My favourite HF band for activating is 20m, and my favourite antenna for 20m is the quarterwave vertical with elevated groundplane. I’ve had a lot of DX success with this type of antenna on SOTA activations over the years, but I’ve bashed a few of them up in the process.
My most recent one was needing a new repair after every activation, so it was time to retire it and chuck it away. I had all the stuff to build the replacement but just never got round to it with distractions from, mainly, music work, strong winds on summits, and Fusion.
Anyway, this morning, I awoke at 0630. I tried to go back to sleep but all I could think about for the next hour was my 20m GP antenna. Yes, I’m afraid so. So at 0730, I got up, put the kettle on and got the tape measure, wire cutters, choc block, reel of green military spec heavy duty wire, RG58 feeder (from an old SOTA Beam, so already nicely terminated with a BNC) and wire winders out. I also got the very nice laser cut centrepiece that Jonathan GW2HFR kindly sent me. This was based on the SOTABEAMS kit version - https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/content/20m%20GP%20Instructions.pdf - but redesigned to accommodate a fourth radial and the thicker antenna wire and feeder cable.
It took me just over an hour to build the antenna - probably stupidly slow by most adept people’s standards, but very pleasing progress for me personally and my historic low confidence with practical stuff.
But would it work? It’s a bit of a squeeze and a flaff to test antennas in my garden, and if going out to the local park, I might as well go out to a local summit. Richard G3CWI was at a loose end and wanted to perform another C4FM activation, so I picked him up and off we went. It was a stunningly beautiful sunny morning, albeit very cold if you sited yourself in an unsheltered position. As Richard discovered.
I knew the driven element on my antenna was easily too long. I had been cautious with my cutting earlier. I also needed to be cautious with putting my antenna up and down; The Cloud G/SP-015 was extremely busy, as to be expected on such a fine day. It took a bit of work to get the mast upright with viable pegging positions few and far between; most of the ground was frozen.
Once everything was set up, I was quickly able to determine that the antenna, at present, was resonant around 13.6MHz. Good - exactly what I had expected. I lopped some of the wire off the driven element and retied it to the small acrylic piece that sat on the top of the mast. No further adjustments were necessary. Resonance was now at around 14.150MHz with the whole band showing as viable.
I kept one eye on the RBN spots which indicated some good data from Eastern Europe and North America. I made 13 QSOs on 20m CW, including two US stations. After returning home, I was pleased to see that lots of beacons had received me:
Richard inspected the antenna and acknowledged, with some understandable surprise, that it wasn’t too bad an effort. He did advise me to protect the ends of the radials where they were close to the corners of the square centrepiece though - which I will do shortly with some sleeving or tape.
We drove back to Macclesfield but accidentally fell into the Harrington Arms at Gawsworth for a pint and a homemade Scotch egg on the way. These things happen.