G4YSS: Activation of GD/GD-001, SNAEFELL, 06-09-18
GD/GD-001, SNAEFELL on 160m-80m-20m CW/SSB QRO & 2m-4m FM QRP
All times BST (UTC + 1). UTC for radio operations (denoted ‘z’)
Unaccompanied from Bungalow Station Layby
G4YSS using GT0OOO/P
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier (80 thru 10) with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20
Loading Coils for 160m at the 40m breaks
6m/ 5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po battery (100% depleted)
One Turnigy 11.1V, 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery (est 90% depleted)
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H with 1.3 Ah integral battery for 4m-FM
Extended set-top helical for 4m-FM QRP
2m Band Vertical J-Pole
Reserve Rig: Baofeng UV-3R, 2W, 2m/ 70cm H/H (not used)
Pack-weight: 9.7kg approx
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player (not used)
DAB Cube (not used)
Better late than never, I thought it was time that I had a crack at IOM activating. Our last visit was in 1975 a few hours after we were married so Denise and I booked in at the Arrandale Hotel, a traditional guest house in Hutchinson Square, Douglas. I must say it’s been a good choice. Friendly, comfortable and at reasonable cost. Rose, the proprieter also booked the ferries for us, which brought the additional advantages of convenience, discount and ATOL protection. The IOM is neither in the UK nor the EU so it’s worth checking your insurance.
From a place called ‘The Bungalow’ which is a station on the Snaefell Mountain Railway at the intersection of the A18 and A14 roads. Here there is a layby (SC 3962 8678). This enables a start altitude of more than 400m, leaving about 220m to climb, with a distance of 1.4km one-way. Path waypoints are as follows: SC 3962 8720; SC 3967 8764 and SC 3967 8789.
After a 15 minutes drive up from Douglas and some preparation, I was walking by 10:48. After a short distance you pass through a kissing gate, which is rather a tight squeeze if you’re carrying a rucksack and antenna mast. After that it’s plain sailing up a well-worn grassy/ rocky path of variable gradient; steeper near the top. Before reaching the summit, you cross the railway near the top station and cafe. There you meet the ‘tourists’ as if I’m not one also! I GPS marked the trig point (TP-6035) on arrival at SC 39770 88095. There was no one else walking up.
I thought the antenna would be easy to erect but that proved not to be the case. Maybe I was just out of practice and there was a goodly NW wind blowing. The place I chose overlooking the handrailed concrete path, was barely large enough to accommodate an 80m dipole without encroaching on the paths that the railway travellers were using to access the summit. To avoid accidents, I made a small adjustment but the wire still wasn’t sitting right. There are no guys; just the dipole and the ground to hold the mast up, so the included angle is critical for every wind speed.
SNAEFELL, GD/GD-001, 621m, 8 pts, 11:11 to 16:50, 10 deg C. Wind strengthening to approx 30mph. Overcast with sunny periods. Two light rain showers with mild precipitation static. LOC: IO74SG. WAB: SC38. Trig: TP-6035. EE mobile coverage.
3.557 CW - 6 QSO’s:
I was pleased to get the Scarborough Special Events Group chairman - G4SSH in the log first. This is the first time that our SSEG G(-)0OOO club callsign has been aired with a letter ‘T’ in it and I think Roy was looking forward to working it. A few years ago, Phil G4OBK aired GT7OOO/P from IOM for us. The exchange with Roy was 589/ 339 and I was using 50 Watts.
Continuing in the same vein but with 30 Watts, further stations trickled in as follows: G4OBK Phil; G4TGJ Richard; GM3YTS Rob; GW4VPX Allan and G0HRT Rob.
Callers were 579 to 599 with me but there was significant QSB. My 30 Watts was reported at between 559 and 599. 80m was working reasonably well and the reserve band, 60m wasn’t required.
3.760 - 7 QSO’s:
Roy posted the SSB QSY for me which meant back to work: G4IAR Dave; M6JIQ Jimmy; M3FEH Karl; M0TMD Helen; G0RQL Don; EI3GYB Michael (reporting rain and 12C in Mayo) and finally G6NHW Pete.
I think it was Jimmy who fell into the trap of writing down the clubcall and then not knowing which were oscars and which were zeros. If you read this Jimmy; no worries, you’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. I get tongue tied with it myself at times.
Most reports were in the range 55 to 59 but I had trouble working Karl who I could barely hear but who was fortunately hearing me 55. QSB brought my report from Pete up from an initial 22 to 47. Power was 30W. I got a 57 from County Mayo which gave me hope for a repeat on Top Band later but it only nearly happened.
1.832 CW - 1 QSO:
A lot of time was wasted due to an increasing wind speed. When I inserted the 160m coils they sagged to the ground which meant repositioning the end sticks to add tension and alter the included angle into wind. Just about then a squall came along. Dark clouds sent down some rain and static wiped the receiver which I quickly disconnected. A strong gust came along and the mast snapped at the base and fell down.
This was a new 1m long base section made earlier in the year from ¾” ali tubing and a carbon fibre rod to go into the ground. The idea was to make a VHF beam support with the spin-off advantage of adding 1m to the existing 5m HF dipole mast. The CFC rod was only a half inch diameter so it had to be sleeved up to fit the tube, using another bit of ali tube. Unfortunately the latter sleeve was not of aircraft quality, being more like soft ali. One good gust and it gave up – a clean break.
By the time I’d reconfigured things, I was over 5 minutes late. Tuning 1.832 I could hear signals immediately. I was not at all ready. No log, stuff scattered around which could have blown away and no final check on resonance but if I hadn’t acted then, I might have missed the opportunity. Pulling the mic from under a pile of gear, I called on the toggle switch in response to Morse from G4OBK - QTH Pickering, North Yorkshire. I was pleasantly surprised when Phil heard me and gave me a report. I had nowhere to write it but I think it was 229 and Phil got the 339 going back quite easily. Power was 50W to the loaded 80m dipole at 5m centre height and 1m ends.
The path for this QSO is about 240km with the Pennines in the way so we were lucky and it was unexpected. I thought there might be one or two others but after 10 minutes I gave up calling in favour of a QSY to SSB.
1.846 SSB - Nil:
15 to 20 minutes of calling on here with 50W, brought nothing in the way of QSO’s but I know Michael was trying from Co. Mayo in Eire. I clearly heard the last two letters of EI3GYB, as ‘Yankee Bravo’ in his distinctive accent but I just wasn’t getting back to him. Pity and better luck next time.
Roy G4SSH, Phil G0UUU and I (self spot) all posted spots for Top Band but I suspect that nobody else heard my weak signals. However, Phil, G0UUU heard the Top Band signals weakly via an online receiver in Nantwich, Cheshire, with 80m much more readable.
14.052.6 CW – 17 QSO’s:
After 70 minutes with just the one Top Band CW QSO to show for it, I gave 20m a try and I’m glad I did. First to come back to my CQ was Bert DF5WA. I don’t think it was in response to a spot because Bert spotted me after his QSO. Roy followed up with a reminder of the next QSY to SSB. I had a brief time away calling on 14.285 but on returning, one CQ caused a pileup. In fact there were sufficient callers to prevent the picking out of a single callsign. Eventually I sorted out one or two and started to slowly work through the rest. The problem was that they weren’t hearing one another very well and just when you were about to read a callsign, somebody else would call. The QSB didn’t help either and I lost a few in it.
Chasers worked: EA2IF Guru; EA2DT Manuel; DL3MBE Hans; OK2PDT Jan; SV2HSZ Michael; R6AF Vic; OH3GZ Jukka; OE7HWE; F8FKK Claude; F5JKK Eric; AC1Z Robert (NH); IK2LEY Fabio; S56RPJ Janko; OM3CUG/P Igor S2S OM/ZA-034; SV2OXS Christos and IZ1FPR/ QRP Ric.
Almost everybody got 579 to 599 from me but there were some weaker 559’s at the end. The incoming range was 549 to 579 with a 519 from Italy and a 339 from Greece. Despite 559 both ways, it took forever to read the callsign of SV2HSZ but I wasn’t going to give up easily. Every time the QSB took him down and I had to ask for umpteen repeats. Worth it in the end and most ops were patient while this was going on.
Towards the end of this hour-long session, the 5Ah main battery failed and was replaced by the reserve, a 2.2Ah. This part of the activation took 55 minutes from 12:55z and power was mostly 30 Watts increasing to 50W where required.
14.285 SSB – 27 QSO’s:
Limiting myself to 30 Watts with the tiny reserve battery, the following stations were logged: OE6GND Gerhard; SQ9MDF Leszek S2S on SP/BS-034; DG2GMW Michael; DD5LP Ed; OH3GZ Jukka; SV2HSY; EA2DT Manuel; OE6SQD Andy; IK2JYT John; EA1DR Oscar?; IU4HMP Sandro; I8OCA Tony; IK2XDF Paul; EA4CX Manuel; CT1ASM Jo; LZ2HT Ivan; LZ7PW Alex; S59DXX (Club Stn); VA3HWC Harry (Ontario); LZ1BY Dimitar; S51GL Miran; EB1DJ Alex; W1OW Bill; EB1IFK Santiago; OE3AOW Alfred; US4EM Eugen and IS0FFT Giovanni. The final station was worked at 14:45z.
I expected the battery to fail and cut me off abruptly at any moment. Ironically current was wasted explaining that if I disapeared, it would be permanent. Futile really because by the time it happens, you have a new and ignorant audience puzzling about what happened.
Most stations were coming in at 57 to 59 with similar coming back in most cases. I got 59 plus 10dB from EA1DR in Santander and one report of ‘72’ which I had to have repeated. It’s my first readability seven in over 30 years of operating and that’s with a West Yorkshire accent. There were some 44’s from Spain and one from over the pond.
The QSO with VA3HWC was cross-mode with Harry sending in CW and me replying in SSB (599/ 55). I could have switched to CW but that’s often the kiss of death for the QSO; not knowing which way the rig’s going to ‘jump.’
Ed DD5LP helped with the SQ9MDF S2S QSO but only the timing. Thanks Ed! We successfully exchanged with 52’s in the end.
Bill W1OW coincidentally was in Douglas Mass. named presumably, after the town we are currently holidaying in. Finally, the ones that got away: OM7OM and a station with 2BP in the callsign.
There were a few repeated QTH’s which makes me wonder if some ops were phoning their mates. Many of these QSO’s were unrecognized as SOTA chasers so I expect the GT callsign must have appeared on the DX Cluster at some point early in the proceedings.
145.400 FM - 2 QSO’s:
After packing up the HF gear, I contemplated a move further up the slope for a good all-round VHF takeoff but couldn’t face the half gale. Instead I stayed put and erected a longer mast than usual by adding an extra section – the one broken earlier. Trouble was the coax from the J-Pole wasn’t long enough to reach the ground so I had to move the rig slightly up hill.
After doing around 33 QSO’s with 30 Watts on 20m, I thought it prudent to use just 2.5 Watts of FM for the 2m session. Flicking round the band, I observed that it was as dead as a Dodo and the SWR was sky high but this kind of thing happens when you connect the VHF antenna to the port where the HF dipole goes.
As soon as that was corrected strong signals leapt out of the 817, which had been left parked on the preffered Scarborough channel of 145.400. A confident female voice from someone who sounded like they were fresh from working many callers in an efficient manner, was heard. Could this be a SOTA station, I wondered? Once again I wasn’t ready but called anyway, without a clue of who I was working. It turned out to be Caroline M3ZCB and the clue came with, ‘I’ll hand you over to Martyn’ (M1MAJ/P).
After four 59 reports we had the two S2S’s in the log; GD1 to SP10 – Winter Hill. I asked about the burnt patch which apparently is extensive but not right up to the summit. Now it was off to find my own frequency and hope there wouldn’t be too many callers.
145.550 FM - 5 QSO’s:
With 2.5 Watts, a couple of returns to S20 and a self spot, I logged the following chasers: MW1FGQ John in Holyhead; G4VFL Andrew in Eggremont; MW0ISC Steve - Mold; GI4KBW Peter in Jordanstown (IO74BQ) and M0JCQ/P James S2S on Red Screes – G/LD-017.
All were 59 to me. Incoming reports were in the range 57 to 59 with a 55 from Andrew, a 54 from Steve and 51 from James who was just using a rubber duck equiped handie for the S2S.
70.450 FM - 1 QSO:
Standing up with the IC-E90 held high, I replied to Andrew G4VFL who was calling when I switched on. The exchange was 59/ 51. Andrew was horizontally polarised and using 20 Watts. My power was about 3W.
There were no answers to further CQ’s so I switched off and packed up the last of the gear. While I was doing this, I heard a shout from below. It was hard to hear in the strong wind but it looked like the last tram was leaving and the driver was asking if I was expecting a ride down. After a reply in the negative and a ‘thanks for asking’ he returned to the tram and it moved off with the café staff aboard. Kind of them to ask, I thought as I was left alone.
The walk down took 18 minutes and for the last part I walked with an Irishman who’d come to the IOM 30 years ago to do one job and stayed ever since. He was an ex AM CB’er so we had radio in common. He spotted my car, or should I say my XYL’s car, from a distance with its two mag-mounts and HF/ VHF whips. I told him about the Foundation Licence. The time was 17:08.
That’s when I spotted a beautifully restored 1950’s Rover 110 which was about to move off. ‘Hold on a minute while I get a photo.’ The couple inside obliged, winding down the window to tell me the car’s name was Ruby and she that was used daily. I remember getting a 3.9:1 differential from a scrap one of these to make my Land Rover go a bit faster. Scrap? Perish the thought!
This activation felt slightly weird. It seemed like all radio and hardly any walking, in fact a bit of a steal for eight points. The number of people filing past all day just added to the strangness. Not one of them out of breath, though I did see three or four wearing boots as if they’d walked up like me.
Plenty were curious as to my activity and some seemed to have some background to call on. Several asked how far I was getting and one chap seemed to know it was ‘short wave.’ I replied that I was doing the low frequency of 1.8 MHz and the question came back,’Is that the CQ one?’
Most had been prepared for how cold it might be at the top when alighting from the trams but a few obviously hadn’t thought about it. The last ten metres to the trig would be a shock, with the cold wind full in your face. At least the views were good, there was very little rain and it was too windy for flies.
160m was just a token effort, done more in hope than expectation so to get one QSO was gratifying. I should think Phil G4OBK would have been pleased and rightly so. It was a reward for all the work he’s done on antennas at his new QTH.
80m worked after a fashion and was intended to bring in the UK chasers and WAB collectors. Judging by the number of them that were missing it might have fallen well short of that but it was getting up into Scotland, Ireland, across to Scarborough and down as far as Devon.
20m has had mixed reports of late but has probably been more popular than 40m for SOTA over the summer. I was lucky in that it was having a good day when I needed it, though many stations were probably after the Isle of Man and the GT prefix than logging the SOTA, WAB square and trig point on offer. No matter, anything that fills the log these days is acceptable and it did get me over the Atlantic which has been far from guaranteed of late.
I expected a few more on 2m but it was late afternoon plus the fact that I was pushed for time by then. The one contact on 4m, like the one on 160m, added to the statistics and was welcome.
This was the first time on the air for GT0OOO. GT7OOO was used by Phil G4OBK a few years ago.
There is a sequel. The XYL and I went back the day after via the tram (12 GBP each and takes 30 min up and 25 min down). Sadly all we saw was fog. Never mind; the cream scones were good!
10:48: Left Bungalow Station (400m ASL)
11:11 to 16:50: Snaefell summit
17:08: Arr. back at car
Summit time: 5hr-57min
23min up 18 min down
Total: 2.8km (1.8 miles) / 220m (722ft) ascent
Thanks to all stations worked and to spotters: G4SSH; GM3YTS; G0UUU; DF5WA & SV2HSZ. Thanks to Roy and Phil for responding to texts. Thanks to Andy MM0FMF for registering my temporary phone number with the SOTA SMS self-spotting system.
(G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GT0OOO/P)
Above: Bungalow Station on the Snaefell Mountain Railway
Above: The path up Snaefell from Bungalow Station. (Mobile whips for 80m & 2m)
Above: The path up Snaefell from Bungalow
Above: The Snaefell summit café and tram station
Above: The Snaefell tramway leaving the summit station
Above: The final approach to the summit of Snaefell GD/GD-001
Above: Snaefell’s trig point (TP-6035)
Above: GD/GD-001 Snaefell summit
Above: GD/GD-001 Snaefell summit activation point looking towards the tram station
Above: Rain imminent
Above: GD/GD-001 Snaefell activation on HF (No, the mast on the right!)
Above: GD/GD-001 Snaefell activation on VHF (2m-FM)
Above: GD/GD-001 Snaefell activation on VHF (2m-FM)
Above: GD/GD-001 Snaefell. On the way back to Bungalow Station. Irish man ahead.
Above: Bungalow station. Chance meeting with a Rover 110 called Ruby.
Above: Bungalow station. Ruby’s dash board.