Waun Rydd

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GW/SW-004 – Wellington boots

There are a number of approaches possible to this summit, for this activation we chose the southern approach.  There is good parking available in the Blaen y Glyn Uchaf car park at SO 056 176.  This is a popular walking area and on a nice day the car park will fill up by late morning.

The path just above the car park

There is an obvious path which leaves the car park at the western end and is immediately into a steep climb, it pays to do a little warm up before you start!  The path up to the Craig y Fan Ddu ridge is well maintained with steps in the steeper sections. Once you reach the top simply follow the edge north along Graig Fan Las until reaching the junction at SO 057 205. There is no obvious path to the actual summit, if you follow the easterly path for about 300m you will be in the activation zone.

Looking West with Pen y Fan in the distance

If you want to find the summit proper then you need to continue on an easterly bearing from the junction, leaving the made up path once it starts to bear southward.  Continue on the easterly bearing for another 250m until you reach the ridge line where you will find a small track leading to the north.  Follow this north for about another 150m until you see the small summit cairn. From the summit on a clear day you will enjoy a wonderful view to the west overlooking Fan y Big, Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du.

An interesting diversion

To the south of the summit lies the remains of a WW2 Wellington Bomber that crashed here during the war.  There are many aircraft crash sites in the Brecon Beacons but this one is unusual in that there is quite a large amount of debris remaining on the mountain side.  There is also a memorial that has been placed there to mark the spot.  There are a number of sites on the internet which describe the circumstances of the crash easily found with a quick search for those interested to know more.

To find the crash site from the summit, follow the track back to the south until you meet the made up path and then continue south for approx another 400m, there is no obvious path from this direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The return route from the crash site is easily found as it is well frequented.  Head north west back up to the junction and then return via the same route used on the way up.

Journey Details

Date – 29th October 2017

Postcode – CF48 2UT

Parking – SO 056 175

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 19+2

SOTA points – 6

Group – Myself and Peter

Log

Walking Route Summary

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Hensbarrow Downs

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G/DC-008 – China Clay

Hensbarrow Downs is a bit of an enigma.  The current summit has only recently been recognised (1st Sept 2017), there was previously another summit recognised which I think was at the trig point 50m below the current summit.  The new summit is located on the top of the spoil heap created from the china clay quarries below for which St Austel is famous.  There is some discussion regarding the change on the SOTA reflector, see this link.

Route taken

The easiest route to the summit is via the footpath leaving the road at grid reference SW 992 575.  There is ample parking there with room for five or six cars.

Follow the fairly obvious path as far as the trig point but then you will need to strike out through the undergrowth towards an obvious break in the earthworks to the east.  Here you will be able to follow the wide track which leads up to the summit plateau.  Although there is an area of access land marked on the map, in practice there is no obvious distinction on the ground separating the two areas.  Once on the summit plateau it is fairly featureless so it will pay to make a note of which direction you came from for the return trip.  There is a hut on the side of the road just south of the parking

The summit plateau

where there is a security man controlling the movement of large earth working machinery, you should check here for permission to access the summit if you plan to work from outside the access land.  If permission is not given then you will need to remain withing the marked access land which does extend into the activation zone so all is not lost.

On reaching the summit we set up the radio and quickly achieved the required contacts for a successful activation.  It is worth noting that the local 2m and 70cm repeaters are also located on Hensbarrow so if you plan to use these bands you will need a reasonable quality radio, if you are using one of the cheap Chinese sets you are likely to suffer from front end overloading.

The return back to the car is straightforward so long as you remembered to note the direction off from the summit.

Journey Details

Date – 25th October 2017

Postcode – PL26 8XT

Parking – SW 992 575

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself and Boyd

Log

Walking Route Summary

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Carnmenellis

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G/DC-006 – Fail

If you’ve ever before done a sota summit activation then this will not be the easiest, and if you haven’t done one before then this one will probably put you off ever doing another.

There is a track up to the top where there are a couple of masts and a reservoir but unfortunately it is private and inaccessible behind a high fence and locked gates, so put away any thoughts of gaining access this way.  Indeed there is no clear publicly accessible route to the top at all, the only option being via the marked access land that surrounds the summit.

Tracklog showing route and parking spot

Parking is not easy either, the road that passes to the south west is narrow and surprisingly busy. There are a few passing places but don’t be tempted to park in these or you will make yourself very unpopular, and it should not need mentioning that field gateways must not be used. There are a few spaces in a small cul-de-sac just as you come into the village of Penmarth which is to the south east of Carrnmenellis.

There is a footpath marked on the map running parallel to the road that looks like an option but it is not worth it. The path is not marked and is terribly overgrown. It is quicker and easier to walk up the road back to Channel View Farm where you can join the track up to the north east that leads towards the summit. Follow the track until you reach the locked gates which are just past where the track turns to the north west. At this point you will have to head off to the left of the track onto the access land. This is very bad. The ground is rocky but thickly covered with gorse, brambles and long grass which will all grab at you and trip you and if it has rained any time in the last few months it will also soak you. If this doesn’t put you off you will probably twist your ankle when you put it down between a couple of big but unseen boulders, The brambles are at best knee high and at worst past waist height. It’s like this all the way to the top now. Navigation is easy enough, just follow the line of the fence until you come to the sharp right turn at the top. By now you should easily see the radio tower and the trig point in even the poorest of visibility. The last twenty yards to the trig point are a welcome relief being merely broken rock without the thick brambles.

The trig point with the radio mast just beyond

On the day I was there towards the end of October the weather had closed in so I was in thick cloud with visibility of about thirty feet. From the trig point I could see the radio mast , but only just.

I set up my mast and added the antenna on  top, then realised that I had forgotten to bring the power regulator for the amp. I had carried the amp and the batteries up for nothing. Never mind, I would just have to operate with the five watts direct from the radio. I put out a call, “CQ sota, CQ sota”, and was almost immediately rewarded by a response from G8NXD booming in at 5/9. It turned out that he was only a couple of miles away in Four Lanes. Unfortunately that was my only contact I made for this summit so I was not able to claim the point.  I called CQ for about fifteen minutes with no response so stopped then for lunch. After lunch I gave it another ten minutes, I could hear someone faintly to the north on S19 but couldn’t break in so eventually I packed up and headed back to the car.  On the return trip I took the easier option and followed the track back to the road to return along this rather than bashing through the undergrowth on the marked footpath.

Overall it was an interesting activation, memorable for it’s difficulties rather than it’s success.  If you are in the area then have a go at it but be warned, it will not be easy.

Journey Details

Date – 24th October 2017

Postcode – TR16 6PP

Parking – SW 701 356

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 1

SOTA points – 1(0)

Group – Myself

Log –

Walking Route Summary –

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Fan Brycheiniog

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GW/SW-003 – A new approach

Fan Brycheiniog was the last of the 8 point SOTA summits in the Brecons I had still to do in 2017 so on a bright sunny October morning we set sail for a north westerly approach past Llyn Y Fan Fach.  Compared to last week on Fan Fawr it couldn’t have been more different.

Looking up towards Fan Foel with the Pant y Bwlch pass to the right

Arriving at the car park, it was fairly full but there were still a few places to be had.   After some initial confusion establishing exactly where we were on the map we set off south along the obvious track towards the lake.  At the filter beds, rather than following the westerly route up around the lake we chose to strike off cross country to find the more challenging route up through the Pant y Bwlch pass.  This should only be tried if you are confident on steep ground and the weather is appropriate.

The path up the Pant y Bwlch pass

From the top of Pant y Bwlch there is a clear path following the edge of the summit plateau, around Fan Foel, past the summit cairn and onward to the trig point marking the highest spot on Fan Brycheiniog at 802m asl.

The view from the trig point on a clear day is incredible.  We set up the station next to the trig point on the edge looking out over Llyn y Fan Fawr with a clear takeoff to the north east. A quick call on the FM calling channel was rewarded immediately with a number of stations coming back.  We moved of to S18 where I worked through the mini pileup.  In the next hour I worked 17 stations from locations as diverse as Southern Ireland, Manchester and Stockport including two S2S contacts, one into the Lake District and the other in the West Midlands.

Tracklog showing the route taken

For the return route we decided to track cross country straight across the plateau heading for Picws Du.  There is a faint path most of the way which is fine in good visibility.  Back at the pass we elected to take in the summit of Picws Du as a bonus so headed up and over the top.  Again to be rewarded with glorious views over the lake and beyond.  The path back down this way is fairly clear and close to the steep drop back down to the lake.

Journey Details

Date – 8th October 2017

Postcode – SA19 9UN

Parking – SN 799 238

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 17

SOTA points – 8

Group – Myself & Peter

Log

Walking Route Summary

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SOTA

SOTA is an awards programme that is aimed at radio amateurs who want to combine operating amateur radio with walking in the hills and mountains.

I first started with SOTA in August 2016 when one day I heard someone calling “CQ SOTA” from the top of Walbury hill.  I had heard of SOTA but had never really got around to investigating so I answered the call and from that moment on I was hooked.

I found the main SOTA web site at www.sota.org.uk and started reading.  Once I had registered I was able to log my first chaser contact and so gain my first point.  Only 999 more needed to get my first award.

In 2017 I started a programme of hill fitness training in anticipation of trying to activate a few summits.  Below you will find a few posts relating my progress.

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Fan Fawr

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GW/SW-005 – Wet, Wet, Wet

On Sunday 1st October I activated Fan Fawr.  I had been watching the weather forecast for the last week intently. At times it was looking fine and then the next forecast would be bad again.  On the night before I checked the BBC and the MWIS forecasts, one said rain in the morning then clearing, the other said starting clear then raining.  Looking at the synoptic charts for the next 24 hours didn’t help much either.  That’s British weather for you!

I decided to give it a go anyway, I have wet weather kit so should survive and my radio is IP54/55 rated, it was more of an issue for the external amplifier which is an old  MML 144/100, more suited to the desktop than to the mountain top.

In the event it was a nice enough morning as I drove West along the M4, if a bit overcast, but as I got deeper into South Wales the clouds got darker.  Once I passed Merthyr it started to rain and as I got higher into the Brecons the rain got heavier.

The Pen Y Fan lay by was absolutely full, with cars parked up and down both sides of the main road as well as in the lay-by.  If you want to climb Pen Y Fan on a wet day in October, make sure you arrive early.  Arriving at the Storey Arms car park just a few hundred yards further North, it was also packed full but I managed to find room to squeeze in between two minibuses.

On the mountain

Fan Fawr is a fairly nondescript slope, rising 150m from the car park in a gentle slope up to the Bryn Du plateau through typical Brecons moorland.  From Bryn Du the ground starts to rise more steeply as you approach the summit with a fairly steep section around the 650m mark.  Although there is no specific path all the way to the top, it is fairly easy to find in good weather so long as you have a rough idea which way to look.

On my visit the weather was anything but good.  From the car park I could see the stile and a bit of grass beyond but not as far as Bryn Du and all the time it was getting worse.  This would be a bit more of a challenge.

Towards the top there is a reasonable path leading directly up the nose of Fan Fawr which can be found on a clear day, but in the gloom I managed to miss it by about 130m.  Not a problem though as the northern flank is easily ascended with a bit of care.  Knowing this I worked my way around and up towards the summit until I reached the flatter ground.  It was then a simple task to pick up the summit path and follow it to the summit cairn.

There is a trig point at the South Westerly end of the plateau and a cairn at the North Easterly end.  The cairn is the higher point (and the nearer to the road) so I set up here.  There were already a couple of people there with a tent so even in this weather I had company, they said they had been there since six am that morning and were manning a checkpoint for an iron man competition, more on this later.

APRS

I set up my station alongside a large bog just a few yards from the cairn.  From previous experience I knew there was a good chance I would be able to get into GB3TD, my local 70cm repeater back in Swindon, so I called in.  It turned out there were a few of the locals there waiting in anticipation to see if they could contact me on the summit.  They had been following my progress on the aprs.fi web site so had a good idea that I was at the top and almost ready to go.  Switching over to 2M simplex operation I put out a call of CQ SOTA on 145.500Mhz and was immediately swamped with replies.  I had soon logged Richard, G4MUF and then Rob G4XUT, both from my local club.   I logged another five contacts before I started to have problems being heard.

By this time I was soaked right through and getting cold.  I am still not sure what was wrong, I was hearing people clearly but no-one seemed to be able to hear me.  I tried a few things and eventually returned to 70cm FM on the whip antenna to contact the repeater and let them know that I was going to pack up.  At the time I thought that I must have got water in the amplifier, although subsequently this proved not to be the case.  Anyway, I had enough contacts to count as an activation so I packed up and headed back down the hill.

The path down the nose of the plateau is easy to find even in the poor visibility so getting off the top is not a problem.  Once down onto the edge of Bryn Du though it is classic ‘getting lost in the Brecons’ territory.  Flat featureless moorland bog in all directions as far as you can see, which was about 20m.  Some careful work with the map and compass soon finds the welcome sight of the Storey Arms lay-by appearing out of the mist.  If you are not very confident with a map and compass then I would not recommend trying this in anything less than clear visibility.

“I am Iron Man”

Those of you who were Sabbath fans when younger may recognise the quote.  Arriving back at the lay-by there was a tent there now and as I approached the stile I was greeted by an official who thought I was the first competitor down on the Iron Man competition.  I was quite pleased that he thought I looked like an Iron Man.

What went wrong

Back at home I tested everything but couldn’t find anything wrong, no sign of water in the amp and it was putting out about 50W into a dummy load running on the same batteries.  In the end I put it down to user error, perhaps I had knocked one of the switches on the front of the amp without noticing.  I worked out that a 2M amp doesn’t actually put out any signal when you drive it at 70cm so I think that when I swapped to 70cm on the hill that is what made me think the amp was not working, and in the cold and wet conditions I just didn’t follow a rigorous enough test procedure.  Probably a bit of hypothermia setting in as well 🙂

Journey Details

Date – 1st October 2017

Postcode – LD3 8NL

Parking – SN 982 202

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 7

SOTA points – 6

Group – Myself

Log

Walking Route Summary

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