Some amateurs still think that 50 is a valid report. One of my most favouritest things in the hobby is correcting them on air about this, and pointing out that it is covered in the Foundation syllabus…
50 to most people is the age to be feared. The age at which one becomes “middle-aged” or even, arguably “old”. Not me. I feel exactly the same as I did through my 20s, 30s and 40s. About 18 years old, with the maturity of a 13 year old. “50 is the new 30” - so expect much more frivolities in the hills from me to come yet. (And I fully acknowledge that a huge number of active activators on here are much older than me - in fact they are all an inspiration!)
Marianne had already given me a pass-out to go out SOTAing early on my birthday. The night before, she denied me permission, as usual, to watch Match of the Day on the Big Telly. So I said I would go out for a late walk instead, to which she also agreed. I figured there wasn’t a great deal of logic in going home in-between the two!
Saturday 18th July 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
Earlier in the day, I headed out for my typical round of Cloud and Gun. Early that morning, I built a new 17m quarterwave vertical with groundplane antenna. My old one was still working, but looked like it could disintegrate at any moment! With plans for many activations in the Challenge flavour in the first week of August, I decided it would be wise to make up a new one, using the excellent SOTAbeams products like the top insulator, guying collar and military spec strong green wire. My intention was to road-test the new antenna on these Saturday afternoon activations, but the weather was incompatible with that aim. Unpleasant and incessant fine drizzle influenced me to do handheld-only activations. The new antenna would have to wait.
The Cloud G/SP-015 - 7 QSOs, all 2m FM
I was actually quite keen to do a proper smash-and-grab - even a one-and-run - in the increasing rain! But calls kept coming - well up to seven anyway!
Gun G/SP-013 - 3 QSOs, all 2m FM
Things were quieter on Gun - but that was fine, as I wanted to get back and sort tea out for the lads and me (Marianne was at work). I collected a big curry take-away from the Weston Balti Raj - our first from there since before lockdown - and I have to say it was delicious!
So I headed out to Shining Tor around 10.20pm BST, and was on summit, with the 20m GP erected and the backpacking tent pitched about 90 minutes later.
Shining Tour G/SP-004 - 4 QSOs, all 2m FM
Even though this was technically the activation for 18th July (2310 to 2324 UTC), it was after midnight BST, and so my son Jimmy M0HGY, working me from home, was the first to wish me a happy birthday.
Sunday 19th July 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
I got into the tent and started setting up the Yaesu FT-817 with Tracer LifePO4 16Ah battery, Windows 10 tablet, paddle, microphone etc. I had with me my new Anderson PowerPole Y-Cable and PowerPole to cigar-lighter socket adaptor. That’s when it dawned on me that I hadn’t thought to also bring charging leads for the tablet or iPhone - doh! So that station improvement would have to wait alongside the new 17m antenna.
I opted for 20m for the overnighter on Shining Tor as I was hoping to attempt S2S with the FT8 activation alerted from BV-land. However, by the time I was in the tent, that alert had been deleted, and so that activation was presumably cancelled. Interestingly, even at 2am local, I could still see the lights and hear the footsteps of walkers passing by my tent on the summit!
I got going with some FT8 and FT4 operating before getting some sleep. After waking up to a glorious sunny dawn - with amazing views - I operated on CW, eventually switching to SSB, lured by S2S opportunities. There was also a little operation on 2m FM with the handheld.
Shining Tor G/SP-004 - 65 QSOs
20m CW: 24 QSOs - 1 S2S
20m SSB: 23 QSOs - 6 S2S
20m FT8: 12 QSOs
20m FT4: 1 QSO
2m FM: 5 QSOs - 1 S2S
S2S: EA6/MA-047, SV/ST-065, G/CE-002, GW/MW-030, I/TN-315, EA5/AT-045, 9A/DH-105, GW/NW-011
The weather was in total contrast to the previous day. A text from my XYL wished me a happy birthday, and instructed me to enjoy my day on the hills and not rush back home. I kept an eye on the time anyway, as we had dinner booked in a restaurant for 5pm.
Next up was Gun G/SP-013, and this time I could finally test out the 17m GP built the previous day, and my new power distribution arrangements which should also allow me to keep my iPhone and Windows tablet charged. The tablet had its charge exhausted on Shining Tor in the early hours of the morning, so was put on charge in the car for the drive over, and then on charge from the battery at the start of the activation. It only has a single android-type socket for both power and data, so I started on CW while some more charge was accumulated.
Everything worked perfectly. My iPhone was recharging, as was the tablet. Even more thrilling was my new 17m antenna being resonant in the centre of the band, allowing me to operate efficiently on CW, data and SSB. It perhaps shouldn’t be quite so thrilling, as the antenna is a very simple design, easy to make, and the mathematics for cutting the element and radials is pretty basic stuff. Nonetheless, I can’t help be chuffed to pieces each time I build one and it works!
Gun G/SP-013 - 20 QSOs
17m CW: 9 QSOs - 2 S2S
17m SSB: 3 QSOs - 2 S2S
17m FT8: 6 QSOs
2m FM: 2 QSOs
S2S: HB/SG-042, HB/LU-027, OE/OO-275, FL/VO-034
The previous evening, Barry 2E0PXW expressed an interest in joining me on The Cloud. By the end of my Gun activation, he was already parked up on Red Lane, with Justin M7JRB. I met them there after driving over, and we ascended together.
The Cloud was busy on a lovely weekend day, and it was a mistake to ascend the famous stairs and usual railed path to the summit. It was necessary to step over into the heather several times in order to preserve social distancing from others descending. Not difficult, and not that much of a problem - but it made me think I should have gone to the top of the track and around the back of the farm!
There weren’t many spots on the summit that we could have to ourselves either, but one of them was the actual highest point - Richard G3CWI’s preferred operating spot, and close to that of Jimmy M0HGY. Barry, Justin and I took it in turns to have a spell of calling and operating. After a couple of cycles, we’d all comfortably qualified. We did descend around the back of the farm, and encountered no other walkers.
The Cloud G/SP-015 - 8 QSOs, all 2m FM - 2 S2S
S2S: G/SP-012 (x2)
Now it was time to go home. I got to open lots of excellent presents, most of which were along a “liquid consumption” theme - ale, cream liqueur, posh coffee for my machine, and more beer.
My annual birthday “cake” from my mum, this year, was in the form of a large homemade pork pie - my favourite! My mum provided candle for it nonetheless!
Marianne then took me out to dinner - our first restaurant date-night since before lockdown. Frenjabi in Macclesfield is a new restaurant, and we were both blown away with the incredible food, excellent service and ambience. Highly recommended. We then walked up to the Swan With Two Necks pub and live music venue for a pint.
Back home for birthday cake, a final beer (Frank Sidebottom Timperley Rhubarb Ale - part of some super presents from @m0hgy) and a game of Scrabble. At 9.30pm, and having been advised that - birthday-or-no-birthday - I would NOT be watching Match of the Day on the Big Telly, I went to bed. I think I was fast asleep within two minutes, so there’s not a chance I would have survived to the end of Match of the Day anyway!
A wonderful SOTA-filled 50th birthday. Many thanks for all the birthday wishes passed over the air by chasers.