“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: http://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/vhfresults.pl?kml=/2015/Y534d4iBpu8gXZzXF5UT7Nw31sDNJE2
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.