Slag heap activation on Hensbarrow Downs, G/DC-008
I arranged to activate this particular summit during the S2S event for three reasons. Firstly it was the summit that would re-complete SOTA England for me, secondly it was an easy ascent (and therefore an easy descent in the dark) and thirdly it was only a few miles from where my daughter lives. There would be no long drive home from this one.
The day started with a park run at the Eden Project – not me of course - just my daughter and grandson were taking part. They finished in a respectable time, so we were away around 10:00z. They set off back to home and I drove to the summit where I parked up and spent a bit of time getting ready while listening to the radio. Having surveyed the hill earlier in the year prior to its inclusion in the SOTA program, I did not need a map to show me where I needed to go. I set off around 11:00z and in the interest of keeping everything above board, I walked to the Beacon (formerly G/DC-004) and then up the route that I had ascertained would keep me within the Open Access land. No need to trespass before the activation – on the descent in the dark, maybe!
It was 11:23z when I arrived at the edge of the OA land where I wanted to operate. I set up a short distance below the two large stones that appear to indicate the corner of the OA and this is well within the AZ. There was a reasonably stiff breeze blowing up the slope of the hill when I arrived which was set to increase throughout the afternoon. In the hope that I would be able to withstand several hours out on the hillside, initially I did not set up any windbreak, but later had to erect a crude shelter just to hear the rig a little easier. The surface of the ground was rather slimy on account of the generally wet Cornish climate combined with the china clay spoil. I had to pick my spot to set up, though I was not entirely successful in keeping clean!
My intention was to self-spot for 2m SSB and try to qualify the summit on the band before starting the S2S event proper at 13:00z. Don G0RQL was first in the log followed shortly afterwards by Mike G4WVD in Bodmin. Although I hoped there might be more calling on SSB, I had to resort to FM to qualify the summit, with more locals calling me for a series of brief contacts.
I swapped the antennas over at 12:30z, all in good time for the action which was due to start around 13:00z. Based on the outcome of the 2016 event, I decided to try 18MHz CW first which proved to be a good choice as Rich N4EX was first into the log with his signal running at S7. John KN2CZZ followed shortly afterwards. However, contacts came very slowly – it was for this reason that I decided to leave SSB until later. Mark WG8Y and Scott KG3W were good contacts on CW before I was called by Barry N1EU on Utsayantha Mountain W2/GC-026. I finished the 18MHz CW session with a chat with Ralph EA5/G4IVK.
Moving to 14MHz, there was contest traffic on both SSB and CW, so I decided to try S and P for a change. Mike NS1TA on Mount Megunticook W1/EM-001 was soon in the log on CW, but then I lost the internet connection on my phone so had to work blind. At this point I decided that I had had enough of the wind whipping past my headphones, so I set up a tarp to give me some shelter. This certainly helped with the cold hands and made it far more pleasurable.
Tuning around I eventually found Pat KI4SVM on Dogback Mountain W4C/EM-066 on SSB working a string of US contacts, virtually all of whom I could copy. After a bit of a wait, I got in for a QSO. Three EU S2S were then worked before I made my first S2S with Canada, working Malcolm VE2DDZ on Rougemont VE2/ML-002 on CW at 15:14z. With the internet playing ball once again, I noted Pete WA7JTM on Turkey Hills South W7A/CS-045 was on 14.061MHz. He too was working people that I could hear, but then suddenly he was gone. Thankfully, it was just a move up 3kHz and after several calls I got my callsign across. The contact was fairly marginal, but a good one nonetheless.
Just 7 contacts were made between 14:00z and 15:30z, so I decided that it was time to call CQ, which I did on 14.066MHz. Christos SV2OXS was first to respond, followed by Jan OK2PDT. Jack KB7HH was next to call in from Arizona. A few more European chasers helped to increase the number of contacts and Phil G4OBK made it down to Cornwall during this session.
After a chat with Jose CS7AFI who was a good signal with just 2 watts, I spent some time tuning around. Ian VE6IXD was copied, but unfortunately I could not get my signal heard in Alberta. A quick look at the spots showed me Pete WA7JTM was now on 18MHz, so I had a quick listen and he was audible with the antenna still set to 14MHz. A change of the links (all 5 of them) and a short wait while he worked through some US stations and we were then once again in QSO. On my side signals seemed to be marginally better than on 14MHz which was surprising as it was now 16:25z.
I decided that my next move would be to call on 18MHz SSB. A quick self-spot and a couple of CQs and back came Shane N3RTD followed by Jean VE2JCW. I then had the biggest surprise when Pete WH6LE called me from W4C/EM-066 – signals 55 both ways. With my batteries fading fast, Robert N1NUG and Rob VE1CHW sandwiched a QSO on the band with Don G0RQL. The final 7 QSOs were made in just 15 minutes. I might have dragged a few more contacts out had I juggled the least drained cells, but 5 hours on the summit was enough for me, so apologies if anyone missed out.
During the activation I heard Richard N2GBR for a few moments, but then he faded out and I never found him again. From my notes I see that I also looked for Nick G4OOE, Doug GM0ELP, Andy GM8OEG and Ed W1EJ without success. Ralf HB9GKR was heard working Pat KI4SVM immediately before I worked him.
So thanks to everyone that participated in the event. Although conditions were considerably down on this time last year, I really enjoyed myself and I am looking forward to more S2S contacts across the pond during forthcoming activations.
73, Gerald G4OIG