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What weekends are all about

It started so well at 5pm on Friday when my team were victorious in the weekly staff 5-a-side football. 24 hours later, it was dreamland, having watched Macclesfield win away at Port Vale by 4 goals to 1. I teach in that part of Stoke, and several of my colleagues and pupils are Port Vale supporters. I am looking forward to Monday morning at work like no other week ever before!

Could the weekend possibly get any better?

No. But on Sunday, we had a jolly good try; read on (in a few minutes, when I’ve written it).

Tom M1EYP

With Marianne working consecutive night-shifts, I had to have plans for consecutive days out for the boys and myself. Saturday was taken care of with the League 2 football fixture mentioned above. That left Sunday, and I fancied a walk and an activation. I didn’t have the stomach (or rather my debit card didn’t) for a long drive. But what about Hail Storm Hill G/SP-009? It had dawned on me that despite activating it three times before, I had never been to the summit! I had always made for the convenient spot with trig point and shelter at Top of the Leach, a mile or so to the East and comfortably within the activation zone.

So here was a golden opportunity to do a completely new walk and visit a sort of completely “new” summit. And play some radio. I posted my alert on SOTAwatch.

Watching closely, was Richard G3CWI, who reserved the remaining two seats in my car for himself and daughter Mai Ling. A fine day out beckoned.

Tom M1EYP

I went to bed straight after Match of the Day in order to sleep off the excesses of the Saturday. Unfortunately, this plan backfired somewhat when I found myself wide awake at 4am on the morning of Sunday 21st September 2008. I whiled my time catching up on various reflectors and fora, before putting the soup on and checking if the lads were awake. Jimmy was already getting sorted out, but Liam needed a gentle encouragement to raise him from his pit at 6am.

It was all pretty slow going though, mainly as a result of me not fully preparing everythng the night before (see above for reasons/excuses). We eventually pulled up outside Richard’s house at 7.25am, and collected him and Mai Ling, as well as two rucksacks, a tripod and a big silver dish!

Although we should have exited the A56 and made for Edenfield, we continued into Rawtenstall to search for breakfast. Nothing doing. Edenfield - the same. It wasn’t until the outskirts of Bury that we found an open greasy spoon, serving a slap up breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, beans, toast, black pudding and spam (yes, seriously) with a big mug of tea.

The search had set us back though, hence our later-than-alerted arrival on summit later.

Tom M1EYP

Jimmy directed us back to the village of Turn, where we parked in a side road. Sorting out the rucksacks and gear was then embarrassingly slow as I waded through all the stuff - bladders, flask, coats, fleeces etc - I had thrown into the boot of the car without packing properly. Richard found he hadn’t brought a fleece - so he borrowed one of Liam’s which fit him perfectly!

We thanked Richard and Mai Ling for their total patience in waiting for us, and eventually set off on the pavement by the A680. Soon, we were climbing so stone steps into the field, and following the Rossendale Way as it contoured almost level, but slightly ascending around the hill, and parallel to the road. This brought us to a wider green track striking up from a farm, and here we began to ascend a little more steeply, although you would need a vivid imagination to actually describe it as steep.

We were surrounded by many large wind turbines, and we all agreed we hadn’t seen them before. Perhaps there was a hint in that there was a Discovery zooming around on the network of gravel tracks between them all and signs stating “Beware construction site traffic”.

Jimmy declared the point at which he needed to leave the track and strike out for the summit. The going was suddenly more challenging, as we waded across uneven boggy moorland on the featureless plateau, in the general direction of the horizon. Once the horizon dropped and revealed a view, we were comfortable we were on the summit. Well, Liam, Mai Ling, Richard and myself were; it wasn’t good enough for Jimmy who demanded further proof. Thank goodness then that just one minute later, he found a small cairn in what appeared to be the right spot.

Tom M1EYP

Richard G3CWI set up his 10GHz / 3cm microwave system with 2m SSB talkback. He was taking part in one of the 10G cumulative contest sessions. About 100 yards away, Jimmy and I set up the 40m dipole.

Jimmy opened up on 40m SSB, and made three QSOs in slow going. He quickly tired of the slow QSO rate and reached for his 2m handheld. 2m FM would provide Jimmy with the rest of his contacts for today.

I tuned down the band and got going on my paddle, on 40m CW. This proved to be really good fun today, with lots of activity and several S2S QSOs to be had. There was a contest on, which added to the challenge with crowded bands and stations suddenly appearing on your working frequency without asking, but the clear QRGs were there to be found, if you looked for them.

We kept an eye on SOTAwatch Spots (when we could get GPRS - very dicy coverage up here) and on S20 for other activity. This led to some SWL logs for 5MHz SOTA being written down, and a few spells on 2m FM, just with the handheld, always commencing with a S2S QSO. We had elected not to take the SOTA Beam, as we knew Richard would be using 2m SSB talkback for his 10G activity, and didn’t want to disrupt him. We thought we would just use the hand-portables for occasional 2m FM S2S contacts and minimise the disruption. In fact, Richard’s talkback on 144.175MHz SSB and our 2m FM hand-portable work did not get in each other’s way whatsoever throughout the day.

Tom M1EYP

The weather was turning out to be glorious, hot and sunny with hardly a breath of wind. Nonetheless, the boys and myself still enjoyed our lunch of Baxters Highlanders Broth soup as we sat on the drier bits between bogs and lapped up the sunshine.

We worked all the way through until around 4pm, when it was mutually decided we would pack up. Results were encouraging all round. Jimmy had made 10 QSOs, 3 x 40m SSB and 7 x 2m FM, including 7 S2S. Richard made an impressive 17 QSOs on 3cm, with best DX over 300km into Suffolk. I racked up 61 contacts, 17 x 2m FM and 44 x 40m CW, including 11 S2S.

Those S2S were:

40m CW
DL5WW/P DM/NW-157
DL4MFM/P DM/NW-056
S57XX/P S5/CP-009
DL5WW/P DM/NW-049

2m FM
G6MZX/P G/SP-007
G0OXV/P G/NP-022
G0MJG/P G/NP-022
2W0EDX/P GW/NW-054
G1INK/P G/LD-018
G4RQJ/P G/LD-013
2E0FSR/P G/NP-029
2W0PXW/P GW/NW-051

Also, the following activations were heard, but not worked, and hence will be claimed as SWL entries:

G1INK/P G/LD-018 7MHz SSB
OK1XVZ/P OK/KA-002 7MHz CW
GW0AOD/P GW/SW-036 5MHz SSB

The DXCC count was 13 for me and 5 for Jimmy, with 14 overall: G,GW, SM, DL, OK, I, ON, LA, HA, S5, 9A, HB, PA and F.

The descent was an easy a pleasant 45 minute amble along the fellside and back to Turn village. The return drive was swift and significantly less protracted than the outward journey (well, the breakfast search, to be precise). De Trafford Arms in Alderley Edge was selected for the customary beer and J2O stop, and we were all reunited with our home dwellings by 7pm.

A pleasing day, and an outstanding weekend was wrapped up with a carry-out from our old favourite, The Restaurant in the Nominally Proposed Activation Zone of Great Weston Fell. If you read this far, well done - and thank you.

Tom M1EYP