Report added - Top Band Madness - week 8

Episode 6 of the increasingly inaccurately named mid-week madness trilogy.

Over the past 6 weeks many people had said that Ben @GW4BML and I must be mad going out on to the hills on a winter’s night. This was the first time that I felt that perhaps they may be right

GW/SW-013 Tor y Foel

It would have been rude not to visit being so close to Waun Rydd.

We had planned an earlier meet up than previous weeks. The drive through the Brecon beacons was stunning in the evening light. Ben was slightly delayed which allowed time for a long chat with the local farmer, a lovely chap. I kicked off the conversation by asking if my parking spot would cause any inconvenience as I was planning on walking to the summit with a friend. Without prompting he started telling me about some charming fellow who comes to Tor Y Foel every year, who sets up huge antennas to talks to his friends on the radio, I suspect that he was referring to Rick @M5RJC and Cathy from his description.

We raced up the hill for a quick activation on 2m FM and 40m CW, enjoying the pleasant evening, and the sheltered spot north of the summit recommend by Mal @GW6OVD and Ian @2W0IWM . Lee 2W0LPU reported that my signal was unexpectedly weak and suggested that I check my antenna. The white plastic dielectric insert had fallen out of my BNC plug, great spot Lee. After a pleasant run of stations we sprinted back to the cars, eager get to Waun Rydd.

GW/SW-004, Waun Rydd

The walk to Waun Rydd passed in an hour of pleasant conversation, Ben and I do like a chat. The walk starts with a steep ascent. Darkness plays strange tricks on the brain: Over recent weeks we have noticed that you tend to walk much faster on steep ascents in darkness than you would in daylight, wondering why you feel so weak and tired, later to be astounded by how steep the terrain is when you return on your decent. After the brutal start the path eases with a pleasant mile or so walking along the edge of a high plateau. It was at this stage that we noticed the wind building. The final ascent to the summit cairn is on ill-defined paths with uneven ground and thick heather, but we thought that we had a plan for this. The activation zone encompasses several hundred meters of a well-defined path, eliminating the need for bush whacking.

As we approached the summit, the wind was funneling straight up the valley and getting stronger. Our plans of staying on the path were abandoned as we bush whacked through the heather to drop down into shelter in the lee of the hill. The wind wasn’t following the rules last night and was just as strong over the back of the hill. We plodded around in the darkness for a while looking for some natural shelter before giving up and setting up camp in the wind. We should probably have kept looking.

Ben set to erecting the beast, our full sized 160m dipole, while I set-up our shelter.

Setting up the Tarp shelter was a nightmare. The wind seemed to be playing with me, maliciously flapping the farthest corner of the tarp and launching the previously secure pegs to hide in the heather. Eventually the shelter was erected but the wind seemed to have backed by 45 degrees and was now flattening one side of the shelter. It would have to do.

Ben had brought his Sotabeams Tactical 7m, compact heavy-duty pole ‘to save weight’. It is a really sturdy and well-made pole, but felt nearly as heavy as the Spiderbeams 10m pole that we had used previous week, fortunately the pole was on Ben’s pack this week, which felt much better to me.

We pulled our bags into the shelter and looked at each other for a moment before bursting into laughter. It was blowing a howling gale. The forecast had been fine, objectively, conditions were no worse than previous week’s but it felt horrendous. I had promised several stations that I would contact them on 2m, but as I looked out of the shelter the heavens opened with torrential rain. I am sorry; if you were there you would understand.

Ben set-up the Icom 705 and MAT-705 atu. We decided to start on 160m SSB, sharing the mike to ensure that we had 4 contacts in the log before the shelter collapsed or was ripped to shreds. We had cautiously alerted for 21:00 UTC and managed our first contact, Luc @ON7DQ at 20:58. Over the next 40 minutes we worked 18 stations. These were our friends and weren’t conversation to be rushed.

Part way through a QSO there was a sudden jump in SWR and a report that our signal has dropped 2-3 S points. Ben poked his head out of the shelter and advised that the antenna and the pole had vanished. A quick press on the tune button and we were back in business, and still managing to get a 59 from John @GI4OSF from our 10W. We later discovered the pole laying flat on the ground, having narrowly missed us, draping the antenna wire over our shelter. Ben made a further 9 CW contacts on 160m, with really strong signals from our EI/ GI friends over the water.

The highlight of the night was the Top band, summit to summit contact on SSB and CW with Adrian @G4AZS who made a special trip to G/WB-005, Long Mynd - Pole Bank for the occassion. Thank you Adrian, that was something special.

The weather was now thoroughly unpleasant. The shelter was doing a great job, but was thrashing wildly in the wind, and the condensation was gently raining down on us.

It was with a heavy heart that we conceded defeat on activating 80m or 2m. We knew that our friends were waiting up in their shacks for us. Hopefully you saw our spot letting you know.

After two flasks of tea and far too many cakes, we braved the elements and packed away our station.

It was a pity that we hadn’t activated all of our promised bands, but what we had achieved felt good. There are only 24 stations on the all-time, all association, all mode, 160m band, summit to summit role of honour, and only ourselves, Adrian @G4AZS, and John @G4YSS from the UK.

The wind was now coming from the West and the rain had stopped. A large section of the walk back to the car was in shelter, we forgot about the conditions on the summit and talked about our plans for next Wednesday night.

73 Kevin & Ben

Roedd hi’n wyntog iawn


Thanks for a brilliant report Kevin. A great read! Mid-week madness does seem like an apt description for your activation yesterday! However, looks like you had fun, and made it safely back down again with enough contacts to qualify. A successful trip! Looking forward to the next installment…

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Great report Kevin, I don’t think I’d have coped with that weather!
I had thought of trying a very low antenna, but now you’ve done the experiment for me :rofl:



Difficult to work you on Top Band, Ben and Kevin. It was a constant up and down. Sometimes I heard you with a good signal- seconds later you was gone again. Repeat…
Thanks for the activation. I am looking forward to the next one!

73 de Michael/ei3gyb


If that is madness, I think we could do with more of it! To me it was enterprise and hill walking savvy, and it paid dividends. I was listening from the moment Adrian opened his innings on CW (and yes, I was reading his morse) until you guys closed down, when the fun factor was trumped by conditions. In my time on the hill loss of fun has always been the factor that prompted an orderly retreat! I was impressed by how busy Top Band was, and that despite my local noise level I only failed to hear one of the stations that you worked while I was listening to you rather than Adrian. Thank you for your “madness”, I thoroughly enjoyed it!


Well done Chaps. The antenna impresses me less than the fact that you two carry your own body weight in snacks.


A very nice story, I enjoyed reading.
Well done, sure you need a good mate to accomplish such a plan at night: I wouldn’t try that alone myself!

Good luck in your next one and wishing to hear you on air if I can.
73 Ignacio

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I’ve been a bit slow realising my easiest summit for a night activation (G/DC-003) might be suitable for a 160m antenna. I had ruled it out because the areas I’ve used previously are full of gorse and bushes but at night the grass areas on the summit which are busy during the day should be empty. However, it is used by lots of dog walkers so there may still be hazards underfoot!

I need to check my antenna, which is an end fed random wire strung between two masts. It works in the SSB section of the band with the IC-705 and AH-705 tuner but it won’t tune to the CW section. I will try it with a longer counterpoise first but may have to add more wire to the main element.

If I can get it to work I will give it a try - assuming reasonable weather!


Episode 7 - GW/MW-002 Great Rhos

Continuing the theme of midweek, night-time SOTA activations by Ben @GW4BML and myself, Kevin MW0KXN.

Sharing an activation with Ben is great fun, his enthusiasm and joy of life are contagious, his fitness and stamina is remarkable. Burning the candle at both ends for 7 weeks has left me exhausted, so we arranged a slightly earlier start time of 17:00 hrs this week with the promise of an earlier departure to give me a few more hours sleep before work on Thursday.

The weather forecast had predicted a dry night, some clouds, 25-30 km/h winds, and a wind chill of -8C. We started our ascent in a gentle drizzle and light breeze, and were able to enjoy fine views over the rolling mid-Wales hills as the evening light faded. Where was the wind?

Once we reached the summit we fell into our now well practiced roles. Ben set up the antenna pole while I erected our shelter and then joined Ben as we each marched 40m in opposite direction to set-up the full sized top band dipole. Tonight’s trap shelter was to be a triangular pyramid, which proved to be very spacious, easy to erect and good match for conditions.

The fun started off with a top band summit to summit with Adrian, @G4AZS who was on G/WB-003, Stiperstones with a solid 59 report both ways. We switched to 2m FM to check is there were any takers and swiftly worked 10 stations. I think that our mid-week antics must be getting noticed as I have previously struggled on 2m at this time of day. My suspicions were confirmed when our CQ call on 160m SSB was met by a pile up with a further 15 stations; lots of friends and many familiar callsigns from the reflector. Best top band DX were Mike, MM7MWL in Scotland, Michael, EI3GYB in Ireland, and Cor, PA3BO in the Netherlands. Ben worked a 7 station 160m CW.

Throughout the activation we had heard what we thought was gentle rain. On emerging from the shelter to unclip the antenna links I was greeted by a winter wonderland of snow and fog making it difficult to find the ends of the antenna.

80m appeared to be in great conditions with 18 stations calling in on SBB, all 59, and Ben working a further 11 stations on CW.

We managed to activate all of our alerted bands this week, and had managed this in comfort. The summit was very wet and boggy, it was snowing, temperatures were below freezing, but we were comfortable. It’s amazing what a difference the wind makes.

Thank you to the loyal bunch of SOTA chasers that have made these activations so much fun. We are having a week off next week and hope to return on Wednesday 8th March.

73 Kevin MW0KXN


Top work fellas!

I listened in on my Mini Whip hung from the shack roof. At first I could only hear faint whispers on 160m SSB, but just before the switch to CW I was hearing SSB at workable strength.

160m CW would have been workable.

Wednesday is my work day, so Wednesday nights are not good for me after a 9-10 hr shift and 12,000 steps plus. (Home delivery driver)
I would be tempted to go out to try for a 160m S2S otherwise.

Home brew PA0RDT Mini-Whip

73, Colin


I am not sure that they are very good for me either Colin.

Great work on the Mini Whip. It would be great to work you on 160m and a top band summit to summit would be a real treat. A goal for another day :slight_smile:


You’re not wrong! And admiration levels growing every week as those of us in cosy shacks contemplate your latest wintry evening on the hills. Well done Kevin and Ben - great to work you on Top Band with excellent signals here in Aberdeenshire. 73 Mike


Great report @MW0KXN Kevin and a very enjoyable evening had with great company :ok_hand: at last the wx enabled us to activate on 160/80m SSB/CW and 2m FM - happy days! A week of madness off next week, but deffo looking forward to the following week! 73


Ben @GW4BML and I will be activating [SOTLAS](https://GW/SW-003 Fan Brycheiniog) this evening. We aim to work 160m and 80m CW and SSB, and 2m FM. There is an alert on SOTAWatch and we will post spots for each band.

Apologies for change of plan at short notice, the weather looks foul tomorrow evening.

We hope to speak to you later.

73 Kevin & Ben

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It’s snowing here at the moment :rofl:

Might not be too bad later, I’ve alerted for Corndon GW/MW-013…



160m this evening…
Just bumping this up the Reflector, as it is short notice!

Setting off in a few minutes…

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After looking at the weather radar I reckon that’s pretty brave!

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That’s the kind word for it! Parked up, but fingers completely numb booting up! Alert cancelled…

Heading home :grin:


Hi Adrian,
Thank you for attempting to get out on a hill for another top band summit to summit. Apologies for the short notice, I can’t help feeling that we messed you about.

Our activation didn’t go to plan, not making our first contact until after 21:00 so I am glad that you were not waiting on a hill. Ben @GW4BML is preparing an activation report which should be up on the reflector later today.

73, Kevin


Hi Kevin,

I’m glad you made it, I did listen from home. Nothing heard on 160m, and though I could just hear you both on 80, my local noise was stronger! My home doublet is really too short and too low to work well on either band.

It was no big deal for me to try a local summit, and your exploits have given me lots of fun playing with aerials and reading up about possible compromises. Roll on sping!

Looking forward to Ben’s report…