Goatdom and beyond

The last couple of days have seen some quite big mood swings here – I guessed it might happen so I left publishing this for a while. Is this a common phenomenon? Perhaps the MT should offer counselling for such situations! Anyway, I’ve started looking at this weekend’s weather so I must be getting over it.

Whilst Gill and I have always enjoyed walking, I never imagined what I was letting myself in for when I did that first activation in December 2005 on G/CE-001. The system comprised an IC706 feeding a dipole at 3m with power provided by an 8ah SLA battery from one of our cars. I made 5 QSOs on 2m fm and suffered terribly with the QRM from the masts. I was, however, hooked.

I came up with a seemingly impossible five-year plan to achieve Goatdom. Having never climbed anything higher than Cyrn-y-Brain (well, driven actually – it’s our old contest site), I had no idea how I was going to do it. There was also the small matter of spending most of the summer climbing other hills at silly speeds, meaning that the majority of activations would have to be in the winter.

That first winter bonus period was spent doing 1 and 2-pointers and learning a bit about how to survive at altitude in winter. Gill accompanied me on many of these first activations and she’s been great in putting up with my absences over the last 26 months. I wouldn’t have done it without her support.

Things didn’t really get started in earnest until I teamed-up with Frank G3RMD who was also “testing the water”. Our first outing together was Pen-y-Fan in April 2006 and that collaboration lasted for nearly a third of my activations. Frank was excellent company, and we worked together very well. It’s unlikely you’ll find anyone like Frank with whom to collaborate, but I strongly recommend that you try. The additional motivation, the confidence when you’re learning hillcraft and the sharing of all those miles gave me huge boost. I wouldn’t have done it without that partnership.

Having been sceptical about specialist clothing, I now fully understand the benefits of proper clothing systems – which is why I have listed my final choices below. The transition from jeans, cotton shirts and Barbours was quick once started! TGO magazine was a great help in identifying suitable lightweight clothing.

After a period of evolution, the following equipment has been used for most of the activations.

2m: Homebrew 6ele – 560g
70cm: Homebrew 12ele – 430g
VHF/UHF coax: 100g
HF inverted ‘V’: 296g including RG316 coax
Mast: 4m (6m for hf) composite / aluminium - 526g including guys

2 off 11-cell 3.3ah NiMH packs – 715g each
2 off 11-cell 4.3ah NiMH packs – 715g each
(2 packs always carried)

FT857 (prime)
FT50R or FT817 (spare)
Headset: ProLuxe – 74g

Hillwalking equipment:
Rucksack: Deuter SpeedLite 30 – 816g
Summit shelter: Vango Storm Shelter 100 – 378g
Leki carbon walking poles – 384g (pair)
Garmin Etrex Summit – 160g
‘Phone – 100g
Pentax Optio Camera – 140g
Petzel Tikka Plus Head Light – 80g
Silva Ranger 3 Compass – 36g
Whistle, spare batteries, paper maps etc.

Trekmates Merino base layer – 174g
North Face seamless briefs – 27g
Peter Storm trousers – 390g
Jack Wolfskin Microfleece – 206g
North Face Apex Elixir Soft Shell – 420g
Berghaus Winter jacket - 658g and
Berghaus Waterproof trousers - 390g
Montane Atomic jacket - 286g and
Montane Atomic waterproof pants – 190g
Brasher Hillmaster boots – 1350g
Paramo short gaiters – 206g
2 pairs gloves, hat, balaclava etc.

Food, water etc.

Activations: 238
QSOs: 4047
Average QSOs per activation: 17
QSOs by band:
5 MHz 242
7 MHz 9
144 MHz 3723
432 MHz 64
10 GHz 9
Distance walked: 1,294 miles
Ascent: 172,255 ft
Distance travelled: 18,116 miles
The cost: Not saying. You can work it out from the above figures.
The reward: Incalculable.

What next?
Well, firstly, I’m not abandoning SOTA. In a way, Goatdom is a huge relief but really it’s only the end of the first chapter. I still regard myself as a novice hillwalker and I look forward to continuing to learn hillcraft. I love the challenge of engineering lightweight equipment that will perform and last on the hills and want to carry on doing this. There are some superb high-strength materials out there.

I set myself the task of achieving Goatdom on 2m. I did that much to the exclusion of other bands so I’m looking forward to spending longer on summits (cold permitting) and using different bands. SOTA seems to have the power to invigorate bands and modes. Having spearheaded the push to use 2m ssb, it’s been gratifying to see that mode grow and DX working prosper. Especial thanks go to those “up north” who have persevered in trying to work me on 2m when I’ve been on all those distant summits.
I am, however, conscious that 2m fm activations in WB have perhaps suffered as a result. This might not be so good for the long term future of SOTA. For many, these activations are the advertisement that introduces them to SOTA so one of my resolutions is to spend time on this mode again.

So, which bands? I have always been interested in the bands above 144 MHz. I spent ten years contesting from C-Y-B. You may already have noticed a move to use 70cm ssb. SOTA’s power could well be used to good effect here. I’m also looking at 23cm – a band I haven’t used seriously for twenty years. I’m not sure the multi-2C39 pa is appropriate for SOTA….

The other band that’s grabbed my attention is 3cm – and for this I have Richard G3CWI to thank. His timing was perfect – sending me an e-mail just at the moment when I was starting to wonder if I actually wanted to reach Goatdom. It gave me hope that there was life beyond. I don’t know if it was intentional – either way, thank you Richard.

I’m also hoping Gill will accompany me on more activations now that things will be a little more relaxed.

I can’t describe how much pleasure I’ve had from SOTA. Richard and John’s vision in setting up SOTA was a master stroke and it’s growth is a testament to that vision. The MT has a thankless task in steering it’s growth and I applaud them for carrying it out so well. We must remember that they are unpaid and that they – like us – are doing it because they love SOTA. Thanks, chaps.

Lastly, my thanks go to the SOTA community. The friendships that have developed have been a major part of my enjoyment and I look forward to many more QSOs. It would be inappropriate to name names. There are too many.

That’s it! (Phew, I hear you say.) Sorry for making this so long.

73, Richard G4ERP

In reply to G4ERP:

Once again well done Richard, always a pleasure.

In reply to G4ERP:
Well it’s just like a night at the Oscars! Well done Richard and thank you for your support during my “toe in the water” sessions to date. For me, SOTA has rekindled my interest in VHF and portable working and it is yet another past time that both Pam & I can enjoy together(well she says she enjoys it). It also reminds of the few expeditions that you and I did together (on 2 & 4mts)out of the back of my Marina estate, some 34 years ago (yes 34)mind you - alot has happended since then, but during all that time I’ve never given up on the hobby. I am slowly putting more of a station together, having just resurected a 30 year old home-brew 2mtr amp - yes it still works with the exception of a dicky connector. This will give me a few more watts on 2. As you are well aware the other form of hillclimbing starts for us both soon, however I hope to SOTA when ever time allows. Thank you for the list of clothing and other bits an bobs - it’s always good to have feedback on these things before you go shopping.
Speak soon but once again congratulations you “old goat”!

73, Grant G4ILI

In reply to G4ILI:

How long ago? Oh, dear. Well, we did start very young … didn’t we?

It’s great to see you starting on the SOTA trail. I know you’ll enjoy it - and have lots of frustrations along the way but that’s all part of it. Like you, SOTA has re-vitalised my interest in Amateur Radio and given me new direction. Long may it continue.

I hope the list of bits 'n bobs is useful. There were certainly mistakes along the way and what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others - but it’s not a bad start. I hope the target weights are useful. It’s certainly possible to go lighter but I’m very reluctant to compromise the RF performance.

Thanks for the good wishes - and talk soon. Anytime. GL with the next activation. I’ll be listening out.

73, 'ERP (not-so-old goat)

In reply to G4ERP:

An excellent report Richard. Best wishes for a more relaxing future in SOTA.

73, Gerald

P.S. I now fully understand the reason why I lagged behind you up Moel Llyfnant… or was the 3kg ballast around my middle responsible?

In reply to G4ERP:

I have said it before and I’ll say it again; Richard you are a true gentleman!! You may not realise it, but yourself and a lot of the other regular activators are a real inspiration to those of us who struggle with our activations, in my case due to physical problems.
I think that with todays efforts I will have 59 activator points, wow, 1/20th MG hi, but I will plug away at it and if I live long enough I should achieve goatdom in approx 20 years, hi.

It’s always a pleasure to chat with you on your activations and I’m pleased to hear that you have new sota plans for the future.

Well done Richard, maybe double goat next?

73 Mike GW0DSP

In reply to GW0DSP:

You are very kind and it’s been a pleasure working you from all the summits. Thanks for all your hard work in spotting. It’s appreciated.

Activations are likely to be a little more relaxed in future - which should give me the chance to fully enjoy the summits that we visit and hopfully Gill will join in that enjoyment. I’m really looking forward to trying diffrent bands.

Oh, yes, and there’s also a bit to do at home - like finishing the Dallara for this season.

73, Richard

In reply to G4ERP:

Hi Richard,

Thanks for the inspirational account of your journey to Goatdom, it gives a Kid like me the hope that I might grow up one day!

Good luck with your continuing voyage to Double Goat and beyond.

73 de Paul G4MD