The inaugral Macclesfield & DRS SOTA trip!

I joined the Macc club in 2005, as the then senior tutor, Phil Archer G6AKK, offered to design a tailored Foundation course for Jimmy (now M3EYP of course). Since then, whenever the topic of “Future Events” has been raised, I have been trying to generate enthusiasm for a club SOTA day out. Unfortunately, apart from Jimmy, I was the youngest member of the club by a good 30 years or so, and one of the only ones in reliable good health! Hence the enthusiasm for SOTA was difficult to inspire, and my idea never happened.

Fast forward to 2008, and the club boasting plenty of young (ish) able-bodied members. This time, the proposal was not even one of my own, even though in notorious EYP style, I got involved and started organising everything!

Greg 2E0RXX, Sean M0GIA and Roger M0GMG were talking about a joint activation of Kinder Scout G/SP-001 over the festive period. Forgetting that I could still get 3 winter bonus points for Kinder, I told them that I had already done it and convinced them that the Ponderosa Pair - Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043 and Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042 - would be a more suitable outing.

Which, in fact, it was. For the chosen day, Saturday 27th December 2008, was a darned cold one, and 200 feet more altitude would have pushed the outing seriously into the discomfort zone. The three OMs mentioned, plus Greg’s son Liam M3ZRY, while not SOTA newbies, were certainly relative novices, and the straightforward routes of the Welsh pair, plus the hospitality afforded by the Ponderosa Cafe made for an ideal location.

Jimmy, Liam and I were on the road by 6.50am, and heading to the Lymm Truck Stop. We all tucked into a large cooked breakfast and teas (J2O for Liam), and then resumed out westwards cruise on the M56. Now I was in 2m mobile contact with Roger M0GMG/M, a little ahead of me on the motorway. Roger managed somehow to end up on the A550, so I got ahead of him and was first in the car park at Ponderosa. I noted the “Maximum 2 hours parking” signs, and as usual, went in the cafe to inform that there would be seven of us for lunch, but could we park our three cars there all day? As usual, they agreed.

Soon we were joined by Roger, and then by a car containing Sean M0GIA, Greg 2E0RXX and Liam M3ZRY. We gathered our gear and split into two groups. The two group leaders were Jimmy M3EYP and myself M1EYP. Jimmy led Roger M0GMG and Greg 2E0RXX to Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043, while I took Sean M0GIA and Liam M3ZRY, as well as my son Liam up Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042.

Liam plodded along at his usual slow but steady pace, and Sean and Liam M3ZRY were soon pushing ahead. They both seemed a touch bewildered by ascending Moel y Faen only to the have to steeply descend before the main climb up to Moel y Gamelin’s summit.

We made good time, and dropped down below the summit to its west to set up the HF aerials in relative shelter. Liam MW3ZRY/P and I worked Jimmy MW3EYP/P S2S on 2m FM. Jimmy had left Roger and Greg at the true summit of Cyrn-y-Brain GW/NW-043, but walked on another mile on his own to visit and photograph the trig point for the first time. He was at the trig when we spoke to him. Liam later worked his father S2S. Jimmy had to remind me that I was supposed to be using GC4MWS/P the club callsign of the Macclesfield & District Radio Society, although it wouldn’t be the last time I would forget!

Liam MW3ZRY/P completed his activation with four QSOs on 2m FM on his handheld. Sean MW0GIA/P made six contacts on 20m SSB before deciding that it was too cold, and packed away. I wasn’t cold, so took it upon myself to extend my own activation to work all the chasers. My son Liam surprised me by asking for, and enjoying a coffee from my flask (yes, no soup today, with lunch at Ponderosa), but then took the opportunity to descend with Sean and the other Liam while I continued to operate.

I made 14 pleasant QSOs on 80m CW, including a very pleasing S2S with John G4YSS, operating GX0OOO/P on Mickle Fell G/NP-002. I had a go on 80m SSB, but to no avail. Meanwhile, over on Cyrn-y-Brain, Jimmy, Roger and Greg had all qualified on 2m FM/SSB, but with none making many more than the requisite four contacts. Like Sean and Liam ZRY, they too had given into the cold. Hence the reports on SOTAwatch of some chasers surprised not to hear much of what may have looked like lots of activity!

As I reached the Ponderosa Cafe, the other six were already there, and some already tucking into their lunch. Despite the breakfast feast at Lymm Truck Stop, Jimmy, Liam and I were all hungry again. Jimmy and Liam both opted for chilli and rice. Well I did too, but only two portions remained. Instead, I had the roast turkey dinner, which was rather good, as well as aptly seasonal.

However, now the cracks were beginning to show. While my team of myself, Sean and the two Liams was all geared up for Cyrn-y-Brain, Jimmy’s team was falling apart. Roger M0GMG had already indicated that he would probably just do one summit, lunch and then drive home to Wilmslow. And indeed, he confirmed that this remained his intention. Greg 2E0RXX reported he had been suffering with a back problem since the summer, that he was in considerable discomfort after the first ascent and would be sitting out the afternoon session. At least the Ponderosa provided a welcome refuge in this circumstance, and Jimmy M3EYP was sufficiently skilled, experienced and confident to undertake the Moel y Gamelin expedition alone.

Jimmy was happy to do that, and I was happy to let him. But Greg, nice guy that he is, preferred to put himself through more pain rather than let Jimmy venture alone. I told Greg that Jimmy was fine, and to stop when he had had enough, not to push himself too far etc. And off we all set again.

By the time Liam and I reached the summit, Sean MW0GIA/P and Liam MW3ZRY/P were already 3 QSOs in on 2m FM handheld. At this point, Jimmy MW3EYP/P called from Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042. He reported that Greg 2W0RXX/P had made it most of the way, but had stopped on the shelf just before the summit. We all worked Jimmy, and then a short time later Greg called in to say he had now made it to the summit. It turned out that something had “clicked” in his back, and he was now pain free, an excellent outcome of deciding to undertake the second activation.

I set up on 80m again, and worked lots of stations. I kept forgetting I was GC4MWS/P, usually getting as far as “MW…” and then correcting myself. I did work Roy G4SSH completely as M1EYP/P though, so I called him back in and repeated everything under the guise of GC4MWS/P. Thankfully, Roy was still listening and kindly relived the QSO with me.

Conditions were weird on 80m at this time, as reported elsewhere. I received calls from Les G3VQO and Roger MW0IDX, but they disappeared when I called them in. I received strong 599 calls from Fred DL1FU throughout my activation, and I called him back every time, but he was never there when I called him in. Very strange conditions. I received a report of RST 119 from a Swedish station, which I acknowledged, as he did of my 599 report back. The thing is, if I was 119, how did he know it was me or get my report? Still, the two-way report was successfully exchanged, so I consider it a good contact.

Most of my HF operating was alone up there. In a repeat of this morning, Sean and the two Liams had commenced their descent leaving me up there ‘on me jack’. After the run of twenty 80m CW contacts, just one 80m SSB QSO was made, with Roger G0TRB. After packing the 817 and 80m aerial away, I went onto 2m FM from the VX-7R. Ten QSOs were made on 2m, including S2S with Alun 2W0CYM/P on Moel Eilio GW/NW-022 and the rest of the Macc gang now down at Ponderosa signing /A.

We set off for home, via a pub stop somewhere along the A5104 towards Chester. I got a round in, since Jimmy advised me that nice man Greg had been plying Liam and Jimmy with teas and hot chocolates at Ponderosa prices while waiting for me! Unfortately, no real ale, and ice cold Guiness in a nearly ice cold room didn’t make for the best pub stop ever.

Back home we were hungry again, and able to polish off the mounds of Southern fried chicken and pigs in blankets that Marianne had kindly prepared. It had been a very enjoyable, satisfying and rather gastronomic day.

There will probably be another Macclesfield group outing to Kinder Scout G/SP-001 in the New Year. Many thanks to all who called us on the activations.


In reply to M1EYP:

photograph the trig point for the first time

That’s one of the earliest trig points built, 14th April 1936. It’s remarkable that many of the earliest trig points are in the best condition still. I’m not sure if the poor quality of many of the latter trigs is down to the scarcity of cement/funds after the war resulting in a ‘thinner’ mix being used or declining standards of workmanship. Or perhaps the original trigs were hopelessly over-engineered to ensure they stayed usuable and with experience gained, the OS realised there was little point building them to last for hundreds of years when it would be cheaper to come and fix them up a few tens of years later.


In reply to M1EYP:
Hiya Tom,

Well done on the report and activation. It was a coolish day for sure and the icing conditions meant periodic aerial attention.

Sounds like Jimmy has come on in leaps & bounds and will soon be in charge of his own expeditions. Liam has got a licence too now; another thing I didn’t know, so congratulations on that go to him.

Thanks for the S2S from Mickle. I am sorry if I missed the fact that you were the op but I still can’t really read Morse too well. This becomes worse when I instigate the call and there’s other things to do like logging, stamping your feet or fiddling with gloves etc.

OK on your NP2 routes. I remember you doing it from the south. That is a good route and a bike can be used, as it can to get to Birkdale on the northern route. I remember pulling my 6 year old and two rucksacks to Birkdale on the lad’s ‘bogie’ when we did an overnighter on Mickle in torrential rain 22 years ago. Memories.

I remember your Pennine Way walk too and was amused when I read your comment about the longest SOTA summit walk-in (The Cheviot from Edale!)

I was not surprised when I read about a cafe in your account. Not a bit surprised! What an ostentatious name. The Ponderosa.

Roy tells me you’ve been camping out at the top of a hill. What a downright irresponsible thing to do at this time of year. I’ve a good mind to report you to the SOTA MT!

On a sincere note: Have a great New Year and healthy too.

73, John.

Thanks John.

Not my Liam! I did fully anticipate that one to be confusing though. Greg 2E0RXX is a friend of mine here in Macclesfield, and he came on this expedition. Liam M3ZRY is Greg’s son. He is the same age as my Liam, and was even at the same school with him last year. So it was Liam M3ZRY who was activating, though to maintain the potential for confusion, my son Liam came on the expedition as well.

I didn’t camp out, as you famously did one New Year’s Eve. No, I walked up at 2300z, was set up and QRV by 2340z, and operated from inside my bothy bag. Proper camping would have been far more comfortable and enjoyable I expect. I finished on HF and started packing away the aerials, rucksack, bothy bag etc at 0025z. At 0045z, I was briefly QRV on 2m FM with the handheld. At 0100z I descended back to my car, finished off my flask of coffee, and drove home. I was in my own bed by 0200z.

Bet you think I’m a right lightweight now?

Same good wishes to you for 2009. Thank you for your support again in 2008.