I hear cries of “Oh no! Not another one!”. Panic not - this is just a report of my own UHF fun weekend on the way to the NARSA Blackpool Rally.
As the weekend approached the weather forecast was looking promising, so I decided on a couple of easy summits that would fit in with travel plans. Lambrigg Fell G/LD-046, being just off the M6 motorway, is an obvious one on the way from Edinburgh to Wigan, where I was staying on Friday in my first home. Then, since I had never been up there in spite of living my first 18 years near Wigan, I decided to go up Winter Hill G/SP-010 on Saturday whilst travelling from Wigan to Blackpool where I was meeting up with club members before the rally on Sunday. Looking at the times, I alerted for 1400Z in both cases for (exclusively if possible) 70cm and 23cm.
One reason for the choice of UHF was that I hadn’t been particularly lucky on the recent UHF fun day - another was that I’d made a new 8-ele DL6WU Yagi for 70cm intended for portable use and wanted to test it properly. I’d made it last week because my SOTAbeam and my 12-ele DK7ZB were both in Gatehouse of Fleet, and I wanted to track one of the UKHAS (http://ukhas.org.uk/frontpage:projects) balloons on Thursday. (Great fun that, incidentally - they use an ISM 70cm transmitter running a few tens of milliwatts, but the balloons go up to about 30km altitude and you can track them from hundreds of kilometers away as they are line of sight.)
I left Edinburgh mid morning on Friday and arrived at M6 junction 37 in plenty time, parking on the ample grass verge close to the quarry entrance. The gentle 20-25 minute stroll to the summit area (well, there are several pimples in the activation zone one of which must be the highest, but I wanted a good takeoff to the south) meant I was ready well in advance of the alerted time. The 2m handie showed that 2m was buzzing with activity (mind you, from where I usually operate it doesn’t take much to make it sound like buzzing) but I didn’t want to start activating on 2m as I would have felt obliged to finish a long list once spotted and I wanted the time to try out UHF.
Quite a few CQ calls were put out on 70cm SSB and FM with no response, before I self-spotted (using Andy’s SMS spotting service) for 70cm SSB, and almost immediately Karen 2E0XYL came back - many thanks Karen! Bob G6ODU in Ormskirk and Dave M6DHV in Walney Island also called on SSB, both reasonably local. With no more takers on SSB I moved to FM, and found Glenn G6HFF/P on G/SP-006 White Hill for an S2S, followed by Dave G6LKB in Ulverston, John M0JFE in Fleetwood and Rob MW0DNK/P in Anglesey on a good line of sight path.
Again I self-spotted for 23cm on 1297.5 FM (knowing full well that an SSB spot was not very likely to get many SOTA chasers - and I don’t want to have to try to work the ON4KST chat with the phone!). The CQ wasn’t being heard though, so I went QRT at 1440Z. (Just had to re-enter the log for this activation, I realised I’d slipped back into BST so the times were wrong.)
On Saturday I left Wigan at about 1pm clock time, and again had plenty of time to get to the summit for the alerted time. I parked at the Wilderswood car park to make it a reasonable walk - I could tell that was the right place from the bit of BNC plug on the ground that someone had lost! The path from there up to the summit access road is about 1km, from where it’s another kilometre or so to the TV antenna - an easy walk but very busy compared to my usual haunts in Galloway where footpaths are rare. As I plodded up the road I was passed by an SUV with what looked like a 2m antenna on the roof, though he didn’t stop to enquire about the ironmongery attached to the back of my rucksack!
The activation zone on Winter Hill is pretty enormous - I set up towards the south near the TV mast, to give me a good takeoff from east through south to west. Determined to get some 23cm contacts this time, I spent time checking the receiver was working properly, hearing the 23cm GB3CLE and GB3SE beacons nicely and giving me the dial calibration (at present the transverter local oscillator is not temperature compensated, and not adjustable, so you need to know what the offset is!).
Again I self-spotted on 70cm SSB after a few unanswered CQ calls, and was answered by Mike G4BLH in Nelson. Many thanks to Mike for valiantly trying to get a 23cm contact with me, which we never managed even though he went out /P; fortunately I think he did manage to contact Andy and Brian on Kinder Scout.
Following Mike I was pleased to have contacts with Frank G3RMD and Stuart G0LGS in Cheltenham - a bit of QSB but copied fine. Not a huge distance but definitely not local!
I was looking for Andy M(M)0FMF and Brian G4ZRP on Kinder Scout G/SP-001, and found them on 2m FM. We arranged to catch up with 70cm and 23cm contacts later. Before moving to 23cm there was one more contact on 70cm, another S2S with Alan MW1EYO/P on GW/NW-076 Mynydd y Cwm - the UHF S2S contacts for the weekend were mounting nicely!
Moving to 1297.5 FM I was answered almost immediately by Steve GW7AAV which was very pleasing - and thanks too for the spot, Steve. John MW1FGQ and Alan GW4HDR followed, all 59 once the 15-ele beam was in the right direction. Finally S2S contacts on 23cm were made with Brian and Andy on Kinder Scout.
Trying to get back in contact with Mike G4BLH I found him on 70cm, where I was called by Caroline M3ZCB/P for another S2S from G/SP-011 Freeholds Top. Whilst still on 70cm the S2S for that band were completed with Andy and Brian, then Martyn M1MAJ/P also came on for the Freeholds Top S2S. Great stuff! On that note, wanting to get back down the hill and head off to Blackpool, I went QRT at 1510Z.
Equipment for 70cm was the bare FT-817 on a 4Ah SLAB, with the new home brew 8-ele DL6WU Yagi. On 23cm the FT-817 is the driver for my homebrew transverter which runs up to about 5W (on another 4Ah SLAB) and has a good 23cm bandpass filter. The antenna is again a DL6WU design, this time 15 elements.
So for me that was a great couple of days on UHF, and in fantastic weather. It’s great to be able to sit comfortably on a summit and chat with friends, and the UHF contacts more than made up for my poor showing on the UHF fun day. Many thanks indeed to all the activators and chasers, I hope I’ve not omitted anybody. The activations added a couple of hills I’d never been up before and gave me a bit of gentle exercise. It was good to be back in Lancashire - and the beer in Blackpool was (a) good and (b) unbelievably so-not-Edinburgh-prices! Good to see the folk on the SOTA stand at NARSA too.