Black Mountain & Sugarloaf 2019

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GW/SW-041, Black Mountain – 703m, 6 Points

We arrived at the car park below Hay Bluff, as always it was blowing a gale over the pass but hey, ho.  A quick ascent up the face soon had us skipping between England and Wales along the top border path.  It is tempting to set up at the big cairn marking the top of Hay Bluff but this is still a metre below the activation zone.  It’s such an easy path along the top that it would be a shame not to head on up the the true summit.  There is a small pile of rocks marking the spot, not really what you could call a cairn but maybe one day.

It was still fairly windy on top but I knew there were some of our locals listening out for us from Swindon so I set up the beam for a proper activation.  It was worth it with a large pile up following.  I soon had sixteen entries in the log in not many more minutes, including G8VVY from Wiltshire.

GW/SW-041 Log

We packed up and were soon back at the car for the drive over to Sugarloaf

Journey Details

Date – 13th January 2019

Postcode – HR3 5RJ

Parking – SO 239 373

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – 2 Ele yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 16

SOTA points – 6(+3)

Group – Myself + Richard

Walking Route Summary

GW/SW-011, Sugar Loaf – 596m, 2 Points

Arriving at the Sugar Loaf car park we were surprised by how full it was.  We managed to find a space though and were soon heading up the hill.  It pretty soon became apparent that we had parked in the lower car park but never mind, the upper one was full as well and only about 40m higher.

The area is a dog walkers paradise and there are many paths criss crossing the approach so unless there is visibility of the summit regular checking of the map is wise.  The approach is quite flat but the final section up to the trig point does get a bit steeper.

As it was so busy, we had passed numerous groups on the way up and there was a constant stream of visitors whilst we were on the summit, we decided to operate from the built in WT antenna again.

GW/SW-011 Log

We soon had eight contacts in the log so packed up and set off for home.

Journey Details

Date – 13th January 2019

Postcode – NP7 7LA

Parking – SO 268 167

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 8

SOTA points – 2(+3)

Group – Myself + Richard

Walking Route Summary

 

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Fan Gyhirych & Fan Nedd 2019

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GW/SW-006, Fan Gyhirych – 725m, 6 Points

Starting from the caving club there is a long walk in, most of it over fairly good tracks.  This year they have resurfaced the track from the forest through to the turn for Fan Nedd which is not very comfortable to walk on.

The ascent was uneventful, weather was kind although the summit was in cloud so not much view.  We operated straight from the handheld and soon had six contacts in the log.

We didn’t hang around, this is not the most exciting summit in the Brecons, so we were soon back down on the old military road heading towards Fan Nedd.

GW/SW-006 Log

GW/SW-007, Fan Nedd – 663m, 4 Points

The ascent of Fan Nedd is a bit more interesting.  By the time we reached the turning point off the track we had a good clear view of the whole mountain which made a nice change.  The track up was in good condition so we soon made it to the top and set up in the old shelter next to the trig point.  The wind was steady and cold so again we decided to just operate from the HT rubber duck antenna which was a bit of a struggle.  We eventually got our four contacts before setting of on the long trek back to the car park.

GW/SW-007 Log

Overall it was a good day out in the hills, albeit a long one.

Journey Details

Date – 12th January 2019

Postcode – SA9 1GQ

Parking – SN 855 155

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6 + 4

SOTA points – 6(+3) + 4 (+3)

Group – Myself + Richard

Walking Route Summary

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Waun Fach, Mynydd Troed and Mynydd Llangorse 2019

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An early start for a longer day completing the Black Mountain three peaks challenge.

Note this route includes the drive between Waun Fach and the col between the two Mynydds

GW/SW-002, Waun Fach – 811m, 8 Points

The walk up Waun Fach was going well until our navigator decided to take a short cut straight up the side of Pen Trumau, which was rather hard going.  We reached the top just in time for a summit to summit contact with Vicki, MW6BWA and Rod MW0JLA, both on SW-014.  This was quickly followed by another summit to summit with David on NW-043, a busy day out on the hills.

GW/SW-002 Log

GW/SW-009, Mynydd Troed – 609m, 4 Points

Back down from Waun Fach it was a quick drive around to the col between Troed and Langorse for the second assault of the day.  This time I tried the route anticlockwise around the mountain which I think was a bit shorter than the usual clockwise and also missed out the infamous gate.

It didn’t take long to reach the top.  The steps in the mud seem to be getting more pronounced and as the weather had been fairly dry recently they made the climb up much easier.  This time I set up the beam on top and soon had 9 contacts in the log including Vicki and Rod again for a second summit to summit over to SW-012.

GW/SW-009 Log

GW/SW-015, Mynydd Llangorse – 515m, 2 Points

We were soon back at the col, didn’t stop though and pressed on straight up Langorse.  An easy two point walk to finish the day although more of a challenge radio wise.  This is well known as a difficult summit to work VHF as it is largely surrounded by taller peaks.  We set up short of the true summit as that is another 600m walk and back to gain only about another 5m height.

I set up the beam and soon worked Vicki and Rod once more, they were still on SW-012.  I also managed Emyr on SW-006 and then just as I was leaving the summit I caught Roger over in England on WB-016, luckily I was only just out of the activation zone so I quickly ran back up into the zone for a nice final bonus S2S contact.

GW/SW-015 Log

Altogether another fine day out on the hills and 23 extra SOTA points earned.

Journey Details

Date – 6th January 2019

Postcode – LD3 0EU &  LD3 7UL

Parking – SO 186 290 & SO 160 283

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole & Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 5 + 9 + 8

SOTA points – 8 (+3) + 4 (+3) + 82(+3) = 23

Group – Myself, Peter & Richard

Walking Route Summary

Note, this includes some driving time & distance

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Fan Brycheiniog 2019

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GW/SW-003, Fan Brycheiniog – 803m, 8 Points

The weather for the weekend was forecast to be good for a change so a chance to bag Fan Brycheiniog.

We started from the NW car park and took the long route back over Pic Du.  Visibility was good so all in all an uneventful but pleasant walk.  There was some wind blowing over the ridge at the top which made it quite cold from the wind chill but the shelter was free so we set up there and soon made the required contacts.  We shared the first few contacts to make sure we bolth qualified it and then I left Richard to clear the pile up.

GW/SW-003 Log

The return back to the car was again a pleasant walk back along clearly defined paths.  Altogether a very pleasant day out in the hills.

Journey Details

Date – 5th January 2019

Postcode – SA19 9UN

Parking – SN 799 238

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 5

SOTA points – 8+3

Group – Myself & Richard

Walking Route Summary

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Fan Fawr & Pen Y Fan 2019

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A new year and a new allocation of SOTA points so started the year with a couple of easy ones in the Brecon Beacons.

GW/SW-005, Fan Fawr – 734m, 6 Points

The forecast for New Year’s day was looking good so we were hoping for a nice clear run up Fan Fawr, but as usual in the Brecons the cloud was sitting on the tops so it wasn’t to be.  At least it was not raining and the wind was low.

The walk to the top was uneventful and even though the car parks were overflowing everyone was heading up Pen-Y-Fan.  We didn’t see another walker until we were at the top and operating the station.

We soon made four contacts which we shared between the two of us and then I went on to work the rest of the pile up.  Once done it was an easy walk back down to the Storey Arms and the car for lunch.

GW/SW-005 Log

GW/SW-001, Pen y Fan – 886m, 8 Points

Pen-Y-Fan summit in the cloud

Pen-Y-Fan was a bit busier than Fan Fawr.  We started by queuing to get through the gate out of the car park!  The long trudge up the tourist path was mostly just dodging around the New Year day trippers, we were into cloud by about 600m so not even a view to enjoy.  The top was predictably busy but we 

The station

managed to find enough space to set up the station.  This time I worked the first four and then left Richard to work the pile up.

Once finished we packed up and returned to the car via the Storey Arms path for a change.  This path has been completely reworked and is now fully pathed all the way to the top of Corn Du which made for an easy decent.

GW/SW-001 Log

Journey Details

Date – 1st January 2019

Postcode – LD3 8NL

Parking – SN 986 200

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771 & 2 ele yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – x+y

SOTA points – 14 + 6 bonus

Group – Myself & Richard

Walking Route Summary

 

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Great Gable and Kirk Fell 2018

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After the tribulations of Saturday on Pillar I decided to complete the original plan on the Sunday to activate Great Gable and Kirk Fell. The weather couldn’t have been more different just one day later.  The wind had dropped to more normal levels and the temperature had risen.  There was even sunshine at times and visibility was great.

G/LD-005, Great Gable – 899m, 8 Points

Great Gable in the distance

The walk in and up to beck head is pleasant.  There is a good path up over easy ground. At Beck Head turn right up much steeper and broken ground.  The path is not so easy to find here, try and keep more to the right.  The top of Great Gable was in cloud when I arrived and above about 800m the rock was all covered in a thin layer of verglas making passage tricky at times.

Great Gable summit plateau

The summit plateau was quite surreal with extensive frosting and poor visibility, it was more like a moonscape.

Once again I managed to make the contacts without setting up the beam.  I stood on top of the summit cairn and soon had  six contacts in the log.

G/LD-005 Log

Dropping off the summit back down to Beck Head I managed to find an easier route down and was soon back at the col.

G/LD-014, Kirk Fell – 802m, 8 Points

Beckhead Tarn frozen solid

From Beck Head it is an easy route West up onto Kirk Fell.  The ground gets steep in places but nothing of any difficulty.  The summit plateau was in the clouds when I arrived so visibility was poor.  Note there is a small false summit before reaching the main summit proper.  As I arrived at the summit I heard Mark M0NOM calling from the summit of G/LD-050 Gummer’s How so I grabbed the mic and managed to quickly get a summit to summit contact in the log.

Kirk Fell summit shelter

There is a nice summit shelter at the top so I set up here to make another six contacts, once again all using just the Nagoya antenna with 5w from the HT.  With the successful activation in the bag it was time to head back down.  There is a path on the map South West straight down the nose of Kirk Fell.

The path down the nose of Kirk Fell

I had seen is from below on the walk in and knew it was going to be steep, but as the weather was not too bad I decided to try it anyway.  It was steep but perfectly passable.  I am not sure I would like to come up that way though as there is a lot of loose scree to cross.

G/LD-014 Log

Journey Details

Date – 16th December 2018

Postcode – CA20 1EX

Parking – NY 186 085

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6+7

SOTA points – 16 + 6 bonus

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

 

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Pillar 2018

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G/LD-006, Pillar – 892m, 8 Points

Pillar in the background

This was originally meant to be a big day out, bagging three peaks in a circular walk.  The original plan was starting from Wasdale Head, up Pillar, across to Kirk Fell and then back over Great Gable and down to Wasdale Head.  As the weekend drew closer it was becoming apparent that the weather gods had decided they didn’t agree.  Storm Deirdre was heading in from the Atlantic and due to meet a big patch of cold air sitting over Northern England.  Most forecasts were showing heavy snow across the upper half of England and up into Scotland along with strong winds as Deirdre blew herself out.

Green Crags just below Wind Gap with Little Scoat Fell behind

In the event it didn’t work out that way.  The snow landed further North which was a big help with the driving, but the winds certainly turned up.  Forecast for the tops was 60 – 70 mph which I think was fairly conservative.

The walk up Mosedale was pleasant enough, there is not much of a path to be seen on the ground once you pass the fork but it is easy navigating in a straight line.

Looking towards Kirk Fell
Pillar summit shelter

Passing up between Green Crags and Elliptical Crag the ground gets fairly steep and rocky but it is easy enough to pass.  As I put my head above the col at Wind Gap it became clear why it was named so.  From that point on it was constant wind making walking very difficult.  I was knocked over a few times by gusts.  The temperature was well below freezing and the wind chill must have been at least 20 deg below.  The ridge path was a welcome relief from the broken rocky ascent.  On a good day the final ascent up to the summit would be a pleasant walk.   There is a small shelter on the summit which was facing the wrong way and catching all the wind so I set up on the other side in what little shelter I could find.

It was so windy I didn’t attempt to set up the beam, I just operated from the Nagoya on top of the radio. I soon made six contacts and was on my way.  By this time visibility was down so about 20m and the winds were getting stronger.  I headed down towards the path over Black Sail Pass but it was a real challenge.  It took me an hour to get back down to the pass, a walk that should have taken no more than 30 mins.

A last rare glimpse back up at Piller from Black Sail Pass

By the time I got to the pass it was clear that continuing on up Kirk Fell would be an issue.  The wind chill was starting to affect my vision and the constant buffeting was really exhausting.  At his point I decided to drop off down Black Sail and call it a day.  The other two would still be there tomorrow, I wanted to be sure that I would be there as well.

G/LD-006 Log

Journey Details

Date – 15th December 2018

Postcode – CA20 1EX

Parking – NY 186 085

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 8 + 3 bonus

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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Tryfan 2018

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GW/NW-006, Tryfan – 918m, 8 Points

Day two of our Snowdonia excursion.  The plan was to climb Tryfan then on up Bristly Ridge onto the Glyders to bag Glyder Fawr and possibly on also to Y Garn before descending back down via the Devils Kitchen.  A classic Glyders circuit.  Unfortunately the weather was against us so we only managed to complete Tryfan, details below.

Still wet from the previous day we set off from the car park at Llyn Ogwen up the classic north face route.  It was pretty much as expected, another new variation although there were a few bits I recognised.  We found the Cannon Stone but it was too windy to climb aboard.  From the Cannon Stone we missed the main route up and ended up climbing the chimney under the chock stone which is always good fun.  We reached the top and felt the full fury of the wind.  At times the gusts were strong enough to knock me over so we went for a rapid activation from the whip antenna.  Fortunately we soon made the required four contacts and were able to get off the summit in a controlled manner rather than being blown off.  Needless to say we didn’t try the leap of faith, I think if we had we would have landed some distance below on a gust of wind.  Maybe next time.

GW/NW-006 Log

Once off the summit we reviewed the situation and in light of the forecast for the winds to increase significantly over the next few hours we decided against attempting the grade one scramble up Bristly Ridge, instead we turned east to take the low route back up to the road and an early finish.

Journey Details

Date – 2nd December 2018

Postcode – LL24 0EU

Parking – SH 661 602

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4

SOTA points – 8 + 3 bonus

Group – Myself & Peter

Walking Route Summary

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Y Lliwedd, Snowdon & Yr Aran

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1st Dec and it’s winter bonus season again.  Decided to head up the A5 to North Wales for a weekend in Snowdonia.  Weather was at least not cold but forecast wet and windy.  It didn’t disappoint.

Last year we did Snowdon from the east up the Pyg track so this year we decided to try the southern approach via Watkins.  This gave us the opportunity to add Yr Aran on the return leg.

GW/NW-008, Y Lliwedd – 898m, 8 Points

 

First summit of the day was Y Lliwedd.  This was the first time I have used the Watkins path, I wasn’t disappointed.  Viability was not great but still it was a pleasant approach.  Compared with the other Snowdon routes this one was quite quiet.  We saw one large party set off just before us but we soon passed them and had the mountain to ourselves.

We stopped for a moment at Gladstones rock to reflect a little on the history of this route.  At least I think it was this one, there are a lot of rocks on this path.

The final push up to the summit of Y Lliwedd is always an interesting climb.  The path is a bit like the mountain mists!  There are two summit peaks, east and west, both are in the activation zone so either will do.  This year we operated from the slightly higher West Peak as we would be turning around to head back up to Snowdon once finished.  As we approached the summit we could hear people on the calling channel so didn’t set up the beam but managed to work enough contacts using the Nagoya whip.

GW/NW-008 Log

GW/NW-001, Snowdon – Yr Wyddfa – 1085m, 10 Points

From Y Lliwedd we dropped back down to the Bwlch to pick up the top end of the Watkins again and continue up onto the main summit.  I have walked this route a few times in the other direction and always struggled to find the correct route.  This was the first time I had walked it in this directions so I had high hopes that I might be able to find the proper path up.  It was not to be though, we turned up too soon and ended up emerging right by the upper station building much to our surprise.

The summit was busy as always although we did manage to get on top of the cairn briefly for a photo.  It was pretty windy by this time but we found shelter below the cairn to activate the summit.  Again we could hear people on S20 so worked directly through the whip antenna.  We made eleven contacts before stopping to enjoy lunch before setting off down towards Yr Aran

GW/NW-001 Log

GW/NW-019, Yr Aran – 747m, 6 Points

From Snowdon summit we headed southwest down to Bwlch Main.  This is a superb ridge walk which makes a fitting exit from the lofty height of Yr Wyddfa.  At Bwlch Cwm Llan the main path turns left heading back towards the Watkins but we pressed on south towards Yr Aran summit.  There is a path of sorts following the line of the wall.  As nothing is marked on the map we turned right at the 90 degree bend in the wall and headed cross country on a bearing for the summit.  This is quite a difficult and steep route in the wet and windy conditions, not to be recommended.  Instead follow the wall along to the boundary and there is a path up to the summit from there.

We reached the top with less than an hour of daylight remaining so tried once more to quickly activate the summit from the whip but despite calling repeatedly could hear no one.  With the light fading fast we decided to set up the beam in a desperate attempt to get the points before it was too dark to descend.  At this point we didn’t know there was a usable path back down and had visions of either trying to descend the route we came up or spending the night on the summit, neither particularly appealing options.

With the beam up we at last managed to make about six contacts. Unfortunately we had logging issues and lost the details of the first few contacts we made so if I missed you then sorry, please let me know and I will add you to my log.

GW/NW-019 Log

Leaving the summit of Yr Aran the light was fading fast so we followed the only path down we could see as we didn’t want to try descending the route we came up by.   The original plan had been to exit to the east following the high ground as far as possible before descending back down to the Watkins somewhere around the old incline, but without any path marked on the map attempting this in the dark did not seem like such a good option.  Instead we opted to retrace our route back down the northern path and onto the main valley route east.  Quite a bit longer but much safer.

Journey Details

Date – 1st December 2018

Postcode – LL55 4NR

Parking – SH 628 507

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – 2 Ele Yagi + Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4 + 11 + 4

SOTA points – 8 + 10 + 6 + 9 bonus

Group – Myself & Peter

Walking Route Summary

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Helada 2018

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EA5/AT-038 – Helada

EA5/AT-002 – Puig Campana in the distance behind Benidorm centre

A family holiday in Benidorm afforded the chance to have a go at a Spanish SOTA summit.  We had a week booked on a package trip so luggage allowances meant there was no chance of taking much kit.  I managed to squeeze in my usual Kenwood TH-D74 radio as well as a reduced version of my 2 element beam that I normally use for UK activations.  It would have to do.  There are quite a few summits around Benidorm and a fairly good bus service so there are a number options available if you have time to explore.  I chose Helada because it is within walking distance of the hotel we were in.

Maps

Maps are a problem.  I printed a few location maps from Google before I left so I could find the start of the trails, thinking I would buy a detailed walking map locally once we arrived.  That was a big mistake.  The family were happy to have a day out walking around the shops of Benidorm whilst I searched for maps. There are no outdoors/walking shops in Benidorm and only one book shop which does not sell maps.  The place is totally focused on tourists sitting on the beach and the shops reflect this.  To walk any of the more remote hills I would certainly recommend buying your maps before you leave.

Track log shown on Google Earth

There is a leaflet available from the tourist information that describes the walk along Sierra Helada but it is not very good.  I studied it for ages the evening before but couldn’t work out the route they were suggesting.

Finding the trail

The main road parallel to the beach in the Easern end of Benidorm is called Avenue Del Mediterraneo.  Find this and follow it to the Eastern end.  From there head up Calle de Berlin by now heading SE.  Turn right at the end of this onto Calle Sierra Dorada.

The Cross

At the roundabout take the right fork onto Av. Tokio.  Follow this street up to the cross.  It is a popular walk up to the cross and can be driven almost to the top.  As you gain height the views over the city are worth enjoying.

 

Sierra Cortina and EA5/AT-096 – Alt de Cortina just behind the city in the foreground with EA5/AT-002 – Puig Campana looming behind.

As you leave the tarmac behind at the cross, the left fork is the start of the trail.  The right path leads a short distance up to the cross itself and there is a path back down which rejoins our trail if you want to pop up to see it.

The trail

The trail from the Cross is fairly obvious most of the way, it is marked in various places with painted ticks, a few cairns and the odd signpost.  Once you reach the first summit just follow the cliff edge until you can see the radio towers.  It’s a bit up and down as you would expect from a coastal cliff path.

Operating in Spain

Radio masts on top

I only had vhf/uhf FM capability on my radio so I knew it was not going to be easy activating a summit.  I spent as much time as possible in the days before listening to the local repeater and on S20 the VHF calling channel.  In four days I never herd a single person on either.  There did seem to be some APRS activity locally but from the hotel I couldn’t reach anything that would gate my packets to the internet.

The top

From the higher ground near the Cross and most of the way along the ridge I was able to get APRS packets through to EI5RCI-15 NW of Alicante.  After a good walk and a lot of up and down I eventually reached the summit where there is a large radio mast installation.  I set up only about ten metres from the perimeter fence but it didn’t seem to cause me any interference  problems. I knew from previous discussions that I would be more likely to succeed if I new a little Spanish so I was prepared with a few key phrases thanks to Ignacio EA2BD.  I am sure my accent would have been a give away but I called CQ SOTA for about nearly an hour from the top without a single reply.

Key Phrases

CQ SOTA CQ SOTA Echo Alfa barra Mike Uno Charlie Julliet Eco , QRZ
Tu senial es cinco nueve, cambio
Mi referencia es SOTA EA5/AT cero tres ocho. OK!
Gracias por el contacto, siete tres

Eventually I gave up and packed the station away for the return trip.  The activation was unsuccessful but it didn’t matter as the day out in the hills was more than worth it.

Overall I would definitely recommend this walk but for a successful activation I think you would need to plan on taking HF bands or a few friends with licences.

73, Andrew

Journey Details

Date – 31st October 2018

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – 2 Ele Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 0

SOTA points – 0

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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