Black Hill Activation 18/07/20 First Ever Sota M6UUH/P

This was my first Sota activation and first experience of walking in the hills for many a year.

On arrival to the layby on the A635 the first indication that this was going to be a walk to remember was the rain. It was damp and miserable. I started the walk along the trail and the rain started to soften a little, enough to get a few photos that show some of the beautiful countryside.

With this being my first activation and first walk you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at the second ford to cross, the climb down was steep and perilous, my thoughts was what if I lost my footing as I carefully and slowly made my way down, if anyone had seen me I think they would have laughed at me with three points of contact at all times.

I finally made it down and back up the other-side out of breath wondering if I had actually made the right decision. Well I have come this far and got this wet so why not carry on, was the attitude to keep me walking.

I finally made it to the summit in a little over an hour. I was really pleased that I had carried on. Although the weather was not the best, I had achieved something and proved to myself that I could do it. Whilst having a much-needed coffee I reflected on what I could do better, this was buy boots, trouser and possibly some waterproof gloves. I certainly need to look at a waterproof notebook as my notebook was out of use due to the weather leaving me logging on a notepad on my iPhone, not a big deal, but on longer walks that might not be a resource that is available to me.

I set my homebrew slim-Jim antenna up and was amazed as to how hard it actually is to keep a mast supported to the trig point. I was using four bungee straps, 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom. If anyone has a better method please do let me know as any help is apricated.

I cautiously called out on the calling channel my callsign M6UUH/P and my Sota point. I got a return call from G7WKX/P Simon and we QSY’ed up to 145.575. Simon was great at settling me in for my first Sota activation and really helped to calm the nerves. He even spotted me just as I had done as well.
When I called QRZ my nerves shot up a bit, what was the muffled sound when people returned and only one call came through. I immediately realised that I was fast becoming UK mini DX as I would call it and found myself slap bang in the centre of my first ever pile up.

I need not of worried working through the stations one by one I managed to make 24 QSO’s in the course of an hour or so having a few rag chews whilst doing so.
The return walk was more eventful. There is a descent down a mud path with wood steps to stop the land sliding. The land might have not slid, but I certainly did twice. No serious injuries other than ego and having a muddy leg or two. I carried on and again in just under an hour found myself back at my car.

Has the weather or the falls put me off. No, it has encouraged me. I have purchased the necessary stuff now including boots and trousers as well as a roll away mat seat, can’t wait to use that.

I shall be heading out to Shining Tor hopefully this coming week, if not then on Sunday.

Thank you to all the chasers and to everyone that has encouraged me in this journey which will fill two boxes in the exercise and getting to play radio whilst seeing some of the UK’s most beautiful countryside. What’s not to love about Sota.

15 Likes

The photos are back to front so the bottom one is from the start on the way up to the summit.

Well done Iain…onwards and upwards…welcome to SOTA.

73 Allan GW4VPX

Good work, hat off to you for persisting in rain, I usually don’t unless it starts after I am in my tent or shelter…

Guying most poles is quite effective even at low levels, 1m above ground. I use a guying ring and three guys about 2.5m long, For a light pole shorter guys would be practical. Sotabeams has guy rings and kits for many different mast diameters. I use tent pegs to fasten the guys to the ground. Unless it’s blowing a gale my guyed mast stays up for long periods. For rocky summits I carry a lightweight plastic mallet intended for tent pegs.

For writing a log in the rain, there’s a series of Notebooks called “Rite in the Rain”. They have non-paper pages, which don’t dissolve when wet. I think they are aimed at either surveyors or other silly sports that are played in the rain, like that one where people hit a ball around an otherwise nice walking track and periodically try to make it go into a hole in the ground. :slight_smile:

Good luck, may your log be filled often.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

Hi Iain, welcome aboard! I hope you enjoy many more activations.

Part of the fun is in finding out what works for you, and how to improve your setup. I sometimes use the trig point and bungees as you did, and have found that wrapping the bungee one turn around the pole helps a lot…arranged like this:

I’ve also replaced the finger trapping wire hooks with cheap carabiners which I find much nicer to use.

73
Adrian
G4AZS

Personally I almost never use the trig point to support antennas. It’s the place that everyone approaching the summit goes and is the most likely thing that they will want a photo with. Rather than get in anyone’s way I setup up some distance away.

3 Likes

Agree. It seems like it will quick but normally I have spent longer faffing about that had I just my normal guying setup. I don’t bother now.

Times I’ve arrived there with the summit deserted I’ve set up on the trig, only then to find hordes of walkers approaching; so yes, there is a lot to be said for keeping away - massive AZ on this one of course. On the other hand, your 2-m signal was I think the strongest I’ve had from Black Hill, so perhaps the extra height makes all the difference getting over the bit of terrain that’s in the way.

Initially on your activation your audio was really awful. Did you shake some water out? It was better when I called in but still a bit muffled.

Black Hill does get some bad press for VHF, but the statistics show that 2m gets more than double the QSO count of the next most popular band, 40m, so it can’t be that bad! Great to the east in my experience.

Anyway, I’m glad to hear you are getting better kitted up for walking. Some might scoff at our rolling Pennine hills, even with paving stones on this section of the Pennine Way (which I don’t like - too slippery). However, the local mountain rescue units have been called upon quite a bit in the last week or two. It’s all too easy to end up in difficulty, even with good gear and in the summer, when you find conditions change for the worse.

Looking forward to catching you on another one soon. Maybe S2S at the weekend.

Iain, click the Pencil Icon at the bottom of your post and you can edit it. Just reverse the order of the pictures line by line to get them in the “correct” order.

HAAT, or lack thereof is the problem for VHF on any large flat-ish plateau. How bad is Holme Moss? Well 50m down from the summit is where the BBC built it’s TX site for covering all of Lancs/Yorks etc. with TV and VHF radio in 1951. OK, they used a 230m mast which none of us have the pleasure of using. Or having to carry! And, they used a bit more oomph than we do, but the Band I signal was only 90kW erp from 230m and that signal was viable on mid-50s TVs (many just TRF) from Bishop Auckland in the North to as far South as Birmingham / Spalding, for a 5MHz wide signal unlike our narrowband FM etc.

If you can’t get to the edge (what edge on Black Hill) then you need your VHF antenna up high. Higher than most of us ever manage. A J-pole etc. atop a 10m mast should be quite a noticeable improvement than the same on a 5m mast.

Well done Iain, and welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your report and reliving my own early learning experiences from 18 years ago. Back then I was both an inexperienced radio amateur and an inexperienced hillwalker. Back then, this SOTA community, like now, was a great place to learn from the experts in both disciplines.

So, like you, I soon discovered I needed to improve on my footwear, clothing, logging, mast supports etc. The advice above is good and I concur with it.

Don’t use trig points as mast supports. A free-standing guying system is much more useful and flexible, plus it can be seen as rather inconsiderate or antisocial to attach your antenna to the objective of everyone else’s walk. Plus, many SOTA summits don’t have them, or those that do can be already crowded when you arrive.

The Rite in the Rain 146 notepads are superb. At around £8 each they might seem expensive - they are, in fact, fantastic VFM. Use a pencil with them. Take a spare - or a sharpener, and a rubber.

I’m a lot fitter and better with my coordination than I used to be, undoubtedly thanks to SOTA. Nonetheless, I still dislike heights, exposure, steep sections etc. I am a tall and weighty chap! Reading your description of negotiating your way down the steep clough and the other slips and tumbles, I highly recommended a pair of trekking poles.

Welcome to SOTA activating. Be warned - it’s more addictive than class A drugs.

1 Like

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nuco-Stone-Paper-Reporter-Notebook/dp/B00CFLEFGW

A lot cheaper and really good. Been using them for years - bought in bulk!

“3 in stock” - one minute ago. Not now - I’ve just bought them.

Will be interesting to compare. Thanks for the tip Simon - I’ll report back with my findings in due course.

1 Like

Welcome Iain! Great to work you on your 1st activation. Great advice here already and I’d agree: Steer clear of the trig! People like to take their selfies there to prove they’ve conquered the mountain and having your mast in the shot might not be best :slight_smile: .

Al M1FHM

1 Like

Thank you for the reply. Regarding the audio, after you called in and pointed out the issues with my audio I blew into where the mic would be located and it seemed to dislodge some water that was muffling my audio.

I did thoroughly enjoy myself. I am back out tomorrow activating three summits, from reading what people are saying they are a relatively easy walk up the the summits.

At the weekend I am hoping to be out on Sunday. I have not decided on a summit as of yet.

73’s Iain

3 Likes

Thank you to everyone for your replies.

I will steer clear of the trig points. It really was not well thought through and in hindsight Incan see what everyone is saying. I guess it was lucky for me to only see a couple of walkers out in that weather.

I am experimenting tomorrow with bungee fastening again using the advice here.

I have also been looking at how to self erect a mast and how to guy it. Will be fun when I finally try it.

73’s Iain

1 Like

Hi Iain @M6UUH,

Thanks for the chaser points. I activated the summit myself yesterday, making the complete for 2020.

I didn’t manage quite as many contacts, partly due to my wife giving me a hard time about how long the activation was taking (I’d delayed my CQs and called @M1EYP and @M1HAX for S2S to no avail) - in fact half way through talking to Phil @G4OBK, she decided it was time to take the mast down, so the last few minutes of the QSO were with the SlimJim coiled on top of the rucksack!

I was pleased to get over to Jordan @M3TMX who was activating all the G/TW summits. Looking forward to our next one this weekend - hope to catch you S2S at some point soon.

Best 73, Simon (and Nic)

I looked around for you as well Simon, but no RX on you at all.

1 Like

@G7WKX wish I had seen you activating I would of tried to call in.

At least you managed to activate before your xyl decided enough as enough.

I shall be out again this Saturday just sorting the final bits of soldering my power poles etc for using my 857.

Shining Tor is one that I need to do. I’m also toying around with the idea of another 2 point summit before looking at 4 pointers.

1 Like

You’ll do well from Shining Tor @M6UUH Iain. Even with a 5w handie and SlimJim you’ll work some good distance on V/UHF, so with the 857 you’ll be sure to have fun - prepare for another pile up :slight_smile:
It’s a very rewarding summit to activate, not too difficult a climb if dry and has great sunset views if you are there in the evening. I’ll keep an eye on the SOTA Spotter app for your activation.

73, Simon