Sunday 20 December 2015
Don’t you just hate it when all your careful planning goes straight out of the window! Well it has happened. Following my activation of High Vinnalls on the 23 November 2015 I decided to leave activating on my next available day off – 30 Nov – and wait for the start of the winter bonus season on the 1 Dec. My first available day off in December was to be the 4th so planning started for either a trip to South Wales for two 2 pointers or Exmoor for a 2 pointer and a couple of 1 pointers. However, sods law clearly states that ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’ and on the 3 December I went down with the cold from hell – man flu didn’t even come close!! So with all my plans scuppered it was just a case of waiting it out until I was fit enough to venture forth into the Hills.
The opportunity finally came and planning started for the trip on the 19 Dec. Now this a Saturday and not a day I would normally venture into the hills. I enjoy my solitude (radio excepted) so tend to walk during the week when the hills are quieter. I also work most weekends taking two days off during the week. However, with Christmas approaching days off are being changed to suit our business needs so a Saturday activation it had to be. The main question now was which location. This was to be decided by the Met Office and the better forecast however, over the period of a week the forecast changed for both locations on a daily basis!
As the day approached there was very little to choose between the two locations with regard to the weather. It was going to lousy wherever I went with heavy rain forecast for both Exmoor and Brecon. However, Exmoor looked pretty good for a Sunday activation as there was a clear break in the weather and maybe even some sunshine. So it was that at 4.30am on the morning of Sunday 20 December I set off for Exmoor along the A303.
FT-817 5 Watts, 4.2Ah LiFePO4, 60m/40m/20m linked dipole, 7m sotapole and a palm paddle, VX-8 plus RSS 2M dipole.
Dunkery Beacon G/SC-001
Stopping briefly en-route to refuel and pick a MacDonald’s Breakfast Wrap (very nice), I arrived at the parking space at 0715 (SS 90402 42041). It was still dark but after a cup of coffee I booted up, turned on my headtorch and set off up the path in darkness. There is a certain peace and tranquillity about walking in the darkness especially when alone, you actually feel at one with the wilderness. Just as dawn was breaking I approached the summit cairn to excellent views in all directions. Distance 0.83 miles, ascent 222 feet time taken 25 minutes.
Keen to try out my new VX-8 I self spotted and called on 145.500Mhz however, probably because of the time of day there were no takers, it was only 08:00 after all! Changing to and self spotting on 7-ssb also produced no results after 10 minutes of calling. I knew that the propagation was going to be poor due to the solar storm and the elevated K reading but I thought I might get at least one or two calls. Changing to 7-cw I soon realised another reason why I hate activating at weekends – a bl**dy contest in full swing. I managed to find a clearish frequency at 7.037 Mhz and hoped RBN would pick me up. Eventually after 20 minutes of calling contact was made with Guru EA2IF and 4 other stations over a 9 minute period, but it was a slow struggle. After a further 5 minutes of empty calling I pulled the plug and started packing up when I heard Bill G4WSB/P calling CQ SOTA from DC-005 Christ Cross on 2m FM, so a quick S2S was the icing on an otherwise poor activation.
Periton Hill G/SC-006
A nice short 15 minute drive and I arrived at the car park for the walk up Periton Hill (SS 96382 44646). Most of the car park was full of mountain bikers getting ready to set off and annoy the numerous walkers with their dogs also on the hill. Also add to this the four off road motor bikers getting ready to take their noisy, smelly machines up through the woods!! Did I mention I hate weekend activations!!! Anyway back to the plot. Kit checked and off up the forest tracks to the ridge, then a pleasant walk in the pouring rain to the trig point following the route taken by Phil G4OBK. Distance 1.32 miles, ascent 474 feet time taken 45 minutes.
Expecting things to be similar to the previous activation I self spotted and opened up on 7-ssb. After about 5 minutes od calling I got a call from ON6ZQ to start the ball rolling, but then took a further 8 minutes to get 3 more contacts into the log. I had now qualified the hill so could have packed up and moved on but thought I would just give 7-cw a go despite the contest. Finding myself a tiny gap to squeeze into I allowed RBN to spot me and within a short while was getting a steady stream of callers into the log. It was a good mix of UK and European stations and within 11 minutes I had a further 14 QSOs complete. A much better activation all round.
Selworthy Beacon G/SC-005
The final hill of the day is the almost drive-on summit of Selworthy Beacon. I chose to park just after the sharp left hand bend in the road where there is room for a couple of cars to pull off the road at the start of the track to the summit (SS 92242 47906). From here just follow the track straight to the summit trig point. Distance 0.25 miles, ascent 71 feet time taken 5 minutes.
Selworthy Beacon is a very exposed ridge and the wind had really picked up by the time I set up the aerial, so much so that I had to re-erect the mast 3 times before I even got started with the activation! Given the state of the wind I decided to go straight to 7-cw and found my last frequency still clear. A couple minutes of calling and the stations started appearing in the log. The pile-up was short and sweet and within 5 minutes had dried up and the contest QRM had re-started. The hill was qualified, I was being blown all over the place and with the prospect of a 3 hour drive back home ahead of me I packed up and headed back to the car for some well deserved lunch.
Despite being rained on, blown away by the wind, peed off by the weekend walkers, cyclists, bikers that shared the hills with me, and the annoying ‘idiots who don’t care who they call over as long as they can get more precious points for their contest – I really enjoyed todays foray into the hills. It was good to get out of the house after being restricted to home for almost a month. This will probably the only chance I get to walk during December which is a shame but I do have 2 weeks holiday to look forward to in January/February where the plan is to get as much walking is as possible.
Thank you as always to all the chasers today. I appreciate you even more when I receive 339 reports because I know that you have made the extra effort to pull me in and allow me to qualify the summits. Many thanks and a Merry Christmas to you all.
73 Glyn G4CFS/P