“Are you doing the Backpackers’ on Sunday?”, asked a certain G3CWI in the pub earlier in the week. “No chance” I replied, thinking that I would have no chance - logical. Discovering that Marianne had a night-shift on the Saturday night changed everything!
We had a “proper” day out activating in North-East Wales on the Saturday, while for the Sunday, I was hatching a sneaky plot. Marianne would be asleep in bed. Jimmy wouldn’t want to come out - he would be revising for his GCSE Maths paper 1 the following day, and taking advantage of having the shack to himself for SOTA chasing. That’s fine though, he’s the quiet one, and Marianne would sleep in peace and quiet.
However, Liam - the noisy one - would need occupying. “Can this be done?” I asked myself. Can I get Liam out on a hill for five hours without grumbling? I had to think creatively. I told him we were going to buy a tent and go camping. “But we can’t sleep overnight” he said, “I’ve got school in the morning”. “No” I replied, “We’ll just test it and relax in it in the afternoon, with a picnic and your Nintendo DS”. He quickly warmed to the idea.
As did Marianne. She was soon preparing us a rather nice picnic, to which I added a flask of smoked haddock chowder, as requested by Liam.
So stage one of the plot was complete; Liam was out of the house in contented mood. I still had a major task on my hands to complete all tasks before the 1100z / 12pm start time of the Backpackers’ Contest. First, there was peat-free compost and bark chippings to collect from the garden centre, and drop off home. Then there was the matter of the tent. I daren’t be a fraud now and not get one, plus I thought it would be a good tool for operating in the contest. (I got my inspiration from Charlie G0PZO who I once met operating contest from his tent on Moel Famau GW/NW-044).
Hence the next stop was Sainsbury’s, where an ideal looking 2-man tent was purchased for £17. It would never replace my big Vango tent for proper camping holidays, but it looked ideal for an afternoon’s activating, and maybe even a summer overnighter. Liam asked for the latest issue of Top Gear magazine as he passed the news stands in Sainsbury’s, a wish I granted due to his most charming nature this morning, and it was another thing to occupy him later in the afternoon.
SOTA or radio hadn’t been mentioned, but Liam must have been suspicious when I pulled into the normal parked spot for Shining Tor G/SP-004, just short of the Cat & Fiddle pub on the A537 Macclesfield to Buxton road. He didn’t raise an objection though, and neither did he when I loaded the foam sleep mats and tent onto his rucksack!
We had an enjoyable half hour stroll to the summit, where we crossed the wall and walked along to where it rose highest above the ground for maximum shelter into the prevailing wind. There was only 25 minutes to go before the start of the contest, so I was hoping that the tent would be quick and easy. It was, and Liam was soon inside laying out the foam mats and setting out his entertainment and food for the afternoon.
I then set to work on setting up the 3 element SOTA Beam on the fishing pole, and got drenched in a nasty shower while doing so! Liam, who had escaped it, looked bemused when I eventually crawled into the tent looking the original drowned rat!
I peeled off the sodden waterproof layer and boots, and set up the FT-817 ready to go. It was all done by seconds before the 12pm start!
Things started well with 32 QSOs inside the first hour. Most stations were competing in that weekends 144MHz 24 hour contest, but there were one or two Backpackers and SOTA activators around. Summit to summit QSOs were made with Tony 2E0LAE/P on Kinder Scout G/SP-001, Nick G0HIK/P on Kirkby Moor G/LD-049, Mark G0VOF/P on Pendle Hill G/SP-005 and Rob G4RQJ/P on Easington Fell G/SP-012.
While there was no DX from overseas - not even EI or GI - there were some good contacts from Scotland (IO75, IO85), Isle of Man (IO74), Kent (JO01), Norfolk (JO02), Lincolnshire (JO03) plus all the “usual” ones like IO81, 82, 83, 84, 91, 92, 93. Each DXCC and each district/postcode, as well as the locator squares, counted for a multiplier in this contest, and I ended up with 53 multipliers in all. Together with the 65 QSOs in the four hours, my claimed score of 322,982, sufficient to see me hold first place - for a day at least!
The second hour saw 18 QSOs, and the logarithmic trend of activity from the start of a contest through to its end was taking typical shape. Just 9 contacts were achieved in the third hour, as I necessarily spent more time chasing others rather than trying to hold my own frequency, and there were just 6 QSOs in the logbook in the final hour.
Not that I operated for all of the final hour. The unmistakable crackle of static rain returned to the 817, as the heavens opened again above. This was after a pleasant two hour interlude of lovely warm sunshine on the summit. In short succession, I received two small static shocks from the 817 case, and that was game over!
I grabbed some dry items like the tent bag and peg bag and used them to disconnect the feeder, microphone and battery from the FT-817. We tried lounging around in the tent for a while, but the rain showed no signs of stopping. We had to reluctantly pack up and descend in the rain.
Upon returning to the car, I whacked the heater on as we peeled off waterproofs and changed footwear. I reinstalled the FT-817 into its mobile position, and found the 10m CW was alive with activity. I plugged the Mini Palm Paddle in and made a few QSOs to get a few new DXCCs for 2009 on this band, for the G3WGV UK CW Table http://ukcwtable.g3wgv.com
Liam surpsingly declined my offers of pork scratchings and J2O at the Cat & Fiddle, and even to nip over Axe Edge to watch the World Final of the F1 stock cars at Buxton Hi-Edge Raceway. So we ordered the take-away, and sped off down to the Weston Balti Raj to collect it. G3CWI and family were dining in the restaurant as Liam and I arrived, and Richard expressed his surprise that he saw my car at the parking spot when he drove past it in poor weather earlier. And even more surprise when he drove past it in even worse weather some hours later!
This was a very satisfying and enjoyable activation. Liam was fantastic company all day. And the curry was lovely.