I haven’t been able to get out to play SOTA for the last weeks. I have vacation days left but we are mad busy at work and I’ve not been able to use them. On top of that we had new windows fitted to the house and there was a lot of work needed to move furniture (and most of my shack) so going AWOL to play when these jobs needed doing wasn’t an option. The WX in GM before Christmas has been classic anticyclonic gloom with no wind and the sky almost touching the ground. Climb up above 500m ASL and you pop out of the gloom into amazing frozen wind-free winter wonderlands. I said that as soon as I could play the WX would change and it has. We’ve had rain and a lot is predicted for the next few days.
But today was looking OK, maybe misty but OK. When I started SOTA one of the first summits I did was Minch Moor and I must have done it every year for the last 15 years. There is something special which I cannot explain but I really enjoy activating it. Mrs. FMF took a photo of me activating in seriously deep snow and -14C temps that the RSGB chose as the cover image for their centenary issue. So it has a soft spot in my heart. Despite activating it earlier this year (with the belly dancing ladies) I went back as it’s 15 years to the day since I first did it. No points but bonus points. But 3 pretty easy points TBH.
I haven’t been out for weeks so I couldn’t find half the gear, I repaired the feeder system and it was missing, then I had a load of other bits and pieces to find. Why didn’t you get ready last night Andy? Well I was watching Netflix and drinking assorted cocktails so get the gear ready or have another cocktail. Yes, alcohol won. I’d driven off and had to come back for my camera. I knew if I didn’t take it I’d pop out above the clouds and miss brilliant photos. If I took it I was assured mist and gloom And its battery was flat so I threw another cigar lighter USB charger in the car, the 45min journey would put some life in the battery.
It was a rubbish drive there, lots of traffic and huge amounts of filthy muck flying off the tyres, constant windscreen washing was needed. Anyway I got to the usual parking place and it was packed full. I thought wait 10mins and someone will return. But I drove off looking for another spot and found one. Booted up, ensured I had radio, battery, antenna etc. and set off. Just as I passed the car park, a car was leaving. Typical. It’s a 4km 400m ascent so I posted an alert and set off fast… I had a lot of Mrs. FMF’s cooking to work off. Computer says 1hr27, I did it 1h15. I’m happy with that.
People were just leaving the windshelter and other people on the summit didn’t want to use it so It was mine! I set up the 5m pole and the 30/20/17 dipole. I thought I’ll polish of 30m and work lots of EU then 20m for DX. I had forgotten my headtorch so didn’t want to be too late as it was very thick mist at the top, 50m visibility max. I had a must stop time of 1500Z. I had an emergency wind-up torch with would be useful in an emergency but if I had the headtorch my must stop time would have been 1530Z.
Now I had a load of feeder issues last time out and I went to some trouble to check and fix everything and remake many connections, some had failed after 15 years so even if I had made them well initially, 15 years wear and tear needed addressing. I put the links in for 30m and check the SWR. Rubbish. I did not believe it. Ah… put the correct links in each half of the dipole. SWR was still awful. But Deutsch Wetterdienst was now louder on 10.100.8MHz. Lower dipole centre and look at what was wrong. Oh yes… fully connect BNC male to female rather than just offering it up and not twisting it home. Boy was that RTTY loud now!
Fire up keyer and we were spotted first call by RBN. And then the mayhem started. I have never, ever, ever heard 30m so busy. 30 stations in 43 mins including taking 5mins break to explain what was happening to a lady walker who asked very sensible questions. What slowed down the working rate was the difficulty in pulling a call out of the wall of callers. Hard work but joyous hard work. When the band went quiet, I pulled the links for 20m, called CQ and generated another wall of callers. Oh heck, didn’t expect this. I was just getting into my stride having worked F, CT,SM & HB9 when the rain came.
Now I had been sat in the mist so everything was damp. But this wasn’t drizzle or thicker mist. No, this was damn great big lumps of water falling out of the sky and a heavy rate. I cover the radio and log and looked about. Couldn’t see any difference in the clouds but it was proper rain. So I did what no activator ever wants to do… I apologised profusely and went QRT and packed up. I really, really do apologise for having to stop because I was expecting a lot of callers now and none of the calls were dupes from 30m. But it was proper rain. I rushed packing away the station and when it was 3/4 dismantled and packed the rain stopped. I was in two minds to setup again and got the dipole out of the bag. Then it started raining again. So I packed up and set of down to the car.
30m: F, DL, HB9, ON, EA2, EA7, SM, OH, OZ, OK, S5, HA, PA, SP, G worked
20m: F, CT, SM, HB9 worked.
I cannot recall when there were so many stations calling me. Must be 4 or 5 years back. I don’t know if this is because it is Christmas and lots of people about, or the sun. Or everyone has missed my godawful sending over the last 5 weeks they were pleased I was back. I’ll post a picture as I dry things out.
Once again, I am so sorry I had to rush and go QRT and could not work the 20m pileup, I really am. WX looks very wet for the next few days but if there’s a window, I’ll pop out and do 20m first from whichever summit I find myself on.