Monday 20th January 2020
After some discussion as to what we might do on day out on the hills, Paul indicated that he quite fancied activating the round of five 2 point summits in Shropshire and just over the border in Wales. Initially I was not that enamoured with this idea, though admittedly it is one of the classic winter bonus rounds providing a healthy points total for a single day’s activating. I needed something more and a thread regarding the use of vertical polarisation on 2m SSB provided it. I got the idea of trying vertical polarisation on 70cm SSB which I hadn’t been on for a while and when I suggested it, Paul said that he was up for operating 2m SSB. So this would be one day when the HF antennas would be left in the shack.
With the amount of daylight restricted at this time of year, it made sense to start as early as possible and finish on a summit with easy and safe access. Titterstone Clee G/WB-004 would be the final one and we would start out on Corndon Hill GW/MW-013 and work our way east back towards Paul’s QTH.
I set out at 03.53z and arrived at Paul’s at 05:20z. My kit was left in the car while I had a most welcome cup of coffee and then it was transferred over to Paul’s vehicle and we were on our way, all inside quarter of an hour. The temperature was a couple of degrees below zero and thankfully the main roads had been gritted, but the minor ones had not. The final lane to the parking spot was well iced up and care had to be taken, not only driving, but also when we got out of the car. The treacherous conditions underfoot did not help with kitting up, but by 07:16z we were ready to go.
Corndon Hill GW/MW-013 IO82LN SO39
There was a cold breeze blowing as we ascended the hill. What should have taken us no more than 25 minutes actually took 34 on account of the ice on the path and we were pleased to reach the trig without slipping over. Paul made use of the seat at the summit, while I deployed my tarp as a rudimentary shelter at the fence. We both were on air at around 08.05z. I was surprised to get a call from Ross G6GVI after a couple of calls and a short while later Don G0RQL gave me a call and we exchanged 51 reports. It then went ominously silent. After a while I decided to see whether there was any action on FM and a call on the calling frequency brought back Phil G6GIY for a quick contact. Switching back to SSB, Adrian G4AZS then called me to qualify the summit. That was the lot – obviously the Breakfast Club is no more.
Paul was similarly quick off the mark with Phil G4OBK ready and waiting. Don G0RQL followed, then Allan GW4VPX, Rod M0JLA, Adrian G4AZS and George GW6CWD. There were no further callers, so Paul came over to see how I was getting on just as Adrian called me. When I had finished and there were no further callers on 70cm, we closed down and packed the kit away. We found a slightly better way down the hill keeping off the most slippery part and arrived back at the car at 09:13z a little later than planned. The drive over to our next summit also took slightly longer than planned on account of the road conditions.
Paul packing away on Corndon Hill
Slant polarisation on 70cm - purists look away now!
Stiperstones G/WB-003 IO82MN SO39
We were running 10 minutes adrift when we arrived at the parking spot, but made up most of that with the path up the hill rapidly thawing and returning to its usual squelchy mess. We quickly chose positions amongst the rocky outcrop at the summit, being careful not to drop anything down between the stones. Paul was up and running slightly quicker than I was on this one. His initial call at 10:16z brought back Don G0RQL with Phil G4OBK following on. A steady run followed to provide a total of 10 contacts in 16 minutes, including regulars Rod M0JLA, Adrian G4AZS and Don G0NES. He was particularly chuffed to be called by Mike, G4BLH/M who after working me had dismounted his magmount vertical and laid it horizontal to be sure of getting the contact!
First into my log was Mike G4BLH/M up north in Lancashire. Adrian and Don followed and then Don G0NES and Rod M0JLA, both of whom had already worked Paul on 2m. Joshua M0WYP, Gez M0NTC, Ross G6GVI and Phil G4HQB made the total up to 9 for me on this summit. As I was finishing off, Paul came over to my position, his kit already packed away. When there were no more callers, I dismantled my kit and we set off back down to the car at 10:58z. There were now a few people out for a walk and the sun was shining. We had a snack before setting off for the next hill.
Bit of a tilt on there lad!
I was tempted to sit up there like I did the first time I was on this summit.
The Long Mynd G/WB-005 IO82 SO49
It was quite busy on the top of the Mynd when we parked up on the verge at 11.44z. Paul had chosen the spot on the road closest to the summit and a quick heather yomp to find a narrow track heading upwards soon got us to the trig at 11:58z. We had decided that this would be a low key activation, so we found a couple of positions away from the track where we set up. I sat on my tarp and supported the pole between my knees, just running the 817 barefoot for expediency. Paul was once again up and running slightly ahead of me with Don G0RQL once again heading the total of 6 contacts in 12 minutes, courtesy of Rod M0JLA, Phil G4OBK, Steve MW0ISC, Adrian G4AZS and Frank MW0OFA. There then followed 10 minutes of calling without any further response.
Gez M0NTC was first into my log, followed by Adrian G4AZS, Don G0RQL, Mike G4BLH/M and Rod M0JLA. I was then called by Dom M6KIO/P on Titterstone Clee G/WB-004 who had seen the spot for me. He was holding his Moxon antenna a little above the ground, but still put in a signal that overloaded the 817 front end. As for Paul, there were no further takers, so I went QRT and could see Paul had decided to do the same. Unfortunately we were to learn later that we just missed Don G0NES by two or three minutes.
We were back at the car at 12.49z, now ahead of schedule. Paul was going to turn the car around and go to the next summit via Church Stretton, but once we had set off to find a place to turn the car around, the satnav decided we would be okay to continue down the road, so we did. A little further on we found the road blocked with a sign indicating that the descent should be taken in low gear, but the road was not actually closed. Paul drove around the sign and engaged the appropriate gear and traction control on the Land Rover and down we went. This was something that he had not had the opportunity to use before. Thankfully everything worked as it should have done and we arrived at the bottom of the hill without any problem, despite there being some icy patches and a steep drop off on the right hand side.
The minor roads were still rather icy in places, so it was a slow journey across country and the revised route we had taken was proving to be longer than we had anticipated. Unfortunately worse was to come, in that the road was closed some 200 metres from the parking spot and the detour to get around to where we wanted to be took us another 20 minutes. Eventually we parked up at 14.00z, now 20 minutes behind schedule.
Packing away on the Mynd… just a bit too soon.
Brown Clee G/WB-002, IO82QL SO58
We were grateful that the track up to the summit was not too icy. With care we kept to the parts where the sun had thawed the ground and made it to the summit in just 25 minutes. Operating positions were chosen based on the availability of easy support for our poles, with me choosing a gnarled old tree while Paul used an old gate post. Ross G6GVI was first to respond to my call, to be quickly followed by Mike G4BLH/M, Rob M0JLA and Don G0NES. I then got a call from John G8AKE over in Melton Mowbray, his 400 watts and 23 element certainly making an easy 59 copy both ways. Calls from Adrian G4AZS, Tony G4IOQ and Don G0RQL made the total up to 8 inside half an hour.
On 2m, Paul made 5 contacts in 10 minutes, this session headed by Don G0RQL. The order then was Adrian, Rod, Don NES and Phil OBK. Further calls solicited no response and I could hear Paul calling CQ, so I went over to see how he was getting on. With contacts having dried up on both bands, we closed down at 15.26z and were back at the car for 16.05z. Thankfully the road was now open and there was no further delay in getting to our final hill. Paul had noted on a recent visit that the gates and prohibition notices on the road to the NATS compound were now gone. It seemed to be accepted practice to park on the area of hardstanding overlooking the quarry, opposite the compound gates, so to make up some of the time lost, Paul decided to park here. This proved to be a wise move as our descent would be in the dark.
70cm set up on Brown Clee
Paul operating on Brown Clee
Titterstone Clee G/WB-004 IO82QJ SO57
We set off on the track past the radio installation at 16:53z, rejoining the private road beyond to reach the trig point at 17.10z – back on schedule. As we would be operating in the dark, we had our head torches with us. I used a metal post to support my pole, while Paul used the trig. Thankfully, the cold wind that had been in evidence where we parked the car was not present on the top and we were both reasonably comfortable.
I was first to make a contact as Rod M0JLA had left the rig monitoring my frequency. Mike G4BLH/M was once again out on his local high spot and Adrian followed him. Don G0RQL was next, surprised to learn that I was running the 817 barefoot once again, with reports again 51 both ways. Don NES and Gez NTC made the total 6 and with no further callers, I had finished by 17:44z.
It took Paul a little longer to get a response on this summit, but the famous 5 all put in an appearance – Rod, Don RQL, Phil, Don NES and Adrian. Another 5 contacts in 10 minutes. With no more callers and with the temperature dropping like a stone, we went QRT at 17:53z and were back at the car by 18:24z, well pleased with the excellent support that we had received throughout the day.
Keeping it tidy in the dark.
Would we do it again – yes, this was certainly really good fun. Next time we will probably choose the end of the winter bonus period to have more daylight and also probably a weekend to take advantage of there being more people to work. This time we allowed half an hour of operation time on each summit, which was sufficient for the numbers that we worked.
As for the idea of vertical polarisation, well, Paul did not need to change from horizontal and only a couple of contacts were Q4. I mounted the 6 element DL6WU at 45 degrees on each summit and I am certain this helped me work those using vertical antennas. I now need to try this on 2m. It certainly made changing from SSB to FM and back again extremely easy.
Our most grateful thanks to everyone that we worked, especially to those that followed us around the summits and provided spots and in particular to Mike G4BLH for going out from home to his local high spot.
Gerald G8CXK (G4OIG)