Each year I feel compelled to attend the Remembrance service held on Buckden Pike. I have no particular reason apart from it’s the service that I choose to attend and for a bonus I can throw in some SOTA too.
I always have difficulty choosing which bands to offer or rigs to take. I’ve started a bit of a personal tradition where I do 160m first in order to try to qualify Buckden Pike G/NP-009 on top band. The rememberance service starts just before 11am, at the memorial cross, about 20 to 30 minutes walk from the trig point. With an early start, its possible to do a couple of hours activating before heading to the memorial cross.
I’m not a seasoned operator on 160m but I’m lead to believe that once the sun comes up, propagation starts to fade as the D layer comes in effect. Sunrise was given as at around 0730 this morning, so I wanted to be on air before then if possible.
Back in January, I built a home brew RockMite for 160m, not sure why really, I just fancied the challenge! It was a bit of a fight to get enough frequency shift between RX and TX but in the end I managed about 560Hz shift.
RockMite 160 in a salvaged case, hence the Buzz sticker!
I thought it would be fun to try the 160m Rockmite as my Top Band exciter this year, but knowing how different it can be to get contacts, I decided that it would be good to use an amp. The only amp I have that is set up for 160m is my tuna can amp! My tuna can amp ‘Tuna Topper’ provides around 10dB of gain, so I get around 9 watts output when it’s driven by the RockMite 160m from a shared 3S lipo. 9 watts is marginally better than the 5 watts that would be provided by my FT817.
I could’nt be sure of qualifying on 160m, so I needed a back up plan. Sara @MW7SRA suggested via Twitter that I should take a 30m RockMite too. I chose a home brew K1SWL style RockMite 30 in an Altoids tin that a former colleague brought me back from America. The RockMite is quite special in that it has a proper MV1662 diode fitted, which was a gift from Joel N6ALT in Oregon.
My alarm went off at 0400 and I was driving my car away ftom home by 0430. I made good time on the road, arriving at my parking place at around 0530. The forecast had suggested a foggy start, but thankfully it was clear. My headtorch picked up some cattle in it’s beam they seemed to be curious, but not really bothered, by my interruption. I did my best to pick my way through the herd with minimal disturbance. I reached the trig point at around 0625.
The weather forecast had promised a cloud inversion and cloud free summits - ha! I struggled to see my antenna as I was putting it up in the dark but I finally got it into position. Using my KD1JV Altoids tin digital SWR meter, i did my best to tune the 80m dipole with G4YSS inductors in each leg but it took lots of faffing. I got the SWR down to 1.4:1 and figured it was close enough. I initially thought I’d be on air early than I had alerted for, but with the faffing with the antenna, I put out my first CQ just after 0700. First in the log at 0709 was Phil, @G4OBK with a very nice signal. The contact with Phil was the first ever QSO with the rig. My second contact at 0728 was Chris, G3YHF, in Birmingham, I sent 579 and received 339 in return. I then called for quite a while, as daylight started to creep in. At 0750 GW3YQP answered my CQ and it was 579 both ways. Phil G4OBK called me again at 0757, which was reassuring, giving me a signal report of 569 now, at least I was still getting out! I’d already decided that I would call until 0800 and then move towards swapping the station over to 30m. At 0759(!) Paul @G4IPB saved the day and gave me my prized 4th (unique) QSO! Thanks Paul!
Home brew RockMite 160m and tuna can amplifier. NESCAF filter unit also, although I didn’t turn it on.
I put all of the 160m station away and got out my 30m home brew RockMite. I could’ve used the tuna can amplifier, as I’d put in a 30m LPF in my bag at the last minute last night, but operating on 30m was just purely for fun now as I’d already got the 4th QSO.
Running barefoot (~400mW) I managed another 26 QSOs, including a nice S2S with Kurt F/HB9AFI/P on F/JU-076. At just after 0900, my brain was pretty fried after almost 2 hours of CW. I was amazed to see that my puny signal had been picked up over the atlantic!
I carefully packed everything up and then walked to the memorial cross. I was grateful for the heat that the walk provided and the promised sun still hadn’t put in an appearance! I arrived at the memorial cross at about 1020 and not so long afterwards some air cadets from Skipton ATC arrived. As is usual, we all stood around eating our sandwiches and snacks! The mood soon changes though as 1100 draws closer. The period of silence is very poignant as the wind blows through.
I counted 24 persons present in all, myself included. Soon it was time to say goodbye to all with ‘see you next year’. It strange really, I don’t know any of the people who go to the service, but it’s the same faces, and same dogs, each year.
(My solidarity badge had become rotated unintentionally)