Monday, 14 March 2016

SOTA - Fan Gyhirych - GW/SW-006

Fan Gyhirych - 725m, 6 points

Association: Wales Region: South Wales
Latitude: 51 51 33 N, Longitude: 3 37 35 W
Grid Reference: SN 881191, QTH Locator: IO81EU

Monday, 29 February 2016

SOTA - Fan Fawr - GW/SW-005

Fan Fawr - 734m, 6 points

Association: Wales  Region: South Wales
Latitude: 51 51 45 N, Longitude: 3 29 49 W
Grid Reference: SN 970193, QTH Locator: IO81GU

Meeting only two people descending Fan Fawr, when I arrived at the top I had it entirely to myself. This is in contrast to the hundreds I'd seen earlier this morning just across the road!

Arriving at the summit
With a keen, icy wind, I quickly pitched the tarp and busied myself getting the antenna up.
No sooner had I completed this task than I felt the first drop of moisture landing on my face. I glanced westward to see a leaden grey sky rapidly approaching.
I quickly called CQ and was thankful when the calls started to quickly roll in. There was no time for niceties this time, just a report and quickly move on. The snow was falling heavily, the wind was piping up and the visibility had dropped to only a few metres.

The Shack
Snow closing in

With a well behaved pack of chasers I quickly rattled them off 38 QSOs in 30 minutes and then apologised that "snow stops play" and pulled the plug!
No S2S but nice to bag VE1WT, KG3W and KT5K for some transatlantic contacts.




I packed as much stuff away as possible in the shelter of the tarp, then made a dash for the antenna and pole, doing as much packing as possible under shelter. Finally with everything stowed away, it was pull out the 4 pegs holding the tarp and scrunching it into the top of my pack. I then made a beeline for the car (being careful not to go over the edge of the ridge :-) )

Snow arriving

This was an extra special activation for me as It took me to exactly 500 activator pointers. That's halfway to Mountain Goat! Maybe I'm now a Mountain Kid!
There's an awfully long way to go yet for MG...

Halfway there!

SOTA - Pen y Fan - GW/SW-001

Pen y Fan - 886m, 8 points

Association: Wales  Region: South Wales
Latitude: 51 53 2 N, Longitude: 3 26 12 W
Grid Reference: SO 012216, QTH Locator: IO81GV

A very cold start to the day and the summit was hidden in clouds as I ascended from the Storey Inn carpark. That didn't stop any of the hundreds of people here heading upwards into the clouds either!

This is probably the busiest summit in south Wales, and today was no exception. As I was departing the carpark, two 16 seat minibuses parked up, and the 32 people on board set off up the trail behind me. There were similar parties up ahead in the distance.

Arriving at the summit there was nothing to see other than cloud!

At the summit
 Without further ado, I set up the tarp and got ready to operate.
The ground was frozen solid and temperatures were well below zero.

The view once the clouds lifted.
The shack
 I was so busy operating that I didn't notice that the clouds had lifted and the surrounding countryside was now visible! With 41 QSOs in the log it was time to move on. The only disappointment was that I'd not made any S2S contacts. Network reception was extremely variable and only occasionally had I been able to receive any recent spots.

With my backpack on I looked out at the view for one last time before the descent.

View towards Cribyn
It was then that my phone beeped with a new spot from SOTAwatch. Glyn, GW4CFS/p had just been spotted on Tor y Foel, GW/SW-013, only a few miles to the east of me. Although the spot was on 7Mhz SSB, I knew that he also had 2 metres available. I grabbed my 2 metre handheld and put out a call on 145.500. A few seconds later Gly came back giving me a welcome S2S and some extra points. No sooner had I signed off  when Adrian, GW4AZS/p also called me. He was a huge signal and was astounded o hear he was on GW/NW-049 a good 70 miles to the north. It sounded like he was standing next to me. A super signal from his FT-817 at 5W to a Jpole antenna.

View towards Pen y Fan from Corn Du


With the S2Ss in the log I beat a hasty retreat to get back down and start the ascent of Fan Fawr. The wx forecast was for deterirating conditions later with rain and strong winds moving in during the afternoon. I rather hoped to be off the tops before then.

On the descent

Descending to the car, Fan Fawr loomed ahead in the distance.

Fan Fawr ahead

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

SOTA - Waun Fach - GW/SW-002

Waun Fach - 811m, 8 points
Association: Wales Region: South Wales
Latitude: 51 57 46 N, Longitude: 3 8 38 W
Grid Reference: SO 215300, QTH Locator: IO81KX

After the early morning mist lifted, I arrived at the starting point in glorious sunshine and a clear blue cloudless sky. A magnificent morning, but temperatures hovering just around the freezing level. The path was crunchy underfoot with ice, as I ascended to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir to cross over the valley.

Grwyne Fawr reservoir
I always forget how energy sapping this ascent is. There is no path or track to the summit making it hard going! Luckily the ground was frozen solid and so the boggy bits at least were easier to negotiate. The summit plateau is itself just one huge bog and virtually impossible to traverse when the ground is not frozen, This was one of the main reasons I'd picked today to be up here :-)

At the summit
There is quite a bit of work going on to try and lay a path across the summit, and one solitary chap in a small digger was working away moving sand gravel. I pitched my tarp next to one of the many rolls of dried bracken which is being laid on top off the peat bog to help support the aggregate.

 Comfortably out of the freezing wind, I set about making some contacts.

The shack
Just like the weather, HF conditions were pretty good too! Nice to grab a few stateside contacts alongside three S2Ss with F6HBI/p on F/AM-432, DL/HB9AGO/p on DM/BW-157 and on 2 metres a quick chat with Allan, GW4VPX/p on the adjacent summit of GW/SW-015 just across the valley.
I even had a quick venture onto 60m using the antenna, as usual lieing on the ground. This netted just the one contact with G3VNC in Chester.
A longer than usual activation but it was such a beautiful day it would have been a shame to rush away.



To complete the day, I took a circular route back to the start via Pen y Gadair Fawr. This took in some of the newly laid pathway across the summit plateau. It certainly made for quite an easy walk in comparison to the usual bog trotting. I just wonder how long the path will last before nature takes it back!

The new pathway towards Pen y Gadair Fawr

At the summit of Pen y Gadair Fawr

View towards Sugar Loaf,  yesterday's summit

A fantastic day out. A strenuous 8 mile hike in beautiful weather  and good radio conditions to boot. They don't come much better than this.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

SOTA - Sugar Loaf - GW/SW-011

Sugar Loaf - 596m, 2 points
Association: Wales Region: South Wales
Latitude: 51 51 46 N, Longitude: 3 3 30 W
Grid Reference: SO 272188, QTH Locator: IO81LU

I started off for Sugar Loaf from the carpark in Forest Coal Pit to the north east of the summit.
This is a nice ascent from this side. This is a popular summit and for the first time I met several others ascending and descending from this side.

Approach from the NE

It's a fair pull up to the top, and as I arrived I was surprised to find probably 30 or 40 people already there around the trig point. This is a really narrow summit with only a small amount of real estate, so I took myself off to the eastern flank and tried to install myself out of the way of the public. As I was setting up a group of about 20 more people were ascending just below me.

Squeezing into a tight spot
 It was almost 1600z by the time I got on the air, and with sunset at 1730 and an hour's walk out, I didn't loose any time in getting down to business. I quickly rattled off 34 QSO's in the next 30 minutes, alas no S2Ss or time to search around for any.

The shack

The summit was now long devoid of any other visitors, most having left not long after I arrived. The temperature was dropping rapidly with the setting sun and I quickly packed up and started on the trek back to the car.
The setting sun brought out the rich colours of the surrounding hills, a perfect end to a great day activating.

The summit to myself.

SOTA - Black Mountain - GW/SW-041

Black Mountain - 703m, 6 points
Association: Wales Region: South Wales
Latitude: 52 0 30 N, Longitude: 3 5 12 W
Grid Reference: SO 255350, QTH Locator: IO82KA

Just as I was about to leave the parking spot on the Gospel Pass, a car pulled up and parked beside me. A stranger alighted and immediately walked towards me.
"I hope you're going to stick to CW today" he said!
It was an unexpected encounter with Allan, GW4VPX, who was also going to activate Black Mountain!

Allan, GW4VPX, takes a selfie!

After a quick chat I set off for the summit  as I was on a tight schedule for the day.
I quickly set up after a pleasant walk in the fresh conditions. It didn't take long to set up on the Welsh side of the border. Operating form the English side only adds to confusion for the chasers!

Set up in Cymru

The Shack
 I was through working 20 metres when allan and his XYL, Val, arrived at the activation point. After a few more words and another photoshoot, Allan went off to find a suitable place to set up his shack.

Working 20 metres.
I carried on working on 40 metres followed by 30 metres for a respectable 40 QSOs in 40 minutes operating (including chat time!). 
A welcome S2S with came my way from DL8DXL/p on DM/SX-058.

Before packing up, I walked over to see how Allan was getting on. He was well into the swing of things and just finishing off a stint on 60 metres before QSYing to 40m. He was, like me, sheltered behind his little tarp.

Allan and Val

After another quick chat, it was time for me to bid farewell and pack up and move towards my next summit of the day. 
Two SOTA stations!



A lovely activation and a pleasure to meet Allan and Val. Check out Allan's Blog  for a wealth of SOTA information.