After missing out last weekend and being busy on Saturday, Carolyn (G6WRW) and I (Helen M0YHB) wanted to get a few summits on the last day of the winter bonus. I also wanted to give my new callsign a proper airing. The plan was to start early and head west to the centre of Wales. The first summit was to be Drygarn Fawr (GW/MW-003), then a long drive through the central Welsh mountains to Llan Ddu Fawr (GW/MW-005) before heading to the wind farms of Pegwn Mawr (GW/MW-006); the plan went a little awry though.
We managed to set off at our planned time of 6am even though we had tried (and failed) to chase John (GX0OOO/P) on Little Mell Fell (G/LD-037) just after midnight reducing the time for sleep. So we set off along the road to Leominster and on to Builth Wells turning on to a very narrow road with a big drop on my side at Abergwesyn. This route brought us to a layby to the southwest of the summit; we decided on this route for variety and less bog!
Arriving just before 8am we knew John (GX0OOO/P) would be on Helvellyn (G/LD-003) as part of his end of winter marathon in the Lake District and, determined to get him this time, set up the 80 metre Hustler RM-80S vertical antenna on the van. Listening at the low end of 80 metres (even with our rudimentary Morse we could pick out a 0 and three Os :o) ), we moved to the expected ssb frequency when all went quiet. Carolyn managed to get through straight away but I had to wait for the QSY away from the QRM before getting through. Surprisingly we both got good reports considering we were deep in the valley.
We set off a little later than expected at 8:40am. The first obstacle was the locked wooden gate to the footpath (there were no signs to say why) but there was a farm gate to climb over nearby. The path was not particularly obvious but we knew we had to skirt around the forest before entering further on. Finding several gaps and gates through fences we turned to enter the forest and followed a stream up the lower slopes. It was really nice in amongst the neatly arranged trees with the sun shining through and the only sounds the birds and the running water; we did not see a sole the whole time we were on the hills all day.
We knew we would have to cross the stream at some point but in our haste missed the not quite so obvious cairns that marked the path even though we could see the scrambled ground on the other side. It did not matter as we knew there was a track further up, so we went up to that to make the walk easier and just a little longer. Not much further on we looked for the marked path again and continued walking the muddy route to the edge of the forest. At this point there was a gate and the open boggy moorland spread out in front of us; the summit was hidden behind several ridges.
Having had some fun just outside the trees with the strong echoes off the valley walls, we set off along the path (well we made our own path) in the general direction required. Not too wet but there were some damp parts and some streams to cross. It was a nice contrast to the forest and the views across to the Brecon Beacons were wonderful even with the fine mist driven off the hill by the strong sun. I am sure I could see the distinctive northern end of the Black Mountain ridge in silhouette. We could see the large cairns long before we got to the summit but it was deceptive as to how far we still had to go. Having said that the whole walk was a gentle climb up over 4 km and there were no difficult bits.
We arrived later than we originally intended at 10:20am and after enjoying the views and the summit we set up all three antennas (2 metre Yagi, 80/60/40 metre wire dipole and a 20 metre wire vertical) as there was no one around to disturb and plenty of room. C started on 80 metre ssb while I used 2 metre ssb. We both started calling at 10:40am and after a while both of us made contacts, with C getting us spotted. We stayed to our respective bands only interrupting each other when we had summit-to-summits to chase. My first contacts were Martyn (MW1MAJ) and Caroline (MW3ZCB) on their way up to the summit of Mynydd Troed (GW/SW-009) on their backpack antenna; we made contact when they reached the summit too. The best contact for me was over 200 km away with a 5/9 from Jim (EI3GE) south of Dublin. I also had a summit-to-summit with Robert (GW0PEB) on Carnedd Llewylen (GW/NW-002) with C coming over to get it too and C calling me over to get John (GX0OOO), this time on Seat Sandal (G/LD-022). When C spoke to Martyn (MW1MAJ) on 60 metres at the summit I went back to 2 metres to get both Caroline (MW3ZCB) and him providing their fourth summit-to-summit contact to activate their hill. I also managed to find Richard (GW4ERP) on Great Rhos (GW/MW-002); actually I found Caroline because she was talking to him.
After an hour of transmitting the contacts dried up and we decided I would call on 20 metres for a bit. We had bought the FT-897 not just so we had two radios but also for the extra power it affords (20 Watts) knowing HF conditions have been bad recently. After a self spot and some CQs, two contacts were made with Croatia (9A7W and 9A4MF), a station in Lithuania (LY2FE), a station in Germany (DD5DG) and, when I was about to go QRT, DD5DG in Bavaria called saying he felt he should respond after all my calling. In a quiet period in the middle up popped an American station saying my callsign. Surprised I missed his callsign but got that it was W1??? and Fred from Connecticut. Sadly either conditions changed or he decided he could not hear me properly because we did not make any further contact :o(
We packed up just after midday, had a spot to eat, found the geocache just below the triangulation point before heading back pretty much the way we came up except we chose a more level route back to the forest and decided to follow the footpath and cross the stream where we should have when we started some 5 hours before.
Getting back to the van we drove along the back roads through the Cambrian Mountains to get to Llan Ddu Fawr (GW/MW-005). The views were stunning in the sun with the only distraction the Sunday afternoon drivers on the single track roads. It really is a much overlooked part of Wales for driving and for walking.
While driving we decided that we had enjoyed ourselves too much and spent too long on the first summit to do the three we had planned; better that than rushing around and not soaking up the experience. Also Llan Ddu Fawr was supposed to be surrounded by “treacherous bogs”, at least according to one website we looked at earlier. So we found the parking area we had pinpointed and checked it would be ok before heading off to Pegwn Mawr (GW/MW-006). More superb views as we drove first north to Devil’s Bridge then east to Llanidloes and finally the quiet roads to the base of the hill with wind turbines strewn across the summit.
We set off up the track that leads to the back of the wind farm passing many sheep and seeing our first lambs of the year in the field behind the farmhouse. It was quiet apart from the rattling of the Yagi in its container and four plodding feet, with more excellent views across to as far as Plynlimon and Pen y Garn. As we approached the wind farm we wondered if the summit would be restricted but the signs suggested it was fine for walkers. We entered, the white towers topped with their spinning sails making their usual noises apart from one rather noisy one with what sounded like a dodgy bearing.
We wondered round to the summit cairn and triangulation point and set up. I had a feeling 80 metres would be the band to be on but let C have it while I went on 2 metres. It seemed I was wrong initially when we started at 4:50pm as no one returned C’s calls; I was chatting to a new SOTA chaser Paul (M1BKL) in Whitchurch. When I finished chatting Geoff appeared (2E0BTR) and he spotted us both (thanks Geoff!) and then C had a big pile up in difficult conditions (I think the 20 Watts helped) while I also had a fair few calls from all directions. There was another summit-to-summit with Martyn (MW1MAJ) and Caroline (MW3ZCB) on Tor y Foel (GW/SW-013) giving them their first two QSOs as, at that point, they were struggling for contacts. At the end of C’s 80 metre pile up Mike (GW0DSP) popped up. He wanted to get my new callsign so I went back on to 2 metres and obliged with my 14th contact from this summit.
We decided it was getting late and wanted to get home so we began to pack up. The hill was getting strangely quiet and we suddenly realised the turbines were being turned off. It was spooky walking through this silent manmade forest as the sun began to set. We ambled down the track satisfied with our day out as the sun gently dipped below the distant hills. Not a bad first trip out for M0YHB!
Radios (both on internal batteries): Yaesu FT-817 running 5 Watts for 2 metres and 60 metres; and Yaesu FT-897 running 20 Watts for 80 metres and 20 metres.
Antennas (all home built): 3el Yagi for 2 metres; hybrid fan/linked dipole for 80/60 metres; and a quarter-wave ground plane for 20 metres.
Contacts made by me on Drygarn Fawr (GW/MW-003):
2 m – 12, including 4 summits-to-summits;
80 m – 1 summit-to-summit;
20 m – 5 (not including the American that got away).
Contacts made by me on Pegwn Mawr (GW/MW-006):
2 m – 14 including 2 summit-to-summits.
Contacts made by Carolyn on Drygarn Fawr (GW/MW-003):
80 m – 13 including 1 summit-to-summit;
60 m – 5 including 2 summit-to-summits;
2 m – 3 summit-to-summits.
Contacts made by Carolyn on Pegwn Mawr (GW/MW-006):
80 m - 24;
2 m – 2 summit-to-summits.
PS The title was Carolyn’s idea ;o)