I have in the past attended the Memorial Service held each year at the Memorial Cross on Buckden Pike, on a weekend near to Remembrance Day. Unfortunately I have been unable to attend the service for the last 2 years. My Wife suggested to me that I could have a ‘SOTA Day’ on 11th November this year, so I thought it would be fitting to activate Buckden Pike for SOTA and then be at the Memorial Cross at 11am for two minutes of silence and reflection.
The decision to activate Buckden Pike for SOTA was taken the day before, so I didn’t have much time to prepare! I haven’t done Buckden Pike for quite a while, but I remembered that it seemed to be a long slog up to the summit from the public car park at Buckden. I didn’t really fancy taking lots of radio gear with me, so I decided to ‘go light’. My 2 band MTR CW rig seemed to fit the bill, I opted to take a risk and only take the one radio with me.
To power the MTR, I decided to pack my 2S 1000mAh LiPo battery, this is easy and fast to charge, so I didn’t have to plan in charging time. The battery is not very big at all, around the size of a two finger Kit Kat biscuit and weighs very little. I have never managed to fully flatten this battery with the MTR â€“ it seems to last forever! I get about 2 to 2.5 Watts out of the MTR on 40m and 20m using the 2S LiPo, plenty for a SOTA activation on CW.
Sunday 11th November 2012
My four Month old Son woke me up with his hunger cries at just a shade before 5am, so I thought I would use this to my advantage. I fed my Son his bottle of milk and he went back to sleep. I left the family sleeping, my Wife, having been on an organised shopping trip to York the day before, was feeling tired, and I managed to set off for Buckden in good time.
To promote good fuel economy, I drove at a very leisurely pace to Buckden public car park. I fed the hungry machine Â£4 to let me have use of his car park for the day, this was actually less than I had feared! I was off on my way up the bridle path by 0745utc.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the normally boggy and very wet route to the summit had actually been made into a properly defined and surfaced path. Nearly all of the route to the trig point was on the substantial and clean path. The new path made the ascent seem a lot shorter than usual, or maybe it was because I wasn’t carrying an FT817, SLAB, handhelds etc! I arrived at the trig point just after 0900utc. My original plan had been to do the SOTA operation after I had observed the two minutes silence at the Memorial, but with just under 2 hours to go, I figured that I should have enough time to squeeze in a quick activation before 1100utc.
I erected the inverted vee as quickly as I could, the weather was being kind, it wasn’t very windy at all and the sun was shining. I’ve never seen the views from Buckden Pike before, it’s always been thick in fog! I managed to get on the air for about 0925utc. I dialled up 7.032 MHz, using the Direct Frequency Entry (DFE) mode on the MTR, the frequency seemed to be in use by a station calling ‘CQ TEST’ I tuned up the band a little and found the band to be busy with contest stations. The best I could do was to squeeze in to a gap between two stations. Calling CQ produced no response, I had started to worry a little bit.
After a few CQ calls, I decided that my puny couple of Watts must be being swamped by the strong contest stations. I tuned back down the band a few kHz and 7.032 was quiet! A few QRL?s produced silence â€“ result! A call on the new frequency brought an almost instant pile up! In hindsight it might have a wiser decision for me to start my activation on another band/frequency, I soon got flustered with the constant noise every time I finished a contact. At one point I felt that I needed some time to regain my senses, so I sent ‘QRX 5’ and had a break for a few minutes.
It’s amazing how fast time goes when you are busy, the contacts dried up on 40m when I had about 15 minutes of operating time left. I really wanted to try 20m, I really get a buzz out of working the guys across the Atlantic with a couple of Watts, I don’t think it will ever lose it’s magic for me.
Looking back now, I probably shouldn’t have even attempted QSYing on to 20m, I didn’t have enough time. I wasn’t really expecting, or ready for, the huge pile up that instantly appeared. I really pushed my time envelope to the limit, working Barry, N1EU, before I pulled the plug at 1040utc. I threw my gear in my pack in record time and ran to the Memorial, which was about 1km away, as quickly as I could.
I arrived at the Memorial Cross at 1058utc! There was quite a crowd of people gathered, some of whom, you could see, were thinking about this crazy man that had arrived at pace, carrying a fishing rod! After the period of silence, all present were asked to pose for a photo, most of the people there had never met before. It felt quite special sharing that moment of reflection with people who had gone to a lot of effort to be at that place, at that time, of their own accord.
The walk back to the car was a pleasant affair, I took my time, taking lots of photographs of the scenery that I had never seen before!
All in all it was a successful SOTA outing, I easily qualified the summit using my ‘Mint Tin Radio’ (MTR actually stands for ‘Mountain ToppeR’ I think!). I definitely need to think seriously about my next activation though, my brain got fried very quickly with the amount of stations calling, I started making silly sending mistakes after a while. I am going to at least try to build in some CW practise in to my diary on a regular basis, only doing CW every so often for SOTA activations is definitely having a detrimental effect.
Sorry to the chasers that were waiting to work me as I ran out of time, I felt really bad about going QRT, I do normally spend a long time on the summit working all who call.