The weekend was written off in terms of uniques or points scoring in SOTA for me. The reason for this was that my youngest son Liam, 11, was involved in a 14 mile hike in the Staffordshire Moorlands, including an overnight camp, with his scout group. I needed to stay local, and in mobile 'phone contact. Furthermore, I reckoned that Liam’s enjoyment would be reduced or even eradicated by carrying full pack with sleeping bag, roll mat and clothes. I decided to “sherpa” this stuff up to the Saturday evening campsite, and collect it again on Sunday morning thus enabling Liam to walk with just a daysack.
As it turned out, this worked really well, and Liam loved his hike and camp. Uncharacteristically, he maintained a decent pace over both days and kept up with his fellow scouts and leaders. The Saturday was poor weather with heavy hail showers and strong winds, but the Sunday was glorious, and the scouts were in fine spirits as they awoke to a glorious clear sunny morning, after camping overnight in snow and temperatures of 5 degrees below freezing.
As I collected Liam’s stuff up at Gradbach Scout Camp that morning, I stood with a couple of the leaders admiring the stunning sun-bathed moorland views. I started to feel intensely jealous of Liam having a day ahead of him out in this.
It was time to grab a piece of the Staffordshire Moorlands action for myself. Needing to remain in close contact, a long walk was out of the question. Short walk? Staffordshire Moorlands? Only one contender - Gun G/SP-013!
As I parked up on the side of Gun Moor, so were others. Berghaus jackets were being pulled on, dogs put on leads and cameras stuffed in pockets. Classic walking weather had certainly drawn the crowds.
I set up the Magic Mogia Antenna - that’s an attempt to “christen” Sean’s high performing aerial, which merits a catchier name than his own “vertical” - a few feet past the trig point in the heather. The first call on 14.013MHz CW brought, unusually, not a Ukrainian, but a chaser - Reg G3WPF. The next twenty minutes or so brought a healthy mix of answers from SOTA chasers and non-SOTA Eastern Europeans in roughly equal measure.
DXCCs worked on 20m CW were: G, YU, 9A, DL, HA, UR, I, OE, LY, UA9, SP, S5, RA, OK, SM, ES and LZ.
I then thought about doing 20m SSB to give Jimmy M3EYP, who I guessed would be in the shack at home by this stage, and others a chance to work the summit. However, upon tuning through 14.100MHz to 14.350MHz it was clear that the WPX contest would not permit me to hold my own frequency.
Instead, I decided to run up and down the band answering the WPX contest stations and see what I could work. Results were pleasing, with my 5 watts being worked by: YU, LY, EA, HA, OH, I, S5, UA9, CT, 9A, YU6, ES, UR, W, 5B, VP5 and E7. I was astonished to have my call answered by VP59V from Turks & Caicos Islands, but it was an easier contact than several of the European ones. He was still putting in a strong signal on an otherwise dead band when I heard him in the shack at 11pm.
So the total for the activation was 50 QSOs and 25 DXCCs. Towards the end, a man and a woman strode purposefully towards me. I could then see he was carrying a pole. A handshake was offered: “Gordon G0EWN” he announced. “Tom M1EYP” I replied. I had a brief chat with Gordon and his wife, who had come over from Sheffield to mop up Gun and Cloud in this glorious weather.
As I started to pack away my station, I overheard the familiar voice of my son calling in one of Gordon’s 2m FM pile-ups. I had an idea, so a legged it over to Gordon’s station and asked if I may use it to grab a quick word with Jimmy when he was to be called in.
Gordon worked Mike GW0DSP and then called in Jimmy M3EYP. After the contact, Gordon kindly passed the microphone, and I worked Jimmy for my 50th and final contact of the activation, and my one and only on 2m. More importantly, I advised Jimmy to be ready to be picked up in about 50 minutes, to go out to The Cloud to meet Gordon.
I finished packing away, hurried down to the car, quickly worked Gordon for a chaser point (causing him some amusement, me being 30m lower than the summit and in visual contact as well as radio!) and got on the road to Macc. Jimmy was ready and waiting at the home QTH, and we carried swiftly on and made for The Cloud G/SP-015. And the contrast in the activation style would be huge!