NPOTA Entity: N/A
SOTA summit: Fan Brycheiniog GW/SW-003 (8 points)
Activation Date: Sept 22, 2016
Portable operation: Yes
Radio: Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts
Antenna: LNR Trail Friendly end fed 40-10m
Bands used: 20m and 40m operating SSB (voice)
Furthest QSO: ~3,200 miles with W1OW in Mass, USA
Hike in: Yes, ~7.5 miles r/t and 1,700 ft of ascent
Solo operation: Yes
O2 Coverage: Excellent
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016
Gipsey Kings fills my car. I’m only two days on from Barcelona but my head hasn’t quite made a hundred percent transition. The upbeat music seems to work with the sun drenched Welsh country side. I feel good. I feel alive.
I’m accosted by a gnome with a book. Maybe I have to pay him to park or maybe he wants to share his Dillon Thomas style poetry. I avoid eye contact and keep moving. It works.
The Beacons Way wiggles over a wooden bridge, along stone walls, through a gate, another gate and then starts out on a long journey that parallels a unique geologic uplift that created a sheer face. The ground is wet and muddy.
Some are pink, some are turquoise and others electric blue. They stare as a team and then suddenly bolt on cue with olympic precision. I wonder if they recognize that someone has spray painted their brethren or are they oblivious to the obvious? Maybe sheep are discrete and don’t mention the color somewhat as our mum’s did when Mavis had a purple wash. Just pretend it hasn’t happened. The truth is that this fashion statement is a farmers attempt to thwart modern day sheep rustlers.
Passing numerous flocks of multi-colored sheep, I’m slowly making progress toward the lake. The trail is transformed from trodden grass to carefully laid and crafted boulders that are a stairway up. Someone has invested heavily here especially in the steeper parts to ensure the traveler is helped toward the next vista point.
Its always a crap shoot on HF but today the favorable blue skies seem to extend up into the atmosphere and yield 25 contacts. Poland, Finland, Switzerland, Slovenia, Spain and to my pleasant surprise a trans atlantic contact with Bill, W1ow in Massachusetts , USA a full 3,200 miles away.
I chat with a Slovak women who wants to know what I’m up to. She is part of a group of four walking the full ninety five miles of the Beacons Way over consecutive days. One and then two and then four Welshmen in a group stop by. Antenna and mast are stowed in my pack but I fess up to what I have been doing on one of many peaks. They are quite interested and I explain SOTA and in return learn more about the Beacons Way. They are doing the ninety five miles bit by bit as day hikes as the weather and their schedules permit.
The ground is wet with water sitting just above the grass. Its nothing different than grass I walked over earlier in the day. Its quite surreal but my left leg disappears up to my knee. In a moment of shock I feel the pain in my knee as it pivots unnaturally forward from my body’s momentum only to be arrested by my poles. I stand in a state of shock half consumed by the earth having discovered a sink hole. I compose myself and eventually extract my missing leg. Maybe its the adrenaline but something has made me light headed. I’m worried I’ve messed up the knee I partially destroyed a few years earlier in Yosemite. I can walk, it doesn’t hurt as I go and that is a good sign. I cover the remaining mile and a half to the car looking at every watery area with deep suspicion expecting the unexpected to happen again. Between the watery mist on Pen Y Fan that could have you stepping off the edge and into thin air and now subterranean caverns created by waters flow, I’m beginning to see water in a different light.
The gnome with the book is still there and I bid him farewell as I drive off.
I hobble into my brothers house realizing I’m not heading out on a planned hike in the Black Mountains the next day.