Was it a fun day? Oh yes!
I was going to go down to Larriston Fell SS-161 for UHF Fun Day for the reason it would be a unique and it’s nearer to England (part of the AZ in England) so improving the chances of some G 70cms contacts. But seeing there were so few stations going to be up in the northern lakes or Pennines it didn’t seem worth the travel hassle for just 2pts and a unique with no real improvement on the 70cms front. Coupled with knowledge a few GMs would be 70cms capable I decided Hart Fell was a better bet. Not unique but worth 4 pts. Also it’s easy, just follow the ATV track to the summit which great if it’s misty. It and Broad Law/White Coomb are on top of each other and big relative to the other hills in the area. This gives Hart Fell LOS paths to about 60 SOTA summits, 3 of which had 70cms activator alerts published.
I’d made a 6 ele beam for 70cms whose dimensions are based on a popular commercial design and checking on Saturday showed without further tweaks the match was 1.5:1 on 432.200 and 1.3:1 on 433.500 which is probably close enough. I’d not had time to finish a small PA… I knew it worked but haven’t checked the signal on an analyser so I wasn’t going to use it on and be Mr. Splatter! Barefoot from the 817 would have to do for SSB. I had an IC80AD handy for FM in addition.
Sometime back I made an endfed halfwave antenna (EFHW) for 20m along with a matching unit to transform the high impedance of the EFHW to 50ohms. I can only deploy it as a sloper as my SOTA fishing rod is 5m long and a 20m EFHW is of course 10m long. However, I did manage a contact with Jurg HB9BIN from Green Lowther SS-056 last October. Whilst the SOTA pole was up in the garden I cut 5m of wire for an EFHW for 10m and checked it was OK. The match unit could do with a coat of tidying as the residual capacitance is such that I can just resonate on 10m when the capacitor is fully unmeshed. It also matches the same wire on 12m and 15m with no problem. Just what the efficiency is on those bands when the antenna is short is anyone’s guess. It has a nice advantage for SOTA that the antenna is compact and lightweight.
My route up Hart Fell was from Ericstane, a route I’ve done before. It’s a good leg stretch and worth it for the exercise but today’s aim was contacts on 70cms and something interesting on the HF bands in between the big contest stations. WX was not brilliant, the summit was in cloud as I got ready but the forecast was for no rain, possibly some sun and the cloud to lift. I followed my nose up the path and hoped the mist would be gone by the time I got to the top. It lifted when I was about 15mins from the summit and I was mist free all day. Although by the time I got to 700m the wind has a nasty edge to it. It wasn’t a nice spring day by any sense.
At the top I met a bloke, his guide dog and helpers. He’d been completely blind for 17 years and only when you meet someone with no sight and realise they’ve walked up what you’ve been stumbling up do you realise the true enormity of the situation. Him and his dog have done a number of long distance walks in the UK and rasied a bob or two along the way. http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/news/guide-dog-travis-will-go-to-the-ball
I set up the dipole and EFHW first and checked everything was OK. I had no problems matching on 10m and a quick call netted me EB8AH on 28MHz. I then setup the beam for 70cms and remembered to turn the handy onto 145.5MHz. I thought I’d work the regulars on 60m 1st and then try the other bands. Keith G8HXE was FE on so having bagged him he let me put out a CQ call on his frequency announcing I’d be working on FL. I worked a steady stream of chasers on 60m and at the same time managed a quick S2S with Graeme 2M0GIL on SS-095 on 2m FM. After clearing up there I had a listen around on 70cms. Not a lot doing. A check of GB3ANG and it was audible but not brilliant. I wasn’t sure how good it should be but at least my beam had some directional effect. I beamed South and left the rig on 432.200 whilst I had a comfort break. There’d been many walkers and I was waiting for some privacy!
I heard John GM8OTI (Cairnharrow SS-191, 51miles) call so I beamed his way and replied. He was pleased to work someone. He wasn’t strong until he beamed my way. Then we were both 59 on 0.5W. We nattered for a bit hoping to stir up activity but nobody heard us. John was of the opinion conditions were not good. I was surprised he hadn’t worked any in the Merseyside area as the path is entirely over water and unobstructed. My contest group’s site is near SS-191 and we normally have no problems working that way. Still we have a little more than 5W and a 6ele for 70cms I offered John my 3 callsigns so he’d only need 1 more QSO to qualify but John is above such matters as points collecting in a contrived way.
After finishing with John, Roddy 2M0IOB called CQ on 2m (Ben Donich SS-025, 79miles). Easy copy for 0.5W and was louder on 70cms after the QSY. In true “disturb the calm” fashion we stayed on SU20 hoping some other mug in the deserted wastes of 70cms in GM would either be annoyed and tell us to QSY or more likely join in at the novelty of a signal on the band And thus it came to pass… 2M0IOB, MM0FMF, GM4COX & MM0TAI had a 4 way S2S contact. Jack was on Beinn Luibhean SS-027 and Adrian was on Ben Chonzie SS-015 (76miles). I had to get Jack to drop down to 433.475 as more people were now calling. Adrian was by far the loudest signal though.
I was rather pleased having worked 4x S2S on 70cms which is not a regular occurence in these parts. So it was time for a play on the higher HF bands. I called CQ on 24.897 for a long time for no benefit. Phone reception was iffy… I could get a connection for a few seconds and then it would go so I didn’t spot myself. Daunted by the failure to work some juicy DX I had a tune about, the contest was in full force but the CW end of 15m was deathly quiet. I only had to call CQ SOTA on the key about 4 times before I heard a weak but workable reply sent at my kind of speed, slow! I almost choked on my mint when I pulled KD4UGL out of the noise. 339/439 reports exchanged I was so excited I made a right hash of what he sent. But I sent name and power and a quick description of the setup. I was impressed by at least a one-way QRP contact. I don’t know what power he was running but he was fading up to 559 by the end of the contact.
Unfortunately, I was fading out as nearly 3 hours in the cold wind was probably too long. I’d already dismantled the 70cms beam in between calling on 12m and 15m so that was one job less. I flipped the antenna back to 60m for a quick check before closing down and bagged Barry GM4TOE/p on ES-024. After that it was pack everything away as quick as I could so I could start walking and warm up my feet. Surveying the ground I realised my carrymat was by the fence. Unpack bag, repack bag. I set off an went at a fair lick to warm up. So fast that it only took 1hr10 to get to the car by which time the sky was clearing and the sun was out. It must have been a good 10C warmer at the car in the sun out of the wind. Why wasn’t it like this on the summit?
Some facts and figures:
ODX: KD4UGL 5660kms or 1258km/watt
60m: 4x S2S, G8HXE,G4RQJ,GM4COX,GM4TOE
2m: 2x S2S, 2M0GIL, 2M0IOB
70cms: 4x S2S, GM8OTI, 2M0IOB, MM0TAI, GM4COX
Total walked: 11.5km, total ascent: 658m, total driven: 130miles
The EFHW match unit consists a 3 turn primary using some thin PVC hookup wire and a 24 turn secondary of 0.45mm ECW on a T68-6 core. An unknown value polyvaricon tuning capacitor is in parallel with the secondary. The feed is via a coax input from the TX and a pair of 4mm terminals are used to connect the radiating element (1/2 wave on band of choosing) and a counterpoise of 0.05wave. Further details on AA5TB’s EFHW webpage.
There’s a picture of its guts on my website.