G4YSS: Activation of GD2 Slieau Freoaghane, 09-09-18
GD/GD-002 SLIEAU FREOAGHANE, 09-Sept-18 on 160m-80m-40m-20m CW/SSB QRO
2m & 70cm FM QRP
All times BST (UTC + 1). UTC for radio operations (denoted ‘z’)
Unaccompanied from B10 road and up Sartfell Plantation Track
G4YSS using GT0OOO/P
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier (80 thru 10) with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20
Loading Coils for 160m at the 40m breaks
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po battery (100% depleted)
One Turnigy 11.1V, 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery (100% depleted)
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H with 1.3 Ah integral battery for 4m-FM
Extended set-top helical for 4m-FM QRP
2m Band Vertical J-Pole. (Also used for 70cm)
Reserve Rig: Baofeng UV-3R, 2W, 2m/ 70cm H/H (not used)
Pack-weight: 9.7kg approx
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player (not used)
DAB Cube (poor signal)
GD2 was the second GD activation based at the Arrandale Hotel (£38 B&B pppn. Ev’g meal £13). After a poor start, the weather was forecast to improve around noon. The start point is approximately 25 minutes from Douglas.
On arrival at the start point on the B10 road (SC 3418 8660) I encountered low-cloud and drizzly rain, bourne on a brisk SW wind. Not only that, the road was just about to be closed for the IOM End to End bike race, a closure which was to last two hours. The track up the west side of Sartfell Plantation, my access to GD2, was on the competitors route and they would be coming down it shortly at breakneck speed.
I knew that parking here is not completely straightforward at the best of times but today there were cars everywhere, along with barriers, signs and marshalls. Fortunately the latter were all volunteers and were very approachable. I asked whether the track would still be open and the reply was, ‘Yes, if you’re careful.’ I promised to keep a keen ear out for rattling bike chains and not to wear my headphones for the cricket. Finding a safe place to park on the grass verge within 30m of the track entrance, I sat back to wait out the weather, whilst texting Roy G4SSH reference the situation.
After some guidance, posted on the internet by Phil G4OBK, the route was quite simple to follow: You go north up the track with the trees on your right. By the time you reach SC 3434 8729 the trees are left behind and the track curves right at SC 3427 8738 to a point SC 3441 8777. Here you leave the track, to the left onto a path which heads for the summit. Follow the path through grass and heather via SC 3423 8791 and SC 3412 8823 to the summit trig point (TP-6021), GPS marked today at SC 34090 88359. I cut across on the ascent but used all the path and GPS marked it on the way down.
After half an hour or so, there was a brighter spell with no rain. It was still foggy and windy but I set off walking at 10:30. Stopping to exchange a brief word or two with the marshalls distributed along the track, I walked as briskly as I could. One of their number put me right on the pronunciation of the hill I was heading for and we agreed I wasn’t too far out considering my being a ‘foreigner.’
I cleared the track and was on the path 5 minutes before the bike action was expected, so I neither saw nor heard them. That was a pity; it would have made for spectacular photography, albeit a bit misty and murky.
This was an easier walk than I’d expected and I was pleasantly surprised when the newly painted trig pillar and adjacent pile of quartz stones, hove into view. There was also a wooden pole nearby, which is the diameter of a telegraph pole. The arrival time was 10:59.
I had a discussion with myself about where to site the station. On the one hand it wasn’t the best of days weather wise; the conclusion being that no one else would be coming up. On the other hand it was set to improve and I might be there for a considerable time. That made me look for somewhere away from the trig but there was nothing deep enough or at the right angle to defend against the wind. A dilema.
In the end I set up with the mast in the top of the pile of stones, mentally practicing my charm offensive, should any other walkers turn up. As stated on the summit notes, the trig has its top missing. However any mast would not penetrate more that say 8 inches due to stones piled inside.
The antenna was easy to erect in the cairn once I’d found a way in between stones but the gusty SW wind, meant that a couple of adjustments were required to the end stick positions to make the mast stand as vertical as possible.
SLIEAU FREOAGHANE, GD/GD-002, 488m, 4 pts, 10:59 to 17:04, 11 deg C. Wind approx 25mph. Overcast with low-cloud and two rain showers at first, then mostly sunny. LOC: IO74RF. WAB: SC38. Trig: TP-6021. 100% EE mobile coverage.
3.557 CW - 11 QSO’s:
This time G4SSH wasn’t first in the log. I called Roy but Rob G0HRT came back. After working Rob and G0HIO I realised why Roy hadn’t responded. After doing the antenna checks barefoot so that the rig’s VSWR meter would read the antenna, I had forgotten to hit the amplifier switch. Instead of 50 Watts, I was running five.
Once onto QRO G4SSH came back to give me a 339. Roy was 599 to me; in fact everybody was but there was plenty of QSB to make it harder for the chasers. QSB rarely troubles me as an activator, as there is usually no significant noise that a chaser could descend into.
After the above entries, this is how the log looked: G4OBK Phil; G4TGJ Richard; G3NYY Walt; EI7CC Pete; EI2CL Mike; G4OOE Nick; G3RMD Frank and G3RDQ David.
As stated, callers were all 599 with me but there was significant QSB. Power was 5W for the first two, 50W for G4SSH and 30W bar these.
3.760/ 3.765 - 21 QSO’s:
Roy posted the SSB QSY. Contacts as follows: G0FEX Ken (WAB control station); G0UUU/M – my lad Phil, out WABing; G0BFJ Brian; G7BGA Geoff; G0GWY Geoff; G0RQL Don; GW4VPX Allan; M0WPS Wayne; GI0AZA Esther; EI7CC Pete; M0TMD Helen, airing her shiny new full callsign.
So that mobiles (in this case Phil) could continue to use 3.760, a QSY was made to 3.765. Continuing on there: M3FEH Karl; GW0PLP Don; M0JLA/P Rod S2S on G/CE-001; EI3GYB Michael; GM4WHA Geoff; G6NHW Pete; G4TJC Simon; G3JNJ Don; G4TQE John and G3RMD Frank.
Reports were variable in QSB. Most outgoing ones were 55 to 59 with a 51, 52, 53 and a 41. Chasers were having trouble at times. Maximum was 57 and there were a few readability 3’s and 4’s on my signal. Power was 30W.
1.832 CW - 3 QSO’s:
The 160m coils tuned first time today which makes a change and while tuning I heard G4OBK - QTH Pickering, North Yorkshire. Once again Phil heard my response, giving me a 339 report but I found out aferwards that QSB troughs were reducing me to nil.
As stated in the GD1 report this path is some 240km with the Pennines in the way but not only that, GD1 was dead in the way this time perhaps proving that ground wave/ semi line-of-sight was not the mode of travel. This is not a bad distance at noon and Phil was 529 to me. All I can say is whatever Phil has done with his 160m antenna system, don’t alter anything.
Unlike GD1 three days prior, there were further callers in the form of EI7CC Pete in Dublin 569/ 539 and GI4ONL Victor with 579/ 339. Try as I may I could neither get back to Frank G3RMD who was coming in at 519, nor another unidentified caller. Power was 50 Watts for this mood boosting session of 10 minute duration.
1.846 SSB – 1 QSO:
The only station I managed to work with 50 Watts of SSB was Pete EI7CC. Neither Michael EI3GYB and if I remember correctly Frank G3RMD, could hear their reports but thanks for trying. I think there was someone else calling weakly in the background but again I couldn’t make a QSO out of it.
14.032 CW – 7 QSO’s:
Chasers worked on 20-CW: UY2UW Mikhail; DL3MBE Hans; EA2DT Manuel; DL3HXX Lothar; VE2JCW Jean; OM3CUG Igor and DL2HWI Dietmar.
Everybody was either 579 or 599 and incoming reports were 599; 559; 559; 559; 339; 579 and 579 in that order. Power was 30 Watts.
14.310/ 14.315 SSB – 14 QSO’s:
With 30 Watts: HB9AGH Ambrosi; OE100SPW Paul; OH3GZ Jukka; YO2BP Alex; SV2HSZ/ QRP Mike; YO6CFB Lacy; TF3Y Yngvi (Reykjavic); OK2PDT Jan and SA4BLM Lars. Lars put me right on the Iceland QSO, confirming ‘good contact.’
At this point the frequency must have dried up; a good time to take a break (you’ll know what I mean). When I switched back on after a couple of minutes I heard a CQ on 14.310. I wasn’t about to start trying to claim my channel back so I worked F/ON5GQ Bernard, on holiday in the South of France.
With 14.310 busy, I moved up five to 14.315. Continuing with the session and assisted by a self spot, I went on to log: DH8WN Ludwig; DL2DXA Bernd; SV2RU/P S2S on SV/EP-039 and OK1SDE Borek. Borek had called on .310 earlier but had been worked by F/ON5GQ, the new ‘owner’ of 14.310 so I put a spot on for .315 with his name in the notes. Can’t life be complicated at times?
I gave out 57’s to 59’s with two 55’s. Coming back were two 59’s, the rest ranging from 33 to 57. Near the end of this session battery No1, a 5Ah was discharged and was replaced with the reserve 2.2Ah.
7.033 CW – 13 QSO’s:
40m was not on the schedule but by now the day was sunny and there was time enough and battery remaining. A self spot got the session started and the favoured channel of 7.033 was free. I adopted 7.033 when a few years ago, Roy G4SSH suffered from a carrier bang on 7.032. The carrier, obviously locally generated, was instigated by his own transmissions but wiped out all weak signals on .032.
Stations worked with 30 Watts were: HB9DBM Mark S2S on HB/AG-007; G4AFI Andrew; HB9CMC Fred; PA0SKP Sake; PA1MUC Jorg; DK1WI Ed; M0BKV Damien in Cornwall; F6FTB Christian; F6GUF Alain; PA9CW Tonnie; DL1AI Dieter; YO8OAZ? (see below) and DL1FU Frid, patiently waiting.
Everybody was either 579 or 599 apart from Damien who was given 449 and a 229 for YO8OAZ. The latter signal could not have been weaker. From 13:54z I spent well over 5 minutes trying and trying again. He was so weak I thought at one stage that it might all be in my imagination. The callsign written here is partly what I thought I copied and partly how I constructed it after the QSO. Perhaps someone out there will recognise this callsign or what’s left of it! Good job I had low noise and no QRM; just QSB unfortunately. Incoming reports were 549 to 579 with two 339’s and a 429.
7.170 SSB – 9 QSO’s:
7.160 was not exactly in use as such but there was a loud QSO just 1kHz down the band. I wasn’t that confident about finding a clear channel on a contest weeekend so I was lucky to find this one.
Stations worked in QRM and QSB were: HB9DHA Ray; LX1CC Mill; HB9PMF/P Hans; ON4SM Steve; S57ILF Franci; DL/ON4UP/P Peter S2S on DM/RP-003; LM1OSOTA Bob using 1kW! GM4GXO/P Ron (home QTH Penrith but currently in Galloway) and DD5LP Ed struggling with my signal and seroius QRM.
Reports: 57 to 59 outgoing with one 56. Incoming: 57’s, 58’s and 59’s but some R4s and an R3. Though I was copying him 57, Ed gave me 31 because he could only hear my signals when the adjacent channel’s contester dropped carrier.
Power was 30W; I could afford no more at this late stage. I was meant to bring up a second 5Ah for the reserve but forgot, instead having to make do with a 2.2 which was still valiantly soldiering on.
145.400/ 145.550/ 145.350/ 145.375 FM - 6 QSO’s:
Power was 2.5 Watts and the antenna was the vertical half-wave J-Pole for this session.
There was no pressure to move higher today. I was already at the trig. Leaving the base section in the cairn, I split the mast down at its stainless-steel ¼ inch UNF threaded joints and reeled in the dipole. The J-Pole fits on the base section via an adaptor. All is home-brew of course.
This session involved a lot of QSO dodging. Every time I got established on a new channel I was forced to move. Twice this was due to local stations, close together with the squelch turned up, jumping on the frequency. After five hours of operating this got a little tedious but under these conditions I managed to log six stations, losing a seventh entirely.
First in was G4WWS/P John at the CRAG club radio shack 1,600 feet ASL near Settle – IO84VB. He and Chris 2E0XLG/P, both using 50 Watts from a Yaesu rig, were tidying it out ahead of it being rewired. What a useful place that must be in a VHF contest. In fact I was offered the use of it earlier this year. If it was a bit nearer Scarborough I might have taken up that kind offer. The exchange for these two QSO’s was 59/ 55. I asked about Kevin M0XLT and Geoff G6MXZ neither of whom I’ve worked for a while. They are OK; just into other things.
Other stations worked were: MI1CBP Brian at Strangford on the E coast of GI (59 x 2) and EI6KO/P Albert in Wicklow S2S on EI/IE-001 50km S of Dublin (also 59 both ways).
Next in was MI0RRE Robbie using 100 Watts to a pair of 13-ely vertically polarized Yagi’s (made for him by his cousin). We exchanged at 59/ 56 but Robbie explained that his S meter was ‘lazy.’ I asked if he contested but no. He mentioned a pal GI4SNA who does the VHF contest evenings.
Last in was GI3TJM Richard (2 x 59). He was using a 5-ely beam pointed my way and he asked if I was QRV on 70cm. See below.
433.525 FM – 2 QSO’s:
This started with a sked set up by Richard GI3TJM on 2m-FM (see above) but resulted in 2 QSO’s. Richard had only a 2-ely at his disposal for this band. Also it was pointing north and fixed. My Hobson’s choice was the 2m-FM vertical J-Pole which SWR’s at under 2:1 on 70cms. Neither of us were sure we’d make it but in the evnt the exchange was 59 both ways.
What turned out to be the final QSO of the day was with GI0PNP Bob in WAB NW71 and Loc IO74GL; 59’s again.
70.450 FM - Nil:
Standing up at the trig point with the IC-E90 held above my head, I made the final CQ. Despite the fact that John & Chris were waiting for this in their 1,600 foot radio shack in the Yorkshire Dales, nothing happened. It was obviously down to my working conditions, a 2m band rubber duck extended with welding rod to work on 4.
It was then that I noticed the time. Five minutes to five BST. I’d promised the XYL I’d be back at 6pm and there was still some packing up to do.
Leaving the summit late at 17:04, I tried to rush the walk down which took 22 minutes, arriving at the car for 17:26. All the road closure barriers were gone and all the race marshalls too. De-booting as quickly as possible I managed to reach Douglas with a few minutes to spare. It was a case of a quick change and down for the evening meal at bang on 6pm. No brownie points lost.
This was an enjoyable activation on a pleasant summit once the rain showers were no longer a threat. The wind blew the log around a lot during the six hour stay but that’s a trifling thing. Just as a precaution I photograph each log sheet as I finish it. Pixels are cheap, immediate and convenient unlike 35mm film.
There were great views (after the fog and rain) and I only got one visit, justifing the decision to operate right at the summit. This comprised a Scottish couple with four dogs. They, the couple that is, elected to take a photo of me with my camera. We had a chat in a break between two HF bands.
160m was an improvement on GD1’s single QSO but still one QSO short of band qualification. Phil G4OBK was around the same strength as on GD1 despite the higher GD1 being directly between us. Nice to work one of the Dubliners (Pete) on 160m. In the past, I’d say of the two, Mike EI2CL (Dublin) has had the worst receiver noise figure and he wasn’t there today. Though he did call in to the 80m CW session. Getting Pete EI7CC and Victor GI4ONL in the log was the difference between GD1 and GD2. I need to be out in the dark. That would likely improve things significantly. Maybe GD3 in the evening would be a possibility, weather permitting.
80m worked better for UK chasers and WAB collectors with a total of 32 QSO’s in the two modes. A very worthwhile undertaking with better conditions than were enjoyed from GD1.
20m brought fewer contacts than from GD1 but maybe the suspected DX cluster spot of three days prior was resposible for that. I still managed to bridge the Atlantic but only once, to VE2JCW.
40m added another 22 contacts around Europe to the score. This band was absent from the GD1 activation but I’m glad I put it on today. Skip was quite long with only two ‘G’ stations worked.
I think I could have worked more on 2m but I was getting a bit weary by then and so was the remaining battery. Better to relax and have a brief chat. That said, I think everybody who wanted to work me did so, as I must have gone back to S20 at least three times.
70cm wasn’t planned, merely arising from a request from GI3TJM. After this QSO and the final one with GI0PNP, the rig cut out and I had to round off the QSO with half a Watt before that in turn killed the battery in a very short time.
4m was tried at the end but only modest equipment was available (3W to the extended rubber duck). That and GD2’s position behind (to the west of) GD1, which is higher by 133m, added up to make a failure.
10:30: Left B10 road (330m ASL)
10:59 to 17:04 GD2 summit
17:26: Arr. back at car
Summit time: 6hr-5min
Walking: 29min up 22 min down
Total: 4.3km (2.7 miles) / 158m (518ft) ascent
Thanks to all stations worked and to spotters: G4SSH; M3FEH; G4OBK; SV2HSZ and TF3Y. Thanks to Roy for responding to texts and monitoring 3.557 MHz. Thanks to Andy MM0FMF for use of the SMS self-spotting system.
(G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GT0OOO/P)
Above: IOM End to End Bike Race. Track to GD2 left. Uninspiring rain, fog and wind.
Above: IOM End to End Bike Race. Marshall on track to GD2. ‘Bikes due in 10 minutes, take care.’
Above: A murky start on HF. Antenna nearly ready. Coax streaming out in the wind.
Above: Better WX. GD2 on Top Band (160m).
Above: My only visitors of the day
Above: Continuing on 20m G/GD-002 - GT0OOO/P (G4YSS)
Isle of Man repeater on 145.625. No replies.
Above: GD2 flora
Above: GD2 on 2m-FM QRP
Above: No replies on 70.450-FM. IC-E90 with 2m rubber duck extended for 4m.
Above: The descent. Path back to the track
Above: The descent. The track and gate to the B10 road. G/GD-002 expedition complete!