G/SE-014 Cliffe Hill & G/SE-006 Ditchling Beacon

Friday 20 May 2016
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My wife had an appointment with the beautician today in Hove so this was the ideal opportunity to take in a couple of simple hills on the South Downs.  Cliffe Hill was about 25 minutes drive from wife’s appointment, with Ditchling Beacon being an easy ‘drive-on’ 12 minutes from her, so ideal when she called for pick-up.  As this is the second time I have activated both of these hills I didn’t take any photos apart from the one above from the car park at Ditchling Beacon.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8, VX-170 plus RSS 2M dipole

Cliffe Hill G/SE-014

Parking in a field entrance along an unmetaled track way (TQ 447106).  Once booted up I walked down the track to the gate, then turned right to walk up the left side of the woods.  Once clear of the woods continue to follow the track to the boundary with the golf course.  Proceeding with care (I almost got hit by a golf ball last time) I made my way to the trig.  Moving away from the trig to a safe haven within the AZ I set up and self spotted on 7-cw.  Very quickly calls started coming from across the UK and Europe and by the time the cw calls stopped I had worked 19 stations in 20 mins including a summit to summit with HB9DQM/P on HB/ZH-006.  Self spotting for 7-ssb I was immediately called by Mike G6TUH, who lives just up the road, followed by a further 12 stations predominantly from across the UK.  At least three times I announced final call and the calls still continued.
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Overall a very good activation with 32 stations logged in 30 minutes.  A quick check of the watch and I realised that I definitely had time for the second activation on Ditchling Beacon.

Ditchling Beacon G/SE-006

Ditchling is a very easy summit to activate as it is a ‘Drive-on’!  Parking up in the Beacon Car Park (TQ 333129) I walked the 30 metres to the trig point where I set up adjacent to the fence.  Having spent 10 minutes explaining what I was doing to a young couple who were running the South Downs Way!! I self spotted on 7-ssb and started calling.  The response was slow but steady, nothing like it had been an hour earlier.  Most stations reported heavy QSB and the UK stations were now struggling to hear me.  Six stations made it into the log including a summit to summit again with HB9DQM/P from HB/ZH-006 before ssb dried up.  Self spotting for 7-cw added a further 6 stations including a summit to summit with F6HBI/P on F/AM-476 but it was slow and hard work.  One final 2-fm QSO concluded the activation as I received a text from the wife to say that she was ready for her taxi home!
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Today had been an enjoyable but strange day highlighting how quickly the propagation conditions can change – in this case in just over a hour – from outstanding to dire.  Once again the weather was kind to me with some sunny spells but much windier.  Thanks to all the callers today.

73 Glyn G4CFS

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Welsh Marches Tour 2016 – Day 3 A Few Summits More

Tuesday 17 May 2016

The plan for today was to activate up to five 1 pointers in a circular trip into GW/NW, GW/MW and G/WB followed by a further 1 pointer in G/CE on the way home.  A slightly later start to the day allowed for a full English to be taken at the hotel before setting off on the first leg of the journey.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8, VX-170 plus RSS 2M dipole.

Long Mountain – Beacon Ring GW/MW-026

After a pleasant 45 minute drive from the hotel in glorious sunshine again, I arrived at the bottom of the track to the transmitter site adjacent to the Hill Fort that is Beacon Ring (SJ 267054).  A simple walk up the track to the transmitter site then followed the track to the NE for a further 100 metres to a convenient section of fencing. Distance 0.2 miles, Ascent 66 feet, Time Taken 5 minutes.
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Setting up the station adjacent to the fence a self spot and call on 2-fm produced no contacts at all so switched to 7-cw and after what seemed like an eternity I started to get slow responses to my calls.  Eventually after 30 minutes on the summit I had logged 6 stations from Belgium, Netherlands and Germany surprisingly all with very good reports!
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The track to the summit

 

Y Golfa GW/NW-061

The next stop was at the car park of the Welshpool Golf Club (SJ 172073).  After seeking permission the park and cross the course to the summit I set off along the footpath towards the main ridge.  Whilst the paths across the course are PROW I felt it prudent and courteous to seek permission from the Club Secretary.  My request was granted without question and I also received a compliment on behalf of previous SOTA activators for their politeness and manners.  The track takes you out of the carpark and downhill to the path on the left.  Follow this past the 8th hole and then up the obvious path in front of you. Once at the top of the path cross the fairway to the ridge, then follow the ridge to the summit.  The trig point is clear of all fairways so there is little risk of mutual interference between golfers and activators. Distance 0.76 miles, Ascent 226 feet, Time Taken 20 minutes.
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Due to lack of space I decided to try a VHF only activation.  This was not going to be easy due to the higher hills in all directions.  However, there did appear to be an opening and following a self spot for 2-fm G0OHY, 2E0ZGS/M, M0ZVT & G7MHL all made it into the log in 20 minutes and the hill was qualified.
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On the way down I stopped to chat to two groups of golfers who were very friendly and approachable.  Given that the average age of all the golfers I spoke to must have been in the 70’s they were all very fit as the course up and down the steep side of the hill.  In fact I don’t think I saw a level fairway anywhere.  This is a most friendly and obliging golf club, lets keep it that way.

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Looking back to the 8th Hole from the track to the ridge

 

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View from the trig down onto part of the course

 

Stingwern Hill GW/MW-030

This is a very easy hill to walk and activate.  Park the car in the opening below the Water Pumping Station (SJ 131 015) then walk down the road about 10 metres to the point where the field boundary intercepts the hedge row.  At this point there is a barbed wire free zone to allow you to climb into the field.  From here it is literally a 3 minute walk up the slope to the trig point!  Distance 500 feet, Ascent 60 feet Time Taken 3 minutes.
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Self spotting for 2-fm I opened the account with a summit to summit with GW3GUX/P on GW/NW-019.  Two more 2m contacts followed then silence, so changing to 7-cw started the ball rolling again 10 stations getting into the log from across the UK and Europe.  After half an hour all callers had been worked and it was time to move on.
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Caeliber Isaf GW/MW-031

Drove up the lane to the holiday cottages and spoke to a man in one of the workshops about parking and walking up the hill.  He said it was OK and pointed the right way to go (SO 203933).  The track led down to the woods before starting to climb up onto the open ground.  The route to the summit was very straight forward – just head for the highest point! Distance 0.4 miles, Ascent 200 feet, Time Taken 20 minutes.
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Setting the station up against the fence I made several calls were made on 2-fm but to no avail and even after self spotting on 7-cw it seemed an age before the first contact come back which happened to be Juerg HB9BIN/P on HB/LU-013 .  Over a 30 minute period I struggled to get 5 stations in the log.  The band seemed very up and down today with plenty of contacts 1 hour earlier and now virtually none.
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To cap it all I had left my camera in the car and was so furious with myself that it didn’t occur to me until I was half way back that I could have used the camera on my phone!  I must be getting tired – at least only 2 easy hills left today.

View Edge G/WB-018

About 200 metres east of the farm hose at the brow of the hill is a gateway to the SSSI Quarry site.  Parking up here and walking about 200 metres into the site brings you well within the AZ for View Edge (SO 426805).
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At this location I didn’t bother with 2-fm but self spotted and went straight to 7-cw.  Conditions were still bad and it took almost 30 minutes to get 5 QSO’s into the log but this included another S2S with Juerg still on HB/LU-013.  The skip had appeared to have gone longish again as there were no UK stations audible on the band.
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Walton Hill G/CE-002

Well that concluded my tour of the Welsh Marches but there was still one more hill to ‘bag’.  The hills of the G/CE region are widely scattered over a large area and I had two left to activate – Wendover Woods and Walton Hill.  As I was in the area it seemed stupid not to grab Walton Hill on the way home, I was tired but the hill was relatively easy so off we set for the Clent Hills just south of Halesowen and the car park for Walton Hill (SO 942802).
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From the car park the track to the summits is very clear and over a steady gradient.  The summit trig point was soon reached and the station set up against the fence close to the trig.  Distance 0.3 miles, Ascent 162 feet Time Taken 12 minutes.
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Due to the hills close proximity to major conurbation I decided to make this a VHF only activation.  Sure enough as soon as I called on S20 I had two stations calling me at once.  Unfortunately this is when I discovered a problem with my VX-8 – I couldn’t move away from S20!  I explained the problem to all stations and quickly retattled through 6 QSO’s finishing with an apology to anyone else listening for hogging the calling frequency.  Five minutes after staring I was complete and heading back to the car for the 2.5 hour journey home.
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By gm4cfs Posted in SOTA

Welsh Marches Tour 2016 – Day 2. The Famous Five

Monday 16 May 2016

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Day 2

The work load today called for an early start, so it was up at 06:00 and on the road by 06:30.  The plan was to activate the ‘Famous Five’ Titterstone Clee Hill, Brown Clee Hill, Long Mynd-Pole Bank, Stiperstones and Corndon Hill. Heading down the A49 towards Ludlow from Shrewsbury arriving at the disused quarry car park (SO 593 776) at the start of Titterstone Clee Hill

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8, VX-170 plus RSS 2M dipole.

Titterstone Clee Hill G/WB-004

From the car park walk out onto the road up to the radar site on top of the hill.  After about 10 metres there is the waymarked Shropshire Way footpath on the left hand side.  Take this path up the ridge to the summit.  Walk past the radar bases to the trig point.  Distance 0.38 miles, Ascent 200 feet, Time Taken 10 minutes.

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The plan for today was to check in on 2m then set-up for 7-cw & 7-ssb.  However, with the realisation that I had left the power cable back at the hotel I had no option but to make this a 2m only day.  Fortunately the area is fairly well laid out for VHF coverage.  Self spotting the account was quickly opened by G0CHU followed by 6 further stations including M6NSV Neil who was to keep me company all the way around and Frank RMD/M on his way to play golf.  16 minutes after starting on 2m the calls dried up and the first summit was qualified.
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After taking a photo opportunity I made a quick descent back to the car and I was ready for the drive to the hill.
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The view north to Brown Clee Hill

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View back down to the car park

Brown Clee Hill G/WB-002

The drive across to the start of Brown Clee Hill took about 30 minutes and parking was found on the wide grass verge on the right just up from the footpath gate (SO 585868).

Once through the gate the navigation is very straight forward.  Follow the gradually ascending track to the gate at SO 590862, at this point follow the track up to the left along the line of the fence.  After 20 metres the summit transmitter tower and cairn become visible ahead and within a further 10 minutes the summit is reached.  Distance 0.85 miles, Ascent 567 feet, Time Taken 30 minutes.
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A point of note for the trig point chasers – whilst the OS maps show one on the summit, it no longer exists other than in the form of the top plate and registration plate are cast in the concrete steps leading up to the summit observation cairn.

After a self spot for 2-fm Neil NSV was quickly in the log but it was while before the rest started to call.  It became very quickly obvious that I was getting a huge amount of interference from the transmitter tower on the summit.  At times it was wiping out all communication, then there would be a couple of minutes of clear frequency.  Despite the problems a further 10 stations made it into the log in 18 minutes.  Eventually the responses stopped so after a quick phone call to the Wife, Mandi, it was back to the car in a 20 minute descent.
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Final approach to the summit

 

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Observation Cairn that replaces the trip point – Titterstone Clee in the distance

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Self Portrait in the early morning sun

Long Mynd-Pole Bank G/WB-005

A pleasant drive was had over Wenlock Edge and down to Church Stretton before the climb up Burway Hill and the nervous drive resisting the look down into the steep valley below – keeping the eyes fixed on the road ahead and hoping to met nothing coming the other way.  Pole Bank can be approached from either end but I had chosen the south-westerly route and after a short but beautiful drive over the rolling hills of Long Mynd I arrived at the car park (SO 412937).  The route is so straight forward you don’t really need a map.  Walk up the road for about 400 metres to an obvious graded dust footpath on the left.  Follow this for a further 400ish metres and you arrive at a grassy area with the trig point and observation cairn. Distance 0.46 miles, Ascent 121 feet, Time Taken 10 minutes.
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By this stage the sun was getting very warm so a spot of relaxation ensued along with chats with passing walkers.  Eventually I self spotted 2-fm and got 8 stations into the log including Neil NSV and 3 others who were starting to follow me around – Paul M6NNK, Andy G8MIA and Ian G4WTF.  Once all stations were clear it was a very steady pleasant stroll back to the car for a lunch of cheese, nuts and dried fruits (the old faithful’s never fail!).
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The somewhat ‘ephemeral’ footpath to the summit!

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The Trig showing the check-in stamp for the Extreme Marathon run over the weekend.

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A very sunny prospect for the station with good views in all directions

Stiperstones G/WB-003

From Pole Bank it was a short but scenic drive down the western side of Long Mynd to arrive at the car park for Stiperstones (SO 369977).  Like many of the other hills in this area, this is a very popular summit and there were several cars in the car park.  The pathway up the grassy slopes and along the stony ridge is very obvious and easily followed.  I had been warned that the summit is different from most English summits in that there is a little bit of scrambling and climbing required to reach the actual summit Trig Point surmounted on an out crop of the Stiperstones Quartzite Formation.  Distance 0.66 miles, Ascent 333 feet, Time Taken 20 minutes.
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Having scaled the outcrop to the trig I descended to set the station up on the leeward side of the outcrop.  Self spotting 2-fm immediately brought Neil NSV into the log followed my what were now many regular callsigns. The highlight of this activation was the summit to summit with Adrian from Fan Gyhirych GW/SW-006.  In all 5 stations were worked before all fell silent again.  By now the sun was at its highest and making for an absolutely fabulous day out in the hills and the light breeze made for an enjoyable walk back down to the car.
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The rocky track up the ridge

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Summit Trig on top of the outcrop

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I made it!

Corndon Hill GW/MW-013

I had completed four of the ‘famous five’ and still had loads of time left – it was becoming one of those rare days when everything was a pleasure – that was until I arrived at Corndon Hill.  I knew this was a steep and relatively short walk to the summit but as I was to find this hill had a sting in its tail.  I turned up the rough track by the reservoir and drove as far as the gate where there was plenty of room to park on the right hand side (SO 301973).
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The first part of the walk is leisurely along the un-metalled road to the gate and style at the boundary fence between field and woodland.  From this point it just appeared to be straight up with absolutely no relief.  It was about half way up that I realised just how tired my legs were and it became a physical effort to drag my body to the top. However, the relief of seeing a comfortable bench seat at the summit made it all worthwhile. Distance 0.45 miles, Ascent 482 feet Time Taken 30 minutes.
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Having regained my composure I self spotted for 2-fm and worked 7 stations in 16 minutes.  These included Neil NSV who had been with me all the way, Andy MIA who had worked me on 4 of the 5 and Frank RMD on his return from his round of golf.  It was a great relief to have qualified the hill and a greater relief to be back at the car and ready for the drive to the hotel, a nice soak and a nice warm beer.  I don’t drink euro fizz only real ale and tonight was a favourite of mine Rock Brewery’s Doom Bar (other well known brands are available).
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So that was it, Day 2 complete and the ‘famous five’ under the belt.  Next challenge will be to do the five in the winter bonus season.  The day had gotten off to a bad start when I realised that I had left the FT-817 power cable in the hotel room.  However, I had a great day doing 2-fm activations and really enjoyed the company of several different stations throughout the day.  Special thanks to Neil NSV for working my on every summit.  The weather was also far better than had been forecast.  The Met Office had forecast sunshine until about midday however, it continued to shine all day and during the afternoon the temperature topped over 20C – not bad for mid May.

After the ‘Famous Five’ tomorrow was going to be ‘A Few Summits More’ with six 1 pointers spread across GW/MW, GW/NW, G/WB & G/CE.

73 Glyn G(W)4CFS/P

 

 

Welsh Marches Tour 2016 – Day 1

Sunday 15 May 2016

Long-Mynd-towards-the-Wrekin short
A weeks leave had been booked and now it was time to decide what to do with it.  The wife had a hospital appointment on the Wednesday and a beautician appointment on the Friday so I decided to take my self off for two days on the Monday and Tuesday.  I wanted to do the Welsh Borders 2 pointers and as much else as I could squeeze into two days. Then my wife suggested travelling across on the Sunday afternoon to save an early start on the Monday.  This allowed me to get one summit in on the Sunday evening.

Day one was now going to be The Wrekin which was literally 5 minutes off of my route.

Day two was easy to plan – it was going to be the ‘Famous Five’, the four high points of the Shropshire Hills – Titterstone Clee Hill, Brown Clee Hill, Long Mynd-Pole Bank & Stiperstones along with their close neighbour Corndon Hill.

Day three was not so easy to decide or plan.  Various options were considered but the final list ended up as Beacon Ring, Y Golfa, Stingwern Hill, Caeliber Isaf, View Edge then on the way back home Walton Hill.

The question was – had I bitten off more than I could chew?  It all looked feasible on paper!  Well there was only one way to find out.  The priority was to get the 2 pointers done regardless and then as many of the 1 pointers that I could manage.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8, VX-170 plus RSS 2M dipole.

Day One

The Wrekin G/WB-010

Having left home at 12:30 it was a good drive up the A34, M40, M42, M6, M54 to Telford and the car park for The Wrekin (SJ 638092).  The Car Park reminded me why I don’t normally activate on a Weekend – it was jammed with every man and his dog heading to and from the track to the summit.  There was even the ubiquitous Ice Cream Van with its associated rubbish laying all over the ground.  Anyway ignoring the crowds I booted up and decided just to carry the VX-170 and the half-wave 2m vertical dipole.  The walk up is fairly easy with just a couple of steep sections following what appears to be an extension to the M54!  The only observation to make is the amount of rubbish the hundreds of visitors leave behind.  Once at the trig the view was spectacular and allowed me to scan the hills that I would be doing over the next 2 days. Distance 1.33 miles, Ascent 814 feet, Time Taken 40 minutes.route

Moving away from the summit area and the hoards of trackie clad sightseers I found a convenient hollow and set up the 2m vertical by sticking it into the side of my boot.  A self spot and call on S20 quickly brought in local station Adrian G4AZS followed by a very nice summit to summit with G1ZAR/P on Heath Mynd G/WB-007.  Several more calls brought Don M0HCU, Pete G4URM & Steve G4ZWY in to the log before I called it a day and got ready to descend and get to my hotel.  The RF break through problems discussed on the reflector in the days leading up to the trip were not evident today however, they would create problems tomorrow.
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Before leaving the summit area I took the time to survey the Iron Age Hill Fort remains (I have an MA in Archaeology) a theme that would repeat itself several times over the next couple of days.

73 Glyn G4CFS/P

GW/SW-008 Cefn Yr Ystrad

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It was time to start tidying up the remaining summits in South Wales GW/SW, I had one 4 pointer and two 2 pointers left to complete along with a handful of one pointers.  The primary target for today was Cefn Yr Ystrad GW/SW-008 (4 points) starting the walk from Pontsticill. The weather forecast looked very good for today so an early start was made to get on the hill nice and early.  Leaving home at 0430 and headed off down the M4 for South Wales.

Equipment

FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8 plus RSS 2M dipole.

Cefn Yr Ystrad GW/SW-008

I arrived at a layby just across the road from the Water Works (SO 05992 11411) at 0730L and after kitting up set off for the bridle way at 0740L.  The track goes under through the tunnel under the Brecon Mountain Railway and gradually gains height until breaking on to access land at SO 065 119. From this point the landscape changes to one of limestone moorland.  The track goes straight uphill until it intercepts an obvious wide track used by off roaders.  For the next mile or so the walking is very easy as you make steady progress towards the disused quarries.  Start the ascent of the steep escarpment following the line of the quarry boundary fence until a large track is intercepted.  Follow this onto the higher ground until the summit trig point becomes visible to the NE.  At this point follow the best route towards the trig avoiding the shakes holes and rocky crags.  Distance 2.6 miles, Ascent 1132 feet, Time Taken 1hour 50 minutes.

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Self spotting on 145-fm I was immediately answered by Martin G4ENZ but then despite several calls no further contacts were made on 2m.  Using the hole in the top of the trig I set-up the HF and self spotted on 7-ssb.  After a couple of calls HB9MKV entered the log but then there was a long wait of over 9 minutes before the self spot went live, then 7 further stations entered the log in quick order.  All of these were European stations with the exception of a very weak Don G0RQL who passed me a 33 report, I am happy I received a ‘Roger’ to my 44 reply but there was some QRM from other stations calling me!! – if not I am sure he will tell me so I can delete the contact.  SSB soon dried up so a self spot on 7-cw resulted in 2 further QSO’s before silence again.  Though I did notice however, that RBNHole was reporting my signal on 7.033 and I was on 7.032MHz.  Not the best radio conditions with reports of rapid and deep QSB but better than the conditions have been recently and at least the summit was easily qualified.

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For the return route I took the more direct line back down to the main track and found it very easy going with a good track feeding between the shake holes.  Next time I do this hill this is the route I will take up as well.

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The track up towards the quarries in the distance – summit is up to the right of centre.

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The station set-up with Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn in the distance

Summary

 

Overall a very pleasant day out with a good walk and average radio.  I had hoped to have activated Coity Mountain GW/SW-012 afterwards and even drove to the Big Pit Car Park.  But when I put my left boot on I got a sharp pain in my foot.  This is a pain I have been getting on and off for the past couple of weeks and whilst it didn’t bother me this morning it suddenly flared up.  So it was off home for an early bath and medals.

73 Glyn G(W)4CFS