GM/SS-191 Cairnharrow - Activation Report (and a N

Had a lot of fun today up on Cairnharrow - the third time I’ve been up the hill, the second actually to the summit.

The intention was to test out a new 7-ele yagi (DK7ZB design) that I’ve put together over the last week or two. Having used the 5-ele for a while, and having added the homebrew linear for 2m, I thought we might do a bit better still with a better antenna (and better still with a little preamp, but that’s for the future …).

The antenna is built in much the same way as the 5-ele design (see the web pages for details, link from but is one of DK7ZB’s 28 ohm variants, so needs some different matching. However I followed the recipe on his website and it seems to have done the trick - got some decent signal reports today in conditions that were far from superb.

I parked in the usual place, which is not quite as far along the road as G4OWG’s description on the SOTAwatch summit info; there’s a gate on the north side of the track about 300m before the road becomes private, where there is room to park without obstructing a passing place. The route I use is a bit to the south of that described, keeping just to the SE of the wall that heads up the hill to the col. From the col, over the wall, then join the quad bike track shortly thereafter; that bit is the easiest part of the walk. I have done the walk to the summit in an hour, but today with the heavier pack (more batteries for the linear!) it was 65 mins.

Arrived in time for the alerted activation, but the first I heard was Gerald G4OIG/P on G/TW-004, so I was pleased we got an S2S in before he closed down - he was running ahead of time at that point. I then moved to .3 to call CQ and found Robert GM4GUF/P on Tinto - starting with two S2S contacts was not bad! Having had quite a chat with Gerald and then Robert I moved back to .3 and having moved to .320 for the QSO with G8ZVZ found I was getting a lot of shouts. Mike GW0DSP, as often, was the magic number 4 that qualified the summit! Very sorry that I didn’t manage everyone, because I have a couple of part calls noted in the log that didn’t turn into contacts. However, there was a good run of contacts until about 1210z.

Having a bit of time to spare I swung the beam around in various directions calling CQ; Steve GW7AAV came back and gave me time to play around with the beam a bit, showing it is very pointy - it makes a huge difference when it’s in the right direction, so I’m going to have to take some string in future to make sure the wind doesn’t blow it away from where it’s supposed to be pointing. There were quite a few more contacts waiting so I did my best to finish that run before closing 2m. These included another S2S, Rob G4RQJ/P on G/NP-015.

Tried a quick shout on 70cm but all was quiet locally. I’m going to have to give 70cm the same treatment I have with 2m, getting organised with a linear and a decent antenna.

Many thanks to all for contacts, and especially as always to spotters including G6XLL who I didn’t get the full call for at the time but who could obviously hear me. Much appreciated.

A great day on the hill, lovely weather and fantastic views over Galloway and out to the Isle of Man and the Lake District. That’s why we do it!


(PS the title was meant to include “(and a New Beam!)”)

In reply to GM8OTI:
Hi John,
Thank you for an excellent report and very pleased to work you so easily from Cheltenham. You were putting out an excellent signal and the new 7ele beam was certainly doing the business.
It is interesting to note that you have reached a similar point in equipping for SOTA which I reached about 6 months into my SOTA ‘career’. I also used an FT-817 and a 30 watt amplifier for 2m and the 817 bare foot on HF and 70cm. I soon realised, that a shift to an FT-857 had few disadvantages and numerous advantages. I can now run 50 watts on HF and 2m and put out 20 watts on 70 cm from a fairly compact package. I did some careful weight analysis and concluded that the extra 0.5 Kg( including batteries) which goes into the rucksac when using the 857 compared with the 817 (and associated amplifier, leads, etc) is worth putting up with. All in all I have been very pleased with the flexibility offered by the 857.
A final observation. Pleased you used ssb as your primary speech mode. I have found that you can obtain country wide coverage on 2m ssb from the high spots provided that a small beam is used, even using 5 watts. I have some difficulty understanding why anyone carries a radio capable of ssb to a summit and then operates on fm. Apart from the much increased battery drain incurred on fm, it really is a very inefficient mode of communication. Obviously if one is restricted to using a handheld radio, then as always, the activator is king.
Many thanks for a super activation; it was great to hear such a great signal making it’s way south.
73, Frank G3RMD

In reply to GM8OTI:

An excellent report and indeed a brilliant S2S contact John. I was just amazed at the strength of your signal in comparison to Robert’s, especially as he was on a higher summit and only 51. At 58 I would have placed you geographically somewhere in the northern NP’s or eastern LD’s and not as far away as you were. Pity I didn’t realise you had 70cms as it would have been interesting to try to see whether we could have made contact on that band.

Hope to work you again soon.

73, Gerald

In reply to G4OIG:
Hi Gerald
Thanks for the QSO good to hear you again.
John’s aerial was working well but take a look at the map. Tinto is 93km north of Cairnharrow and have you checked out the take off from Cairnharrow over the sea to the south which even largely misses the lakes. Whereas at Tinto you have to fire through the border hills and the lakes before starting to get into England. Add my HB9CV and ur43(pathetic attempt I know!) and you have your difference!
If you are ever doing a contest go to Cairnharrow not Tinto! Not really a comparison to be fair to Tinto when pointing South.
Hear you again.

In reply to GM4GUF:

Yes, our contest site is near Cairnharrow. The take off is good enough that we regularly work PA on 70/23 on flat band conditions often with small antennas (single 55ele for 23cms). It’s all to do with the way the ground drops away and being close to the sea.

As Robert says, there is a lot of very hilly ground between TW004 and Tinto. John’s DK7ZB should have a gain of 11dBd and a HB9CV is about 4.5dBd. So there’s 6.5db, probably another 3db in the cable.

9.5db more oomph and an easier path, no wonder he was loud!

Nice to meet you Robert on Tinto. I think I need to drag John up a bigger lump with his 2m station so he can frighten a few more people with a big signal! It’s surprising how far south Robin works with modest 2m gear from much further north. It would be interesting to see what John’s WMD strength ERP could do! :wink:


In reply to MM0FMF:
Hi Andy
Good to meet you in person. Glad you found your key, I was hoping to pick it up off the hill at my next trip… I would have given it back… honest!

Yes Robin always puts out a really good signal from all his mountains as well with whatever he uses. Your HF working made me realise maybe I am not using my 817 to full potential…
73, hear you again.

In reply to MM0FMF:

Andy, I was sorry I just missed you on Tinto - and the chance to blow your ears away with the new antenna (and feeder - I’m sure the URM67 is worth the weight!). OK, I must get up a bigger hill with it - maybe something like Ben Vorlich, that’s a nice straight walk.

Yes, DK7ZB claims the 11dBd for this antenna and I thought the feeder would gain me a couple of dB over RG58, the antenna plus feeder should be 3-4dB better than the 5-ele beam; I must get them both up together for a comparison. The quarter wave match certainly seems to work OK.

It was great to catch Gerald and Robert at the start of the activation for S2S contacts - Robert was a huge signal once I pointed my beam at the back of his HB9CV. I think it will be worth while making a preamp to go with the linear though.

If the weather is OK on Sunday (fair weather op, me) then I’m intending to use the south end of Cairnharrow (not in the AZ!) which looks to have a superb takeoff to see how many backpackers I can give points to. Hopefully I might get up a SOTA summit on Monday or Tuesday.

Interested in Frank’s comments too - yes, I like SSB for the power advantage, and must think about weight reduction (probably from me rather than from what I carry would be the best idea …). The homebrew spirit lives on though, so I can’t see me replacing the FT-817 unless it’s by a homebrew SSB only generator - Eamon Skelton’s thoughts in RadCom have been making me think that might be quite fun, though I’d really like to get up to higher frequencies and think next winter’s projects will include a transverter for 23cm. We shall see.


In reply to GM4GUF:

Hi Robert,

Yes, the path was very difficult between us, indeed I have worked you on Tinto at greater strength when I was on Foel Offrwm GW/NW-055 which is buried in the Welsh hills near Dolgellau. I know from experience what operating on 2m can be like from the border hills and you were a good way back from them, so I was very pleased that we made the QSO.

John was using URM67 cable this time and with the 7 element was a brilliant signal. Having carried 5m lengths of URM67 with N types fitted up quite a few hills, I was relieved to be able to purchase a length of 5D-FB semi-rigid which is considerably lighter and has less loss. Unfortunately this excellent cable is no longer imported (please someone correct me on this!), so I had better take great care of it.

Hopefully work you again S2S sometime soon.

73, Gerald