In April I finally finished a big project at work and had some time off to relax – the perfect break would be some walking in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.
Of course the first thing that usually happens when I start to relax is that I get a cold, annoyingly this happened again, but I still managed to drag myself up for some SOTA fun in the (no) sun.
I stayed a total of 8 days and activated the following 11 summits (in order of first to last):
|Summit||ASL||Points||Band Used||QSO’s Made||DXCC|
|GW/NW-010 – Moel Siabod||872m||8||2m FM||18||3 (Wales, England, Ireland)|
|GW/NW-004 – Y Garn||947m||8||2m FM||11||4 (Wales, England, Isle of Man, Ireland)|
|GW/NW-005 – Elidir Fawr||923m||8||2m FM||17||4 (Wales, England, Isle of Man, Ireland)|
|GW/NW-003 – Glyder Fawr||1,001m||10||2m FM||11||3 (Wales, England, Ireland)|
|GW/NW-070 – Great Orme||207m||1||80/60m||9||3 (Wales, England, Northern Ireland)|
|GW/NW-040 – Tal y Fan||610m||4||2m FM||6||3 (Wales, England, Ireland)|
|GW/NW-022 – Moel Eilio||726m||6||2m FM||6||2 (Wales, England)|
|GW/NW-001 – Snowdon||1,085m||10||2m FM||9||3 (Wales, England, Ireland)|
|GW/NW-026 – Mynydd Mawr||698m||4||2m FM||4||1 (Wales)|
|GW/NW-002 – Carnedd Llewelyn||1,064m||10||2m FM||14||4 (Wales, England, Northern Ireland, Ireland)|
|GW/NW-019 – Yr Aran||747m||6||2m FM||5||1 (Wales)|
Why the Focus on VHF?
As you can see the majority of contacts were made using 2m FM. There were several reasons for this despite having an HF setup as well:
- Lightweight – These summits (mostly) involve serious walking, usually an all day hike involving scrambling, so the weight reduction allows me to carry everything comfortably with space for a flask of tea and (a couple of) cakes
- Summit Conditions – Usually at these elevations you can be quite sure that the summit conditions will be bad, usually strong winds, meaning a 10m HF mast is unlikely to stay up for very long.
- Excellent VHF Takeoff – on the whole these summits offer a phenomenal VHF takeoff, mostly due to their lofty elevations
- Chance of 2m FM DX – Their location next to the sea offers a good saltwater path into GD, EI and GI. Indeed I worked EI stations on almost every summit.
- Busy summits – Some of these summits are busy with other visitors and some of them quite small, so an HF setup in my opinion, would take up too much space
- Quick to get on the air – While activating with my YL I have learned to be as quick as possible, I can arrive on a summit and be on the air in 5 minutes with this setup.
My VHF equipment was simple and minimal, I was often walking for 7+ hours and needed to take other provisions. Here’s what I used:
- Yaesu FT-270 2m FM Handheld – great filtering, great receive, waterproof, rugged, possibly bomb proof 😉
- SOTABeams MFD 2m Dipole – basically a vertical dipole, made using plumbing tubing. Better performance than a rubber duck and lightweight. I’ve activated 50+ summits using this now.
- Home made 2m Moxon – Sadly I only got to use this once but performance was excellent
- 5m fishing pole mast – I used this on some summits to get the SOTABeams MFD a little higher and clear of rocky ground – often I could just clamp this between my legs, while lodged in my rucksack – doing away with the need for guying
- Apple iPad for logging, using the RumLogNG app
- Garmin GPS – In addition to a paper map/compass, I used my GPS to assist with navigation – very useful when navigating to summits in thick fog (i.e. most of the time).
- Bothy bag – Small roll up shelter used when conditions are particularly nasty. I only used it once on Glyder Fawr (GW/NW-003) where there was strong wind and freezing conditions – warms up in seconds
My Cicerone Mountain Walking in Snowdonia guide book was indispensable. I followed these walks to get to the various summits and would highly recommend it.
I took my Yaesu FT-857 as well, intending to try a QRO 2m FM activation but I never got around to this! My Elecraft KX3 and a linked dipole were used for my one HF SOTA activation on Great Orme.
- Real 2m FM DX – I worked Don G0RQL, down in Devon which we calculated was 246 km away, once again with 5w FM and a vertical dipole – I was very happy with this!
- Packing in 11 SOTA summits – without overdoing it – although my legs disagreed
- Working multiple DXCC on many summits – GW, G, GD, GI and EI were all worked on 2m FM
- Lots of fresh air – I slept like a baby every night after food and a beer
- Working lots of Summit to Summit (S2S) stations – On Carnedd Llewelyn (GW/NW-002) I worked 15 stations in 15 minutes, 8 of those were S2S contacts!
- Activating Great Orme (GW/NW-070) down on the coast at sunset, after a tough and cold activation of Glyder Fawr (GW/NW-003)
- Having to cut short my activation of Carnedd Llewelyn (GW/NW-002) – YL was not happy, so I couldn’t indulge in radio anymore. Real shame as there were many S2S around and an Irish FM contest on!
- The weather, predictably wasn’t great. The mountain weather forecast often predicted a clear day after initial fog, but on several days the fog never lifted until I descended.
- Snowdon summit – Because this is the tallest mountain in Wales everyone and their dog wants to climb it, especially on a bank holiday weekend! Being up here with hundreds of others was not why I go walking.
This was a great break from work and we both thoroughly enjoyed our time in North Wales. I also became a half mountain goat (500 activator points) half way through the trip!