Monday, 7 January 2013

Great Sugar Loaf EI/IE-022 Wicklow Mountains

G4OBK/P becomes a SOTA "Mountain Goat"
January 7th 2013 in Ireland
Great Sugar loaf IE-022 which I photographed from Djouce Mountain IE-008 the next day
In late 2012 my XYL Judy and I decided to book a short break in Ireland in early January. Flights were booked from Manchester via Jet2, and a car was hired which we collected at Dublin Airport. The Transpennine train was used to get from Yorkshire to Manchester Airport. This is an excellent service from east to west. 

Our holiday was as usual booked via the internet. As a subscriber to Travelzoo I get sent some excellent mid-week deals and this holiday was a combination of a Travelzoo deal staying at Clontarf Castle Hotel on the outskirts of Dublin for two nights, and three nights which I booked on a separate internet deal at Druids Glen Golf Resort, which was reportedly five star, and yes, it deserved it. These were the sort of places we would probably not be prepared to pay for at full tariff in summer, but in winter the tariff is most reasonable! 

Druids Glen Resort Hotel near Newtown Mount Kennedy Wicklow
Clontarf Castle Hotel Dublin
On arrival at Dublin we headed for Eurocar to collect what turned out to be a Hyundai Diesel model i40. Big mistake! When we reached the hotel, about 35 miles south of Dublin Airport, the electric handbrake locked on the car whilst stationary and the car was stuck on the posh hotel concourse..... I somehow managed to free it off, but in the process the handbrake switch broke off and fell inside the centre console housing, so first job next day was to drive back up the coast via Bray and exchange the vehicle for something better. There was no problem doing this and I was given a very solid VW Passat Diesel Saloon instead. 

The climate in Wicklow in January was surprisingly mild and we were amazed to see flowers growing in municipal parks and on traffic islands around Dublin, indicating a lack of heavy winter frosts. 

I had taken my HF amateur radio gear (Yaesu FT-857) and I had planned to activate the Marilyn SOTA Summit of Great Sugar Loaf for 9 points (6+3 for the winter bonus) for Summits On The Air. This would give me the 1000 points I needed to qualify for the Mountain Goat Award, something I had been striving towards since 2005 when I started climbing summits whilst carrying radio gear (some call it "Adventure Radio").

Along the way I had become slightly distracted thanks to a certain Mr A Wainwright and the Wainwrights On The Air (WOTA) scheme, although taking part in that got me on top of all the Lakeland summits earning me valuable SOTA and WOTA points, effectively killing two birds with one stone. 

Judy looks towards Little Sugar Loaf IE-052 as we climb Great Sugar Loaf
So on to Great Sugar Loaf and my Mountain Goat activation. This took place on 8th January 2013. It was a cloudy, windy miserable grey day - not the best for sitting around for over an hour on a 501m high six point summit trying to send Morse Code, but this is what I did, with my ever patient XYL (Wife Judy) sat by me..... 
The Mountain Goat I now am - on Great Sugar Loaf EI/IE-022!
Using the OS Ireland 1:50000 map No.56 I found a parking spot on a tarmac back road south of Kilmacanogue, grid ref 247128. From here we found a path through the gorse to the main path which goes up to the summit at 237127. The hill consists of attractive quartzite rock with the final ascent an easy scramble. There was no cover on top.

Judy descends from Great Sugar Loaf down a quartzite rock gully 
I was on the air for 55 minutes and completed 71 contacts on 10MHz CW (45), 14 MHz CW (18) and SSB (5) with a link dipole and on 145 MHz FM (3) using a quarter wave whip. This included a 2m FM contact across the water with John GW4ZPL who lives near Caernarfon.   The qualifying 4th contact was on 30m CW with my good friend Ken GM0AXY from near Edinburgh, who I climbed Ailsa Craig (GM/SS-246) with in 2009. 

On our way to the pub - Great Sugar Loaf behind
The activation complete we packed up and headed down for a pleasant lunch and celebratory drink at the very welcoming Glencormac Inn in Kilmacanogue, only a mile from the summit. It should be noted that this pub does not serve meals in the evening, if it had then we would have returned there as it was excellent. 


Distance walked: 2 miles approx
Total ascent: 1100 feet
Time taken out and back: 3 hours
Time on air: 55 minutes
Transceivers: Yaesu FT-857D (50 watts) LiPO 5AH battery
                       Yaesu VX-170 Handheld (5 watts)
Antennae: HF Link dipole and 2m 1/4 wave whip
Amateur Bands used: 30m CW, 20m CW, 20m SSB, 2m FM.
Contacts Made: 71

(Djouce Mountain EI/IE-008 next day to follow)

EI/G4OBK/P Djouce Mountain EI/IE-007 9th Jan 2013

Harveys 1:30000  Map of the Wicklow Mountains showing car park and route to Djouce Mountain 
The day after I became a SOTA Mountain Goat we were due to move north to a hotel on the outskirts of Dublin. That was later in the day, so we left Druids Glen Hotel near Newtown Mount Kennedy and headed inland to Glendalough, a fairly low key touristy spot surrounded by the Wicklow Mountains. It was a bright and frosty morning and we had allowed enough time to look around the village and visitor centre and have some lunch, before activating our chosen summit of Djouce Mountain (725m 10 points). 

The Norman tower at Glendalough - there was still a heavy ground frost at midday
From Glendalough we drove north east in the direction of Dublin and parked the hire car on a track just off the R759 road on the opposite side to Lough Tay at grid reference 170076. 
Car park for our walk up Djouce Mountain - we headed off right of the conifer plantation
Lough Tay below us as we climbed up to Djouce Mountain
After setting out on a gravel track which was actually part of The Wicklow Way, a 79 mile long distance footpath, we turned left after around 300m and discovered that the path to the top of the mountain consisted of long railway sleepers laid side by side on which chicken wire and 1000s of metal staples had been driven to aid grip. 

The Wicklow Way railway sleepers - providing excellent grip over the boggy land
We soon reached the JB Malone memorial stone. He was one of the pioneers of Irish Hill Walking encouraging many people to take up the hobby. JB Malone was the founder of The Wicklow Way LDP. 

The way was easy on the sleeper track and considering this was a 725m high mountain I would rate the walk to the summit as "moderate", this was because we had started from a height of 460m above sea level.  Once we gained some height beyond the JB Malone memorial, the views were impressive and I was sorry I could not spend more time in the area as I looked towards Kippure (IE-005) less than five miles away.

Kippure IE/EI-005
I was travelling light and only carrying a small VHF 2m FM handheld radio, a Yaesu VX-170 with quarter wave whip, yet I was surprised to make eight contacts from the summit, including a most memorable one with Karen 2W0XYL/P who was on her Mountain Goat Activation on the 1001m summit of Glyder Fawr GW/NW-003 in Snowdonia. I followed that with two more Welsh summit contacts with MW0JLA/P Rod on GW/SW-001 and MW6BWA/P Vicky on GW/SW-005 in South Wales.  
Stations logged from Djouce Mountain EI/IE-007
Operating from the summit of Djouce Mountain "G6ODU this is EI/G4OBK/P"
It was a pleasant surprise to also work G6ODU, Bob in Ormskirk on just a quarter wave whip - the distance was 140 miles or 226 Kms! 

We left the summit due east to join the Wicklow Way on the other side of White Hill. We were then out of the sun and the path was fairly boggy. At the bottom of the steep section on Djouce where we turned right on the Wicklow Way we saw this sign:

It was a steady walk back to the hire car and then we made our way to our hotel in Dublin to check in. 


Distance walked: 5 miles approx
Total ascent: 1000 feet approx
Time taken out and back: 3 hours 30 minutes
Operating time: 40 minutes
Radio used: Yaesu VX-170 (2m FM only)
Antenna: Quarter wave whip on radio
Contacts made: 8
(Accompanied by XYL Judy)

(Ben of Howth EI/IE-072 activation to follow)

EI/G4OBK/P Ben of Howth EI/IE-072 11th Jan 2013

This was an impromptu activation of Ben of Howth EI/IE-072 on our way to catch the plane out of Dublin back to Manchester. The summit is the lowest Marilyn in the eastern sector of Ireland.

EI/IE-072 Howth Hill lies on the unusually shaped outcrop above Dublin Bay

The summit lies on the outcrop of land to the north of Dublin Bay and is easily accessible after a short walk to the top from the car. You could also ride to the top on a bike. I found that a tarmac road has been built on the western side of the hill to service the radio facility on the summit. I parked our hire car on the rough track on the east side of the summit and climbed through rough land full of gorse to the top. My XYL Judy remained in the car. If I had continued a little further on the track I could have used a path, and this was the way I came down. On the west side of the hill I found a narrow tarmac road built to service the radio facility on the summit which would take you to within 10 metres of the top, but OS.IE mapping does not show this.

EI/G4OBK/P on Ben of Howth EI/IE-072 at 2.15pm on 11th January 2013
My activation was only just qualified. My equipment was low power (Yaesu VX-170) and my antenna was inefficient,  just a quarter wavelength whip, however I made contact with:


Thankfully my friends in Wales across the water, were on the air at the right time. My 15 minute activation complete, we made our way back to the nearby Europcar Depot at Dublin Airport to return the hire car and catch our plane back to Manchester.