.

73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0VOF:

I think the train and a double activation is a viable plan in summer, Mark. The descent from Snowdon summit is a steep but well-marked track down a scree and broken rock slope, on busy days about as crowded as your local shopping centre on a Saturday! Take your time over it, use two well-extended walking poles, and you should manage quite well. After activating Lliwedd continue along the spectacular but safe ridge down to the road by the lakes, continue easily to the car park at the top of the pass and catch a bus back to Llanberis. One of the great mountain days!

But you’re right, Proper Mountains is the best description, and excellent training for the REAL proper mountains of Scotland!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD and G0VOF:

But you’re right, Proper Mountains is the best description, and
excellent training for the REAL proper mountains of Scotland!

Careful Brian, you’ll invoke a large dose of Scots pride from Andy! He’s always banging on about how the points are so much harder won north of the border, but he never attempts any of those gruelling mid Wales single pointers when he is down south :wink:

Seriously, NW-001 + NW-008 is a dream day out. No train in winter, so park at Pen-y-Pass and slog up the Pyg track to Snowdon, across the ridge to Y Lliwedd and then back down over Lliwedd Bach to the Miners track and the car. That was what Paul and I intended in February 2008, but 70mph winds and driving rain put us off the ridge walk between the summits. The upside of doing it on a weekday in winter is the lack of people - the shops are indeed closed! We saw three people on the upper reaches last Friday - two passed while we were activating and we met up with a chap on the way down and being gentlemen we let him overtake us.

Mark, I would suggest teaming up with someone if you can for the sake of security - there are plenty of ankle-twisting opportunities up there.

73, Gerald

P.S. Y Lliwedd turned out to be far more palatable in reality than I had imagined it to be! At least it is not a knife-edge on both sides.

In reply to G4OIG:

Careful Brian, you’ll invoke a large dose of Scots pride from Andy!
He’s always banging on about how the points are so much harder won
north of the border, but he never attempts any of those gruelling mid
Wales single pointers when he is down south :wink:

Did someone call? :wink:

Indeed Gerald, most of the hills south of the border are simply for girls requiring little more than a stout pair of flip-flops and a pac-a-mac in equipment and possibly a wine gum or two to sustain the walker on her way!

:slight_smile:

I had a look at some pictures and NW-008 looks rather a fine 4pt hill.

As for single pointers in mid-Wales, are these reminiscent of the walking found in Dumfries&Galloway? If so I’ll leave them till I’ve done the St. Kilda stacks! In fact my annual picking off of an English summit on the way down to the NARSA Blackpool rally will be put on hold this year. I’d sussed out that Nine Standards Rig looked pleasant and was not too far from the motorway and was just about to “book” it when I discovered that some fool has booked NARSA for mid-April when I’m doing something else! :frowning:

P.S. Y Lliwedd turned out to be far more palatable in reality than I
had imagined it to be! At least it is not a knife-edge on both sides.

I don’t mind single sided drops. But both sides results in just a tadge more Adrenalin flowing than is good for a man of my age!

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to G4OIG:

Although I have loved Scotland ever since my first visit and well remember several times in the 70’s choosing a trip to Scotland over a trip to the Alps, despite the tungsten-tipped teeth of the midges (and the lack of real ale at the time - such privations!) I have always raised my eyebrows a little at Scots pride -after all, they seem to have made a lousy job of running Parliament since the Act of Union!

When it comes to mountains Scots pride is not undeserved. And truth to tell, those points are indeed hard-earned north of the Border. Take the Aonach Eagach, the greatest ridge walk on the British mainland, a super expedition that I pray I can do once more before the spiders spin webs over my eyes, and all you get for a full day of man’s work is a lousy six points for Sgurr nam Fiannaidh WS-074 - and if you go for the extra three points in winter and meet the fabled double cornices you will have really earned them! In fact there are many fine mountains that have the real WOW!-factor but hardly ever get done. Take Streap, WS-107, the Munro-baggers ignore it as it is only 909-metres high, and so far the SOTAeers have ignored it presumably because there are higher mountains nearby (its easy to get to), but it is a finer scramble than Tryfan and you will never forget the measly six points that you get from it!

I could go on - and on!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

Take the Aonach Eagach, the greatest ridge walk on the British mainland, a
super expedition that I pray I can do once more before the spiders
spin webs over my eyes, and all you get for a full day of man’s work
is a lousy six points for Sgurr nam Fiannaidh WS-074 - and if you go
for the extra three points in winter and meet the fabled double
cornices you will have really earned them!

Surely Brian, any self respecting real ale fan would carry on & bag “The Pap” GM/WS-200 for an extra 4 (7) points then head downhill to finish in the Clachaig Inn with a pint of Sporran Warmer or Bitter & Twisted. To complete the dream - the wife would appear & offer you a lift after a couple more beers.

73

In reply to G1INK and G8ADD:

You lot are making me feel old. I just looked back at old photos I’d scanned - the last time I was on the Aonach Eagach ridge was 1976! Nicer than the real ales - the Clachaig then served Glencoe, a vatted malt at 100 proof (58% abv in new money). Lovely stuff.

73
John GM8OTI

In reply to GM8OTI:

God, John, I’d forgotten the Glencoe malt! It used to be my favourite! I remember walking into the Clachaig and seeing brand new shiney handpumps serving 80/- heavy, it was if the sun had come out although the usual Glencoe monsoon was in full flow outside.

Steve, I suppose today adding the Pap is the natural choice for SOTA, although it is not in character and would be difficult to fit in a short winters day. Probably many SOTAeers would be more concerned with points than a fine bit of mountaineering and just do the Pap and Sgurr nam Fiannaidh! What we used to do was make an early start in summer, climb the Devils Staircase and then follow the ridge from Stob Mhic Mhartuin over A Chailleach to link with the Aonach Eagach, but I don’t think that sporting extension adds any SOTA summits! We used to come down that dicey track beside the Clachaig gully and cross the road straight into the pub, a short stagger from the free camping by the river! Of course, in more barbarous times the Clachaig shut at 22:00…

Happy days!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

…I suppose today adding the Pap is the natural choice for SOTA,
although it is not in character and would be difficult to fit in a short
winters day.

What’s so short about a winter’s day, Brian? Paul and I usually get ready in the dark and ascend our first summit into the dawn. Add moonlight for that special magical effect!

Anyway, what I want to know is why has no-one mentioned that sea level in Scotland is at 400m above that in England? Surely a major oversight! :wink:

73, Gerald

In reply to G4OIG:

In reply to G8ADD:

What’s so short about a winter’s day, Brian? Paul and I usually get
ready in the dark and ascend our first summit into the dawn. Add
moonlight for that special magical effect!

73, Gerald

With sunrise in Glencoe in the New Year about 09:00 and sunset about 16:00 to get anything reasonably big done you have to start and finish in the dark. Even for a close pair like the Pap and Sgurr nam Fiannaidh you will need favourable snow conditions to get them both done in daylight, and I’ve known experienced climbers be forced to bivouac on the Aonach Eagach!

With sea level being 400 m AOD you of course have the explanation for the lower points in Scotland, you are expected to float up the first 400 metres!

73

Brian G8ADD