The best 21st party ever

M0HGY’s “coming of age”. And Jimmy, months in advance, appointed himself as his own party planner. A fine appointment it proved to be as well, as it was without doubt the best 21st birthday do I have ever been to!

His plan was simple: Get up at 5am, drive to Bala for breakfast, do a SOTA activation of a new unique, jointly with anyone that wanted to join, then return to Macclesfield for a curry night with old school mates, family and Macclesfield’s radio amateur/SOTA people.

Only Sean M0GIA took up the invite of the joint activation. Jimmy had selected Esgeiriau Gwynion GW/NW-031 as the summit for the day. This was to be unique number 314 for us. As such, the summit food should have been one hundred pies, but Jimmy elected for a flask of wonton soup instead.

Richard G3CWI was the only person on our radar that had done this hill before, and he was quite clear that he had no intentions of returning! Other research led us to believe that this was not a great hill, and little more than a soul-destroying, damp, boggy slog. We left it with a much more favourable impression.

We arrived at Sean M0GIA’s QTH at 5.55am on Sunday 29th September 2013. “I’ll be with you in a minute” said Sean, as he was still getting organised, something quite challenging for a self-confessed disorganised person to do! Eventually, out came Sean in a pair of skimpy gym shorts that immediately conjured images of a classic episode of “I’m Alan Partridge”. He was sent straight back in to put some trousers on, both for his own good health, and my wish to avoid being traumatised.

Two hours later we were parking in the town of Bala and ready for our breakfast. After being charged premium prices for a very average breakfast in the cafe used previously, I enquired at the White Lion Hotel. They had full occupancy, but decided to squeeze in us three non-residents for a breakfast. And excellent it was too, with fruit juices, cereals, superb yoghurts, toast, tea and coffee and a full Welsh cooked breakfast. The bacon, eggs and sausages were all of top quality, and the total price was no more than the cafe a few doors up. We will return.

Now it was time to follow the directions of the JimNav once again, and he took me to the high parking area at SH913232, 545m ASL. The height gain was therefore minimal along this route - just 126m over around 4km, plus a little bit more for undulation.

There were some damp boggy areas that were a bit tricky, with care needed to be taken, but overall the going was quite good and we were able to maintain a decent pace. We simply followed the fence line over the highest ground as it weaved its way to the summit. Just ahead of the summit, I plunged my leg into a very well camouflaged hole plunging to a muddy pool. Sean gave me a lift out of the trap, and we completed the ascent.

The summit was marked by a small cairn, and Jimmy set up beside it, mounting the SOTAbeams MFD atop the SOTA Pole. He went on to make 14 QSOs on 2m FM after initially struggling to get to the requisite four contacts. On 20m SSB, Sean made around 30 QSOs, but inexplicably didn’t make any on 20m CW. It turns out the RBN never heard him, so the RGNgate didn’t have a chance to spot him.

Meanwhile, I was self-spotting on 12m, but I needn’t have bothered. The RBN is notoriously poor on 12m, especially before mid-afternoon, but it seems I was getting heard. All my 61 contacts for the activation were on 12m, split as 49 on CW, 10 on SSB and 2 on PSK31. It appeared that any S2S opportunities had passed me by, but then two came along at once, both on CW. Andy MM0FMF/P was on Beinn an Dothaidh GM/CS-025, while Andy OE/DL6AP/P was on Gundkof OE/VB-392. I got them both, even though they were simultaneously operating on almost the same frequency! I am unsure as to the propagation mode for the S2S with Andy as he remained consistently at 449/559 throughout about an hour I was hearing him.

Otherwise, the contacts on 12m were dominated by the USA, Russia and Ukraine, although the Cheshire/Staffordshire 12m Challenge chasers managed to get through. The activation was wrapped up with a S2S with Steve G1INK/P on Kinder Scout G/SP-001 and Scott KG3W in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

Due to the addictive nature of SOTA activating, I was about 30 minutes behind schedule packng away (naughty), but the three of us maintained a good pace throughout the descent which we achieved in less than 90 minutes.

But we went behind schedule again when me and Sean decided we couldn’t drive straight past the Fox & Hounds, somewhere in North Wales, and went in for a swift pint. Thence back to Macclesfield, a quick shower and change, and down to the Shalimar restaurant for Jimmy’s 21st birthday curry. No less than 22 friends and family turned up for an excellent evening, including no less than 9 radio amateurs with SOTA activating history - Richard G3CWI, Liam M3ZRY, Greg M0TXX, Sean M0GIA, Emily 2E1AEQ, Ray G0DMV, Edward 2E0NSR, myself M1EYP and Jimmy M0HGY.

It really was a great day, and without doubt the best 21st do ever.