Day 1: Mini G/SC Expedition - Day 1
There are two car parks near to Dunkery Beacon, G/SC-001. The one to the east is slightly further away from the summit but is higher than the southern car park. The southern one is closer but involves a bit more ascent. I’m not sure what made me choose the southern car park other than it was the first one I came across and it was already filling up when I arrived but there was space for the campervan so I grabbed it. Anyone else setting out from Minehead would probably come from the north but the lanes that way are very narrow so I looped round on the main road and approached from the south. A bonus of coming this way is you pass through Dunster, which is a very attractive village. It claims to be the largest and most intact Medieval village in England.
It was about a 20 minute walk to the summit, which was far enough as I was carrying a heavy pack and lots of water. My plan was to stay longer than I usually do on a summit with the hope of reaching across the Atlantic in the afternoon. This plan also meant I could have a lie-in this morning as there was no rush to start.
After setting up with the same equipment as yesterday other than using the 6m fibreglass pole instead of the carbonfibre one. This was because I had brought a 2m Yagi with me which has been adapted to fit on the fibreglass pole. I’m not sure I would like to hang the Yagi on the carbonfibre pole, the walls are a bit thin.
Switching on and selecting 30m revealed a completely blank screen, unlike yesterday when I could see lots of CW traffic. A check online showed K was up to 4 and the expected CME had arrived.
I posted a spot and sent CQ. I think someone replied but they were very faint and very fast and did not respond to a request to QRS.
Tuning around and looking at Sotawatch showed activity on 20m SSB so this is what I switched to and soon had replies. In the middle of this my 2m HT sprang into life and I heard “CQ SOTA”!
It was Rick operating as MW5RJC/P on GW/SW-037 just north of Cardiff. In clear conditions, it was still very hazy, we might have been able to wave to each other.
Returning to 20m SSB I logged a few more QSOs before trying 17m SSB which brought in just one QSO.
After it seemed talking to myself for a while I gave up on conventional radio and switched to digital. 40m and 30m FT8 found a single response on each band. I wanted to try these bands to give UK operators a chance before I moved up to higher frequencies.
20m FT8 was very crowded so I switchd to FT4 which was quite productive. 17m was tried and I could see many NA callsigns but apart from one call from there, which we could not complete, all the QSOs were within Europe, including with Mykola UR6QV somewhere in Ukraine.
10m FT8 also worked as did, somewhat surprisingly, 6m, but again it was all within Europe.
My signals we showing up on PSK Reporter as being heard in NA, especially on 17m, but my hoped for full log of NA callsigns did not appear.
After a couple of hours on the summit in a cold wind I packed up and returned to the vehicle.
A view looking south from the summit. It is a well worn path.
The summit cairn with the stones cemented together and to the right the trig point, which is also made from cemented stones.
Operating position on the west side of the summit. Chosen to try, unsuccessfully, to get out of the wind. The summit offers little shelter unless you were to set up by the cairn but with a steady stream of visitors I kept out of the way.
10m FT8 in progress. It takes a practiced hand to manage with a modern smartphone to get almost everything in the image out of focus.
The “local” QSOs.
The wider picture. Nothing to the north or north east which had to have been down to the conditions.
Tomorrow’s target, by making a slight detour on the way home is Wills Neck G/SC-002 in the Quantock Hills.
Many thanks to all who contacted me today, despite the frustrations of the conditions it turned out to be a more successful activation than I expected when I first saw the blank waterfall at the start today.