Friday, 8 April 2016

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Gwastedyn Hill GW/MW-019

After leaving the parking place for Carn Gafallt a slow drive down a narrow lane took us back to the A470 south of Rhayader and to the other side of the River Wye. We turned left on the A470 and were parked up for Gwastedyn about twenty minutes after leaving Carn Gafallt. Time was getting on and we decided this was to be our last summit of the day, with MW-024 Rhiw Gwraidd being left for next time. We drove up to the start of a bridleway at SN 9901 6582 but found that parking was too restricted there, so we turned the car round and parked over 330m away on the side of the road to the south. 
Parking place for Gwastedyn Hill - the hill can be seen in the background
Once we climbed the first (steep) field and turned right a delightful path took us around the side of the hill to a cast iron gate at SN 9892 6650.

Climbing up the bridleway before turning right to go around the hill to the metal gate
A faint path through heather from there took us to the summit. The location was superb for VHF working and this was undoubtedly the best summit of our two day tour for views.
My friend Geoff 2W0NON arrives at the summit cairn on Gwastedyn
Looking to the western top 400m away we noted there was a beacon basket mounted on a plinth and a large conical shaped cairn. These were built to celebrate the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977:

The late afternoons warm sun made the activation even more enjoyable and we had a little free time so I put up my HF dipole again and worked a few of the regular chasers on 40m CW before going QRT:
With seven more Welsh summits logged as SOTA Completes over the two days, including the completion of the South Wales Association,  I drove back to Bristol where I was based that week. 

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Carn Gafallt GW/MW-040

After leaving Cefn Cenarth nature reserve car park near MW-039 we drove back through Rhayader. In a half hour we were in the Elan Valley driving on an unfenced road to the parking place for Carn Gafallt GW/MW-040.  This was on a bend by a barn at Pen y Castell, where a track heads uphill following the edge of a wood on the left side. 
My GPX track for Carn Gafallt can be downloaded from the SOTA Mapping Project

Once you leave the track the more eastward wider sweeping track on the map is the better one to follow as the heather is short and less dense on there. There is one trouser ripping barbed wire fence to climb out of the wood, or if you prefer, go further east on the track and avoid climbing it as we did on our way up.  Fortunate for me as I walked ahead of Geoff 2E0NON I got a good view of a Marsh Harrier for the first time in my life. The rare species bird was on the ground and took up to flight around 30m from me as I approached it. After qualifying the summit on 2m FM using 50 watts power I set up on 40m CW, however that only produced five contacts before we packed up and left.  The picture below taken by Geoff on Carn Gafallt shows what you need for a successful SOTA Tour in Mid-Wales. Belt and Braces... Here we deployed a Yaesu FT-817 transceiver with 5 watts output on HF to a link dipole, and a Yaesu FT-1500M transceiver with 50 watts output to a vertical dipole on 2m FM. Both aerials are mounted on a 5m travel pole: 

The walk to the summit due to the very deep heather, was awkward to put it mildly - we will not be returning here again.  It was almost 3.00pm when we returned to the car, so there was sufficient time left to drive the six miles to the parking place for the climb to our fourth summit of the day. This was Gwastedyn Hill GW/MW-019. 

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Cefn Cenarth GW/MW-039

Cefn Cenarth was only 2.5 miles from our previous activation at Garreg Llwyd, however to reach the walk starting point we drove for 13 miles on a circuitous route to the north. On reflection later I realised we would have been better served by using the roads to the south, however the drive down the B4518 was most pleasant with the road at one point being lined with daffodils. 

A nature reserve has been created on the flank of Cefn Cenarth and as the map above indicates there are two ways to reach the summit. A car park with information board is located at SN 964759. The northerly path to the summit is more pleasant to walk as it is on grass, the southerly access being a graded track. We went up on the track and came back down on the path.  The forest on the summit had been felled leaving it full of brash. We set up again at the side of a fence and once again found 2m FM contacts hard to come by. We set up the FT-817 again on 40m and this time I made a handful of contacts using CW (Morse Code), the most notable contact being with Hans PB2T who was operating as HB/PB2T/P on a summit in Switzerland.  

Geoff on the summit 
My friend Geoff, operating as 2W0NON/P, persisted in calling CQ on and off on the 2m FM band. After 30 minutes he qualified the summit with his 4th contact:

The writer - just about to leave the summit of Cefn Cenarth 

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Garreg Llwyd GW/MW-014

With breakfast being served at 7.00am at the Horseshoe Guest House in Rhayader, Geoff 2E0NON (driver) and I left the town at 7.45am and headed six miles north up the A470 to a gateway to the Bryn Titli Wind Farm installation. We parked here and walked the track up to the plateau of wind turbines just below the summit of Garreg Llwyd MW-014.

Access gate near the parking place adjacent to A470 road
It took 35 minutes to reach the summit. To stand on the actual summit you have to climb a barbed wire fence. Another classic case of inaccessible access land... So we climbed the fence and then returned to it so we could use it as a fixing point for the antenna.

Geoff Fielding 2E0NON on the summit of MW-014 Garreg Llwyd
It was early morning and with the summit being surrounded by higher mountains it did not favour VHF operation on 2 metres FM. After working our friend John MW0XOT nearby and Don GW0PLP in Cardigan, further CQ calls proved fruitless so the HF station (FT-817 & dipole) was set up on 40m SSB. My first contact was with Marcin SQ9OZM/P, who I was to meet on a joint activation in Poland later that month. 
After qualifying the hill as quickly as we could we packed and returned to the car just after 10.00am. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Beacon Hill GW/MW-009

There is very little to be said about Beacon Hill GW/MW-009. We parked at spot height 406 on a lane that runs north to south. It was a straightforward 48 minute trek on tracks, rutted in places by the 4X4 "enthusiasts" that cause so much damage to our moorland. The weather was pleasant and our path followed Glyndwr's Way for a short distance.  As we were about to leave the summit after a successful activation a rainbow appeared, just to the left of Geoff's shoulder.....

We were fortunate again on VHF - with 9 contacts on 2m FM from a mixture of English and Welsh stations. After retrieving my car we drove to our guest house in Rhayader for a quick turn round, as we had arranged to meet fellow SOTA activator John MW0XOT, in a local pub at 7.30pm:

Writer Phil G4OBK - John MW0XOT - Geoff 2E0NON
We had a great meal with beer and wine in good company with (as expected) SOTA talk predominating the proceedings. It had been a good day, our first fairly dry one for some considerable time it must be said... three more SOTA Completes in the bag for me - hence the smile.

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Great Rhos GW/MW-002

After leaving SW-035 Myarth we motored in both our cars to
Boggy moorland near the summit of Great Rhos
a cafe at Crossgates roundabout where we used the facilities and had a cup of tea. My car was left there and we continued to the start of the walk for Great Rhos, which we tackled from the north side by following the GPX track I took from the SMP provided by Gerald MW0WML.  We parked on the grass triangle at SO 173672 and set off along the bridleway for the hour it took to reach the highest point on Great Rhos, 660m above sea level. This was a pleasant walk, mainly on forest tracks until we reached the intake fence around 500m from the summit trig point where we entered boggy moorland. We were able to qualify the summit on VHF this time, and recorded 8 contacts each, which was pretty good for the middle of the day in the middle of the week. 
Heading back to the car and on to our next activation - Beacon Hill GW/MW-009

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Myarth GW/SW-035

After waiting for the pheasant shooting season to end we finally got a chance to activate the last summit we needed to complete the South Wales Association - GW/SW-035 which is known as "The Myarth" by the Glanusk Estate and not Myarth as it is referred to in the SOTA Association Manual and on OS maps... 

GW/SW-035 Myarth

Written permission to access the summit granted, I met up with Geoff Fielding 2E0NON near Crickhowell, and we made our way in his car to Gliffaes Fach SO 164203, where there is room to park one car:

Our route - the GPX track is available in the SOTA Mapping Project (above)
and (below) timber extraction on the track going up Myarth

Timber extraction was taking place on the hill and the tracks were muddy and rutted. We were on the summit within 40 minutes, calling CQ on the 2m FM band for 10 minutes or so and with no callers, despite running 50 watts of power into a vertical dipole. We thought that may have been the case so an FT-817 on HF was deployed on the 40m band with a dipole, resulting in 17 contacts with EU stations on SSB and CW. The only UK station worked was our friend Terry G0VWP who lives in York. Geoff operating as 2W0NON/P on Myarth:

After less than 20 minutes on air we packed up and headed north into mid Wales to activate two more summits that day.