2m SSB in GM Land, why not give it a go?
I’m not going to spend a great deal of time describing the route up Gatfell. It was recently detailed really well here by @M0NOM :
This report is more about my efforts to make 2m SSB work for me on a SOTA activation, a it’s a mode I’m determined to do more with, but have struggled in the past.
We were on the Island for a few days earlier this week, staying in a bothy attached to a farmhouse near Lagg. Wednesday looked like the best day for temperature/wind/visibility, so we filled our first couple of days with walks around various glens and viewed some nice waterfalls.
Wednesday morning and we were parked in front of the Arran Brewery, just north of Brodick, ready to tackle the standard route up the mountain. We decided to set off early, as it’s a very busy hill. We were walking by 0815z.
The route is through plantation, then more natural mountain woodland before this gives way to rocky moorland. The path is a steady grade and well constructed (by the National Trust for Scotland), aiming to reduce erosion on this popular hill.
With only 800m horizontal distance to the summit, there is still some 400m to climb, so the sting is in the tail!
The summit was already a busy place and with a stream of walkers coming up behind us, I decided to set up the station on a flat area of grass around 100m to the north, before it narrows into the ridge heading over to North Goatfell.
I did this only after we had been entertained by the “training flight” of the Prestwick Rescue Chopper, R-199.
My equipment today:
LifePo4 battery pack
3m mast and 3 guys (sections of a Spiderbeam)
home made “100 gramme yagi” 4-element 2m beam
waterproof pad and pencils for logging
I had to return to the summit in order to spot myself and only then after re-booting my phone to get some internet! By the time I returned to the radio, I could already hear a station calling me. I called straight back, but the radio transmitted on 14Mhz! I’d been messing with the radio at home using data modes with a battery powered raspberry pi. Before the trip, I’d made sure that every setting that was needed for 2m SSB was in the radio, but somehow had put it into split operating mode. Anyway, I’m using this radio a lot these days, so was able to quickly find the setting and turn it off.
As well as the Alert & Spot, I’d been active on twitter the day before, hoping to drum up some support from local stations, which seems to have worked. If you watch the video, you will see a video screen grab from @2M0RGU, his audio synched to my video on the hill and my audio on his waterfall. It impressed me anyway.
Between 1100z and 1120z, on 144.310 and running 30w, I worked @MM0XPZ MI0XZZ GI4OSF GM4SLY 2M0RGU @GI0AZA @GI0AZB @GM7NZI and GM0VEK the best DX being into Londonderry, some 60 miles to the west (and with the summit blocking).
I flicked over to FM and without spotting myself, called on 145.500 before moving up to 145.525 to work a small pile up, which always sounds dreadful on FM!
Summit time had been previously negotiated as 60 minutes, however I was conned…this time included lunch! To be honest, in the dead calm there were flies everywhere and even a midge or two starting to appear, so fair play to Mo for sitting around for an hour.
The station was broken down in rapid time and we followed the route of ascent back to the car, however we didn’t quite make it to the car thanks to the handy pub right at the bottom.
In summary, Andy MM0FMF told me that getting contacts on Goatfell would be like shooting fish in a barrel, or something similar. Yup, with a string of towns up the Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway coast, not to mention the Clyde cities within reach, I could have easily activated the summit for points with a 2m handheld. This is simply not possible where I live in the Cairngorms. Believe me I’ve tried!
2m SSB took a little more work, but not much! I’d hoped to be able to beam south and see if I could pick up contacts in N.England or even N.Wales, but due to the summit crowds, it was simply not practical to set up a station which had a 360 degree take off. I am, however, delighted to have worked the nine SSB stations without any break in between contacts, and a few commented that it was nice to hear someone on 2m ssb.
Thanks everyone for making the effort to be around your radios! It was great to work so easily into NI in particular and to have some relaxed QSO’s on VHF for a change.
Oh and it was great to be wearing a T-shirt! It was still snowing on the tops when we left on Monday.