Proper Activating

Rumours of my demise have been exaggerated.

However, today, I suddenly felt the urge to prove I was not a saddo who begged for contacts off repeaters and who was not known for his strong signals.

The slight disadvantage to this noble aim was the lack of FT-817, rumours of whose demise are not looking exaggerated at all. The advantages to this noble aim included 8 hours of free time, a relatively local summit not yet activated this year, a 7Ah SLAB, the outstanding Yaesu VX-110 handheld the unfailing SOTA Beam and the reliable assistance of my loyal subjects. And personal service from RAYNET.

Marianne was due in at Manchester Airport at around 2.30pm after flying back from visiting her dad in Northern Ireland. That created a time window of opportunity, almost tailor-fitted to Moel Famau GW/NW-042.

The combination of a belly full of curry, a belly full of ale, indifference and Match of the Day meant that nothing at all was prepared the previous evening. However, a most reluctant 0600 BST get-up saw me then sweep into more disciplined action, and the cocktail of taxing tasks such as making the soup, filling the bladders (I hate that job, for some reason), packing the rucsacs, packing the car, lining up the boots (and change of footwear for later), ordering Jimmy M3EYP about and the worst of all - getting Liam up.

Liam, to my surprise, was happy to get up. Then I realised that this was because of his early opportunity to reserve the television channel to ‘More 4’, and five hours of watching ‘Scrapheap Challenge’. To say there was ‘a little set-to’ when I broke the news that his favourite programme was not part of the days plans, would be the understatement of the decade. Nonetheless, we were packed and away in the car just before 7am.

The 7am news on BBC Radio 5 Live began with the headline that top rally driver Colin McCrae had died in a helicopter accident. Liam burst into tears and was inconsolable for the next hour - he is a huge motorsport fan.

We made good time along the M56 and A494, and were soon climbing up the road to Bwlch Penbarras, more commonly known as the car park between Moel Famau GW/NW-044 and Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051. We made it here just before 9am, as planned, for Steve GW7AAV had warned us about possible road closures in the area for a local event. Indeed, we met Steve and his RAYNET station upon arrival in the car park.

After purchasing the £1 pay-and-display ticket, we set off along the Offa’s Dyke Path for Moel Famau, with it’s distinctive ruined folly - Jubilee Tower - marking our objective and getting steadily closer. The wind was blasting in ferociously from the North and West, and the instinct upon arrival on summit was to use he Jubilee Tower to shelter from it. It was not possible, with the gale blasting all parts in all directions across the summit. We found the best - but not total - shelter we could be dropping away towards the fence in a North-Easterly direction. Here we had an interesting view of the seemingly parallel stripes of the heather in front of us, the farmland of Clwyd, the Dee Estuary, the Wirral Peninsular, the River Mersey and the City of Liverpool.

The set up was Jimmy’s VX-110 handheld, powered by 7Ah SLAB, running 5 watts into the SOTA Beam. Operationg was therefore exclusively 2m FM, but was very successful with 43 contacts between us, 4 DXCCs each (G, GW, GD, GM) and 9 summit-to-summit contacts. A really pleasing aspect of this activation was the fact that we were called by many of our amateur radio/SOTA friends, but with whom we had not QSOd for a long while. A displeasing aspect was a station that Jimmy worked that refused to give him a proper report. He said something like “I’m not giving you a report, because it wouldn’t be accurate. It is as good as a repeater”. Jimmy completed all the other information to exchange again in his next over, and politely asked again for a report to complete the log. The station continued, pompously, “I have just explained why I am not giving you a report” and rattled off his unfathomable “reason” yet again. This regrettable incident might have been beneficial, for several stations were then eager to call in, both to work Jimmy properly, and to assure him that he was operating properly, and the other chap certainly was not!

We closed down at about 10 to 1 local, by which Liam was a good 15 minutes into his descent - I had alerted Steve GW7AAV that he was on his way down. Jimmy and I packed up and set off on a pacy descent to minimise the time that Liam would have to wait at the car park. It was quite challenging due to the strength of the wind blasting into the path. Our personal RAYNET man informed us when Liam came into sight, and indeed jumped into his appealing looking RAYNET-badged Vauxhall, and we were only a few minutes later arriving at the car park.

Our arrival time at Manchester Airport coincided perfectly with Marianne’s appearance in the short-stay car park, and our later arrival for a family meal at the Weston Balti Raj in Macclesfield, coincided almost perfectly with that of G3CWI and family for similar - great minds…!

Thanks to all chasers or what was a really satisfying and fun activation.

Tom & Jimmy

In reply to M1EYP:

Great to meet up with you all, if somewhat briefly. Your description of the wind as blasting seems fairly accurate as it managed to blow my mag-mounts off the roof twice, something that travelling at well over the UK speed limit has never managed. Yours stayed firmly attached but my larger antennas were simply ripped off by a couple of extra strong gusts. The RAYNET mast which I have cable tied to the same fence post for several years had to be lowered. I ran out of cable ties, which kept breaking and they had to be replaced with some lengths of guy rope which were a pain to untie with numb wet hands later. The wind never let up all day and was still blasting at knock you off your feet force with stronger gusts when I packed up at 17.30 by which time it was accompanied by driving rain.

Liam has my sympathy, given the conditions I think I would have preferred five hours of Scrap Heap Challenge to going up Moel Famau in that wind. I invited Liam to sit in the car out of the wind to wait and it was all I could do to stop myself from laughing when he got in the passenger seat wearing his rucksack. A long explanation of why he didn’t want to climb mountains today ensued.

The little incident with Jimmy’s QSO with Kevan (locals will know who I mean) was typical of that operator. I have known him for many years and he has, should we say, a few problems he rarely if ever makes any sense and talks in riddles most of the time. While I have every sympathy with him and his problems he has always been a nuisance. I know of dozens of operators who simply turn off two metres when he comes on. Unfortunately I do not see even a long term solution this type of thing unless the licence is made progressive and each stage has say a two year limit in which time you must pass the next exam until you get a full licence. I could say an awful lot more but the laws of libel might be used against me so I will save those thoughts until I can speak to you face to face.

It seems like you got all your timing perfect yesterday as the car park filled quickly after you left with ambulances, marshals, spectators and walkers cars before the road was closed and then for the next couple of hours about 3,000 mountain bikes streamed through. We had a much better year for incidents this year which is nice if somewhat boring. How they coped with the wind and that circuit is almost beyond my comprehension. They must be even dafter than SOTA activators climbing mountains in the teeth of a bitterly cold North Westerly gale.

Tom you are a true Brit. After (Quote) “a belly full of curry” and “a belly full of ale” the night before you decided to go to the “Weston Balti Raj” for a meal. Whatever happened to the traditional English Sunday meat of roast beef in a traditional English pub washed down by a flagon or eight of real ale? I hope you didn’t wash down your curry with that Tiger piddle lager;o)

Thanks for the points.

Steve GW7AAV

Thanks for all the kind comments Steve. Jimmy wasn’t sure whether he should log the contact when the other op wouldn’t give him his report, and asked me. I told him it was up to him. Jimmy reasoned that as the other station said “I’m not giving you a report because it’s as good as a repeater so it wouldn’t be accurate”, and he heard it all clearly, then he would log the contact, and interpret his incoming report as 59! Fair enough.

Sorry about Liam climbing into your motor with all his kit. I didn’t know where to put my face when I saw him getting out of your car still carrying his walking pole! By the way, your Raynet control vehicle was described later, by Liam to his mum, as a “Vauxhall Tuning car”!

Sorry we had to dash off so sharply, but we had to be at Manchester Airport by around 2.30pm at collect Marianne. Hence I also had to miss out on a lovely pint of real ale at the We Three Loggerheads, where I normally call in after Famau or Fenlli.

Real ale doesn’t go so well with a curry though, so it was Bangla Beer at the restaurant later.

In reply to M1EYP:

I would interpret Kevan the same way. That Jimmy was as strong as the repeaters, end stopping 5/9 plus. He certain should have been to Buckley it is only a couple of miles and line of sight.

No problems with Liam, he kept me amused talking about Scrap Heap Challenge and after we had got him out of his rucksack I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the pole.

Maybe we can hook up and do something together like we planned before I broke my ankle sometime. I may be up NW-044 myself a week today (monday) to show my little brother what SOTA and amateur radio is all about.

73 Steve GW7AAV

In reply to GW7AAV:
Tom what happened to mac’donalds could you not find him this weekend,

he he
Steve m0sgb

Rarely use that franchise now Steve. Favourite is usually Lymm Truck Stop for breakfast. McDonalds at Baxendale is useful for that direction though. On this occasion, what with a booking to collect Her Majesty from the airport mid-afternoon, we saved a bit of time at the start of the day by breakfasting upon Rice Krispies at home prior to departure. Untraditional, but practical.

In reply to M1EYP:

Jimmy wasn’t sure whether he
should log the contact when the other op wouldn’t give him his report,
and asked me. I told him it was up to him.

I would always log such a contact in my personal log. Whether a contact without reports exchanged would subsequently get uploaded into the SOTA database would depend on the circumstances. If conditions are marginal and the attempted report exchange failed, I would note it as a failed contact in my log and would not upload it to the SOTA database. If communication was clearly established and information exchanged then I would upload it. I believe the rules require “two-way signal reports” but do not specify the form they must take. On FM, comments like “good” or “fully quieting” strike me as being perfectly acceptable reports. Of course it is poor practice not to give an RS(T) report if asked for one, but nobody is obliged to do so, and especially if you are using a handheld it can be difficult to make it meaningful.

Jimmy reasoned that as
the other station said “I’m not giving you a report because it’s
as good as a repeater so it wouldn’t be accurate”, and he heard
it all clearly, then he would log the contact, and interpret his
incoming report as 59! Fair enough.

I think that is entirely reasonable. It seems to me that the “exchanging reports” rule to determine whether a valid contact has been made is fine when conditions are marginal. If you’ve had a telephone-quality conversation with somebody, then insisting on saying 59 to each other would seem a little obsessive.

See my email Tom.

Jimmy was correct to log it as 59++, I won’t comment further on here, email will explain all.

73 Mike

The stripes in the heather are man-made, I seem to remember it’s something to do with encouraging the wild grouse to nest. I think they cut it back at some point every year.


In reply to GW8OGI:

They set it on fire up here… muirburn is the term. An area is marked out so the flame spread can be controlled. It encourages new growth in the heather and I think that is what the grouse like to eat.