The Annual Club Xmas SOTA Outing

This seems to have become a fixture in the calendar of the Macclesfield & District Radio Society. Last year, we convened on a cold and wet The Cloud G/SP-015 and made contact with the chaps on Holtankollen LA/TM-049.

Our new chairman Greg 2E0RXX announced that this year’s trip would be to Shining Tor G/SP-004 on Bank Holiday Monday 27th December 2010. A big turnout was indicated, made up of SOTA obsessives Jimmy M3EYP and myself, those who do a handful each year like Roger M0GMG and Greg 2E0RXX, plus a host of newly licensed, newly upgraded and just plain new members. These included Simon M0TGT and daughter Lucy, Arthur M0GWF, Gary M6OKK, Tim (passed Foundation but yet to receive callsign) and non-member guest Mark 2E0CCK.

Unfortunately Greg had to pull out last minute, and when we awoke to snow, I think most of us suspected we would have to do likewise. Checks on the Cat Cam revealed the road to be passable with care - but what would it be like two or four hours later?

I relaxed and watched the last hour’s play in the test match before warming the soup and completing preparations. Jimmy and I arrived at the Cat & Fiddle in heavy snow, after a tricky drive up including two long sections where the road was white, and a couple of bends that were down to one lane due to snow drifting over the road. We were first up there, but Roger M0GMG arrived virtually immediately. One by one, the rest of the gang arrived and pulled into the lay-by, and we commenced the group ascent in still heavy snow.

Despite the snow, the walking conditions were quite acceptable, and we didn’t have the obstacle of deep unconsolidated snow to deal with. Hence progress to the summit of Shining Tor was in a similar time to normal. Strong icy wind and horizontal snow greeted us at the summit, so I adjourned to the adjacent field. This spot was about 8m vertically lower than the summit, but had a tall wall backing right into the wind direction. I was surprised that no-one else joined me there - but most were doing 2m FM handheld-style and remained in the trigpoint area.

Just before I had finished setting up for 20m, Jimmy appeared, announced that he had got his four contacts (not that he needed them) and was going to leave 2m for the rest of the guys to use. He asked for my car keys and said he was going to the Cat & Fiddle! I worked Richard G3CWI on 2m FM, as he advised me that one of our local radio stations - Canalside Radio 102.8 - wanted to get me on the 'phone for a live link-up! I told Richard to give them my mobile number, but warned that coverage seemed patchy.

I settled into my sheltered spot and got stuck into 20m CW. 33 QSOs were made with SOTA and WFF hunters, the best DX being EA8 Canary Islands. My final taly was augmented by five 2m FM QSOs - the first one with G3CWI, then four more with the handheld by the trigpoint after packing away. One caller had been listening to Canalside Radio and informed me that the presenter on-air was still trying to get in contact with me. I telephoned the studio, but the presenter Brian Moores said that the wind noise on the 'phone was too extreme to put on air, even with me crouching in a sheltered spot behind the wall.

So that wasn’t to be, but I was happy to be able to forget about the phone, and put my big padded gloves on. By this time, all the rest of the party had long departed the summit, and I descended to the Cat & Fiddle alone. But when I got there (to find Jimmy guzzling his second pint of bitter), Simon M0TGT kindly insisted on buying me a pint. I got the 817 out of the rucksack to give it a wipe and an airing, and those of us still in the pub enjoyed a chat about the expedition.

Jimmy and I warmed up further with a hot mulled wine, before returning to the car to share the as-yet-unopened flask of mulligatawny soup. The journey back down the A537 was less eventful than the outward trip with much less lying snow on the road. Indeed, the road had seemed to remain busy throughout the morning every time we glanced at it from wherever we were.

A very enjoyable activation in the snow. Many thanks to all the chasers that worked us, and to our friends in the MDRS who made it such an enjoyable event.