Sometimes you need a little break away from something to realise just how much you miss it. Sometimes it’s through boredom, sometimes though lack of perceived time, sometimes through circumstances beyond your control. I think for me it was a mixture of all three.
To get to new summits that I haven’t activated before I need to travel and have at least an overnight stay somewhere. My last activation was last August (2017), one of only 13 activations for the whole of the year, the lowest number since my first year.
Back end of last year I started playing with FT8 and quickly configured a Pi-2 (and touch screen) to use the mode. Christmas brought me a Pi-3 and I soon had that configured to use various modes. This was my way back into radio. I then needed a new project, something that would get me back on hills in some form.
A couple of years ago I purchased a MST ssb transceiver kit with the intention of using it portable. I got as far as completing the main board but stalled at the fabrication of a suitable box and it was put to one side; still not finished it. I saw an advertisement in January for the CS range of transceiver kits (with the attraction that it was complete with box) and thought that would be a nice useful project.
I made an order for the 40m version and a bag of bits soon arrived. It didn’t take me long to have the VFO built and operating; I documented my progress on Twitter. Over the next few days the kit was built and each stage was aligned and tested. I did one small mod by adding one of SOTAbeams audio filters before finally finishing the kit.
I soon made a few contacts with the transceiver and its 8W from home to confirm that all was well and patiently waited for time and weather to coincide to take the unit out on a summit.
The forecast for the Easter weekend was not looking good but I had alerted to try for the EU/VK S2S attempts which would have been my first activation of the year. Waking Good Friday morning and seeing that it was dry and the forecast for rain only in the afternoon prompted me to go out and at least try one hill with the new transceiver, after all that is why it was built.
Helen and I wanted to get out and do some walking so a combined ramble, geocache session and hill was hastily decided on. Aconbury Hill (G/WB-024) was chosen as it’s not too onerous or too far away from home bearing in mind that anything could go wrong with the transceiver, antenna or propagation.
Aconbury is an old hill fort with a mostly indistinct ditch and embankment around the summit remaining. The summit has a trig-point and is covered in large trees which could be used as antenna supports however I was going to use my trusty ¼ wave vertical.
The 40m band didn’t sound too lively but there were still stations at good strengths to be heard. The little CS-40 transceiver is a back-to-basics rig with no frequency or signal strength display so reports were given subjectively. A self-spot was posted and soon my first chaser was in the log, good start. After 5 contacts I handed the mike over to Helen so she could make a few contacts for the activation. After her 4th qualifying contact the band went quiet with QSB. I then called again and worked Helen’s last contact (in Orkney) then decide to see if there were any other summits being activated. The first one I found was HB9EIZ/P on Bachtel (HB/ZH-004) for the first S2S with the new set-up. I then found OK4KOP/P for a difficult second. On returning to my original frequency I was then called by DL6FBK/P on Hummelskopf (DM/BW-845) for my third S2S. I finished with 12 contacts in all. I think that was a successful first activation with a low powered home-built transceiver.
Rain was forecast for just after lunchtime and we planned to be on our way home before it arrived. We finished our walk and the rain hadn’t appeared. I didn’t plan on a second activation so no hill was organised. We decided to do my least favourite WB summit Hegdon (G/WB-023), a summit that has no accent to speak of, unless you want to be a purest and walk from lower down; I can never see the point of doing that, I have done plenty of summits that have taken hours to ascend to compensate. A quick 6 stations were logged. The final one was a nice chat with Euan moored on his boat in Shetland using the call MM0VIK/MM.
So as you can see I have set myself a couple of challenges. Do some of the Welsh biggies with only one band and home built kit (the original idea) and now re-do all the WBs, which I have started accidently to activate in reverse number order by doing WB-024 and 023.