Fan Gyhirych & Fan Nedd

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GW/SW-006 & GW/SW-007- A bit of a challenge

Friday was a glorious sunny day so the weather boded well for the planned activation on Saturday, but as always with our British weather things can change rapidly, especially in South Wales. I was hoping to activate two summits this time so planned for a long day and an early start.  As it happened I managed to be on the road for 7am so not too bad.  The motorway was clear at that time of day so a fairly pleasant journey but the weather had clearly deteriorated since Friday.

There are a few approach options available for these two summits, the eastern approach is popular but parking is very limited. There is also an option from the North West but this is a very steep route without a clear path and again parking is not great.  The route I chose for the day started from the South Wales Caving Club car park  (satnav SA9 1GQ) at SN 855 155.  This route is slightly longer but there is a very good and obvious path leading past Fan Gyhirych and onward towards Fan Nedd. There is plenty of parking available in the old quarry in front of the clubhouse.

Arriving at the car park at at about 9:30am I was soon kitted up and on the path.  By this time the cloud had descended and there was a slight drizzle in the air so full waterproofs were the order of the day.   

 The path leaves from the left side of the road just in front of the entrance to the clubhouse.  Initially head East through a stile and onto the old tramway.  Here the path splits, there is a higher route, part of the Beacons Way which is more scenic but bears off towards the South West after a couple of Km.  If you use this route you should leave the path by the large swallow hole and head North to pick up the tramway again. As it was already a long day I took the lower route via the tramway which leads directs to the summit.  This is an easy climb and is easy to find being slightly raised across the more waterlogged regions and later made up for vehicular use by the forestry.  Follow this track until you reach the small stream at SN 882 186.  Just past the stream about 20 metres there is a fairly obvious path leading up to the summit about 500m to the North.

Fan Gyhirych Summit

I set up the station on the summit next to the trig point.  There is really no shelter on this summit, just the trig point and a flat expanse of typical Brecon’s summit.  The wind was blowing steadily at about 20mph and gusting to nearer 30mph, bringing with it a steady drizzle, not the most pleasant of activation’s.  The gusts were converting the vertical aerial to horizontal at times.  Once the aerial was up I pulled out the emergency shelter and set to operating from inside that.  The wind on the fabric made listening difficult but still I managed to record sixteen contacts so definitely a successful activation including a S2S with M3TMX/M on G/WB-016.

Log

Packing away in the wind and the wet was a bit of a challenge but once done I headed back down the hill using the well worn path. There is an option to head down on a more northerly bearing skirting the edge, but for what it saves in distance it’s easier to stick with the path.

Once back on the track continue along to the East until you reach the gate that marks the turning point towards Fan Nedd.  Follow the path along the fence line down into the valley and through the big gap in the wall.  The path up the flank of Fan Nedd is pretty clear if a bit muddy and slippery in places.

At the top of the path is a large cairn, this is not the summit though so continue on from here to the South another 500m to find the summit trig point.  Just before you reach the trig point you will see a small shelter which will make a great place to set up the shack.

Fan Nedd, the shack

The wind on Fan Nedd was similar and the rain had intensified so I quickly set up and retired to the shelter below the wall.  Whoever built this certainly knew which way the wind would come from as it was pointed directly into the worst of it.

I soon had the required contacts in the log so took the opportunity to enjoy lunch.  With this out of the way I put out another call and made one last contact before packing away.

Log

Once I was ready to leave I tuned the radio back to GB3TD repeater in Swindon and heard G4LDL talking to someone on the M4 motorway.  I managed to quickly say hello before heading down the hill to try and get out of the weather.

It was then just the long march back along the track returning along the same route I came in on.  I arrived back at the car park just after sunset, wet but happy with two summits successfully logged.

Journey Details

Date – 18th November 2017

Postcode – SA9 1GQ

Parking – SN 855 155

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 16 + 6

SOTA points – 6 + 4

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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Black Mountain

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GW/SW-041 – A Pleasant Surprise

It had rained all through the night before and was still raining when we woke.  The forecast said it would rain all day, especially on the hills.  To say the outlook was not good would be a bit of an understatement. With this in mind I planned for a wet day.

The drive over to South Wales was grey but by now the rain had at least stopped.  As I headed north up the Abergavenny road the clouds descended until  the foothills lost their tops.  By the time I reached Abergavenny even the church steeple was lost to the cloud, but as I left the town behind the cloudbase started to rise again and slowly the black mountain emerged.

Hay Bluff from the car park

Arriving at the car park (SO 239 373) revealed a fine view of Hay Bluff with just a hint of low cloud hovering over the ridge and no sign of the promised rain.  The nearest postcode for the sat nav is HR3 5RJ but this is some way down the road to the South West so pay attention as you get nearer!

There is a path to the right of the car park.  It leaves the road about half way between the car park and the road junction.  This path should be used if possible to minimise erosion.

Obligatory trig point photo

Once you reach the ridge turn north east towards the trig point marking the top of Hay Bluff.  It looks like this has recently been repainted and it now sports a very fetching red Welsh dragon.  The trig point is located at 677m so is just below the activation zone (AZ), don’t be tempted to set up here, it is an easy route from here into the AZ and well worth continuing.  The path along the ridge is obvious and has been made up as required to avoid having to trudge through the boggy top.  The path forms part of the ‘Offa’s Dyke Path’ which roughly follows the line of the English-Welsh border.

So far the weather gods had been kind to me with the bulk of the cloud remaining just above the summits, at one point I even had a few minutes of sunshine appear.  You will see an obvious rise ahead of about 40m which will take you well into the AZ.  Once you have climbed this last small rise you are within 1-2m height of the summit, anywhere along here choose a spot to set up.  In good weather this is a very well used path so do make sure you keep it clear.  The actual summit itself is not marked so to find the exact spot will require either a GPS or some advanced navigational skills.

I set up the station on the Welsh side of the path as I intended operating using my MW prefix.  If you set up on the other side of the path you should presumably operate without the Welsh prefix, but as the summit has a Welsh SOTA classification this could lead to confusion.  After a couple of calls of “CQ SOTA” on the calling channel I soon had the usual pileup.  Moving down to channel S19 I rapidly worked 12 QSOs in the space of about half an hour.

The cloud descends

Whilst I was operating I didn’t see anyone else on the path, the poor weather forecast must have put people off.  By this time the cloud had descended below the summit level and visibility was down to less than 100m.  Before I packed the station away I stopped and had my lunch at which point I heard voices and a couple of walkers appeared out of the cloud.  They stopped to have a chat and were very interested to hear all about SOTA.

The station

The return route is simple enough, back along the same route I came up on, as always pay attention and don’t miss the left fork just after the first small descent.

Brecons ponies

When I arrived back at the car there were a couple of ponies there that had decided to check the verges.  This explained the well kept look of the flatter section.

All together this was a great day out on the hills, much better than anticipated and so all the more enjoyable for the pleasant surprise.  Certainly a route I shall look forward to doing again when the points roll around once more.

Journey Details

Date – 11th November 2017

Postcode – HR3 5RJ (see text)

Parking – SO 239 373

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 12

SOTA points – 6

Group – Myself

Log

Walking Route Summary

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