Retro-report - The Tarrens

Blame Tom for suggesting this one is resubmitted. The original somehow mysteriously disappeared from the reflector.

The Tarrens
Saturday 6th June 2009

This day of activations brought Paul and myself back to Abergwynolwyn in the Talyllyn valley where we had been two weeks previously. This time we were slightly to the south, our starting point being up the short road to the abandoned quarry at Bryn Eglwys. Activating two 4 point summits with decent sized activation zones provided the opportunity for us to invite Carolyn G6WRW and Helen M0YHB to join us for the day, though after considering various transport options we elected to travel with the ladies in Carolyn’s camper van. Fine gentlemen we are!

We met up at Kidderminster a little after 6 a.m. local time on a damp morning with a poor weather forecast ahead of us. The rain fortunately stopped briefly to allow Paul and I to transfer our kit over and we were then quickly on our way, already some ten minutes ahead of our intended schedule. It rained intermittently during the journey, though eventually we outran the worst of the weather and it was reasonably fine when we arrived at the parking spot at SH689059, half an hour early.

Setting off at 07:56z, we took the footpath towards the quarry. The first activity was associated with Carolyn and Helen’s other interest – geocaching. Stopping to find the cache amongst the quarry spoil was the cue for a quick shower, but this eased as we set off again. We back-tracked slightly from the cache position and located the path that skirted the upper part of the quarry. The route up to the ridge between the two summits was easy to follow and this brought us to convenient a ladder stile at SH696040. Here we turned right onto the final section of our ascent to the summit of Tarrenhendre GW/NW-036. We were soon into cloudy and damp conditions and it was very blustery up on the summit when we arrived at 09:56.

Helen set about searching for the geocache that was supposed to be under a stone by a junction of two fences. We eventually found it lying in the open on the pile of stones at the summit. Needless to say, it was returned to its proper place. We then all split up to set up our individual stations. Paul backtracked down the hill a short distance to set up for 60m, Carolyn chose flatter ground near the summit for her very impressive antenna array and Helen and I took two points along a fence to set up for 2m and 70cms. Having a plastic tarpaulin with me, my first task was to organise myself some shelter and I must admit that for one moment I rather felt like a wuss since the others were sitting exposed on the hill.

Despite setting up the tarp and having the dual band antenna to construct, I was actually on the air very quickly and was the first to make a QSO at 1015z. As is often the case, it was Frank G3RMD who was on the ball waiting for us to appear. I didn’t detect any real surprise that it was me that on 2m SSB rather than one of the others - I had actually alerted for 70cms. I explained that I was just bagging a few contacts to guarantee qualification of the summit while Helen was finishing off setting up her station. In all I made 5 contacts on 144.333MHz before passing the reins to Helen. I then moved over to 70cms to find that I had an RF feedback problem on that band. Eventually, after some experimentation, I found that if I separated the power to the 817 from that to the linear and sat on the LiPo powering the 817, then the system was stable – weird or what? Through this experimental period I managed to work Frank on CW and John GW4BVE on SSB. I had been told that Don G0RQL was away from home and there was no sign of Graham G3OHC, so after a number of unanswered calls, I decided that it was pointless continuing with 70cms and time to erect the HF dipole.

Paul opened up on 60m SSB at 10:17z and once again it was Frank that was first in his log. The skip was very short on the band and there were the usual QSB and QRN issues, but Paul worked a reasonable tally of 10 QSOs in 23 minutes before the contacts dried up. Helen took over from where I left off on 2m and several people that I had worked made contact with her. In all her tally was 7 contacts. Carolyn started on 80m SSB and at 10:25z once more it was Frank who headed the list and provided the spot, Busy man or what? Carolyn made a total of 9 contacts on the band around England and Wales, with just a single continental contact with Ambrosi HB9AGH.

Shortly before 11:00z, both Carolyn and I made our band changes – she went 40m SSB and I went to 30m CW. As Carolyn and I had set up our stations quite close to one another, this is was when we started to experience inter-station interference. Discussing the issue later, it seemed that my CW was causing de-sensitisation which was more of an issue for Carolyn than her SSB splatter was for me. Anyway, despite this, Carolyn managed to make 8 contacts, including one with Vitas LY5G. For me, 30m was running well and my run of 16 started with a contact with Rag LA5HE in Telemark who responded to my first CQ call. The first chaser in the log was Berthold DF5WA and shortly afterwards Laci HA7UG found me and kindly spotted me (many thanks for that) which brought in several of the regulars around Europe.

It was 11.26z by the time the frequency went quiet and the others were more or less ready to leave the summit. I packed up as quickly as I could and decided to carry the tarp to the next summit to keep the wet out of my backpack. We set off at 11:45z. The mist cleared for a while on our descent to the ridge and I managed to take a few photographs. We paused when we got back to the ladder stile at SH696040 to agree whether we should carry on as the weather was still rather wet and windy and these conditions appeared to be set in for the rest of the day. We decided to continue and for a while the weather seemed to improve. Our route took us on the south side of an area of higher ground, just north west of the minor summit of Mynydd Rhyd-galed and here at around SH701043 we met a party of about 20 people out for a hike. The usual pleasantries were exchanged, complete with the mandatory “no fish up a mountain” joke before we continued over Foel y Geifr to the corner of the forest at SH716051. Here we walked along a wide ride which lost us height, then swung left to the foot of the main ascent of our second summit, Tarren y Gesail GW/NW-033.

I think that all of us except possibly for Paul suffered in some way on the ascent, not least from the weather which was getting steadily worse. We were all very relieved when the ground eventually flattened out as we reached the summit plateau. We decided to operate from the trig position which we reached at 13:45z. Carolyn and Helen bagged the only shelter that existed in the form of the remnants of a small stone shelter, while Paul and I set up tarps along the fence line nearby. As the weather conditions were now what might be best described as dire and everyone was rather damp, we decided that we could only really manage a joint 2m SSB activation. This would allow us to get off the summit as soon as possible. Paul had a dedicated 60m dipole with him, so he thought an attempt at that band would at least go a small way towards our intended mass activation.

Carolyn and Helen set up their 3 element beam and plugged in the FT290R without deploying the amplifier. I went for just the SB5 bare antenna on 2m and we were up and running by 13:58z. With Carolyn on antenna support duty and the strong wind making antenna positioning difficult, Helen’s first few calls went unanswered. I raised none other than Frank G3RMD at 1359z followed by Graham G4FUJ. Duties were then passed over to Helen. Paul was having no success on 60m SSB and he came up to me at 14:04z to tag onto my operation. Carolyn decided that since the weather conditions were not conducive to exchanging mic and antenna, she would make the summit one to return to at some future date.

It must have been rather confusing to some of the chasers as to who they were making contact with, but it all worked out okay. Thanks to everyone for their patience and understanding. Helen and Carolyn decided to call it a day once there were 5 contacts in Helen’s log and Paul retreated after 6 to go and rescue his 60m station before the pole suffered damage. This left me to continue the operation alone and I finished with 15 in my log. Paul and Helen worked Richard G0IBE/P on the Long Mynd G/WB-005 while I was braving the conditions taking a few photographs.

Once they had packed up, Helen and Carolyn started their descent while I was still working through my run of contacts. It got a little rushed towards the end and I may have missed a few people, so apologies if that is the case. The weather conditions were getting even worse as I packed up my station, so with everything packed away I just bundled the tarp up into a ball and Paul and I set off downhill at 14:45z. We assumed that it would be calmer lower down, but the weather had other ideas and we were blown about by the wind as it was funnelled by the local topography. Eventually we reached calm lower down which allowed me to fold the tarp and carry it in a more sensible fashion.

We reached the van an hour after setting off from the summit. Helen made us a most welcome brew while we got sorted out. With the exception of Paul who was protected by his expensive waterproof over-trousers (a pair will be my next Christmas list), we were all rather damp and everyone had wet feet for one reason or another. Usually I find water gets into my boots when I sit down to operate, not when I am walking.

After a snack, we set off at 16:08z, arriving at Kidderminster at 18:45z. Once we had transferred the kit to my car, Paul and I spent a few minutes inspecting Carolyn’s very impressive antenna farm before heading off back to Paul’s house in Stourbridge. I eventually arrived home in Northampton at 20:54z. Another long day which had started just before 03:00z, but an enjoyable one despite the weather, my only regret being that we were not able to activate HF from Tarren y Gesail as we had intended.

Did four on a hill work? Well judging by the activation on Tarrenhendre where we put on 6 bands and probably would have done more given better weather conditions, certainly it did. Will we do it again? Yes – we just need to agree on a date and find a couple of suitable summits.

Particular thanks to Frank G3RMD for keeping an eye on us during our day and for somehow managing to be there for us all. Also thanks to Graham G3OHC for posting that there would be no HF from Tarren y Gesail as per my request. As usual we were pleased to work many of the regular chasers, so thank you to everyone for the contacts we made.

73 to all,

Gerald G4OIG

Distance walked – 11.8km. Time taken – 5 hrs. Total ascent – 680m (nominal)
Mileage driven - total 374 miles (598km). Time taken – 7 hrs 55 mins

In reply to G4OIG:

we arrived at the parking spot at SH659059, half an hour

Are you sure of your grid ref?



In reply to G3CWI:

Wack wack ooops - SH689059 is the correct one. Report corrected. Wouldn’t want to walk further than necessary would we… unless of course we started out from the pub in Abergwynolwyn after half a dozen pints - then we’d probably be up for anything!

73, Gerald

P.S. Just read your tips - you did start out from the pub! Carolyn got the camper van up the road and Paul had driven up after we’d done the previous sortie to recce the Tarrens - presumably you didn’t fancy taking your new motor up there.

In reply to G4OIG:

P.S. Just read your tips - you did start out from the pub! Carolyn got
the camper van up the road and Paul drove up after we’d done the
previous sortie to recce the Tarrens - presumably you didn’t fancy
taking your new motor up there.

I enjoy walking so I don’t always try to get as near as possible by car.



In reply to G3CWI:

We’d noticed!!!