Friday, 18 June 2021

SOTA GW/MW-020 Esgair Ddu GW4OBK June 2021

As a Chaser and Activator  Completist I get great satisfaction to finish off a SOTA Area or Association and this activation on GW/MW-020 finished of the GW/MW forty summit grouping for me. I completed the GW/SW area a few years ago and I hope to one day complete the GW/NW area. I still need to climb 24 out of the 77 summits in the North Walian area, having chased them all several times. Route taken to GW/MW-020: 

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey Media 018/21

The start point for GW/MW-020 is well documented - at the end of a track at SH 892106. Parking place for one car in an extended passing point with the farm track junction going to the summit opposite:

I set out at 07:45 and finished the walk in the summit area at 09:00, over a distance of 1.8 miles with an ascent of 1000 feet. Over the distance the walk was full of sheep - once I got through the first gate. I reached the unoccupied farm at Craig-For and exited to the rear of it up the Nant Fford gully behind the farm up on to the higher moorland.

Craig-For Farmhouse - the climbing proper starts to the rear of the farm - nice sky...
Alan (GW4VPX) had told me that the direct line above the gully to Esgair Ddu highest point across was boggy marshland.
View towards my target for activating over the drier moorland towards that wood
Weighing up the 25m activation drop zone I walked over the relatively dry land towards the wood and trig point. I set up my 5m travel pole against a fence post there at SH 872100:
There were good views south to the wind farm on Mynydd y Cemmaes, but I felt the large plateau would be a useless site on which to propagate a signal with basic equipment on VHF. I could hear fellow Mountain Goat @M1HAX/P on Burton Hill G/WB-020, but Richard was running 50 watts and whip against my 5 watts and whip, so my calls went unanswered... I gave up and got on with connecting my Elecraft KX3 and associated HF equipment.
View through my antenna to the wind farm to the south
As on the other five activations in the week I started off on the 60m band, working a handful of stations in CW/SSB.  I was on my own with time on my hands, the summit was comfortable. Conditions on the air were pretty good too... An earlier CQ on 2m had produced no result then I saw that local MW7GWR (Dave) had spotted on SOTAWatch that he heard me then I dissapeared (probably on to HF). I gave him a call on S20 to break my duck and there he was for a brief chat - there were no more takers. I did my usual run through 40m, 30m, then 20m but with my dipole linked for 30m I tuned it with the KX3 ATU for 10 metres. Success - QSOS with eleven EU stations on CW in seven minutes on 10m as I hit a purple patch of sporadic E, best contact being with my long time friend Jan operating outside the Czech Republic as OE/OK2PDT/P on OE/NO-137. Roger F5LKW was also worked on 10m and suggested we try 6m after I had done the business on 10m. I moved to 6m and with 20m dipole tuned again via the ATU, and worked two Frenchmen - alas not Roger but Eric F5JKK and Nicolas F5MDY! ODX on the day was at 0940z (early for 20m) over the pond to KD1CT on CW. This is Robert, who lives in New Hampshire:

All told I ended up with 78 QSOs - a record number for GW/MW-020 and the first ever QSOs from there ever recorded on 6m and 10m. This activation was also the completion of the 40 summit GW/MW area for me - this was "proper completion" as I have also worked all 40 summits from my home QTH as a Chaser several times - very satisfying to finish, leaving me GW/NW to complete for the whole of Wales! God willing, with a following wind, I may just do it.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

SOTA GW/NW-057 Foel Cae'rberllan GW4OBK June 2021

After activating GW/NW-063 Ffrid Cocyn we went back along the B4405, turning left in the village of Abergynolwyn. A few miles down the country lanes took us to a small car park with toilets at Mary Jones Chapel, SH672088. At 14:20 we set out on a marked public footpath leading to a steep field and then on to open access land, marked as Llechwedd on the 25K OS map:

The view to Castell y Bere on our ascent

Once we left the bottom path the plan was to tack across the hillside to reach the farm track at 669079 when the climbing became a little easier, but overall this was a tough ascent for me. It took the best part of an hour to get to the easier track before we doubled back towards the summit on it. We left the track at 671080 to follow sheep path to the summit. This wasn't so bad - the hardest part on the ascent had been from Llechwedd to the track. We summited at 15:50 and stayed until 17:25. We sheltered below the very top of the hill on what was a pleasant afternoon. There was what appeared to be a derelict comms installation of some sort on the summit - to the right of the broken mast and antenna there was a ground mounted control box. I thought that to install that infrastructure with a mains supply the purpose for it must have been vital at one time, but not anymore. The nearest civilisation with a mains supply was around a mile away from the summit in the valley:

The defunct comms installation and control box on GW/NW-057 Foel Cae'rberllan

Looking towards the sea in the direction of Tywyn

Another summit - same novel to read while I did my thing with the KX3, 5m pole & dipole

Selfie of Judy XYL and Phil G(W)4OBK just before we departed the summit

Radio was successful on 2m with the handheld and whip but poor using my HF gear and I questioned the insurance policy of carrying all the necessary gear for just 7 QSOs on HF. There were many unanswered CQ calls and 4 spots thanks to the excellent RBN. However, and only God knows why, I worked NW7E Michael in Oregon, a real gem of a QSO! One wonders why no more?... There was no mobile coverage on either EE or Vodafone from the summit and that for me ruled out the pointless and frustrating exercise of calling CQ on phone. 2m FM with the little FT-65E and RH770 brought me four quick QSOs including Alan GW4VPX at good strength before moving on to the 60 metre band to work G0EVV and G0FVH:

We left the summit at 17:20 local time and it took almost a full hour to reach the car over a distance of 1.5 miles. After returning to our place at Farchnys near Barmouth (booked via Sykes Cottages) we had a quick shower and changed and headed to The Steakhouse in Dolgellau. The restaurant had the best range of starters I've seen in years. The rack of ribs was delicous which is what I had. Judy was dissapointed with the standard of sirloin steak though, although if we return to the area we would go again, just on the strength of the starters and ribs. Final summit in the week was next day, Friday on GW/MW-020 Esgair Ddu which completed the 40 summit MW area for me.

SOTA GW/NW-063 Ffrid Cocyn GW4OBK/P June 2021

Well outside the Dolgellau area and towards the coast at Tywyn lie five SOTA summits with a start point off the B4405 road within four miles of each other. We'd already climbed Gamallt GW/NW-065 earlier in the week. This summit parking place was further towards the coast than GW/NW-065 on the B4405. GW/NW-036 and GW/NW-033 which can be visited as one continuous walk were left for another time when my achilles / ankle problems are healed.

For NW-063 there is a convenient lay-by outside the Geufron Farm residential caravan site at SH620034. A waymarked path going to the village of Bryncrug (not the summit itself) leaves the roadside here. We were shocked to find this fly tip mess on the public right of way. This was reported to the local authority:

This awful eyesore can be avoided by walking through the caravan site, which is what we did on our return from the summit. There was no one around to complain to about the fly tipping on the path or to ask permission for access, however as the PRoW runs across part of the caravan site roads I did not perceive walking through the site would be a problem. The site was akin to the Marie Celeste on the day of our visit...

There was just one low fence to clamber over as we left  the woodland by a large mature sycamore tree at SH 61825 03836. The downward route is pictured using the asphalt access roads on the caravan site:

From a woodland path we changed over to bracken and thistled fields (Our dog Treacle hates thistles and nettles!) with the usual local breed of sheep in abundance. We reached the summit fence line and a small pile of stones in 53 minutes. Not such a bad walk, for one mile in distance and nothing as hard as on the ascent to Gamallt GW/NW-065, a few days previous. The 5m pole and link dipole was fixed to the fence with bungee straps as was the Yaesu FT-65E (With RH-770 whip). Immediately on switching on the handheld I heard "CQ CQ MW1HAX/P on GW/NW-030" and Richard was logged immediately - good start. The summit was qualified with four contacts on 2m before moving over to the 60m band. CQ calls on CW there produced nothing, but G0RQL, G4IPB, G4WSB, GI4OSF and G4TJC were swiftly worked on SSB before going to 40m CW.  There were further multiple S2S contacts and excellent short skip conditions all around the UK on every HF band used:

Station M5OAT was worked - this call is a mystery to me - no entry for the callsign on QRZ.COM... so ? was entered under the name in the SOTA database:

All in all this was a straightforward 50 QSO activation with eight S2S contacts included, leaving us free for the afternoon to go to GW/NW-057 Foel Cae'rberllan to activate there - eventually. More on that later - another nasty mostly pathless climb!

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

SOTA GW/NW-055 Foel Offwrm - June 2021

After the morning activation of GW/NW-074 I drove across to the other side of Dolgellau to the carpark (with toilets) at Coed y Groes that serves the famous and popular Precipice Walk, grid reference SH745211. A couple of picnic tables are also provided by the Snowdonia National Park and this was where we had our lunch.

We crossed the C class road and entered the wood which is where the waymarked path up to GW/NW-055 starts. It was a shade under one mile with 600 feet ascent to reach the summit in 35 minutes: ©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 018/21

From the six summits activated in the week this was the only summit that gave us an established footpath right to the summit, and I can truly recommend it as a most enjoyable summit with outstanding views to the surrounding summits and westwards out into the Mawdach Estuary:

XYL Judy continued reading her novel, leaving me to setting up and activating. Operation over four bands provided me just 18 contacts - this was the only one out of six summits in the week where we were visited by a couple of walkers. Paul DL/HB9DST/P was worked on 40m CW on DM/BW-085 for summit to summit. 

SOTA NW-074 Craig y Castell - GW4OBK/P in June 2021

After the pain of GW/NW-065 Gamallt on the Sunday, Monday found us walking across the Barmouth Estuary railway bridge, and lunching in a leisurely manner at The Royal Ship Hotel in Dolgellau. The ardour of Gamallt had not worsened my sore achilles tendon. It was the same as it was before, so Tuesday dawned as a beautiful day and we made our way to the single parking bay for GW/NW-074, two miles south west of Dolgellau town. A narrow single track public road leads to the parking spot near Gellilwyd Fawr (Farm) at SH 707167. Parking place:

A track behind my car led through a metal gate then swung right on a gradual climb to the summit. Once again I was accompanied by XYL Judy and the Lakeland-Border Terrier Treacle - her second summit in three days - she's almost 14 years old, a toughie who is still climbing well - and on the lead at all times:

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 018/21

En route we passed an impressive miniature Welsh version of Stonehenge:

The time taken to reach the mini-top (321m) was an enjoyable 36 minutes, without the need for a "photo stop", as the climb was gradual - this is probably the easiest summit to reach on foot in the area. The coverage on Vodafone was good although the coverage on 2m was dreadful - my fault as I had left my handheld on the charger back at our cottage. I was hoping for a contact with Richard MW1HAX/P above me on Cadair Idris GW/NW-009 who was on the air just above me, but it was not to be and entirely my fault... 

The usual dipole was deployed on a 5m travel pole - 60m through to the 20m bands were used with the band conditions in my favour, finishing with 42 HF contacts - 8 SSB and 34 CW.  A stroll back down and then a drive to the other side of Dolgellau to a car park with toilets and picnic tables which was the start point to our afternoon summit activation of GW/NW-055 Foel Offwrm.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

SOTA GW/NW-065 Gamallt activation - GW4OBK/P in June 2021

Having arrived in the Dolgellau area the previous day I decided we would choose an easy one point summit to start our weeks holiday in Snowdonia. I was wrong - it wasn't easy at all! The distance walked to the summit was only one mile - yet it took us an hour in hot weather to reach the highest point on the access land. Parking is available roadside on the B4405 outskirts of Abergynolwyn at SH 674067: 

Leaving the B4405 a gated track joins a bridleway. At SH673071 we left the bridleway to tack up the steep hillside on the access land. Once the wall was reached surrounding the upland wood, we followed it up the best we could. It was a very hard one point climb to the summit, and I took a few photos on the way up:

We were both hot and bothered after the one hour climb, so much so I failed to take any photos of the activation itself - I wasn't feeling myself due to a painful achilles tendon, something that has been bothering me for over a month. Switching on my Yaesu FT65E with RH771 whip was a delight though as I heard and worked Allan GW4VPX/P activating GW/NW-028 Creigiau Gleison. This was my only 2m contact - Gamallt is only 288m above sea level and surrounded on most sides by much higher summits. I went on to HF and was dissapointed by just one 60m contact with my friend Victor GI4ONL on CW. A spot by Victor and CQ calls on CW and SSB were fruitless, so I tried the other usual bands, 40/30/20m. Summit to Summit wise it was a successful activation all round, but the number of contacts - just seventeen, for the time on the air - over an hour, was dissapointing, however 20 minutes of that was spent setting up on HF with my Elecraft KX3 and link dipole:

After an hour my XYL had enough of reading her book and was being bothered by ants, flies and hay fever so I abandoned ship leaving SSB out of the activation and I packed up. Sunday's on 40m with a contest in progress is no place for a QRP SSB signal. Our lunch was back in the car and we needed it. A slightly lower level route was taken going down with the return leg taking less than 30 minutes which demonstrated how hard the stop-start climb up the hill had been for me... Power used on HF was 10 watts. There was good coverage on the EE Network on Gamallt, but zero coverage on Vodafone. 

Both of us felt we had done enough on day one of our holiday, a second activation skedded for the afternoon was cancelled so instead, I drove back to the Cross Foxes pub at the A470/A487 junction near Dolgellau for ice cold refreshments in a temperature of around 25c.