I should probably list this one under Equipment Reviews…
Tuesday 16th January 2024
I was getting really fed up of the snow. I’ve been shovelling snow to get lorries up our loading ramp and customers cars out of the car park. I’ve been shovelling the yard and when I’m not shovelling I’m trying to keep the operation from collapsing with all the colleague call-offs and late deliveries. I had to get up at 3.30am this morning because I knew the drive to work would take twice as long. I was getting really fed up of the snow.
Fast-forward to 1345 this afternoon and I had an appointment with Craiglich GM/ES-068, and a 10m one at that. The car park for the trailhead is on my route home. I’d casually thrown Friday’s unpacked bag in the Landie, along with my super cosy and very old North Face down jacket. That was mistake number one.
It wasn’t due to snow again until 1700. That gave me a three hour window to climb the hill, activate it for a planned hour and then get back down. Easy. As I drove out of my workplace it started snowing. It kept snowing over the 20 mile drive to Craiglich. I didn’t have a shelter with me. That was mistake number two.
“What do I have in the Landie that I can use?” We’d recently used it to pick up some old furniture for a Mo project. There was a Pickfords blanket(!) and an old tatty shower curtain. When I say old and tatty, I mean it. It has been used to keep my mountain bike off the car carpet, for a shield when I’m spraying paint and also for covering stuff that has been on the roof rack. It cost £2.50 from Tesco. It would have to do. “Any rope?”. No, but I have a couple of ratchet straps in the back. “What can I tie it to?” Thankfully Craiglich is furnished with a trig, a tree, a fire beater on a post and a large cairn. By the time I’d arrived at the parking spot, I had formulated a plan.
I set off around 1420 and was soon sweating. All I had was my under garment and my extremely insulated down jacket. I was still wearing my work trousers, which today happened to be a natty pair of Rohan jeans. I’d just pulled my Paramo trousers over the top of those. I’d worn my boots to work today, so was practically ready for the hill! I never climb in a down jacket. Despite the snow, I had it and my vest top as un-zipped as possible. I still over-heated and the snow still fell.
over the gate and through the woods
It’s a simple walk, documented on here many times before. It takes around 40 minutes. A little bit longer today with the powder snow.
I got to the top and unfurled the rag of a shower curtain. It was a lot smaller than I had thought in my mind. The best plan seemed to be to string it between the cairn and the fire beater pole. I then arranged it as sloper, weighed down with rocks. There was no wind and the snow fell straight down. The mast and antenna would be closer to the trig than I wanted, but I only really needed south and west propagation, so no issue.
The antenna was my home-made 1/4 wave monoband vertical, set on my Spiderbeams 7m pole, with just the first eight sections erected. This was connected to my FT-857d via some RG-58 type stuff, with a common-mode choke at the radio end. All good and low SWR on 10m.
I spotted at 1525. And had a pile up! France, USA, South Africa, more USA. Even more USA. Canada, Canaries, USA, Canada. Belize. Belize? I didn’t ever recognise the prefix. Thought it was a Canadian until I got home and checked. Greece to finish up at 1554. 29 minutes. 27 QSO’s on 10m SSB. Awesome!
QRV inside the £2.99 “tarp”
I nipped onto 2m with the HT (after a suitable whatsapp was sent) and had a brief chat with @MM0RFN Hibby and then @GM4JXP Simon. Hibby upstaged me with talk of his 10m FM QSO’s, and to be honest, the signal reports were so good at times that I did think about it, but I’d had my fun and it was time to go.
I was packed up in no time at all and skipped down to the car in about 30 minutes. There’s a little bit more light now in the afternoons, so I could see ok. The snow stopped falling just as I got to the bottom of the hill.
descending in the dusky light
I seriously considered not doing this today. I had the wrong clothes, no waterproof jacket, no shelter and the snow arrived tree hours early. Boy, oh Boy am I glad that I did!
I’ve been plugging away at 10m SOTA for a couple of years now and have had some success. The 2024 10m challenge has really brought the chasers out on 10m which is brilliant. I also find that when the band is really open, up to half my log is from non-SOTA chasers who have stumbled across me, or found a pile up. The resonant vertical antenna and a wee bit of power obviously made a difference too.
Can’t wait for the next one!