G4YSS: Activation of GD/GD-003 South Barrule on 11-09-18
Issue-2 (Callsign errors corrected)
GD/GD-003 SOUTH BARRULE on evening of 11 th September 2018
QRO on 160m, 80m CW/ SSB & 70cm SSB
All times BST (UTC + 1). UTC for radio operations (denoted ‘z’)
Evening operation for RSGB 70cm contest and 160m SOTA.
Unaccompanied from A27 road, WSW of the summit
G4YSS using GT0OOO/P
IC706-2G HF-VHF-UHF Multi-mode transceiver (100W rated at 13.8V)
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20
Loading Coils for 160m at the 40m breaks
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
Moonraker ZL70-7, 70cm 7-ely beam antenna…
(mounts on lower two sections of HF mast)
Two RCM 11.1V, 4.5 Ah Li-Po batteries (50% depleted)
Two Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po batteries (50% depleted)
Paralleling harnesses for both battery pairs
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H (used to monitor GB3GD only)
2m Band Vertical J-Pole (monitoring only)
Reserve Rig: Baofeng UV-3R, 2W, 2m/ 70cm H/H (not used)
Pack-weight: 12.2 kg (27 pounds)
Lichfield Viper-1, one-man ridge tent…
(pole & peg prepared fly sheet only/ easy pitch)
Small poly groundsheet
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Food to replace B&B Evg Meal
Headlamp (Energizer - with four settings, from Wilko’s)
Spare headlamp and torch
Hitachi MP3 Player (not used)
DAB Cube (for England-India test match finale)
GD3 was the third GD activation on our 10-day holiday at the Arrandale Hotel (£38 B&B pppn. Ev’g meal-deal £13). The GD3 start point is approximately 30 minutes drive from Douglas.
The basic idea of a night activation during our IOM holiday was not a recent or spur-of-the-moment one; having been planned for several months to coincide with the RSGB 70cm contest evening for September.
Originally I’d envisaged a second activation of Snaefell GD1 but got put off that idea during a visit to the IOM radio club in Ballasally. I was told by Mattie MD0MAN that as well as a 2m and a 70cm repeater at the summit, there are various commercial radio services such as Tetra and one for the CAA etc. Interference has been suffered in the past on 2m but it was not known if that would affect 70cm. Club night was a worthwhile exercise and I received such a great welcome that it was a no-brainer to go back there again the week after.
The other reason for doing a SOTA in the dark was yes you guessed it – Top Band. After the frustration of two daylight GD activations with 160m included and only three chasers satisfied, I was looking forward to operating after dark. The trouble was the weather. Isn’t it always? Rain was forecast and strong winds. I would need a decent shelter; not merely a brolly or windbreak but something that could be used as a temporary shack. With such diverse operating over a long period, you need to spread everything out so it can be easily accessed. A one-man tent flysheet and plastic sheet to sit on is not the best of arrangements but I wasn’t wanting to carry anything heavier.
The start point for this hill is a path which leaves the junction of the A27 road and a forest track. A kissing gate at SC 2474 7566 gives access to this path. The car can be parked at the opposite side of the track where there is space for three or four.
A GPS route for this summit was derived from a track put onto (I think) a trig-pointing website by G0OBK (thanks Phil). With a variable gradient, quite steep in places, the path is essentially straight for its entire length, going up via: SC 2506 7574; SC 2535 7581; SC 2560 7586, to the trig (TP-6063) GPS’d at SC 25773 75928. Ascent is 183m over a distance (one-way) of around 1.2km.
Leaving the B&B in Douglas at around 16:00, I was all packed up and walking by 17:53 .
Even with a pack full of heavy SOTA kit with the mast, 70cm beam and accommodation strapped to the outside, the wind-assisted ascent wasn’t too stressful. Less than 20 minutes saw me at the top and looking for a place to set up.
With a stiff wind blowing from the WSW, I tried to get into the lee of the rubble-surrounded trig point but there was little lee. In fact very little respite at all was available. The next consideration was the take-off for 70cm. That and the low, squishy bits needed avoiding. I settled for a spot about 25m NE of the trig, hoping that the latter and it’s plinth of large stones wouldn’t block the sight-lines SW too badly.
With rain expected sooner or later, the first job was to pitch the flysheet; a relatively quick job, except that the short pegs weren’t really reaching the ground through thick vegetation, some of it heather. Once the rucksack was inside and unpacked, I was happy. Rain? Bring it on!
The HF dipole antenna was erected parallel with the wind. I looked at the bodged repair at it’s centre, a legacy of GD1, hoping it would hold for this most important Top Band night operation. ‘Not too much tension John, but enough to keep the coils as high above the deck as possible, once the time for fitting them came.’
To be fair the long-suffering dipole in thin 24 AWG wire, with its attractive pink insulation, was not initially intended to take the weight of two loading coils, even though they’re only three ounces (accurately 78gm) between them. If set up over challenging topography (which doesn’t apply to GD3) or with the wrong included angle into wind, they can end up a foot off the ground, which really pulls the tuning, causing severe QSB if it’s windy.
The 7-ely beam was plugged into the rig and prepared for use but I carried no separate mast for it.
I made myself a schedule (BST):
22:00: Back to 70cm
22:30: Pack up
23:00: Leave summit
24:00: Back to B&B (No later!!)
SOUTH BARRULE GD/GD-003 , 483m, 4 pts, 17:12 to 22:53 . 13 deg C (on arrival). Wind 25mph plus. Overcast but no low-cloud. Clear views. Wind-driven rain from 21:00 BST onwards. LOC: IO74PD. WAB: SC27. Trig: TP-6063. 100% EE mobile coverage.
3.557 CW - 9 QSO’s:
I almost missed the 80m sked time after getting distracted by photography. There were great views all round, especially towards Snaefell.
G4SSH Roy didn’t respond to my 40 Watt call at 18:45. I tried again with full power, getting back a 229 report from Roy. Not too encouraging but at least we had a QSO in the log. Roy was 589 to me initially and 599 after a minute or so.
Once Roy’s spot took effect, a CQ brought further results as follows: G4RMD Frank; DJ5AV Mike; IK2LEY Fabio; ON7DQ Luc; PA9CW Tonnie; OK2PDT Jan; G4OBK Phil and DG1NPM Norbert.
G4AZS called in several times but even full power didn’t seem to be reaching him. After a while Roy came in to pass a message, saying that Adrian was calling me four hundred Hz up the band. To my regret later and disappointment at the time, I neither understood nor properly interpreted this message. Probably Adrian was suffering QRM on my frequency and wanted me to move slightly to work him in a clear spot. I just kept on calling him in but no QSO ensued. Bad operating on my part lost him the summit. Apologies are in order.
Power was 40W except for Fabio, ‘100W.’
(Note: When fed with 12.6V from a fully charged 11.1V Li-Po, the IC706-2G probably develops 80W or so but 100W is quoted at the full power setting for the purposes of this report).
Outgoing reports were all 599 apart from a 339 for Fabio and Norbert’s 579. As usual, life was was not that easy for chasers. Five incoming RST’s were between 579 and 599 but the rest were 339, 449 or 559. After the initial 229, Roy G4SSH came in near the end of the session to tell me that my sigs had increased to 579.
A voice was heard; unexpected at this time of evening. This was a girl up near the trig point, walking her two dogs. My only other visitor was an inch-long bendy looking black beetle which was rapidly evicted.
3.760/ 3.765/ 3.768 - 20 QSO’s:
As usual, Roy posted the SSB QSY for me.
With Steve G4HPE in control, stations fed through to me (and another portable station - Martin GD3ZZN) on the WAB frequency of 3.760 were: SM6CNX Dan; G0FEX Ken; G0GWY Geoff; MM3PDM Peter in Peterhead; G8VZT Dave; G7LMF Graham; GW0FGO Bill; G7XKT Tony; GW4VPX Allan; M3FEH Karl; M0NMI David; F4VSU (Dave G6LKB posing as a Frenchman); GM6ZAK Andy.
Looking at my watch, I had a minor panic attack. Sked time for 70cm had come and gone. My son Phil would be waiting in vain on 432.232 MHz SSB. I took my leave of the WAB net after working the final two stations on Steve’s list, thanked him for control and moved up 5kHz to work any final SOTA chasers.
After several announcements from both Steve and myself, it was hoped that everyone would follow the QSY but it wasn’t the case. DG1NPM Norbert, who I’d worked earlier in CW and who’d been calling in when Steve asked for check-in’s but wasn’t heard, didn’t appear on the new QRG. To be fair, he’d had a long wait and I think there may have been something about the CW contact that he wasn’t completely happy about. Something I couldn’t read ‘cos I’m poor at Morse. I tried calling him in myself but he didn’t copy me. If he does happen to read this, I can assure him that the CW QSO was good from my side. I will get around to the database work in due course. Norbert may have been ‘The other German Station’ which Ed mentioned.
After logging one station G6NHW (Birmingham), I realised that I’d jumped on someone’s net despite having pre-checked it. Another QSY was executed, this time to 3.768 where I logged five more stations as follows: G4OIG Gerald; G8ADD Brian; 2W0TNX; G0HIO Mike and G3RMD Frank.
Signal strengths were mainly good or very good but there was a lot of noise which caused a few R4’s to be given out. The best I got were a few 59’s and 58’s but there were 44’s and a 33 from Karl M3FEH. Power was often 100W but down to 40W whenever possible.
Working as quickly as possible, the HF dipole was laid down on the grass and the 70cm beam fixed to the two lower sections.
432.232 SSB – 2 QSO’s:
By the time I got there the sked time with G0UUU/P had been missed by 15 minutes. I pointed the beam SE towards East Anglia, where Phil was on holiday and called him but there wasn’t a sound. A few CQ’s brought in two stations. The first was GM3SEK Ian in IO74SR, followed by GI0VKP Robert in IO74AO.
The first station was very distorted and in turn reported the same on my signal. However if I tuned a couple of hundred Hz down the band Ian’s audio was perfectly OK. It seemed he was just not accurately netted. Further CQ’s attracted no callers so I decided it was time to go hunting.
432 MHz SSB – 4 QSO’s:
I worked four stations on their own frequencies as follows: GD0AMD/P in IO74QD; GD8EXI Richard in IO74PC (located near GD4 - Bradda Hill); GD6ICR Mike in IO74PF and GI6ATZ Gordon in IO74AJ. So far I hadn’t managed to get out of my own square! Things were not going well and I’d lost confidence in the rig after a second station alluded to distortion. Fortunately Richard GD8EXI told me that it was perfect.
At the end of this session the first battery went flat and I discovered I hadn’t connected the paralleling harness meaning that it was not a 9Ah pack as intended but only a 4.5Ah. As I was changing it the phone rang. It was my son Phil G0UUU/P. We tried pointing our beams at one another but neither could hear the other. The exercise was deemed a failure so we went our separate ways. Phil to get 22 contacts on 70cm and me to Top Band.
1.832 CW - 10 QSO’s:
After G4SSH didn’t hear my call, due to noise and QSB, it was EI7CC Pete who provided me with the first QSO. Pete spotted me. Roy was in next with a 559/ 559 exchange, reports between us that would have been unheard of in daylight. Just about now it began to rain.
At 20:05z I was called by Frank G3RMD. He had a great signal – 599 both ways. Three more QSO’s followed, all with 599/ 599 exchanges. These were PE5ROS Gert; GI4ONL Victor and G3RDQ David.
Next came Phil G4OBK with 599/ 579; G0HIO Mike struggling at 599/ 339; G4TGJ Richard 579 both ways and finally GW4VPX Allan, just barely readable in noise at 339/ 559.
Power was 100 Watts for the first four and 60W thereafter I sent out the usual ‘SSB-SSB-SSB’ which Roy picked up and spotted. Considering the band we we on, exciting times indeed!
1.845.3 SSB – 10 QSO’s:
The alerted frequency of 1.846 had some splash on it so I nudged down a little, hoping that the chasers would still find me. They did and Pete EI7CC got the ball rolling in phone with 57 both ways.
Next Frank G3RMD came in to give me 59, which I sent back. We had a brief chat. Then a surprise from Bavaria in the form of Ed DD5LP using his 40m loop antenna, no doubt tuned for 160m. I gave Ed a 57 report but that was just some of the time. There was a lot of noise and QRM on the channel and I got 33 back. Ed sounded pleased and rightly too. It wasn’t a bad contact for 160m for an hour after dark.
After Ed, M3FEH called in. Karl was an easier copy than normal at 57 both ways. G8VNW Nick in Theshfield (Yorkshire Dales) exchanged with me without too much difficulty at 57/ 47 to 58 but then I heard the smallest of signals. Only the first letter of a callsign which didn’t give much of a clue, as it was a ‘G.’ However the intonation did kind of give it away and I asked, ‘Is that Geoff?’ We went to and fro for the next two or three minutes but eventually after a lot of effort, GM4WHA was in the log at 31 both ways.
It was the turn of G8ADD next but Brian wasn’t an easy copy either. I gave him 44 and he got it. I was surprised when a 57 came back. Was that ‘The Varieties Brian?’ ‘Roger Roger!’ Just when I thought there’d be no more, after a few CQ’s two further stations called in. I worked G4TGJ Richard 55 x 2 and Helen M0TMD, SOTA’s latest ‘A’ class licensee, in Glossop with 44/ 31.
After briefly going back to CW, only to find that someone was using my frequency, I came back to SSB to put out some more CQ’s. I soon tired of that and put the mic down for a while, at that point noticing that my evening meal was still lying on the groundsheet uneaten. I’d only agreed to carry it up on condition I didn’t have to carry it down.
Eight minutes after the preceding QSO and half way through my supper, I put out a single CQ. Straight back came G4IPB, Paul in Middleton-in-Teesdale. The distance between us and other conditions must have been perfect as until then, Frank G3RMD had been the best signal of the evening. I think Paul said he was only running 30 Watts so I reduced power to about 50 at my end. This was armchair copy territory with not a word missed and Paul’s signal completely parted the waves of noise that had troubled earlier QSO’s. Paul was using an inverted ‘L’ aerial.
There were some stations missing, one in the form of Michael EI3GYB. Pity he missed it after all his valiant but ultimately futile Top Band efforts earlier in the week. I found out later he’d been working and hadn’t seen the spots until midnight.
432 MHz SSB – 2 QSO’s:
After rolling up the dipole and re-erecting the 7-ely ZL beam, these were the final QSO’s on 70cm: GW0MDQ in IO83KC and G3UVR Dennis in IO83KH. Finally, I’d managed to work outside my own locator square!
There were a couple of CW QSO’s going on but they seemed to disappear after each QSO. Furthermore I couldn’t work out who’s frequency it was so I gave up hunting to call CQ on the fixed frequency of 432.232 MHz. After five minutes of no luck and with just two minutes of contest time remaining, I admitted defeat, switched off and began the task of packing up.
A systematic approach is essential in rain, with the final act the removal of the tent. A soggy one in this case. After returning the rock, borrowed for a ground sheet weight, to the summit we were ready for off.
Leaving at 22:53, walking directly into driving rain and taking my time in the dark, I arrived at the car for 23:09 . The head-torch was great on full beam but it uses a lot of power on that setting. 2-hours is all you can expect from 3 x AAA’s so I settled for a little less illumination.
While I was extricating myself from the rucksack, a tricky task when there’s a delicate beam antenna tied to the back of it, a car stopped on the main road and turned into the track entrance. The man wound down the window, ‘Are you alright?’ He asked. ‘Yes, I’ve just come down the hill from doing radio.’ ‘Oh, I thought you were going skiing.’ How he came up with that comment, goodness knows? For a start I don’t use sticks.
Out of all the activations of the holiday, I think I got the most out of this one. Maybe it was just relief after having had it in the back of my mind for months but the 160m success had a lot to do with it too. This was a little out of the ordinary, involving the late night descent of a hill I’d never been on before, rather than my more usual overnight stay and walk down in daylight the next morning. Like countless times in the past, the weather had to be tolerated once again. Not that it was particularly onerous. It was after all, merely a bit of rain and fortunately, though windy it wasn’t cold.
The flysheet did a wonderful job, though I noticed it was wet inside where my coat had been touching it. As always, the down side was the pain of lying propped on one elbow or kneeling in this small space for several hours.
The shocking lack of success on 70cm was more than balanced by the satisfying 160m log content. This followed two daylight 160m activations which were frankly hard work from the viewpoint of QSO’s versus time spent, not only for me but for the chasers too. On GD3, once the sun was removed from the formula and despite a dramatic increase in band noise, things started to move along quite rapidly. Yet again the interest, loyalty and support of the 160m chasers cannot be underestimated in making this a success. The enthusiasm came right out of the speaker and that give this activator a boost. A 100 watt rig on full power undoubtedly helped for marginal QSO’s in providing that vital extra half ‘S’ point in the chaser’s receiver.
80m was a good place to be too. In fact it was the ‘bread and butter’ of the activation, supporting QSO’s from the UK right out as far as Italy just after darkness set in. I did become a little stuck on the WAB net, missing my sked time in the process but the efforts of Steve the controller brought in quite a few stations that I may not have worked on my own frequency.
I wish there’d been time for a higher HF band. It might have produced some interesting results and with hindsight, it could have replaced 70cm altogether. As for the latter, I still don’t know what went wrong. I barely seemed to be able to work outside my own locator square and my confidence was shaken by early reports of distortion. These turned out to be unfounded, or at least didn’t occur after the first battery swap. That substitution might not have been required had I remembered when packing the rucksack, to parallel the second 4.5Ah in with its twin.
Was it my location or didn’t I have enough antenna gain or TX power? Worse still, has the 19-year old IC706-2G developed receiver deafness on UHF? The following evening I discussed this with Richard GD8EXI at the IOM Radio Club meeting, my second visit of the holiday. He offered to bench test the rig for me and check receive sensitivity; a kind offer which would have been hard to fit in with just one day remaining and two activations left to do.
What he did say was that in contrast to conditions on 2m the Tuesday before, where ‘all stations out as far as 400km were a full 59 to him, in the 70cm evening almost no one was better than 53. He uses a 32-ely with a 10m boom (soon to be two 42’s) and 400W on 70cm so maybe conditions were in winter mode as he suggested and it wasn’t my rig after all, albeit my setup by necessity, is exceedingly modest.
The IOM Radio Club meetings take place on Wednesday evenings in the scout hut at Ballasally (south part of the island). NGR is: SC 28019 70193 (N54.09881 W4.63167). I don’t know when they start but they general pack up around 21:30. They are informal and visitors made to feel very welcome.
80m CW: 9
80m SSB: 20
160m CW: 10
70cm SSB: 8
16:53: Left A27 road/ track/ path junction (300m ASL)
17:12 to 22:53: GD3 summit
23:09: Arr. back at car
23:59: Arr. Douglas
Summit time: 5hr-41min
Walking: 19min up 16 min down
Total: 2.4km (1.5 miles) / 183m (600ft) ascent
Thanks to all stations worked and to spotters: G4SSH; EI7CC and DD5LP. Thanks to Roy G4SSH for responding to texts with spots and monitoring 3.557 MHz.
(G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GT0OOO/P)
Above: GD/GD-003 start point on track off A27 road WSW of summit
Above: GD/GD-003 start point. Rucksack
Above: GD/GD-003 as seen from the start point off A27 road
Above: GD/GD-003 Trig Point (TP-6063)
Above: GD/GD-003 Trig Point (TP-6063). Hillfort details
Above: GD/GD-003 Trig Point (TP-6063). Hillfort plaque
Above: GD/GD-003 accommodation for the evening
Above: GD/GD-003. Starting to look like rain
Above: GD/GD-003. Darkness, the friend of 160m! Lights of Douglas behind
Above: GD/GD-003. IC706-2G on 160m CW
Above: GD/GD-003 activation on 70cm-SSB. Only 8 contacts!
Above: GD/GD-003. IC706-2G on 70cm-SSB with 20W out
Above: GD/GD-003 - South Barrule. Taking down the tent
Above: Parting shot of South Barrule’s trig (TP-6063)
Above: Douglas from the summit
Above: Peel from the summit. Camera resting on the trig
Above: ‘Just walking in the rain.’
Above: A wet op but nearly there
Above: Back at the kissing gate
Above: Ah! Shelter from the rain (23:10). 80m & 2m whips
Above: Next day - drying tentage