Sunday, 30 August 2015

SOTA in South Wales - 4 summits in a day from Abergavenny

Earlier in the year when activating summits in South Wales I had stayed with Geoff 2E0NON at Plas Derwen, a pub with rooms on the outskirts of Abergavenny.  This was an appropriate place to meet, which is what we did at 7.15am on Monday 17th August 2015. We knew the food was good at Plas Derwen too, for our post activation meal. I made my way once again, as I did the previous Friday, over the Severn Bridge from Bristol. Geoff drove south from his home near Malvern.
Just four summits were visited in the day in a figure of eight from Abergavenny
GW/SW-011 Sugar Loaf

Duration: 0644z - 0850z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 50 minutes
Operation time: 15 minutes
Contacts made: 10
Sugar Loaf  SW-011 seen from the flank of Bryn Arw SW-026
In researching previous activations for these two summits, which are close to Abergavenny I read the blog of Pete G4ISJ and discovered a common parking place to activate these two summits together. This was from a small car park near Forest Coal Pit at SO 292200.  We were walking by 7.45am and on the top of Sugar Loaf which we had to ourselves, 50 minutes later. It was an easy and well defined route to the summit through cut bracken part way, and on grass. 
Geoff operating from Sugar Loaf - there was no shortage of contacts from there on 145 MHz FM mode
We had the same set up as on the previous Friday - a powerful "pocket rocket" in the shape of my Yaesu FT-1500M mobile FM radio, which is meant be be installed in a vehicle. This was connected using RG58 coaxial cable to a home made sleeve dipole mounted on a 5 metre high fishing pole. The radio was powered for the whole day with a 7 AH LiFePo4 battery. We have found this set up to be very effective in South Wales and other parts of the UK for making four or more contacts from summits as quickly as possible.

On Sugar Loaf 10 stations were logged in 15 minutes as far apart as Chesterfield in Derbyshire and Holsworthy in Devon. We packed up and headed back to the car for a snack before walking on to Bryn Arw GW/SW-026. 

GW/SW-026 Bryn Arw

Duration: 0907z - 1042z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 30 minutes
Operation time: 20 minutes
Contacts made: 9

The walk started by turning left on an asphalt road up past Rhyd-lanau farm. Just after the farm a permissive route "To the Hill" was signed and so we took it. The picture below shows Geoff walking the permissive route with Sugar Loaf in the background. 

We entered the access land at SO 298204 via a gate and after fighting our way through the seasonal bracken for 50m we were on a good path. A grass path and quad track (not shown on the map) turned right and took us straight up to the summit. The writer is pictured on the summit with Sugar Loaf in the background.

Returning to the car for another snack we then drove on to our second start point of the day for a much longer walk...

GW/SW-008 Cefn yr Ystrad

Duration: 1200z - 1545z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 75 minutes
Operation time: 10 minutes
Contacts made: 7

Pontsticill Reservoir with SW-001 Pen y Fan behind - on our way up to SW-008
Our friend Allan GW4VPX had provided us with details of a parking place and a route for this summit from near the water works at Pontsticill. A bridleway left the road at SO 0605 1142 and we took it. The Brecon Mountain Railway crossed over the route via a bridge and a gate took us on to the access land. We followed a gradually ascending grass track which had been used by off-roaders, but it wasn't in too bad a condition. When we reached SO 075134 we left the track to climb to the summit, passing the extremely deep Cwar yr Ystrad worked out quarry and the remains of what looked like the destroyed quarry office at SO 0795 1358: 

Once we reached the 580m contour level we could see the trig point at 617m. The lie of land dictated that we needed to head north east and then south east to reach it.  The summit felt extremely remote and we were glad we visited during the summer months in pleasant weather. It would be an extremely bleak place in the winter. The trig point centre hole was clear and useful for inserting the pole into. Here is Geoff operating and a trace of the route we took on the 1:25K map:

The moor was good ground for walking - there we no bogs. So we chose a different and higher level way back before descending to the bridleway when it was in line with the southern most part of the reservoir.  On the way we encountered a group of ten Welsh Mountain ponies...

It was 3.45pm when we left Ponsticill. We decided it was too early to go back to Abergavenny for our dinner so I studied the map for an easy to access summit to fill the time and came up with GW/SW-013 Tor y Foel. 

GW/SW-013 Tor y Foel

Duration: 1653z - 1751z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 16 minutes
Operation time: 12 minutes
Contacts made: 7

Tor y Foel is a lovely summit above Talybont Reservoir. A narrow asphalt road leaves the B4558 near Talybont on Usk to a parking place right at the end of the public road below the hill:

A short climb takes you to the summit which explains why this summit is popular in winter for the extra 3 bonus points. As 2 pointers go it is an easy one, but it is devoid of a trig point or anything to support an antenna. Geoff is a handy guy when he comes to constructing stuff, so he built a tripod out of our three walking poles and some rope to support the pole and antenna:

For the first time today insects and flying ants were a problem on Tor y Foel, but hey ho... we were only there a short time and you can live with them for that.  Time for a silhouetted selfie photo of us with the tripod, using a timed exposure and it was then time to head back to Abergavenny for our dinner:

So that brought us to the end of our two day twelve summit trip to South Wales. We'll soon be back though - we've still got 8 summits out of 41 in the GW/SW area left to activate. These will probably get done in 2016. 

Friday, 21 August 2015

SOTA in South Wales - 8 summits in a day on 2m FM

It was 7.15 am last Friday 15th August 2015  when I met up with my driver and fellow activator for the day, Geoff Fielding, 2E(W)0NON who had driven down from Malvern, near Worcester. I had driven over the Severn Bridge (Toll charge £6.50 return) from Bristol. We met on a pub car park in Langstone, just off the M4 near Newport, which is where I left my car for the day. We were continuing where we left off in January when we activated 16 South Wales summits in four days. 

Our eight summit round in South Wales starting out from Newport
Our plan today was to activate 7 or 8 one point Summits for SOTA on VHF. The weather was misty and wet, and it stayed like that until around 1.00pm. Two golf umbrellas were used to keep our radio equipment dry. A maximum of 20 minutes activation time per summit has been built into the schedule, with 10 minutes set up / take down time. The rest of the allotted time being given over to driving from point to point and then walking up the hills to the summit for our activations.  All 8 summits would be "SOTA Complete" for me as an Activator, as I had made contact with them all from home several times before, as a SOTA Chaser. 


Yaesu FT-1500M 50 watt transceiver
7 AH LiFePo4 Battery X 2
(50 watts used for 4 contacts on each summit then power reduced to 20 watts)
1/2 Wave vertical dipole
5m long fishing pole & bungies
Vehicle used: Subaru Legacy Sports Tourer (Diesel)
Backup Equipment: Yaesu VX-170 - Yaesu FT-817 - HF link dipole (None used)

The only way to cram this amount of activations into a one day operation in daylight is to operate "smash and grab style" on 2m FM, which is what we did. HF equipment was carried as a backup but was not needed as all summits were qualified on VHF FM using the 145 MHz 2m band. 

GW/SW-037 Craig yr Allt

Duration: 0740z - 0833z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 11 minutes
Operation time: 18 minutes
Contacts made: 7

A gloomy outlook for our activation of Craig yr Allt SW-037
There is just room to park a car at the entrance to the waymarked footpath on the lane at grid reference ST 1299 8509. We turned right off the main path after 150m to climb via a well used path to the summit. 

Our first contacts were with Simon, G(W)4TJC and his son Jamie M(W)6TJC. Both were operating /A from a hotel near to our location. We arranged a rendezvous with Simon on our next summit. The take off from all the summits visited across the Bristol Channel was superb and we made contact with a long time SOTA friend in Peter G3TJE, who I often work from home when he is activating using Morse Code.  Another regular called in. This was Rod M0JLA from Hereford, who was worked before we pulled the rather damp plug...

GW/SW-034 Garth Hill

Duration: 0904z - 1003z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 13 minutes
Operation time: 6 minutes
Contacts made: 5

For this one we found a parking place before some cottages on Heol Goch, a road that runs along the southern flank of Garth Hill. A public right of way leads into the access land to join the Ridgeway Walk.  We were soon at the trig point setting up. After a short qualifying activation and just as we were packing up we were joined by Simon G(W)4TJC who was taking over on the summit fromus and intending to use the 10m and 6m bands. This was the last day of the summer period for the 2015 SOTA Challenge and Simon was anxious to get a few more points... It's not the first time I've met up with other activators on a summit, and this certainly won't be the last! We had time for a chat and a photo opportunity...

The writer with SOTA MT Member Simon G(W)4TJC
I think the last SOTA Management Team member I met on an activation was Andy MM0FMF, when he was on his way up Blencathra LD-008, and I was on my way down. 

GW/SW-027 Mynydd y Glyn

Duration: 1041z - 1204z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 26 minutes
Operation time: 15 minutes
Contacts made: 8

Parking place at the public road end of the track to Cefn-coed Farm

After two easy ascents it was time for a longer walk of just over one mile up to Mynydd y Glyn. We parked at the road end to Cefn-coed Farm (good job too - there was nowhere to park up the farm road) and walked up the track which is a public right of way. It had stopped raining for a while - great!

Track of our walk and G(W)4OBK the writer on the summit
The route was gated and the summit was easily accessible even though it was just outside the nearby access land. On the summit we noticed this unusual device around 50m from the trig point:

This is the Triton Wind Profiler which is a remote sensing system providing data to a company interesting in developing wind farms.

GW/SW-025 Cefn Eglwysilan

Duration: 1244z - 1318z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 6 minutes
Operation time:  10 minutes
Contacts made: 6

The trig point on SW-025 Cefn Eglwysilan - Bill G4WSB/P visited here in August 2014 and left his mark
This is one of the easiest summits to reach in South Wales. Eglwyslian Road runs across the  flank of the hill at 327m and the top is just 55m higher at 382m ASL. It is quite close to Pontypridd, above Taff Vale, which is a place with some social history after a well known legal case involving a strike by workers, played a part in the formation of the Labour Party. 

Phil 2(W)0NON and Phil G(W)4OBK on Cefn Egwysilan

Returning to the car we had our lunch before proceeding to our next summit. 

GW/SW-030 Mynydd Machen

Duration: 1424z - 1515z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 16 minutes
Operation time:  10 minutes
Contacts made: 6

There was just room to park at the end of the path which leads to the plateau of Mynydd Machen. The large mast on the summit did cause some intermittent intermodulation problems on 145 MHz, but in between the bursts of noise we were able to complete six contacts before moving off. 

The comms installation on Mynydd Machen SW-030 caused considerable interference to reception on 145 MHz
GW/SW-024 Mynydd y Lan

Duration: 1542z - 1623z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 12 minutes
Operation time:  8 minutes
Contacts made: 5

Another hill with masts on it but this time there was no problem with interference to our reception - it looks as though this W/T Sta is now redundant. To the left of the locked gated entrance to the track is a large solar farm.

Solar farm leading up to Mynydd y Lan GW/SW-024
This looks to be a very secure installation with cameras. The track used leads into gated access land on the plateau where the summit is located. We operated 10m down from the highest point which was more convenient, more sheltered and well within the 25 meter drop zone, despite the slight dip between the two points.  

Redundant masts on SW-024 - overtaken by technology
GW/SW-019 Mynydd Twyn Glas

Duration: 1651z - 1812z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 31 minutes
Operation time:  12 minutes
Contacts made: 8

Geoff puts his Berghaus coat on as we get ready to walk up to SW-019 from the sheepfolds there
This was the extra summit we did not think we would not have time for... In the event we had pulled back over an hour from our planned schedule so we went for it, despite it being the longest walk of the day at just over 1.5 miles each way. There is plenty of parking over the cattle grid near some sheepfolds, and a track follows pylon lines almost to the summit trig point: 

By the time we got back to the car we were pretty well shattered, but there was time to squeeze in a final SOTA Complete near to where we had met up in the morning. This was the well visited "drive on" summit of Wentwood. 

GW/SW-033 Wentwood 

Duration: 1856z - 1924z 
Time to reach summit on foot: 2 minutes
Operation time:  15 minutes
Contacts made: 11

Geoff puts his coat on again - this time we were at Wentwood SW-033
A winding tarmac road through woodland leads up to the car park for Wentwood, where most of the highest part of the forest has been felled and replanted with saplings. A two minute walk took us to a convenient tree stump on which we fastened the fishing pole.

Operating position on Wentwood GW/SW-033
We were anxious to get finished and return to the pub four miles away where I had parked my car earlier - for some food and a celebratory pint.  There were plenty of callers (11) though before the frequency went quiet and then we packed up. When we reached the pub it was just going dark and it was rammed out with folk. The waitress said it would be at least 45 minutes before we could be fed.... so we left and went down the road to the M4 roundabout for a "go large" McDonalds instead, disappointing maybe, but quick and easy and we enjoyed it. 

We still have unfinished business in South Wales, so we will be returning in due course to complete the final eight summits needed to finish the area off. 

Total Contacts: 57
Battery Power used: One 7 AH LiFePo  only 
Distance Walked: 11 miles
Height ascended on foot: 2300 feet
Distance driven on circuit from Langstone, Newport: 108 miles

If you visit these easy to access summits in South Wales I hope you find this report useful.