On Friday evening Gerald (G4OIG) e-mailed me to let me know he’d be activating a couple of HuMPs up in the (geographical, not SOTA region!) Scottish Borders on Saturday, if I’d like to have a listen for him on 60m. Of course I would, and did and was stationed in the shack at the allotted time of 1100 listening on 5.3985 where I expected him to pop up. However the horrendous noise problem I have at home which had abated somewhat of late was back in full force (S9+ DC - 20MHz ) and despite Gerald’s 40 watts and my determined tweaking of attenuator, IF bandwidth and DSP I couldn’t manage better than picking out the odd word from Gerald against a background that sounded like a Harrier jump jet taking off - certainly not enough to be worthwhile calling. I noted from the HEMA spotting site (thanks Karl 2E0FEH!) that Gerald had moved to 7.160 but could here nothing of him here.
Sensing my dischuffment with this state of affairs, my dear XYL came to my rescue and suggested I abandon the planned domestic chores and go out portable for Gerald’s second HuMP of the day. It was now just after 12.40, and it didn’t take me long to work out I’d have time to get to my local summit and get set up ready for Gerald’s alerted time of 14.30. Fortunately on returning from our recent foray to GM between Christmas and New Year I had checked and repacked all the gear, including installing a newly charged battery, so after a quick change into outdoor clothing and grabbing assorted aerial equipment, boots and SOTA pack I had time to put on a quick alert for my hastily-planned activation. I noted with satisfaction there were a goodly bunch of other alerts around 14.30, this could become a good afternoon’s radio
I was off the drive by 13.30, and pulling up at the car park for Walton Hill, G/CE-002 by 13.40. This area and the adjacent Clent Hills are the playground for half of Birmingham, and the car parks were heaving on this fine Saturday afternoon but I was fortunate in getting the last available space which was happily right at the start of the short path to the summit.
After quickly donning boots and pack, I was walking by 13:50 and was at the trig 9 minutes later, blowing and barking like a Black Five banking a coal train up the Lickey Incline. In my prime this was an easy six minute stroll, but a year of very little activity has taken it’s toll…
On the way up I’d passed an ATV loaded with chain saws and brush cutters on the way down, and I could now see what they’d been up to - the brambles and scrubby trees on either side of the track had been cut back. This I welcomed - I generally set up the long doublet out of the way to the left of the main track, rather than in the clear area at the top which gets very busy with dogwalkers and other hill users.
Setting up proceeded quickly, and by 14.15 I was ready to go. Checking the SOTA spots, I noted that Rod, MW0JLA/P was on Coity Mountain, GW/SW-012 on 80m so I started by calling him for the S2S, then quickly retuned the doublet for 60m. By 14.25 I was established on 5.4035, and within a minute was called by GM4OIG/P on the HuMP Wester Dod, GM/HSS-280, exchanging reports of 58 both ways. Goal achieved! After a few minute’s chat we signed and Gerald went off to 5.3715 to continue his activation, kindly spotted on the HEMA site by Mike, G4BLH.
Having signed with Gerald, I was immediately called by Don, G0RQL for our first QSO of 2020 and an enjoyable exchange of seasonal greetings. Don was followed by locals Jez, M0NTC and our very own Brian G8ADD fighting against his local noise then further flung “regulars” Andy, GM6ZAK and Michael, EI3GYB finished the run on 60m.
Another check of the spots showed Simon, G4TJC/P on Bardon Hill, G/CE-004 on 80m so another quick band change ensued and Simon was soon in the log for the S2S and a new complete for G6GGP
As I finished working Simon I was approached by a walker, who started asking intelligent questions like are you on 80m and what is your ATU… obviously a bit of inside information available here! The mystery was solved when he introduced himself as Nick, M0NYX. He was aware of SOTA, but not active in Amateur Radio at the moment. Let’s hope he catches the bug again and we see him on air
Nick having departed, I searched for a clear frequency on a very busy and noisy 80m eventually alighting on 3.767, a long way from my usual preferred frequency of 3.666. I thus allowed myself the luxury of a self-spot, and soon managed a healthy log of 16 UK and continental calls on the band, including from Tom, M1EYP/P on G/SP-015 for the last S2S of the day. The band ran dry after a call from SA4BLM and with the clock at 1600 and dusk approaching I decided to call it a day, descending at 16.20 and ready to leave the now nearly deserted car park at 16.35.
So all in all an excellent afternoon out. Many thanks to Gerald for giving me the impetus, my XYL for her forebearance, and all my contacts for the enjoyable QSOs littered with seasonal cheer and greetings
We’re planning on 2020 being a bumper year for getting out so looking forward to many more contacts in the near future.
Happy New Year to all, 73 and hope to catch you from another summit soon!