All our lottery lines matched two numbers I am informed. So looks like the winning streak ended sometime on Saturday evening. I was certainly thinking that - and questioning my own sanity - as I got up at 4.30am on Sunday 13th March 2011, and drove to Cloudside in heavy rain. And it was freezing cold as well. Bonkers.
The ridiculously early start did mean a return of one of my favourite things - a headtorch-lit ascent in darkness. Even by early March, the need for torches is no more for a more typical 7am activation.
It was pretty horrid on the summit, cold blustery wind, squally sleet and rain and the whole surface of the place utterly filthy with mud churning up everywhere. Nonetheless, I was there to enjoy myself, so up went the MM20 and down I went by a side of the topograph, although no one face of it actually afforded much shelter.
There was not any Commonwealth Contest activity to be found before daybreak, so I got into a run of my own on 14.015MHz CW. A few known chasers worked me as well as the usual interest from Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria.
As the sun rose, I scanned around again, and fairly quickly found 5N7M, Nigeria. I tried, but couldn’t get my signal through. I had plenty of time though and consoled myself with probably having another opportunity later. As it turned out, I didn’t, and 5N was a getaway.
But then I found ZA/I2GPT, working split down near the bottom of the band. This was a bigger treasure. For I have worked Nigeria before; it was on 24MHz CW from South Park in Macclesfield while Sean M0GIA and myself were testing the newly built MM12. Albania, however, had never been worked by me. The closest I ever got was a few Radio Tirana English Service QSL cards in my collection!
I fiddled through the 817 ‘F’ menu to get the A/B split operation going, waited for the next invite to call, and keyed in my callsign. Worked him first time - result! My mood lifted, and no signs of any other Commnwealth stuff yet, I went to 14.022MHz to do some running for the SOTA chasers.
Despite being headed up by Phil who ‘clustered’ me, this run did not last long. It would have done if The Cloud had a WFF reference - but it does not, and it seems that particular programme has a lot of sorting out to do before it resumes issuing new area reference numbers.
I didn’t fully check the rules of the Commonwealth Contest in advance, but listening around to the activity, I deduced that (a) stations at both ends of the QSO must be in Commonwealth entities, and (b) contacts within the same Commonwealth entity are not valid. I did try to cheekily call the occasional GI or GM station when things got very quiet for them - and I needed them for the 2011 G3WGV UK CW Table - but was tactfully ignored. The exception was MD0CCE who kindly gave me a quick 599/599 exchange without serials.
Now more contest activity could be seen, although maybe not as much as the previous day, and of course many of the stations on had already been worked by me on the Saturday. I heard a VK station (VK6DXI) and worked him first call. This was followed by Gibraltar courtesy of ZB2EO, a very big signal.
After another run for the chasers on 14.022MHz CW, I worked my second VK of the morning - and third of all-time with a surprisingly easy contact with VK2IM.
Then things got really exciting, but frustrating as well at the same time. I heard good signals from VP8ANO, ZL2BR, VK4EMM and ZL2AZ. I spent the last 45 minutes of the contest (0915 to 1000z) trying to call these stations, but couldn’t get any of them to hear me. Oh well, I suppose I’ve had worse days!
It was a nasty old morning on Cloud summit, and I felt damp and cold and uncomfortable despite two fleeces, coat, hat, overtrousers and 100% indoor operation - bothy bag. Maybe being there for over four hours had something to do with it. On the way down, I met two guys walking the Gritstone Trail, having set out that morning from the Rushton Inn. We compared notes and compared accommodations used as I recounted my own Gritstone Trail walk of 2007. There was now a blue sky and sunshine, which was very nice, but five hours late in showing up!
Many thanks for all the calls today. Because I was hunting the DX again, the QSO rate was pitiful considering the amount of time up there. All the same, those 34 QSOs did include a ZA, a ZB and 2 VKs. I’ve had worse days.