Rumours of my demise have been exaggerated.
However, today, I suddenly felt the urge to prove I was not a saddo who begged for contacts off repeaters and who was not known for his strong signals.
The slight disadvantage to this noble aim was the lack of FT-817, rumours of whose demise are not looking exaggerated at all. The advantages to this noble aim included 8 hours of free time, a relatively local summit not yet activated this year, a 7Ah SLAB, the outstanding Yaesu VX-110 handheld the unfailing SOTA Beam and the reliable assistance of my loyal subjects. And personal service from RAYNET.
Marianne was due in at Manchester Airport at around 2.30pm after flying back from visiting her dad in Northern Ireland. That created a time window of opportunity, almost tailor-fitted to Moel Famau GW/NW-042.
The combination of a belly full of curry, a belly full of ale, indifference and Match of the Day meant that nothing at all was prepared the previous evening. However, a most reluctant 0600 BST get-up saw me then sweep into more disciplined action, and the cocktail of taxing tasks such as making the soup, filling the bladders (I hate that job, for some reason), packing the rucsacs, packing the car, lining up the boots (and change of footwear for later), ordering Jimmy M3EYP about and the worst of all - getting Liam up.
Liam, to my surprise, was happy to get up. Then I realised that this was because of his early opportunity to reserve the television channel to ‘More 4’, and five hours of watching ‘Scrapheap Challenge’. To say there was ‘a little set-to’ when I broke the news that his favourite programme was not part of the days plans, would be the understatement of the decade. Nonetheless, we were packed and away in the car just before 7am.
The 7am news on BBC Radio 5 Live began with the headline that top rally driver Colin McCrae had died in a helicopter accident. Liam burst into tears and was inconsolable for the next hour - he is a huge motorsport fan.
We made good time along the M56 and A494, and were soon climbing up the road to Bwlch Penbarras, more commonly known as the car park between Moel Famau GW/NW-044 and Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051. We made it here just before 9am, as planned, for Steve GW7AAV had warned us about possible road closures in the area for a local event. Indeed, we met Steve and his RAYNET station upon arrival in the car park.
After purchasing the £1 pay-and-display ticket, we set off along the Offa’s Dyke Path for Moel Famau, with it’s distinctive ruined folly - Jubilee Tower - marking our objective and getting steadily closer. The wind was blasting in ferociously from the North and West, and the instinct upon arrival on summit was to use he Jubilee Tower to shelter from it. It was not possible, with the gale blasting all parts in all directions across the summit. We found the best - but not total - shelter we could be dropping away towards the fence in a North-Easterly direction. Here we had an interesting view of the seemingly parallel stripes of the heather in front of us, the farmland of Clwyd, the Dee Estuary, the Wirral Peninsular, the River Mersey and the City of Liverpool.
The set up was Jimmy’s VX-110 handheld, powered by 7Ah SLAB, running 5 watts into the SOTA Beam. Operationg was therefore exclusively 2m FM, but was very successful with 43 contacts between us, 4 DXCCs each (G, GW, GD, GM) and 9 summit-to-summit contacts. A really pleasing aspect of this activation was the fact that we were called by many of our amateur radio/SOTA friends, but with whom we had not QSOd for a long while. A displeasing aspect was a station that Jimmy worked that refused to give him a proper report. He said something like “I’m not giving you a report, because it wouldn’t be accurate. It is as good as a repeater”. Jimmy completed all the other information to exchange again in his next over, and politely asked again for a report to complete the log. The station continued, pompously, “I have just explained why I am not giving you a report” and rattled off his unfathomable “reason” yet again. This regrettable incident might have been beneficial, for several stations were then eager to call in, both to work Jimmy properly, and to assure him that he was operating properly, and the other chap certainly was not!
We closed down at about 10 to 1 local, by which Liam was a good 15 minutes into his descent - I had alerted Steve GW7AAV that he was on his way down. Jimmy and I packed up and set off on a pacy descent to minimise the time that Liam would have to wait at the car park. It was quite challenging due to the strength of the wind blasting into the path. Our personal RAYNET man informed us when Liam came into sight, and indeed jumped into his appealing looking RAYNET-badged Vauxhall, and we were only a few minutes later arriving at the car park.
Our arrival time at Manchester Airport coincided perfectly with Marianne’s appearance in the short-stay car park, and our later arrival for a family meal at the Weston Balti Raj in Macclesfield, coincided almost perfectly with that of G3CWI and family for similar - great minds…!
Thanks to all chasers or what was a really satisfying and fun activation.
Tom & Jimmy