I would like to say a big thank you to all stations that worked me on G/SP-008 Boulsworth Hill today in what is the most unpleasant weather I have yet experienced on an activation.
I was asked by Tony 2E0LAE several months ago if I wished to accompany him & Elaine on a joint activation of this hill & alerts were duly posted. Of course, we had no idea back then what the weather would be like today & up until a few weeks ago the snow & ice on the roads would have made this activation a little awkward. As it was, the snow & ice went a couple of weeks ago & the only thing we had to prepare for today was gale force winds & heavy rain.
OK, pack some waterproofs & my £7 single skin supermarket tent & I can deal with that I thought. I have to say, conditions today were probably just a little bit more that the “keeps the rain off at a rock festival” tent was designed for. I have used it successfully in rain & wind before on Pendle Hill, but today’s wind & rain was far more forceful.
I had also picked up on a practice used by several top activators & packed all my moisture sensitive gear in watertight food containers which worked a treat,& all my gear was dry on arrival at the summit. Of course, the problems arose when I had to remove the gear from the boxes in order to operate. Although infinitely better inside the tent, rather than outside, the force of the wind & rain was penetrating the single skin & giving everything inside an occasional sprinkling of water. No problem, I covered the FT817 & all was good, but with my HF dipole too low for 80m I sadly had to abandon what would have been my first cw activation.
I set up my HF dipole, somewhat lower than I normally would & angled the legs into the wind to give a little more support for the pole which was bending quite considerably in the very strong wind. I connected the ATU to the antenna & then the FT817 to the ATU the powered up the radio. The first station I heard was Dave M0MYA/P on G/WB-004 so after quickly tuning the antenna (not strictly necessary as it is resonant), I gave him a call & my first qso was a Summit to Summit.As I hadn’t really got into a comfortable operating position at that point I said I would take the frequency once Dave had finished with it. I took the opportunity for a cup of coffee & once the frequency was free I called CQ SOTA. The first station to respond to my CQ call, as on several of my activations was Paul G0HNW, a stalwart of the 60m band & a very good signal. At this point I found that my logsheets had taken quite a sprinkling of water & my pencil no longer worked. This would be a problem!
Having been in a similar position before I asked any other stations to standby while I set up my mobile phone to record the activation for transcription later.
Once I had my phone running it was especially nice to be called by Martin M1MAJ, as on my first activation of this hill with Scott 2E0RCS in April 2009 we had both exhausted our batteries & I don’t think I managed a complete QSO with Martin before the last battery failed. No such problems today, & it was very nice to finally definitely work you from G/SP-008 Boulsworth Hill Martin
Martin was followed by Steve GW7AAV who spotted me, (as had Martin), & Steve also spotted that Tony was active on VHF/UHF. I know that Tony missed a few regular chasers which was no doubt due to the wind blowing his mast & yagi over to about 60 degrees from horizontal. He did qualify the hill first but did mention that most contacts were relatively local stations.
Did I mention the dire weather conditions?
Several other SOTA 60m regulars called me, along with a couple of stations I haven’t worked before, & after a final un-answered CQ I said I would QSY to 4m FM in about 15 minutes. This was probably a bit optimistic as I had to pack away my HF gear first. As soon as I stepped outside I realised that the weather was now even worse that it had been earlier & after taking down my HF dipole I could see that Tony was packing up.The weather was by now very dire, so I only used a quarter wave whip attached to the Wouxon handheld to put out a CQ SOTA call from the inside of my tent. This was answered by Mike G4BLH, who although not too far from this hill, is screened from the summit itself, hence he said I was very weak. I took my phone in one hand & the radio in the other & left the tent to find a better position. We eventually worked & Mike kindly spotted me, although I did not expect great things with such a small antenna. So I was very pleased when Les G3PUO answered one of my CQ’s as I have known Les for many years & it was very nice to work him on four metres after he had changed over antennas specially to work me just in time
The Wouxon KG-699E is not waterproof, & by now condensation was appearing in the LCD window, so after a final call I closed down & joined Tony & Elaine in packing up.
The journey down was now into the wind which was now much stronger than on our ascent, & the rain definitely had the odd spot of hail in it, but as it is mostly downhill back to the parking spot there shouldn’t really be any problems. The ground was noticeably boggier on the way down & the stream we crossed earlier with relative ease was now at least 4 inches deeper & a few feet wider at the point we had crossed earlier. After checking up & down stream I came to the conclusion that where the normal path crosses the stream is the most sensible option, with it having a firm & visible bed & at that time 6 to 8 inches of fast flowing water. We all crossed safely, but we did get our feet wet
Despite the soaking from the rain & wind, we all returned to Tony’s car with smiles on our faces & plans for doing another joint activation soon. One comment that Tony & Elaine made on the walk down was that if I hadn’t been with them they probably would have cancelled the activation as the weather was so bad. Well Tony, if you are reading this, there is no way I would have gone up there on my own, & I only went up today because of you & Elaine
We both successfully activated a hill we had alerted for months in advance in the type of dire weather conditions that this part of the world does very well, heavy rain & strong wind. The fact that we all came away smiling says it all
It was a real pleasure
For those interested, I have checked what is left of my paper log & it is still legible. My Camera & mobile phone both performed flawlessly & I can transcribe my activator log from my phone. In fact, this time I pointed the phone camera at the radio for most of my qso’s today so if you worked me today there is a good chance you may appear in my video of this activation when I post it on Youtube, although there is a 10 minute time limit on my videos
It really doesn’t give any impression of just how windy & wet it was up there today though.
Despite the fact that temperature wise it was quite mild, I think we earned our winter bonus points today
A big thank you to all that worked us, & an especially huge thank you to Tony & Elaine for allowing me to tag along
Video & photos to follow once edited.