...and so just over 21 hours from disembarking yesterday's activation, I was at it again. No Year 11 GCSE students had arrived for a Booster session by 3.20pm, so I decided to use that to my advantage (although they will still get a roasting in the morning). I followed the usual homeward commute as far as Congleton, but then diverted to follow the A54 towards Buxton, skirting around the unmistakable profiles of Bosley Cloud (G/SP-015), Bosley telecommunications tower (Sutton Common) and Shutlingsloe (the greatest non-Marilyn ever) on the way up.
Soon I joined up with the A537 Macc to Buxton road, where I turned left and drove down to the parking spot around 200 yards beyond the Cat & Fiddle at the start of the track. It had been dry all day, albeit cloudy and with rain forecast from around 6pm. It was 4.30pm, but some very light drizzle had just started. It was cold, but there was no wind. I donned full waterproofs, gaiters and gloves and set off up the track to Shining Tor G/SP-004. Written permission had been secured in advance - I wrote myself the note the previous evening. As the Peak View Tea Rooms came into view, I suddenly felt a little "undressed". What was I missing? My walking pole! I hardly needed a pole for this walk, except as half of the mast for the SOTA Beam (WASP version). I considered improvising at the summit, but as I had only been walking a couple of minutes, I turned back to get it from the car!
The walk was very enjoyable, and it was a great feeling at the end of a working day to wind down with an invigorating early evening stroll over the moors. At the kissing gate on the first ridge, there was a sign declaring what followed to be access land. I wonder how this will affect my general insistence that written permission is obtained from myself for this hill in future? In the "dip" section between the Tea Rooms path and the summit, there was still plenty of lying almost frozen snow, and the going became a little slower. On this section I ascertained the direction of the wind that was picking up and moving around the increasing fine drizzle. Views were good at this stage, with Shutlingsloe at the forefront of the southern landscape from where the wind was attacking. This in mind, I set up in the corner of the walls on the bench at the summit. Therefore, for the WAB chaps, on this occasion, quite unusually for me, I was in SJ97DYS this time; I am normally SJ97CHS from Shining Tor!
As ever, I was looking for opportunity to take short cuts, so I propped the inverted walking pole up in a little drifted snow which dispensed with the need for guying. I operated on 2m FM for 22 minutes, making 15 contacts. 11 of these were regular chasers, all but one of whom had switched on to catch me having read the reflector alert! Those of us of 2002 SOTA vintage would all agree that a Monday teatime CQ call in the formative days of SOTA would not have met with such a response. In fact, getting the four would have been some achievement! My thanks to all the regulars who read the activity alert and switched on to work me. My final contact was a nice one - M0AAS - my first contact with him, but we did recall that I sent him a SWL report in 1996 as G-20843, which he kindly QSLd, and then got me into some school fund raising activities for Guide Dogs for the Blind. It was nice after announcing QRT, that a couple of regular chasers came back to say "73 & safe descent" etc, revealing that they had remained listening in throughout.
As I walked back down into the dip, the temperature had dropped, the wind had picked up considerably, and the rain was harder - literally - it was sleet. A glance to the south saw much reduced visibility comapred to the ascent, with now only a faint but striking silouhette of Shutlingsloe now standing alone and effectively admitting responsibility for the incessant icy stings on my face. This of course then became worse as I turned towards the A537 on the path, but at least it was only 5 minutes to the car. I didn't bother with refreshment Cat & Fiddle style, and drove straight home to Macclesfield for a hot bath and a Chinese take away. And so ends the winter bonus season.
Thanks to the following stations, all worked on 2m FM with 2.5 watts:
On Saturday 30th April 2005, back home in Macclesfield after activating in North Wales, tea and bedtime out of the way, and being told in no uncertain terms that the World Snooker and Match of the Day were not on our domestic viewing schedule, I decided to undertake a clandestine late late activation. I set out at around 9.00pm and called in at a local Co-op for a few snacks. I parked up near the Cat & Fiddle and couldn't resist partaking in one of the pub's hot toddies before setting off. Then I walked up the usual route to Shining Tor G/SP-004 in fading daylight.
Once on the summit, I ascertained the prevalent wind direction, and set up on the opposite side of the wall from it, but near the corner so that I could change if necessary. My first CQ call (using GX4BJC/P) was answered by John GW4BVE who then kindly posted a note on the reflector. I spoke to Paul M1EFT/M who worked me simplex after following me down from GB3MN repeater, and he was followed by several stations who had been listening to MN. Then came the avalanche of regular SOTA chasers who had been reading their emails before going to bed! Shirley MW0YLS and Nigel 2E0NHM were kept waiting as I had battery trouble, but thankfully they were both still there when I eventually regained the airwaves. The first battery had expired, so I went to replace it with the second. Disintegrating the connector on the first pack as I disconnected it, and then setting fire to the other as it sparked when making the connection, and £100 worth of batteries bit the dust within 30 seconds of each other.
I returned on the ex-PMR Icom handheld, and particularly enjoyed my final contact with Ken G0AKF, 11.23pm local, when he opened with "Tom, please tell me you're not up there now!". While talking to Ken, I realised that I would need to stay to 0100 BST in order to get through to a new radio day, the expiry of the club callsign and the opportunity to reactivate under my own callsign so as to offer another set of chaser points. Forget that I thought, and a good thought it was too, as then my headtorch quickly dimmed to zero. I had plenty of spare batteries with me, but without a back-up torch (my one mistake), it would be fiddly but not impossible to restore some light. What good it would have been I don't know, as heavy hillfog had now descended. I packed up methodically, making sure I had retrieved everything, and descended in virtually zero visibility. I could just make out the edges of the path by my feet, so tried to stay between these all the way down; it took longer than usual! 17 contacts were made between 9.53pm and 11.23pm local, a very pleasing activation.
Back at the car, I used the remaining charge in the Icom to join a net of known Cheshire amateurs on 2m FM, adding the last contacts of the month in the club callsign logbook, up to just before 1am local, midnight UTC. I was so high on adrenalin that when I got home, I made myself some hot supper, had a can of lager, sorted the laundry and cleaned the kitchen - then entered the day's four activations on the database!
Thanks to the following stations, all worked on 2m FM with 0.5 watts, except for M3IHR on 2.5 watts and the final three with 4 watts from the handy:
A third activation of the year - was devised for Jimmy's benefit; to do some practise operating under supervision and rehearse other Foundation practical assessments like tuning a half-wave dipole etc.
We parked at the Cat & Fiddle, and were on summit to make the opening contact at 0716 UTC. I alternated between 2m SSB and 2m FM, with the former getting more contacts, but then it was a contest weekend. I made 47 contacts, all on 2.5 or 5 watts, before the impressive new OPP-817 2300mAH battery pack expired. This included plenty of S2S contacts, some of whom were SOTA regulars taking serious part in the contest(s). I wasn't submitting a contest entry, but I noted the serial numbers to give out with my Maidenhead locator and postcode letters.
Some of my best ever DX was to be had, with good readable contacts into Devon, Cornwall, Colchester and Lincolnshire. Jimmy completed all his tasks, and we returned to the Cat for a pint. On the drive home, I noted that 10m was wide open, so a quick detour to Chaser Central was in order. Three contacts to French special event stations later, and we were on our way home again.
Thanks to the following stations, all worked on 2m:
It's always a nice feeling to be invited out isn't it? So despite having activated Shining Tor G/SP-004 three times already this year, I was pleased to accept the invitation from Ray M1REK and Andy M1LOL to join them on summit as part of Stockport Radio Society's SOTA & Activity Evening. In fact it helped relieve the guilt of activating Shining Tor's bitter arch rival - Moel Famau GW/NW-044 - on Sunday!
Also scheduled were activations on Gun G/SP-013 and The Cloud G/SP-015, plus APRS and satellite demonstrations in Woodford, Cheshire. As I drove home from work on Tuesday 5th July 2005, the rain was pelting down and causing flash flooding on the roads. However, a round of telephone calls at 6.30pm as the weather offered to clear confirmed that activity was going ahead. By this stage, Steve G1INK's Alert to join us on SP-004 had disappeared from SOTAwatch; he later claimed some feeble excuse about having to lend someone his car, but I somehow cannot erase the possibility of him looking at the weather and bottling it from my mind!
I drove up to the start of the track near the Cat & Fiddle and parked there. A few spots of rain reappeared, so I donned full waterproofs, although once on, everything was dry again. I marched up to the summit and began to set up the SOTA Beam by the bench. As I was nearing completion, Ray and Andy appeared out of the mist. Andy and myself shared the FT-817 and SOTA Beam to make our contacts, while Ray used his handheld and another SOTA Beam to monitor for the other SRS activity.
We worked several stations, but hardly ran across the other SRS activity. One of my CQ calls was answered by G3CWI, but when I came back to him after the QSO in progress he was not to be found. It later transpired that having just parked up on Cloudside, lightning struck just 15 feet away, and they scarpered without ascending to the summit. As distant rumbles of thunder and hints of rain were noticed on Shining Tor, we started to wind things up, but at last, we made contact with the activity at Woodford, and then Jim G3KAF/P on Gun G/SP-013. Bernard G3SHF/P was alongside him working a 40m CW pile-up.
As we started to descend, a hail storm hit us, but it finished just as quickly as it arrived. We drove past the Cat & Fiddle and turned down the A54 Buxton-Congleton road, turning left onto the A523 at Bosley. Soon we were pulling in at the Rushton Inn in Rushton Spencer - very close to Gun and Cloud. Seven members of SRS were there, including Richard and two others that were beaten off The Cloud, Jim and Bernard who were on Gun, plus a friend of mine from the BDXC, Julian and his XYL.
The Flowers IPA went down very well, and we respectfully suggested to Richard that he organise such an event in the summer next time. Thanks to all for a good night out, and to the following stations, all worked on 2m FM with 2.5 watts:
G/SP-004 was back on the menu on the 30th of October 2005 as the final hill in a three summit day with friends. Following a relaxed lunch and a good natter, we set off along the lanes for Shining Tor G/SP-004. I offered to lead the way, but was soon regretting this when I saw the "Unsuitable for motor vehicles" outside the Leathers Smithy. Probably not good form to pressure other people into taking such a route I thought, so I embarrassingly had to make a U-turn and go the long way around past Forest Chapel and the Stanley Arms. We joined the A537 Macc to Buxton road just ahead of the Peak View Tea Rooms and parked on the track just before the Cat & Fiddle.
We made a brisk walk on largely horrible underfoot conditions to the summit. Shining Tor was the filthiest I have ever seen it, with the whole route under black puddles and/or sludge, and the summit very muddy and waterlogged. This is despite the fact that stone tracks and paths lead the wntire route to the summit! The Sotacache was found and signed, and we set up again on 2m, while Steve concentrated initially on 10m and Keith and Stuart did 60m. I worked a nominal four contacts even though there was nothing in it for me having activated the hill several times previously this year.
Jimmy worked several, and was called by two prominent SOTA people who had yet to work him. On returning home, there was the new copy of Short Wave Magazine, and there he was again, the ubiquitious M3EYP smiling out of the news pages. So ended a good day out. Zero points for me, and my local three summits that I know inside out, but a bit of an "adventure" with each hill being "blasted" with five activations, some fine company and good food and beer. Jimmy's done these hills scores of times too, but all before he got his licence. So at least he picked up 4 points and 3 uniques, and it was interesting to hear in the conversations that all five of us are now prioritisng the uniques, with the points a secondary focus.
Many thanks to the following stations, worked on 2m FM with 2.5 watts:
The final activation of Shining Tor in the epic year of 2005 came about with the opportunity for Jimmy to collect 3 winter bonus points to add to the 2 summit points a earned at the end of October. Also, Shining Tor had been activated 99 times so far. Jimmy claimed the 100th activation, and then I did the 101st, drawing SP-004 level with Kirkby Moor G/LD-049 as the most activated summits on 101 each!
Thanks to the following stations, all worked on 2m FM with 2.5 watts, except the second contact with G4BLH, made at his request on 70cm. We aim to please!