I was originally intending to do a full 24 hour activation in a bid for a Swiss knife. After all, I’ve nowt better to do. Mr Corona has cancelled all my gigs and now Mr Receiver has decreed that Macclesfield Town Football Club is an “ex parrot”. SOTA no longer has competing demands on my time on Saturdays…
The forecast was dry and sunny - but extremely windy. So much so that fibreglass wouldn’t stand a chance. I ascended Shining Tor G/SP-004 on Friday evening in order to have everything in place - backpacking tent, radio kit, plus four individual resonant antennas - 40m dipole, groundplanes for 30m and 20m, plus an MFD for 2m - to be housed on the same mast as used for the 40m dipole. With four bags of aerials, two fibreglass SOTA Poles and one 10m Travelmast - plus backpacking tent, sleeping bad, mat, pillow and blood pressure tablets, my rucksack weighed a ton! (So to speak).
50mph gusts greeted me at the summit. I didn’t want to camp in that, nor subject my masts and antennas to it - they would not survive. The wind direction was ENE, and perhaps fortunately, the only steep side of the hill backs into that direction. I descended below the cliffs that look out towards Macclesfield Forest and hunted for a flat, even and grassy section of land. There wasn’t one. This was all quite horrible ground. I made do with one patch but it would mean sleeping on a slant which is a pain, and putting up with some bumpy lumpy bits underneath. Which is also a pain - literally.
As I was pitching, headlamps appeared. Another guy out backpacking had come to the same conclusion as me! He was amazed that I pitched my tent and erected four antennas in the time it took him to pitch his tent - with help from his mate - who wasn’t stopping, but who was a licensed amateur!
I made some QSOs on 2m FM so that an activation could be logged for the Friday date, then some more shortly after midnight to get the Activity Day log underway. I then got 2 hours and 32 minutes of sleep according to my Fitbit tracker.
After spending most of Saturday in this cramped and uncomfortable spot, I realised around teatime that I really didn’t fancy the idea of persisting with the radio (which was now very slow-going) through to midnight UTC and enduring another night on the worst part of Shining Tor. My own bed - and a bottle of Red Rock ale that I knew was in the house - had much more appeal.
Conditions were not great and it was trying at most time to get heard by fellow activators. Normally it seems much easier. As such, I have a lot of SWL logs as well as S2S contacts. Loads I heard but just could not get through to. This was another factor the informed the “early” finish; I didn’t see any realistic prospect of making S2S contacts with the North American activations.
There was some DX - but all concentrated into the early part of the activation (0055 to 0134z) When I did have QSOs with USA, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Ecuador. After that, there seemed little prospect of DX success on any band I had at my disposal.
Hence I began the lengthy and tedious process of unpitching everything and packing up. This took a really long time as I had to move gingerly and slowly around the steep horrible ground to wind antennas in, collect pegs etc. It was dark by the time I was finished and the headtorch was required for the descent.
Anyway, here’s the numbers:
2m FM: 38
30m FT8: 12
40m FT8: 1
40m CW: 17
40m SSB: 11
30m CW: 42
20m CW: 11
20m SSB: 7
Total QSOs: 139
That’s an agonising reflection of the conditions - would have been 72 S2S if I’d have got through to them all! And still then there would have been scores more that I missed competely!
I fell some way short of my original target of 24 hours activating:
1st QSO: 0001z
Last QSO: 1917z
Length of activation: 19 hours 16 minutes.
I didn’t take any photos on this activation (no selfies - three hearty cheers!) but some have been received via email and messaging. The first three from Tim who was the chap also wild camping below the cliffs, and who wanted to take photos of my set up! The final one from SOTA chaser Gary M0XGS who wanted to share with me a shot of him working me from his motorbike!