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High Willhays G/DC-001

This was my first “proper” activation using HF. My first activation (last year) was using a 2m HT which does seem a bit like “cheating” :slight_smile: so with good weather forecast this morning I drove for an hour from home to the Meldon Reservoir car park near Okehampton, Devon. I was briefly thrown on arrival because it was a pay car park and the machine wanted actual coins. Who carries money in the Covid era? :slight_smile: There was no option to buy by phone and as one car already had a parking ticket stuck on its windscreen I decided not to chance it and parked on the side of the road at the entrance to the car park where there was just room to fit my 6m long campervan.

It took me about an hour to walk to the top of High Willhays, the highest point on Dartmoor after a false start when I realised after crossing the dam I had forgotten my hat and as the sun was shining there was no option but to return to the ‘van and collect my hat and while I was there pick up my walking poles which I had also forgotten. (Memo to self #1: Engage brain before leaving vehicle in the future.)

I took a fairly direct line to the summit. It has rained so little recently the ground was very firm and I could walk over bits which would normally be a bit boggy I think. Once I reached the summit I looked for a flat spot to activate and also decided to check I was at the actual summit and within the AZ. Using the OS map app on my phone I was reassured I was at the summit but unfortunately I was on the summit of Yes Tor which though only a few metres lower than High Willhays isn’t a SOTA summit. I had only made a detour of a few hundred metres and as I hadn’t been on Yes Tor before (as you can guess) I wasn’t bothered. (Memo to self #2: Use the compass and paper map in your rucksack next time.)

High Willhays was about 500m away and an easy walk. Setting up went smoothly which was fortunate as I was using for the first time the SotaBeams Bandspringer antenna with my new Icom AH-705 antenna matching unit. I had intended to have a practice in a local field yesterday but it rained all day so the first unrolling of the antenna was done on a summit. This is not recommended but I got away with it. I also used the SotaBeams guying kit but next time I think I will set the antenna in a shallow V and tie a single length of cord to the top of the mast and use this as a guy in the same way you would erect a dipole.

One of the things I wanted to try was the tuning range of the AH-705. The Bandspringer is supposed to be able to cover 10m to 60m with most ATUs but I had a feeling the AH-705 could do better.

So my first act was to send some CW calls out using the IC-705s memory channels. I had loaded these in yesterday and one used the words TEST TEST TEST at the start which I had read the RBN network would recognise. The key phrase here is “I had read” and not “which I had tried successfully before”.

The ATU tuned to the 80m band after a few moments of clicking and whirring and I fired off the first message. Using my mobile phone I scanned the map on the RBN website. Nothing was seen. I tried again on 40m with the same result.

So I decided to send a normal CQ message and rather than tap it out by hand I used the one stored in the radio. Again I tried a few bands and was delighted to see spotters appearing on the RBN map. The last band I tried was 20m and when it had finished instead of the silence I expected as I had selected a frequency no one was using I heard quite a lot of CW traffic and to my discomfort I picked out my own call sign. A glance at the SOTAWatch alerts page revealed that RBNHole had spotted me and posted a spot! I had posted an alert yesterday and of course RBN was on the lookout for me.

At this point I will confess to chickening out and I mentally swept this aberration under the carpet. I wasn’t mentally ready for a CW QSO Having only just arrived on the summit and I planned to work SSB for a while first to get my brain in SOTA mood. So my sincerest apologies to those who replied. (Memo to self #3: Improve your CW skills further before wasting folks time!)

Undeterred, or at least not too badly mentally disarranged I switched to SSB and spent the best part of two hours on 80m, 40m and 20m. I didn’t get much response initially but the 20m band became busier as the morning progressed and I was pleased to get a couple of QSOs on 80m. The AH-705 really can tune to this band. In slower time I must see what it can do at the other end of the scale, perhaps 6m?

I didn’t make many QSOs compared to what others report on here but I was happy my kit all worked and I’ve made a few notes of changes I need to make. One discovery I made was it wasn’t easy to wear my folding headphones under my hat (remember the hat?). I could wrap it round the back of my neck but even on a summit there are sartorial standards. Fortunately, I had some ear buds as a backup and used those although they had a tendency to fall out. I must get some sports one with a loop to go around the ear.

My IC-705 has an SD card and can record what the radio is hearing and being sent. I had this running the whole time and listening to it afterwards I was a little mortified to hear me asking for a caller to send their call sign again when on the recording it was very clear the first time! This facility proved very useful because I incorrectly recorded one call sign but listening to the QSO again I could pick up the correct one.

My first ever S2S was with G4IPB/P on G/NP-008. I later heard someone else calling “summit to summit” several times but I couldn’t hear a call sign and they did not respond to my calls.
And I did try 2m with an HT (its not really “cheating”) but with only a rubber duck antenna I had no replies although I could hear others chatting away on other frequencies.

These were the QSOs and very many thanks to everyone. I learnt a lot today and I am sure I will get slicker. Thank you for your patience – and apologies again to the CW operators!

QSOs:
G0RQL
EA2DT
G4IPB/P S2S
OH3GZ
SA4BLM

Meldon Reservoir on a still morning.

The summit of High Willhays. This was taken looking back as I left. I was on my own at the start of the morning.

My “station” with the guyed mast in the foreground. And yes that is a Helinox chair and very comfortable it is!

The impressive AH-705. It’s bulky but seems to work well.

Looking towards Yes Tor with typical Dartmoor rock formation in the foreground.

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Hi John

Well done on your activation and thanks for the report and photos. I was poised and ready for either a cw or ssb contact but it was not too be :frowning:. I heard nothing on 80m but I knew 60m was working as Don G0RQL was booming in. So a visit to 60m could have made my day :grin:. Really well worth a visit to that band for your future activations. On my recent activations I have found that 80m is working and 60m is not and vice versa. So another addition to your armoury of bands :grin:

From your report I think you learnt a lot and I hope you enjoyed your day…lovely summit which I would like to revisit one day.

73 Allan GW4VPX

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I guess as I’ve only been allowed to use 60m since yesterday this option didn’t occur to me. :slight_smile:

But its on the agenda now! Many thanks for the suggestion Alan.

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No problems John…it’s a part of the learning curve. Forget to say that the bands were not in good shape today :frowning:

73 Allan

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Hallo John

It’s a pity I didn’t catch you - otherwise I would have had it complete by now.

We had a wonderful holiday there in 2019.

73 Armin

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Hey John

and…take a look at my log… 5 qso’s in 50 min. … that’s not normal !

73 Armin

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I don’t have the experience to know what to expect but when I first started calling today and didn’t get any response I was bit disappointed - but things improved with time.

There will be days when you can’t save yourself from response…

:sweat_smile: Armin

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Hi John,

Firstly, congratulations on the new call sign.

I am what I call a “CW operator with plenty of room to improve”. From personal experience, you can practice lots at home, but once you get on the air nerves can set in. On a sota summit there are likely plenty of people waiting to work you, so you not only have to cope with nerves, but also a pile up. Dealing with a pile-up is a separate, additional skill. Then in addition, when it is cold on a summit, you need to deal with sending CW (for me with a paddle), when you are shivering.

There is the odd chaser that will not slow down, but I can honestly say that nearly all are very accommodating, happy to go at your pace and have great patience for fumbles. You will start to recognise call signs and they become a warming welcome after a slog up to a summit.

I see from your rbn you were sending at 18 wpm. Chasers will likely match your CQ speed. I would recommend slowing down your CQ, get used to the format of the QSO on the summit and dealing with a pile-up.

If you haven’t already been using it, I can recommend rufz CW trainer and Morse Runner. These will help a lot.

I hope to work you on CW on a summit soon.

73 Matthew M5EVT.

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Well Done John! Great to get you in the log from Great Whernside on what felt like a fairly flat 80m band, and I hope that it is the first of many!
The British weather was its normal reliable self, last week I didn’t take enough water and was worried about sunburn, this week I needed - but didn’t have winter mitts.
Also managed for the first time to use a tarp as a sheler with reasonable sucess, keeping my daughter, the dog and the radio dry!
This weeks mystery bonus item - a spare 1l of water, and the missing item … was the small stove that I was convinced was in the car to make a brew when I got down, so had the mug, coffee and gas but to stove… :slight_smile:
Started the walk just in a shirt - finished the walk thinking that the winer mitts would have been useful… so for those on sunnier hills welcome to Yorkshire!


A Sunny Start


Playing Radio


The shelter worked…


Dog in the Snow

(Apolgies for any thread hijack) 73 Paul

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I tried to RX you a few times when I saw your spots John, but nothing heard - so unfortunately no S2S opportunity. Nonetheless, it looks like you had a beautiful day on Dartmoor, as indeed we did on the fringe of the Cambrians.

One of your spots intrigued me - the one for 145.700 FM.

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Matthew, I’m sure you’re right about slowing down. I’ve been comfortable at 18 wpm so far and run Morse Runner at 20 wpm but this is in “the shack”. On a hilltop all on my own is a different matter.

I’m going to put some serious effort in over the next few weeks then have another go. :slight_smile:

There’s white stuff in those photos! We didn’t have anything like that down here but I was cold at the end. All my experience of hill walking hasn’t really prepared me for the challenge of sitting on a top for a long spell. More work needed on staying warm required. :slight_smile:

But many thanks for the S2S!

That was just with an HT but only with the stock antenna and it brought no response.

I’m not entirely sure now about High Willhays as an opportunity for 2m action as Yes Tor is directly north of it and only a few metres lower. I guess the only answer is to try it.

The tablet I intend to use for digital modes was supposed to have been delivered yesterday but now seems lost in the Royal Mail. But I’m sure it will surface (pun alert!) eventually and I can give that a go.

145.700 is a repeater output frequency and not intended to be used for simplex operating. I’m not surprised you didn’t get any replies on that QRG.

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Hello John, well done on your activation and thanks for the report and photos.

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Every day a learning day! I have a sheet of all the HF bands (CW and SSB sections) but never thought I needed to worry about 2m. Probably best to stay between 144 and 145 in future.
Many thanks. :slight_smile:

If you are going to use a band you need to be familiar with bandplan… at least for the modes you will be using. There’s not much to remember really.

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I disagree. Just learn the bandplan - or add it to your sheet.

Usual thing for UK SOTA activators is to call CQ on the calling channel - 145.500MHz (S20), then QSY to an empty frequency between 145.300 and 145.575MHz once you’ve had a reply.

You won’t get much activity on FM between 144 and 145MHz - not even in the “All modes” section, and you would make yourself very unpopular operating FM on the nominal SSB frequencies - or indeed on repeater output frequencies!

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Thank you both. I haven’t done much on 2m as you can probably tell, or indeed on any other frequency…