A Top (Band) Morning

As the title might suggest, the main motivation for the trip on the morning of the 29th was to try out Top Band during an activation from Wendover Woods G/CE-005. It’s not a band I use from home and in fact I have only ever made one Top Band QSO in the entire 23 years of my amateur radio life. But that was about to change…

So I knew that pre-dawn would be a good time but what about an antenna? I did a bit of reading and computer modelling and decided that I cold use my 26m doublet as a kind of loaded L/longwire. More of the antenna later but now I knew I would be in business.

I set off quite early and parked the car just before 0700 in the pitch black with the temperature steady at –2C. Not too bad but enough to make me appreciate the layers I had put on. I walked up the hill to the footpath and over the stile into the trig point field.

I managed not to fall over anything in the dark. Not bad when you consider I couldn’t find my head torch before I left so I had dispensed with using the mini hand torch until I was setting up. I got to the trig point pillar and decided I would strap the 10m Sotapole to it with couple of climbing slings and bungees. I didn’t want to be “faffing around” with guy ropes in the dark. It actually worked rather well and it’s something I will always carry for trig points from now on.

So the configuration of the antenna was as follows: Rather than an inverted V, the doublet legs were led out in a “fork” away from me. The other side of the fork (handle) was the remaining twin feeder pulled out away from the pole and back down to the ground where I strapped each side of the ribbon together. I then fed the whole lot against a 40m long counterpoise run out underneath the radiating wire in the direction of the fork.

I settled myself down, set up the 706 and got ready to tune up. The moment of truth… it tuned just fine and I could already hear quite a few stations on the band although there also seemed to be a lot of static crashes audible too. It was still about 45 minutes before sunrise so probably a good time to start.

I started calling (using about 25W) on 1.832 but didn’t get a reply. So I self spotted and carried on. Fairly soon I was pleased to hear GM3RFQ reply for my first SOTA 160m QSO! He was about 579 with me and I got 549 in return… not too bad.

A run of 6 more stations followed including DJ5AV, F6ACD, G4SSH, EI2CL, SM6CMU and G0TDM. Special thanks to Roy G4SSH, Mike EI2CL and John G0TDM for persevering as the QSO’s were quite difficult due to the weaker signals and the static crashes.

Also, I was a little mean with my report to SM6CMU. He was the strongest station that called by a long way and I “heard” and sent 589 without looking but I’m sure it was a good 599 on the meter. Anyway great signal Ingemar!

After that the QSO’s dried up and it was getting near sunrise but it was well and truly qualified on Top Band! I must admit I was wondering where Phil G4OBK was but he told me later he was having a lie in! :slight_smile:

I had intended to get up and reconfigure the antenna into an inverted V at that point but I quickly checked 3.557 to find Tom M1EYP/P on The Cloud so I tuned up the wire and we exchanged for a nice S2S QSO… although it was a tad difficult with the odd static crash covering the signal report at first but everything was OK in the clear in the end.

I wanted to move to 80m next anyway so I disconnected the counterpoise and moved the doublet legs back into the more usual inverted V configuration with the twin feeder separated. Once done it was back to the radio to find that the static crashes were less too… Interesting.

I noticed that Tom was still on 3.557 so in order to rustle up some “trade” I moved down a little and got as close as I could without causing QRM but close enough for listeners with a wide filter to hear me. Not surprisingly, first up was Mike GW0DSP who kindly spotted me too. A nice run of a dozen stations followed before I tried a move to 3.659 SSB. I did manage to work Paul G4MD and Roger G0TRB but it was really busy and the QRM was just too bad so I scurried off to 40m CW for a bit of peace and quiet!

Calling on 7.032 brought in a good run of 17 callers from all around Europe with good signals all around. Funnily enough, I thought the skip was quite long but I did manage a QSO with Phil G4OBK who had now surfaced. I wonder if any other G stations could hear me?

After the callers dried up, I decided to try back on 80m SSB and managed to find a (reasonably) clear QRG on 3.640 where I spotted myself and worked a further 14 stations with a bit of sliding around to keep away from QRM. By now it was about 0930 and I was getting rather cold having sat more or less in the same position for nearly two hours (I was not going for contest style QSO’s). I decided to pack up and go home to warm up and recharge the battery before going on to do G/SE-001 later (more in another report).

I quickly packed everything away and ambled back across the field and down the hill to the car where the temperature was still showing –1C at 1000. It was not going to be a warm day!

Anyway thanks to all callers and also to the spotters SM6CMU, GW0DSP, HA7UG, M0DFA and G4OBK.

QSO summary as follows:

160m CW – 7
80m CW – 13
80m SSB – 16
40m CW – 17

13 DXCC entities worked.

So now the QSO chart in the database for G/CE-005 shows some Top Band QSO’s. Mission accomplished and a very satisfying morning.

73 and HNY de Marc G0AZS

In reply to G0AZS:
Well done Marc on the Topband activation, a band that offers more of a challenge than other HF bands from summits. Sean M0GIA

In reply to G0AZS:
Hi Marc,

Thanks for a good report and insight into how it was done, ie the antenna configs. All of interest. 160m is increasing in popularity for SOTA it would seem & it’s the band of choice for overnighters, early mornings and late stays. It’s not that often that I hear of anyone putting it on so that’s a bonus for the chasers of 1.8.

You certainly did it right, UTC wise. Well done.

73, John G4YSS.