4th June 2009 GW/NW-051 Foel Fenlli
MADARCs go out in the baking sun.
As life passes by at pace and I find my self getting less and less done that I want to do I spend more time running about on errands or sitting around waiting for others and my mood drifts to darker places. Often I find in my darkest moods my most creative and inspirational thoughts, but when the sun shines I can be happy despite whatever life throws at me.
It was Monday 1st June 2009 and the sun was shining so I was in a good but flippant mood and it was during one of those periods running around on an errand for somebody else or at least not one I wanted to do that I was monitoring the seventy-centimetre repeater GB3CR that is located on Hope Mountain GW/NW-062. I had spoken to a quite a few different people that morning and put them right this was the (former*) Clwyd Repeater not the Chester Repeater, that it was between Mold and Wrexham and not on Moel y Parc with the much abused GB3MP. No, there was a much more discerning clientele on here (who am I kidding I use it don’t I) and no the North West Repeater Group have nothing to do with its up keep. After being put in my place that Hope Mountain is actually one and a half miles closer to Wrexham than Mold and after my replying that it was nearer the town of Hope than either Wrexham or Mold someone came on and changed the subject. [* The borders changed it is in Flintshire now]
Dave 2W0PWR is the Secretary of the Mold and District ARC of which I am the Chairman and after a little discussion of the work going on to the club’s new shack/workshop facility he mentioned he was thinking that as he had a day off on Thursday he would do a SOTA activation. “Where are you thinking of?” I asked and when he said Moel Famau GW/NW-044 I suggested that seeing as I was off too I could reciprocate and activate Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051, which is accessed, from the opposite side of the same road. We would discuss it at the Wednesday night meeting in the Mold Rugby Club over a pint of Guinness.
The errand in question had been to get a couple of noises emanating from the Land Rover Discovery that had been spotted by Helen and her brother Phil checked out. There was a squeak from the nearside front and a rumble (that I could not hear) from the offside right. I suggested that the rumble was not as ex-car mechanic Phil thought a wheel bearing but simply the knobbly off road tyres of the concrete road and the squeak just a bit of grit in the brake callipers. One out of two was not bad and the garage agreed with me, but the brake pads on the back would not last too long. I booked it in forall the pads to be done next morning.
I dropped off the Disco at 8am and was told they would phone me when it was ready. At 1pm I had a call from the garage to say the suppliers had sent the wrong pads, but they now had the right ones and it would be ready for 3pm. After collecting the kids from school it was on the mountain bike for a pleasant bike ride down the banks of the river Dee with its inspiring views of the steel works. How I hate our industrial wastelands.
I arrived at the garage to be told they could not work out what was wrong with the car. The brakes were working but the brake pedal would suddenly push back up when you were almost at a stop and you had to stand on it and push with all your might to stop it rolling. They had ordered a sensor for the anti-lock system and would try it next day. Fortunately they gave me a lift back home in a pick up and I threw my bike in the back.
All day next day I waited for news. It was looking more and more like the activation on Thursday was in doubt. Finally a knock on the door at about 4.30pm and the Discovery was back. That was the trigger and all the batteries were put on charge.
Wednesday night confirmed that Dave was still up for it and over a pint we made the massively detailed plans. “I will head there after I drop the kids off,” I said. Okay, see you there” said Dave. Arriving home later I logged on and put up an alert. I was surprised when Dave’s alert said 12:00 UTC but next morning it had changed to an hour before mine.
Next morning after dropping my daughter at school and waiting with for granddaughter to be picked up by her mother I was talking on GB3CR and Dave came on. He was arriving at the car park for Moel Famau. He had the jump on me and would be set up before I had even left home.
A little later I was on the road. There were no real problems just slow drivers and I never got once got to within 10MPH of the speed limit all the way there. Tractor, learner, tractor, man in hat, lorry in wrong gear up the hill, two old women talking, but soon I turned left off the main road and put my foot down on the single track road with the antennas ping ping pinging on the overhead branches. Suddenly I was testing those new brake discs as a coach load of school kids reversed down the lane towards me. They worked!
The coach backed into the bottom car park for Moel Famau and I pressed on for the top car park on the Foel Fenlli side. I gave a little sigh; at least they were going up Dave’s hill not mine I thought.
I parked the Discovery, removed the dual band antenna and the ATAS, and booted up but as I put my rucksack on the dammed coach full of kids pulled in and the hoards of hell emerged to potentially ruin my beautiful peaceful sunny day.
I pushed on up the hill calling Dave from time to time to see if he was set up, but soon I was standing aside to let the ant like procession of school children wend there way shouting, screaming and moaning their way up the path. I swore quietly under my breath as I watched a crisp packet drift away on the breeze. I made contact with Dave and let him know I was on the ascent.
At the halfway mark where you turn left of the winding route and head up towards the summit the school party was having a rest. I smiled at them even though I did not feel like smiling and pressed on to the top. Pressing on through knee-deep heather. “Boy, this has grown over” I thought but I had missed the proper path because the children were sat on it. Eventually I picked up the real path and was soon at the summit. I called Dave and a small group wanted to work me but I told them to wait while I got set up.
I got the FT-857D from the rucksack to find the ‘select knob’ was missing. I hoped it was in the rucksack and not back on Pendle Hill. Unfortunately an intensive search yielded nothing so I guess it is somewhere on the witches hill. Anyone know where I can get a new one?
With the dipole and a 2m J-pole set up I called into Dave on 145.400mHz at 0959z for a S2S and then QSYed down 25kHz to work the waiting chasers. I had intended to do 2m last so after the waiting chasers had been worked I started up on 5mHz getting Frank G3RMD almost immediately. As Frank attempted to get a spot on for me Phil G4OBK called in to say he had already done it. A run of eleven contacts followed including a second S2S from Mike GW0DSP/P on Hope Mountain GW/NW-062.
I did not hang around too long when the calls dried up and pulled the links in the dipole to move to 3.666mHz. As I did this I put out calls on 1297.5 and 70.450. Nothing on 23cms but Graham GW0HUS came back to me on 70mHz for my one and only contact on this band.
80 metres yielded only a few contacts but I did get one ON station in the log and a tip off that Dave GW6DTN/P was further down the band. So I called him for a third S2S from GW/NW-039 Foel Goch.
40 metres started well with DL, ON, and HB9 stations in the log as well as G and GM before the FT-857 shut down because of overheating in the sun. This was somewhat annoying as I still had one 7amp hour battery left unused.
I left the Yaesu to cool down and tried 23cms and 70mHz again but got no replies. I was expecting Mold club member John MW1FGQ to be listening on these frequencies so I resorted to the mobile phone and gave him a ring, but got an engaged tone. I picked up the dual band Kenwood hand held and started calling on 2m FM. First up was Brian G0JCQ operating the RAFARS call sign of G6RAF/A followed by a run of familiar call signs some chasers others not before I was called by Alan GW3NPJ/P on GW/NW-32 Carnedd Y Filias for the forth S2S of the day.
After working Roger MW1IDX/M the calls once again dried up and rather than give another call on S20 I gave John MW1FGQ another call first on 23cms then 70mHz and then on the mobile phone. This time it simply rang and rang. I tried the FT-857 that was now cool again on 10 metres. There were voices up and down the band talking in some language I could not make out but no one was coming back to my CQ calls. I stood up to intending to change over to 20 meters but was called by EA1DKF. As I wrote the time in the log I realised I needed to pack up and get down to pick up the children from school.
At this point the school party passed by heading back off the hill and a pretty, but sour faced, young woman approached and announced, “I am an archaeologist. Do you know what you are doing is illegal?” “How?” I asked. “You can’t drive poles in the ground” she said. “I haven’t driven any poles in the ground they are on the surface” I explained. “Only the tent pegs are in the ground and they are just an inch into the soil at an angle.” “It is still illegal.” she said “You can’t drive anything into the ground it is an Iron Age site”. I tried to explain that my pegs are no further into the surface than a walking pole and that bringing 40 school kids up here throwing litter around did more damage than I would do in a lifetime but to no effect. I said that next time I would find a none-intrusive method of erecting my antenna and inform the SOTA group of the restrictions. I restrained my self from saying what I really thought, that that biggest damage to ancient sites is done by licensed grave robbers and vandals like her. People who ignore the past are fools but those that dwell in the past are bigger fools. As she walked off I hoped I never saw the jumped little Nazi ever again and wished her every misfortune but did not let it ruin my near perfect day.
While taking down the fishing pole I called Dave to let him know what I was doing and found him working Dave GW6DTN/P and so I grabbed GW/NW-039 Foel Goch on 2m FM too. Then packed up and headed down. Total score for the day was 46 contacts from 80m to 2m. Dave 2W0PWR concentrated on 2m and had 27 in his log.
Packing up seemed to take longer than normal and Dave left his summit ages before I did. The quick route down from Foel Fenlli was out of action due to rebuilding of the steps but despite this we arrived back in the car parks simultaneously. After a refreshing bottle of water and a chat with Dave I replaced the antennas on the car and was about to head home when the mobile rang and it was John MW1FGQ. “Too late I am in the car park. You missed me.” I told him. It was a little disappointing to not get John on 23cms and 4 metres as he was an easy line of site, but he had forgotten I was on and left his mobile phone behind after a tea break.
It was an absolutely fabulous day despite my knob falling off, the Nazi protector of dead people, and the St Trinians School day out. Oh and the fact that I carted up the camera only to find I could not take any pictures because the batteries were flat. Luckily the possible sunburn has turned to a nice shade of tan but how long it will last in this typical British weather is anyone’s guess.