The Cloud 2011

I was looking forward to the first 2m Tuesday night activity contest of 2011. With the sensible rule changes that favoured intra-UK contacts in the UK activity contest, and the new low power (10 watts maximum) section which protected QRP, SOTA and Foundation stations from having their normalised scores crushed by 100 watt stations, I had the opportunity to be competitive, rather than merely a participant. I did what every self-respecting individual does these days, and announced my enthusiasm in my Facebook status.

Less than 24 hours ahead of the contest, my wife advised that she was going out for a drink with friends on the Tuesday evening. I have to admit to having pulled a face like a smacked bottom. After gently spitting out whatever dummies I could find, I sheepishly returned to my shack to update my Facebook status. In times of adversity, feel sorry for yourself on Facebook, then loads of people you sort of know (“friends” - in inverted commas) can type how sorry they feel for you as well. It solves everything.

The following day, Marianne announced a complete reversal of her plans, and I was free to go out again. SOTAwatch Alert added. Facebook status updated. Somebody “liked” it. Have a shower. Eat tea. Prepare kit. I hadn’t done a darkness activation recently, so I grabbed my CD of “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”… No, I mean I checked my headtorch and put a spare headtorch in my coat pocket. Flask of coffee prepared. No pre-heating. (Pre-heating is for wimps, or for inferior quality flasks).

I arrived at Cloudside at 7.15pm, with the evening temperature dropping to around 1 degree. I ascended the hill while repeatedly running my packed radio kit around in my mind. Had I remembered everything? Did I remember to transfer the guying kit and RG58 feeder from Jimmy’s rucksack to mine? Upon arrival on summit at 7.25pm, I was able to confirm that everything was packed. Plus other things I didn’t need. Like a 20m Magic Moggy antenna and a 30m dipole.

I began to prepare the antenna by getting the lower part of the mast in an upright position before adding the SOTA Beam and extending to full height. Big problem. The ground was frozen hard and wouldn’t take a peg. Usually, I find I can poke around and find a weaker spot under a tuft of grass, but nothing was happening. I glanced at my watch. 7.40pm. Time was on my side - if I could find a suitable contingency.

I decided to site the pole near one corner of the topograph that I would be using for shelter anyway, and wrap two of the guys around it. I used gaps between the bricks to tuck the strings in, and found the length was perfect such that the loops at the end could be brought all the way round and then loop over the bottom part of the fishing pole. The third guy string was angle at 45 degrees away from the topograph, and was held in place by placing a large rock over it.

Time check: 1952z. I settled down in the sheltered side of the topograph, sitting on my foam mat on top of my bothy bag, which I always like to have to hand. The 817 was set up with fist mike, Palm Paddle (in the event not used), fresh SLAB and radio controlled clock, and we were ready to go. Time check: 1957z. I got my pencil and notepad ready and found a clear frequency.

As my clock clicked round to 2000z, I began calling and immediately worked GW4ZAR in IO83KF. My activator point for G/SP-015 for the year was qualified by Jimmy M3EYP, who was my fourth contact. Thereafter followed one of my best contest outings with 76 QSOs in the two and a half hours. Everything was on SSB, there was never enough of a drop in activity to justify any calls on FM or CW.

Although the QSO count was pleasing, the multiplier count was arguably not so. Of course, the EI station worked wouldn’t give me a new multiplier under the new rules, and I never heard the EI others were reporting in 52 square. I did hear the Channel Islands station in IN square, but he was too close to M0GVG operating from very nearby Biddulph Moor for me to have a chance. I almost completed with GM4BYF in IO85, but the word “almost” indicates the gotaway. So nothing from GM, and I never worked one from JO01 - a big miss.

As well as being bitterly cold on the summit, the ground was filthy - damp and muddy. My trousers, coat, trainers and rucksack were all in need of a serious clean by the end of the night. My hair badly needs cutting, and it was a sight from a horror B movie when I removed my fleecy hat. Undeterred, I still walked into the Harrington Arms at Gawsworth at 11pm. Thankfully, they hadn’t introduced a dress code since my last visit, although one of the local farmers having a late drink in there was keen to tell me that I’d got the wrong night for the fancy dress.

A pint of Mr Scrooge ale, with a bag of Nando’s Peri Peri Chicken crisps and a Spearings pork pie hardly touched the sides as I devoured my late evening supper. I was home for a quarter to midnight, and watched the test match on Sky Sports 1 for a while, before retiring to bad.

A very pleasing first VHF contest evening of 2011. Many thanks to the significant number of known SOTA chasers that worked me. And probably the most QSOs I have ever made for a scoring one point activation!


In reply to M1EYP:

I almost completed with GM4BYF

Pete GM4BYF’s QTH is right at the foot of The Pentlands, basically he beams straight into Hillend Dry Ski Slope to get South so conditions must have been up a touch for you to hear him. Had you worked him on QRP with a small antenna both of you would have been pleased!


In reply to MM0FMF:
Hi Andy I managed to work GM4BYF and GM6JNJ My best one was G4RRA Devon.ATB 73 Geoff

Tuesday 11th January 2011 was the first 70cm UK activity contest of the year. I set off from Macclesfield with a flask of coffee at 7pm, and made good time in getting to Cloudside for 7.20pm. Climbing the stairs for only the second time of the year, I realised that I needed to get back into the groove of doing so at least three times per week.

Walking up to the summit on a dark, cold but dry night is always a pleasure, especially when the views open up to the right. The illuminated towns of Macclesfield, Stockport, Wilmslow, Congleton and Alderley Edge were easily identified, as was the backdrop of the city of Manchester, and further beyond, the bright red stick that was really the main mast atop Winter Hill G/SP-010.

This time the ground temperature was a little higher, and I had no problems in pegging into the ground. With the SB6 assembled, connected and four metres above the ground, I settled down in the shelter of the topograph and put together the rest of the station. I wrote the date in the logbook, made a few checks and chose the frequency of 432.225MHz SSB, then checked the time - 1945z. Perfect, time to sit back, relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.

At 1957z I detected some splatter. I tuned down the band to find a regular contester in full swing, calling CQ. I chipped in to tell him he was early, but he replied “Oh, both my watch and my car clock must be wrong then”. He carried on calling, but another station advised him he was two minutes early. Handy things for contests, these radio controlled clocks!

The contest got off to a fine start with 30 stations worked in the first 27 minutes. As usual, then sets in an exponential decay in activity, with a slight rally near the end. Although the number of QSOs was pleasing, of concern was the number of multiplier squares worked. This stood at a meagre four for that first half hour. A few more did dribble into the log as the contest wore on, but the final tally of 9 was disappointing.

IO81 was missing from my log, and from many others as well it seemed. Bryn G4DEZ in JO03 was not on, and unusually, I worked nothing from JO01. Neither did I work anything from EI, GI or even GM. It could have been worse. Just one contact was made with each of IO74, IO84, IO93 and IO94, and two from IO91. So I only narrowly avoided a multiplier tally so pathetic that it would have destroyed my score. As it is, it looks like I might have got away with it, for I currently have the leading claimed score in the Low Power section of the contest.

During the first hour, Simon M0TGT/P arrived on summit. He was doing things the EYP way with a big flask of Thai Green Chicken soup. It was both rare, and enjoyable to have some company during the contest. Simon made a few contacts on his 433MHz HT from the far corner of the summit area while I continued on SSB. No QRM was caused to each other. Later on, Simon made the occasional contact on 70cm SSB using my kit.

In the last half hour I found myself to be feeling too cold. I was naughty, and soldiered on to the end at 2230z - necessary in order to collect JO02, IO91 and IO84. I struggled to my feet with my back in some discomfort. Most parts of my body had seized up completely, sitting for nearly three hours in freezing temperatures. The only way to warm up and get things moving was to pull hood over my hat, put gloves on, and get walking as fast as I could.

All was well we reached the cars a short time later, and we agreed to meet up at the Harrington Arms, where we enjoyed a pint of Robbies Mr Scrooge, and a Spearings pork pie with mustard. The final tally was 63 QSOs, which ain’t bad for a SOTA activation on 70cm. Have I recorded my first ever UKAC victory? Watch this space!

73, Tom M1EYP

I accidentally left my 70cm SOTAbeam elements in Mark, 2E0CCK’s rucksac after our Shining Tor expedition so I couldn’t really run in the contest but I thought I would tread the hallowed turf and watch the master at work instead.

Thanks Tom, for a lovely evening and a few QSOs to boot. Smashing Pie and Pint at the Harrington Arms.

It was great speaking to 2E0TDX and 2E0XYL then the EYPs and finishing with the Rogers!

Not an amazing score but at least it is an entry!

Simon M0TGT

In reply to M1EYP:

Bryn G4DEZ in JO03 was not on, and unusually, I worked nothing from JO01.

They are all sulking because of the new rules, Tom! They don’t get multipliers for all the continental squares any more.

Walt (G3NYY)

Maybe Walt, but they were all on for the 2m event the week before.

I think the new rules and the new 10w section are really good. And no-one can argue with the rule tweaks they have done for VHF UKACs, as the numbers participating keep going up and up.

It was the busiest night I have heard on 70cm last night, even with several of the key players missing (or sulking hi).


The motivation for an “early one” on Sunday 16th January 2011 was - 2011. The New Year, and a new start from zero for the number of DXCCs worked on each band for G3WGV’s UK CW Table. Some progress had been made from home on 160m, while the first batches had been collected during SOTA activations on 40m and 30m. But after a barren weekend from home on the band, I needed a SOTA activation to kick the 80m total into life.

I set my alarm for 5am and awoke to the sounds of BBC Radio 5 Live on medium-wave. Things were a bit dopey and sluggish, but I was on the road by 6am and listening to old stalwarts Dave Ward (Curly Shirley) and Umberto on Real Radio Manchester (formerly Century Radio) 105.4MHz. I remember those two presenters well from listening to Piccadilly Radio as a teenager.

The ascent from Cloudside always seems to go faster in the dark. Maybe one’s imagination and deeper, philosophical thoughts are more active in darkness, and so the time passes more quickly. In any case, I had gained the summit rapidly and was soon erecting the 80m dipole. This is slightly trickier in the dark, as you can’t see the ends of the dipole legs when stood at the pole. It can take a few goes to get the legs up without them snagging on heather and needing to be freed.

80m is never a prolific hunting ground like 40m or 20m for me, so the overall going was slow. Over the course of an hour and 37 minutes, I made 18 contacts into 7 DXCCs - DL, EA, G, GM, HA, LA and OE. Gotaways included SM and 9A. 17 QSOs were on CW, with one on SSB, which was a summit-to-summit with Bill G4WSB/P on Wills Neck G/SC-002.

As daylight arrived halfway through proceedings, I was then able to monitor a band of heavy rain engulfing Macclesfield, and edging ever closer. I timed my escape to perfection, with the first drops landing as I loaded my rucksack back into the boot of my car on Cloudside.

Many thanks to all callers.


Wednesday 19th January 2011, and high time I ended my “lazy streak”. I hadn’t walked up The Cloud on the way to work since July 2010. But neither had I rejoined the gym or done much swimming. I needed to try to resume some more regular exercise as the football, squash and weekend activating was proving insufficient.

My alarm was set for 0555z, but I was awake at 0545z. Goodness knows why. Although I thought I got things together fairly briskly, by the time I had driven to Cloudside, ascended and set up, it was 0715z, quarter of an hour after my Alert time. Visibility was very limited with the light from my headtorch illuminating little other than the blanket of thick fog in front of my face!

My activation on 40m CW was very unremarkable with just 7 QSOs into 6 DXCCs. That was followed by 0/0 on 2m FM and 1/1 on 70cm FM. The descent on a cold foggy morning, followed by stop for diesel and breakfast, and continuing journey to work in Stoke-on-Trent went easily enough. I managed to be changed into my shirt and tie, and in staff briefing right on 8.45am, and no slapped wrist.


Thursday 20th January 2011, and my alarm did not go off. Instead, I was awaoken by my wife’s alarm at 0630z, 35 minutes behind schedule. I figured there was still time for the walk, if not a substantial activation.

My car radio is broken and in need of replacement. While tinkering with it myself, I managed to loosen the aerial connection, but couldn’t fully get the plug back in. Hence I have been limited to the BBC national stations from Holme Moss, Sutton Coldfield and Llangollen transmitter sites while driving round in the car. However, driving over to Cloudside, I was picking up Cheshire FM (Winsford), Oldham Community Radio, Unity FM (Moss Side), ALL FM (Longsight) and Radio Na Gaeltachta (Ireland - Gaelic service). I realised there must be a lift on and considered scrapping my 40m activation in favour of a VHF one. Unfortunately, my lateness did not permit time to swap aerials, feeders and guys over in my kit, so I had to ignore the lift.

I walked to the summit, enjoying the views over an inversion layer which completely covered Cheshire and filled the wide valleys in Staffordshire. Just The Cloud, Sutton Common and Mow Cop stood above the clouds as three small islands.

I set up as fast as I could, but it was already 0745z by the time I was QRV. F5UKL (QRP) was the first to work me, followed by three more after another period of calling. With four contacts in the bag, I packed away and descended. The Man in the Yellow Jacket ran past me and remarked that he’d not seen me up there for a while. I declined to mention that I’d not seen him without his yellow jacket for a while.


Friday 21st January 2011, and my alarm did go off. I was quicker out of the blocks this time, but not yet up to full speed, so it was 7.15am by the time I was QRV on the summit. An improvement on the previous day, but still 15 minutes off racing pace.

16 contacts were made on 40m CW, followed by a single 70cm FM contact with Steve GW7AAV. Right at the end of that QSO, my VX-7R ran out of charge, so there was no QRZ, or QSY to 2m. I am so rubbish and lazy at keeping charge topped up in my batteries! Only two days ago I ran out with my 7Ah SLAB!

Thanks to everyone that called this morning. It was cold and foggy again on The Cloud, but again I enjoyed the walk, the sunrise, and the morning air.


In reply to M1EYP:

IO81 was missing from my log, and from many others as well it seemed.

I did get on (late) from IO81 (in the warm shack), but only made 12 contacts.

I heard you soon after I turned on at 2048 and you seemed quite busy so I didn’t try calling at that point, but then failed to find you again later on.

Not sure if I will be out for the coming weeks 6m event, but for the first couple of months this year (as last) I have decided that I will only do 2m and 70cm from the warmth of the shack.

I’m not sure that the new rules on only UK Squares counting for Multipliers is really a good idea. Perhaps we will get a better idea in a couple of months time if it has made any real difference in levelling the field for those of us away from the East coast.

Stewart G0LGS

Monday 24th January 2011. The weather was a little warmer (ie slightly less cold) and the morning a little lighter (ie slightly less dark). But despite these advantages, I still couldn’t haul myself out of the house before 0630z. Maybe this getting out early business is easier in summer when there is daylight from an hour before you wake up.

The delay was compound when the radials of my MM20 needed untangling on the summit of The Cloud. As such, it was 0730z by the time I was QRV - and then I found I didn’t have my mobile with me for a self-spot. So stations would just have to hear my call or find me - and two did - UR5TKM, and Mark G0VOF.

So not a glorious debut for the MM20 in 2011, but it is staying in the pack for further dawn activations later this week.


In reply to M1EYP:
Hi Tom, I was up late myself & saw you hadn’t self-spotted but took a listen anyway. You were a good signal on 14.013 but after I spotted you I thought you had gone qrt. I then found you again on 14.014 & gave you a call. There didn’t seem to be many stations around this morning.


Mark G0VOF

In reply to M1EYP:

is easier in summer when there is daylight from an hour before you wake up.

Well if the fools down in the South get their way and put us on Double Summer Time you can kiss that early morning light goodbye!

Andy’s rule for setting your time zone… Set your midday to be when the sun is at its highest. Don’t let politicians play with your time. They’ll only end up taxing it!

the radials of my MM20 needed untangling

Do you not wind them onto separate winders Tom? I’ve found having the dipole legs as separate lengths is a great boon to keeping everything untangled.


Isn’t normally a problem Andy, but I hadn’t secured the winder with elastic after the last 20m activation in late December. Consequently, the guy strings at the ends of the radials went for a “wriggle” while in the boot of my car during the last 4 weeks!

Probably QRV on 20m CW again for SOTA early on Thursday morning.


In reply to MM0FMF:

Well if the fools down in the South get their way and put us on Double
Summer Time you can kiss that early morning light goodbye!

Ugh. They’re not dragging that one out of the political slurry pit again, are they?

Andy’s rule for setting your time zone… Set your midday to be when
the sun is at its highest. Don’t let politicians play with your time.

I think the Western Australians have the right idea. Three times now the politicians (under pressure from big business) have forced in DST, and they’ve had a referrendum after a year or two, and three times now the electorate has told the politicians to take their DST and stuff it where the Sun don’t shine…

In reply to MM0FMF:

Well if the fools down in the South get their way and put us on Double
Summer Time you can kiss that early morning light goodbye!

Tee hee! The sooner the better! I would MUCH rather have an extra hour of daylight to do evening activations all year round.

If it ever comes to a referendum, I shall be voting firmly in favour of CET!

You lot in Scotland are independent anyway, so you can have your own time-zone if you want it.

Walt (G3NYY)

In reply to G3NYY:

You lot in Scotland are independent anyway, so you can have your own
time-zone if you want it.

It didn’t always work to their advantage, Walt, I remember when the pub in Glencoe shut at ten! The boss was a big burly chap in a kilt with a sgian dubh in his stocking so you didn’t argue about the ten minute drinking up time, either!


Brian G8ADD

The evening of Tuesday 25th January 2011 began well with a Burns night meal at home, of savoury mince (Marianne and Liam don’t like haggis, although Jimmy and I love it), neeps and tatties. My mood was lifted on the drive out to The Cloud, listening to Jamie Cullum on BBC Radio 2, presenting jazz music including a superb piece by Oscar Peterson, accompanied by a Nelson Riddle big band arrangement.

My mood was deflated when I arrived at the small parking area at Cloudside, to find the drizzle intensifying, in contrast to the earlier forecast which had assured me that any rain would have moved well away to the South East by 5pm. The fog was thick, and my visibility for the ascent was limited to the 8 cubic metres (2m x 2m x 2m) directly in front of me. This was as far as my excellent Petzl headlamp would penetrate the clag and darkness.

On summit, erection of the 6m delta loop antenna was slow and careful. The only way I could get a view of how the delta was shaping up was to stand right at the base of the pole and aim my torch directly upwards. Even a metre away from the pole, and all the torch would illuminate was thick fog where the delta loop should be.

Still, once all set up, I was pleased to find the aerial in full working order. I’d had a few problems with it last year, and Richard kindly took it in for testing and repairs. Somewhat sloppily, I had not got around to taking it out for a test outing before the first 6m contest opportunity, so I was pleased to discover everything in order.

The bothy bag was deployed from the start of the contest at 8pm as the rain continued to fall through the fog, which was very damp in itself. This wasn’t the greatest contest night for me, with 45 QSOs into 10 multiplier squares. Several “getaways” included G8NWU, G3PIA, G4JQN, G4ELJ, M0GHZ and the CW from G3TA. All were workable, but most were found to be on a QRG close to Chris G8APB with his 100 watts from very nearby Biddulph Moor, and so were blanked by his splatter.

Best DX was GI4SNA in IO64XM, 297km. The last half hour was very slow with only three stations worked. Others were available, but they couldn’t hear my 5 watts as well as i could hear their 100 watts! I started to consider the feasibility of a portable beam for use in the 6m contests.

After a quick pack-up, the descent was slow going. The visibility had reduced to 1.5m, and all I could see was my feet! I even found myself being unsure as to exactly how far along the path I was at times, which is highly unusual on this hill that I know extremely well.

Back in the car, I was treated to more jazz on BBC Radio 2. The Guy Barker programme was just beginning, and a brilliant track opened proceedings. It was “Dear Johnny B” by Tubby Hayes, and had me swinging all the way to the Harrington Arms, along with “Inhale Exhale” by Benjamin Herman which followed it. From 3:46 in, via should you wish to share the joy!

All that jazz had me in the mood for supper, so it was a Spearings beef pie and a packet of Firecracker Lobster crisps that accompanied my pint of Mr Scrooge Ale in the pub. Back home just before midnight, and I couldn’t resist entering my contest log to see how I did, so it was a late night for me!