Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Day Two of a two day SOTA visit to Snowdonia - July 2017

I awoke in Idwal Cottage YHA at 6.00am feeling fine after my previous days Glyder and Tryfan walk, except for having pins and needles in both hands. This soon wore off once I got moving.... Breakfast was some Granola I had brought, a couple of slices of toast and marmalade and a cup of tea. I finished off the pint of milk left over from the Granola leaving the hostel on a beautiful morning to drive just two miles along the A5 from Idwal Cottage YHA to the Gwern Gof Isaf campsite:

Parking place at Gwern Gof Isaf campsite by the A5 - £2 for the day
My friend Nick Langmead (G4OOE) had provided me with a route from here taking in NW-002 Carnedd Llewelyn, the second highest Marilyn summit in Wales, and NW-013 Pen Llithrig y Wrach.  He told me that the owner of the campsite and farm would allow all day parking by the gate on the A5 for just £2 per day.  Campers were emerging from their tents and vans and even though it was only 7.00am I called at the farm to pay my dues which were gratefully received.  A short walk along the A5 took me to the private road owned by Welsh Water which took me up to Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir. This map shows my whole route, which differed somewhat towards the end from the one done by Nick G4OOE and Geoff M0PYG, The GPX file is loaded into the SOTA Mapping Project and it can also be downloaded from Viewranger:

The private road had a locked gate. A steady walk up the incline brought me to the reservoir. I overshot the path slightly as you can see from my GPS trace, before realising that I needed to take the path to the east of the reservoir to climb to the col of Bwlch Eryl Farchog. As I reached the reservoir I got a super view of Tryfan and the Glyders where I had walked the previous day:

The man made reservoirs in Snowdonia are nothing short of beautiful on a day like the one I had on 25th July 2017. Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir:

The well used path to the Bwlch has steps cut into it in places and posed no problems. Once the top path was reached it took 40 minutes to reach the plateau on Carnedd Llewelyn (1064m). Being so early I did not see a soul until I was on my way down. There were a couple of places where it was necessary to use the hands to scramble but nothing too awkward and risky. I walked on beyond the highest point and came to rest at a natural rock wall where there was a clear falling away of the mountain to the north. I always find when using VHF that if I can set up on the edge of the land as it falls away more steeply, my signals are enhanced. Once again I was only using a Yaesu VX-170 handheld with the RH770 extended whip. 

Above the clouds looking towards the coast at Anglesey on Carnedd Llewelyn NW-002
A 25 minute session on 145 MHz with the handheld garnered 14 contacts with stations in England, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man. After a drink and an energy bar I made my way back to the Bwlch then onwards towards Pen Llithrig y Wrach, NW-013. 

Redundant mineral workings in the valley to the north of Bwlch Eryl Farchog
Once again there was a little scrambling to reach the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du (833m) on my way to NW-013 before dropping down around 200m to Bwlch y Tri Marchog from where there was a straightforward climb on grass to the summit of Pen Llithrig y Wrach (799m). Despite crossing Pen yr Helgi Du which was 34m higher than Pen Llithrig y Wrach, the earlier summit did not have the sufficient 150m or more drop from Carnedd Llewelyn to count as a Marilyn, quite an unusual situation I believe...

The Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir seen from NW-013 - Creigiau Gleision NW-028 is on the other side of the water -  another SOTA unique for me to visit on my next trip to Snowdonia
After eating my lunch I started to make contacts as before on 2m FM. About half way through the activation an angry looking man approached the summit. He was sweating profusely. He gave me such a black look that I returned it and in an aggressive tone he said "What's your problem"?  I told him I didn't have one, what was his problem? To which he said it had been a hard climb and he didn't expect it to be like suburbia on the summit with me talking to people on my radio.  The atmosphere felt uncomfortable as the man appeared to be very agitated by my presence, so I packed up my rucksack and walked some 50m away from him to continue my activation of the summit.... I finished with 13 contacts in 20 minutes and by the time I closed down the man had gone on his way. Hopefully I did not ruin this lone wolfs day of peace and tranquility that much! 

I came off the hill and lost any semblance of a path. The access land wasn't so bad for walking though - and a thin green strip of land, like a green lane almost, caught my eye down below so I made for that.

Wild mountain ponies - with the reservoir leat and "green lane" which I was making for in the background
At the footbridge (SH 7039 6152) I found the green lane to be a good path beside the leat which was carrying water from Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir down to Llyn Cowlyd Reservoir. I really enjoyed walking by the leat on the grass path. It reminded me of walking by the levadas in Madeira. There were a couple of herons fishing for food in the leat and fish visible below the surface.

Walking by the leat on the "green lane" with NW-013 in the background

I rejoined the Welsh Water access road at a gate at SH 6906 6097 which returned me to the A5 and the Gwern Gof Isaf campsite parking place after a most enjoyable SOTA walk in perfect weather.

Walk times (Start time: 0738 am - Finish time: 1412 pm):

Gwern Gof Isaf CP - Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir = 40 mins
Ffynnon Llugwy Reservoir - Carnedd Llewelyn = 68 mins (14 X 2m FM contacts)
Carnedd Llewelyn - Pen Llithrig y Wrach = 109 mins (13 X 2m FM contacts)
Pen Llithrig y Wrach - Gwern Gof Isaf CP = 80 mins

Distance walked: 9.53 miles with 3910 feet ascent

There was insufficient time left to climb any more summits in the day and to be honest, with the long drive back home to North Yorkshire, I think I had done enough. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Day One of a Two day SOTA visit to Snowdonia - July 2017

I've been wanting to attempt this Glyders and Tryfan walk now for a couple of years. The walk takes in the four SOTA summits of Elidir Fawr (NW-005), Y Garn (NW-004), Glyder Fawr (NW-003) and Tryfan (NW-006).  I decided to complete this as a linear walk starting with Elidir Fawr and finishing on Tryfan. This is the route I took on Monday 24th July 2017:

I left my North Yorkshire home at 6.00am stopping off for a breakfast bap and pot of tea in a cafe off the A55 at Rhos on Sea at 9.30am.  I drove to a remote parking place at a locked gate on an old quarry road east of the village of Deiniolen (SH596631). From here I walked the good tarmac road to the Marchlyn Mawr reservoir (1.85 miles - from 1168 ft to 2120 ft =- took 40 mins). From here it took another 30 mins to reach the summit of Elidir Fawr (GW/NW-005). 

Marchlyn Mawr Reservoir
The head of the tarmac road at Marchlyn Mawr Reservoir - now it was a rougher walk to the summit
There were no shortage of contacts on the summit of Elidir Fawr - I was travelling light on account of the challenging nature of the walk. A Yaesu 5 watt handheld and RH770 extended whip was all I used. 

Mist coming in as I left Elidir Fawr

Fine weather on the ascent turned to mist on the summit and this stayed with me on and off for the afternoon until I reached the foot of Tryfan at around 5.30pm. 

The walk so far presented no difficulties and this continued as I crossed the Bwlch y Marchlyn and Bwlch y Brecan to climb to Foel-goch. I went to the summit even though it does not count as a Marilyn, lacking the necessary 150m prominence to surrounding mountains. From here the route stretched before me to Y Garn with the mist clearing at that point on the walk. I was on Y Garn (NW-004) at 1.30 pm and enjoyed my lunch before using the radio. 
View towards Tryfan from Y Garn - the lake is Llyn Ogwen

Llyn Idwal from the col above the Devil's Kitchen

It took me 56 minutes from Y Garn to reach the summit of Glyder Fawr, the highest point of my day at 1001m above sea level. The top and its surroundings is certainly rugged as this picture shows:

Once again there were plenty of contacts to be had - including more summit to summit contacts with my friends Nick (G4OOE) & Geoff (M0PYG) who were operating from Seat Sandal in the Lake District. I had worked them earlier S2S when they were on Helvellyn. 

The mist returned and thick it was. I lost the path walking to Glyder Fach (Non SOTA Mountain) and resorted to jumping from boulder to boulder for some considerable distance - a practice I have to say I enjoy!  I picked up a path again as I approached the top of the infamous scree slope above Bwlch Tryfan. I'd read that slope can be treacherous - in the mist I was not relishing the thought of descending down it, so instead I went east and picked up the easy path leading down to The Miner's Track at SH667582. Whilst wandering around the top of the scree slope I picked up Graham - a walker and retired maths teacher from Salisbury, Wilts, who had heard my poles approaching in the mist, clattering on the boulders. Graham was rather disorientated due to the mist and asked if he could tag along until we were in clearer air. He happened to be going to the same place as me - Idwal Cottage YHA. I make friends easily and this was no exception - we got on like a house on fire for the hour that we spent walking together. Kindred spirits thanks to my GPS!  So it was Tryfan next and here is how it looked from the Miner's Track:

Just after 5.00pm I started the climb up Tryfan (NW-006) by the wall at SH662589, as Graham headed down directly to Idwal Cottage YHA. This was a mistake going up by the wall - I should have walked on for 100m beyond the col and gone up the well used scramble from there - warning! However I continued on a quite tricky and risky climb without safety gear for some distance, before I realised there had to be an easier way up the Far South Peak. I did find the easier line in due course and from then on the scramble presented no difficulty and no risk to me. Needless to say I found the easy way down no problem - you always can! 

I was greeted on the summit by a couple who encouraged me to climb one of the Adam and Eve stones (right). I did not have the energy or confidence to jump the "leap of faith" between the stones, and as I was looking forward to a second day of walking in Snowdonia and a longer life, discretion was the better part of valour in this case... 

It had taken 30 mins to climb Tryfan from the wall at Bwlch Tryfan and I was really pleased to get there to finish off my 34 point day with four SOTA Completes. Whilst on the summit at 6.00pm and just before leaving, I telephoned the A1 Taxi Company in Bethesda and arranged for a driver to collect me from Idwal Cottage YHA at 7.30pm so that I could retrieve my car from near Deiniolen.  Whilst on the summit an army helicopter had been circling above Llyn Idwal and when I left the summit it decided to have a play on Tryfan itself:

I reached Idwal Cottage YHA at 7.05pm. I checked in as I was staying the night there, however before I could get my meal I needed to retrieve my car from the other side of the Glyders. A local taxi firm was used. When I returned I tucked into a delicious and very large pasta meal, microwaved in the Youth Hostel kitchen, with a lager beer of course... supper was a cuppa with a couple of (recently discovered) Welsh Cakes, delicous.


Distance driven to walk start at Deiniolen: 202 miles
Time spent on walk: 8.5 hours
Distance walked: 11.2 miles
Ascent: 5060 feet
Total 2m FM Contacts on 4 summits: 52 (Plus 2 contacts with the Wainwright summit Troutbeck Tongue LDW-207)
Total SOTA S2S Contacts = 8

My GPX track has been loaded into the SOTA Mapping project and Viewranger, however if you do download it to use I would advise you to exercise caution in using it for the section at the base of Tryfan and on the approach to Glyder Fach where I lost the path in mist. 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

VHF National Field Day

It's some years since I took part in an amateur radio contest... I was a member of Travelling Wave Contest Group from 2010 - 2013, and further back than that, from 1982 onwards I took part in many RSGB and CQ World Wide Contests in CW, SSB and DATA on a regular basis in my own right.

Since getting back on the amateur bands in January 2017 after moving house, I've wanted to see what I could work on VHF from my new location.
2m band - WIMO 144 MHz 7+7 Cross Yagi up 4m above ground
6m band - 125 feet long OCF Dipole with 4:1 balun at 10m above ground in the Beech Tree in my garden
Despite having a temporary aerial set up 18 reasonably distant contacts were achieved this weekend from my location in Pickering, close to the North York Moors, in Maidenhead Locator IO94of. My garden is 60 metres above sea level. Each headset on this Google map represents a contact on either 6m or 2m:

I operated for a few hours in the Fixed Station Sweeper (FSR) Section. The FSR section states that fixed stations cannot call CQ - we have to search and pounce on stations and try to work them after hearing National Field Day VHF contest stations calling CQ. 

I used a Yaesu FTDX5000 running 150 watts on 50 MHz with a 125 feet off Centred Fed Dipole up 10m in a tree. On 144 MHz I used an Icom 7400 running 80 watts into a Wimo 7+7 Cross Yagi on a 2.7m long boom. The XYagi is temporarily mounted at 4m above ground in a parasol base and has to be turned by the "Armstrong" method. 

Best DX on 144 MHz was EI9E at 441 Kms, located betweeen Kilkenny and Wexford. Best DX on 50 MHz was G2BQY/P at 354 Kms, located just north of Shepton Mallet. The only station worked using Morse was GM4ZUK/P near Aberdeen, a distance of 321 Kms  on 50 MHz.

It was quite a surprise to work such distances on 50 MHz using a wire antenna, and I was pleased with the performance of the Cross Yagi on 144 MHz operating at just 4 metres above ground. 

I did work one SOTA station on 2m SSB in the contest - this was GX0OOO/P operated by John Earnshaw G4YSS from Scarborough. John was on Great Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales and made contacts throughout the day on VHF in the contest and on HF also, including on the 1.8 MHz band (160m) where I also made contact using Morse and Voice Comms.