End of Year Review 2015 – and thoughts 2016

I started with SOTA activating back in May 2007 with a trip to Cairnpapple GM/SS-254 just south of Edinburgh.  Over the next few months I made steady progress activating in GM/CS, GM/SS and G/LD until the sudden loss of my wife brought an end to everything in my life.  I needed time to get my mind back into shape and reorganise my life to this end my last SOTA activation was in October 2008.  Several moves later and after 23 years living in Scotland close to some of the best mountains in Britain I return to my native southern England and moved to a little village just east of Southampton.  Now I have the South Downs just 6 miles away but by comparison to Scotland they are mere pimples.  So it was with some surprise to myself that I find a yearning to return to the hills and start SOTA activating again.

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Ben Lawers Activated in October 2007

The fact that I should decide to return to SOTA was a surprise in itself but the circumstances are even stranger.  For it was whilst planning my honeymoon with my new wife to Cornwall that I started formulating the activation of a couple of minor hills.  And so it was that I the 28 April 2015 G4CFS/P fired up from Hensbarrow Beacon G/DC-004 – the rest, as they say, is history.  Because of my start date this is not a about a year of SOTAing but a recollection of the past 8 months and a look at what I have achieved in that short time.

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Black Down, Mendip Hills G/SC-003

Now when I started activating in Scotland I would do a summit every 6-8 weeks, would I follow the same MO – no not a chance.  I was keen to get out there and the bug bite again though this time much harder.  Over the 35 weeks of 2015 from the first activation to the end of the year I activated 58 summits during 24 different trips out averaging one trip every 1.5 weeks or a summit every 4 days.  During those activations I made 1546 QSO’s and activated 2 associations and 6 regions.  I operated in G/CE, DC, SC, SE, WB & GW/SW travelling approximately 5000 miles in all.  Of note in those 8 months I activated 100% of G/SE, 92.3% of G/SC, 60% of G/CE & 57% of G/DC.

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Sunrise over Easter Brecon Beacons

So what has been the highlight for me this year? Well firstly just getting back into the hills again, I enjoy my solitude and walking gives my time to think and clear my head of the detritus of work and other domestic issues.  Three trips stand out as being most enjoyable days out.  Firstly my day trip to the Isle of Wight to activate Brighstone Down G/SE-012 & St Boniface Down G/SE-008.  It was a lovely sunny day which started with a very pleasant trip to the IOW on the car ferry from Southampton.  The hills are easy to activate and because I had all day I didn’t feel pressurised to get on to the next hill so quickly.  Secondly I really enjoyed my day out to G/WB-011 Bradnor Hill, G/WB-008 Hergest Ridge, G/WB-020 Burton Hill, G/WB-023 Hegdon Hill.  Hergest Ridge impressed me on an emotional level because of its connection with my lifelong musical hero Mike Oldfield.  Finally the activation of GW/SW-020 Graig Syfyrddin, GW/SW-016 Ysgyryd Fawr, GW/SW-026 Bryn Awr because of the sheer beauty of the hills in question especially Ysgyryd Fawr with its long majestic ridge walk to the summit, such a fantastic location.  However, not withstanding the magnificent hills the one thing that has really stood out about this year is the return to the great comradry that is SOTA, the many old friends I have reacquainted myself with and of course all the new friends I have made this year.

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GW/SW-016 Ysgyryd Fawr (The Skirrid)

So what of the new year, where will that take me?

My main SOTA aim this year is to gain 200 activation points, in order to achieve that my intention is to complete the GW/SW and G/WB then start on GW/MW.  In addition I already have a trip to the Vale of York planned for April where I will hopefully active from G/NP and G/TW.  Plans are starting for a week long trip to central Portugal later in the year to active a series of 6,8 & 10 pointers.  Time permitting my XYL and myself will try to take a few days in North Wales where GW/NW-001 Snowdon will certainly be on the agenda.  Some time during 2016 we hope to visit family in Cornwall when I will be able to complete that region with trips to High Willhays, Brown Willy and Christ Cross.

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Sunrise over the Welsh Borders from High Vinnals

From a SOTA chasers perspective I will achieve Super Sloth with 5000 points (currently on 4642) but my main objective is to push this forward to 7500 during the year.  However, in order to achieve this I need and major rethink of my home aerial system which is to say the least a very poor and inefficient G5RV configuration.  To this end I am looking at a two fold approach.  Firstly is to re-build and tune up my multi band vertical, the second option is to move to the larger place with a bit more usable land for a decent aerial system.

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Hergest Ridge rising out of the mist

So what else do I want to achieve this year?  The only other area I would like to rejuvenate is my satellite system.  Primarily I need to rebuild the aerial and mast head pre-amp system.  All the equipment is there I just need the time to get the job done and get back on the air through he satellites.

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