Wednesday, 5 May 2010

My First SOTA Activation: G/WB-005 Long Mynd - Pole Bank, Shropshire

As a keen hilltopper, I thought it would be a good idea to join the SOTA programme. I always find it interesting to climb the dizzy heights of a substantial Derbyshire hill, purely to see how far the signals will travel. 

In a spur-of-the-moment decision this week I decided to make my first 'activation', although there was no planning and I did not post an alert to the SOTA groups as this was going to be more of a trial. The weather seemed reasonable if a little on the cold side. At least the sun was shining and since the Met Office were forecasting cloudier, colder, dull and wet conditions over the next few days I opted for an immediate excursion rather than wait until the following week in the hope that the weather might improve. So, on Tuesday May 5th, 2010 at 2pm local time, I got in the car with my YL Jane and headed for the Long Mynd in Shropshire, some 110 miles away.

Driving towards Pole Bank

I have only known Jane for a few months but I quickly discovered that some of her family had been involved with amateur radio over the years and she too had a keen interest. She is currently waiting to take her Foundation Licence exam. Jane has been with me on several of my hilltopping extravaganzas recently and has even encouraged me to do so. It's nice when your partner shares the same interest. 

The journey was fairly straight-forward, despite a couple of minor hold-ups along the way around the Cannock/Wolverhampton areas. We also couoldn't resist having a quick look around the village of Church Stretton before taking the high road to the Long Mynd. We arrived close to the summit shortly after 6pm (17:00 GMT), with the short remainder of the journey being on foot. It took about ten to fifteen minutes to reach the summit at "Pole Bank", the highest point of the long Mynd. 

More views from the ascent

My equipment consisted of a Yaesu FT817, an HB9CV, a small tripod, a fibreglass fishing rod and some good old 'gaffa' tape, which usually solves most problems. It took only a few minutes to get everything set up, ready for my first CQ call. In an attempt to set things rolling I telephoned my friend Patrick, G1HEW in South Yorkshire to have the first QSO so I could test the setup. Patrick became my first and furthest contact and thus my first SOTA activation was underway! The first two QSOs took place on the SSB part of 2m. No sooner had I spoken to Patrick I had a nice chat with G4ENZ near Gloucester. 

No further stations were worked on SSB so I quickly moved to the FM part of 2m, changing the polarity of the HB9CV from horizontal to vertical. Calling on 145.500 I quickly established a further three QSOs which took me over the minimum requirements for my first SOTA activation. 

The exercise took less than an hour in total and we would have stayed to work more stations but the weather was beginning to get the better of us. Although we were both well wrapped up, it would have been wise to carry an extra layer of clothing. It's surprising how different the weather feels when you are in an exposed location up in the hills. You can easily knock three to five degrees centigrade off the temperature compared to lower altitudes a few hundred feet below. Those winds really penetrate. 

Church Stretton, seen from half way up the ascent to the Long Mynd

After taking down the aerial it was time to walk back down the hill towards the car. Then the short drive into the village allowed the opportunity to take a few photograph. We ended our day driving a little further afield into North Wales for the evening. 

The whole experience was most enjoyable and we are looking forward to another activation in the near future. 

As expected, our trial run taught us a few things: Firstly, we could do with taking some gloves next time; Also some method of guying the makeshift mast would have been useful. 

Here is the brief log from our excursion. This log also appears on the SOTA website 

  04/05/10    17:15z    G1HEW     144MHz    SSB    My first SOTA activation!
  04/05/10    17:20z    G4ENZ       144MHz    SSB
  04/05/10    17:32z    2E0OWH/M    144MHz    FM
  04/05/10    17:36z    G7OMN/M     144MHz    FM
  04/05/10    17:42z    G3ZKN       144MHz    FM

John G1VVP & Jane.