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Monday, March 2, 2015

1-MW plus 4-WB, A good day on the hills

An early start found me at the parking spot below Corndon Hill (GW/MW-013) on a cold, frosty Friday morning at the beginning of a long planned for day. Corndon Hill is traditionally the start of the activations of the five 2 point hills in the Welsh borders area. This was the first time I had them all free in the same year and the first opportunity to do them without other distractions.

Corndon HillCorndon Hill is a relatively easy hill to activate. From the parking at SO301975 a track takes you directly south to where after around 460m you arrive a gate at the bottom of the steep straight climb to the summit cairn, trig-point and convenient bench. Even though it was a bright morning the wind was bitterly cold and anyone who has done Corndon will know it is exposed and almost always windy up there. I quickly set up my antenna and radio kit and was ready to start the challenge.

The climb

Corndon hill summitMy usual MO is to operate on two bands (one for close-in, the other for potential DX) but because I was going to be very restricted on time I opted to only do 17m for the first few summits. Within half an hour I had 32 contacts logged including a nice surprise contact with Ernie (VK3DET) completed this time without QRM. A few photographs later, the kit was packed away and after the fast decent to the car I was on my way to the Stiperstones (G/WB-003).
Parking for Stiperstones is at SO369977. The lower part of the track to the summit is on a grassy gradient which soon gives way to a very uneven wide rocky path.

Start of the trail to Stiperstones

Upper pathThe summit of Stiperstones is dominated by a rocky outcrop called Manstone Rock which has a trig point perched upon it. My antenna was set up in the shadow of the rock which was out of the wind that was still very cold. For some reason my phone refused to see a 3G signal, so no internet access and I was even unable to make a phone call. A text got through to Helen which got me a spot and I was soon settled into contacts. I would usually find my phone temperamental on Long Mynd not here. So first problem averted: I could have got my 4 contacts without a spot as there were a few stations calling CQ but that really doesn’t help the chasers. I had just finished with a S2S with Bojan (S56LXN) when my 10m pole collapsed. Now, if you have activated a number of times you will have a pole collapse or fall over at some point. Often no damage will occur, but today of all days my luck was out and it was broken and I didn’t think I would recover from this disaster. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t locked off one of the sections sufficiently or it was one of those things but one of the middle sections dropped down with so much force that it not only damaged the threaded section at the bottom of the pole but had forced the top two sections together so tightly I could not separate them and somehow the top eyelet had broken. I quickly bodged the pole back together to finish the activation, worried that it would fail again, and thought my day was over.
After I finished the activation and was back at the car, a better look at the pole allowed me to see that I might be able to work around the problem. I taped the bottom threaded section to stop the poles falling out and worked out a way I could attached the end of my vertical wire to the top without it becoming detached but the two top sections were fixed solid so they would have to remain sticking out as I walked. As Long Mynd was on the way home, I thought I would stop off there knowing it was an easy walk to see if I could cope with the new arrangement.
Long Mynd (G/WB-005) is a drive-on summit with parking in the activation zone but I always walk over to highest point by the trig point. From the small parking spot at SO414939 there is a new hard-core path directly to the summit where there is a flat grassy area to setup; mindful of not being in the way of all the other visitors. The summit was very busy with walkers (with and without dogs) and mountain bikes and it seemed most of them wanted to chat and find out what I was up to. This was a very quick activation with 26 contacts in around 20 minutes including a good QSO into Puerto Rico (WP4PHY). The temporary pole repair was good enough so I decided to continue on to the last two hills; they were on the way home anyway.

The new "road" to Long Mynd

Corndon hill and Stiperstones in the background

Long Mynd summitTo activate Brown Clee Hill (G/WB-002) I would normally go from the NE side and ascend via the steep transmitter road but for this trip it is more convenient to go from the west side parking at SO585868 where there is just enough room for one car.

Brown Clee parkingThe farmer’s track heads SE, with a reasonable gradient, for around 900m until it reaches a gate. Don’t go through it but stay on the left hand side of the fence and climb the hill until you reach another new gate that leads you on to the very boggy final approach to the summit itself.

Bog hoppingI set up in my usual sheltered spot on the bump just a few metres south of the topograph (which replaced the now destroyed trig-point, why did they do that?). The weather was starting to close in a little with drizzle in the air but I was determined by this point to finish my day with all five activated. The activation started at 14:15 with a summit to summit with M6UGX on Binsey (G/LD-041) on 40m and finished at 14:40 with a number of US W contacts on 17m. An uneventful walk off got me back to the car with the promised cloud building up from the West.

Brown Clee summitThe final activation was at Titterstone Clee Hill (G/WB-004) a summit I know very well and one of the closest to home. Parking is at the head of the quarry at SO592775 from which I normally take the short sharp climb to the summit from SO590776.

The route up from the parking

Looking back over the disused quarryA path is now becoming very obvious because more people are using this route. I started on 17m but the band by this time was beginning to close. I still managed to get 5 contacts in the USA out of 20. On to 40m to finish and another 21 contacts were made with the skip starting to go long and the band getting noisy.

Titterstone Clee summit. looking back towards Brown Clee HillI was pleased I managed to get these 5 summits in a day and during winter bonus too. It’s a tiring day mostly because of the driving between the hills, none of them on their own are particularly difficult. I felt a little bit selfish having to rush off each hill so apologies to anyone I missed. Thanks to everyone that did get a chance to chase me.
Yaesu FT-817
HF Packer Amplifier @ 35W
5/8 wave vertical for 17m, ¼ wave vertical for 40m
11.1V 5000mAh Li-Po batteries

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