Over the last few years I’ve made a point of getting on the air for my birthday. Last year I was holiday in Northumberland so spent some time on the beach in front of Bamburgh Castle with my FT817 and inverted vee dipole.
This year I arranged the loan of an FT857D so that I could attempt to have voice contacts with some of the regular SOTA chasers who normally work me whilst I’m using QRP CW.
The chosen summit for my birthday SOTA activation was Pen-Y-Ghent (G/NP-010) as I had not activated it yet this year, and being fairly small, would enable me to manage to carry the batteries needed for the power hungry FT857.
I looked in to the possibility of investing in some 4S LiPos, but the cost was preventative; my FT817 is perfectly happy with my 3S batteries so I wouldn’t have a use for 4S batteries after my birthday activation. I do have some ancient 7Ah sealed lead acid batteries though, so two were charged up and placed in to my pack, along with the heavy FT857D. I also packed my FT817 to use for CW and two 3S lipos of 2.2Ah capacity to power it. As it was my birthday, I had to also include my RockMite 20; a radio that I bought with some birthday money and that I used on a previous birthday SOTA activation to score my first QSO with it. The RockMite 20 is my birthday radio that I intend to use every year on my birthday!
Friday 3rd May 2013
The weather forecast was for a fairly reasonable day but bad weather was due to move down from the north in the afternoon.
I set off from home at around 0715 utc after opening my cards etc. with my family. The drive to the parking place at the honesty box on Goat Lane out of Stainforth was uneventful and traffic was quite quiet. My old Peugeot car was not in the best health ,having a breached head gasket, but it job was to get me to Pen Y Ghent and back before being replaced with a younger Italian model that evening! I arrived at the parking place at 0820 utc and kitted up before taking the well maintained path from Dale Head Farm up to Pen Y Ghent summit.
My pack was quite heavy with all the batteries and two radios but music from an MP3 player that my wife bought me as a Christmas gift helped to keep my mind off the weight and kept me moving at a good rate (Mickey (YYY) I don’t know how you do it!). Not many ‘breather’ stops were required and I was at the top in quicker time than I had imagined.
There was quite a breeze at the top but I wanted to place the dipole along a NW\SE alignment to try to influence radiation towards NA. I normally just place the dipole in a direction which works best for the pole in the wind, but this time I wanted to be more scientific. The dipole stayed up despite the strong wind so I was pretty impressed with my battered old cracked SOTAPole!
I had alerted to be on air at 1000utc and somehow without any conscious thought I managed it as EA2CKX was first in my log at 1000utc on 20m SSB. Next in the log was Bill, W4ZV from North Carolina. Another nine contacts followed, including a contact with Rich N4EX at 1007.
Next up was 15m SSB, many CQs just brought one contact; Steve G6LUZ, near Stoke on Trent. As I was using the 40m links for 21MHz, it was only a case of switching over the FT857 to 7MHz to be QRV on 40m, so I decided to try there instead. 40m was more productive but the QSB was really bad, however 11 stations made it in to the log.
Next it was time to get the ‘birthday radio’ on the air. I connected up the RockMite 20 using a 3S LiPo for power and changed over the SOTABeams BHIV links to 20m. The RBN picked me up pretty quickly and thus the auto-spot system soon had me spotted on SOTAwatch on 14.0584 MHz CW. First to try for a contact was David CT1DRB however the QSB was so bad we failed to complete the QSO. OZ6KS was the first to manage a complete exchange, followed by SM6DER. I was very pleased when Aage LA1ENA called in to make it 3 contacts for the RockMite. Considering my goal complete, I swapped the RockMite for the FT817.
First to call in whilst using the FT817 was Aage LA1ENA again to tell me that my signal was now much stronger and more readable, I sent back that I was now using the FT817, it seems that the difference between 350mW and 5w was quite noticeable :)Four contacts were logged with the FT817 on 20m CW, including VE1WT and DL7VKD/P on GMA DA/ND-008.
I switched on to 15m CW and after a fair bit of calling I was called by Mirko S52CU/P on S5/BI-011 for my only S2S of the day. I used a couple of croc clip test leads on the end of the BHIV 40m links to bring the antenna to resonance on the CW end of 15m. I found no extra length was required for the phone end of the band, but around 12cm of wire brought a good VSWR at 21.060MHz. Thanks to Richard, G3CWI for the tip.
I was made aware of a request for a 40m SSB S2S with M0TTE but I heard nothing from him, band conditions were pretty poor throughout my activation with strong QSB on all bands.
I deemed my activation to have been a success; I had achieved all of my goals with 31 contacts in the log despite the terrible band conditions.
My old car got me home through the bank holiday traffic (Friday afternoon -caravans galore!) and didn’t expire. It was then time for a quick shower before heading out to Pizza Hut with my wife and two children to have a birthday meal. After Pizza Hut we went to pick up my new car A good end to a very busy, nice day!
I had fun with the FT857 but I don’t think I’ll be ordering one any time soon, the current consumption is quite scary! I’ll treasure my little efficient CW rigs even more from now on
Special thanks to all chasers.
73, Colin, M0CGH