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G4YSS: G/CE-002 Walton Hill, 27-03-19

Issue-1
G4YSS: G/CE-002 Walton Hill on 27th of March 2019
QRO on 160m-CW/ SSB only. (Dark Activation)
G4YSS using GX0OOO/P unaccompanied
All times UTC

RADIO EQUIPMENT:
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver without internal batteries
MX-P50M, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier, 80 thru’ 10m
Link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20m, with loading coils for 160m
Five section, 6m CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One 5Ah Li-Po part-used (2.2Ah reserve)
Unitone ‘D shape’ ear-cup phones.

VHF Reserves: (not used):
Baofeng UV-3R with set-top helical
Half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m-FM
IC-E90, 5W 4-Band VHFM Handheld

Other Equipment:
Garmin GEKO 301 GPS
Approx. pack-weight: 10 kg (22 pounds)

INTRO:
Walton Hill was a bi-product of a visit to the Birmingham branch of the family. We haven’t been to down see them for decades and it’s a while since they came up north. My Aunt is now 95 so time may be short. We drove the 167 miles from Scarborough the day before via M18, M1, M42 and M38 in 3.25 hrs net. We needed to be in Northfield and so booked in at a small hotel called ‘The Old Farm Inn’ in Bournville. With only two full days for visiting, I thought it best to get the activation done on the first evening.

A chance remark in an email from Nick G4OOE earlier in the week alerted me to the fact that there were SOTA’s close to Britain’s biggest city. When I looked into it, I was surprised at just how close they were to where we intended to stay.

The summit page had several articles attached to it, one being provided by Phil G4OBK. This told me all I needed to know, so using Memory Map I was able to put the applicable waypoints into both my walking GPS and the satnav. Despite this being a 1,000 foot plus hill, it is easy to climb mainly because you start high. As for activation frequencies in darkness, it was an easy decision. Top Band with 3.760 as backup.

EXECUTION:
Before leaving the hotel, I put an alert on SOTAwatch for 8pm plus a note on the reflector because of the short notice. The drive to the hill, very much with the satnav in charge, took 25 minutes but don’t ask me which way I went? Pulling up I noticed one or two cars lined up overlooking the view and have since heard that these were occupied by ‘courting couples’ something I had already suspected. Thinking about leaving the XYL’s new car in the dark and being seen to do so with a rucksack on my back, I just hoped they were honest courting couples. I parked close-by at SO 9430 8029 and under some trees.

Route:
The tricky bit was finding the start of the path which, after briefly searching round with the headlight, turned out to be just across the road next to the car park proper. Setting off at 19:20, there seemed to be two choices but I remembered the description about walking beside a fence. At first the GPS confused me until I found that the route had been activated the wrong way round. Once this was sorted and with the arrow pointed where is should, I was able to proceed with greater confidence. In fact, once established on this path you can’t really go wrong but it was dark and new to me.

The path curves round to the right at first then ‘corrects itself’ at SO 9431 8011, where it dog-legs left. A further curve to the right brings it to the summit trig point which I GPS’d at SO 94260 79800. This was when I found out I hadn’t brought the camera. I tried to take some photos with the phone but couldn’t get the flash to work.

Initially it was difficult to find somewhere to operate. At one side there were trees and at the other what looked like blackberry bushes. Just beyond a fence immediately to the south of the trig is a flat, grassy area where I set up the dipole. I recalled this being described in one of the reports. At first there were a few people about; mainly runners and cyclists. Once set up, I had it to myself for the remainder of the evening. It’s not often you can stand on a SOTA and see the lights below stretching all the way around; 360 degrees.

WALTON HILL, G/CE-002, 316m, 1 pt. 19:28 to 21:55. Semi overcast with starlight. 7 Deg. C. Almost no wind. LOC: IO82WJ - WAB: SO97 – Trig: TP-0725. Vodafone coverage at summit & on route.

1.832 CW - 8 QSO’s:
I was ready for bang on 20:00 but my mistake was not sending an SMS spot. I noticed that the noise level was 56 to 58 and the latter most of the time. After much CQ’ing and one QSY to SSB, I replied to someone sending, ‘SRI – NIL.’ I have yet to discover who this was but then Adrian G4AZS called me at 20:10 and spotted me too. What a relief that was? At least I was getting out. With 50 Watts at my end we exchanged at 55 both ways – a good start but it was quite a while and another look on SSB, before I got the second contact.

At 20:22 I worked PA0SKP Sake 559/ 349. Another mood swing and high spirits were maintained with a call from Allan GW4VPX initially 569/ 599 QRM but improving to 589/ 599 on the second over. From now on in better band conditions, we settled into a slow but sure routine as follows: PE5ROS Gert; OH9XX Marko; G3RMD Frank; DL1ROJ Juerg and F5JRC John. Reports for these five stations were 599 or 599 plus both ways apart from a 579 from Finland. Juerg gave me a number, something like ‘1062’ but I didn’t catch why. Power was 50 Watts, reduced to 30 for the final QSO.

CQ, CQ CQ but there was nothing further and I wondered where Phil G4OBK had got to. It was time for SSB which would normally be spotted by the currently unavailable Roy - G4SSH.

1.848.5 SSB – 13 QSO’s:
A self spot on here helped to alert the chasers to the slight frequency adjustment made necessary because of a QSO on 1.846 and another above at about 1.852. I could have reduced power to 30 Watts and gone above 1.850 but the chasers would have had to do the same. Thinking about it, a 20W difference is not much in terms of dB. Earlier I had heard the WAB net running on 1.985 but couldn’t easily get up there.

It was Phil G4OBK who answered my CQ with a 59/ 56 exchange later improving to 59 plus/ 58. Phil explained that he’d got absorbed in reading the newspaper after his meal, had missed the CW session and had almost forgotten to raise one of his masts, to which the aerial was attached. Doing so added 15 feet to its height AGL. He was using a device he called a ‘Radiosport Headset’ which sounded rather good and we had a quick catch-up.

Next there were two simultaneous callers; G8ADD Brian and G3RMD Frank. With the preconceived idea that Brian would be booming in from his nearby QTH in Birmingham only ten miles away, I was surprised by the weakness of his signal. He was coming in at 55 but really it was more like readability 3 most of the time, Frank later saying he hadn’t heard him Brian all. Evidently skip was doing strange things. Feeling like a guest in Brian’s back yard, I tried to have a chat but it’s no good when you’re missing many of the key words.

Frank G3RMD was a much better signal at 59/ 57, listening on a 1m magnetic loop with only S2 of noise and transmitting on an inverted ‘L’. Then came Allan GW4VPX. I was only able to give him 56 on SSB. After conditions improved on ‘his watch’ during the CW session, it would seem they’d now gone too long giving me trouble copying at times. Allan gave me 57 and he wasn’t the only one to give better than he received. Surrounded as I was by the outskirts of a large city, was I in the unusual position of having a higher noise level than some of the chasers?

Now I was somehow found by the WAB net who’d hitherto been up on 1.985 enjoying a chat. This could have been because someone went up there to tell them or more likely, they’d seen a spot on the WAB system put there by my son Phil G0UUU who was listening on the Nantwich web receiver. I found this out later. Either way, this certainly helped to swell the log for me.

From 21:10, but not necessarily in the right order, I logged: G1YFF Jake 59+/57; GI0AZB/ GB50WAB Ian 58/ 57; G4BYY Keith 59/ 57; G7AFM/ G4WAB Phil 59/ 58; G6ZFZ Malcolm 59 both ways; GI0AZA Esther 58/ 55 and finally EI2KD Rod 59+/ 59. Jake, a real 160m enthusiast, collected both a new grid square added to a new trig point and Keith was using a bent dipole in a small garden. (I know the routine).

Both Phil and Ian offered their special callsigns and Esther is ‘on the mend.’ Malcolm was showing concern for his PA after coming down from 1.985 un-retuned so we reduced the QSO to one over each. I’m afraid that I may have made Rod choke when I handed it back suddenly. That has happened to me too. 50 Watts were used for this session and QRT was at 21:25 after the frequency dried up.

There was a little time spare but not much. I took a look on 20m and swung round the 2m-FM channels on the handie but there was very little on 20 and nothing on 2. Time to go.

The Descent:
The descent took just 6 minutes to 22:01 and I was relieved to find the car still parked where I’d left it and nothing untoward. The number of ‘courting couples’ had increased to half a dozen and I was startled when a pair of cars started playing tunes to one another on their horns.

This was a rare occasion when I didn’t have to hang around removing my walking boots as I’d walked up in my shoes; such is the nature of this SOTA. The drive back took until 22:35.

QSO’s:
160m CW: 8
160m SSB: 13
TOTAL: 21

Ascent & Distance:
53m of ascent / 2 x 500m walked
8min up/ 6min down

Observations:
This was my second 1-pointer inside a week! It was also very different to what I’m used to but nevertheless I enjoyed it very much. CE2 is an easy summit to climb, so close to a major conurbation and in benign weather conditions. There were people about even after dark and the access path was good. The latter apparently has a reputation for being slippery but all the mud was dried up today. It’s the first time in England that I have activated outside LD, NP, SB, SP or TW so there’s something new for me.

I don’t know if I’ve ever done a 160m only activation before. I can’t remember one so this was unusual too. If very few stations had shown up on Top Band because of the short notice, I would have tried 3.760-SSB or failing that 2m-FM with QRP. At least I had the self-spotting option which would have helped in that situation but evenings do not suit all chasers.

Conditions on 160m were eventually good enough to work round Britain and overseas as far as Finland and Germany. As time passed, the closer chasers appeared at a disadvantage evidenced by Brian G8ADD (16km due east) and Allan GW4VPX on his second (SSB) QSO.

There are few photos and some are poor due to forgotten camera. There wasn’t much to photograph either, it being pitch black. Used my phone but failed to activate the flash; the only source of illumination being the headlight. Proves I was there I suppose.

THANKS:
To all stations worked, especially for coming up in the evening and spotters: G4AZS and G0UUU. Also the SOTA SMS spotter. Thanks to WAB once again for coming down from 1.958.

73, John (G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GX0OOO/P)

Photos:
7-6-4-3-2
(Apologies for quality. Forgot camera – used phone – no flash!)


Above: Trig Point TP-0725, Walton Hill. Blurred!


Above: Trig Point TP-0725 on G/CE-002 Walton Hill


Above: Trig Point TP-0725 (S1533) on G/CE-002 Walton Hill


Above: Activation of G/CE-002 Walton Hill on 160m only


Above: Activation of G/CE-002 Walton Hill on 160m,
27-March 2019 from 19:28 to 21:55

6 Likes

Hi John,
Thank you for the QSO and your report. The “short notice” just hit the sweet spot for me, giving time and motivation to make a working antenna. I don’t normally work top band from my small home patch, but for this contact I loaded up one leg of my OCF doublet with a coil, and tuned that against a single counterpoise thrown out across the lawn. Working you was genuinley FB! I followed you up and listened on SSB, but contact would have been a struggle, as you were R4 at best, and R3 or worse in the QSB troughs.
A minor correction, my callsign is G4AZS - you are not the first to confuse me with that other 'AZS fellow :wink:

73
Adrian

2 Likes

Hiya Adrian,
Yes, I can be a bit like that. A time limit can help if it’s feasible and focusses the mind. Too much time and I forget about it. Too short and I give in.

You certainly did some prep Adrian and it worked too but thank goodness for CW. I have done similar in the past. Strapped my Windom and tuned it against the central heating system to get me on 160m; that’s after I no longer had my 160m dipole up.

It was a good contact and you were a very welcome sound - me beginning to despair slightly. I’ve worked you on Top Band in the past. Two QSO’s from the Pen-y-Ghent campover 31-12-16 in CW and again on 01-01-18 in SSB so thanks for coming up again to make it three.

Thank’s also for flagging up my error. Brain worm again! Any errors reported are appreciated. It gives me a chance to correct them and try not to do it again. No guarantees of the latter nowadays I’m afraid but getting someone’s callsign wrong is quite a sin. It really can grate. In this case it’s worse as you were ‘demoted!’ All is well now however both in the report and on the database. The error came from the paper log, having written it down ‘under pressure’ so to speak. Two AZS’s! The other one is Mark when I look it up.

Yes - FB indeed. Cuagn sn, 73, John

1 Like

Did you find the rustic benches, John? The best one is a little way past the trig point on the left of the main path, in daylight it gives a grand view of the Malvern Hills and the Welsh border summits, and at night faces away from the main light show. Incidentally, its neighbouring hill, now known as Clent Hill (on old maps it is Lord’s Hill) with its group of standing stones on the summit erected as a folly, is used occasionally for public demonstrations by the local astronomical society - they are used to strange nocturnal goings on around there!:wink:

1 Like

As usual John, Great report. Funny summit is Walton Hill. I believe it holds the record for the long distance covered to qualify a summit, 42530 Miles and yet, I don’t rate it as a VHF site.

73 Mike

1 Like

Hi Brian,
Thank you - your hill for the use of!
No I didn’t notice any benches; I wouldn’t have minded the luxury but it was pretty well pitch black and I didn’t go off to the side, instead remaining broadly south of the trig. I would have liked to see it in daylight but maybe some other time.

I did see Clent Hill on the map and my cousin’s husband took me to a high point called Frankley yesterday, from which I could see Walton Hill about three miles to the west. For the QSO distance in the report, I used your postcode and converted it roughly. This is a nice area. Leafy suburbs, generally well planned, fairly open and with lakes etc. Mind you the WX has really showed it off this last 2-days.

Tomorrow we must go so there’ll be no more playing radio this trip. I have decided to go south 4 or 5 miles and get on the M42 ASAP rather than go through the many roads and junctions to the M38/ M6. I have told the satnav what to do by feeding it a grid ref for the M42-J2 slip road so we’ll see if it takes me seriously. These things are like children. They need strict supervision.

As for the nocturnal goings on I’m not sure. Suffice to say I was once young!
Thanks for kicking the TV into touch and coming up on 160.
Glad to have you along.
73, John.

Hello Mike,
Thanks about the report but sadly no photos yet. Son has offered to sort the phone’s flash but it won’t be yet as he’s off up to GM for WABing and VHF purposes tonight. If I get the photos off my phone I’ll add them.

42,530 miles! Somebody (very likely you) must have made four antipodean contacts from up there then. If anybody could do it, it would be you Mike!

You may be right about VHF, I only heard one QSO on 2m but you’d think with all that population concentration there’d be a few replies to CQ SOTA. Sadly I didn’t try.
Thanks for your reply,
73, John

1 Like

Hi John,

Sorry I missed you up my “local” hill! If I’d not been working away from home I’d have offered my services as “guide” - though maybe the distraction would have been less than convenient!

Definitely got a soft spot for Walton - not only was it my first ever SOTA activation also got my best ever DX haul from there, including four VKs in the S2S event on 25th April 2015 :smile:

Not really had any difficulty with VHF from Walton, but there again my expectations are one or two orders of magnitude less than Mickey’s :wink:

73 de Paul G4MD

2 Likes

Hello Paul,
Another op who knows the hill well and from way back it would seem.

Hey that takes some doing. I didn’t realise there’d been an S2S event but this must be the record distance that Mike wrote about above. Well done on that one. If it ever gets beaten - unlikely, it won’t be by much. I think you sealed that achievement!

‘Guide.’ Yes and you could have re-proved it on VHF while I thrashed away on Top Band. I doubt there have been any cross-talk.

Got back to Scarborough this aft. A better route than on the way down via M42-J2 then M1, M18 and Howden as before. It’s been a bit unreal with summer-like WX, relatives visited and a 1-pointer slotted in.

Apologies for all the spelling errors in draft-1. The spell checker got quite warm I suspect, some of them glaring typos but when I checked it, I saw none. Added some photos just now but nothing worth a look. Just for the record.

All the best, John
THANKS Everybody!

2 Likes

Hi John,

Yes, been visiting Walton man and boy - it’s a nice walk from home over Wychbury, Clent and Walton Hills then dropping down to the Vine at Clent for a few pints or continuing on through Belbroughton and Drayton to the Swan at Chaddesly Corbett for a welcome soaking of Bathams best bitter…

It would have been a pleasure and an honour to share an activation with you, maybe you’ll be back one day when my work arrangements are more accommodating!

Glad you found a better way back - hacking through the middle of Birmingham isn’t much joy these days I avoid it whenever possible.

Pretty sure it’s not my activation Mike’s referring to, I’m not really a DX hunter just got lucky on a special day…

Take care, perhaps bump into you at Blackpool?

73 de Paul G4MD