This was an activation that although planned several weeks ago, I would not know whether it would be on Saturday or Sunday until Friday evening. As regular readers will be aware I have recently began using Top Band on activations, although so far the number of QSO`s I have had on the band would not have been enough to qualify a summit on their own. That is my next goal, & with that in mind I am looking at acquiring or building a small amplifier for 160m to go with my FT817 as 5 Watts in daytime conditions is only really copy-able by better located & equipped stations.
That said, my second activation of Easington Fell on 22nd April was purely to attempt a Top Band S2S with John G4YSS (operating as GX0OOO/P on G/LD-013) using the FT817 & my recently extended 160/80/60/40 link dipole. The S2S was very successful, & was only the 3rd on Top Band in the history of SOTA, something I am very proud to have been part of.
With that in mind, & knowing that Phil G4OBK would be visiting the Isle of Man for a walking festival & was also planning to activate several summits on 160m, I immediately knew that I would like to try for another one, or maybe two Top Band S2S
s. Friday evening came & Phil had decided that Sundays local GD weather forecast was the better one & alerted for GD/GD-002 Slieau Freoaghane at 0700z to be followed by GD-GD-001 Snaefell approximately two hours after leaving GD/GD-002. I had looked at visiting G/SP-012 again as I know my dipole works perfectly there & there is plenty of room, but to ensure a good contact on Phil`s second summit I instead opted for G/SP-007 Fair Snape Fell, my favourite summit of all those I have activated, but so far not in 2011. This summit enjoys virtual line of sight with both of the GD summits & a sea path of about 130Km so although I still had my doubts until afterwards, a viable path on 160m was pretty much guaranteed.
I was a little relieved that Phil chose Sunday, as that gave me plenty of time to charge my batteries & for once have all my gear packed & ready the day before, & I didn
t forget anything this time Hi! It would also mean a very early start, at least as far as I am concerned. Basing my timing on previous activations of Fair Snape Fell I calculated that I would need to get up at 0300z, to allow enough time be on the summit for Phils alerted time. This is a very early start for me & after a relatively late night on Saturday I needed a little longer to wake up & rose at 0315z. This put me a little behind schedule & I eventually left the house on my bike at 0420z. The journey to the parking spot at Fell Foot was relatively uneventful, although the wind was quite strong on some of the more exposed roads. At times the Sun started to break through the thick grey clouds which gave me hope that the weather may improve as the day went on. This turned out to be completely incorrect!
I arrived at the parking spot at Fell Foot around 0515z & headed off following the track around the West side of Parlick, a quite attractive little hill in it
s own right but quite steep & better bypassed if you are planning to activate Fair Snape Fell, unless you fancy the exercise Hi! The rain came in bursts all the way up to the trig point at Paddys Pole but there was more or less a constant headwind which slowed my progress. I usually activate from near the trig point at Paddy
s Pole but due to the larger antenna I would be using I headed off towards the true summit about 700m to the West. I soon abandoned this plan as the further I went towards the true summit the conditions got boggier underfoot. I back tracked & found the driest peat hag I could that afforded a little shelter from the wind, & as the rain started to get heavier I began to set up my dipole. With the delay caused by the hunt for a suitable site the time was now about 0720, & while setting up the dipole I was bombarded by a fierce & very cold hailstorm. I took what shelter I could in the peat hag until the storm passed, which delayed me still further. It was now well past Phils alerted time & I was beginning to think I would miss him, but although my fingers were numb with the cold & I was now quite miserable I persevered & managed to get the dipole up. I Quickly connected the FT817 & listened on 1832 KHz to see if Phil was still there. He wasn`t.
I took my phone out of my pocket with the intention of checking Sotawatch to see if Phil was still qrv somewhere else in the spectrum & noticed that I had a missed call from Mike G4BLH. I called Mike who informed me that Phil had been spotted on 10.118 MHz cw, so I quickly tuned the FT817 to that frequency. I am sure I briefly heard part of Phil
s callsign but it appeared he had closed on 30m. While tuning back to 160m I heard Phil calling CQ on 5.3985MHz SSB so grabbed the microphone & called him. Despite only running only 2.5 Watts into a 160m dipole Phil heard me & we arranged to QSY to Top Band once Phil had worked any chasers on 60m. Phil put out a couple of calls on 60m but did not raise any response so we qsyd to 160m & Phil began calling.
Phil was a very good 599 with me & he gave also gave me 599, very reassuring indeed so our first 160m S2S of the day was now in the bag. A quick qsy to SSB & once again, easy copy with 59 from me & 57 from Phil. Of course this was still relatively early so would conditions be as good later on, we would have to wait & see. I had increased my power level to 5 Watts for the 160m contacts & left it at that for all subsequent QSO`s
My plan at this point was to continue my activation on 60m SSB, but mother nature had other idea`s, I heard that familiar sound of static getting louder & louder, so although thunderstorms had not been forecast in this area I did not fancy a big build up of static damaging either the radio, or me, so I disconnected the coax, lowered the pole & once again took shelter in the peat.
I normally read the GB2RS news for the Blackburn, Accrington & Burnley area`s on Sunday morning, but due to my wish to activate Fair Snape Fell, my backup newsreader Jan M0GWW would be reading the news this morning. Both Jan & her other half Allen G4PF are regular listeners to my broadcasts so I returned the favour & tuned into the news via GB3RF repeater. After a brief after news net I re-connected the coax to the FT817 but left the pole about 1m lower due to the wind.
I unplugged the links in my dipole & listened on 60m. FE was in use so I began calling CQ SOTA on FM instead. My CQ was answered by Terry GM3VQJ in Glasgow & good reports were exchanged. Unfortunately, although my newly made waterproof logsheets were certainly waterproof, the chinagraph pencil I had tested with them at home was now proving very difficult to write with. I assume this was due to the wax becoming more brittle due to the cold, in any case it was now useless so I used my new waterproof video camera to record proceedings. My next call was answered by Andy MM0FMF/P who was on GM/SS-049 Culter Fell, who was also experiencing very unpleasant weather & good 59 reports were exchanged. Andy then went to find a clear channel while I continued calling CQ. I did not get any further calls on 60m so I decided to give 2m FM a try.
Due to the abysmal weather I had only erected my 160/80/60/40 link dipole & I had no intention of setting up another antenna in those conditions so I checked the SWR on 2m FM using my 60m dipole. I found that on 145.200 MHz the SWR was low enough to be useable, so I called CQ SOTA on 145.500 MHz & was immediately answered by several stations, the strongest of which was Rob G0HRT in Banks. Rob was full scale on the FT817 meter, so my 60m dipole obviously received OK on 2m, a report from Rob of 59 confirmed that it was also radiating quite well too!
Rob was followed by several other regular chasers & after an interesting contact with John GW3GUX on Anglesey who was only running 2.5 Watts from an FT817 there were no further callers, so I decided to make sure I was set up ready for Phil on GD/GD-001 who was due to be qrv at around 1015z.
I monitored 1832KHz while having a run around in an attempt to get warm, which by now was not working as well as it had done earlier. 1015z came & went & I wondered if Phil had started on another band. While once again reaching for my phone, I had just logged into Sotawatch when I heard a tuning signal, followed by a couple of seemingly random letters. Following these were the very welcome sound of CQ SOTA de GT7OOO/P K from GD/GD-001. I fumbled around trying to put my phone back in its case & failing miserably but I was just quick enough to get back a reply to Phil`s first CQ. Phil came back with 599 which I was very pleased with as it was now 1030z & well into daytime. Phil once again was a very good 599, & after I got a little confused & at first thought SSB? was 559? I sent Phil his report again & then realised he was asking if I would like to try SSB. I blame the cold Hi!
SSB once again worked well, & although signals were a little down on what they had been earlier Phil was still 59 while I had dropped to 55. So with the second Top Band S2S of the day now achieved I wished Phil all the best & began to pack up. Looking at my timings it appeared to take me 45 minutes to pack my gear as opposed to 20 minutes to set up. I certainly noticed that the plastic insulation on my antenna wire & coax had become a lot harder in the cold which made it a little more difficult to wind up. With a final short video of my now empty operating position I set off back towards Paddy`s Pole.
While shooting some video showing the view towards Parlick, as I had not shot any video on the way up I heard Alan MW1EYO/P calling CQ SOTA from GW/NW-028. I answered his call & we qsy
d to 145.375 & we were both happy to have made the S2S. During an earlier telephone chat with Mike G4BLH, Mike had asked if I had worked Alan, which at the time I hadnt so it was very nice to make the contact before I finally left the activation zone.
While the weather at the summit while I was operating was bad, I was relatively sheltered from the worst of it, which was not the case on the walk back down. Thankfully there wasn`t the hail of earlier, but the wind was quite strong & the rain was horizontal. It was quite interesting to see that parts of the path where it had been worn into the soil were still dry on the inner right hand side of the furrow due to the strength & direction of the wind & rain. Of course the sides bearing the brunt of the prevailing weather were soaked, as was I.
By the time I reached the lowest part of the broad ridge between Fair Snape Fell & Parlick I was now in wind driven cloud & rain. I came across three young people sheltering as best they could behind a fence, “Lovely weather isn`t it” I called across to them, which brought similar joking comments as the weather was absolutely dire. I noticed they were studying an ordnance survey map so just in case I asked them if they were lost. Although there was not a definite answer of yes, the question they asked me pretty much told me they were. I showed them exactly where they were & wished them a good day.
A pleasant QSO with a special event station (GB0BHW I think) operated by Neil while walking around Parlick took my mind off the weather & very soon I found I was almost back at Fell Foot. Due to the cloud being so low I could not see the buildings at Fell Foot until I was within about 200m of them, but another 5 minutes & I was back at my bike. I did hear MW6AQU calling CQ Sota, but could not get a better signal to him than fixed stations so I gave up on that possible chaser QSO & set off home. Once home I wasted no time in getting warm again & after a very welcome Spag Bol I went back to bed for a lie down. I slept like a log
So, would I do the same again?
I would have to think about it & would most likely say no, that it was completely insane.
But knowing myself I probably would anyway Hi!
Was it worth it?
A huge thank you to Phil G4OBK for activating GD1 & GD2 on Top Band & for wanting the S2S`s almost as much as I did Hi!
A very big thank you to Andy MM0FMF, & Alan MW1EYO for the more “normal” S2S`s & of course to all stations that worked me. I do apologise for not working more chasers than I did, but the weather had a major impact on my usual MO.
I have put my activator log together from footage on my camera & entered it in the database, if you spot any errors please let me know. I have plenty of video from which I should be able to produce something suitable for Youtube & I will add the link to this thread once it is available.
So, until my next activation, hopefully in better weather, very best 73 to all.