Snowdon & Y Lliwedd

Previous

GW/NW-001 & GW/NW-008- Snowdon Horseshoe

Planning started for the Snowdon horseshoe route a while before we left.  A winter ascent of the highest mountain in Wales is not to be taken lightly and with the added weight and time required for a SOTA activation then preparation would be crucial.

We had decided to try and complete the classic Snowden horseshoe walk, starting at the Pen-Y-Pass car park, up via the Pyg Track and possibly Crib Goch ridge, onto the top end of the Llanberis path up to Snowdon summit for lunch and the first activation.  From Snowdon descending to the South West and then up to the summit of Y Lliwedd for our second activation before finally descending back to the lakes and returning via the Miners Path to Pen-Y-Pass car park.

Weather would be crucial to the planning.  Monitoring the MWIS weather reports in the days before seemed to indicate that the weather gods would be kind to us but the winds may be a bit high.  Another good source of information is the from the Snowdon wardens reports giving a good indication of conditions on the higher slopes.

What kit we would carry was another major consideration.  Safety has to come first of course but with the addition of the radio equipment on top of full winter kit it was not going to be a lightweight expedition.  We had to carry ice axes and crampons each, that much was obvious.  Because we were going into less well travelled parts we decided to carry a climbing rope, a decision which turned out to be a good one, see later.  Due to the expected length of the day we needed torches and spare batteries plus lunch and enough fluids for the day plus the usual spare maps and clothing.  All in all a fairly hefty pack, all up weight about thirty Lbs.

Due to the distance we needed to travel and the time we expected to be out on the hill it was clear we couldn’t manage it in a day so we booked a hotel in Bets-Y-Coed for the night before.

 

 

 

 

 The Pont Y Pair inn is reasonably priced, we paid £62 for two of us including breakfast.  The staff are friendly and helpful and they have a reasonable restaurant for an evening meal when you arrive.

A final check of the weather forecast the night before showed that wind was definitely going to be an issue, Crib Goch was off the list.

Arriving at the car park just after 8:30am it was already fairly full. By the time we had kitted up and were leaving the car park there were no places left.  Even with the adverse weather forecast it was as popular as ever.  Note also it is not cheap, we paid £10.00 for an all day ticket.

The wind in the car park was very gusty which confirmed our decision to skip Crib Goch.  As the wind was from the West we would be in the lee of the mountain most of the way up so we decided to defer a decision on completing the full horseshoe route until we reached the Llanberis path when we would feel the full force of the weather as it was.  There was a sign up in the car park quoting weather conditions of up to 60mph winds on top!

The view down towards Llyn Peris

The path up towards Crib Goch was busy as usual with a good mix of tourists and one of two, more seriously equipped walkers.  As we gained altitude and moved further into the lee of the mountain the wind dropped steadily and the walking became very pleasant.

Reaching the junction with the Crib Goch path we paused to a moment to enjoy the views and wait for the queue to subside at the stile.

Crib Goch path

Continuing along the Pyg Track, slowly gaining height, the walking was good and the snow cover was slowly increasing.  At about 800m there was more snow than rock on the path so we stopped and put on the crampons although there were still plenty of people passing in wholly inadequate footwear and some in normal street clothing.

Pyg Track at about 800m

Reaching the Llanberis path we were pleasantly surprised at the weather.  It was certainly windy but nothing like the promised 50-60mph gusts we were expecting.  Perhaps gusting to 30mph max. with fairly calm conditions between the gusts.

Stood on the top of Snowden

Reaching the summit, it was the usual queue to get onto the small summit cairn. Visibility was very poor at the top as we were now into the clouds.  We had been looking out for the top all the way up but it had persistently stayed in the clouds all day and was in fact to remain in the clouds until after dark.  The photo here shows how misty it was, this was taken stood at the base of the cairn, perhaps ten or twelve feet away.

I had already started to hear people on the radio before we reached the summit so rather than setting up the aerial amongst the crowds I put out a call of “CQ SOTA” and almost immediately heard Vicky mw6bwa also calling cq sota from the summit of GW/NW-075.  We quickly made a S2S contact followed by a second on 70cms.  It didn’t take me very long to gain the other three contacts required for a successful activation.

Snowdon Log

Stood at the summit, although the day was remarkably warm for the time of year,  it was fairly cold in the wind.  One of the tourists took pity on Peter who was stood waiting and tried to feed him a hard boiled egg!  Once I had the activation we made our way down to the summit station and found some shelter beneath the wall there to take lunch al fresco.

Y Lliwedd from Snowdon

The wind on the way up the Llanberis path had not been as bad as expected so after a quick chat we decided to press on and complete the horseshoe as planned.  Leaving the summit station via the Watkins path the route is very obvious but to complete the horseshoe you need to turn left off the main path a couple of hundred metres below the station.  This is a fairly steep and rocky path down into Bwlch y Saethau.  I have been down there a few times now and never yet found a good clear route, it was no different this time.  Looking at our track log clearly we found the start of the path but soon lost it and ended up clambering down over rocks until we could pick it up again lower down.  All great fun.

We took second lunch in the Bwlch keeping a wary eye out for sleeping soldiers.  There was a lone walker there when we arrived but he soon left muttering something about needing a new table.

From the Bwlch the ascent of Y Lliwedd looks intimidating but as always, as you get higher a route invariably appears.  There are two peaks with the West peak being slightly higher at 898 metres whilst the East peak is a mere 893 metres.  Due to some confusion in reading the map we chose the East peak to operate from but no matter as it was still well within the activation zone.  I soon made the four contacts needed, again just using the Ngoya antenna on top of the Kenwood.  At this point I started to regret carrying the weight of the batteries and amplifier.

Y Lliwedd Log

Looking down from Y Lliwedd towards Llyn Llydaw

As we left the summit it was starting to get dark.  It had taken us a bit longer than we had hoped for but we had torches and had always expected to finish the last section in the dark.  By this time both of us were out of water and so were keen to get back to the car where we had fresh provisions.

Once we got down to the levels at around 700m we managed to miss the steep path down to the lakes and spent a bit of time wandering around before we managed to locate it.  What is a fairly straightforward descent in the daylight became a bit of a navigational challenge in the dark.  We lost the path repeatedly and ended up roping down over a steep rock slab that was covered in verglas.  Thankfully we had brought the rope or we would have had to climb back up from that point.  Roping up cost us a lot of time and underlined the need to carry the proper equipment and to know how to use it when out in the hills in winter.

The final section was arduous but uneventful.  By this time we had been out eleven hours, the feet were hurting and the back aching from carrying the weight, but the final path down the Minors Track is very easy even in the dark.  We were certainly glad to reach the car park even though we still had a five hour drive ahead of us to reach home.

Journey Details

Date – 30th December 2017

Postcode – LL55 4NY

Parking – SH 647 556

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74

Antenna – Nagoya NA771

Band – 144 FM & 70cm FM

Contacts – 4 (+1) + 5

SOTA points – 10 (+3) + 8 (+3) (winter bonus points)

Group – Myself & Peter

Walking Route Summary

Next

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mynydd Llangorse and Mynydd Troed

Previous

GW/SW-009 & GW/SW-015- Brocken spectre

Another early start aiming to collect two of the lower summits today but with the winter bonus on each they should be worth 12 points between them.

The weather forecast was a bit mixed, it would be warm at least.  The sky was overcast until after I crossed the bridge into Wales whereupon it started to clear as the sun rose.

Parking at the col

Approaching the parking spot (SO 160 283) from the A479, as noted by others, there is a gate across the road halfway up the Cwm Sorgwm valley.  It is shown on the 1:50000 maps but not on the 1:25000.

 

Mynydd Troed

Mynydd Troed from the car park (taken later in the day)

The climb up Mynydd Troed starts easily enough, the path is very muddy and slippery until you get beyond the range of the dog walkers.  Once you get nearer the top it gets very steep.  There are steps cut into the mud but in wetter weather these are better ignored.  Once you get up to about 530m there is a much easier path which winds it’s way up to the summit plateau.

Obligatory Mynydd Troed trig point photo

Having been in cloud for most of the climb, the summit was similarly shrouded. I set up the station next to the trig point and soon made xxx contacts on 2m FM.

Slowly the clouds dropped into the valley and the summits cleared. I was rewarded with one of those moments that make all the hard work worth it. Stood on the top I thought I would put in a call via GB3TD my local repeater back in Swindon.  

The brocken spectre

I immediately picked up Richard, G4MUF, and whilst discussing the unusual weather he reminded me of a phenomenon called a brocken spectre which is where your shadow onto the top of the cloud shows a coloured halo.  This is my photo showing it.  It’s a bit weak as by this time I had missed the best of the sunlight, it did look more obvious in real life.

The return back to tha car park is straightforward.  The climb back down the steep turf was not a problem so long as a little care is taken.

 

Mynydd Troed Route

Mynydd Troed Log

Mynydd Llangorse

Wild horses on the plateau

Back at the car park for an early lunch and then off up the southerly path to the top of Mynydd Llangorse.  This is a very clear and easy route with no dramas on the way.  The cloud had settled once again so not much of a view. Once at the top of the main climb it is a short walk along the level ridge to reach the high point at 515m.

The cairn

Anywhere along the ridge is in the activation zone but near the highest point there is a large cairn which gives an extra metre of height for the aerial.  There is a trig point further along but as this is at a lower height I didn’t go that far.

Compared to the earlier summit this one was clearly more of a challenge to get a signal out.  I only manged to make five contacts and most of these reported a poor signal.

The path back down is straightforward.

Mynydd Llangorse Route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mynydd Llangorse Log

Journey Details

Date – 23rd December 2017

Postcode – LD3 7UL

Parking – SO 160 283

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 11 + 5

SOTA points – 4 (+3) + 2 (+3) (winter bonus points)

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

Next

 

Fan Fawr & Pen Y Fan 2017

Previous

GW/SW-005 & GW/SW-001- Another double

Above the Pen Y Fan car park

Another early start to arrive at the Storey Arms car park just after 9am.  Weather was forecast to start overcast but clearing later in the day.  Stood in the car park the cloudbase was at about 500m so no sign of the tops.  Planning to do both Fan Fawr & Pen Y Fan meant that I would be passing the car again between the two summits.  To save a bit of weight I decided to leave my lunch in the car!  Walking up to the Storey Arms then I set off up the fabled path to Fan Fawr, which if you’ve not been there before lasts for about ten metres.  Followed the old boundary wall marked on the map to the end, by which time the car park was lost in the mist.  It was going to be another compass challenge!  I decided this time I would aim off to the South towards the Bryn Du plateau then from there head South West to the main summit.

Navigation Techniques 1 – Aiming Off

Aiming off is a technique where you deliberately aim to miss your target by a given amount to one side or the other.  The angle you aim off by needs to be greater then the anticipated error in your navigation.  The technique relies on what is called a catching feature along your planned path which is a prominent line feature roughly at right angles to your course.  Once you reach the catching feature you know where you are plus or minus your expected error but the important thing is you can be confident which direction to turn along the line feature to reach your desired target.  In this case my catching feature was the main slope of Fan Fawr, fairly obvious once the ground starts to rise sharply even in the poor visability. My target was the path up the nose of the slope.  The reason I aimed South was that to the North is a fairly large flattish area without any obvious distinguishing features visible in the low cloud so no catching feature there.

Navigation Techniques 2 – Aspect of slope

Once I reached the main slope I could be fairly confident that I needed to turn right and head North until I found the path up, but it would be nice to have a better idea of just how far to the South of the path I was.  To check this I used a technique called aspect of slope.  This technique works best when you are on a slope that curves away or towards you.  In the case of Fan Fawr the approach I was on is the end of a prominent ridge so has slopes on three sides. A perfect example.  By taking a bearing directly up the slope from where you are stood you can transfer this to the map and find the point where the bearing is at right angles to the slope contour lines.  This will give you your position on the curve.  My bearing of 305 degrees put me on the straight bit of slope to the South of the main curve of the nose.  Turning right and heading North across the slope I soon found the main path up to the summit.

Fan Fawr

Once on the path it is an easy trek up to the summit cairn.  Anywhere along the top is within the activation zone, I chose a spot just past the cairn and set up my station.  I quickly made the required four contacts and continued until the pile up was cleared to complete eighteen contacts.

Fan Fawr Summit Cairn

The return to the car park is straightforward.  Follow the path back down the main slope and then once this disappears use your compass. Once you get closer the noise from the road is a giveaway.  The road is of course a marvellous catching feature so if not sure you can just aim off until you reach the road.

Fan Fawr Log

Pen Y Fan

Back at the car park and a quick lunch.  By this time the car park was as usual absolutely full, with cars cruising up and down looking at me hopefully in case I was about to leave.  The path up to Pen Y Fan was busy on the lower sections but more tolerable as I neared the saddle.  As usual, I took the detour via Corn Du summit, although there was nothing to see beyond a few tens of yards due to the thick cloud still sitting on the tops.  Crossing over to Pen Y Fan summit, there was, as there often is, a group activity of some sort so the main path was full of runners with numbers attached passing to and from the summit.

At the summit itself they had a checkpoint operating and I could hear the unmistakable crackle of radios, hopefully my station wouldn’t interfere with them.  I set up a reasonable distance away and soon made twelve contacts.

The summit was busy as usual and I was approached by a couple of people interested in what I was doing so I took some time to explain what SOTA was all about before packing away and heading back to the car.

Pen Y Fan Log

Journey Details

Date – 2nd December 2017

Postcode – LD3 8NL

Parking – SN 987 199

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA on 2m

Antenna – 2 ele dipole

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 18 + 12

SOTA points – 3 + 3 winter bonus points

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

Next