Firstly, thanks for Mark and everyone else involved in organising this great weekend!
I only reconnected with amateur radio, after a nearly 40 year break, around the start of this year and discovered SOTA which appealed greatly to me. Living in Cambridgeshire I don’t have any local summits, so the opportunity for a weekend activating was too good to miss.
At fairly last minute I found a campsite just outside Kendal and enjoyed(!) a Friday drive up the M6, diverting off for a quick activation of G/NP-015 late on Friday afternoon to try out my build of Stephan @HB9EAJ 's 7 band EFHW in a proper open space. This worked well but I had a nightmare with CW, despite having been getting on ok chasing at home. So I decided to continue with SSB for the rest of the weekend and try to sort out the CW later.
I set my alarm for 06:30 Saturday morning to try to ensure I could find space to park the camper van at Kirkstone Pass, but I needn’t have worried as it was only around half full. Made up a flask of coffee and set off for my first summit G/LD-018 Stony Cove Pike. Now I should perhaps mention that my last serious hill walking was in my 20s when as a post grad I was warmly welcomed into the hill walking club at uni since I was old enough to drive the 18 seater minibus. So my route planning may have been based more on what my young legs would have been happy with, but hey now we are here…
Setting out the weather wasn’t too promising to start with:
Having seen the MWIS forecast the night before I decided to take the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical rather than the wire antenna, as I was more confident it would survive the forecast 30+ mph winds.
Saturday morning G/LD-018 Stony Cove Pike:
15 QSO: 2x80m, 6x20m, 2x17m, 5x2m with 9 s2s, best DX 1634km to EA4R on 17m SSB
It was nice to work @GI0AZA and @GI0AZB on 80m and I had a 59 both ways chat on 20m with S57S about the IC-705, even though he was beaming the wrong way into Russia.
I realised I would have to keep my sessions short if I wanted to make the trip to High Street and back, but really felt like I wanted to get a decent walk in so packed up around midday, after a quick 2m FM contact with Stuart @G1ZAR who was already on High Street with his VHF & microwave gear. The weather was starting to dry out a bit now, although the rocks descending into Threshtwaite Mouth were quite slippery and I was able to donate my roll of electrical tape to another walker whose shoe had fallen apart.
There were glimpses of better weather ahead though:
Saturday afternoon G/LD-011 High Street:
10 QSO: 3x40m, 4x20m, 2x17m, 1x2m with 5 s2s, best DX 2717km to UR3LM on 20m SSB
Radio and sandwiches deployed on High Street:
I was setup on High Street at around 2pm and had a quick s2s with Andy @MM0FMF back on Stony Cove Pike before a few contacts on 40/20/17m. It was going to have to be a quick session to have time to get back to the campsite, shower and eat before heading to the pub. The wind started to pick up with some quite strong gusts at this point. Finished with a call from Christian @F4WBN and then time to prepare for Threshtwaite Mouth again!
Leaving High Street:
Overall on Saturday about 6 hours walking and 2.5 hours operating which perhaps wasn’t the optimum way to build up my chaser points, but I did enjoy being back in the hills.
On Sunday I had to fit in an activation before travelling the 6 hours back to Cambridge, so decided to try Greyrigg Forest as it was on my way and didn’t have too high an activation count. Following a tip off from Andy 'FMF I parked in a lay-by by the B-road at 613 998 from where you go through the gate opposite, cross the sheep field diagonally to pickup a wall and about half way along there’s a place to climb over the wall then straight up the hill. There’s no path, just foot high grasses, thistles and some wild flowers. Once on the top its a short walk along to the trig point.
What a contrast to Saturday! The sun came out, the ground was dry and I had the summit to myself. I took the 7 band EFHW and when I switched on the radio on 17m - boom - S9+ JA station calling CQ. Unfortunately he wanted to rag chew with serial 400w+ stations so after a couple of calls I soon gave up as I didn’t want to waste too much time. But the bands were in good shape and I later heard another JA station on 20m who was also quite strong.
Sunday morning G/LD-038 Greyrigg Forest:
25 QSO: 1x40m, 13x20m, 5x17m, 10x2m with 19 s2s, best DX 3131km to EA8YN on 17m SSB
I could have happily stayed here all day - no one else around except a Buzzard circling overhead and the occasional flock of small birds using the EFHW as a perch. Wonderful 360deg views, warm and a gentle breeze.
It was great to meet everyone and I had a really enjoyable, if all too short, weekend.
ps. to conclude the CW story, whilst a lot of the problem is almost certainly my lack of experience, I found the root cause of why the dash paddle appeared to be a bit sticky. I was using one of the CWMorse 3d printed keys, and when I took apart this week I found that they have made a mistake in the design/manufacturing. The M3 caged bearings need to be clamped by a washer no larger than 5mm OD, otherwise the washer or nut bridges the inner and outer part of the bearing, rendering the bearing useless. They appear to get away with this by not tightening up the nut properly, however once it moves a bit it can start to bind. I’ve ordered some small M3 shim washers that should fix the problem.