SOTA in Somerset

Foul weather today in the UK meant we were the only stations activating SOTA on our Island. The wind, rain and hail let up enough for us to activate three Somerset summits near to Minehead on 2m FM.

SC-006 Periton Hill 5 QSOs 4 miles walked, hail and rain sheltered from wind by a wood. QRV 15 mins

SC-001 Dunkery Beacon 5 QSOs 1.8 miles walked, hail, rain and wind sheltered behind topographic trig point. QRV 15 mins.

SC-005 Selworthy Beacon 6 QSOs 0.6 miles walked, rain and wind with golf brolly deployed. QRV 17 mins.

Radio Yaesu FT-1500m 40 watts from 5 amp LIPO
Aerial half wave vertical dipole 3m AGL

The Vodafone coverage was flakey so many thanks to our friend Don G0RQL in Devon for hearing us and spotting.

On our way back to Bristol we found a farm shop with cafe. They served us a cream tea, and I’ve never had clotted cream that was so delicious, lovely!

73 From Op’s Phil G4OBK & Geoff 2E0NON

PS I was in Bath yesterday Xmas shopping. As I left the city I was overrtaken by a prestigious motor - registration 1NKY. I wondered if this was our Steve…

1 Like

You should have flashed your headlights Phil, I missed you, :slight_smile:

1 Like

Nice one Steve, you gave us a laugh!

Hello Phil & Geoff,

Well done. I thought ‘bat ears’ Don RQL would track/help you :wink:

I didn’t know Steve drove a German car!

Despite the weather for you both today I think it was good timing as it seems it is to go worse.

Night night

Nah, it’s only a teeny 2L 4-pot thumper that makes 167bhp & 210Nm. The number plate is worth more than the car. :slight_smile:

Good going activating on a day like today. We had wind and some snow. Most of the snow has melted but what’s left is freezing nicely under the clear skies.

How vulgar!


73 de G3NYY

Unfortunately not enough grunt to get back up to me here in Northampton - I need Periton to complete the SC’s. I was ready to put out 750W ERP in your direction, but if you can’t hear a signal, you can’t work the station. Hmmm, heard that in another thread some time ago…

Well done on braving the elements chaps!

73, Gerald G4OIG

Hi Phil & Geoff

Well done! The cream tea sounded good too.

Nick G4OOE

Thanks to all for your comments, full write up below…
73 de Phil

With more time available the three summits of G/SC-001 Dunkery Beacon, G/SC-005 Selworthy Beacon and G/SC-006 Periton Hill could well form the basis of a moderate two day expedition from Minehead of around 17 miles, or a one day challenge of the same distance. The total ascent of a typical route would be less than 4000 feet. I say typical route, as there are so many accessible and well maintained public rights of way crossing the area, which would make this a superb itinerary.

However, due to the lack of time we used a car to get between summits, so the total distance walked was a shade over 5 miles with 850 feet of ascent… We drove down to the area from Bristol where I was staying for a few days, with Geoff 2E0NON picking me up en-route from his home near Malvern. We met up at the Cribbs Cross Shopping Park at junction 17 just off the M5 north of Bristol at 7.15am. Leaving Geoff with a 90 minute drive to the car park serving our first summit at Periton Hill. The weather was blustery, with frequent showers and hail on and off throughout the day. Operation on HF would have proved difficult, and I was carrying my golf brolly to at least protect the small VHF mobile radio from water damage…

Equipment for the day:

Yaesu FT-1500M 145 MHz FM Transceiver with 40 watts output with two 5 AH LiPO batteries

Short 3.5m fishing pole supporting a half wave end fed vertical dipole

G/SC-006 Periton Hill QRV 0953z - 1007z 145.300 FM

All three summits from the most convenient parking areas could be deemed “easy”. For Periton Hill we parked at the top of the tarmac road in an area well used by dog walkers and outdoor types SS 963447. A 30 minute walk on good tracks of less than 1.5 miles took us to the trig point which seemed the most convenient point on which to set up our 145 MHz half wave end fed dipole at 12 feet AGL. Looking north towards Wales, where we thought our likely contacts would come from, appeared to be obscured by the ridge across Selworthy Beacon (308m). This was only a shade higher than where we were set up at 295m. This distant ridge wasn’t a problem however and contacts were made into Wales. Vodafone coverage from here was flakey, as it was on all three summits, but somehow self spots were generated using the RRT App and we scaped by with just five contacts.

We returned by car to the A39 and turned left to head for our second summit of Dunkery Beacon to collect our first winter bonus points of the 2014/2015 winter…

G/SC-001 Dunkery Beacon (Somerset County Top) QRV 1152z - 1201z

From the roadside parking spot at SS 904420 we could see the large permanent feature of a concreted cairn (built in 1935) on the summit of Dunkery Beacon, just short of one mile away. We used the Macmillan Way LDP to get there in less than 20 minutes. The rain was holding off when we arrived and we snuggled behind the topographic trig point for shelter. The panorama over Exmoor and to the Bristol Channel and all around was superb and we could watch the weather coming in, which indeed it did towards the end of our short activation.

Don G0RQL (Holsworthy) was the first station worked of six, Don is a good friend and regular SOTA enthusiast who I often hear and indeed work on HF SSB from my home station in North Yorkshire. We were soon back at the car for a bite to eat before heading down into Minehead on our way to the third summit of the day Selworthy Beacon.

The appropriately named Hill Road took us over North Hill west of Minehead to the parking place for Selworthy Beacon. We pulled up at SS 92304788 and parked alongside the track. The walk to the summit took less than five minutes, and we set up behind some thick gorse bushes deploying the golf brolly, which was guyed down. This provided sufficent protection for the radio from the rain and hailstones…

With another five stations logged we left the summit and made our way back to the M5 at Bridgwater. On the way there we stopped off at Blackmore Farm Shop Cafe just before Cannington for this… a cream tea…you can’t get cream like this in Yorkshire, fantastic, thick, and produced by hand - recommended!

The day’s “catch” logged by G4OBK and 2E0NON

So that is it for me in 2014, no SOTA Activating now for me until January when we head for South Wales to conquer a few more Marilyns for Summits On The Air… I’ve had a good year in SOTA with portable operation from 10 Countries with 77 SOTA Completes done and 350 Activator Points earned.

For more pictures of our day motoring and walking on Exmoor please see my blog

Hi Phil,

Thanks for an interesting report - always useful when planning an activation.

Please would you give details of the battery pack and charger are you using?
I’ve been experimenting with an FT-1500M and found it temperamental with a
LiFePO4 battery (tending to shut down on transmit) but fine with an old SLAB.
Measuring the voltage at the moment of shutdown is proving somewhat tricky,
so I have not yet managed to figure out exactly what is going wrong…

73, John M0VCM

Hi John

I find the old FT-1500M a super little radio for SOTA 2m FM work. We call it the “Pocket Rocket”.

Purchased for £80 about two years ago second hand but made in June 2002. The radio pushes out about 40 watts from a 3S1P 11.1v three cell Lithium Polymer 5 AH Battery with the brand name Turnigy. I have two of these, as do several of my SOTA pals in Yorkshire. These are available on the popular auction site and other places. See picture. My FT-1500M does not have a propensity to cut out when used with the LiPO battery like yours does with the LiFePO. I have never tried to run it until the battery flattens, however at 11v there is no problem with cut out. There are plenty of activators in SOTA with more knowledge of LiFePO4 batteries than I have. I know DF2GN Klaus in Germany uses them on HF with great success, as does G1INK and probably many others.

The charger is one of the IMAX B6AC chargers, which when purchased are notoriously unreliable. Mine is a good one and is now over 5 years old - apart from it being an excellent radio jammer on some ham bands (10m especially) when charging batteries. These charges are programmable and will charge the 3 cell LiPO batteries up to a pre-set voltage of 12.4V. I usually set the caharging current at 2 amps. Charger is also pictured.

I hope you find out the cause of the cut out problem.

73 Phil G4OBK

It’s quite a cute idea that you and John G4YSS have to use a high power FM set for 2m SOTA activations. These sets are ubiquitous and cheap on the secondhand market. They enable a good 2m FM only activation where a handy or barefoot 817 would be too QRP. Ideal for something which is anything but a smash-and-grab activation but is not a long term stay on a summit.

@M0VCM, John. Your LiFEPo should be able to handle a high power load. Obviously the length of time you can run such powers depends on the capacity. But if you are having issues with a fully charge unit then the following could be responsible.

Faulty LiFEPo. Maybe a cell is not holding charge resulting in the voltage collapsing within minutes of use.
Faulty cable/connection: Poor crimping/soldering, underspecificed cable could result in excessive voltage drop in the cable. Once the voltage on the cell starts to drop, the extra drop in the cable puts the voltage below reliable.

You could make up a load for the cell, say several car bulbs in parallel, connect them across the battery and measure the voltage under load. It should be repeatable where the FT1500 will shutdown and stop loading the cell. A 55W headlamp bulb (careful, they get damn hot in use) will load up 12V to nominally 4.5A which will be less than the 1500 would draw on load but in the right area. If the voltage hardly drops when you load it up then the LiFEPo is probably OK. You would need to see if you could use the FT1500 cable to drive a lamp to check that.

One other point… inline fuses are notorious for going high resistance. You measure them off load and everything is fine and dandy. Pull some current and the voltage drops to 8V or so. Check the contacts are clean etc. and they are making good contact.

Hi Phil,

Nice looking rig and seems similar to the Yaesu FT-90, I purchased a few years ago. The FT-90 is tiny and is loaded with bells and whistles… Sadly, they are no longer manufacutured by Yaesu and are quite difficult to find, commanding a high price on the second hand market.

Weighing in at just 640g and providing up to 50 Watts on 2m and 35 Watts on 70cm, these are a dream to carry in a rucksack.

73 Mike

They’re nice sets Mike. I should have bought one when one of the dealers was selling them off as Yaesu had just discontinued them. ISTR they were half price inc. full warranty. :moneybag:

And you can use them to heat your hands on cold day as they get a bit toasty warm when run at full QRO!

I’m using LiPos now Phil… I’ve learned to fuse them at the right point the hard way…

Just a friendly reminder to make sure you fuse the damn things and not expose any chance of short BEFORE the fuses.

Filled my kitchen with smoke and fire - the missus was well pleased. Ooh… and don’t forget to send me an email if you’d like the resulting photo of my hand.

Rob G7LAS/fingerless

Doh! That could have burnt a man’s shed down Rob… I hope the worktop wasn’t badly damaged.

Yes they are a potent beast and can pack a punch as owners of some Sony laptops know only too well. When disconnecting and connecting I always remove the battery connection end first. Deadly - you can understand why the postal companies and airlines are nervous…

73 Phil

Funny thing was… I was thinking at the time, if I was watching someone else do it like this then i’d be screaming at them! And then BANG!

What a wally…

Hi Phil,

Thanks very much for the battery and charger details. It was very
kind of you to take a photo to accompany the text. Good to know
the FT-1500M will run down to 11V despite what the manual says.

Further tests suggest my LiFePO is working OK (see below) but
it was purchased with a much larger rig in mind - your LiPo looks
far more appropriate than my Tracer 16Ah golf trolley battery!

I spotted my FT-1500M on a well-known auction site and bought
it with SOTA in mind. Just need to find a smaller battery now, so
thanks again for the information and for sharing your experience.

73, John M0VCM

Hi Andy,

Thank you very much for your advice!

I took the inline fuses out of their holders and was surprised
to find some corrosion on the blades. After cleaning them I
found the radio no longer drops out on transmit at full power,
but there is 1.5V across the cable for a nominal 8A current.
Happily the LiFePO ouput hardly moves, even with full load.

Like Phil @G4OBK my FT-1500M is second-hand. I already
replaced the microphone cable (it had split) but it looks like
a new power cable and fuse assembly would be a good idea.

73, John M0VCM

The dirty fuse is a classic failure mode.

Mr Ohm tells us that P = VI. So for your cable + fuse: P = 1.5 * 8 = 12W. Definitely needs some more looking at. It could still be dirty connectors. Or just wimpy wire.