I made myself unavailable for supply teaching so as to be able to spend my birthday on the hills. Mind you, if a gig had come in, I would have found that irresistible - but it didn’t. I'd tried to get to bed at a decent hour on the Wednesday night, but all to no avail, and I still hadn’t nodded off after 2am. I realised that my 5am alarm setting was now moving into the “stupidity” category, and reset it for 7am. When I awoke with the alarm, I was initially assuming my plans would have to change. Marianne had booked a local restaurant for 6.30pm that evening, so a daytrip to Greater Oswestry would surely not be viable - or would it?
I did a bit of a schedule calculation in my head and realised it was still on, if I didn’t muck about. Only thing was, I was now in the prime morning rush hour time bracket. However, the M56 was pretty clear all the way, and I was in the car park at Tan-y-Pistyll before 10am. A lady came out from the cafe to collect my parking money of £4. I could have parked for free a few hundred yards before the cafe, but I was happy to cough up for ultimate convenience. Since my last visit (excuse the pun), there is now a prison-style high metal railings enclosure completely around the toilet block, complete with turnstiles requiring 20p to activate. The mathematician in me started calculating how many 20p’s would be required to recoup the cost of the railings, less the reduced vandalism savings. Then I had a word with myself, grabbed my pack and poles, and made a start!
I started by ascending to near the top of the waterfall, then joining the wider track that comes up from the valley. Shortly after this, a surprisingly faint and narrow path leads off uphill on the grass. I knew the route though, having been this way a few times before. I had forgotten how many false summits there were though, and kept anticipating the route to level off on the ridge - only to be frustrated! I wasn’t carrying a map - perhaps if I was, I wouldn’t have kept suffering from these false expectations!
As I started to climb up Moel Sych, I surveyed the spur of the land off to the right for a possible descent route. I always enjoy the long path along the side of the valley back to the cafe, but not so much getting across to it, curling around above Llyn Lluncaws. The main path here goes far too close to a high edge with sheer deep drops for my liking, forcing me to walk on the long grass a few yards to the side, which isn’t so great underfoot. Anyway the summit quickly got closer from here, and I was soon selecting my spot for setting up, right on the actual true summit. This was quite rare for me to set up here - normally, it has been too windy at this spot, or I was overnight wild camping, but today it was perfectly still, and I was only daytripping.
I set myself an approximate 1.30pm deadline for packing away, bearing in mind that evening’s restaurant booking. I’d made it to the summit by 1pm, so I had enough time, albeit not “plenty”. This being a selfish birthday activation, I just went for my current favourite working conditions. On 20m FT8, I made five QSOs, at least three of whom were known chasers responding to the self-spot on SOTAwatch. There were a few others who called as well, but from who I didn’t RX anything further after calling them - so they were NIL. Operating on FT8 was pretty cool as it allowed simultaneous consumption of soup, which for today was a new one from Baxters - Fiery Fish Bisque. Very nice too. It was on special multibuy offer at Waitrose in Sandbach, so there was more bought in ready for the following week’s trip to Snowdonia with Jimmy M0HGY.
Before packing up, I called out on 2m C4FM (Fusion), and worked Gary M0XGS in Westhoughton (near Bolton). Despite a self-spot on SOTAwatch, and a note on the North West Fusion Facebook Group, there were no more takers, so I quickly tidied up and commenced my descent. I managed to get myself through the section above Llyn Lluncaws that I never look forward to, and onto the lovely path along the glacial valley that I always do! I reached the car at 3.15pm - brilliant, all on schedule to be home in plenty of time for a shower before going out for dinner.
Unfortunately, someone had had a big smash on the M56 just before the M6 interchange causing a one hour delay. I got past that and was about to exit at Lymm, just 30 minutes from home, when two coppers waved me to the left, forcing me onto the M6 North. Disaster! This meant going up over the Thelwall Viaduct to J21 and turning back there - and both sides were badly congested - another hour lost! Ultimately, I had to just go straight to the restaurant and meet the family there. I was glad I’d taken a change of clothes with me and had changed at the Tan-y-Pistyll car park after my walk! The shower would have to wait until I got home after dinner though.