I had some time to spare today in between dropping and collecting Liam at his youth club. I thought I would find out what happens if you call “WFF” from a summit and see what all the fuss was about. First job was to look up the WFF reference for The Cloud G/SP-015. It didn’t have one - and I couldn’t see one for Staffordshire Moorlands for Gun G/SP-013. But Shining Tor G/SP-004 did, as part of the Peak District GFF-014, and as there was ample time available, I took the longer (and very pleasant) drive up to there from Congleton. Before leaving home, I also informed Charles M0OXO, the G WFF Manager, as recommended by the WFF website. I later found out that Gun is just inside the south-western boundary of the Peak National Park, so could qualify for WFF GFF-014 also.
I pulled in at the usual parking spot a little down the road from the Cat & Fiddle pub, and commenced the familiar walk to Shining Tor summit, which I enjoyed nonetheless. Upon arrival at summit, I noticed that I had packed the wrong SOTA pole - one without the top three thinner sections! These are necessary for the MM20 (“Magic Moggy” - vertical with groundplane) antenna, as the driven element extends from the lowest section of pole right to the top. I spent some time trying to work out a way around this.
After considering ways of taping the base of my pole to near the top of a wooden footpath sign, or attempting to balance it atop a drystone wall with (effectively) a very low guying point, a mental reality check hit me in the nick of time! The vertical element would just have to hang slackly and loosely down the pole and allow the wind to blow it around. I got rid of some of the excess slack by fixing a very low guying point on the pole. The three groundplane radials are the guys, but the whole system remained upstanding on the summit for the two and a half hours I was there.
SWR was fine, and DL6KVA came straight back to my first call on 14.012MHz CW, with 599 reports both ways. Then it was another SOTA chaser, HA7UG. I had alerted for 14.013MHz, so I guess these two must have been checking for me - many thanks. I was calling CQ CQ SOTA es WFF, M1EYP/P, SOTA G/SP-004 es WFF GFF-014. By the third contact, six minutes into the operation, I had a gigantic pile-up, so big and unruly that it slowed my QSO rate right down!
I like stations to call just once - I can work down a pile-up so much quicker that way. But many on frequency were not prepared to call once or even twice. Some were sending their call seven or eight times before dropping key to find out if they’ve been called in. Furthermore, some of the worst culprits also seemed to have really bad, dirty tones, so that their dahs and dits could not be separated from each other!
While it is always tempting to allow a bad operator to the front of the queue just to get them off the frequency, I am too stubborn for that, so some stations were kept waiting a long time, despite the disruptive effect they were having on my frequency. As the afternoon wore on, the general operating from the WFF chasers improved, and so it seems it was wise to be stubborn!
I was also astonished, and a little disappointed at the amount of times I responded with a clear partial - like “SP?”, “SP8?” - and some other station with a call that could in no way be confused with the partial I requested persisted in repeating his callsign. Again, I refused to budge - even though in some cases it was taking 3 minutes to complete a rubber stamp QSO through the QRM - and eventually I was rewarded with more considerate operating on my QRG.
I had started on 14.012MHz CW, but skipped from there to 14.058MHz, and occasionally onto 14.065MHz and 14.059MHz. Without me sending any self-spots, I tended to be found by SOTA chasers who spotted me, as well as the WFF pack - so many thanks to the SOTA chasers for that. I note I did get spotted four times on the DX Cluster as well. I don’t know if WFF has its own spotting/alerting facility, but I seemed to get thoroughly pounced upon by WFF enthusiasts!
Two radio amateurs spoke to me as they walked across the summit. One even said “Is this one SP-013?”. I corrected him, and he went on to bemoan the fact that Shutlingsloe isn’t a Marilyn. By 1.30pm, I was very cold, in fact I was shivering, and realising that I had to quickly get warmer or get off the hill. Cue the introduction of the bothy bag, which I perhaps should have been using already. I soon got warmed up in this, and importantly so as the afternoon started to turn very cold indeed.
As I packed away at my pre-determined time of 2.30pm (I had to dismantle, descend and drive back to Congleton to collect Liam for 4pm), it was dreadfully cold. A large group of students were comparing notes on the summit. They were backpacking - training for an expedition in Nepal in fact, and still four hours walk from evening camp. It was desperately cold and I didn’t envy them one bit!
I failed to get properly warmed up on the descent and was pleased to reach the car and its heater! Briefly, I pulled in at the Cat & Fiddle car park, thinking of a quick pint, hot mulled wine and bag of pork scratchings, but ultimately decided that I didn’t want to exit the car again so soon! So I was early for collecting Liam in Congleton, and home well before 5pm, in time to hear the final score of Bradford City 0, Macclesfield Town 1 coming through on Canalside Community Radio 102.8, as I was putting the clean laundry away!
On summit, I made 80 QSOs, all on 20m CW, and into 25 DXCCs, the pick of which were USA, Canada and Israel. Many thanks to all the SOTA chasers that worked and/or spotted me. Later in my email inbox was a message with QSO data - but from a station that I hadn’t worked. It was right in the thick of the big pile-up though, so I assume one of those situations where the caller doesn’t really hear you going back with his callsign, and assumes it is him you are responding to!
Regarding the WFF thing - I might call it again sometime - but it can actually reduce the amount of QSOs you get with some of the alligators and poor operators that chase WFF on your QRG. Will I pre-announce a future WFF activation? Maybe. Will I follow the requests on the WFF website to submit a full log, photos, proof, video etc within three months? Not a chance!