For me, it has always been about selecting decent mild nice weather days, and pleasant straightforward summits in the 500-600m height band. Like the Ponderosa Pair of Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042 and Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043 on a sunny February day, making the 4 points transform into 10 each. And that is precisely what Jimmy M3EYP, Edward M6NSR and myself did on Saturday 12th February 2011.
We left Macclesfield at about 7am and headed directly for Lymm Truck Stop. Here we each availed ourselves of the 7-item cooked breakfast and a mug of tea. The breakfasts here were always good, but now they are better with much higher quality black puddings than previous years.
After continuing along the M56, M53 and A483, Jimmy directed me a few turnings and onto Horseshoe Pass (the A542) up to the Ponderosa Cafe. It would put us behind schedule, but we all agreed to go in for another brew before commencing the walk.
We motored quite quickly up the semi-steep pull to the subsidiary summit of Moel y Faen, before dropping down again ahead of the steady kilometre’s climb to Moel y Gamelin’s summit. Jimmy and I were equipped, unusually, with a flask of tea today. Ponderosa is a must for lunch on these days, so soup was unnecessary. But a hot drink was nonetheless welcome.
Jimmy and Ed got going with their handhelds and SOTA Beam on 2m FM, working a decent number each including several summit-to-summits. I was having a bit of a change by doing 80m, first on CW and later on SSB. Obviously the QSO rates were not what I enjoy on 20m and 40m, but it was very enjoyable to be working friends in G that I rarely get on the higher bands.
As we began to pack away, we were all surprised by the start of a rain shower. The day had been confidently forecast as completely dry, so I told Jimmy and Ed that in all likelihood, it would very soon be over. The rain turned to sleet and then light snow, before stopping quite quickly as the bright sunshine and blue skies returned.
When you look from the summit of Moel y Gamelin across to that of Cyrn-y-Brain, it looks a fair old distance, especially knowing that every step will be walked. It isn’t all that far, and it is just a lovely walk which I am happy to repeat year-in-year-out. I might even return to Moel y Gamelin for one of my Backpackers entries this year, even though there won’t be any more SOTA points available.
Back at the Ponderosa Cafe, the place was heaving. As expected, the car park was nearly full, and half of it by an array of impressive motorcycles. The queue for food was considerable, but we joined the end of it in confidence. This place is a very well-run establishment, and as usual, we were served within a couple of minutes, despite the volume of customers going through. I had the homemade steak & kidney pie with chips, peas, carrots and gravy, and a large sized drink of Irn Bru. The grub was of exceptional quality, and served in large hiker-sized portions. A very good plate of nosh for £4.85.
Now it was time to head out behind the cafe and climb the other one - Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043. Although the net height gain is not too dissimilar from here as the earlier Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042, I explained to Ed that there would be none of the undulation, and this, by comparison, was a much easier walk.
We were on summit in good time, and setting up again with Jimmy and Ed on 2m FM, with myself on 80m CW. There were more S2S QSOs available for the two lads, while my activation was another relaxed, unhurried and friendly affair on 80m.
On the descent we enjoyed the wide-ranging stunning views that had blessed us all day long on what had been a very satisfying day. We reached the Ponderosa just as it was closing up for the day, with the proprietor lowering the flags in the car park. I had a Saturday evening dinner date with my wife, plus M0GIA and XYL in Macclesfield, so we skipped the usual post-match beer at The Moors Inn and got straight back on the main roads and motorway.
So another really enjoyable day on the Horseshoe Pass. My thanks to Jimmy, and his mate Edward, for their excellent company all day, and to every station that worked any of the three of us. A super day out, ten points in the bag, and what the winter bonus is all about!