Having alerted for the datamode operation on Monday, it was just left to make a last-minute decision on the actual summit. Despite a forecast of dry weather, the sky looked quite threatening, so it seemed logical to visit the summit requiring the least climb from the parking place. So, Firle Beacon, G/SE-010, it was!
I arrived to find the parking area virtually full, but managed to find a space. There was a brisk southerly wind dropping the temperature to 8C, and the clouds from the Channel were wreathing the hilltop in mist. Suitably attired, I set off to the actual summit, totally alone and wondering where the occupants of all those cars had gone.
Having set up, I had a brief panic when the receiver sounded “too quiet”, but I persevered with a self-spot and CQ on 7043.5 using PSK31. My fears were allayed when the first signal, from HB9MKV, came in loud and clear. Five further QSOs entered the log, including “regulars” Milan OM7OM, John GW4ZPL and Terry G0VWP, before the well ran dry.
I then moved to 10141 and repeated the process. Once more Milan and Terry were waiting, along with a further four chasers, all at good signal strengths.
My final foray was onto 14081, but this time using RTTY. This was another success, with the ubiquitous Milan OM7OM amongst the five callers in the log. By this time I was starting to feel the cold, so it was time to pack the station away and head back to the car which was, by this time, alone in the car park. Wherever all those other walkers had been, it was not near me as the summit had been spookily quiet.
So, lessons learned?
PSK31 is a slow mode, and callers even slightly off-frequency need a “tweak” to be readable. This can result a leap-frog chase as each participant adjusts the frequency slightly. I found that I nearly went beyond the bandwidth of my filter on a couple of occasions, and had to re-centre the signal between QSOs. May I also suggest that chasers think carefully about the macros they choose to send? When I am sitting on a cold summit, a detailed station description including inside-leg measurement is both superfluous and frustrating, as I only note the callsign and RSQ (plus summit reference if I ever manage an s2s). My thanks to those who just send the vital data.
In contrast, RTTY is much faster, and slight frequency offsets do not require re-setting. All five of my RTTY contacts were happy to just send me the 599 and 73, thus saving valuable battery power.
Overall, SOTA by datamode is very enjoyable. It is like the early days of CW, where it was always a gamble if the requisite four QSOs would be found before cold, or lack of volts, would force the activation to finish.
Next is a trip to a French summit, probably in the middle of next week, and with a greater emphasis on RTTY. Many thanks to all those chasers who found me; it would be pointless without you!
73 de Les