Mad people

“You’re mad” exclaimed my wife Marianne, as I explained I was leaving earlier than normal for contest night, as I wanted to operate from the summit of Shining Tor G/SP-004 instead of the normal The Cloud G/SP-015. It was a cold, but forecast to be clear winters night on Tuesday 6th January 2015. I warmed up prior to departure with a bowl of Marianne’s fantastic chilli chorizo and sweetcorn chowder, my favourite.

Perhaps I was mad. The Cloud takes 8 minutes to ascend from the parking spot, and slightly less to descend. Shining Tor is a good 35 minutes each way. That amount of walking after dark on a windy cold night can get quite spooky. I was never going to be alone for long though.

Early into the ascent, I could see headlamps at various points along the path on the horizon. It would appear that like The Cloud, Shining Tor is also popular with the local Tuesday night running clubs. Furthermore, I received a text from Richard G3CWI saying that he was having a wander up to see me!

It was pretty blowy at the top, not ideal conditions for getting a mast up with a 5 element beam. It was soon clear that I would be mounting the antenna at 3m AGL, rather than the usual 4m. This was not a decision reached due to the conditions - although such may have been prudent anyway. No, it was because the bottom section of the pole had become too loose and didn’t have sufficient lock to support the upper sections. Another “overuse injury” for part of my kit. I suppose it had done 250+ activations.

It took a bit of trial and error to get the guy ropes pegged down in the right places so that the base of the pole was right beside my operating spot, hunkered down in the wall corner beside the wooden bench. This small sheltered spot was crucial on this night. The drawback was that the ground here was little better than a mudbath. I placed down my scrunched-up bothy bag, and put the foam seat mat atop that, to give it a bit of separation from the mud. Unfortunately, the legs of my trousers and parts of my rucksack were going to get muddy, but that just had to be.

Just before the 8pm contest start time, a groups of 4 or 5 runners arrived on summit, all rather intrigued to find me there! “You’re mad” they said, in a delayed echo of my wife’s remark a couple of hours earlier. “No, you’re mad” I retorted. “I’ve got two jumpers and a coat on, you lot will catch your death of cold dressed like that if you’re not careful”. How dare they call my strange and weird activity mad when they are all doing a stranger and weirder activity?

The contest was a bit of a disappointment. I had expected a significant improvement from this site, but results were very similar to what I might have expected from The Cloud. 72 QSOs were made, into 16 (all UK) locator squares. The best DX were IO86 and JO00. Within the first hour, Richard G3CWI arrived on the summit. At the same time, really bad wideband noise began to ruin the whole band, and it steadily got worse. I couldn’t decide whether one of my local competitors had a really poor signal, or if there was static rain/hail on the way. And then suddenly, the noise disappeared. It struck me that Richard had just turned off his headtorch! A quick test of turning it back on and off again identified it as the culprit - so it remained off for the remainder of Richard’s stay on summit!

Richard excused himself and set off on his own descent around 9.20pm. Now he was definitely mad. He ascended a SOTA summit on a winter’s night and didn’t even make a contact! Bonkers! I battled through the remaining hour or so operating on my own, ekeing out whatever I could. It was slow going at times; I just couldn’t seem to get any good runs going, frustrating with several other contesters boasting serial numbers deep into the 100s.

Packing up was a drag as the wind was now up and it was bitterly cold. My Leki poles and boots (I normally just go up The Cloud in trainers) at least enabled me to get a brisk pace going on the descent to warm up nice and quickly. The only problem was by the time I had packed up, descended, driven home, taken a shower, had supper and medication etc, it was VERY late. Will I persist with Shining Tor for Tuesday nights while the M0GVG/P team are not in their usual IO83xg? Not sure - but probably!

Here is a map of my contest QSOs:

When I did eventually step into the bedroom, Marianne briefly woke up. “Are you alright?” she asked. “Yeah” I replied, “Very cold and windy up there tonight”. “You’re mad” she concluded, rolled over and went back to sleep.


I agree with Marianne, you are mad as most of hams, particularly the SOTA activators, but we love it and we have a lot of fun without spending lots of money nor causing any problem to anybody or anything. Isn’t it great!
Best 73 de Guru - EA2IF

Mad never.

Insane YES :smile:


Could have been worse, you might have chosen Mam Tor!

A night in January on a major hill in the central belt and you were not planning on, and taking stuff for, an overnight stay? You are mad…

Dave (G0DJA)

Madder than a box of frogs :smiley:

Is that a perfectly good wooden seat beside you or, like the Hippopotamus, do you like mud, mud, glorious mud?

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Yes, that’s the bench. Most people do sit on that. Richard did in fact while he was on antenna rotation duty.

The problem with the bench is that sitting on it puts your head and shoulders above the top of the wall and out of shelter. Where I was sat was much cosier, albeit much filthier.

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Nicely written!

I think you are simply lacking foresight Tom. Obviously you need to explore new ways of sitting.


Don’t think my good lady would necessarily agree with that one :-s

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[quote=“M1EYP, post:6, topic:10022”]
The problem with the bench is that sitting on it puts your head and shoulders above the top of the wall and out of shelter.

Being unusually tall, I often have this problem! Occasionally, on summits, I have added another course or two of stones.
I know that markers such as small cairns should not be altered, but is there any taboo on extending sheltering walls in this way?


You could always overcoat it with resin and smooth it off with wet and dry paper. The problem then is that you’d have to sign GM1EYP/P every time you used it. :wink:

Excellent report - and yes, you are as mad as a box of frogs. Mind you, aren’t most of us who are involved with SOTA? :slight_smile:

73, Gerald G4OIG

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Great report. I’ve done madder things in the dark on mountain tops. Makes you feel alive sometimes. I highly recommend it.

Gerald MW0WML

Maddest thing i’ve done is take Abergynolwyn Band( 25 pc Brass Band ) for a concert on the summit of GW/NW-009 Cader Idris.
One of my crazier ideas when I was young and foolish
I’ll have to dig the photos out
Everything else I’ve done in the hills seems quite ordinary
Although…it wasn’t dark or raining
Keep it up Tom

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A little OT but are there any tarp users here?
I’m thinking of carrying a lightweight SilTarp to keep the wind off.
something like
(other tarps are available)

I always have at least one spare walking pole so a quick set up should always be possible.
I’ll still carry my Bothy bag in winter but a tarp should add extra comfort.


Nice one Pete. Out of stock because they’re half price. I’ll order one when they’re back on sale. I stumbled on the Travel Tap water bottle on the site and am impressed. E.g. Mountain stream water can be collected and drunk directly and safely without phaff and carrying excessive quantities of water for the day.


I have a Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar which has been setup on a few activations and it has ridden in the pack for many more. Quick and easy to setup (in many different configurations BTW) and only a bit more than a pound in weight. Very “tarpy” but can also be a very storm-worthy shelter as well. It has replaced my ground tent for all other camping excursions.

73, pat - KI4SVM



My brother talked to me about these recently… sold across the pond.

Thanks for sharing the link…it looks like a pretty good deal for 25 quid.
A tarp is on my wish list for equipment…

72 Angel

I use the KISS principle with my tarp. They are a great way of getting some shelter, even if it is what I rig on site always 100% effective. I wouldn’t be without one. The main problem I find is packing them away when the wind is strong… usually a feature of most UK summits!

My usual tarp is 1.2m x 1.8m. The above set up kept both me and the kit dry even though it was raining - the rain was horizontal… :wink:

I have tried configuring a 1.8 x 2.4m tarp as above which requires just one walking pole and no guys. It was large enough for the kit, but not for me. I am sure I will be able to work out something that is more efficient in terms of the volume created relative to the area of the tarp.

73, Gerald G4OIG


Ha ha - typical radio amateur!


Cheers all. It’s good to know there are other keen tarpers.
It’s a pity that tarp is out of stock as I imagine it will be back to full price when restocked :frowning:
The beauty of a tarp is that it can be configured in so many different ways, using many different supports.
You can also practice lots of nice knots and hitches.

It’s on my purchase list and will be in my pack shortly.