NPOTA Entity: N/A
SOTA summit: Pen Y Fan GW/SW-001 (8 points)
Activation Date: Sept 21, 2016
Portable operation: Yes
Radio: Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts
Antenna: LNR Trail Friendly end fed 40-10m
Bands used: 20m and 40m
Furthest QSO: ~1,250 miles with OH3GZ in Finland
Hike in: Yes, 4.5 miles r/t and 1,500 ft ascent. Park at either Storey Arms parking or south end of Taff Trail area
Solo operation: Yes
O2 Coverage: Terrible
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016
I’ve been here before but nothing looks familiar. Maybe too much has happened in the last eight years and sparse memory cells have been recycled for something else. The mist that shrouds Pen Y Fan is the final blow to familiarity.
I walk by a group of hikers waiting for a mobile cafe to open. We exchange glances and the difference in hiking attire probably adds to our mutual curiosity. I leave the pavement, cross a threshold onto the moors and head along a trail that is easy to follow, it heads straight up the mountain, no switchbacks, just a straight shot up all the way up. I greet a horse that seems transfixed to the soggy grass land but he doesn’t answer back.
I reach a point just below the summit of Corn Du and am suddenly pounded by wind and drizzle rushing up from the east side. Rain gear on I scramble further up and over Corn Du developing a healthy respect for this weather. Slipping is easy and visibility is only a few feet. I follow the trail and eventually reach Pen Y Fan’s summit. No view, just windy and very damp. A perfect British late summer’s day!!
Pen Y Fan has some very steep drop offs and I carefully skirt the edge of the peak groping through the mist looking for a usable cell signal. Not much and I settle into where I think I might turn an intermittently bad signal into something usable. My location is off the main trail and despite the unpleasant weather my choice is good as I have a constant stream of fellow hikers drifting past. Some dressed in what appear to be North Atlantic whaling outfits, others in military gear and a few brave souls in shorts. Couples, large groups, singles, old, young, fit, not so fit all parade by only to realize they have finally conquered the peak. Some want to ask what I’m doing but its wet and this hooded figure, staring toward the ground and talking into his hand probably deters the curious.
Without being able to self spot and having failed in my attempts to get any takers to my CQs, I’m consigned to scanning the bands for stronger stations. It all seems quite a practical approach until I realize almost an hour has passed and I have only managed to nab one station. Things are looking a little bleak in radio land and match the climate on this summit. The cell phone gods take pity, obviously recognizing the penance I have done as I am finally rewarded with a usable cell signal. 15 minutes and 15 contacts later from what I presume are all across Europe, the damp, cold and windy environment has finally gotten to me and I pack up and head off the peak.
A group of teenage girls pursing a Duke of Edinburgh award want mapping guidance and fortunately a more knowledge person than I provide it and send these adventurous souls safely toward their chosen destination. I chat with a couple of Canadian travelers who I had wrongly accused of being Americans then only to realize I’m heading down but not down along the trail I intended. Its not a big issue as I’m heading back to Storey Arms which is near to my car but it reminds me how easy it is to get disoriented on a misty peak even with a very readable GPS in my hand.
I pass a cow on the way down who’s clearly spoken to my horse. She is equally transfixed to the soggy grass and equally unresponsive to my greeting. I wish her well and remind her of the perils of ending up on someone’s dinner plate.
I ask if they are like a squashed English scone and the voice from deep within Storey Arms Refreshments vehicle says “no, they are Welsh Cakes”. I momentarily feel like a cultural barbarian having not recognized the obvious. I ask her about a trail to Fan Fawr. “No real trail beyond possibly an animal trail” is the answer followed by an assurance its quite manageable and I should reach the summit. What if I don’t, will she come rescue me? I eat two of my Welsh Cakes and drink a distinctly strong cup of tea.
I’m ready, I’m going to tackle Fan Fawr.