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. 

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