G4YSS: Act’n of GD/GD-004 & GD-005 Bradda & Mull Hills on 13-09-18
GD/GD-004 BRADDA HILL on 13th September 2018 a.m.
GD/GD-005 MULL HILL on 13th September 2018 p.m.
QRO on 80m CW/ SSB from GD4 & 80m-160m CW/ SSB from GD5
All times BST (UTC + 1). UTC for radio operations (denoted ‘z’)
G4YSS using GT0OOO/P
The final two summits for a GD full set.
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier (80 thru 10) with 160m capability
IC706-2G HF-VHF-UHF Multi-mode transceiver (160m on GD5 only)
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
One Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po battery (part used)
One RCM 11.1V, 4.5 Ah Li-Po battery (part used)
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H with 1.3 Ah integral battery for 4m-FM (not used)
Extended set-top helical for 4m-FM QRP
2m Band Vertical J-Pole (not used)
Pack-weight: 9.7kg approx
Just when the holiday should have entered its restful phase, I find that there are two one-pointers left to put on, down in the south of the island. The three activations already done had produced a mountain of office work. Good job my XYL sleeps in the afternoons. That and the evening soaps allowed me to get on with some of it, when I wasn’t attending the local radio club meeting on both Wednesday evenings.
In truth I did know about the one-pointers of course, having prepared routes and log-sheets for them months ago but I didn’t know whether I’d get around to them. The day before it wasn’t looking likely. The final day of our holiday was our 43rd wedding anniversary. Having honeymooned in IOM, on a Golden Rail holiday in 1975, I made a mental note to be more attentive that day. SOTA and even the talk of it, would be firmly off the agenda, so how did this come about? Denise actually suggested it. ‘You may as well complete the set of five while we’re here.’ After some hesitation, I felt obliged to ‘give in.’
During a day out seeing the south of the island as far down as the Sound Café, which overlooks the Calf of Man and the intervening seal-populated stretch of water, we’d had a preliminary look at these two SOTA’s. For Bradda Hill it was looking like a start from sea level at a nearby cove but on arrival at GD5, I found to my surprise that it could be easily driven up in an ordinary 2-WD car.
Judging by the amount of derelict concrete on GD5 - Mull Hill, it had obviously been a WW2 defensive installation. I later found out that it was a Chain Home Low Radar station. In fact there is a pill box right at the top, a building I’d seen many times in SOTA reports and now could explore for myself. True to the reports, it had a lot of rubbish in it such as used barbecues and bottles but at least it was dry. The thick vegetation, which clothes most of this hilltop, needs avoiding but other than that, there is plenty of space to set up an aerial.
I can’t remember where the GPS route for this summit came from but it was on the internet somewhere. The recommended start point for Bradda Hill was Fleshwick Bay. Since uphill road walking would become necessary, that didn’t make an awful lot of sense until you actually go there. The road down to the bay passes the relevant footpath but apart from gateways, there is nowhere to leave the car. However, our fact-finding mission earlier in the holiday uncovered a possible alternative.
When driving down towards the place where the required footpath leaves the road to the left, you pass a house where starts another footpath. Here there is a three-sided clump of trees and behind them a short grassy track which completes the triangle. I parked at SC 20105 70947, well tucked in behind and under the trees, so as not to block the green track.
From here you can walk along the road in the direction of Fleshwick Bay, for a distance of 150m, to a gate at SC 2012 7109. Turn left onto the path there and pass through a second gate at approx. SC 1997 7111. The path steepens after this, going by SC 1982 7125 where there are some blackberry bushes, then up to SC 1970 7134, where you make a left turn on a more level path. There is a little more climbing required via SC 1957 7124 to get to the summit cairn, which I GPS’d at SC 19423 71141. Ascent is 193m over a distance (one-way) of around 1.1km.
After dropping my XYL in Douglas and checking as best I could if the car would be OK parked in the chosen place, I was off walking by 11:11. It was surprising just how steep the path was. It appeared so from the road but I assumed it would be short and I’d be up it in ten minutes. After all this was merely a 1-pointer. This turned out to be an inaccurate judgement.
I had discussed Bradda Hill with Richard GD8EXI, at the club meeting the evening before and mentioned the ‘ten minutes.’ He gave me a strange look, saying that Bradda Hill was one of his favourite walks from home. Richard normally managed to climb it without stopping, adding that 10 minutes was an almost impossible time.
In the event it took twice as long, even though I tried my best not to stop on the way. Apart from the odd brief pause for photos and a stop to grab a few choice blackberries half way up, I did succeed in climbing it in one but this is not a mere Sunday afternoon stroll. It takes effort. In fact it is by far the steepest approach of the five IOM SOTA’s, at least by the routes I chose to do them by.
Glad to sit down, I arranged the station before erecting the HF dipole antenna at SC 1937 7112, alongside the dry-stone wall. With a strong breeze blowing from the west, the wall was at the perfect angle to stop it.
BRADDA HILL GD/GD-004, 233m, 1 pt, 11:31 to 13:14. 14 deg C. Wind 20mph. Overcast with sunny periods and no low-cloud. Clear views. LOC: IO74OC. WAB: SC17. No Trig. 100% EE (Asda) mobile coverage.
3.557 CW - 6 QSO’s:
Roy, G4SSH responded to a 50 Watt KN at 10:57z (579/ 549). Following Roy were: G4OBK Phil; G4FGJ Gordon; G4OOE Nick in Scarborough; G4RQJ Rob on Walney Island and G0HRT Rob in Southport. All these were 599 to me. Reports coming back were in the range 559 to 599 with two 339’s from Nick and Gordon. Power was 50W and there was some QSB.
3.724 - 13 QSO’s:
3.760 was busy so I sent the QSY frequency to Roy in CW. He picked it up and spotted it. Stations Logged: EI3GYB Michael; G0RQL Don; G0FEX Ken; GW4VPX Allan; G4IAR Dave; G6NHW Pete; M0JLA Rod; M3FEH Karl; G0HIO Mike and G4WHA/A Geoff in the electrically noisy computer shop at Penrith. Next: G0HRT Rob; my Son Phil G0UUU/M on his hols in East Anglia and finally GW5NF Roger using his late father’s call-sign.
Signal strengths were mainly good but the only incoming 59 of the session came from Allan, ‘57 to 59 QSB.’ Another 59 went out to Michael in Mayo. There was a 55 from M3FEH Karl who was 52 to me. Phil G0UUU/M and I exchanged 51’s with the most difficult QSO coming from Geoff in Penrith (55/ 35). Since this was never intended to be a multi-band operation, power was left at 50W for the duration.
I quizzed Michael EI3GYB about Top Band from GD5 later in the day but I now dearly wished I’d mentioned it to Phil G4OBK earlier and furthermore tried it from GD4. Phil was long gone but Michael said he was keen but had to go out to work. ‘If you put 160m on after 4pm, I might me back in time and conditions might be better than noontime.’ We left it at that and if there was time, I would try 160m from GD5. I told Michael that GD5 was little bit nearer to him than GD1 and GD2, from which we’d failed to make contact.
Leaving at 13:14, I was back to the car for 13:35, the delay being in the form of blackberry picking and eating them too. You don’t get many summits that serve food on the way down and remembering from my last visit in 1975, IOM blackberries are the best.
80m had done a fair job of getting around the country again, supporting an activation in limited time. The time limitation was partly due to there being a second summit to activate and partly because I had received an invitation from Richard GD8EXI at the previous night’s club meeting, to visit his QTH and have a look at his VHF antennas. He has a 60-ely for 23cm, a 32-ely with a 10m boom for 70cm, an 18-ely for 2m and he runs full legal power into these.
Being at the south end of the Island, Richard is 95% screened in the GM direction apart from GM3SEK but he does very well in VHF contests. Apparently his antennas are not visible from the road, ‘unless you’re coming down the hill half a mile away.’ Richard was having a day working on his sailing boat in Port St. Mary harbour (the 40ft boat he single-handedly sailed to St.Kilda in, putting the island on VHF as an aside), so he gave me his phone number. I tried to phone him four times from Bradda Hill and though I had network coverage it simply didn’t work. The screen showed, ‘Isle of Man’ and that’s all that would happen.
Aside from searching the harbour, the only thing I could do now was to drive to the ‘dot’ Richard had marked on my map the evening before and see what I could see when I got there. Needless to say (and to be fair he had warned me) no antennas were spotted but I did see the picturesque village of Surby where he lives. From a QTH on Irton Moor near Scarborough, my lad Phil regularly works Richard during the RSGB VHF contest evenings.
Drive round to GD5 Mull Hill:
With all points safely pre-entered in the satnav, getting around is made easy; arguably too easy as you tend to get to know places less well. After stopping in Port Erin for fuel and photos of the sea front in sunshine, I arrived at Mull Hill’s summit at 14:15, parking on a concrete hut base across from the summit pillbox.
There is no route as such because no walking is necessary, apart from the ‘final approach to the summit’ of course! As for driving; take the ‘C’ road SW out of Port Erin. After less than a mile a track leaves the road to the left going east (SC 1882 6743). Drive (or if preferred walk) up this track to SC 1892 6740 where you turn left again (NE). Follow steeply past a modern installation of some sort, passing it on your left until at SC 1899 6750 the track swings left (north) for the third time. The summit; a concrete pillbox, was GPS’d at SC 18993 67687. Apparently there is a 3,500 year old stone circle on this hill which I now regret not seeing.
MULL HILL GD/GD-005, 169m, 1 pt, 14:14 to 17:10. 15 deg C. Wind 25mph. Overcast with sunny periods and no low-cloud. Clear views. LOC: IO74OB. WAB: SC16. No Trig. 100% EE (Asda) mobile coverage.
3.557 CW - 6 QSO’s:
Setting up took a lot longer than envisaged. There looked like plenty of choice but on the one hand, the vegetation was too dense and prickly to penetrate and on the other, the areas around the track and derelict WW2 concrete were too hard for the mast. In the end the mast went into a mound and the end sticks, one on a grassy margin and the other at an angle into thin soil over concrete.
For the second time today, Roy, G4SSH was first contact (589/ 449). There quickly followed: G0HIO Mike 599/ 579; G4OBK Phil 599/ 589 and G4WSB Bill 599/ 449. Finally: G0HRT Rob and EI7CC Pete both 599 x 2. Power was 30W for all except Roy G4SSH (50W).
3.760 - 17 QSO’s:
After informing Roy that I was going QSY to 3.760, I switched over. Before leaving CW, an all too brief pre-check of the frequency had me falling into the age old trap of thinking, ‘If they’re on the WAB channel, they must be WAB’ and I threw in my call when invited. So far so good but I was to find out shortly that this group weren’t WAB. Assuming they were, I reeled off the myriad of numbers and letters which accurately describe my precise location. This makes eminent sense to me but conveys next to nothing to an anyone who doesn’t do WAB or SOTA, so I was asked to repeat my location in English. This I did, giving the nearest place name of Port Erin IOM, which was much more readily accepted and recognised.
On the plus side I did get three quick contacts but they seemed to be doing some form of test. After passing me round a couple of times, I started to become a bit anxious thinking about WAB and SOTA chasers queuing up but all was well when all three QSY’d to 40m to continue their tests, gifting me the frequency as a last act.
This group comprised: Ian G7HFS/ M, using a TS50 (44/ 55); Chris G3XFE (57/ 44-55) and Owen M0KVI/ M (55/ 51) on Beacon Hill near Eastbourne, ‘running 100W into a barbed wire fence!’ The latter, an interesting arrangement and one that I’ve longed to try for many years from a summit, as you don’t have to carry the wire fence!
Right as the group were heading off to 40m I heard Nick G4OOE call in and we exchanged at 58/ 44. Following Nick were: G0UUU/M Phil; G0RQL Don; GW4VPX Allan; M3FEH Karl; M0TMD Helen; G4RQJ Rob; G6NHW Pete; MM3ZCB/P Caroline S2S on GM/ES-075; MM1MAJ/P Martyn S2S on GM/ES-075; EI3GYB Michael; DG1NPM Norbert (previously worked from GD3); G0WNJ Mike in Grosmont N. Yorks and G4WHA/A Geoff at work in Penrith, Cumbria.
Reports for these were very mixed but most people were coming in to me between 55 and 58, apart from Geoff G4WHA/A, who was as weak as I’ve heard him at 22 some of the time. It took a while but we made it, counting up the reports and using the question and answer ‘Roger Roger’ reply system. Power for this contact was the full 50W; all the rest were worked with 30W.
I had a brief chat with Mike G0WNJ in NZ80 square at Grosmont. ‘Yes, I know where you are Mike; the SSEG put a GB station on from Grosmont Railway Station platform for an anniversary of the NYM Steam Railway.’ My goodness, conditions were bad that weekend back in 1992 but today it was armchair copy. Mike was 59 plus 10dB to me but back then, while steam trains chuffed in and out of the station, we gave up on 7.055 SSB and put on our, then novice op Phil 2E0ABI (aged 12 and now G0UUU) who at least got us some contacts on the key, impressing a crowd of onlookers at the same time. Happy days.
1.832 CW - 4 QSO’s/ 1.846 SSB - 3 QSO’s:
I had high hopes for Top Band but in this case it was unscheduled. My alerts for GD4 and GD5 had stated ‘80m only’ as I didn’t know how much time I’d need to see Richard’s antennas, a visit that never took place owing to my phone apparently not liking IOM numbers.
I phoned Roy G4SSH who in turn phoned Phil G4OBK. Michael EI3GYB was primed and ready after rushing home from work and the others would hopefully see Roy’s spot.
After inserting the loading coils, I went back to the car. I can’t believe I wrote that, ‘Went back to the car!’ to get the more powerful IC706-2G; an oldie but a goodie. After disconnecting it from the mobile installation, I regained the summit (in 10 seconds!) and swapped the antenna lead from the FT817/ amp combi to the IC706, setting the latter to full RF O/P.
My first call at the appointed time of 4pm local, as arranged a few minutes earlier on 80m SSB, was to EI3GYB on 1.846-SSB but though I knew for sure he’d be listening intently, Michael didn’t respond. ‘Maybe later,’ I hoped.
One memory channel down on 1.832-CW, I was soon working Phil G4OBK, who responded to my call at 15:18z. We exchanged at 559/ 449 which left me marvelling at Phil’s consistency of four out of four GD summits on 160m! Now I really regretted omitting Top Band from the GD4 activation in the morning, as I’m almost certain it could have been all five for Phil and for me too. There was nothing further so I QSY’d back up to the SSB channel to chance my luck again there.
Once back on 1.846-SSB, I could plainly hear G8VNW answering my CQ, from the Yorkshire Dales. Nick and I swapped reports at 55/ 37 and I copied every word. Next to call was EI7CC, Pete from Dublin and he was good and strong at 57 after which I got a 56 from him. During a short conversation he mentioned that he’d been pleased to log a never before worked prefix this week, namely the ‘GT0’ one.
Michael EI3GYB tail-ended Pete, probably using his signal as a prompt but only after a lot of calling on my part and sending the report several times, Michael finally heard me in a QSB peak. He did the usual thing; his voice rose by an octave as he returned with ‘33 also.’ ‘Good contact,’ said I. After a week of trying, I finally had EI3GYB in the log. Michael was right after all. As suggested earlier, he’d made the contact at the later time. It was 15:30z.
Back on 1.832-CW, there was more good fortune when three more stations called in: GI4ONL Victor in Bushmells (579/ 449); G4RQJ Rob in Walney Island (579/ 429) and finally EI7CC Pete going for the additional and possibly his preferred mode from Dublin (579/ 569).
This final sub-session lasted 9 minutes to 15:45z and power was 100 Watts from the IC706-2G for all of the 160m QSO’s. A very worthwhile addition to the 80m sessions.
I can’t praise the 80m band enough. Another two summits to add to the three already done where 80m was the mainstay. I would encourage more activators to use the band; 40m now being almost closed to inter-G traffic. It’s just a case of adding around 9m of wire to each end of your 40m link dipole.
160m, which produced seven contacts with six different stations, was unexpectedly good even considering the mid-afternoon time of day and the lack of any real notice. In most cases, signal strengths weren’t half bad on there either, apart from the contact with EI3GYB at 33 both ways but I regretted not trying 160m in the morning.
I was pleased to make that 160m contact with Michael after he’d expended so much unproductive effort during the week and then completely missed the GD3 evening session due to work commitments. He would have been almost guaranteed a 160m QSO from GD3 then but his rotten luck was finally rewarded with the GD5 chase.
Bradda Hill took more climbing than I’d thought but this was balanced by the zero effort of Mull Hill, GD5. Total physical effort for the two points earned was… well, about two points worth! Enjoyment was much more than that.
They say that there’s a SOTA for everybody and GD5 is it. Unless you feel inclined to walk up, no effort is needed to gain the summit and there is space to erect a large aerial system. You must sit away from the car to operate of course but if it rains, there’s a choice of at least two WW2 concrete bunkers. The summit pillbox looks as though it’s had some modern attention, especially the stone-built wraparound which protects the entrance. I wish I’d known about Mull Hill’s stone circle at the time.
With just one evening meal and a ferry ride to look forward to, these two activations concluded our holiday in the Isle of Man. At a rate averaging half an activation per day and the easy nature of these undertakings, I wouldn’t say I was any fitter than when I’d arrived. However, every outing was enjoyed to the full and not just the SOTA.
There were two VHF contest evenings too. A poor effort from GD3 on 70cm was more than compensated for in the previous week’s 2m event, where I made 28 QSO’s, albeit just from a grass verge west of Douglas and not from a SOTA.
I put on a handful of mobile WAB squares too, which got me away from the soap operas at the hotel and I worked my son Phil G0UUU/M several times, either /P to /M or /M to /M. One time I worked him from Mull Hill. Both mobile with home-brew whips, we were able to have a normal conversation on 3.760-SSB at 500km range in the middle of the day.
This was the first time that GT0OOO has been aired but Phil G4OBK used GT7OOO/P in 2009 and 2011, incidentally gaining some contacts on Top Band.
Looking at the data, I think Rob G4RQJ and Audrey should get a mention here. If my research is correct, they have activated IOM in every single year since SOTA began in 2002. Looks like a real tradition going on there.
We did some touristy things of course, like revisiting Laxey Wheel where despite two sticks, my XYL climbed to the top. A second look at Snaefell, this time by tram with the missus was a bit of a let down due to hill fog but bless her, she was determined to make it to the trig point. The lack of views were to some extent compensated by the cream scones in the summit café and the friendly, talkative lady staff member there.
We repeated our honeymoon horse-drawn tram along Douglas sea front, which was a great experience with local drivers ‘skimming past’ on the inside between us and parked cars. Disappointingly when we tried to find the hotel in Onchan where we’d stayed 43 years ago it was absent; having been replaced by modern multi-storey apartments.
A highlight for me was the visit to the IOM Radio Club meeting in Ballasally on the first Wednesday evening (see appendix) and repeated one week later. The welcome I got has left a warm glow.
Both ferry crossings were smooth and the return one was particulary so. The Ben My Chree cruised along to Heysham at 18 knots with a 20mph tail wind, which meant still conditions on deck. You could have struck a match and lit a candle.
Unexpectedly, we (or to be more accurate our car) were searched before boarding the ferry for the return trip. There were the standard questions like, ‘Has anyone asked you to take anything back to the UK?’ Understandably, they were also concerned about gas cylinders and other flammables. A notice mentioned ‘random selection’ but as far as I could see, every car was being taken aside to receive the same treatment. Far from being a trouble, this type of security check just enhances travel confidence.
I wouldn’t be able to wrap this up without a special mention of the SOTA chasers, WAB operators and controllers. To sum up; what skill and loyal support, they showed.
QSO’s - GD4:
80m CW: 6
80m SSB: 13
QSO’s - GD5:
80m CW: 6
80m SSB: 17
160m CW: 4
11:11: Left ‘C’ Road to Fleshwick Bay (40m ASL)
11:31 to 13:14: GD4 Summit
13:35: Arr. back at car
14:14 to 17:10: GD5 Summit
Distance & Ascent:
GD4: 2.2km (1.4 miles) / 193m (633ft) ascent
Total Distance walked & Ascent for all five GD SOTA’s:
GD1: 2.8km (1.8 miles) / 220m (722ft) ascent
GD2: 4.3km (2.7 miles) / 158m (518ft) ascent
GD3: 2.4km (1.5 miles) / 183m (600ft) ascent
GD4: 2.2km (1.4 miles) / 193m (633ft) ascent
TOTALS: 11.7km (7.3 miles) / 754m (2,474ft) ascent
Cost of the 10-days in Douglas (in GBP) were:
Arrandale Hotel, Douglas IM2-4HP (SC 3823 7666):
Hosts: Rose & Theo.
B&B: 38 pppn = 760
Evg. meals: 13 pppn = 260
Rose booked the ferries for us.
Ferry: 270 (inc Premier Lounge – 185 basic)
Total: 1,367 (Plus lunchtime tea & scones)
The IOM Radio Club:
Just a final reminder. 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 are made to feel very welcome. The chairman is John GD0TFG.
To all stations worked and to spotters: G4SSH; G4WHA/A; G0HIO; G4OOE; G4OBK and G4TJC. Thanks to Roy G4SSH for responding to phone calls with spots and for monitoring 3.557 MHz. Thanks to the IOM Steam Packet company, Rose & Theo and staff of the Arrandale Hotel and to my XYL Denise for providing comfortable and reliable transport. To the enthusiastic IOM Radio Club members, for their hospitality, to the other GD ops who I worked but didn’t meet and to Richard GD8EXI for the invite. Hoping we have better luck with that next time.
(G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GT0OOO/P)
Above: Parking place for GD/GD-004 Bradda Hill
Above: Bradda Hill. Steep but colourful
Above: Summit Cairn - GD/GD-004 Bradda Hill
Above: Wall QTH - GD/GD-004 Bradda Hill
Above: A rare sight. A tree on a SOTA. Bradda Hill
Above: Bradda Hill. Blackberry picking
Above: Bradda Hill path; second gate from road. View towards Fleshwick Bay
Above: Driving up the track to GD5 Mull Hill.
Above: Summit of GD/GD-005 Mull Hill & WW2 Building
Above: Activation of GD5 Mull Hill on 80m & 160m
Above: Activation of GD5 Mull Hill on 80m & 160m
Above: Activation of GD5 Mull Hill on 160m, using the IC706-2G
Above: Walkers on Mull Hill’s summit
Above: View from GD5 Mull Hill towards Port Erin
Above: The leaving of Liverpool aboard Manannan Seacat 04-09-18
Above: Arrival at Douglas. Manannan Seacat crew 04-09-18
Above: Taking part in the RSGB 2m Band Contest from a grass verge 3 miles west of Douglas. Modified Sotabeam pointed at Scarborough (28 QSO’s)
Above: The famous Laxey Wheel, built to power pumps in the nearby mine
Above: IOM Radio Club VHF aerial and doublet end support
Above: IOM Radio Club member Matty MD0MAN
Above: IOM Radio Club. Foundation/ Intermediate licence teaching aid
Above: IOM Radio Club members Richard GD8EXI & Mike GD6ICR
Above: Laxey Station. Tram to Snaefell GD1
Above: Tram to Snaefell GD1. Braking system looks well maintained!
Above: Oh so civilised compared to the wilds of a SOTA summit. Tea and scones at the Harbour Lights Café in Peel. Highly recommended.
Above: A jewel found in Arrandale Hotel’s ‘honesty library.’
Above: Aboard Ben My Cree. Heading back to UK (Heysham).