Last of the winter bonus

Cracoe Fell G/NP-032

I really wanted to work EG4IF but I had other commitments on Saturday when the call sign was scheduled to be active. I had made it known that I was seeking a contact, and others also stated an interest, so thankfully EG4IF was put on air on Sunday too.

It was snowing on the Saturday evening as I was driving back home from a visit to my sister-in-law, I was rather worried about the weather for the next day. Initially I had wanted to do St Sunday Crag, Fairfield and Seat Sandal in the Lake District, possibly as a joint activation with Ben GW4BML. Due to the weather forecast Ben messaged me to cancel and I didn’t fancy a trip to the Lakes either. I’ve been quite lazy this winter bonus period and picked off my easiest local summits, which meant that my next easiest winter bonus target was Cracoe Fell G/NP-032.

The weather forecast for Sunday was for strong winds and occasional rain. I was debating with myself whether it was worth the effort to do an activation and then I saw an alert for EG4IF on SOTAwatch. I could have a relatively easy morning and set off around 10am from home and be on air for the alert time of 12pm. The chance of a QSO with EG4IF persuaded me to go ahead with the activation.

The journey and walk to the summit of G/NP-032 was pretty easy really and the weather was nowhere near as bad as forecast, in fact the sun was shining!

My aims were to qualify the summit to gain the activation and bonus points, plus get an S2S with EG4IF. The QSO with EG4IF was my main priority.

The alert for EG4IF was for 14MHz first, so I set up my dipole and MTR-5B for that band. Rather than call CQ, I sat watching SOTAwatch on my phone, keeping a keen eye on the spots. I’d set up a HamAlert too, but I later found out that I’d done it incorrectly! I picked off three S2S contacts on 20m CW whilst I was waiting for the EG4IF spot. The spot came through and although the signal was weak from EG4IF, we were able to complete the QSO, despite QRM from impatient callers. It was nice that the S2S QSO with EG4IF qualified the summit for me.

I decided to QSY to a different 20m frequency to call CQ and I worked a number of stations before there were no more callers. I love working transatlantic but in recent times despite decent RBN hits, I rarely work across the pond (NA guys - where are you? POTA?). I wondered if 17m would coax a transatlantic caller out of the woodwork, so I swapped the links and switched the MTR-5B band switches to 17m. I set the rig on beacon mode calling CQ SOTA. I was surprised that I didn’t get a reply after a few rounds of CQ, so I checked the RBN. Nothing, no hits on 17m. Hmm, that’s odd. I brought the antenna down for a visual check, all looked in order. I then tried other bands with the MTR-5B on receive - the receiver wasn’t working on any band. Oh dear. Thankfully I’d taken a spare MTR with me, so I swapped rigs and carried on.

The MTR-5B on G/NP-032 before trouble struck.

I logged 32 QSOs on G/NP-032, which seemed like a nice number! I also found it quite poignant that Cracoe Fell has a memorial on it.

I was walking back along the road towards my car in Cracoe after the activation when a van approached from behind and slowed down. I turned around and recognised the driver of the van, it was the guy who looks after the memorial on Buckden Pike, G/NP-009, he’d recognised my coat and silhouette from behind! I attend the memorial service at Buckden Pike each November and the bloke had remembered me from there!

On my way home, I called in at a cafe in Settle and had a coffee and a piece of shortbread- it was my little toast to Guru EA2IF. I’d been to the same cafe to toast Eric KU6J too, years before. In a strange coincidence, my MTR-5B had malfunctioned on that day too.

The MTR-5B malfunction was caused by a processor glitch. Unfortunately the back up battery prevents a reset until it’s disconnected. Since the KU6J activation, I carry an Allen key to open the MTR-5B case in case it locks up. The solution really is just to leave out the battery, but I like the convenience of the real time clock!

Winter bonus was running out and I wanted to grab some more points. I work on Wednesdays, so I was left with either yesterday or today. Today’s forecast looked the best, so I made a plan to activate Great Knoutberry Hill G/NP-015.

Great Knoutberry Hill G/NP-015

I’ve never done G/NP-015 before but it’s only about 40 mins away by car from my QTH. There was a bit of snow overnight but nothing too serious and thankfully the roads were clear. I’d checked the Ribblehead webcam as soon as I had got up. I was pleased to see an alert on SOTAwatch for EG7GURU/P as I still needed a QSO, I just need to chase EG1GURU and EG5GURU now.

The drive was uneventful and my satnav got me to exactly the right place.

I’d reset my MTR-5B in the shack and tested it with my power meter, I was pleased to see it working properly again. The MTR-5B is a good rig to have when you don’t know which band you’re gonna need to chase a certain activator. I have plenty of other rigs but the MTR-5B covers the most bands (besides the very heavy FT817).

The weather was pretty much as forecast with little visibility, although the wind wasn’t as strong as suggested. Initially it wasn’t snowing so I sat on, rather than in, my bothy bag. It started snowing at the wrong time!

I set up on 20m again, as I reckoned it would be a good band to get to Spain. I set up a HamAlert for EG7GURU/P. I called CQ and worked quite a number of stations on 20m before HamAlert went off and EG7GURU/P was spotted on 30m. The EG7GURU alert had stated Elecraft AX1 antenna and 10watts, so I reasoned that the signal would be weak. Cupping my ears with my hands to block out wind noise, I could detect the faintest of Morse on 10.113 MHz, there was no way that I could consider a call. I decided to wait. I swapped the dipole links back to 20m. Ping, HamAlert went off again EG7GURU/p on 7.030MHz. I tuned to the frequency and heard some Morse, a little stronger than before. OK, it might be worth swapping the dipole links to 40m. I swapped the links over and then heard very little! Time to swap the dipole links back to 20m and wait some more.

Ping! HamAlert went off, EG7GURU/P on 14.058MHz. I was ready to pounce. I could hear Morse! Weak Morse, but it was there. I called and got through for an S2S to EA7/GR-047. Phew! Mission accomplished.

I was very cold and my antenna pole took quite a lot of persuasion to collapse. Thankfully I managed without having to resort to desperate measures!

Ready to head home!

So that’s it, winter bonus is over for me.

73, Colin


Hi Colin.
I’m glad to see your perseverance! You deserved these Guru qso’s and I can imagine you waving the wire to get to the links and change bands so many times. Well done to get both in your log!

I’m also happy to know you resurrected the MTR-5B, a too good rig to have it broken.
Good luck in your pursuit to the remaining callsign. Still many chances to get them all.

73 de Iggy


Nice report Colin, glad to see you out and about in my old stomping ground. Unfortunately, from a light cold at the weekend, I’m now Corona positive, so going to miss yet another week. :sob:

          73 de OE6FEG
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