With G(M)4ZRP up to stay over Easter, we thought we’d have a SOTA-fest.
I can’t read OS maps without glasses anymore, so I photocopied up the necessary bits from my expanding collection of maps ready for Brian’s arrival. I picked an assortment of 10,8,6 and a few local 4 pointers I’d been saving up for better weather. His exact phrase when I showed him the route for Stob Binnein (SS-002) and Ben More (SS-001) was a little strong for a family web site so we settled on something less ambitious, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin! In the end we only managed Ben Vorlich. We could have struggled on and done Stuc, but we’d have been well knackered for the rest of the holiday. We decided thoroughly enjoying one hill was better than punishing ourselves for two hills. And there is always tomorrow.
Compared to my usual activity, Ben Vorlich was 3 Sunday’s worth of climbing rolled into 1. I’ve noticed how poor propagation has been recently on 60m with the foF2 creeping above 5MHz only by late afternoon. Luckily at the speed we went up the Ben, the foF2 was OK, not brilliant as the skip was still a little long but propagation was better than when I activated Dungavel Hill SS-165 last weekend. I’ve made up some extensions to the 60/40m dipole I use so it will resonate on 80m. That’s quite a big antenna was Brian’s comment when we set it up to trim it to resonance as it was too big for my garden so we set it up in a local field. In the end we only operated on 60m and 2m.
Climbing a popular Munro near the centre of population of Scotland in good weather on Good Friday is a recipe for lots of walkers and lots and lots there were. Just to wind me and Brian up, a family with some kids proceeded to run up and down past us as we all made our way uphill. The little darlings didn’t even break into a sweat and they must have climbed three times the height I did!
Anyway, with the dipole setup on the summit, Brian logged and explained what we were up to whilst I worked the chasers. QSO’s with G3RMD, M0VEY, G0HNW, GW0VMZ, MM1FHO, G0RQL, G4GKE, G4BLH, GM4FAM, G4JZF, GW4ERP/P (S2S MW-004), M1MAJ, GW4BVE, GW0DSP, GW8OGI/P (S2S NW-015), M1YAM/P (S2S NP-018) on 60m and GM4XQJ, MM1FHO, GM6RGY on 2m FM. Brian worked 6 of those so he could activate the hill aswell.
Considering how strong Len MM1FHO was on 2m would explain why we could hear him on 60m when the skip was quite long. Probably an LOS path. However, I have no understanding how we worked Cris GM4FAM near Inverness. The skip was too short to reliably work the North Wales mafia (GW0DSP and GW7AAV) at about 210 miles yet we could hear Cris clearly but weakly over an obstructed 77 mile path. Explanations please if anyone understands!
The final ascent to the summit is quite steep but looks about 10 times steeper on the way down. Apart from that it was a pleasant plod back to the car. The drive back was via Callander with the mandatory visit to The Tasty Fry chip shop!
We climbed quite slowly unlike my normal rate when alone, so whilst my legs were letting me know they had climbed 2900ft when we got to the top, I wasn’t tired or hot and sweaty. Likewise for the descent. Still this morning was funny, I got out of bed and promptly fell to my knees with a groan. But they warmed up enough for a nice leisurely meander up Mendick Hill SS-195 with Brian in the afternoon.
For anyone looking for propagation web sites, I can reccomend http://www.ips.gov.au/HF_Systems where there are many useful charts updated in near realtime. Pick the chart you want from the menu on the left.
http://www.ips.gov.au/HF_Systems/3/3 shows the current foF2 for Europe and
http://www.ips.gov.au/HF_Systems/3/1 shows an HAP prediction. If you select London, you can see the frequencies that give coverage from London to assorted locations in Europe. A bit of extrapolation will help you see what frequency should work from other locations.
Oh, and for those that count such things, Ben Vorlich was Munro #1 for me!