Ben @GW4BML and I arranged to meet at the Nantgwynant Cafe car park at the base of the Watkin path at 7:00. I was eating my breakfast of yoghurt and nuts when Ben arrived with a coffee for me. By 7:30 breakfast was finished, and we made our way to the start of the Watkin path; Our plan was for a relaxed and pleasant day without any need to rush.
The walk up Yr Aran has 4 distinct stages. The Watkins path gently ascends the valley, following the course of the river on a well-made track. After about a mile we left the main track and made our way steeply up to a ridge past old quarry workings. The route then follows a wall along the ridge until a final steep ascent. The journey passed in pleasant conversation, and we were on the summit before we knew it. The Easterly wind blew some gentle rain and cloud through giving us a constantly changing vista. We walked just past the summit and found some shelter from the wind. Ben operated CW on 60m while I put out a call on 2m FM, before joining him, sharing the microphone, on 40m SSB.
2m was slow going, I think that everyone must been having their breakfast. Allan, @GW4VPX called in, reliable as ever, 5 minutes later I had a chat with Frank, @MW0OFA. Another 5 minutes of calling CQ was rewarded by John @G0MHF calling in. I was starting to doubt my set-up. There was a clattering sound and I looked up to see the top of my antenna pole disappear leaving a forlorn bit of wire blowing in the wind. Suddenly activity picked up and I was working a pile up with a collapsed antenna blowing in the wind.
A decent path took us down to Bwlch Cwn Lan past more disused quarry workings. Not far beneath the rugged wilderness of Snowdonia there are constant reminders of an industrial past.
A steady but steep path works its way up the ridge through dramatic scenery to Bwlch Main and finally to the summit building. The cold windy conditions had kept the crowds away. There were a couple of people huddled behind a wall, but we had the summit nearly to ourselves. We set up in a prime spot, off the path and out of any wind. It was perfect, but very cold.
We split our duties with Ben working 60m CW and 40m SBB while I worked on 2m FM. My first station in the log was John @G0MHF calling in to collect his 5,000th chaser point which was cause for celebration, after which a further 32 station called in on VHF. I was getting cold and my Cornish pasty seemed to have frozen. Ben poured me a cup of tea, I used to be very dismissive of flask tea, but this was the best cup of tea ever.
Ben and I have been activating summits together after work, our ‘mid-week madness’, and I have been really impressed by how quickly he has progressed with CW. Enthusiasm is contagious and Ben is very enthusiastic. It looked like fun: I restarted my CW studies, having given up several time previously. I am not a natural CW operator and am finding my studies tough going. I am not ready to transmit, but my friend Steve, @MW0SAW convinced me that the biggest challenge in learning CW is keeping it fun so that you don’t give up. Ben has been badgering me to set a deadline and activate a summit CW before the end of bonus season, he even convince me to call in on a couple of his activations.
In a moment of weakness I let Ben convince me that there would be no harm in attempting a very basic contact with Steve @MW0SAW, and maybe Allan @GW4VPX while I was on Snowdon. A WhatsApp message was sent and the key was passed to me. With great trepidation and very cold fingers I attempted to key my callsign on an unfamiliar radio. Once Ben slowed down the keyer speed, something vaguely like my callsign could be heard. Steve, @MW0SAW called back to me, signal reports were exchanged, I gave a huge sigh of relief, and then Allan, @GW4VPX called in and eventually I managed to complete a second CW QSO. Steve and Allan had filled in a lot of gaps and compensated for many short comings, but I had done it.
I was just starting to relax when the radio sprang into life. Ben laughed and said Victor, @GI4ONL is calling you, he must have seen my spot…. What spot? You had better answer him, he is a nice bloke, you’ll be fine. Victor was a nice bloke, and was very patient, my CW was terrible, but he filled in the gaps. The radio was still on Ben’s alerted frequency, and Tim, @G4YBU was waiting to call in. I can only apologise, I wasn’t intending to subject either Victor or Tim to my keying. I passed the key back to Ben. It was done, 4 contacts in the log.
We quickly warmed up once we started our descent down the Watkins path, the wind had gone.
The path from Bwlch Ciliau to Y Lliwedd is a formidable sight as you descend from Snowdon but is easy enough to navigate and we were on the summit before we knew it.
We split the bands with Ben working 60m CW and 2m FM, while I worked a nice pile up on 40m SSB before making our decent.
The path from Y Lliwedd to the quarry working isn’t something that you would want to do in the dark. We timed it about right and enjoyed a pleasant stroll along the valley bottom in the fading evening light.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. The encouragement from chasers and fellow activators was fantastic.
73, Kevin & Ben