10th February 2006 NW-043 Cyrn-y-Brain
Ever since we activated Moel Famau in January Joe GW7KDZ and I had been talking about where we should do next. It was decided we should activate the Horseshoe Pass two, Cyrn-y-Brain NW-043 and Moel y Gamelin NW-042. When Friday 10th February 2006 dawned we couldn’t have dreamed of anything so glorious in February. I waved Helen off to work and took the kids to school and came back and packed the car.
Where was Joe? He’s going to be late I thought as the hands on the clock swept on. My mind was going over and over what I had packed, I was sure I had forgotten something. “Come on Joe!” I thought, “ I wanted to be there by now”.
It was probably no more than thirty minutes later than we had planned when up rolls Joe, as if we had all the time in the world. I was ready but not Joe and after a few false starts and another fifteen minutes we get on the road. “No problem” says Joe, “we have all day”.
About ten miles from home I suddenly realise that I haven’t checked the map. I know the way to the Horseshoe Pass don’t I? “Which way would you go Joe?” I ask. Joe shrugs his shoulders, which isn’t much good when you are driving. I desired to follow my nose.
It turned out my sudden lack of confidence was not warranted and in fact the Horseshoe Pass was exactly where I left it and we drove there without a hitch. I parked the Discovery in the Ponderosa café.
We donned our walking gear and Joe attempted to help me with my rucksack. “What on earth have you got in here?” said Joe. “The usual” I told him as it would take too long to explain, “and a 17 amp hour battery”, what I failed to explain was that the battery was part of one of those ‘portapower’ units and contained an air pump, a charger, jump leads and a torch. It would do until I got a more suitable sealed lead acid battery so long as I could carry it.
We checked for the stile at the back of the Ponderosa but it had still not been replaced, so we headed down the road the way we had just come for a short distance until we came to the gate with a dozen locks on the right hand side and then crossed the stile on to the track. The track starts of gentle at first and gradually gets steeper. In some places it was in good condition but in others it was hard to find part of it that wasn’t a pothole. These potholes were full of rainwater and the water was frozen, so it would have been easy to loose ones footing and both Joe and I had a few near misses. Having a path like this is a mixed blessing. While the trousers and boot remain clean the pounding on the feet and ankles is much worse then walking on the soft stuff.
The true summit is just by the first radio mast but the activation area is large and the trig point is about one kilometre further on. We set up near the radio masts but on the opposite side of the track with the Sandpiper Delta Quad atop of the SOTA pole with the 5mHz dipole just below. I operated 5mHz on Fox Echo with Alistair GW0VMZ being the first to respond to my CQ call. Twelve stations were worked on FE including a very nice summit to summit with John G(M)4YSS/P on Ben Nevis. Joe covered 2m FM and later I tried 70cms FM and SSB but got no takers then we turned the beam and I managed to raise four stations on 2 metres SSB.
We decided there were no more takers and by 12:30 we had dismantled and packed away the station. I donned my rucksack and made a mental note to buy a smaller sealed lead acid battery for next time and we began to retrace our steps. We hadn’t gone very far when the bulge of something in my coat pocket came to my attention, the camera. How is it that I take the digital camera everywhere but always forget to take any photographs? We stopped to take a few. Our decent took longer than it should as we stopped to take more photographs and admire the fabulous views. We had ascended Moel Famau a month earlier in fog and I had commented then to Joe about how often we climb to these lofty perches and how frequently we see little or nothing of the magnificent vistas, today it just seemed wonderful to be alive. There were still patches of snow on the ground and a little icy breeze blowing but the sun felt hot on our faces.
It wasn’t long before Joe’s thoughts were torn away from the views, he had spotted the Ponderosa café and he decided he was hungry. The remainder of the descent were made with a little less attention to the view, but it seemed the closer we got the further away our destination was, hunger can do that sometimes. It didn’t feel like it but we were soon sitting in the Ponderosa tucking into lunch and downing hot drinks. A chap a few tables away was singing hymns to himself, no one seemed bothered and I recognised the words “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hand hath made”, whatever you choose to believe today was one to make the soul sing. I recalled the second verse, “When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees; when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze”, and it’s relevance was obvious.
Time that most damned of man’s inventions marches steadily on and I glanced at my watch, there would be no time to do our second summit as I needed to pick Emily, my youngest up from school at 3pm. There was a look of relief from Joe when I told him; he had been trying to figure out how to tell me I would be doing the second summit on my own, as he needed to be home to look after his disabled mother. We then had a good laugh about it as I pointed out that seeing as he had left his car outside my house he would have had a longer walk than if he had been climbing Moel y Gamelin.
All together it had been a great day and I hoped we would soon be back to activate Moel y Gamelin. One small hiccup occurred and although I was giving out the correct summit I had been telling everyone it was NW-042 when in fact it was NW-043 Note to self, must try harder.