Friday, 23 January 2015

South Wales 2m FM Tour January 2015 - Day 1

An opportunity arose to stay with my friend Geoff 2E0NON, who lives in near Malvern who was celebrating a "milestone birthday". The party was much enjoyed and the following day we set off for South Wales on a 4 day SOTA Tour, hoping to visit on average, 4 summits each day. The only way this could be accomplished was by spending no more than around 20 minutes on each summit - as a result we were carrying a VHF 2m Yaesu FT-1500M Transceiver running 40 watts to a vertical dipole antenna mounted on a 5m pole. As a backup we were also carrying a Yaesu FT-817 and a link dipole for the HF bands. In the event on all 16 summits visited we did not need to deploy the HF gear as sufficient contacts were made on VHF to qualify all summits. 

Wearing the new buff I got for Xmas - great headgear - I'd never worn one before today 
GW/SW-001 Pen y Fan

We started with the highest summit in South Wales, and after leaving Geoff's house in Malvern at 6.00am we were setting out for Pen y Fan at first light on January 20th. There was frozen lying snow on a path that was very well walked. There were very few walkers as we were so early, however on our way back down we found out that the walk up to Pen y Fan was very popular indeed. Maldwyn GW6OVD, (who lives in South Wales) was also planning to activate the summit later that morning.

Geoff - making his way up Pen y Fan 
As we climbed we mistook the summit of Corn Du to be Pen y Fan. It is more prominent and is 873m high, whereas Pen y Fan is 886m. There is significantly more than 25m drop between the two summits though, so we continued on to the highest point where there is a marker stone. 

The view down to the Upper Neuadd Reservoir 2.5 Km away from our path
We reached the summit at 9.30am and operated for just 20 minutes completing 14 contacts with stations in England and Wales. My first contact at 0938z was with Mal GW6OVD/P on the nearby summit of Fan Fawr SW-005, a summit we intended to visit a few hours later. 

Geoff using the callsign 2W0NON/P activated the summit with me on 20th January 2015
As we packed our equipment away the wind was getting up and blowing the snow everywhere - it wasn't pleasant and we got off the mountain as quick as we could. As we descended we realised how popular the climb was as tens of people were heading up to the summit. When we reached the car park we met Mal GW6OVD, who was just setting off, having given us the earlier summit to summit contact, which was to be repeated the other way round later when we arrived on Fan Fawr. 

GW/SW-005 Fan Fawr

After a cup of tea from the van in the lay-by below Pen y Fan we drove about 1 Km to park opposite the Storey Arms public House. It was an arduous walk to reach the summit - Mal had warned us of some deep snow drifting in places, so we picked our way up through the blowing snow, almost turning back at one point.

Geoff - struggling to stay upright in the wind on the climb to SW-005
It took almost one hour to reach the summit (734m) and from there we made 11 contacts, and again worked with Mal GW6OVD/P summit to summit who was on Pen y Fan. Regular chaser Andy G8MIA in Rugeley was logged. He was probably our best DX:

We packed up as quick as we could and left the summit...

GW/SW-007 Fan Nedd

6 Km west of Fan Fawr is SW-007 Fan Nedd but to reach the parking place close to it by car involves a drive of 22 Kms. We parked roadside near to the Maen Llia standing stone on the road between Ystradfellte and Heol Senni.  After advice from Allan GW4VPX the parking place was approached from the south as the road coming from the north is much steeper and is notoriously icy in the winter as it is does not get gritted by the local council.

The two standing stones where we parked
Now walking we followed a broken wall for 300m before crossing it to make for the summit. It took us 45 minutes to reach the top in lying snow, but it was a much easier passage than the climb up to Fan Fawr. 

Geoff on the summit of SW-007 in his essential snow goggles
The conditions sat in the snow with minimal visibility were dire. We completed 5 contacts in 5 minutes and for our own sakes quickly left the summit. Best DX was with Don G0RQL in Holsworthy, Devon.  

We were staying in a hotel at Abergavenny that night, fortunately there was two large radiators in the room on which to dry our kit. 

Logbook of the days 29 contacts:

Thursday, 22 January 2015

South Wales 2m FM Tour January 2015 - Day 2

SW-012  >  SW-014  >  SW-010  >  SW-029

The plan on Day Two of our tour of South Wales summits was to visit four summits and work our way south to the coast where we were booked into a hotel in Porthcawl for two nights half board. The plan was the same throughout the tour - to qualify the summits as quickly as we could on 2m FM and then move on to the next one so as to maximize the number of summits activated on the tour. 

GW/SW-012 Coity Mountain lies six miles south west of Abergavenny where we stayed. After breakfast we made our way to Blaenavon to park on an overflow car park for the Big Pit Mining Museum (SO 239086).  Our walk route:

We went up Coity Mountain on rough land but chose an easier way down on a footpath. There was lying snow from where we operated. It was quite featureless on top of the moor. Below us was a large industrial site with the mine near to the Big Pit Museum still working. With five contacts logged in five minutes we packed up and headed for SW-014. 

GW/SW-014 Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn

Geoff's Subaru parked at the end of the road below Roundhouse Farm
We parked in Nantyglo, (SO 189105) below Roundhouse Farm, from that point on the track leading SW to the summit was rough so we played safe. It took us 42 minutes to reach the top - a walk of just short of 1.5 miles. We went over a hill called Bwlch y Garn, but there was no need to, so when we came back down we skirted that hill on a well used track to the east.  This time we made four contacts in five minutes on the summit and then left. It wasn't comfortable sitting on another snow covered moor - we won't be rushing back to activate these two summits again...

GW/SW-010 Craig y Llyn

Using the A465 - the Heads of the Valleys Road, we skirted Merthyr Tydfil on what was a mucky day. Visibility was reducing as we climbed up the A4061 to the parking place from which we could walk to Craig y Llyn, undoubtedly our best summit of the day. It would have much better had we been able to see anything. As it was, the mist was too thick and we saw nothing from the summit. 

In early 2015 a wind farm was being constructed in woodland at Cefn Glas and we parked in the wide entrance to it at SN 923027: 

As you can see from the map of the route taken we walked across the rough ground when we set out. This was quite difficult in deep lying snow so we returned along the road. The early part of the track had been spoiled by off roaders but beyond a ruined structure the way improved. We were using the Coed Morgannwg Way which is a 36 mile walking route which traces ancient Celtic Ways. The highest point was reached by trudging through virgin snow on what was a much more enjoyable walk than the previous two, in 43 minutes. 

The writer at the "standing stone" to which we secured the fishing pole with dipole
We operated for fifteen minutes on Craig y Lyn and completed seven contacts. It was after 3.00 pm when we left the parking spot to make our way down towards the coast and our last summit of the day. 

GW/SW-029 Foel Fynyddau

Foel Fynyddau was visited on our way to our hotel in Porthcawl. We parked at the end of a Byway at SS 772935. It was approaching 4.00 pm when we left the car and the easy climb to the radio masts on the summit took us just 18 minutes: 

View from the summit approaching sunset
We were grateful for the stations who called us, who in some cases were not Summits On The Air enthusiasts but who were happy to see us qualify the summit with the minimum four contacts. On this summit we just made the four needed in less than ten minutes before packing up.

It was damp on Foel Fynyddau - pictured by the communications mast compound
All in all then not a bad day with four more SOTA Completes visited and twenty stations logged:

Day 3 to follow...

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

South Wales 2m FM Tour January 2015 - Day 3

SW-031  >  SW-028  >  SW-036  >  SW-039  >  SW-038  >  SW-021

After breakfast we bought some Ginsters pasties from the Spar shop in Porthcawl for our lunch, before heading out of town by 8.30am. We planned to activate at least five easy summits today as most were very easy to reach. This wasn't the case with SW-021 though, our sixth summit, which involved quite a trek. 

GW/SW-031 Mynydd Uchaf

We thought we might have a reception committee when we arrived at our first summit - as we approached we saw two cars and two fellow hams. This was Allan GW4VPX and Emir MW6EWM:
Geoff 2E0NON Emyr MW6EWM Phil G4OBK & Allan GW4VPX near Mynydd Uchaf
After a natter we set off across some rough ground to a ruined building at the highest point of the hill. We set up inside it to shelter from the wind...

With QSOs logged with Allan and Emyr who we could see at the road about 1 Km away, we called CQ and had contacts with three other stations. Best DX was a contact with Don G0RQL in Devon. Walking back after the short activation we bid farewell to Allan and Emyr and set off to SW-028. 

GW/SW-028 Mynydd y Betws

A road runs right across the top of the summit here. We parked up and walked back to this road sign where we set up our station. As we were operating a council worker passed by picking up litter...

We worked Alan and Emyr again - they were now /Mobile on their way home, and also G0RQL and GW7MMG (only) to qualify the summit before departing. 

GW/SW-036 Mynydd Sylen

The first thing we saw when we parked at the end of the track for SW-036 was this Red Kite circling overhead...

This was almost a "drive on" summit - after just 200m along a public footpath you are at the trig point. The parking place is comfortably within the 25m activation zone, but we chose to operate from the trig point.  There were some commercial radio masts nearby but there was no interference on 2m FM. 
Geoff 2W0NON logging the first of six QSOs made from Mynydd Sylen
From Mynydd Sylen we made our first summit to summit contact of the day with Pete, GW4ISJ who was on a summit we visited the previous day - SW-012 Coity Mountain.  The nearest village to Mynydd Sylen is Llannon. 

GW/SW-039 Mynydd Llangyndeyrn

After driving through the village of Pontyberem just 20 minutes after leaving SW-036 we were walking the short distance across access land to reach the trig point on SW-039.

It was fun clambering over the rocky outcrop which leads to a burial chamber, but the clambering was unnecessary we realised when we reached the trig point, so on our return we took the easy path below the outcrop. Mynydd Llangyndeyrn is a significant historical site where there is a burial chamber. 

Mynydd Llangyndeyrn - a better site on VHF with nine stations logged on 2m FM
Pete GW4ISJ/P was still on Coity Mountain SW-012, so he got two summit to summit contacts for the price of one. We also logged Peter G3TJE/P on Dunkery Beacon SC-001 before leaving. 

GW/SW-038 Mynydd Drumau 

With two summits left on today's list yet to visit. it was now early afternoon, so after consuming our Ginsters Pasties we retreated back towards our hotel in Nottage, Porthcawl.

North of the industrial town of Neath lies the summit of Mynydd Drumau, which is reached along a track which turns left off the C class road at SS 738998 when coming from the south as we were. The bridleway is tarmac for the most part. Dyffryn Farm looked like it was an ecological power station, burning waste materials. 

Just six contacts made on 2m FM from Mynydd Drumau which is 272m above sea level
We continued driving on past Dyffryn Farm to park at the side of the track when it became rather rough at SS 729002. From there it took us 15 minutes to walk up to the trig point... just one easy fence to climb.

GW/SW-021 Mynydd Marchywel

After passing through the village of Bryn Coch we turned left up a farm road to reach grid reference SN 756014 where we parked on a right hand bend by a gate. The route had been suggested by someone we knew who had good local knowledge (thanks Mal!), on what is probably the most difficult to access SOTA summit in South Wales. 

It took me 48 minutes to walk the 1.75 miles to the trig point which is located in woodland. As I often find on trips like this, by day 3 I become tired and lacking in energy towards the end of the day. I hadn't eaten enough at lunchtime that day and I think that was my problem. It really was a struggle lifting my legs now trying to keep up with Geoff on our way to the summit. He is 8 years my senior!
Looking tired and drawn at the trig point on SW-021 Mynydd Marchywell
We entered the woodland at SN 7676 0350 and a clear path led through the forest to the hidden trig point.  Again we found the contacts needed to qualify with six contacts. The five amp LiPo battery I had been using all day ran out on this summit. After running the FT-1500M at full power (40 watts RF output) on the previous five summits, I was most impressed. The spare battery was pressed into service for the last five QSOs of the day. 

36 contacts were logged on Day Three of  our South Walian Tour
After consuming an energy bar and some coca cola on the summit I made it back to the car with renewed vigour, and we returned to our hotel in Nottage, Porthcawl for the night. Six more SOTA Completes in the bag. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

South Wales 2m FM Tour January 2015 - Day 4

SW-040  >  SW-032  >  SW-017

GW/SW-040 Mynydd Dinas

Our last day in Wales... We left Porthcawl 8.15am to activate the summit nearest to the town. This was Mynydd Dinas which overlooks the M4 Motorway south of Baglan. 

It took us 32 minutes to reach the summit trig point, mainly on a graded forestry track. It was fairly early and there were few stations listening, however we made contact with the necessary four stations before returning to the car (22 minutes). 
On Mynydd Dinas GW/SW-040 
We parked on a wide verge by the farm at SS 759926 where we walked to reach the summit on the Wales Coast Way upper link section.

GW/SW-032 Mynydd Allt-y-grug

Moving north we left the M4 motorway at junction 45 to bypass Pontardawe on the A4067. We turned off at the roundabout near Ynysmeudwy where the summit of interest could be clearly seen above the valley. A C Class road took us to a parking place at SN 742073.
Parking place for GW/SW-032
From here we walked back up to road to join a woodland footpath which led us to the moorland at a broken down fence at SN 745076:

We set up the station by some large stones just off the highest point of the moor - wild horses couldn't stop us...

Only six stations were worked and we packed up after ten minutes. As you can see from the map trace we strayed off course a little on our way down. The up route is the one I would recommend...

GW/SW-017 Hirfynydd 

Our last summit of the tour was reached from the street village of Banwen, which lies close to opencast coal workings and a wind farm.
Parking in the village street in Banwen
You don't see much of the open cast work going on as it is well screened off with pine woodland, however we could hear heavy machinery working as we walked the 2.3 miles to the summit. The Ordnance Survey map gave us no clue either that the area leading to and around the summit is a manufactured motorsport venue, predominantly I understand for rallying. This is definitely a summit we would not be revisiting, but a single unique visit was of course essential. 

We finished our activation in South Wales in the rain, we'd started in snow on day one but all in all we were delighted to complete 16 activations in the four days and we would be returning later in 2015 to do some more...
The contacts logged for SOTA on our final day in South Wales

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Black Mount GM/SS-158 & Broomy Law GM/SS-209

Another day in the Scottish Borders on our short break in January was pretty cool, but dry by the afternoon. We went into Lanark for a look around and a nice lunch in a cafe down a side street. That was after being caught in a heavy shower of sleet.

A pound shop was visited and we bought an extraordinary amount of items for around £14. Arriving back at the hotel by around 2.30pm gave me chance to consider an activation on one of the local hills, so I set off to Black Mount SS-158, six miles from the hotel, for some winter bonus points. 

Parking place for Black Mount GM/SS-158
There is room to park at the side of the yellow road shown on the OS Explorer map at NT 074470.

A track led me up a cleft running along the south side of Newholm Hill.  Just as it got a little steeper I struck out to the right on to the rough moorland. Time to reach the summit from the car was 42 minutes up and 24 minutes down. For such a difference in time up and down I guess I found the climb quite a hard one, there is not usually such a marked difference between up and down as I am not a fast descender... 

Black Mount has the most eroded trig point I have ever seen. The years have weakened it around the base as you can see from this picture. I arrived just before 3.30pm and a sleet shower from around lunchtime was still lying on the ground. It was cold...

The number of stations calling me on the 40m band (42 in total) kept me going for 40 minutes, with the first contact being Nick G4OOE in Scarborough. 

From the summit I was focussing down below me to Broomy Law, GM/SS-209, which I was hoping to activate next, providing I could find my way up to it as it would soon be dark.

Broomy Law - seen from Black Mount - 3.2 Km away
It would have been good to try the 20m band out to see if I could work some DX outside of Europe, but as I wanted to garner another SOTA Complete in the day I shut down my station and left the summit just before 4.30pm to go to Brownbank Farm, a place where I believed I could reach Broomy Law from...

Broomy Law GM/SS-209

It was pitch dark when I arrived in the farmyard of Brownbank Farm near Biggar. I parked adjacent to some cow barns. There was no sign off human life, just the sound of cattle in the barns. I couldn't see the farm house from where I parked. If it had been daylight I would have asked permission to park, however on this occasion I felt that disturbing the farmer when he was probably eating his dinner was unwise. After hanging about for 10 minutes and with no one appearing to establish why I was parked in the yard I locked my car and set off up the well used track to the summit. It was 5.22 pm and I reached the communications compounds on the summit in 20 minutes. 

I really struggled to make any contacts on the summit at all - in the end I made 15 and it was my own fault for setting next to a communications cabin to shelter from the bitter wind:

On switching on the radio it reset itself to the "factory default". This meant the keyer was switched off for a start. Then I realised that several of the controls were inoperable. This had happened to me once before when I was operating from a German summit in 2014, with the same transceiver a Yaesu FT-857. 

Pole lashed to corner post next to comms cabin - no wonder immunity to nearby RF fields was poor!
By disconnecting the antenna and altering several menu settings I was able regain control of the radio and transmit on 40m SSB. My self spot using (Rucksack Radio Tool by DL1DLF) raised Rod M0JLA in Hereford followed by Chris ON6ZQ, who I was to meet a few months later on a summit in Belgium. I wasn't able to operate the radio on 20m at all, but I did get the radio to operate in CW and I made some contacts on 40m and 30m. Best DX was with CT9/G8DX who is Jack. Not a SOTA guy but a DX chap I met in 2014 when I was at Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen. I heard Jack calling CQ and called him, so I got my QSO that way. After 20 minutes fiddling around I gave up and shut down. Here is my complete log:

When I got back to the hotel I tried the radio out again and there was no problem, everything worked. The experience told me when possible, to set up away from any other communications installations!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Cairnpapple Hill GM/SS-254 January 2015

We were on a short break in the Scottish Borders staying in a country hotel near Biggar. A day was planned to look around Edinburgh. So we drove north through unfamiliar territory until we reached the outskirts of Bathgate. Just north of the town is the Marilyn summit of Cairnpapple Hill GM/SS-254.

Hole in the trig just deep enough to take the pole at an angle.... comms station to the north
A hill called the Knock is probably better known locally - due to its pointy prominence, history and topograph, but it isn't as high as our hill. I measured the col on the tarmac road between the two hills and it came out just a tad over 25m, so the trig point is the place to operate from, as stated on the SOTA Summits page, not The Knock.

There is a rough car park below The Knock. A metal gate on the left side of the road just north of the road junction shown on the OS map needs to be climbed and you are at the trig point within 10 minutes of locking up the car. 

48 QSOs completed from the summit, but only one on 2m FM with Jack GM4COX
I was on the air for 40 minutes on 7 MHz CW/SSB & 14 MHz CW. Best DX was CU3AA Joao in The Azores. 

I packed up and off we went to Edinburgh for the rest of the day...

Monday, 5 January 2015

Goseland Hill GM/SS-203 January 2015

A Hotel in Scotland is an expensive place to be over New Year, but just after that you can get a short break at a bargain price via Travelzoo and this my XYL Judy and I did in January 2015, when we stayed at a Hotel near Biggar in the Borders that looked a little like a Castle:

Shieldhill Castle Hotel
I get tired of hearing about all the places that Oliver Cromwell slept. Well he didn't stay at Shieldhill, but Nelson Mandella did in 1997 when he was attending the Commonwealth Conference that year in Edinburgh. We saw the now maturing tree he planted in the garden. The great man, who by 1997 was the master of his jailers, may have slept in the same room as we did for the four nights we were there - fine business!

It's hard to get Judy to sit on a summit for upwards of an hour in the UK winter so I was on my own for the four HF activations I planned to do on this short holiday which included day trips into Lanark, Glasgow and Edinburgh

Goseland Hill GM/SS-203

Click to get full size map
After checking in on our arrival day I left at 3.15pm local time to go to Goseland Hill which is less than 6 miles south east of the hotel. I located a small worked out quarry and parked here (NT 072344). It took less than 20 minutes to reach the trig point in failing light. I was walking over rough moorland, my route down one hour later following a quad track in the dark, was much easier walking, so if you visit this summit take note. As I approached the lights of the farm Gosland in the dark on my way down I took a swerve due to a barking dog there that was piercing the still night air. 

As the light went Goseland Hill felt a lonely place to be...
Transceiver: FT-857 50 watts output, Palm Key
Antenna: 40m Dipole on 6m pole
Contacts made: 32 (10 EU Countries) in 25 minutes CW - SSB