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How bad is Kinder as a contest site?


#1

This was the question in mind as I planned for session 2 of the Backpackers series of contests. After coming a distant 2nd to Rhys GW4RWR in session 1, and knowing that he was going to be on Cadair Berwyn GW/NW-012 again, I was only too aware that the advantage of his VHF take-off over mine would be even greater.

But other things come into play. Priorities that are ahead of trying to actually win include doing a SOTA activation that Jimmy M3EYP wishes to join me on, having a nice walk and fitting in with the family. Those were the factors that led to the selection of a SOTA summit that is less-than-optimal for a VHF contest. But I was actually looking forward to the challenge of seeing what could be achieved with 2.5 watts from an FT-817 and a SOTA Beam from Kinder’s plateau summit.

It was a necessarily early start on Sunday 13th June 2010. Unlike the other four Backpackers Contests, which run from 1100 to 1500 UTC, this one was 0900 to 1300z. We set our alarms for 5.30am BST and, unusually, had cereal for breakfast before leaving the house.

First port of call was Bollington, to pick up Jimmy’s mate Craig who was joining us for the expedition. From there, we cut up the back lanes to Rainow, and then along the B road to Whaley Bridge. Continuing through Chapel-en-le-Frith and we were soon turning left for Edale, and again for the parking area at Barber Booth.

The usual route up Kinder begins with a long road walk from Barber Booth to Upper Booth to Lee Farm. The road is “access only” after Barber Booth. It always crosses my mind to enquire at Lee Farm as to the possibility of parking in one of their spaces for the day in return for a fiver! Certainly later in the day, a couple of walkers came down off Kinder and got in their car which was parked at Upper Booth Farm, but perhaps they had been staying in the bunkhouse there.

The road walk actually passed quickly and got us into our stride. As ever, Jimmy and Craig zoomed ahead at a pace that I couldn’t even aspire to match, so I called Jimmy back and agreed some checkpoints. It was arranged that we would rendezvous at Lee Farm shelter, the bridge at the bottom of Jacob’s Ladder, the right turning just before Edale Cross, Kinder Low trig point and the true summit. This proved a good plan and structured our walking nicely without forcing the two 17 year olds to dawdle at my pace all day.

The target was to be on summit for setting up by 9.30am. We were a bit behind this as we reached Kinder Low trig at 9.25am, but generally, we had made good time. We couldn’t see the true summit, so Jimmy set the compass against the OS 1:25000 map and led us off in the necessary direction. Soon I picked out the first cairn, from which we progressed to the second cairn which we knew to be the true summit of Kinder Scout G/SP-001.

Jimmy and Craig set up the little tent while I concentrated on the SOTA Beam. The three of us huddled inside the tent as I completed setting up by connecting battery, aerial feeder, microphone and paddle (in the event unused) to the FT-817. I switched the power down to 2.5 watts to be in accordance with the contest rules and was QRV just a little late at 0903z (10.03am BST).

My initial run on my own QRG was disappointing, and seemed to confirm that Kinder was not a great VHF site. After only serial number 008, I switched to search & pounce operation and cruised up and down the 2m SSB band. The good thing was that a variety of locator multipliers came quickly. In the Tuesday night contests, it is typical to work 15 or 20 from IO83 before getting a second multiplier, but on this occasion I had worked IO83, IO92, IO93, IO94 and JO01 all in the first ten minutes. The JO01 gave me a little hope that some decent contacts were going to be possible from Kinder.

Soon this was extended to IO80 and JO00 (France), then IO73, IO81, IO82, IO84 and IO91, so the mults did build up. Further squares worked in the contest were JO02, IO90 and IO74. DXCCs also counted as multipliers in this session, but this only netted me G, GW, GI, GD and F. Obvious “gotaways” were EI and GM, and arguably ON, PA and DL, as well as squares IO63, IO64, IO70, IO75, IO85 and JO03. But I didn’t hear 'em!

Jimmy and Craig disappeared from the tent when the sun came out, and went for a wander around the plateau. During this time, Jimmy qualified the summit on 2m FM from his handheld. He later rejoined me and grabbed the mike every time there was an S2S going. These were Graham G3OHC/P on Bishop Wilton Wold G/TW-004, Ian G1RVK/P on Black Hill G/SP-002, Richard G3CWI/P on The Cloud G/SP-015, Rhys GW4RWR/P on Cadair Berwyn GW/NW-012, GW0RMX/P on Graig Syfyrddin GW/SW-020, Walt GW3NYY/P on Mynydd Eppynt GW/SW-018 and G4ZOI/P on Whernside G/NP-004.

I tried a couple of times on 2m FM to keep the QSO rate going in quiet periods, but there were no takers at all. Picking up more distant contacts from IO90, IO80, JO00 and IO74 was a better use of the time anyway. The final QSO count was 74, one more than my previous best which was when I won the session from Gun G/SP-013 last September. However, it won’t be enough to win this time, but may match the second place I got in session 1 this year.

Soup of the Day was Baxters Turkey Broth, which was welcome especially when the temperature dropped somewhat later on. At 1.15pm I was visited by two Peak District National Park rangers who asked a few questions, but were very friendly and departed quite content with my answers. I find that “I’ll pack it all down now if you want me to, it will only take 5 minutes” is quite a useful one to say, but it was also useful to inform them that only 45 minutes remained of the contest and I was going then anyway. It was interesting to hear them say that they get lots of “radio hams” up here, but that “everyone else always has a letter of permission from the Peak District Office of the National Trust that they can show us”. I didn’t contest the issue, as they were being very reasonable anway.

Just as we completed the pack away, some rain started, so it was on with the waterproof overtrousers. The rain was light but persistant, and lasted for about 10 to 20 minutes. As we were dropping down from Kinder Low, we could see a group of people going in and out of the cracks on Edale Rocks, and suspending a large sheet of foil over the entrance to one of them. Later, as the rain got a little heavier, I was surprised to see no less than nine walkers (in ones and twos) ascending up Jacob’s Ladder and beyond. After 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, in rain, this was weird, especially as most of them had nothing more than very small flourescent shoulder bags and lack of waterproofs. One chap was even wearing designer jeans. That famous SOTA celebrity Joe Public again, no doubt.

Many thanks to any SOTA chasers and activators that worked me. I guess Kinder wasn’t that bad as a contest site, but certainly not the best!

Tom M1EYP


#2

In reply to M1EYP:

Kinder is a rubbish VHF location! You need to be near rapidly falling ground. Thus the far edge (near the trig) of Cyrn-y-Brain is far superior to Kinder. Operating from near the masts is not the best place at all. Though it’s not bad!

Esclusham (non-SOTA) is much better than Cyrn-y-Brain but vehicle access is worse.

If you’re not at Walton-on-the-Naze then shape matters immensely for VHF contesting.

Andy
MM0FMF


#3

Indeed.

We had this to the south, and we did quite well in that direction. But north and east was very poor as you would imagine. The fact is this year that real-life has presented a barrier to being a serious competitor in the Backpackers. Ultimately Kinder was the choice as it needed to be reasonably local, plus of course Jimmy hadn’t yet collected his 4 points from there this year.

Tal y Fan GW/NW-040 is the site for BP3, which should open up EI/GI/GD/GM for the taking, but getting over the Berwyns for SE England and the continent will be challenging. Almost the reverse of the Kinder situation! But again, the priority is a SOTA day out with family and friends.

The situation deteriorates further for BP4 as we are in holiday in GM. It will be challenging enough to qualify the SOTA activation on 2m SSB from GM/CS-096, never mind compete in the contest!

One day, I intend to achieve my ambition to win the BP series from five different SOTA summits - but it certainly ain’t gonna be this year!

73, Tom M1EYP


#4

In reply to M1EYP:

One day, I intend to achieve my ambition to win the BP series from
five different SOTA summits - but it certainly ain’t gonna be this
year!

My five for the backpackers would be be (in no particular order):

Cadair Berwyn
Brown Clee
Caer Caradoc
Moel Famau
Malvern Hills

73

Richard
G3CWI


#5

SOTA activators have enjoyed big wins from Snaefell and Coniston Old Man. A bit further away from the action, but then you get the extra distance points as well. Slieve Donard might be good as well, as it is a small summit that standards steeply 850m above the Irish Sea.

Tom M1EYP


#6

In reply to G3CWI:

My five for the backpackers would be be (in no particular order):

Cadair Berwyn
Brown Clee
Caer Caradoc
Moel Famau
Malvern Hills

G0LGS/P did pretty well from the Malvern Hills (Worcestershire Beacon) in the last one.

My attempt this time was fraught with difficulties. I arrived at the top of Blorenge Mountain (IO81LS) at 09:45 BST to discover that the local amateur radio club had already set up there and were raring to go! I was in two minds whether to abandon the whole thing, or head off to an alternative location. I decided to try Mynydd Epynt (which has only one ‘p’, by the way), but this necessitated a further 50 mile drive along winding roads and frantic phone calls to determine what the QTH Locator was! Anyway, the net result was that I was more than 2 hours late in starting. Even so, I managed 83 QSOs including several GMs, a GI, a couple of ONs and an F, before I ran out of battery power at about 3:45 pm BST.

The bonus was that I was able to give an unplanned S2S to a few punters. My originally planned destination, the Blorenge, is not a SOTA summit but it does have the advantage of having rapidly falling ground in all directions from North, through East, to South.

However … it was gratifying to discover that despite my 2 hours late start, I still made about twice as many contacts as the station on the Blorenge … and most of them about 50 km longer distance too!
:slight_smile:

Oh, and before anyone starts … it was not the RSGB Contest I was doing! It was the PW QRP Contest, which ran from 0900 - 1600 UTC.
:-))

73,
Walt (G3NYY)


#7

In reply to G3NYY:

1st rule of contesting: get to the site before anyone else does.
2nd rule of contesting: if someone has setup already on “your” site, setup close by and adjust the PA loading for max smoke. At no point worry about linearity.

:slight_smile:

Andy
MM0FMF


#8

In reply to MM0FMF:

1st rule of contesting: get to the site before anyone else does.
2nd rule of contesting: if someone has setup already on
"your" site, setup close by and adjust the PA loading for
max smoke. At no point worry about linearity.

:slight_smile:

LOL!

It’s always a difficult one, this. I know of more than one Contest Group who have almost come to blows with someone who was “trespassing on THEIR site” (sic)!

My usual practice is to concede the site to a local group who wants to operate from it. However, there is no rule that says you must. In this case, there was no denying that the group was local and the Blorenge is their nearest hilltop. Similarly, there is a local amateur (non-SOTA) who regularly uses WB-021 for contests and I think it would be churlish of me to “grab his location”, whatever the circumstances. There are a number of other instances I could cite.

I noticed there were at least three stations on Winter Hill during yesterday’s contest, and two on Bishop Wilton Wold.
:slight_smile:

Perhaps it’s not such a problem in the more sparsely populated Scottish regions!

73,
Walt (G3NYY)


#9

In reply to G3NYY:

I arrived at the top of Blorenge Mountain (IO81LS) at 09:45 BST to discover that the local amateur radio club had already set up there and were raring to
go!

… it was gratifying to discover that despite my 2 hours late start, I still made about twice as many contacts as the station on the Blorenge …

Blorenge used to be a regular contest location back in year dot - this was when we were on crystal controlled AM and the keen groups had 4 receivers tuning both ends in and middle out. I recall that the station that operated from there usually did very well, so the group that were up there yesterday either had problems or they weren’t up to much. I don’t recall Mynydd Epynt being a super site (mind you it was tea time when I activated it), so you did very well with a total of 83 Walt.

As regards Tom’s choice of summit, I personally wouldn’t entertain Kinder as a contest location on the grounds of the presence of too many people and the fact that the wardens are keen as I know from experience. I agree with Richard that Cadair Berwyn must rank as one of the best locations for contesting and it is large enough to avoid having lots of people bothering you. I sat in the rocks on the edge which helped deter some. Other contenders such as Coniston Old Man are generally too busy.

73, Gerald


#10

In reply to G3NYY:

“Perhaps it’s not such a problem in the more sparsely populated Scottish regions!”

I really wonder if anybody up here ever goes on VHF. We have a club full of licensed listeners who still don’t know what the button on the side of the microphone is used for - looking through my log (it doesn’t take long - 10 contacts) I worked four club members and one was contesting!

My plan had been to go onto Knock ES-073 which meets the criteria of drops all round, in the end I settled for our field day site nearby. Conditions were very poor (propagation and weather) and although I worked south into IO86 there were precious few signals from that direction and I certainly did not hear another GM contest station (probably beaming south all day) other than MM0SMD.

How about a “mass trespass” from those of you without enough space to play - we still have a hill or two up here unoccupied!

Methinks even 150watts and a 17element wouldn’t have saved the day!

Barry GM4TOE


#11

In reply to GM4TOE:

Barry - if you’re going to rally the troops up there for an activity day on VHF, then might I suggest Sunday 22nd August 2010, which is the 4th session of the Backpackers Series?

We will be on CS-096 on that occasion - I’m not expecting it to be one of my three best normalised scores hi! But if people look for us, we might well be a new multiplier for them with IO77.

On a Tuesday night contest from CS-120 last year, we could hear a couple of the better known GM contesters, but they couldn’t hear us as they were beaming south throughout, as you might expect.

Tom M1EYP


#12

In reply to M1EYP:

On a Tuesday night contest from CS-120 last year, we could hear a
couple of the better known GM contesters, but they couldn’t hear us as
they were beaming south throughout, as you might expect.

It would be nice if some stations beamed north once in a while, always hear the same stations on VHF up here in IO77, would be nice to work a few new ones every so often.

Adrian


#13

In reply to G4OIG:

I don’t recall Mynydd Epynt being a super site (mind you it was
tea time when I activated it), so you did very well with a total of 83
Walt.

No, it certainly doesn’t LOOK that great a site for VHF/UHF. The line-of-sight is quite restricted in most directions compared to locations like the Blorenge, Worcester Beacon, etc - and its summit is 273ft lower than the Blorenge, too! I think I was helped by tropo conditions, which were above average on Sunday.

73,
Walt (G3NYY)


#14

Mynydd Epynt (which has only one ‘p’, by the way)

All resolutions of the online OS mapping agree with you Walt. The RHB book disagrees. The spellings in the GW ARM come from the RHB book, and those on the SOTA websites come from the GW ARM. Maybe one to refer to Roger MW0IDX (GW AM)?

Both spellings are offered on the definitive Database of British Hills, so maybe it isn’t a major concern!

Tom M1EYP


#15

In reply to M1EYP:

Mynydd Epynt (which has only one ‘p’, by the way)

All resolutions of the online OS mapping agree with you Walt. The RHB
book disagrees. The spellings in the GW ARM come from the RHB book,
and those on the SOTA websites come from the GW ARM. Maybe one to
refer to Roger MW0IDX (GW AM)?

“The Relative Hills of Britain” is hardly an authoritative reference source on the spelling of Welsh place-names!
:slight_smile:

However, I accept that both spellings are in common use. In the original Welsh, it’s spelt “Epynt”. The ‘Epynt’ name comes from early Welsh. It means ‘the haunt of the horse’.

73,
Walt (G3NYY)


#16

My five for the backpackers would be be (in no particular order):

Cadair Berwyn
Brown Clee
Caer Caradoc
Moel Famau
Malvern Hills

I found the key to a good site is not just the height and take off but also which contest the backpackers was running alongside and what multipliers were in operation.

With lots of European stations around then a good take off to the south/south east is a must. Antenna choice isnt such a big deal as the other side usually running 400W.

Alongside the PW contest, then a central location is preferable, but a good antenna is best as most will be running the 2W limit. In the backpackers event, you could up your odds a bit by running 10w as a few of the 10 watters drop into the 3W category for the PW.

In contest with postcode multipliers then North Wales is NOT the place to be. Every local contact will be LL. I once operated from Moel Hebog a few years ago. Easily best with distance into F/ON/PA (with no E’s or Tropo) but lost massivly on multiplier count.

So my five would be

  1. Winter Hill
  2. Winter Hill
  3. Winter Hill
  4. Winter Hill
  5. Winter Hill

or more seriously

  1. Winter Hill (central for PW & Postcode Mults)
  2. Cadair Berwyn (any of the European ones)
  3. Old Man of Coniston (as above)
  4. Moel Famau (as per Winter Hill)
  5. Stiperstones (for no other reason that I like it)

Good luck :slight_smile:

Ian
G7ADF


#17

In reply to G7ADF:

In contest with postcode multipliers then North Wales is NOT the place
to be. Every local contact will be LL.>

Hmmm, Interesting theory Ian!

I am not usually able to do the early backpacker contests but often manage the fourth one in July, with postcode multipliers.
Operating from GW/NW-051 I was runner-up in 2004 (Charlie 'PZO came first from GW/NW-044!)
From the same location I won it in 2006 and was runner-up in 2008.

I try to follow these simple rules in an attempt to be successful at contesting:
Go to the highest location feasible.
Take the biggest antenna I can carry.
Mount it as high as possible above ground.
Run the highest power I can.

Operator contesting skill is a very minor contributor but luck plays a very big part! It’s no good calling CQ if no-one is tuning around at the time and conversely no good tuning around yourself at a time when no-one is calling!
And of course ideally both stations need to be beaming in the optimum direction!

All good fun and giving away a few chaser points at the same time!

Ron,
GW4EVX


#18

In reply to GW4EVX:

Operator contesting skill is a very minor contributor but luck plays a
very big part!

Odd how the same people always have the luck. Luck plays a part but operator skills play a larger part IMHO.

73

Richard
G3CWI


#19

In session 5 last year I was lucky in that the usual luckier ops did not enter. This year I am unlucky in that a luckier op keeps entering from the luckiest site.

Tom M1EYP


#20

In reply to M1EYP:

In session 5 last year I was lucky in that the usual luckier ops did
not enter. This year I am unlucky in that a luckier op keeps entering
from the luckiest site.

Obviously the ‘luckier ops’ have made a good job of applying my basic rules plus a bonus of luck also!

Luck definitely plays a part.
It is down to bad luck choosing a ‘clear’ frequency to call CQ only to find out later that the frequency is in use at the target area by a station beaming away from you but making your signal inaudible to his ‘locals’.

Ron,
GW4EVX