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Activation Report - 6 SC's

Saturday 18th October 2008

The preparations and planning for this sortie were not completed until just six hours before setting out. Inevitably some errors crept into the schedule, but in the end with the assistance of a number of regular 2m SSB chasers, the day turned out to be an excellent one.

When I set out from Northampton at 02:58UTC the temperature was just 6 degrees and the weather calm and damp, though not raining. I did not meet any actual rain until I got near to Swindon. Between Bath and Bristol on the M4, I drove through some heavy showers. So much for the fine weather forecast I thought. However, this was not to be another Lancashire soaking.

I arrived at the car park for Selworthy Beacon SC-005 at sunrise some 25 minutes early and this gave me time to backtrack a bit and check out the parking at SS915477 suggested by James 2E0HVZ. After parking up, I noted the temperature was a heady 8 degrees and there was a light coolish breeze blowing. The clouds overhead and around were various shades of grey indicating rain in the vicinity. A quick look at the nearby Memorial Hut allowed me a few moments to get the circulation into action after driving the 208 miles in 3 hours and 27 minutes. The summit from the parking spot was just 5 minutes, so even allowing for a snack before ascending, I was at the trig by 06:50, where I decided set up station close by. The ever-vigilant Roger G0TRB was first in the log at 07:02 and his spot alerted more regulars to provide a leisurely run of 9 contacts over the next 23 minutes. Conditions were reasonable though QSB very much in evidence and so it remained during the day. Once the end on 2m had ended, I changed antennas and worked Don G0RQL and Frank G3RMD on 70cms. There was some noticeable attenuation on the path down to Don caused by Dunkery Beacon and its environs, but signals were still an acceptable strength. I called CQ on CW to the north for a few moments in the hope that I might find Graham G3OHC or Phil G4OBK, but there were no more takers, so I went QRT at 07:44. During the activation I noted and photographed a number of rainbows, including one rather mysteriously appearing to hover over the Bristol Channel to the north west of me. At one point I thought that I would be in for a soaking, but the rain fortunately passed by to the south.

The descent to the car took all of 4 minutes and after preparing for the next summit, Periton Hill SC-006, I was back on the road by 08:05, already 45 minutes ahead of schedule. My itinerary was based on driving to Wootton Courtenay to the south-west of the summit, but I was intending using the route described by Richard G4ERP from the north-east. I therefore arrived at the parking spot at 08:22, a further 13 minutes in hand. It was now a very pleasant 12 degrees. The ascent took 30 minutes from the parking spot at SS963446 and was very enjoyable walking on good firm ground. Richard’s instructions were easily followed. I walked along the ridge to find the raised trig point amongst the trees and then retraced my steps to an area where the take off to the north and to the south-west was relatively clear. This put me at about 290 metres. It took a while to find a suitable grassy patch amongst the gorse, but I was soon set up and my initial call at 09:17 on 144.333MHz was answered by Frank G3RMD. After a chat with Frank, I was called by Gordon G3LZT for a further 5 minute natter and then 6 regular chasers provided a decent run. Mike GW0DSP called several times, but it was evident that he was having difficulty in hearing me, so I went to CW and we had good copy despite the QSB. There were no further callers on either mode after working Mike, so I moved to 70cms to make contacts with Don and Frank, the effect of Dunkery Beacon being even more pronounced from this location. I called Graham G3OHC afterwards as arranged during our 2m QSO, but nothing was heard either way. I therefore went QRT at 09:59. On the summit it had been sunny and it quite warm, my estimate of 16 degrees being confirmed when I got back to the car.

My descent was a quick 17 minute romp, following which I changed batteries and had an early (?) lunch at 10:26 before setting out for my next summit, Wills Neck SC-002. Despite being held up by a lorry on the notorious winding A39, I arrived at the parking spot at ST163359 at 11:28, now 1 hour and 7 minutes ahead of schedule. I had scheduled 20 minutes for the ascent of this hill, but it only took me 14 minutes up the very clear track leading directly to the summit trig point. I was therefore up and running by 11:59 with Frank again heading the queue which allowed us a bit more time to chat. Frank’s alert brought in a run of another 10 chasers, mostly at moderate to good signal strengths. This time I was able to make contact with Mike GW0DSP using SSB. Moving to 70cms, I again worked Don and Frank and then changing to CW had a successful contact with Graham G3OHC. Qualification of the summit on 70cms was achieved with another CW contact, this one with Peter G3TJE. While on 70cms, both Don and Frank had alerted me to the fact that Robin GM7PKT/P was on CS-009, so a move was made back to 2m to attempt a contact, but unfortunately conditions were not good enough to make this a success. Operations concluded at 13:02.

After dismantling the station, my descent of just 8 minutes recouped much of the additional time expended activating the summit – relative to my schedule of course. I was back on the road by 13:26 and despite having to drive through the middle of Taunton on a Saturday afternoon (notable for its jay-walking public), I arrived at the parking spot for my next summit, Staple Hill SC-004, at 14:17. Here I parked on an area of rough ground at ST230162 on the minor road opposite Ringborough House. I walked back down the B3170 to the end of the bridleway and then along this for around 600 metres until I found a spot suitably in the clear between the wooded areas on the summit. I set up using a fence post to support the mast and my test whistle at 14:38 on my usual frequency brought an immediate response from Frank. The run on 2m SSB totalled 9 ending with an S2S with Steve 2E0KPO/P on Bradnor Hill WB-011. A number of chasers informed me about Geoff MW3SFN/P on Cefn yr Ystrad SW-008 who I worked after the run. Moving to 70cms, I again worked Don and Frank, but nothing was heard from Graham G3OHC on this summit and by 15:32 I was QRT.

I returned to my car and was once more on the road for 15:55. The satnav now went into “stupid” mode and took me to the service road to the Taunton services on the M5 northbound. As I turned round in the entrance to the service road another car entered, its driver looking rather bewildered. Another victim of technology! Anyway, Taunton was only 3 miles distant so I headed for the town and soon the satnav redeemed itself with a route to the proper M5 junction. This lost me a bit of time, but I made the parking spot for my next summit Beacon Batch SC-003 by 16:55. This meant I was now 1 hour 40 minutes ahead of my schedule, so a sixth summit was definitely a possibility.

It was now my turn to go into “stupid” mode. While I remembered my LED head lamp, I forgot to pick up my GPS. I discovered this when I was part way up my ascent and not wanting to waste time going back to the car, I decided to keep going. I therefore was unable to make a note of the spot where the bridleway gains access to the Open Access Land. I had also incorrectly assessed the time to ascend this hill and the 20 minutes allowed turned out to be 30 minutes in reality. I set up at the trig point using bungies to attached the mast and had to lean against the mast to keep it stable in the freshening wind. It was now dusk and I needed the head lamp to see the log, but once I was sorted out everything was fine. Once again Frank was the first in the log at 17:40, the run totalling 10 contacts in 17 minutes. Although I had not intended to operate 70cms from this summit as it was dark, Frank suggested that I might attempt a contact using the 2m beam and this proved to be successful. Further contacts with Stewart G0LGS and Don G0RQL followed at acceptable signal strengths. I closed down at 18:07 and dismantled the station. It was now dark, though not totally black as the light pollution from Bristol and Weston Super Mare provided some background illumination.

I started my descent at 18:17, but failed to read the tracks correctly and so came out at the edge of the OA land not where I expected. Surprisingly two other people were up on the hill in the dark that evening, but we did not cross tracks – I could just see the light of their lamps about 100 metres ahead of me. At the edge of the OA land it took a while for me to orientate myself and then backtrack to locate the bridleway. In all the descent took 53 minutes which meant I was now running late for my sixth and final activation of the day. Although I had not scheduled this summit, I had said I would be QRV between 19:30 and 20:00UTC. Back at the car I noted the temperature had dropped to 12 degrees, so it would have been slightly lower in the cool wind at the summit.

I left the parking spot at 19:05 and a slow lorry encountered in the lanes between the final two summits put further pressure on my timing. However, I was in the village of Dundry by 19:30 so all was more or less okay – that was until I found the village car park to be full and overflowing. Obviously something was happening at the pub, but there was no time to investigate. I therefore had to look for an alternative parking spot, which I fortunately found at ST552665 on the track to Castle Farm. A section of footpath starts from this location and I gained access to the field through an easy gateway and set up using the fence to support the mast. As it turned out, it was fortunate that I used this location as the preamp in my set up seems to be rather wideband. Even though I was some 250 metres from the masts on the summit, I suffered from a considerably raised noise floor when I beamed north-east towards the mast.

The activation of Dundry Down SC-010 started at 19:53 with Frank G3RMD yet again waiting on frequency. A number of other regulars came on to work me on this summit – G0LGS, G0TRB, G0RQL, G0NES, G3OHC, G0ELJ and G4MD. Geoff M3SFN also worked me, fresh from his activation in South Wales and a contact with Dennis 2E0JWJ in Westbury brought the 2m total to a respectable 10. Moving to 70cms, yet again Frank and Don were worked using the 2m beam, so that made it a clean sweep of all 6 summits for both of them on the two bands. Roger G0TRB and Don G0NES made a clean sweep on 2m and Graham G3OHC just missed me on the first summit.

After the 70cms contact with Don G0RQL, I went QRT at 20:28, packed up and returned to the car where I had something to eat and drink and prepared for the journey home. My departure time was 20:50 – coincidentally the same time that I had scheduled, but with the additional summit in the bag. I didn’t make it home in one stint – I stopped for an hour’s kip between Swindon and Oxford to rest tired eyes and eventually arrived home at 00:10UTC. As I was the only one at home, I brought in the kit, fed Whisper and had a shower, all before retiring to bed at 01:00. It was 10:00 before I was up and about – I haven’t lain a’ bed that long since I were a youth!

Many thanks to everyone that came on to work me during the day, especially to those that I worked on Dundry Down who obviously had made a special effort to be on. Thanks to Frank G3RMD, Don G0RQL and Roger G0TRB for the spots. Particular thanks to Frank for his valuable support and for being virtually omni-present on 144.333MHz; also for the excellent suggestion of trying 70cms using the 2m beam on the final two summits.

73, Gerald

Basic stats:
SE-005 9 QSOs 144MHz 2 QSOs 432MHz
SE-006 9 QSOs 144MHz 2 QSOs 432MHz
SE-002 11 QSOs 144MHz 4 QSOs 432MHz
SE-004 10 QSOs 144MHz 2 QSOs 432MHz
SE-003 10 QSOs 144MHz 3 QSOs 432MHz
SE-010 10 QSOs 144MHz 2 QSOs 432MHz

Kit as usual: FT-817, Microset 2m / 70cms dual band linear with gasfet preamp, 5el SOTAbeam / 6el DL6WU yagi, 5m SOTApole. 3 x 3.3AH SLAB’s (2 carried summits 2, 3 and 4) 1 x 12AH SLAB (carried summits 1, 5 and 6).

Departure 02:58UTC Saturday, arrival home 01:10UTC Sunday – 22 hours 12 minutes
438miles (700kms) travelled. Ascent – who knows, not a lot, but I still ache!

Believe it or not, after completing the 6 summits I did wonder whether to slip down to Dorset to polish off SC-012 and 013 on the Sunday morning…………

In reply to G4OIG:
As usual Gerald, an excellent account of your activations !
Thank you for all the summits, SC002 Will’s Neck was a new one, especially with the bonus of an extra CW QSO on 70cm.
Glad you had a successful (and drier) time !

73 Graham G3OHC

Great effort Gerald. I like the idea of your multi-summit days, although not the idea of the very early and very late long-distance driving. I don’t think any amount of coffee and Red Bull could keep me awake at the wheel on your schedule!

Are some of your times mixed up between BST and UTC? Otherwise you went to bed before you got home, which is what I would be worried about (as above), and sounds like an old Monty Python sketch!

Jimmy and I plan to finish of the SCs and do all the DCs next year. The five DCs I have done were all before Jimmy was licensed, so they all have to be redone. If we can motor through them ‘Gerald-style’, then we will only need three days!

Good job,

Tom M1EYP

In reply to G4OIG:
Interesting report, as always!
Sorry to miss you - fitting radio to car (so far, due to faulty cables, somewhat unsuccessfully).
Catch you on the next outing I hope.
73
Graham G4FUJ

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom,

As Uniques are my interest, it is now impossible to get in a decent day of activating without starting early and getting back late. The mileage per summit is the key - this one was quite good VFM, but I am running out of single day activations on account of the distance factor. Paul and I have already carried out a two day 10 summit sortie, so there could be more of the same in the future. Booking a Travelodge overnight at £20 a room is better than travelling back and forth, both in terms of time and expense.

With regards to the times quoted: “…My departure time was 20:50 (9.50 p.m.)… arrived home at 00:10UTC (1.10 a.m.)… all before retiring to bed at 01:00 (2 a.m.). It was 10:00 (11 a.m.) before I was up and about…” Is that not sequential or have I missed something? Technically I did go to bed for an hour before I got home, but fortunately I was parked up in a lay-by on the A420. Perhaps I am perfecting a tardis mode of activating. Incidentally, I did have a can of Red Bull before leaving Dundry, but even that couldn’t keep my eyes from being affected by the lights of the oncoming traffic, hence why I stopped. Naturally I was pinging when I got home!

73, Gerald

In reply to G3OHC:

Hi Graham,

I was “well chuffed” to make that 70cms CW QSO and then Peter came along with the cream topping! If I could qualify the hills on 70cms then it would be my preferred band, but there just aren’t enough chasers with suitable equipment. I guess it will always play second fiddle to 2m.

Many thanks for the contacts - sorry to have missed you on the first. See you next time I am out… hopefully on 70cms again.

73, Gerald

In reply to G4FUJ:

Hi Graham,

The activation was very much a last minute arrangement - your absence was noted, as were several other regulars, so you weren’t alone. Hope you get the car radio sorted out soon.

73, Gerald

My departure time was 20:50
eventually arrived home at 00:10UTC
all before retiring to bed at 01:00.
Departure 02:58UTC Saturday, arrival home 01:10UTC Sunday

Suspect it is the last time quoted that is the ‘rogue’ BST time Gerald! That would make your total 21 hrs 12 mins though.

So you still have SC12 and 13 to do? I didn’t think much of SC-13, although the views were quite good from the top. SC-12 was lovely in all respects. I’ll contact you for a copy of your planning spreadsheets for the SC summits when Jimmy and I go to complete them, hopefully next year, if that’s OK. Your data for the A27 Five (didn’t they rob a bank or bomb something in the 70s?) was very useful in the summer.

Cheers, Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom,

Thanks for sorting the rogue hour out. Yes it was 1.10 a.m. I arrived home and as you say, a mere 21hrs 12 mins away from the homestead. Must try harder, especially as there is an hour’s downtime in there.

As for SC-012 and 013, I will have to plan those in with SE-003 which has still to be done. A bit convoluted, but that’s the way it has turned out. The other SE’s will have to wait - the Kent pair and the IOW pair. I will need to persuade Bev we need another week away on the isle to complete that group. I have been up both IOW summits in the past, pre-SOTA of course.

You are welcome (as is anyone else) to my planning itineraries. The completed ones show the actual timings, so you can formulate your own timings from them. I am moderately fit, not in the same league as some SOTA activators, but just average so the figures could provide a reasonable guide. I do tend to have wings on descents. As I have said to those I have been out with, I will watch your back on the ascent, you can watch mine on the descent.

73, Gerald

a mere 21hrs 12 mins away from the homestead…

I once tried to do that. Scafell Pike G/LD-001 as a daytrip from Macc. Met G6DDQ for breakfast on the A591 about 7am (after a 5am get-up). 2am the next day by the time I got home. That was a long hard drive home, with many service station stops for sleeps and Red Bulls necessary. Not pleasant.

However, I think I am finding keeping my stamina and concentration for long days easier as I get older. I don’t expect to reach Gerald-type capablilities for a while yet though!

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

I don’t expect to reach Gerald-type capablilities for a while yet though!

Hi Tom,

Stamina required - yes, coupled with a will to satisfy that Value For Money element. Believe me, if I lived closer to the summits I would be lyin’ a’ bed until 7 a.m. This activation wasn’t the hardest I’ve undertaken, after all none of the ascents were especially difficult or that long. I think 7th July 2007 was the hardest day overall physically (ascents combined with driving), though several other sorties have come close. That encompassed GW/MW-039 (Cefn Cenarth), GW/MW-040 (Carn Gafallt), GW/MW-023 (Carneddau), GW/MW-022 (Aberedw Hill), GW/MW-025 (The Begwns). At least I got to relax on the last one and bag a dozen contacts on 70cms SSB in VHF Field Day. Mind you, I was a bit wasted at the family festivities the next day. Not sure why…

73, Gerald