I was very keen to get out up a hill this weekend having missed out last weekend due to the 'orrible weather. The last time I was out was with Mrs. FMF on Carn Liath and Meall Tairneachan a fortnight ago. The WX forecast wasn’t brilliant but wasn’t too bad. Drizzle and the odd shower in the morning working to sunny intervals and showers in the afternoon. The only downside was low cloud but that was predicted to lift to 800m+ after lunch.
With all that in mind I looked for something “trivial” but still a bit of a leg stretch. Culter Fell SS-049 offered itself up. It 18months or so since I last ventured up its slopes and had the WX been more promising I might have tried a new route. As it was I thought Culter Fell was just right, just enough walk and climb up to be worthwhile exercise and with a humoungous trench up from the bottom to the trig, hardly a navigation test in mist. The final piece of info was gleaned from looking at the alerts. Geral G4OIG and Paul G4MD were doing a collection of wee LD summits on Sunday and a quick path profile showed a very good looking UHF path. I’ve borrowed John GM8OTI’s SOTAbeam 2/70 for next weeks ISW as should he be out he’ll have his monster DK7ZB Yagis with him. This looked like an ideal proving session for me with a new antenna. Having suggested a possible UHF S2S, Gerald acknowledged and I decided that I’d just do Culter Fell rather than getting up much earlier and doing it and Gathersnow Hill SS-077.
Sunday morning dawned with monsoon like rains. So much for light drizzle! Anyway I had aa quite late must-leave time set so I had a leisurely breakfast by which time the rains stopped. The drive to parking by Culter Allers Farm took 40mins and despite the gloom there were 7 cars there already. The cloud was really low No problems, boots on, extra antennas attached and the rain cover on the sack and I was off.
I followed a trail of fresh fruit peel up Fell Shin. Orange peel and banana skins. I know this is biodegradable but dropping it on the path is mindless bloody littering, people could at least try and scatter it out of site in the heather. I could see the “perp” about 300m higher than me… a galoot in a blue Goretex top and shorts, I hope his knees got frostbite! Anyway I ground my way up the steep slope. I’ve got a stinking cold right now and I was slowed down by this and a bit of a twinge in my knee. So I took the ascent easier than normal, no point breaking records if I can’t walk for a month afterwards!
Just after the top of Fell Shin the gradient eases to something barely perceptible and this is where I entered the mist. The trench is obvious so I bimbled on up. The wind got quite fierce and despite the mist scudding past I remained surprisingly dry. On the final stretch to the summit it’s normally quite badly wet and boggy. So much that last time I had to meander about to find a dryish way through. It must have been dry because the boggy sections were drying nicely and I went in a nice straight line to the trig point according to the GPS recording.
At the top it was right windy, not too cold and I was able to use the trig as a shelter. At one point the mist thinned to give about 100m visibilty but most of the time 50m was normal. I set up the dipole for HF first and then assembled the beam. 60m worked quite well, reports of lots of QSB that was fierce and fast but I think I worked everyone who called. Onto the key for a comedy session and I was suprised how hard it was to copy calls on CW after not practicing for 2 weeks. I eventually managed to get Graham G3OHC’s call after murdering it several times, sorry Graham. I got so into having fun that I clean forgot to switch to 30m. I did want some contacts here because to date nobody has activated SS-049 on 30m. Always nice to get a 1st and they’re starting to get a bit thin on the ground unless I drive 150miles or so.
I heard Paul G4MD/p call and having worked him and confirmed Gerald was QRV I handed the frequency to Paul and QSY’d to 2m. Would I hear Gerald or would there be some fishing about needed. I roughly pointed the beam and tuned up to 144.333USB. I had now worries, with my beam not peaked and Gerald pointing away from me he was S9+60 and the rest. I’m sure I could see a corona discharge on the antenna from the received strength! I could hear a few people calling him too but the magic “summit to summit” cut through. Only running 5W resulted is an S9+60 report back. The signals both way were colossal so it looked like 70cms may be good. I’ve had numerous contacts like this in the past when I was much more active on VHF, a QSO on 2m would be end stop yet switching to UHF were antenna gains was greater and running similar powers would result in barely a whisper at the far end.
On 70cms Gerald was just as loud. The SOTAbeam is quite sharp for something so small. The match was a bit iffy, there again I don’t know how you’re meant to dress the feeder and feeder dressing made a huge difference on my 21ele Tonnas I had for 70cms. The match on 2m was blob on. I dropped my power down to 1W and we exchanged S9+60 reports again. Great fun! I expected the path to be workable but not this fantastic. That was when Robert GM4GUF (Mr. Tinto) called in. He was an easy S9 on the side of the beam. We tried to see if he could work Gerald but whilst both could just detect something it wasn’t going to be.
Onto 2m I worked a few chasers which was nice followed by Richard GW3CWI/p, Tom MW1EYP/p and Jimmy MW3EYP/p out on Cyrn-y-Brain. A good S5 each way was pleasing. I called CQ a few more times and there was Don G0RQL QSBing up and down near the noise. A peak of the beam and allowing a for a few fades we were able to complete both ways 41 on SSB. The fading made it a little bit of work but CW with the narrow filter would have made it trivially easy. Big grin time as Don is over 500km away. While I don’t expect moderately well equipped 2m stations to be impressed with a 500km QSO, just using 4.5W, RG58 and a 3 ele beam impressed me.
By now I’d been QRV for 2hours and on the summit nearly 2hr30 in the foul WX and was starting to get rather cold. My throat was red raw so I decided it was time to quit. I was getting ready to pack up when I spotted the 30m fix. I made a new dipole earlier this year for 30m/40m/60m. It was a good match as I draped it around my postage stamp garden. It’s OK on 60m/40m on the hills but the match on 30m was a bit rubbish. The 30m fix are two bits of wire, 10cms long with a matching connector to the link connectors. Pull the link apart for 30m and add the dangling bit of wire. I did a quick check with and without and with the links on there’s no indicated SWR anywhere on our 30m band. Without them the 817 lights the bargraph to just over halfway. I’ve no idea if this is much or not, but it’s not a problem for now to add the bits of wire. I’ll make the 30m section again when I get some time.
20mins to pack up HF and VHF gear and by now it was raining very hard. I was going to wander out the long way down to Holm Nick and then around the reservoir but the rain was horrible. So I wimped out and went back the way I came up. Of course after 15mins of descent the rain stopped and I could have wandered out the long way. Never mind, back at the car in about 55mins I had a drink and energy bar, packed up and drove home to wonderful roast dinner Mrs. FMF had prepared. Of course the WX in valley and all the way back was nice with many sunny breaks. Pah!
Reviewing things: quick leg stretch, not too much knee pain, 30m antenna sorted, successful S2S on 70cms, 500km+ contact on 2m, CW comedy display put on. Yes, a very successful day indeed.
Distance walked: 6.9km, total ascent: 510m, distance driven: 54miles
Many thanks to Gerald for the sched and John for the antenna. I’m sure that a contact with Gerald on 23cms would have been trivial too. But the 23cms is temporarily QRT till I fix the iffy feeder and put a plug on the DC lead. That will be fixed for next weekend.