Sunday, 2 July 2017

VHF National Field Day

It's some years since I took part in an amateur radio contest... I was a member of Travelling Wave Contest Group from 2010 - 2013, and further back than that, from 1982 onwards I took part in many RSGB and CQ World Wide Contests in CW, SSB and DATA on a regular basis in my own right.

Since getting back on the amateur bands in January 2017 after moving house, I've wanted to see what I could work on VHF from my new location.
2m band - WIMO 144 MHz 7+7 Cross Yagi up 4m above ground
6m band - 125 feet long OCF Dipole with 4:1 balun at 10m above ground in the Beech Tree in my garden
Despite having a temporary aerial set up 18 reasonably distant contacts were achieved this weekend from my location in Pickering, close to the North York Moors, in Maidenhead Locator IO94of. My garden is 60 metres above sea level. Each headset on this Google map represents a contact on either 6m or 2m:

I operated for a few hours in the Fixed Station Sweeper (FSR) Section. The FSR section states that fixed stations cannot call CQ - we have to search and pounce on stations and try to work them after hearing National Field Day VHF contest stations calling CQ. 

I used a Yaesu FTDX5000 running 150 watts on 50 MHz with a 125 feet off Centred Fed Dipole up 10m in a tree. On 144 MHz I used an Icom 7400 running 80 watts into a Wimo 7+7 Cross Yagi on a 2.7m long boom. The XYagi is temporarily mounted at 4m above ground in a parasol base and has to be turned by the "Armstrong" method. 

Best DX on 144 MHz was EI9E at 441 Kms, located betweeen Kilkenny and Wexford. Best DX on 50 MHz was G2BQY/P at 354 Kms, located just north of Shepton Mallet. The only station worked using Morse was GM4ZUK/P near Aberdeen, a distance of 321 Kms  on 50 MHz.

It was quite a surprise to work such distances on 50 MHz using a wire antenna, and I was pleased with the performance of the Cross Yagi on 144 MHz operating at just 4 metres above ground. 

I did work one SOTA station on 2m SSB in the contest - this was GX0OOO/P operated by John Earnshaw G4YSS from Scarborough. John was on Great Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales and made contacts throughout the day on VHF in the contest and on HF also, including on the 1.8 MHz band (160m) where I also made contact using Morse and Voice Comms.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

SOTA in Moravia Czech Republic - May 2017 - Day One

Wednesday 3rd May

1. OK/JM-065, Hvízdalka - 442m, 1 Point (Complete)
2. OK/VY-056, Zelený kopec - 491m, 1 Point (Incomplete)

Our two man SOTA Tour began for me when I caught the early morning train from Malton in North Yorkshire. The destination was Stansted Airport near London, where I was to meet Victor Mitchell GI4ONL who was flying in via Easyjet from Belfast.  Our connecting Ryanair flight to Brno left Stansted in the early afternoon. We were travelling light - with a rucksack each and a small handbag. 

Transit through security was straightforward - there were no problems with the radio equipment, lithium batteries, antenna poles, walking poles and HF wire aerials which were travelling with us in the cabin. Our arrival clearing passport control in Brno was easy and within 15 minutes of stepping off the plane we were getting into our Skoda Fabia hire car and heading for our first SOTA activation of the five day trip, which was in the direction of our first hotel of the two booked for this Moravian Tour. 

Our modus operandi on this tour was to activate and qualify as many summits as possible on at least two HF bands and on both Morse (CW) and in Voice (SSB). This meant we both had to make at least 4 contacts each on every summit we visited.  The summits were chosen not for their points status, but for their proximity to each other and to where we were staying in hotels at Namest nad Oslavou (3 nights) and in Nove Veseli (2 nights). 

We were to find that all 39 summits visited over the five days we were in the OK/JM (Jihomoravský) region and the OK/VY (Vysocina) were easy to access on foot with no restrictions in reaching any of them. In some cases it was possible to legally drive into the activation zone of the summit, walk a short distance and then set up the antenna and operate within 10 minutes of arrival. 

The wooded summit area JM-065 Hvizdalka was accessible by car from the E65/D1 Motorway and our short walk into the woods for our initial activation in the early evening was met towards its end with some rain. We completed as the rain came on and as we were earlier than anticipated this allowed us to drive around 20 miles south west of the first location to the second summit of VY-056 Zeleny kopec. Despite the now quite heavy rain we got lucky, more by chance than good planning as there were several structures and a large stone tower called Babylon on the summit!  Victor OK/G4ONL was located in a BBQ hut around 50m away from me and was operating on the 30m band. My first contact was with Terry Sayner G0VWP a friend of mine who lives in York. Terry was to make contact with me on the vast majority of summits visited on the tour. Here is my comfortable operating position on VY-056 where I used 20m SSB only, leaving the CW work to Victor:


The Babylon Tower on Zeleny kopec and my Elecraft KX2 transceiver used for this tour

As dusk approached and after two successful activations with 27 contacts between us using the 20m, 30m and 40m bands, we packed up and headed off to to check in at our hotel in Namest nad Oslavou.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A one day trip to Scotland with the "new" Muncaster Fell top on the way home

My approach to Tinto - an easy clear route
GM/SS-064 Tinto

On Thursday 27th April the weather forecast was pretty good. I left my home in Pickering at 5.50am making for the Lanark area in Scotland so as to visit and activate the summit of Tinto (Ref GM/SS-064) for SOTA. After a problem free drive with one stop I was walking by 9.20am from Wiston Lodge - my approach to Tinto would be from the south via Pap Crag. This was a good place to park the car with others, parked at the educational establishment there.

Signage to the summit in the grounds of Wiston Lodge
A GPX file of the walk can be found in the SOTA Mapping Project tracks section. Here is my route:

GM/SS-064 Tinto - 1.63 miles with 1450 feet ascent in 51 minutes
Topographic view from Tinto
The days activations were to be a proving ground for my radio gear - the next week I was heading to the Czech Republic for a 5 day SOTA Tour with GI4ONL. On arrival I made just two contacts with MM0GOR and GM0GAV on 2m FM using a handheld and RH770 whip before erecting the HF bands linked dipole.  I was using my Elecraft KX2 with the built on KXPD2 key. Within 10 minutes of starting up on 40m CW I had a problem - the KXPD2 key started to fall to pieces and I couldn't send dashes!  The key has made less than 500 QSOs. On inspection I found the terminal posts for both contacts had worked lose. I had no screwdriver to tighten the small crosshead screws, however I did have the small allen key for adjusting the contacts and this served as a makeshift screwdriver for tightening the screws enough to complete the aborted contact I had with John G4RGV! Apologies to the previous stations worked for the sending errors I made prior to realising what was wrong. Continuing on with the operation I worked summit to summit on 20m with Juerg CT7/HB9BIN/P on CT/AL-003 in Algarve and after switching to SSB I was called by Stavros SV2RUJ/P on SV/MC-005 in Greece. 

Total contacts: 28
(2m FM = 2)
(40m CW = 11 SSB = 2) 
(30m CW = 6)
(20m CW = 2 SSB = 5)
Operating time 59 minutes. 

Returning to the car for some lunch I then headed across the valley towards nearby Lamington Hill GM/SS-172, whilst making a mental note to obtain some loctite for those small screws when I returned home..... The issue was later reported to Elecraft so they can ensure that locking compound will be used in future on their paddle keys. 

GM/SS-172 Lamington Hill

Like previous activators I used the car park on the other side of the A702 to start the walk to Lamington Hill. Before setting off I removed the 2m handheld and whip from my rucksack. In doing that by mistake, I also removed the bag containing the HF dipole - only realising my mistake when I reached the summit 40 minutes later! So this was a none SOTA visit to Lamington Fell. I thought the rucksack felt light....
Trig point on SS-172 Lamington Hill
Track to SS-172 - 1.9 miles 920 ft ascent in 39 minutes - GPX track shared in the SMP
Returning to the car with one local summit left to climb, Dungavel Hill SS-165, I started thinking.... Either I could return to the car, collect the dipole and walk back up Lamington Hill or instead immediately go to Dungavel Hill and then head south to the relocated G/LD-059 Muncaster Fell on my way home - and that is what I decided to do. 

GM/SS-165 Dungavel Hill

Gate and signage at Cattle Grid leading to path up Dungavel Hill
As a Rambler I've come across many signs when walking warning of bulls and cows. There are rarely bulls grazing and this was the case here...this was just an attempt to frighten walkers off. This was a rougher more tussocky and slightly boggy and steep walk in places than the previous two, so the 0.7 mile walk with 610 feet of ascent took me 26 minutes at an average speed of just 1.6 mph. It was tiring and I arrived breathless on the summit at 2.30pm... At least this time I was able to operate on HF with my dipole and make another 28 contacts in just under 30 minutes on 7 MHz and 10Mhz with just one QSO with RW3XZ on 14 MHz CW. There were no summit to summit contacts available. The GPX track is shared in the SOTA Mapping project:

On my return to the car I made my way back to Carlisle and the long drive down the Irish Sea coast to the appropriately named Fell Lane which leads to Muncaster Fell. 

G/LD-059 Muncaster Fell
If you read my previous blog you will have realised that Muncaster Fell was troubling me. Its relocation meant that I could no longer say that I had SOTA Completed all 175 SOTA Marilyn summits as an activator and chaser. I believe that I am still the only SOTA activator and chaser to have achieved this. My status needed to be restored which is why this awkwardly positioned summit needed to be activated by G4OBK...
The walk from part way up Fell lane to the new summit - GPX file shared in Track section of SMP
There was a tallish narrow protruding rock about 5m down from the highest point at the new location and I managed to tie my 5m pole to this and make a handful of contacts. As I have found in the past in SOTA once you get beyond evening dinner time there is a shortage of chasers hunting for contacts:

These are all great guys these chasers. I have met most of them in person apart from Manuel EA2DT and Mariusz SP9AMH. Thank you Mariusz, Luc, Jan, Manuel, Terry and Pedro for making my day. 

I had a 30 minute fast food stop at the A59 Burger King near Skipton on the way home and arrived back home in North Yorkshire at 11.40pm, making this an 18 hour day with 472 miles driven. The distance walked was 11 miles and the total ascent on foot was 3400 feet.  

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The highest point of Muncaster Fell

Its 2017 and I have a little more free time now after my house move last last year - so I'm starting up Catterblog again....

Readers will know I enjoy walking and in particular climbing to the tops of hills and mountains with amateur radio equipment, setting it up, erecting an aerial and then making contacts as a part of the ham radio hobby. It's called Summits On The Air (SOTA) . 

SOTA is worldwide now, and the scheme was started in England in 2002. I first got involved in it in 2005. 

Each country has its own association and a manual which sets out the rules. In the UK the Marilyn Hill List is used to determine where the summits are. Hills are included in the list if they have 150 metre prominence above surrounding ground. In England there are currently 175 hills listed. There were 176 early last year until felltop assessors (known by some as "The Meddlers") determined that Swyre Head in Dorset had a prominence of 148.3 metres so it was removed from the list. Later in 2016 felltop assessors using sophisticated GPS equipment determined that the previously listed location at the trig point on Muncaster Fell / Hooker Crag near Ravenglass, was not the highest point. A new higher location was determined 500m north east of the trig point beyond Hooker Moss. See map showing the old and new locations:

The difference in height between the old and new Marilyn summit is just 700mm, yes, just 700 millimetres, with Muncaster Fell / Hooker Crag topping out at 231.4m and the real Muncaster Fell (without trig point) topping out at 232.1m. As there is a drop of more than 25m between the two points the new summit is the one which now counts for SOTA with effect from the 2nd March 2017. 

As I had climbed all 175 Marilyn Summits in England for SOTA (or had until this summit moved) I have now climbed 174, so I need to revisit Muncaster Fell and make some ham radio contacts from the new location to have climbed and operated from every English Marilyn summit.

My good friend and fell bagger chum Geoff Fielding (M0PYG) who lives in Herefordshire, was the last ham radio operator to make valid contacts from the old top. He was on the summit that day with another fell bagger friend of mine, Nick Langmead (G4OOE) from Scarborough. 

Here is Geoff at the summit on 24 November 2016, when he made 10 contacts on the now deleted G/LD-055: 

Thanks to Michael Graham who shot this photo showing the position of the new summit, the highest point of Muncaster Fell, which overlooks the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway:

© Copyright Michael Graham Geograph
So I need to head over to Ravenglass anytime soon and activate the new summit for SOTA, which has been given the reference G/LD-059.  Hopefully someone else will also visit and I will make a contact with the fell as a chaser from my radio shack in Pickering.

Post script 6th March 2017: The new top was successfully activated for SOTA on 7 MHz and 145 MHz by Michael Warrington G0HIO/P. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Catterblog reports temporarily suspended!

Apologies to readers for a dearth of Blog reports throughout the latter part of the summer and autumn SOTA Season, despite many activations taking place in the UK, Czech Republic and Poland..... 

The lack of reporting is because of a house relocation and station rebuild which is taking up all my time at present. 

Normal blogging will be resumed in 2017 when I find the time to catch up.

Best wishes 

Phil G4OBK

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A July Scottish Borders Day - GM/SS-122 The Wiss, SS-140 Turner Cleuch Law and SS-179 Cacra Hill

There still remains a number of Scottish Border summits that are reachable from my home in North Yorkshire - providing that I am prepared to drive up to 400 miles in the day and be away from home for around 16 hours. Today I was able to finish off three summits for SOTA Complete using the HF bands and 2m FM. 

The routes taken up to SS-122 The Wiss and SS-140 Turner Cleuch Law
After leaving Pickering at 5.50am I reached the cattle grid on the B709 road that lies between The Wiss and Turner Cleuch Law, both two point SOTA summits, at 9.30am. I was accompanied by my Border / Lakeland Cross Terrier Treacle once again, and we stopped en-route at the Southwaite Services near Carlisle for a comfort break. 

The parking spot at the cattle grid between The Wiss and Turner Cleuch Law
GM/SS-122 The Wiss

Setting out at 9.48am this was a straighforward trek to the summit. No section was particulary steep but there were a few broken fences for us to negotiate. The summit trig point was reached within 42 minutes. The GPX track I used can be downloaded (as all my tracks can) from the SOTA Mapping Project run by Rob DM1CM. 
Treacle at the trig on The Wiss GM/SS-122
Using a 5m HD travel pole and link dipole for 40/30/20m I set up my recently acquired Elecraft KX2 transceiver and a Yaesu VX-170 handheld on an extended RH770 whip. After testing out the KX2 on my recent SOTA Cycling visit to Gisborough Moor I had realigned the display which was now accurate and I had constructed and installed an internal battery pack.  The first contact on 40m CW was a super summit to summit QSO to Norway with Aage LA1ENA/P on LA/TM-134. I finished with 24 contacts on HF before turning my attentions to 2m FM where I was called by my friends Nick G4OOE/P and Dave G3TQQ/P who were on Helvellyn G/LD-003.

On The Wiss - KX2, FT-270, €5 boom mic headset, palm paddle key, logbook
My experiences with the new KX2 so far and throughout the day using just the internal battery are detailed at the end of this blog.... 

St Mary's Loch - visible from The Wiss GM/SS-122
Carson's Cleuch - on my way down from The Wiss
Arriving back at the car via the same route taken on the way up, I had my dinner and a short break before setting out refreshed for SS-140 Turner Cleuch Law. 

GM/SS-140 Turner Cleuch Law 

This was a shorter but steeper walk of just over 1 Km which was completed in 23 minutes. Keep climbing as you pass this fine cairn part way up the hill:

There was no trig point to support the pole this time but the fence running across the top did the job instead.
Operating position on Turner Cleuch Law
On my arrival the 2m FM radio opened up its squelch with a calls from G4OOE/P and G3TQQ/P who were now on the flank of Helvellyn descending back to Wythburn car park. Geoff G4WHA/M was then worked on his lunch break and on a hilltop close to Penrith. Not only that, but HF was in better order and 37 contacts were completed in CW and SSB in 42 minutes.  I was delighted with that as I packed up and made my way back down to the car.

GM/SS-179 Cacra Hill

Less than three miles south east of SS-140 lies Cacra Hill, which was easily reached via the B709 and B711 roads. My plan was to park near the cattle grid at Cacra Cottage and climb the hill from there. As I was starting out the farmer from the cottage spotted me and advised me that if I went that way I would encounter his bull. He helpfully suggested that I continue to NT 3130 1675 where I could park and climb the fell from there. Pictured is the route I took and the parking place used on grass beside the single track road:

The route across Cacra Bank was reasonable, with a fair amount of bracken to push through and some animal tracks to follow. I decided to top out at the 460m level where there was a rocky outcrop. This was well within the activation zone on the grass topped and almost featureless summit, which took me 30 minutes to reach.  

Not an ideal antenna position on Cacra Hill - but I made twenty contacts all the same
As the day went on the skip distance on the 7 MHz / 40m band had shortened, with my first contact being with my friend Victor GI4ONL in Bushmills, Northern Ireland, followed by Jeff G4ELZ in Devon. At 4.50pm I closed down the station on HF. A few fruitless calls on 2m FM were tried but there were no takers.  Heading back down the hill I came across this VHF FM broadcast band halo antenna, located around 700m from Cacra Cottage. The feeder was the same diameter as RG-213 coax, and I wondered what the feeder loss would be:

My route back to the M6 at Carlisle took me via the B711 to join the A7 near Hawick. From there I went south west via Teviotdale to Langholm. The road becoming familiar to me once I reached the Mosspaul Hotel which I had visited in June when activating Ellson Fell GM/SS-146 from there.  At 19.15pm I reached the KFC at Penrith for my usual feast of 3 pieces of Colonel Sanders chicken with chips and cola (go large of course).  I made it back home in Pickering at 21.50pm, tired but pleased with three more SOTA Complete summits logged.

Vital Statistics

Distance driven: 370 miles
Distance walked: 5.9 miles
Ascent on foot: 2440 feet
Number of HF Contacts: 81 (61 CW & 20 SSB)
Number of VHF FM Contacts: 5
Time on air: 132 minutes

Supplementary report on the Elecraft KX2

Elecraft KX2 in Lowepro CS60 case with Palm key and leads
Last month I visited the Ham Radio Fair at Friedrichshafen and spent some time on the Elecraft stand talking to Eric WA6HHQ (Elecraft Co-Owner) who demonstrated the KX2 to me and allowed me to handle it. I also attended Eric's presentation on Elecraft as part of the SOTA Presentation organised by the HB9 SOTA Group.

I came away from the event having decided to buy a KX2. I have used various transceivers for SOTA activating in the outdoors since I started doing it in 2005.

After the Brexit vote in late June when the UK £ fell by almost 10% and stayed at that level, it seemed a good time to buy the KX2 in case the price increased, so I ordered one from W&S the day after I got back to UK from Germany and received S/No. 194 the following day.  I am now awaiting the KXPD2 paddle key which is back order from W&S. Unfortunately I do not know when these will arrive in UK. I still have my Yaesu FT-857 to provide extra grunt when needed, my Youkits HB1B is my back up radio. I sold my LNR MTR3B and Yaesu FT-817ND now that I have the KX2.

So - how have I found the KX2 so far? Great - once I got it to work!  When I received my KX2 it had no transmit and no receive. On inspection the small plug connecting the BNC socket to the PCB had worked its own way out in transit. Easily fixed...

RTFM - Yes, essential. This is not like a typical Japanese transceiver, but once you get the hang of the multi function buttons and controls it's all fine, but I'm still learning - I've never used a piece of Elecraft equipment before so practice is still needed to become fully adept in the transceivers use...

I bought the larger Lowepro CS60 bag from one of the famous internet shops on line - a nice fit for the KX2 and bits and pieces. I bought a €5 Labtec headset / boom mic at Friedrichshafen. That headset seems to work very well and I am getting good reports on my audio quality, but I need to install a PTT switch in line, rather than using the XMIT switch on the radio. I have also had QSOs using the internal microphone which seems to be quite satisfactory.

On my first SOTA trip with the KX2 last week I used an external LiFePo4 battery. I have now built myself an internal battery pack which worked well on the SOTA trip I made to Scotland when I activated GM/SS-122, SS-140 and SS-179 on 27th July. The battery pack cost me £20 to make up. I used 3 X Sanyo 18650 3 AH tagged cells, a BMS battery protection board, shrink sleeving, wire and a DC barrel plug. The pack is a snug fit inside my radio. I bought a 12.6V protected charger for charging the battery pack. The battery needs to be removed from the KX2 to charge which I see as a negative feature, but Elecraft presumably see a fire risk if the Lithium battery pack is charged internally. 

Home brew lithium 11.1v battery pack for the KX2
Using the current and voltage monitoring features built into the KX2 I made some observations whilst operating yesterday. I was on the air from three summit locations, and completed 81 contacts in CW and SSB on 20m, 30m and 40m using a link dipole at 5m AGL. I do not use an ATU. These were typical rubber stamp contacts. I was actually on air, receive and transmit for a total of 132 minutes. The internal battery voltage at the start of my activity was 12.3V. At the end the battery voltage was 11.1V - as it should be, with the voltage on load showing 10.2V with the KX2 still indicating 10 watt output on the display using the TUNE button. The total power consumption for the whole activity was 1068 mAh. Therefore my internal battery should actually be less than 50% exhausted - amazing! 

Internal battery pack installed in the KX2
The only other thing I would note is that the radio was slightly off alignment by around 250 Hz when I received it. This was easily corrected using the calibration procedure detailed on page 37 of the manual. I have also preformed the latest firmware update as per the manual and the useful tips that Bob W3FPR put on the Yahoo Group a few weeks ago.

The features I like on the radio compared to the FT-817 are the lighter weight, size, clear display in sunlight, the smooth full break in on CW, the memory keyer, internal battery capacity and roven power usage allowing at least five average HF SOTA activations from the internal battery, the superior receiver performance and a modest increase in output power. Having now bought the KXPD2 paddle key I find that really useful... All I do when I arrive on a summit is plug in the antenna and make contacts - no power lead or external keyer to connect. I'm hoping to purchase the KX2 protective end panels from GEM products when they become available in the UK as the price of shipping them in individually from the USA is prohibitive. 

Friday, 22 July 2016

SOTA Cycling - July 2016 - Gisborough Moor G/TW-003

The sun was shining as I left my driveway at 6.40am local time to drive to the village of Commondale - a start point for what is usually the walk up to Gisborough Moor G/TW-003, today was different, I was cycling and started off on the C Class road which goes over to Kildale.

G/ TW-003 summit is on a grouse moor which is policed by a fastidious gamekeeper, who I have met a few times. Today I was fortunate, I did not meet him - I was riding my mountain bike and I know he does not like the public cycling on the tracks that run over the moor. These rough tracks are just about suitable for land rovers and quad bikes. They are public footpaths, but not bridleways. The moor is access land, but my understanding of access land is that access is permitted on foot only and not on a bike.

I started my 2.8 mile ride up to the summit at 7.25am and was on the summit at the activation point 30 minutes later. I had to push my bike for about 200m after leaving the road when I became short of breath. 

I was carrying a lot more equipment to the summit than I usually do when walking. A 7 AH LiFePo battery, a 4.2 AH LiFePo4 battery, a small steel operating platten, a 50 watt VHF FT-1500M mobile radio, an Elecraft KX2 QRP HF radio, A 2m vertical dipole, an HF link dipole for 20/30/40m, a 5m travel pole and the usual extras like logbook, pencils, swiss army knife, rope and bungees. Some of the weightier things went into my saddlebag. The rest on my back in my rucksack. My arrival at the summit:

I set up on the 40m band CW to start with and GU3TUX was the first station logged on 7033 KHz. A few minutes later I was called by S2S specialist Juerg HB9BIN/P who was on Biet, HB/SZ-016, a 6 point summit. 40m was the best band for me today. After 19 QSOs on CW I made 5 contacts on SSB. 20m and 30m were dissapointing with a total of 7 QSOs on those bands altogether. I finished off on 2m FM with just 4 more contacts - it is much harder to make a large number of contacts on 2m FM in England during the week. Last Saturday on G/TW-001 (the nearest summit to TW-003) I made 22 QSOs on 2m FM, albeit that is a better site for VHF working...
After an energy bar and a drink it was time to pack up and head off back down the hill. I used the same route back as I believed that going that way I would avoid the gamekeeper, and I did. I never saw a soul at any time. Here I am about to depart the summit to ride back to my car:

Distance driven return: 48 miles

Distance cycled return: 5.6 miles (Up time 30 mins @ 5.52 mph - Down time 15 mins @ 10.91 mph)
Total ascent both ways: 483 feet
35 Contacts on 2m (4), 20m CW/SSB (3), 30m CW (4), 40m CW/SSB (24)
QRV: 0721z - 0826z

Postscript added October 2016: The Dawes Mountain Bike has now been sold. I will be using a Focus "Hybrid" bike from now on, which is my normal knockabout shopping bike, quite adequate for forestry tracks and the like. I don't intend riding on terrain rougher than that in the future. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Gwastedyn Hill GW/MW-019

After leaving the parking place for Carn Gafallt a slow drive down a narrow lane took us back to the A470 south of Rhayader and to the other side of the River Wye. We turned left on the A470 and were parked up for Gwastedyn about twenty minutes after leaving Carn Gafallt. Time was getting on and we decided this was to be our last summit of the day, with MW-024 Rhiw Gwraidd being left for next time. We drove up to the start of a bridleway at SN 9901 6582 but found that parking was too restricted there, so we turned the car round and parked over 330m away on the side of the road to the south. 
Parking place for Gwastedyn Hill - the hill can be seen in the background
Once we climbed the first (steep) field and turned right a delightful path took us around the side of the hill to a cast iron gate at SN 9892 6650.

Climbing up the bridleway before turning right to go around the hill to the metal gate
A faint path through heather from there took us to the summit. The location was superb for VHF working and this was undoubtedly the best summit of our two day tour for views.
My friend Geoff 2W0NON arrives at the summit cairn on Gwastedyn
Looking to the western top 400m away we noted there was a beacon basket mounted on a plinth and a large conical shaped cairn. These were built to celebrate the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977:

The late afternoons warm sun made the activation even more enjoyable and we had a little free time so I put up my HF dipole again and worked a few of the regular chasers on 40m CW before going QRT:
With seven more Welsh summits logged as SOTA Completes over the two days, including the completion of the South Wales Association,  I drove back to Bristol where I was based that week. 

Two days activating in Wales - April 2016 - Carn Gafallt GW/MW-040

After leaving Cefn Cenarth nature reserve car park near MW-039 we drove back through Rhayader. In a half hour we were in the Elan Valley driving on an unfenced road to the parking place for Carn Gafallt GW/MW-040.  This was on a bend by a barn at Pen y Castell, where a track heads uphill following the edge of a wood on the left side. 
My GPX track for Carn Gafallt can be downloaded from the SOTA Mapping Project

Once you leave the track the more eastward wider sweeping track on the map is the better one to follow as the heather is short and less dense on there. There is one trouser ripping barbed wire fence to climb out of the wood, or if you prefer, go further east on the track and avoid climbing it as we did on our way up.  Fortunate for me as I walked ahead of Geoff 2E0NON I got a good view of a Marsh Harrier for the first time in my life. The rare species bird was on the ground and took up to flight around 30m from me as I approached it. After qualifying the summit on 2m FM using 50 watts power I set up on 40m CW, however that only produced five contacts before we packed up and left.  The picture below taken by Geoff on Carn Gafallt shows what you need for a successful SOTA Tour in Mid-Wales. Belt and Braces... Here we deployed a Yaesu FT-817 transceiver with 5 watts output on HF to a link dipole, and a Yaesu FT-1500M transceiver with 50 watts output to a vertical dipole on 2m FM. Both aerials are mounted on a 5m travel pole: 

The walk to the summit due to the very deep heather, was awkward to put it mildly - we will not be returning here again.  It was almost 3.00pm when we returned to the car, so there was sufficient time left to drive the six miles to the parking place for the climb to our fourth summit of the day. This was Gwastedyn Hill GW/MW-019.