G/SE-012 Brighstone Down & G/SE-008 St Boniface Down

Monday 19 October 2015

An unexpected opportunity arose to go on an activation but as always the question was where?  Having gone across to South Wales for the past 3 activations I was getting a little tired of the M4, so it was time to look else where.  It was my XYL who commented that I only needed 4 more summits in Southern England (SE) to complete the region and as the 2 in Kent are virtually drive on tops they could be done on a day out with her, that left the 2 summits on the Isle of Wight, St Boniface Down and Brighstone Down.  So ticket booked and planning completed it was off to Southampton for the 7am sailing to the Isle of Wight.  The trip across to the Isle of Wight takes an hour and was a very pleasant journey.  I sailed with Red Funnel who tend to be the cheapest however, if you are planning to make the journey google ‘isle of Wight ferry discounts’ and you can get at least 10% off vouchers to reduce the cost of the trip.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-170 plus RSS 2M dipole.

Brighstone Down G/SE-012

The journey from the ferry terminal to the car park at Brighstone Down takes about 30 minutes and there is plenty of parking at SZ 419845.  Come out of the par park and turn right along the road for about 20 metres to an obvious hardcore track on the left.  Follow this track to the junction on the left then head north-east for about 150 metres and take the second track on the left, heading approximately NNW.  At the brow of the hill there is a small but clear path on the right which leads for 50 metres to the trig point.  If you are planning to do HF you will need to be inventive or be prepared to do battle with the gorse.  Although the trig point is in a clearing, the ‘clear’ area is no bigger than the average room in a house! Distance walked 1.2 miles, ascent 290 feet, time taken 25 minutes.

route

Once set up I self spotted for 60m and called for about 10 minutes with no reply.  A change to 7-ssb was self spotted and within 10 minutes I had 5 stations in the log before the calls dried up Four of the five were European stations however, the last was Karl M3FEH whom I could barely hear.

Switching to 7-cw was a major improvement staring off with a S2S with Paul HB9DST/P on HB/SG-064. QSYing from him QRG I called and started my own ‘pile-up’ working 16 stations in 25 minutes.  When the calls stopped a return to 7-ssb bagged a further 6 stations, though unlike 30 minutes earlier were all G’s with good signal reports.  Strange how quickly the bands were changing.

A change to 14-ssb resulted in 6 QSO’s including my second S2S of the morning with Dinos SV3IEG/P on SV/PL-158.  A further 3 stations were worked on 14-cw before it was time to pack up and move on to St Boniface Down.   At various times throughout the activation I called on 2-fm but received absolutely no replies.  I am not surprised at this as the trig is in the middle of the Brighstone Forest.

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St Boniface Down G/SE-008

The drive from Brighstone Down to St Boniface Down takes about 30 minutes and is a very pleasant drive along the south-west coast of the island.  This is a ‘drive-on’ summit and once on the top of the down a short drive brings you to the car park next to the radio towers where the trig point is.  A short walk from here I found a suitable, secluded location the set of the station within the SOTA  & WAB Trig AZ.

route

Following a self spot I opened up on 7-ssb and almost immediately started getting calls.  Unlike this morning when the majority of the stations were from Europe, this afternoon the majority were G stations.  19 stations were worked in about 15 minutes before the pile-up dried up.  Switching to 7-cw the pile-up started again and this time managed 17 QSO’s in 15 minutes the vast majority with good signal reports.

Using the opportunity to stretch my legs, I changed the links on the dipole and switched to 14-ssb.  11 stations were added to the log book the best DX being with George N1GB in Vermont.  Finally a change to 14-cw only brought in a further 2 QSO’s before the band started to go quiet.

Throughout the whole activation I was keeping an eye on Sotawatch to see if anyone was available for S2S but unfortunately the only other stations on the air were all on 10-cw and I don’t have a link in my dipole for this band – time to think about a rebuild.  With the bands starting to go quiet is was a good opportunity to pack up and start to make my way back to the ferry terminal in East Cowes.  Whilst having a some lunch back at the car I was stopped by 2 guys in a car asking if I was portable on 40M!  It transpired that they were WABers and had just arrived on St Boniface Down to activate a few squares.  We chatted for a short while mainly answering questions about SOTA and how we could be purely portable on HF with just a 30L rucksack to carry the kit!! Two more re-educated amateurs made their way along the down to their desired square before pumping up a telescopic tower attached to the back of the car – that’s their version of portable – everyone to their own.

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If, like me you find you have arrived back at the terminal a little too early for your crossing check with the board office to see if you can bring your crossing forward.  During the quieter times of the day and year you can move up at no extra charge if there are spaces available.  This allowed my to get home an hour earlier than planned and beat most of the Southampton rush hour traffic.

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Sunrise over the Solent en-route to the Isle of Wight

Thanks to all the chasers, I enjoyed your company today it greater numbers that usual.

73 Glyn G4CFS

 

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GW/SW-020 Graig Syfyrddin, GW/SW-016 Ysgyryd Fawr, GW/SW-026 Bryn Awr

Monday 12 October 2015

Since my return to hill walking and SOTA activating in April of this year following a 8 year absence due to family and health issues I have tended to take on easyish summits.  Even when activating 4 hills in a day the total climb has probably been no more than 800 feet combined.   With the prospect of running out of 1 pointers to activate within my one day drive range it was time to push myself to see what I was capable of.  Walking distance on the flat is not an issue as I regularly take 10 – 15 mile walks around my village, the real issue with me is the ability to climb the higher and steeper hills.  So to put myself to the test I chose 3 one pointers close to each other with a total climb of 1850 feet, including a single climb of 922 feet most of which was in one short section.  The first hill was to be the shortest climb followed by the highest, this allowed me to skip the third if the legs were done in!  Oh – and I was also breaking in some new boots!!!

So it was off to the 3 hills around Abergavenny leaving home at 04.30am aiming to get to the first hill just before sunrise.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-170 plus RSS 2M dipole.

Graig Syfyrddin GW/SW-020

Following an easy and relatedly quiet drive down the M4 to Wales, I arrived at the parking spot opposite the start of the footpath to Graig Syfyrddin (SO 412212).  The sun hadn’t risen yet but the light was good enough to head off up the hill.  There is a beautiful silence about walking just before dawn even the birds seems very quiet – just waiting for the sun to appear above the horizon.  The walk up is fairly straight forward.  Head up the obvious path to the style, from here continue in the same direction until you reach the trig point at the summit.  Because the path was heading west I had my back to the rising sun until I turned back once at the summit to see the sun appear above the misty hills – all very misty eyed.  Distance travelled 0.5 miles, ascent 388 feet time taken 20 minutes.

route

I tried to self spot 7-ssb but was not getting any joy from the phone signal so went straight for 7-cw and managed to get an RBN spot.  Six stations were working in reasonably quick succession generally with good report but with some deep and rapid QSB – the story of the past few months.  There was little logic to the location of the contacts as they covered I, DL, LA and G.  However, leaving the best to last I managed a summit to summit with Jan DL/OK2PDT/P on DM/BM-089.

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The sunrise just as I arrived at the summit

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The summit trig point

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The station

Tried to self spot again for 7-ssb but was not able – made a few calls on 2-fm but it seems all sensible people were still in bed!!  So it was back to the car for coffee and a quick breakfast then off to the next location

Ysgyryd Fawr GW/SW-016

A 20 minute drive brought me to the large car parking area at the southerly start of Ysgyryd Fawr or The Skirrid (SO 328164).  Arriving here at 08.30 local time I was surprised to see a couple of other cars already parked up.  I had heard that this was a popular hill but this was early Monday morning.  Whilst I was kitting up another car pulled up and out hopped a couple of fell runners who very quickly vanished towards the hill.

The initial pull up through the woods is steep but aided by cut steps.  This was the sort of terrain I was after to really test me and my legs, and boy did it test me!  However, having said that I only stopped twice on the way up – once to check my GPS at a junction and the other to chat to a woman and her dog just as I cleared the woods.  We spoke for a short while and she warned me of the three false summits ahead – so it was onward and upward along the more gentle rise of the ridge with some stunning views in all directions.  Eventually the summit trip came into view as I reached the top.  Distance 1.25 miles, ascent 922 feet time taken 50 minutes (including the chat time).

route

Set up for HF against the trig and tried to self spot for 7-ssb – nothing.  Switched at 7-cw as earlier but despite calling for 10 minutes – not takers.  later found that RBN had not heard me!  As the time was now 09.45 local I called on 145.500 Mhz and bingo established a good flow of 9 contacts.  Hill qualified it was time to pack up as I noted a steady stream of walkers heading for the summit.  The walk back only took about 35 minutes and would have been quicker except for having to explain the SOTA pole and VHF RSS aerial to every passing group.  The steep descent back down through the woods did highlight one thing about my new boots – I needed to tighten them more across the main part of my foot to stop my foot sliding forward into the front of the boot.  Apart from that the boots were performing brilliantly.

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Half way up the ridge looking back towards the south

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The reverse looking north towards the summit

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The view to the west from the summit with the conical outline of Sugarloaf and the main Brecon Beacon Ridge in the distance. The brown coloured ridge below and right of Sugarloaf is Bryn Arw my final target.

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The summit trig point looking more like a National Trust Cairn

Having returned to the car park it was time to assess the state of my legs and the new boots I was breaking in.  Well on both counts I was doing well, I felt no tiredness from the climbing and there were no aches or pains.  The boots felt like a pair of gloves – I was really starting to like them a lot.

Bryn Awr GW/SW-026

For this hill I had chosen to start from the car park that serves the northern approach to Sugarloaf as suggested by Phil G4OBK from his most recent activation of this summit (SO292200).  From here a short walk down the lane to a turning sign posted for Upper Bettws Farm.  Follow this lane all the way to a junction at (SO 295202) where a road, not shown on my map, goes straight ahead and a road goes to the right signed for Upper Bettws Farm.  Take the right had road for about 20 feet were you will see a style on the left signed ‘The Hill’.  The track upwards is very overgrown in places so try to get to the edge of the field as soon as practicable.  Follow the way marked path towards the summit though in places you could be fighting your way through thick ferns depending on the time of year you take on this hill.  Eventually you arrive at the non-descript summit where there are some clear patches of short grass amongst the gorse and ferns.  However, be warned the reason the grass patches are short is because they are kept that was by the sheep.  So look out for their bye products which are everywhere!  Distance 1 mile ascent 546 feet time taken 30 minutes.

route

From the summit I suffered exactly the same problems that I had experienced from the previous hill with the inability to self spot and conditions so apparently poor that the RBN was not hearing my – unless there is another problem which I will need to investigate before my next trip (with my radio/aerial that is not my phone).  So it was back to 2-fm and a call on 145.500 Mhz.  Now the strange thing is that both my 145-fm self spots went through but my HF ones wouldn’t.  Now I know this is not a problem with the system, I was just jinxed today.  Anyway back to the radio – for a painful 20 minutes I struggled to get 4 QSO’s in the log but manage I did and my thanks goes to G4ILI, M0JLA, G4WTF and G0SNB for coming to the rescue.  A further attempt self spot and call on 7-ssb resulted in no further contacts so it was back to the car for tea and tiffin – well coffee and marmite sarnies actually.

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The non-descript summit

Sugarloaf

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Looking back towards The Skirrid (summit number 2)

Summary

Overall it was a great day out.  The radio conditions were poor to non-existent (nothing new there) but the weather was excellent and the mountains were all that I had expected from them, especially The Skirrid which was my main reason for coming here.  My concerns about my ability to climb the higher hills has proven to been unfounded.  My new boots performed very well.  I was a little concerned about wearing them on the hills without road testing them at home, for this reason I had my old boots in the car.  However, I needn’t have worried because they working very well.  The boots, another birthday present from the XYL, are Brasher Gore-Tex Extralites and true to Chris Brasher’s philosophy they were rugged and firm but felt as though I was wearing a trainer.  I just hope Chris’s concept and philosophy is maintained now that the company has been bought by Berghaus (RIP Chris).

As always a big thank you to all the chasers who called me today, your continued presence is always appreciated.

73 Glyn G(W)4CFS/P

GW/SW-027 Mynydd y Glyn, GW/SW-025 Cefn Eglwysilan, GW/SW-037 Craig Yr Allt, GW/SW-034 Garth Hill,

Friday 2 October 2015

Had not planned to be heading back Wales quite so soon.  Having had Monday and Thursday off this week I assumed that my next days off would not be until next week.  However, due to staffing issues next week I was given Friday off in the expectation that I will work for most of next week.  Following on from my activation of the three one-pointers north of Newport my original intention had been to do the four one-pointers around Pontypridd next week.  With this change of working schedule the walk was brought forward to the Friday.  This was probably fortuitous as the weather looks as though it will be turning bad again next week.  Left home at 04.30 arriving at the start of GW/SW-027 for 07.00.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle.

Mynydd Y Glyn GW/SW-027

Parking up at the end of the driveway to the farms (ST 043883), the first part of the walk is up a well made driveway until you reach the gate across the path.  Through the gate but after about 20m the obvious path fads away.  It would appear that you need to walk on the right side of the Wall/barbed wire fence.  However, you need to take left side option as far as a large opening then move to the right side of the wall.  Follow the wall through a gate into the top field.  Walk directly towards the summit and a gate will be seen ahead. through the gate and follow the obvious pathway to the summit.  Distance 1.25 miles, Ascent 436 feet, Time Taken 35 minutes.

route

The station was set up on the trig point and a quick check of Sotawatch showed that F/HB9AFI/P was on 7-cw.  So after a summit to summit with Kurt I moved up frequency and put out a CQ call.   It took a while for anyone to respond but eventually 5 QSO’s were made with European stations.  It was obvious that the band had gone back to its bad ways again.  This was borne out on 7-ssb where despite calling for some time no contacts were made.  On the walk up I had found out the my boots had sprung a leak as my socks were wet from the dew covered grass.  So I decided to pull the plug and had back to the car for a change of socks.

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The sun rising as I started out from the car.

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The summit in the distance.

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The summit and operating position (trig). Note the long early morning shadows

Cefn Eglwysilan GW/SW-025

A 20 minute drive and I was parked up on the grass verge (ST 096903).  From the car I headed straight up the slope to intercept a path heading up gradually to the left.  Take this path directly to the summit trig.  Distance 0.2 miles Ascent 140 feet time taken 7 minutes.

route

A quick tune around 40m showed that the band was picking up a bit so a self spot on 7-ssb produced 3 slow but sure QSO’s with reports of rapid and deep QSB.  A change to 7-cw produced a further 5 QSO’s including a summit to summit with Heinz HB9BCB/P on HB/BE-148.  A check of 20M showed a ‘dead band, so time to decamp and move on to the next summit.

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The summit trig and operating position

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The car parked on the grass verge, very few decent places to park.

Craig Yr Allt GW/SW-037

On my original alert I had started that I was heading to Garth Hill next however, Craig Yr Allt was the closer of the 2 remaining summits so it was off to the narrow parking area opposite the start to the path (ST 140850).  There are several paths meandering around this hill but the main path up is fairly obvious.  If it goes up follow it!  Distance 0.43 miles Ascent 266 feet time taken 15 minutes.

route

Having had to feeling from the last summit that the band was starting to improve as the day went on, this was quickly dashed as I set up just below the summit and tuned around 40M.  It had gone very quiet again.  A self spot for 7-ssb produced 4 QSO’s before silence prevailed again.  A change to 7-cw and numerous calls produced absolutely nothing at all.  So it was to be just 4 QSO’s – at least I had qualified the hill.

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Operating position just below the summit.

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Selfie on the summit

Garth Hill GW/SW-034

So after a disappointing operation from Craig Yr Allt it was off to Garth Hill for the final hill of the day.  Parking up on the large grassed parking area in front of a large cottage (ST 104830).  A short walk east along the road to the drive way up to the afore mentioned Cottage.  Walk up the drive way form about 20m were the start of the path is clearly marked.  Follow the path to a ‘T’ junction where a right turn takes you all the way to the summit mound topped by the trig point.  After a day where I had seen no-one on any of the 3 previous hills, this summit was more like Clapham Junction.  I moved away from the trig and established the station on waymark post close by.  Distance 0.5 miles, Ascent 372 feet, time taken 15 minutes.

route

Using the same MO as on the last summit I self spotted for 7-ssb but called until I was hoarse with no reply.  Changing to 7-cw first in the log Roy G4SSH, only the second British station worked all day.  This was followed by 7 further QSO’s including 2 summit to summits with HB9BCB/p on HB/BE-148 and DK2JK/P on DM/HE-053.  Once the CW contacts had dried up a change back to SSB and further self spot produced absolutely nothing at all.  So it was time tom pack up for the final time and head back home.

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My car seen parked on the left and the private driveway with the start of the path 20m up on the right

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The beautiful views up the Taff valley towards Pontypridd. My first two summits can be seen on the distant left and distant right.

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Station set-up against a waymark post.

Summary

Overall this was a great day out, the hills were up to expectations and the weather was superb.  It was just a shame that the sky was partially broken again.  Four summit to summits were logged but only 2 British stations were worked all day.  Thanks to all the chaser for fighting through the heavy QSB to pull me in – much appreciated as always.  For me the high point of the day was walking up ‘my’ mountain – Mynydd Yr Glyn, though why a mountain is called The Valley Mountain I can’t work out.

73 Glyn G(W)4CFS/P