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Return of the Gun


#1

Aargh! Withdrawal symptoms! Due to my XYL working a night shift, I had to stay in and ensure Jimmy and Liam were ready for school, instead of going out dawn activating on Thursday 10th October 2008.

However, an early getaway opportunity beckoned at work by lunchtime, so I decided I would go out and play. But it couldn’t be The Cloud, for I had already alerted that one for the following morning and labelled it as my 200th activation of it. I considered that bringing the 200th forward as a short-notice job, and making Friday morning the 201st would be a bit daft!

So, after leaving work in Stoke at 3.10pm, I had a pleasant drive over the Staffordshire Moorlands to Gun Moor. The ascent path was damp as ever, and a storng south-westerly wind was blowing hrashly across the summit.

I set up the 80m dipole, and used the trig point as a shelter - and a back-rest. It was a good activation, with plenty of contacts, 11 on CW and 5 on SSB. Both CW and SSB had gone quiet by 5pm, so I packed up and went home for my tea.

Thanks to all callers.

Tom M1EYP


#2

So, after The Cloud G/SP-015 on New Year’s Day 2009, we drove across and up to the parking area on the edge of Gun Moor. It remained bitterly cold, so I ventured along to the summit. Upon reaching the trigpoint, I spoke to Jimmy on 2m FM using the handhelds. That was his cue to ascend. Liam remained in the car listening to his new John Shuttleworth CD.

While Jimmy was ascending, I erected the 80m antenna, and just as I finished, Jimmy arrived on summit. The idea was that he would make four quick contacts on 2m FM using his handheld, then descend back to the car, while I did my bit on 80m CW. The things was, he got himself a pile-up! I thought he might pass the radio to me to deal with it after he got his four, but he surprised me by working the pile-up down himself.

I settled down into my position in the frozen heather, and called CQ SOTA on 3.557MHz CW. 17 QSOs in 17 minutes later, I was packing away, and then descending myself. Now we drove through the lanes of Wildboarclough, Wincle and Forest Chapel in the general direction of Shining Tor G/SP-004.

Tom M1EYP


#3

On Saturday morning, 31st January 2009, I had to run Jimmy over to Meerbrook for the start of a 2 day expedition with Explorer Scouts. Having decided against an activation of Gun and removing my alert before setting off, having to drive past the parking spot twice caused a change of heart.

On the return trip, I didn’t drive past, but pulled in. A quick walk to the summit with the wrong equipment and in the wrong clothes, and I attempted a snap activation. I was cold in my non-walking coat in the fierce icy wind, and my biro and till receipt was not as functional as my usual pencil and waterproof notepad.

Still, I got by and worked a stunning total of three QSOs using my Yaesu handheld and rubber duck. I wasn’t sorry when the frequency went quiet so quickly. It was a great excuse to return to the warmth of my car.

Tom M1EYP


#4

On Sunday afternoon, 1st February 2009, I had to collect Jimmy from Barnswood, the terminus of his Explorers expeditions. This took me to the vicinity of Gun, albeit not past the parking spot. Richard G3CWI caught me on 2m FM while I was waiting for Jimmy and advised he would drive out to join us for a small circular walk.

Soon, we were meeting up at the usual parking spot just beneath Gun. Lee M0LMP/P on Easington Fell G/SP-012 was heard on the mobile radio, but he was a scratchy signal so we decided to commence the walk.

Unusually, this led us initially downhill, down the road before soon cutting right across a couple of boggy fields. Fortunately, most of the bog had a frozen crust on it, but it was still slow going especially with waiting for Liam who seemed to keep forgetting he was supposed to be walking!

We emerged onto a tarmac cul-de-sac track, the one leading from the crossroads below to the kennels. Richard’s route now followed the track gently uphill for a short distance until reaching a gate and public footpath on the right. This path now led up by a small wood to the summit of Gun G/SP-013.

The summit was being pummeled by icy blasts, so after the customary summit photograph calls, our thoughts were quickly turning to the pub rather than the activating. There were no points in it for any of us, all having already sone one or two activations on Gun in 2009.

Jimmy M3EYP went first, calling in his Yaesu VX-110 hand-portable. He made 3 contacts before his calls were unanswered. At this point, he accepted the car keys from me and led his brother off on the descent. Richard G3CWI also made three contacts, using his own Yaesu VX-110, and I (M1EYP) managed just two from my Yaesu VX-7R.

I was on logging duty for all three participating activators, and was therefore the only one not wearing gloves. As such, I was not sorry that the incoming calls dried up so quickly, and I could put my gloves back on! My hands were going numb with the cold.

We reconvened at the Royal Oak in Rushton Spencer for a pint before heading back up to Macc. It was a nice circular walk and quite a contrast to the usual drill on Gun. It was definitely a day for walking rather than operating!


#5

The weekend was written off in terms of uniques or points scoring in SOTA for me. The reason for this was that my youngest son Liam, 11, was involved in a 14 mile hike in the Staffordshire Moorlands, including an overnight camp, with his scout group. I needed to stay local, and in mobile 'phone contact. Furthermore, I reckoned that Liam’s enjoyment would be reduced or even eradicated by carrying full pack with sleeping bag, roll mat and clothes. I decided to “sherpa” this stuff up to the Saturday evening campsite, and collect it again on Sunday morning thus enabling Liam to walk with just a daysack.

As it turned out, this worked really well, and Liam loved his hike and camp. Uncharacteristically, he maintained a decent pace over both days and kept up with his fellow scouts and leaders. The Saturday was poor weather with heavy hail showers and strong winds, but the Sunday was glorious, and the scouts were in fine spirits as they awoke to a glorious clear sunny morning, after camping overnight in snow and temperatures of 5 degrees below freezing.

As I collected Liam’s stuff up at Gradbach Scout Camp that morning, I stood with a couple of the leaders admiring the stunning sun-bathed moorland views. I started to feel intensely jealous of Liam having a day ahead of him out in this.

It was time to grab a piece of the Staffordshire Moorlands action for myself. Needing to remain in close contact, a long walk was out of the question. Short walk? Staffordshire Moorlands? Only one contender - Gun G/SP-013!

As I parked up on the side of Gun Moor, so were others. Berghaus jackets were being pulled on, dogs put on leads and cameras stuffed in pockets. Classic walking weather had certainly drawn the crowds.

I set up the Magic Mogia Antenna - that’s an attempt to “christen” Sean’s high performing aerial, which merits a catchier name than his own “vertical” - a few feet past the trig point in the heather. The first call on 14.013MHz CW brought, unusually, not a Ukrainian, but a chaser - Reg G3WPF. The next twenty minutes or so brought a healthy mix of answers from SOTA chasers and non-SOTA Eastern Europeans in roughly equal measure.

DXCCs worked on 20m CW were: G, YU, 9A, DL, HA, UR, I, OE, LY, UA9, SP, S5, RA, OK, SM, ES and LZ.

I then thought about doing 20m SSB to give Jimmy M3EYP, who I guessed would be in the shack at home by this stage, and others a chance to work the summit. However, upon tuning through 14.100MHz to 14.350MHz it was clear that the WPX contest would not permit me to hold my own frequency.

Instead, I decided to run up and down the band answering the WPX contest stations and see what I could work. Results were pleasing, with my 5 watts being worked by: YU, LY, EA, HA, OH, I, S5, UA9, CT, 9A, YU6, ES, UR, W, 5B, VP5 and E7. I was astonished to have my call answered by VP59V from Turks & Caicos Islands, but it was an easier contact than several of the European ones. He was still putting in a strong signal on an otherwise dead band when I heard him in the shack at 11pm.

So the total for the activation was 50 QSOs and 25 DXCCs. Towards the end, a man and a woman strode purposefully towards me. I could then see he was carrying a pole. A handshake was offered: “Gordon G0EWN” he announced. “Tom M1EYP” I replied. I had a brief chat with Gordon and his wife, who had come over from Sheffield to mop up Gun and Cloud in this glorious weather.

As I started to pack away my station, I overheard the familiar voice of my son calling in one of Gordon’s 2m FM pile-ups. I had an idea, so a legged it over to Gordon’s station and asked if I may use it to grab a quick word with Jimmy when he was to be called in.

Gordon worked Mike GW0DSP and then called in Jimmy M3EYP. After the contact, Gordon kindly passed the microphone, and I worked Jimmy for my 50th and final contact of the activation, and my one and only on 2m. More importantly, I advised Jimmy to be ready to be picked up in about 50 minutes, to go out to The Cloud to meet Gordon.

I finished packing away, hurried down to the car, quickly worked Gordon for a chaser point (causing him some amusement, me being 30m lower than the summit and in visual contact as well as radio!) and got on the road to Macc. Jimmy was ready and waiting at the home QTH, and we carried swiftly on and made for The Cloud G/SP-015. And the contrast in the activation style would be huge!

Tom M1EYP


#6

Tuesday 7th April 2009, and what a rubbish activation this was. Jimmy and I had been working on GCSE Maths exam prep all day so far, so decided to drop in on Gun after dropping his cousin off in Flash. It was very windy and bitterly cold, so we took hardly any gear - just ourselves, coats, hats, logbook, pencil and Jimmy’s VX-110.

Jimmy failed to get any reaction to his CQ calls, so I had a go. I had nearly finished working a mobile station in the Manchester area, when he disappeared without completing. After this, we couldn’t get any other takers.

We tried to break a local QSO on 145.275MHz - but couldn’t. We tried to open the GB3MN repeater - but couldn’t. Oh no! Seemed there was hardly any charge in Jimmy’s handheld - schoolboy error, literally.

Jimmy returned to the car, parked on the road about 30m lower and quarter of a mile away. I tried a few more calls, and soon confirmed my fears when the rig shut itself down! I waited until I could see Jimmy get in the car, then turned the rig back on. He called me. I quickly exchanged. I turned off the rig. I descended. Jimmy ascended. We exchanged the car keys as we passed halfway. We reversed the process. We made the contact on 0.5 watts before the radio turned itself off again!

Rubbish. Absolute rubbish. I was going to punish myself by not writing the activation report. Then I decided to punish myself even more by writing it!

Tom M1EYP


#7

The afternoon of Monday 11th May 2009 was glorious. Warm, blue sky, sunshine. So when I got home from work, and was then required to give Jimmy a coaching session ahead of his GCSE Music Listening examination paper, I decided to do so in the car.

Jimmy was tested on instrument recognition, musical styles, devices on dynamics as we drove and listened to a healthy mixture of BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and Frank Zappa’s “Them Or Us” album. The driving route saw us headed out on the Leek road, and up the hill towards Merebrook.

After 25 minutes of in-car study, I pulled in on the parking spot for Gun G/SP-013. “Fancy a break for twenty minutes?” I asked. Jimmy did, so off we walked up to the summit after stuffing handhelds into pockets.

Jimmy made two contacts - G3CWI and M0GIA/M on 2m FM, while I made three - G3CWI on 2m FM, and GW7AAV and M0GIA/M on 70cm FM. Then we ambled back to the car, and drove back to Macc while further analysing Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms.

Tom M1EYP