Wednesday, 27 November 2013

North Wales - November 2013 Day Two - 5 summits

I stayed overnight at the Abbey Grange Hotel which is at the foot of the Horseshoe Pass.  This was an ideal springboard to activate the popular pair of summits near the Horseshoe Pass.

I woke to a grey day and after my continental breakfast found myself in thick mist at The Ponderosa Cafe and walking on my way up to NW-042 Moel y Gamelin by 0815 am. I was back at my car for a cuppa by 0940 am and then on my way to the wireless station on Cyrn-y-Brain NW-043 which I reached within 30 minutes. There was nothing to see in the mist so I just worked all the stations who called me on both summits and returned to the car as fast as I could. 

Logger32 by Bob Furzer K4CY
Leaving the Ponderosa at 11.00 am I motored north through Ruthin to park on the Clwyd Gate Hotel Car park (Hotel closed Nov 2013). From here I used the Offa's Dyke Path to reach the summit of Moel Gyw GW/NW-053. The pleasant walk, partly in mist via SJ 170571 took me 30 minutes. Before the mist closed in I was able to get one good view of the valley looking down towards the Bathafarn Water Works and Coed Pas-y-nant:

Contacts were hard to come by and I didn't stay long. I completed with 8 stations on 2m FM including Colin G4UXH in Milnthorpe. 

The misty conditions on Moel Gyw  GW/NW-053 on November 27th 2013 
My final two summits, which I hadn't visited before, were the well activated Foel Fenli GW/NW-051 and Moel Famau GW/NW-044. Once again I was in mist and these are the routes I used from the car park at Bwlch Penbarra:

I activated Foel Fenli first as this was the nearest to the car park and worked 7 stations - including Karen 2E0XYL/M who I was delighted to meet in the car park a short time later when I was proceeding to my final summit of Moel Famau. I was glad of the company and the cup of hot coffee which Karen prepared for us on our return. Another 7 contacts complete we bade our farewells and I headed off back home to Yorkshire after a most enjoyable two day trip into Wales.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Wales - November 2013 - Day One - Summit One - Moel y Golfa MW-027

I planned out another SOTA summit bagging mission in late November. I needed to return my son in laws dog back to him in Holmfirth, which is over 80 miles from Pickering. This done en-route after an early start and 130 miles later found me driving in rush hour traffic on the M56 south of Manchester, heading towards the A5 roundabout at Oswestry.  I met up with Geoff M6PYG (now 2E0NON) there at around 10.30 am. He had driven up from Malvern to team up with me as the driver for the day. The road route (traced below by GPS) starts from when we arrived at the first summit of four that day, which was Moel y Golfa GW/MW-027, part of the Breidden Hills. 
The route from Oswestry MW-027 > MW-059 > NW-049 > NW-060 > KFC (GO LARGE)
Just after leaving the parking area below the wood at SJ 285125 we came across a large black dog without an owner. The dog scarpered...more on that later. We didn't locate the steep path indicated on the OS map and so chose to take an easier option to ease the ascent. This enabled us to reach the summit from the car in just 22 minutes.  The hill is shaped rather like a whale back in the form of a steep sided, mostly wooded elongated ridge and features twisted and distorted trees disfigured by the fierce winds which must grace the summit on occasion. On this day we had no such winds. Here is the route taken:

The large crooked monument on top of the summit is a tribute to a gipsy called Uriah Burton (Better known as Hughie or Big Just) who died in 1986.  

The views to Wales are exceptional from this top 

A metal fence runs across the summit - it was an ideal support for our antenna pole. We stayed no more than 20 minutes and made 8 contacts. Best DX being with Colin G4UXH in Milnthorpe at 107 miles / 172 Km, which is pretty good on 2m FM. We used 30 watts and a vertical dipole from our side. 

Returning to the car we were greeted by a lady and the lost dog I mentioned earlier. The lady pointed to a poster on a tree showing a photo of the said dog declaring it lost four days previous. No wonder it was trying to find its way into Geoff's boot.... It wanted to go home having had enough of the elements. The number was rang and the owner hot footed it to Moel y Golfa to collect his dog, no doubt relieved. 

We set off to our next summit of the day in the North Wales sector - Allt y Main NW-059. 

Wales - November 2013 - Day One - Summit Two Allt y Main NW-059

The drive from Mid Wales from Moel y Golfa into the North Wales SOTA area from Moel y Golfa MW-027 took just 30 minutes. Welshpool was the only centre of population we passed through and we were walking again on our way up to Allt y Main NW-059 by 1.00pm. Parking was scarce and Geoff chose to leave the car in a passing place at SJ 157157 Tan-y-llwyn. This was a very quiet back road so no problem. After negotiating the muddy farmyard at Ty'n-yr-allt we walked through woodland losing some height gained before climbing to the summit on a good track on the edge of the wood. This section was not a public right of way but we were on access land from SJ 165154 onward as we climbed to the top. This was a most pleasant walk which took just 30 minutes. On the way up I removed my jacket and inadvertently dropped my camera. This was retrieved on our way down. Unfortunately this meant I was unable to take my usual photos on the summit! 

We operated for 26 minutes on VHF 2m FM and completed 16 contacts using 30 watts to a dipole. Returning to the car by 2.30pm we neaded north to our 3rd activation of the day which was Gyrn Moelfre NW-049. 

Wales - November 2013 - Day One - Summit Three - Gyrn Moelfre NW-049

A 35 minute drive from NW-049 Allt y Main took us west of Llansilin to a roadside parking place at grid reference SJ179301 north of Fron, where we walked to the summit of Gyrn Moelfre NW-049 

The bridleway has been diverted to a point where it leaves the metalled road and follows a fence uphill.

When I got out of the car I noticed something rusty by the roadside. Geoff recognised the hand tool I picked up as a pair of Dagging Shears, often used for cleaning sheep's behinds. Here they are on my shack wall back at home:

Continuing up the newly established bridleway (not shown on older maps) we reached a gate turning right on to the original line of the bridleway which finishes up at Moeliwrch. When we saw a fence we followed it uphill, climbing one gate. Strictly speaking this was not access land, which was entered when we were within 100m of the trig point of Gyrn Moelfre by climbing a fence. It took us 32 minutes to reach the summit from the car. 

The writer who operated with the callsign GW4OBK/P from Gyrn Moelfre
It wasn't far off sunset when we started operating using 30 watts output from a Yaesu FT-1500M into a vertical dipole. We completed 12 contacts before moving off to activate our 4th and last summit of the day which we knew would be in the dark. We could see the summit, NW-060 Mynydd-y-briw below us, thanks to the prominent Arquiva communications mast on its top: 

GW/NW-060 Mynydd y briw as seen from GW/NW-049  Gyrn Moelfre 3.5 Km away

Wales - November 2013 - Day One - Summit Four - Mynydd-y-Briw NW-060

Part of our route to NW-060 from NW-049. Some roads were farm tracks -  see text below
Our 20 minute drive from Gyrn Moelfre to a parking place for Mynydd-y-briw was rather puzzling, but presumably is quite normal in parts of Wales. When I see a C Class road marked on either a 1:25 or 1:50K map as yellow I assume it to be tarmac. Not so in Wales. These rural roads can turn out to be any surface!  At crossroads SJ 185274 where we hoped to turn left we saw a sign saying "Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles" so we avoided that lane and continued on, eventually turning left to pass the farm of Lloran-ganol to reach the T junction at SJ 181270 where we turned right. The roads were still unmetalled but improved as we neared the parking place at a gate for NW-060 - grid ref SJ 178260. A steep tarmac track heads uphill from here to the Arqiva Communication mast on the summit.  The walk up took just six minutes and it was dark. 

We operated at the fence around 100m north of the comms mast and suffered no problems with RF breakthrough into the front end of the Yaesu FT-1500M.

M6PYG (2E0NON from Jan 2014) operating in the dark on Mynydd-y-briw GW/NW-060
We made contact with 8 stations on 2m FM using 30 watts of power to the vertical dipole in less than 20 minutes. Leaving the summit we made our way back to the A5 roundabout at Welshpool for our usual KFC bucket of fast food. Geoff departed back home to Malvern whilst I drove north to Llangollen to spend a nights B&B at the economically priced Abbey Grange Hotel which is at the south end of the Horseshoe Pass, north of Llangollen. This hostelry was perfectly placed for my plans to activate five more summits in North Wales the next day. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

GM4OBK revisits Criffel - SS-130 - 8th November 2013

We took the footpath from Ardwall Mains Car Park up to Criffel and returned the same way
Friday: Criffel 3m return walk with 1670 ft ascent

Before I got into fellwalking in the Lake District and elsewhere Judy and I used to enjoy spending our holidays in Dumfries & Galloway.  The area is uncommercialised, the roads are quiet and there are few people to bother you. In 2002 we stopped going there regularly, although I had a recent solo summit bagging visit in October 2013.

As we were heading home after a weeks holiday in Keswick with the Ramblers, we used the opportunity on the last day, to make a detour into Scotland to revisit the summit of Criffel and activate it on VHF 145 MHz FM for Summits On The Air. Our visit also gave us an opportunity to have a lunch in Dumfries at Pumpernickel, one of our favourite cafe's.

Judy heads up towards Criffel on the graded path before the moorland
After speaking with Mark MM1MPB about the route he usually takes up to Criffel, and looking at the time we had to spare, we chose the easiest option from Ardwall Mains where there is plenty of parking. The path was very well graded until we got above the tree line beyond the intake fence at NX 959629. From then on it got pretty boggy with the occasional freshwater spring coming on to the moor.

Looking back to the Solway Firth on our way up to the summit of Criffel
We set off at 11.00 am from the car and reached Douglas's Cairn - the enormous pile of stones on the top, 80 minutes later. 
A good day to be at the trig point on Criffel SS-130
I set up the station - an Yaesu FT-1500M 2m transceiver running 40 watts output from a 4 Amp LiPO battery. The antenna was a half wave dipole around 3m above ground on the 569m high summit. There were plenty of stations worked in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. 

SOTA Mapping Project Map (thanks Rob DM1CM)

Best DX on 2m FM was 114 miles / 184 Km to Victor GI4ONL in Bushmills Northern Ireland
We had a biscuit and a drink at the trig point and remained there for 45 minutes. The views were tremendous that day. It took 55 minutes to return to the car, and we headed into Dumfries town centre for a late lunch at our favourite cafe. 

The writer after bagging one more SOTA Complete on SS-130
The town was in better shape than we had seen it ten years earlier, there were few empty shops. Dumfries seemed to have done better than other areas, and it looked like it was prospering well. We took a drive north after lunch up to Auldgirth to look at a cottage we once owned before setting off back home to North Yorkshire. We made it home at 7.30 pm after an enjoyable day  with another SOTA "Complete" in the shape of Criffel GM/SS-130 confirmed. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Lake District Fellwalking week with Ryedale Ramblers

The first week in November saw me and XYL Judy taking a walking holiday with our local Ryedale Ramblers Group. It seemed only right as we had been on the waiting list for this holiday for three years and I was after all, the Ryedale Group 2013 Chairman!  

Every year the whole Ryedale Ramblers Group take over the HF Holidays Hotel at Derwentbank near Keswick in early November for five days. The holiday is always over subscribed and finally, we had reached the top of the waiting list! The holiday is ably organised by Ann Laing and the walks are led by volunteer members of which I am one. I offered the organising team the choice of two led walks - a linear walk up the Halls Fell Ridge on to Blencathra and back to Keswick, or  a walk from Ashness Bridge taking in the four Wainwrights of Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell, High Seat and High Tove. They chose the boggy walk of the two from Ashness Bridge which was not too popular - only four of us chose to undertake the walk! 

The walking week starts on Monday when members gather near Keswick in late morning for a half day walk. This wasn't for us as we had other business that day and so we reached the hotel in time to check in at around dusk. 

Tuesday: 8.75 miles with 2250 ft ascent

On Tuesday we both chose to join a walk led by Ann Laing in the little visited Uldale Fells east of Bassenthwaite lake. Here is our route:

We bagged five Wainwrights in the day - all new ones for Judy
We set out from near the lake called Over Water. The first Wainwright was Great Cockup followed by Meal Fell, Great Sca Fell, Brae Fell (lunch spot) and finally Longlands Fell. 

The ladies on the walk on their way to climb Great Cockup
As usual on the Wainwrights I took my VHF radio and completed 14 contacts on the five fells including one with John 2E0JBG who was also portable on nearby Binsey. 

Wednesday: 7.8 miles with 2030 ft ascent

Phil (Blogger) - Andrew - Ken and Linda at Ashness Bridge
Our route 
On Wednesday it was my turn to lead. After informing the members that the walk was expected to be boggy in parts my numbers were down. After some cajoling I persuaded Andrew and Ken (71) along with the willing Linda, to join me on a walk I previously did in March 2010 with Judy. That previous walk did include the dreaded and wet Armboth Fell, but I was not to include that Wainwright in my walk today or I would have been even more unpopular! 

We shared my car and parked up at the NT Ashness Bridge Car Park. At 9.40am we set off on the excellent path up over the top of Falcon Crag which led us on to Lady's Rake and Walla Crag. Retreating we made for Bleaberry Fell which was reached at 11.40am. The ground was pretty well waterlogged from then on but it became worse beyond our next Wainwright of High Seat. Whilst negotiating the bogs Ken fell twice. The first time it wasn't so bad, but the second time he fell full bodily into the murk. This made it necessary (understandably) for Ken to use "industrial language"! Andrew (Ken's nephew) and I managed to pull Ken out of the bog. When we reached High Tove the well equipped Linda had a spare pair of hiking socks for Ken to wear. This was after Ken had removed his trousers and substituted his over-trousers in place of them!

The state poor Ken was in after falling in the bog near High Tove
All in all we had a laugh about the incident. Ken took it in good heart as we headed downhill to Watendlath and then back to Ashness Bridge, which was reached just before 4.00pm. 12 contacts were completed using just a handheld transceiver and quarter wavelength whip, with contacts as far south as Lancaster (Sue G1OHH) on the three activated summits for Wainwrights On The Air . 

My Ramblers fellwalking pals for the day before we took to bog trotting Linda, Ken and Andrew

Thursday: 7.6 miles with 2915 ft ascent

We had a changeable day on the Thursday with squally showers. A group of around ten of us we set off from Little Town to climb Hindscarth at 0925 am led by Ian Reavill from the York Ramblers. We were to climb directly to Hindscarth on a route I had wanted to try for several years, before continuing on to our highest point of Dale Head (SOTA LD-020) prior to lunch which we had at Dale Head Tarn. The last two Wainwright's to be visited were High Spy and Maiden Moor. At the Hause Gate col we dropped down left past the spoil heaps back to Little Town. Here is a picture of Swinside against the backdrop of the Skiddaw Massif. 

I met several Ramblers on this walk who I hadn't come across before as well as a couple of old friends. We arrived back at Little Town by 3.20 pm and returned for hot drinks to Derwentbank. The weather hadn't been good but it could have been a lot worse. 

Using again just a 2m band FM handheld and quarter wave whip I completed 16 contacts on the 4 Wainwright's visited. The furthest contacts were into Scotland and down as far south as Lancaster on the low power basic equipment I used. 

This was our last day on our Ramblers holiday, however with a better forecast for Southern Scotland on Friday I decided that it was time we revisited the summit of Criffel near New Abbey just south of Dumfries. See my later blog...