Sunday 5th January 2020 - Kinder Scout G/SP-001, Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
After Kinder Scout G/SP-001, I drove over to Shining Tor G/SP-004, for more FT8 SOTA. I would, naturally, focus on 80m FT8 again, with the added bonus of giving chasers a multiplier in the 2020 Flavours Challenge! But I also wanted to be able to swiftly QSY to 20m for a possible S2S FT8 QSO into the USA, so the SOTAbeams Bandhopper 4 linked dipole antenna was ideal.
The FT8 activity never really got going on this activation, with just two on 80m and one on 20m. But that one on 20m was S2S with Tom N2YTF/P on a W2 summit in the USA - so that was highly pleasing. The weather conditions by this stage on Shining Tor were most unpleasant, but I was about to return to 80m to give the CW and SSB chasers a chance for their Challenge multiplier. Unfortunately I was a bit too heavy handed (yes, I know, it’s happened before) when closing a link and I snapped the wire. Game over. The bad news was that I only had recorded 3 contacts on HF FT8 and hadn’t qualified the summit. The good news was that I had my 2m handie, and this reaped 6 QSOs in just 3 minutes!
After returning to Macc and meeting Jimmy M0HGY and Liam at the pub for tea, I went out again for another couple of activations, starting with The Cloud G/SP-015.
Monday 10th February 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015 & Gun G/SP-013
Wellington School in Altrincham, where I was doing a long term teaching assignment until April, was on half-term this week. However, some schools' half-term break was a week later, and were therefore in session on this date. I picked up a day's supply at New Mills School, where I had a really lovely and fulfilling day. That was mainly because the students really engaged positively with my teaching, but part of my enjoyment was the Dark Peak towering above the school campus and visible from most places I was during the day!
On my way home I just had to go via Shining Tor for my daily walking and SOTA fix! At the top, it was cold with a dusting of snow. Seven QSOs were made on 2m FM before I went home for my tea - after which I went out again, firstly to The Cloud G/SP-004.
Saturday 21st March 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
Uninspired and disinterested in the Saturday evening TV fayre, I excused myself and went out for an evening stroll up Shining Tor. This was an enjoyable night walk in the cold crisp air, rewarded at the summit with great views over the lights of Manchester.
Twelve stations were worked on the handheld, all on 2m FM. It was a pleasing end to an enjoyable three-activation day.
Monday 23rd March 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013
Social distancing seemed to be getting ramped up. Driving out to a local hill for a local walk still seemed to be OK, whereas driving longer distance out of area to do so would probably be socially unacceptable. But later in the day, even further instructions would be announced by the government that effectively ruled out SOTA.
I had a great walk up Shining Tor. In order to be able to set up an antenna for HF, and be 100% certain to respect social distancing, I positioned myself a little away from the summit, in a pleasant sheltered spot below some rocks, overlooking the Macc-Buxton road, the Macclesfield Forest and the Cheshire Plain.
I left my tablet working automated-fashion on 15m FT8 via WSJT-Z. Interspersed with activity on that mode, I called periodically on my handheld, making QSOs on 2m FM and 70cm FM. It was a delightfully pleasant hour-and-a-half! The activation concluded with nice S2S QSOs with Viki MW6BWA/P on Graig Syfyrddin GW/SW-020 - not a bad old distance with a handheld! That afternoon I returned home, but with the full intention of conducting a couple more activations that evening - starting with The Cloud G/SP-015.
Saturday 16th May 2020 - The Cloud G/SP-015, Gun G/SP-013 & Shining Tor G/SP-004
It was a super joint activation on Shining Tor G/SP-004 with Jimmy M0HGY.
We set off after 7pm, choosing to utilise the evening time to avoid others and keep social distancing as easy as possible.
44 on 2m FM
7 on 30m FT4
13 on 2m FM
29 on 30m FT4
2 on 30m FT8
9 on 30m CW
Jimmy clearly supported my claim that 2m is alive and well with contacts coming thick and fast throughout the evening. By packdown time, I was thinking “If only I had my backpacking tent and sleeping bag with me, and be in a phase and life in which that was socially acceptable!” This was because I was by this stage getting called and worked by North American stations on 30m FT4. I would have liked to have gone on for hours!
Sunday 17th May 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
The Peak District, like most National Parks, was suffering “bad press” (or those that flock to them were). Of course, only bad news tends to “make the cut” on TV bulletins. There was plenty of walkers on Shining Tor G/SP-004. Social distancing was being observed impeccably with everyone showing great respect for each other on the paths. Care needed to be taken with gates and stiles of course - but I’d rather have been there than in a supermarket. (Less than 1% of Covid transmission occur outdoors according to a study published the previous week).
The previous evening, there were zero other people on the hill. This morning with several - but plenty of space for everyone, and all lovely considerate fellow walkers.
2m FM handheld - 6 QSOs
I then drove over to Gun G/SP-013.
Wednesday 20th May 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004, Gun G/SP-013 & The Cloud G/SP-015
More splendid social distancing on the hills. The hills are definitely a nice place to do this social distancing thing, and all the other walkers seem really lovely about it. My choice for Shining Tor G/SP-004 was 30m FT8 & CW. That wasn’t really based on any study of likely propagation conditions, but more addiction-based I fear. Anyway, it paid off, with the band providing lots of activity on both modes, though strangely, there was no FT4 to be had on 10.140MHz whatsoever.
30m FT8: 20 QSOs
30m CW: 26 QSOs (S2S - HB/BE-087, DM/BW-067, HB/SZ-016)
2m FM: 6 QSOs
It was nice to meet Tom M0TKG up there, and he was having a great activation on 40m SSB. In the heather, just near to where Tom was operating, I found my sunglasses that I’d lost up here back on 21st February 2019 (yes it was a very sunny day for February!) 453 days later - I found them again. Fully intact, but unsurprisingly in need of a clean! I stayed on the road and went to activate Gun G/SP-013, and then The Cloud G/SP-015.
Before descending, I worked a few on 2m FM, culminating with Simon G7WKX who advised me about the opening to EA on 6m. I was going to go home to pick up the 10m GP before my next activation, but now I could switch thoughts to the “Magic Band”, and the SOTAbeams SB6 Moxon was already in the car!
Friday 22nd May 2020 - Shining Tor G/SP-004
My 12m GP hadn’t been used in a while, so that’s what I took up to Shining Tor G/SP-004 with me for the joint activation with Alan M1FHM. When I unpacked that, it was in a sorry state, and no wonder, as it was rather sloppily constructed compared to what I would do now. It was therefore no surprise that it suffered several collapses in stiff breeze. Interestingly though, the VSWR indication on the 817 suggested it might be usable on 10m as well.
And so it proved to be.
12m FT8: 5 QSOs
10m FT8: 13 QSOs
2m FM: 2 QSOs
I made a mental note to to remake the 12m GP, better and stronger, and maybe with the resonant frequency nudged up a little higher.