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GD4MD/P activation report


#1

Hi All,

Had an absolutely wonderful time on the Isle of Man 2nd/3rd March, here’s a brief rundown on Day 1:

GD-005 Mull Hill

Ferry arrived in Douglas at 0545 on Friday am, drove straight down to Mull Hill through the cracking dawn arriving in time to see the near-full moon set and the sun rise on opposite sides of the island. Magical. I’d planned to grab an extra hour’s sleep at this point, but suddenly I wasn’t tired so took a trip down to Calf Sound - well worth doing, it’s beautiful.

Back to the quarry carpark, and up the hill in glorious sunshine and a light breeze. This was my first HF activation, and despite my trepidation the antennae went up as per plan, with a Norcal doublet as an inverted V and the SOTAbeam erected together on a SOTApole held in position against one of the pill-boxes by the rucksack I use to carry the kit in.

Called briefly on 2m ssb but nothing heard, so gave 60m a try. Antenna tuned up beautifully using the ATU I’d built specially (very gratifying!) and Alistair GW0VMZ came straight back to my first call at 0815. I soon had a pile-up of early risers, working a dozen stations (GW0VMZ, G0HNW, GW7AAV, G4JZF, GW0DSP, M0VEY, G4CPA, G3RMD, G4OBK, GM4FAM, GM0AXY, M0JDK) by 0840. Then back to 2m ssb, for three contacts (G4JZF, G0NES, M0JDK) and finally a call on 2m FM brought me Harry, 2D0HEB for the first of several contacts.

As I was closing with Harry, Martyn GD3YUM arrived on the summit to personally welcome me to the Island, and give me the benefit of his “insider knowledge” on the summits ahead and the best way to approach them, having noted from my previous reflector exchange with Rob, G4RQJ that I’d not had time to get his comprehensive activating instructions. Truly the spirit of Amateur Radio is alive and well on the Isle of Man.

GD-004 Bradda Hill

Parked up at the recommended spot, tractors were coming and going up and down the trackways so checked with the farmer that I was not causing a problem, with a smile and a wave I was assured I was not. Martyn had warned me that this was the hardest climb of them all, and he was right - a very hard earned one point for this one! By the time I reached the summit, the sunshine had gone and a minor gale was blowing. Thankfully the wall crossing the summit provided a bit of shelter, and I anchored the SOTA pole to one of the fence posts on the far side of it. Only mounted the HF aerial this time, even so the pole was bending alarmingly. Put out my first call at 1108, and was answered by Clive MM1YAM/P on NS-147 for the first S2S of the expedition. A further 21 contacts followed in rapid succession, including Peter GW3TJE/P on SW-008. ( And G3RMD, M0JDK, GW0VMZ, G4JZF, GW7AAV, GM4YMM, GW0DSP, G0HNW, GM4FAM, G3VQO, M0COP, G0RQL, GM4COX, G0NES, G4ZRP, GW3BV, MM1FHO, GI4SRQ, G4RQF, G4ZCS)

As I took down the 60m antenna and prepared to erect the 2m beam, the heavens opened and within minutes I was in the middle of a terrific hail storm. I’d not taken my waterproof trousers up with me, and my legs were soon soaked to the skin. Discretion being the better part of valour, I abandoned the 2m activation and got off the hill as quickly as possible. Apologies to anyone who was waiting for me on VHF.

Back in the car, changed into dry clothes and drove down to the beach car park, well worth doing while you’re here, despite the foul weather the inlet was very beautiful, I sat here watching the sea crashing against the rocky shore with the car heater on full belt to warm myself up and ate the packed lunch my XYL had thoughtfully provided me with.

GD-003 South Barrule

On arriving at the parking spot in the entrance to the green lane, I was well up in the cloud, rain was lashing down and the wind was vicious. The temperature was 4 degrees. In short, pretty inhospitable. I waited in the car for half an hour hoping for the weather to improve, but if anything it got worse. Hope springing eternal, I donned an extra fleece and the full waterproof kit, hoping by the time I reached the summit conditions would be better. Predictably, they weren’t; as I gained height the wind got worse and at the summit I was having difficulty standing up. For once I was grateful for my 20 stone bulk, anyone exhibiting lesser inertia may well have been blown away. I huddled behind the trig point, extremely grateful for the meagre shelter it afforded, and considered my options. The only one (other than the sensible one, ie get off the hill as quickly as possible) was to try a 2m FM activation on my '817’s rubber duck. So with the radio wedged in the top of the rucksack to give it as much protection as possible, I put out a call on 145.500. After 10 minutes fruitless CQ’s, I had almost resigned myself to failure on this one. A final tune round however produced an S9 signal on 145.400. By some miracle I had chanced on a net of four local amateurs who most graciously let me in and allowed me to qualify the hill in short order. Heartfelt and everlasting thanks to Matty, MD0MAN/M, Frank, 2D0MHG, Harry 2D0HEB, and Dave 2D0RGW. Sincere apologies to those who were waiting for me on 60m, operating on this band with the equipment available was not feasible.

The hill qualified, I made a rapid descent “crab-like” to keep the worst of the stinging rain off my face, and beat a hasty retreat to a very welcome hot bath. Then spent the rest of the evening considering the best way of going about “extreme weather” activations. Bring on next winter…

(Day 2 to follow shortly!)


#2

Hi All,

Sorry about the long delay in completing this write-up, work intervened…

Day 2: Saturday 3rd March.

After a night of absolutely torrential rain, Saturday morning dawned dry with a gentle breeze. It took me much longer than anticipated to pack away the gear that I’d spread round the windowcills above the radiators in my accommodation to dry out, and to collect my outdoor gear from my host, who had thankfully offered to dry it for me, so by the time I arrived at the starting point for the next summit I was well behind schedule.

Slieau Freoaghane GD-002

When I finally arrived and parked up on the verge adjacent the green lane, although it wasn’t raining, the cloud base was at road level and the visibility was 30-40 yards. So into the wet-weather gear just in case, and set off up the track. In the shelter of the woodland, the breeze was non-existent and the heady aroma of heather and pine surrounded me. Beyond the trees, the wind increased somewhat, but the visibility didn’t. Walked on up the track, but no sign of the path to the summit from SC344878 shown on the map. Not wanting to set out onto featureless moorland in near zero visibility, I continued along the track to SC345885, from where a clear path leads to the summit beyond a sign forbidding riding of motorbikes on the mountain. Judging by the tyre marks, a proscription not fully complied with. A fairly steep climb takes you directly to the summit.
You have a choice of anchorages for a pole, there’s a great wooden post bristling with metal fittings, or I choose the uncapped trig point to support mine, deploying the short dipole parallel to and well off the path crossing the summit just in case someone came past riding one of the forbidden motorbikes and garotted himself.
Thanks to the late start and extended walk in it was 10.20 by the time I got on air, tuning round 60m found Frank GW3RMD/P on NW-012 but couldn’t crack his pile-up so moved up to 5.4025 and called CQ, where I was soon found by M0JDK, following which I worked in quick succession G0HNW,G3TJE,GW0VMZ,M0COP,GW7AAV,G4JZF,GW0DSP,G3VQO,G4CPA,G0RQL,GM4YMM,G4BLH,GM0AXY,GM4FAM,G3NIJ,GW3BV,G4ZRP,G3MPN,GW4BVE,G4GKE, and Frank GW3RMD/P came and found me for an s2s from NW-012.
A change to 2m FM produced 2W0KPO/P on NW-044 for the second s2s of the day, then G0HIK/P,G3BJD AND 2D0HEB. 2m ssb produced only GW0PZO/P on NW-005, for s2s No. 3!
As I packed up the cloud lifted, and showed me the detour I’d made to follow the defined path. In the improved visibility, I was able to cut diagonally across on the line of the previously invisible path and considerably shorten the walk-out. As a consequence, I was back on schedule by the time I was parked up at the bottom of Snaefell ready to tackle the last summit of the expedition.

Snaefell GD-001

From the car park at Bungalow the climb up Snaefell looks like a reasonably easy romp, but it’s no such thing - the scale is deceptive, and a cunningly hidden false horizon extends the walk. The last climb to the summit is a real killer, Martyn GD3YUM recommends following the path to the left as you ascend, circling round the summit to reduce the grade.
The summit was in glorious sunshine when I arrived but a stiff wind was blowing. Decided to do 2m from the trig point, so crouched behind it with my back to the wind and gave an initial call on 2m FM with the intention of working a few locals. To my considerable surprise and delight, Rob G4RQJ came straight back to the call in a very appropriate start to the activation! After a short chat with Rob, I went on to work in rapid succession over the next hour G6LKB/M, M0RCP/P (s2s on NP-010) 2E0NHM, G7SYY/M, MI3FEX, 2E0HJD, GW0DSP, GW7AAV, G4BLH, 2E0FZK/M, G6CRV, 2E0CSG, G0HIK/P, MI0BDZ, 2W0KPO/P (s2s on NW-051), GD3YUM, G1JYB AND G1OAE. By this time I was feeling very cold and cramped, so decided to cease 2m operations (very sorry if anyone was waiting for me to come up on ssb) and walk slightly down the hill to a more sheltered position to try 60m. Setting up took quite a while, and I couldn’t get the dipole to tune up properly. As a result I was only putting out a watt or so, and most reports back were pretty dire. Despite this, I made it with G0HNW,G0RQL,GW0VMZ,GM4COX,G4CPA,G4JZF and M0JDK. Again apologies to anyone who was looking for me but couldn’t copy my candle-light signal.

Martyn GD3YUM had during our 2m FM contact offered me the wonderful prospect of hot refreshment, so once down off the hill made my way to his QTH and enjoyed a very convivial few hours of wide-ranging conversation and several mugs of steaming hot coffee in his excellent shack. What a perfect conclusion to the expedition! While I was there Martyn presented me with certificate commemorating my activation of all five Isle of Man summits and a QSL card for our contact earlier in the day. I sadly took my leave of Martyn in the late evening and made my way back to my accommodation to prepare for an early start the next day to catch the ferry back.

Despite dire forecasts and a blood-red sunrise, the crossing home was not too bad at all, and I arrived back with my family in time for Sunday lunch.

So thanks to all those chasers who worked me, to my long-suffering XYL who put a lot of work into organising me and ensuring I was adequately provided with clothing and food, to the local amateurs on the Isle who were so welcoming and friendly, to Richard G3CWI for his tips, and especially to Martyn GD3YUM for his advice, friendship and support that made the expedition so exceptionally memorable.

I can heartily recommend a SOTA trip to the Isle of Man. While you are there make time to visit some of the other outstandingly beautiful areas of the Island. Martyn is very happy to assist, and can even advise on accommodation etc. so if you are planning a trip he would be glad to hear from you. (Details on QRZ.com).

My only regret? That only the five summits are eligible for SOTA - as you look around from any of the summits, the Island is bristling with other peaks begging to be climbed. The Association manual does leave open the possibility of adding other summits, it would be a real treat if we could have just a few more to tackle!

Looking forward to working other activators from GD, although I’ve activated them all I’m still a long way short of having chased them all!

73 de Paul G(D)4MD(/P)