Well what I intended to do was check out the linear to make sure it works before next weekend’s NA activity day. I got a bit more than I bargained for …
The day turned out much nicer than expected - the weather forecasts have been hopeless recently, but the morning sun didn’t seem to be going away so I thought a little walk would be in order. I had a look at the list of summits for GM/SS and hadn’t really picked up that the region goes so far north - and looking for some easy (low!) hills I noticed one or two still needing an activation. Never having added a first activation to the bag I thought that might be fun - not that it’s particularly important, and anyway someone else might have activated it before and not yet put it into the database. Still, GM/SS-271 looked like a nice easy hill so it was the target (with a standby available should access prove more difficult than expected).
It’s a longish drive from Edinburgh though - a 170 mile (274km) round trip. However the day was great, and the scenery is lovely to drive through as well as to walk through. The TomTom took me over the ridge to the north of my hill, which was a bit windy and icy - I’ll write up access notes in the summits data in due course. I parked where I had expected, and set off up an easy track.
There were no unexpected difficulties - only one gate was so tightly fastened that I had to climb over it - though the ground was pretty wet after the rain we’ve had recently, and there had been an overnight frost. The summit is a nice ridge, with a trig point (photos to follow on Flickr), a good view, and a handy wall plus nice strong fence posts and an insulator over the electric fence (switched off, seemingly).
So I decided to set up for HF (40m) - I’d alerted for 2m as well but thought I’d clear off the expected 15-20 QSOs on 40m first to make sure the linear is working, then mess about with 2m for a bit. Up went the inverted V (on the cheap, and repaired, Activator pole - I’ll do a page on pole repairs too in due course) and on went the cans.
Steve G1INK/P was in the process of vacating 7.118 to move to 80m, which was lucky. Thanks to Don G0RQL for the spot which set off the chasers. A pile up started - I expected the usual small SOTA pile up - but oops, this one seemed to be growing. In no time at all I had an absolute cacophony of calls - the first 10-15 seconds just sounded like white noise, then gradually individual letters became audible. I really have never heard anything like it before from a summit - I’m not really a contester (certainly not HF - I find VHF contests good fun), and so don’t have much experience of that level of activity.
I was very happy to work people as long as possible, and many thanks to the 78 who managed contacts, and apologies to those who didn’t manage to get me to listen to them. I eventually had to go QRT - I was starting to get cold, my concentration was going, and the sun was getting a bit low. After I’d taken the cans off, but before I switched off the rig, I could hear some kind station in G-land explaining that I’d gone QRT - for which many thanks!
It took another quarter of an hour to put stuff away, then I could head off down the hill - I’m afraid the only 2m operation was a bit of listening on 144.3 as I set up for HF, then a few CQ calls as I set off down the hill on the FM handie. No 2m contacts though. It was only about half an hour back to the car, but by the time I got there the sun was below the distant hills and the car told me the temperature was 2 Celsius. So I was glad to set off home, and to get some fajitas organised for our tea!
The humungous pile up was certainly most unexpected, and I have no idea why it was like that. Maybe those wanting a quiet life should avoid:
Activating a previously unactivated summit.
Using a special call (I’ve been using the GA “Scottish Homecoming” call for SOTA activations, and it runs out on November 30th, so maybe people are trying to catch it …)
Activating on a Sunday afternoon - in my newly retired state I’ve started to get used to midweek activations …
Using more than QRP - my FT-817 was augmented up to 35W with the linear, which must make it a lot easier to copy - most of my reports were 59 or 59+.
Of course, should you have a preference for huge pile-ups, then do all of the above, but start a bit earlier in the day so you can get up into the hundreds of QSOs. I’m sure if I’d been able to stay there would have been at least another 20-40 QSOs, so I’m sorry to those who didn’t get it. It’s an easy to access summit though so I’m sure it will be done again before too long.
There were one or two ops with, let us say, less than desirable operating methods - and it doesn’t help to be told “you should be working them faster” - with cold hands and a handwritten log on top of a hill, the speed is clearly going to be set by me and I’m not going to go any faster than I can. See comments under the “what a shambles CW SOTA is becoming” - it did feel a bit like that on SSB today at times.
Still, I got a nice little walk, and am sure made at least 78 people happy. And - oh yes - the linear does work OK - so I’ll be hoping for good weather and a good chance of contacting the NA guys next weekend.