I contacted Dave Benson, K1SWL, the guy behind Small Wonder Labs, who designed the SW+, DSW II and RockMite, amongst other popular designs, to tell him about the RockMite ][ that I built on the summit of Whernside G/NP-004. One thing lead to another and before long, I found myself in an email conversation about Dave’s new project. Dave has retired from designing and selling kits and he’s spending more time doing the fun stuff that he couldn’t do whilst running his kit business. Dave has designed an Arduino driven superhet CW transceiver intended for his own summer SOTA activations.
With immense gratitude, I was honoured when Dave offered to help me build a copy of his Hilltop 20 rig. Dave is not providing his project as a kit, and as far as I’m aware, he doesn’t intend to, although he has publicly shared the schematics.
The rig took me a few weeks to build; I had to source some of the parts from the US, it was amazing to follow the parcel tracking from despatch to delivery within a couple of days! Apart from tweaking the AF gain in the op-amp, the rig worked great straight away, I tested the un-housed PCB in my garden, working R1WAG with 559 reports both ways.
The PCB was designed to fit a Hammond plastic box, but I decided to make my own case instead in order to package the rig as neatly as possible.
A trip to the local B&M store resulted in the purchase of two spray cans of blue paint for less than £6. I decided on a two tone paint job, I’m not sure if it works, or whether it just looks as though I didn’t have enough paint to do the rig all one colour!
With the rig finished, it was time to do a SOTA activation to give it a real world test. My mum lives in Carlisle, so I decided to activate Red Screes G/LD-017 on the way to her house; I was staying overnight before heading to the Blackpool rally the next day.
20m sounded alarmingly quiet when I was having a tune around, but not long after I sent out a couple of CQ’s, Matt, KA1R came back. Barry N1EU was next in the log and then I worked John, G0TDM, probably via groundwave as he lives in Penrith. A very scratchy QSO with Mariusz, SP9AMH qualified my activation and he was followed shortly after by Rich N4EX. Then followed the silence…lol! No matter, the activation was done and I declared the rig working
It’s always good to have a back-up and as my dipole also had 30m elements, it seemed silly not to hook up my old 2 band MTR and give out a CQ on 30m. After a number of CQ’s, Juerg, HB9BIN/p called me with an awesome signal for a welcome S2S from HB/OW-010. After that single contact on 30m, no further callers were heard.
The weather was fantastic all day, although it was not quite T-shirt weather on the summit, the breeze was just a little on the cool side. A great day on the mountain, despite the rather poop HF propagation. (Apparently VHF was awesome that day!)
Looking up from the car park at Kirkstone Inn
Warm and sunny during the ascent
Everything inside my Mammut Lithium 32, including antenna pole.
Kirkstone Pass winding it’s way down to Brothers Water
Visibility quite good.
Operating position, 20m/30m on 4m pole.
Edit - changed order of photos.