Having watched countless YouTube videos and read many reports on this reflector, I finally managed to make my first activation yesterday from Chanctonbury Ring, G/SE-009. Not the closest summit to me, but I chose this one on the basis of somewhere I’d been before and knew that there was plenty of space to play radio and unlikely to be busy on a Thursday morning.
One of my lockdown activities has been to improve my cw, and having had many practice qsos with a local friend and also some chasing, planned for my focus of this activation to be hf cw. I spent the evening before carefully considering what I needed to bring with me and packed my rucksack so I could make an early start in the morning. A nice drive down through the Surrey and Sussex countryside saw me arriving at the car park adjacent to the A24 at around 7.00z. A side note here: there was a sign at the car-park saying it was locked after dusk. I hadn’t noticed it on previous trips here, so something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about an evening activation.
Anyway, I digress! As I ascended to the summit I tracked progress on the SOTA Goat app, as I was interested to see when I would enter the activation zone. Much further away from the trig point/top of the hill than I was expecting! Useful to know for future reference for similar-type summits.
I picked my spot to operate from by the trig-point, and as expected for this early hour didn’t have any company, as the main footpath is slightly out of sight from that position. I’d been mentally rehearsing my CQ calls and likely exchanges on the way up, so all I had to do was setup my antenna (using the sotabeams bandspringer), which I’d had a few practice runs with at a local site. What could go wrong?
I found out very quickly! The antenna comes with a useful twin binding-post to bnc adaptor, but of course I’d forgotten the obligatory bnc-pl259 that I needed to connect the antenna to the tuner! Apologies to any passing walkers who heard an “Oh dear” or a slightly-less polite version at that moment!
I couldn’t think of a solution to the problem, but thankfully before I left home I remembered to bring my handheld with me as I’ve often seen it mentioned that you should “always bring a handheld - just in case”. My next question: would anyone come back to me. I know that 2m fm activations from a handheld can be hard-going down south! I spotted myself and put out some calls on the 145.500, but nothing! With my heart slightly sinking I sent a few frantic text messages to friends, just in case anyone was about. Thankfully one was, Eric, 2E0WKW who kindly gave me a shout. Frustratingly although he was a strong signal with me, he couldn’t seem to dig me out the noise! I was starting to think that this wasn’t going to be my day, when - hooray - a contact! Dave, M0KWY who’d been listening to my attempts to contact Eric gave me a shout. Once we’d finished I was then called by G3ZTZ who was coming on for a local club net. 2 down, 2 to go! A few more calls on the calling channel yielded nothing, but after a scan through the band I found the net that G3ZTZ had mentioned. I decided to cheekily break-in and ask if anyone would mind having a contact to help me qualify the summit. Thankfully Chris, G0GMC & John, G4BRJ kindly obliged and I’d qualified! Feeling somewhat better I put a few more calls out on the calling channel before closing, and Rod, M0RDV came on for a few overs.
So, there we have it. After wanting to do this for so long, I made it. Despite the disappointment on the hf side of things, I was pleased to get my activating off the mark and glad I didn’t give up when it seemed that no-one was on 2m! Lots of lessons learned and I’ll definitely be back for more!
Sorry for the long-read. I’ve enjoyed reading so many activation reports over the years, and I couldn’t resist writing my own.
73 and hope to catch many of you on air.
Matthew - M0JSB
My trusty FT-60 to the rescue!