NPOTA Entity: N/A
SOTA summit: Fan Fawr GW/SW-005 (6 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, SSB (voice)
Furthest QSO: ~1,250 miles with OH3GZ in Finland
Hike in: Yes, 2.2 miles r/t and 800 ft of ascent. Start from Storey Arms parking area.
Solo operation: Yes
O2 Coverage: Excellent
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016
Maps are fun. Ever since being a kid I’ve loved to look at maps and day dream about traveling far and wide. So it should be no surprise that I am a sucker for maps when in a bookstore or even perusing unnecessary purchases on Amazon.
On a prior trip to the UK, long before my involvement in SOTA, I popped into Waterstones, found a guidebook and a map covering the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. Being close to where my brother lives I figured that one day I would hike this attractive part of Wales. Years go by with these two items sitting on a shelf beckoning to be used and now their time has come.
Back in July I received some great suggestions on the SOTA Reflector on possible peaks to activate when visiting the Welsh Border area and so finally I had a chance to put my prior purchases to good use. They’ve proved to be invaluable resources for me to determine the big picture of what trails may exist to SOTA peaks, roughly how far apart the trail heads are, where to park etc. While much of this can be more obvious/easier for locals, when you are six thousand miles from home, any and all info can be reassuring as one is a bit of a fish out of water.
Armed with this information and the optimism of the voice deep from within the Storey Arms Refreshment vehicle I’m off and toward my second Welsh peak of the day. There’s a faint animal use trail but I’m essentially walking the first part of this journey across more soggy grass gaining altitude with each step. At places a trail or the washed out remnants of one, appear and I step carefully on what is available. In contrast to Pen Y Fan this is a very empty mountain; no sheep, no horses, no cows and definitely no people. After a mile and a forty five minute walk I’ve arrived at my destination. The clouds have lifted somewhat and fortunately this peak has a view. Its sleetless, windless; things are looking up.
Unlike Pen Y Fan I’ve arrived at a cell phone vortex that provides voice, text and data on steroids. Station deployed, spotted instantly via my favorite app SOTAGoat I’m off to the races and I manage to nab 20 contacts in 20 minutes. Having really only interacted with US Ham stations its exciting to be exposed to so many diverse stations from across Europe. I’m still fine tuning accurate and quick auditory decode of a non US call sign (i.e PA7ZEE, EA2DZX, OH3GZ etc) which is essential as propagation fades and you may only get a few seconds to log a station which sometimes precludes any back and forth to fully verify a call sign.
I ordered another cup of tea to celebrate my second activation of the day. She asked how I liked my Welsh cakes and I replied “very much”. I shared the news of my very recent mountain conquest but I’m not sure she is that impressed. Her Welsh sing song voice is quite melodic and I enjoy listening to it. She shares that she has a sister in Utah, whom she visited and enjoyed the experience. We chat about the US and why I’ve come to this remote corner of Wales.
“Why else but to enjoy Welsh cakes” I respond.