(Gasp!!) Can such ignorance exist?
I know some knowledgable enthusiasts who add a small drop of water to malt whisky to release the flavours. Over in Northern Ireland, they seem rather fond of putting a single cube of ice in theirs. I remain of the “nothing added” persuasion myself. I do recall many years ago my dad buying me a superb single malt for my birthday. My wife said “Nip up the shop and buy some coke to have that whisky with”! I did, and also bought her a bottle of Canadian rye to have with her coke, before hiding the malt!
Anyway, let’s crack on shall we? The 2nd International SOTA Weekend was to have a different design for the Macclesfield team of Sean M0GIA, Jimmy M3EYP and Tom M1EYP. For the inaugural event last year, we did Gun G/SP-013 for Saturday daytime, The Cloud G/SP-015 for Saturday night and Kinder Scout G/SP-001 for Sunday. This time Sean stated he wanted to do an overnight on Gun. Well, who was I to argue? ISW was Sean’s idea, after all.
Liam was up for the camp, but Jimmy wasn’t. However, a plan was hatched and the three of us set off, late morning on Saturday 1st May 2010. “Kitting up” took much longer than usual at the parking spot, as I loaded myself, Jimmy and Liam up with four HF antennas, two SOTA poles, SB270, WASP, walking poles, tent, tarp, plus two bags of food. I don’t normally invite my lads to accept such a payload, but it was a very short and easy walk. I forgot to start calling them ‘Rooster’ and ‘Peanut’ in honour of the situation though!
I decided to get everything set up first, so having pitched the £11 two-man single skin Sainsbury’s tent, I was still putting HF dipoles up when Sean M0GIA and Daniel arrived. Jimmy made a start on 2m FM using his handheld and the SB270 mounted on WASP Special and Leki pole. I put up the dipoles for 80m, 40m and 30m on the same fishing pole, and the 20m Magic Moggy on the other one, giving myself a selection of feeders at my operating spot - a patch of grass a few feet forward from the tent. It was a calm, sunny and warm afternoon - perfect for ISW. We knew from the forecast there was likely to be a deterioration later, but now was to be enjoyed - even the grass was bone dry allowing us to sit anywhere without a mat and avoid getting wet.
By the time I was QRV, Sean had long been set up. He jibed me that my single band resonant aerials might be more efficient than his 160m to 70cm system, but that he a single feeder and was set up long before me even though he arrived later. I invited him to compare logbooks by the Sunday afternoon, but he was quick to change the subject at that point!
Greg 2E0RXX arrived on summit for some afternoon SOTA, and it seems, to run around being silly with Daniel and Liam! It was nice to have an early visit from a fellow Macclesfield radio amateur.
During the afternoon, I worked on 20m CW and 40m CW. Jimmy did 2m FM and SSB. Not sure what Sean did, but he was keeping busy on the radio and later plucked up courage to work a few on 80m CW. Liam and Dan played around the trig point and surrounding area. Liam was enjoying himself so much that he decided he was camping out that night rather than going home when Marianne picked Jimmy up. S2S made in the first afternoon session included Tom M3XFG/P and James G7MLO/P on Kinder Scout G/SP-001 and Dave GW7SKR/P on Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042. Lunch was served from my flask as usual, but this time it contained only hot water to pour in our Pot Noodles!
At 4pm, I got a text to say that Marianne was at the parking spot. I invited her to walk up, as the path was unusually dry, and to see for herself how much fun Liam was having. She declined as she was expecting visitors for Saturday tea (the visitors happened to be Sean’s XYL Trish and daughter Tash), so I walked down with Jimmy. The reason for me making the trip was that with Liam’s change of heart, I needed to retrieve another sleep mat and sleeping bag from my car.
Back on summit, I kicked off on 30m CW for a short run before connecting up to the 6 element 70cm Yagi for the 70cm contest and the 70cm and up contest! The serial number reached was a breathtaking 005, with 006 added the following morning. As much as I fancied a beer, I decided to take Sean’s advice to leave it to much later so as not to take the edge off the operating.
A brief dabble on 40m SSB failed to completed the attempted S2S with Mads LA1TPA/P on LA/TM-048, so it was then onto 80m for the early evening session. After just four QSOs on CW, things were quiet, so I switched to SSB. Straight away I worked Bill GW4WSB/P on Y Golfa GW/NW-061, followed by a good run on 3.655MHz SSB. Switching to 40m CW I snagged S2S with DK1HW/P on DM/NS-125, HA2VR/P on HA/KD-003 and Z35F/P on Z3/WM-030 in amongst the other QSOs. I then offered up the summit on 2m FM, but attracted only four takers, including Steve GW7AAV for his sole point on ISW, and Jimmy M3EYP enjoying the comfort of the shack and the luxury of a hot buffet!
By now, things had taken a slightly unpleasant turn weather-wise. The warmth and calm of the day had gone. The wind direction had turned 180 degrees, meaning that our site was no longer sheltered whatsoever, and it was cold - and getting colder. Mercifully, there was no rain, but the wind strength increased as the night wore on.
So much for the social element of the SOTA campover. Both Sean and I were now zipped away in our respective tents with out respective sons. Liam’s company was a real pleasure as he enjoyed the simple relaxation of the situation somehow in conjuction with the survival element! Occasionally he would read one of the two magazines he had taken with him - Top Gear magazine and (of course) the Auto Trader - but he was mainly content to huddle in his sleeping bag and emerge occasionally for food (Southern Fried Chicken wrap) and a drink.
The QSO rate slowed as I hopped frequently around the bands and modes, not getting into a sustained running period on any of them. 30m CW, 80m CW, 80m SSB and 40m CW were all sampled. I decided to brave the still worsening weather around 10pm and delivered a can of Stella across to Sean’s tent. Unknown to Sean, his antenna was down, so I propped it back up again. This was the point when I eagerly accepted Sean’s offer of a couple of swigs from his half bottle of Tesco blended Scotch whisky. And you know what? It was great! The same couldn’t be said for Sean’s comment of “This wind is starting to die down now”. Grrr. Let me know your lottery numbers Sean, so I can pick some different ones!
Back in the tent, Liam was dozing off to sleep, but goodness knows how. It was really blowing a hooley out there now, and this was rattleing the tent in almost deafening fashion. I had to turn the volume and the sidetone right up on my 817 in order for it to remain usable! On 40m CW, a contest was in full flow, so I worked a few of them as I myself began to feel really sleepy. Now I was fully horizontal in my sleeping bag, which was lovely and warm. The sleeping bag is rated at “down to -10”, and unlike Andy MM0FMF, both Liam and myself found that T-shirt and pants was more than sufficient nightwear. With my head on the hood of the sleeping bag - with my other clothes under it to turn it into a pillow - I had the Mini Palm Paddle inside the bag with me as I chased the 40m contesters. Occasionally I had to reach my right arm out of the bag to write the logging, but other than that it was very comfortable operating! It was great fun working several USA stations on 40m and exchanging 599 reports!
As we went past the midnight UT day change at 1am BST, I wrote a the new date of Sunday 2nd May 2010 in my logbook and started a “new” activation. This opened well with UA2 (Kaliningrad), but then I decided to try and get some sleep. What I then discovered was that on the fairly uneven ground and with the racket the wind was making, I could sleep for about two hours at a time, before waking up for a bit. At 0233 I was surprised to hear strong signals on 145.550MHz FM, so I broke in and worked both 2E0 stations.
Another two hour sleeping stint, and on nipping outside the tent - as one does - I was dismayed at the scene of carnage outside. The 20m antenna was flat on the ground - but that was OK as I had sensibly laid it down at bedtime. However, the other pole with the three dipoles on it was broken in three places, and the dipoles all on either the ground or the tent. I decided to go back to bed! I was interested to note that every time I did wake up throughout the night, that Sean and Daniel were still chatting away and laughing in the other tent! Liam continued to sleep “like a baby”.
I still didn’t have the stomach for remedial action when I awoke again after a better sleep after 8am. The SB270 on the WASP Special mast assembly was typically “strong as an ox” and had survived the night better then everything else. Even my tent had suffered damage, but nothing that couldn’t be coped with. I connected to the 6 element 70cm beam and worked one more station in the 70cm and Up contest, but then it was time to survey the damage.
The easiest job was to re-erect the 20m Magic Moggy which I had actually lay down before going to bed. Not so easy was the other pole and three dipoles. In fact I had assumed that it would just be 20m and VHF today, but a bit of mind-over-matter later and I was on those bands as well. The largest (bottom) section of the pole was damaged, and no longer locked into place with its neighbour. A piece near the top was damaged, but could be made usable by using the broken bit to insert upside down to stengthen the locking bit. It just meant that the pole was two sections shorter than its optimum!
The problem was the third broken section, halfway up the pole, where the weakness was such that it just flopped over in half as soon as there was any weight on it. I had the idea of using the now moribund bottom section to stand over the weak section as reinforcement. But how to keep it there? I took a couple of spare guy cords from my camping stuff and wrapped and tied them around the pole at the point where I wanted the bigger section to sit. I couldn’t believe it when the whole thing worked! The photos need to be seen to be believed, and they will appear on my website in due course!
The other part of the clear up operation was due to a rubbish bag being ripped off my tent. I soon found the bag and recollected all the rubbish, but started to notice other people’s litter and bagged that up too - it seemed only fair.
Everything up and running again, I kicked off the main morning session on 40m CW enjoying a good run on good old 7.032MHz CW. Before switching antennas, I also tried my luck on 15m CW, bagging just one QSO. Over on 80m, it was a short but sweet run of four on SSB and just one on CW, either side of four on 2m FM.
It was then onto 20m CW playing S+P with the contesters. Roger M0GMG - the chairman of the Macclesfield & DRS summited and was invited to use my “shack” for whatever band and mode he chose. For I had got the call from Marianne that she was at the parking spot. Liam was now ready to go home, so I thanked him for his company and good spirit on the expedition. The idea was to walk down with him, but he shot away at great speed after I had loaded up his rucksack and his hands with equipment to be jettisoned - like his sleeping bag etc. I did follow him down though, with other stuff to dump in my car and hoping to catch a word with my wife. Halfway down, there was Jimmy M3EYP and his mate Edward ascending, so I gave Jimmy a few updates and told him I would see him later.
I drove down to Tittesworth Reservoir where Marianne and Liam had gone for a drink and some lunch. After a brief stop there, I drove back up and ascended Gun for the third time in two days. Hang on - isn’t the idea of an overnighter to actually do LESS ascents than the number of activations?!?!
I had promised Jimmy he could use the 817 to do HF SSB and 2m SSB on the Sunday, so I had to be patient while he was operating, just diving in occasionally for any S2S that were going. These included ON5CMB/P on ON/ON-021 and Steve G1INK/P on Fair Snape Fell G/SP-007 both on 40m SSB. On 2m SSB, there was Tony 2E0LAE/P also on Fair Snape Fell G/SP-007 and Geoff 2W0BTR/P on Beacon Hill G/MW-009.
Steadily, we worked our way through the picnic sent up with Jimmy from Marianne, and also used another flask of hot water to make up Pot Noodles which were a welcome source of hot food.
After a couple of QSOs on 2m FM and a couple on 30m CW, it was then 20m CW virtually to the end of the expedition. This was still in S+P mode in a very busy contest, but finished with a S2S with Z30A/P on Z3/WM-052 on 14.058MHz CW. When a self-spotted run on 7.031MHz CW dried up after just four QSOs, I realised it was time to begin packing away.
Thanks to Jimmy, Edward and myself working together on the task, we were leaving the summit at around 5.15pm BST, and thoughts turned to the hill opposite. “Have you ever been up The Cloud?” I asked Edward, but Jimmy immediately piped up “And I want to see what the fire has done”. So that was it, we were off to the Cloud!
I was extremely tired, so it was no suprise that Jimmy and Edward (Jedward???) left me for dead at the foot of the stairs. The did wait for me at the National Trust boundary, which was kind of them. Now Jimmy could begin to survey the devasting extent of the fire damage to the hillside as we walked up to the summit. Edward admired the superb panorama of his home region, which he was seeing for the first time. Jimmy worked on 2m FM with his handheld, making 3 contacts, while I set up for 30m CW and worked 13 stations.
And then it really was time to go home. It had been different. It had been challenging. It had been cold. It had been windy. It had been rewarding. Low points? There weren’t any, just situations that became challenges to be relished and overcome. High points? Plenty. Lots of contacts. Some DX. Lots of bands and modes. The other Macclesfield members putting themselves out to support and participate in the activity. The Pot Noodles. The laughs with Sean and Daniel (Daniel never stopped laughing for 24 hours!). The excellent companionship and expeditioning spirit of my son Liam. But the highlight? Swigging cheap Tesco blended Scotch whisky from the bottle in a Force 8 gale! Priceless!