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G4YSS /G0UUU, G/NP-008. VHF-NFD /SOTA, 08-July-07,


#1

Gt.WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008 / IO94AD. VHF-NFD / SOTA, 08-July-07, 06:45 to 16:07.

By G4YSS / G0UUU (using SSEG club callsigns)

Set off from Scarborough at 02:41 BST with Phil, G0UUU.
Arrived at the top of Park Rash at 04:49. Walking by 05:15, very slowly and in low-cloud, with a total of about 34kg. Set up the station between 06:45 and 07:30, 210m NE of the trig point. Equipment was the same as last year with an IC706 2G, an 18 ely. on 70cm, 3 ely. on 2m and a dipole for 6m. We also had the HF dipole, 5m mast and a spare rig in the form of an FT817ND.

Powers (typically) were 20W on 70cm, 20 to 30W on 2m, 100 W on 6m and 10W on 40m). Battery utilization was 70% of the 20 Ah (at the 1hr rate) aircraft battery and the IC706’s ‘mystery illness’ showed up on 2m once again. The rig, though grounded ‘takes-off’ and the physical position of the microphone, in relation it becomes highly critical. This resulted in a bad-back for Phil! Despite no rain being forecast, the tent was a valuable asset, fending-off a heavy afternoon downpour. We do NFD for fun and to give out points and the summit; having no desire to submit a contest entry.

We ended up with 54 QSO’s in the contest log, plus a further 9 on 2m FM and 31 on 40m CW (for SOTA) which made up this year’s total of 94, using the SSEG clubcalls GX7OOO/P, GX0OOO/P. Phil did most of the contest operating with the ‘VHF’ GX7 call while I took on 2m FM and 40m CW for SOTA. Phil is a much more proficient CW op than I but didn’t want the potential embarrassment of sending it on a miniature toggle switch. Conditions seemed to be quite flat and a little slow at first on VHF, with 2m carrying by far the bulk of traffic. 70cm & 6m were very disappointing when compared with previous years. We remembered to turn the antennas north regularly. Sometimes a ‘home’ frequency was occupied but mostly the targets were hunted on an ‘away’ basis.

As far as I know, we worked three and a half summit-to-summits. These were Tom M1EYP/P on SP15 (Cloud) using 40m CW, G8HXE/P contesting on SP13, Charlie GW0PZO/P doing the same on NW42 with 2m SSB and Mick 2E0HJD/P on Little Dunn Fell, using 2m FM. Notable was Tom, who from a ‘zero’ start 6 months ago, is now firmly in possession of arguably the most important weapon in the successful SOTA chaser’s armoury nowadays, namely a CW skill. Mick bravely set out for NP1, only falling short in the face of severe joint pain. Charlie was prevailed upon twice, to give away his summit to both SSEG ops.

It was good to hear Don G0RQL calling us on 144.260 SSB from Devon, for the SOTA. With our modest equipment, we were more than happy with the 52 report we received from him.

It was rather a poor showing for VHF-NFD countries worked this year:
70cm: UK only (18 ely.)
2m: UK plus PA, ON & EI (3 ely.)
4m: No TX facility but one or two SSB stations heard. (Half wave dipole).
6m: 9A & T90. (Half wave dipole).

Some SOTA stations managed to find us on 2m SSB and we were initially spotted by G4OWG. Thanks Roger.

After vacating the summit at 16:07, the car was reached by 17:00. We drove away at 17:16, arriving in Scarborough by 19:33. Thanks to all callers and for your patience. Also, we are grateful to the spotters: Roger G4OWG; Graham G4JZF; Mike G4BLH; Mike GW0DSP & Roy G4SSH (/A in Fowie).

This was SSEG’s fifth successive VHF field day on NP8, Scarborough’s closest 2k; only 160 miles round trip. Ascent 211m and 3.5 miles walked.

Phil would never claim to be a ‘hillmaster’ but he performed acceptably well with the walking and thoroughly enjoyed the operating. The tussocky surface, though little problem at first, became a real pain later. The only solution we could think of was to borrow the heavy roller complete with ground staff, from Headingley Cricket Ground.

I hope we can repeat this again next year.

73, John G4YSS & Phil G0UUU,
using GX0OOO/P & GX7OOO/P respectively).


#2

In reply to G4YSS:

I missed you on this one due to work commitments but it sounds like you had a good day, however I could not help noticing that (Quote:) “The rig, though grounded ‘takes-off’” and I wonder if it has something to do with you using an “aircraft battery”?

Just joking of course but I wonder if you could enlighten (pun intended) us a little more as to what you mean? I am wondering if I should take my 706 with me for use on our Scotish activations in August and if I can get it to take off like yours then it will be a lot lighter to carry than the 817.

Till next time Steve GW7AAV.


#3

In reply to G4YSS:

Another cracking read John, thanks. I get just as much pleasure from reading the activation reports as I do from chasing.

I’m sorry I didn’t get you in my log from Gt. Wherside John, but I did have the pleasure of working Phil, GX7OOO/P on 70cms ssb, a rare band/mode combination for me.

Phil did pass on your regards to me and I hope he did the reciprocal for me.

Well done on another good day out and here’s to the next one.

73 Mike GW0DSP


#4

In reply to GW7AAV:
Hiya Steve,

Yes, it is a lot lighter but only because I gave it a composite outer casing last year.

The IC706 2G has been problematical on 2m for several years and the abnormality always appears on VHF NFD when using 2m. Normally the meter is set to SWR but the trouble can be seen better if set to PO. When the mic is keyed (without audio input) on ssb it’s normal to see a couple of signal bars on the PO meter. This rig’s meter (sometimes) ‘bangs’ straight accross either until the PTT is released or intermittently. If the former the distant station hears nothing. If the latter, he reports, ‘you’re breaking up.’ Sometimes, if the mic is waved around while keyed on SSB (no audio) you can obtain a ‘proportional’ PO meter reading which rises and falls with the mic’s position in space. We tried a few equipment position changes, separating cables etc, to little avail. The ground spike didn’t solve it either and I think we got it on CW too.

When you are on FM it’s harder to know there’s a problem because the meter should be showing FSD anyway. The distant station reports, ‘you’ve disappeared’ or I just don’t reappear after a QSY from S20 to say 145.475. A return to S20 may re-establish comms but there’s no constant pattern to it. All this is independent of RF power setting.

On Sunday we were plagued with it early on 2 SSB. By positioning himself awkwardly and keeping his eyes glued to the PO meter, Phil found a 5 cubic inch mic position which allowed normal communication most of the time. I tried to imitate this but only ended up with a single very difficult (for the distant station) QSO. Later the problem more or less cleared or at least improved. In the afternoon, I did 2m FM without any trouble. The other bands work just fine making it look like wavelength / wire length / RF-f/b problems.

I am way past the stage of theories and suggestions and more or less accept this as normal behaviour, particularly since ICOM UK spent a full 3 months testing it in hot/cold chambers etc etc, on a test rig with ‘no fault found.’ The rig is hardly ever used on 2m anyway and we had the 817 with us to cover a complete failure. For example, I can remember Ben Nevis. I got Robin (PKT) S2S on S20. A QSY to S19 had Robin saying, ‘where did you go?’ Back to S20 then up to S21 and suddenly, we’re OK.

I could try a number of things, like overscreening the mic lead or trying another mic etc.

Other than this, it’s a solid reliable bit of kit that has seen quite a lot of very harsh conditions without complaint.

If I were you, I wouldn’t hesitate to take your 706 to GM. I’m sure, it’ll be perfectly OK. If you want lighter, try filling it with helium!

73, John.
G4YSS.

To Mike, GW0DSP.

Thanks for your comments Mike and yes, I did get your 73’s on the day. If I hear a familiar caller when Phil is operating, I always get excited and say, ‘that’s so and so, give him my best.’

Cheers, John.


#5

In reply to G4YSS:

Excellent report John. I see you WERE up earlier than I was at the weekend, Hi!

The rig problem sounds as though it might be created by the RF load match or RF coming back down the antenna cable and re-radiating. My FT-736R does a similar thing on 2m, but then it doesn’t bother me as I am unlikely ever to drag it up a hill. Well, maybe I might with a sherpa team in order to operate on 23cms.

73, Gerald


#6

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John

Great report, always interesting to hear the detail of other expeditions!

Once had a problem similar to what you describe that turned out to be due to a broken conductor in the mic lead, making intermittent contact - that took some tracking down! But I expect you’ve thought of that…

Good luck with your next exploit

73 de Paul G4MD


#7

Gerald, Paul,

Thank you both for that information. I might do worse than to put some ferrite where it’s needed and either check the mic lead or borrow a mic to try. On the other hand, we could take a lilo up next year, so that Phil can ‘contort-in-comfort.’

73, John G4YSS.


#8

In reply to G4YSS:

Thanks for the more detailed description John it has certainly got my brain ticking over wondering what it could be. My first thought would have been something in the mike lead, either an internal break or a poor screen on the lead and the length of lead a nice 1/4 wave on 2m or multiple of. Other than that I haven’t a clue but nothing new there.

Strange you should mention a composite outer casing, because I was just wondering if it would be an idea to replace the one on the 817 with an aluminium replacement. Did you construct the casing yourself or buy it somewhere?

Regards Steve GW7AAV


#9

In reply to GW7AAV:
Hi Steve,

Thank you for your advice.

Part 1: IC706 2G fault. We checked out the mic lead’s screen continuity again. It was OK. A few other things were tried. Phil found that he could cure it by pressing his hand (but not an insulated screwdriver handle) down on the top case so we checked the case to chassis electrical contact, then added extra screening to the case which made it worse! Once, a 6 inch screwdriver point held onto the case cured it.

After an afternoon of messing around with tin-foil and ferrite rings and getting solutions which were not consistent, we decided to simply take along a 2ft x 1ft sheet of alumesh next year. This is flexible, durable, finely woven aluminium mesh used for (among other things) bonding, antenna groundplanes and fuel tank lightning protection, in composite aircraft. It weighs very little and (like ali-foil) can cure this problem, sometimes by just standing the rig on it and other times by throwing it over the top. Twice I tried wrapping it around the rig and using a bungee to keep it in place. One time it worked, the other time it didn’t. No matter, this ‘non-professional’ solution will I hope, give us the options we need when it occurs next time. This is probably not a real fault with the rig, just a manifestation of the way it’s set up and being used. As I said, it did happen pre-mod and was away at ICOM UK from July to Nov-05 for investigation as std.

Part 2: Rig weight reduction. See ‘Mass Matters’ post.

73, John G4YSS.