Wednesday, 11 December 2013

SOTA - Mynydd Carn-y-cefn - GW/SW-014

Mynydd Carn-y-cefn - 550m, 2 points

Association: Wales  Region: South Wales  
Latitude: 51 46 9 N, Longitude: 3 10 46 W
Grid Reference: SO 187085, QTH Locator: IO81JS


SOTA - Cefn yr Ystrad - GW/SW-008

Cefn yr Ystrad - 617m, 4 points

Association: Wales  Region: South Wales  
Latitude: 51 48 51 N, Longitude: 3 19 33 W
Grid Reference: SO 087137, QTH Locator: IO81IT


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

SOTA - Corndon Hill - GW/MW-013

Corndon Hill - 513m, 2 points

Association: Wales  Region: Mid Wales  
Latitude: 52 33 55 N, Longitude: 3 1 31 W
Grid Reference: SO 306969, QTH Locator: IO82LN

Another short drive along narrow country lanes brought me to the parking spot for Corndon Hill. This was the most imposing looking summit of the day and , true to form, it was a steep climb form the very start. There's quite a bit of height gain over the fairly short section to the trig point. The weather was still behaving, in fact there were odd glimpses of sunshine but on reaching the summit I was blasted by a strong cold wind.

This is a very nice little hill and it comes complete with it's own operating bench. There are also plenty of nice fenceposts to strap the pole to so it was a quick setup even though the wind had other ideas.

I was on the air by 1400 and this time, with nothing further planned and a couple of hours daylight remaining, I didn't have to rush things too much.
43 QSO's this time around in 44 minutes operating. This included the first Stateside QSOs of the day (5) and a yet again another S2S with Heinz, HB9BCB/p this time on HB/BL-005.

With the sun getting low and the wind not getting any warmer it was time to call it a day with 15 activator points in the bag.

The hill was to have the last laugh as my feet went from under me on the damp steep descent....


SOTA - Stiperstones - G/WB-003

Stiperstones - 536m, 2 points

Association: England  Region: Welsh Borders  
Latitude: 52 34 54 N, Longitude: 2 56 5 W
Grid Reference: SO 367986, QTH Locator: IO82MN

Summit number 2 was reached just after 1100z and I set out towards the rocky outcrops I could see in the distance. The low cloud had all but dispersed leaving a grey overcast day. At least it was dry! As I neared the summit the terrain became more and more rocky and I could see the trig point perched high on the rocks ahead.
Summit in the distance

Not to be outdone by a little piece of rock, I decided that I'd at least climb up to the trig point  and then find somewhere suitable to setup the station. A bit of scrambling was required over the slippery rocks to reach the trig point, but it was a far from ideal position to operate from! I retraced my steps and dropped down a few feet where I found a nice slot in the rocks to brace the fishing pole. There was then a bit more scrambling around trying to lay out the antenna before we finally got on the air.

Another quick activation with 23 QSOs in only 19 minutes of operating including the day's first S2S with Heinz, HB9BCB/p on HB/BL-009.The setup and break down took longer than the total activation time! Still, no time to be wasted, so I was soon headed back to get on my way to summit number 3, crossing into Wales for Corndon Hill.


SOTA - Long Mynd - Pole Bank - G/WB-005

Long Mynd - Pole Bank - 516m, 2 points

Association: England  Region: Welsh Borders  
Latitude: 52 32 40 N, Longitude: 2 51 49 W
Grid Reference: SO 415944, QTH Locator: IO82NN

The plan for today was to make the most of the winter bonus and snap up 15 points from 3 two point activations.An early start was called for and I duly arrived at the parking spot for Pole Bank at 0930 on a cloudy damp morning. At least with the low cloud I'd been mostly unaware of the sheer drop off the edge of the  narrow road that ascends from Church Stretton!
It's an easy walk from the carpark and I was soon setup in almost zero visibility.
Conditions were pretty good and the 33minutes of operation netted 47 QSOs.

Just as I was packing up the clouds began to clear and there were some momentary views of the spectacular Shropshire landscape. with no time to waste it was off to summit number 2, Stiperstones.
Cold damp cloud.

QSO map

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Mighty Mite Weekend

In late November, the dates of the inaugural SOTA - "Might Mite Weekend", the brainchild of Richard, G3CWI were announced to the world:
The first Might Mite weekend will be held on the 7-8th December 2013. The aim is simply to get on the air and make SOTA contacts using Rock Mites or Rock Mite clones. Chasers and activators are equally welcome.

SOTAbeams will provide a little trophy for the person who publishes the most interesting account of their activities over the weekend here on SOTAwatch.
I had planned to operate this as a single band entry with my new Rockmite 20, which I'd put through some limited, successful field trials.

On Thursday 5th December my plans were shot to pieces!

It all started when the postman rang the doorbell to deliver a parcel. Now this is not unusual, especially at this time of year when other members of the household seem intent on emptying the warehouses of the on-line shops. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find the parcel was addressed to me, even though I was not expecting anything to be delivered.

An unexpected parcel
The address label intrigued me. It had my name followed by G4ISJ. It couldn't possibly be a bulk load of 2000 QSL cards?
But no, the sender was "Evans form W. Yorks". The only Evans I know from that part of the world is Colin, M1BUU. Why would he be sending me a parcel?
The mystery deepened and I quickly found a knife to open the box. Through the bubble wrap I could see a shiny aluminium box glinting at me. Swiftly unwrapping the bubble wrap I'm left holding an "Ugly Mite 40", a Rockmite 40 clone, built Manhattan style.

But why?
There's an accompanying letter:

Dear Pete,
Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of a new 40m QRP rig!
I do hope you like it and I'm hoping that you will give it a try during Mighty Mite Weekend.
Words fail me. Colin has built a 40m rig especially for me for the MMW!
It's imperative that I now put on a good show at the weekend....

UM #001
Built for G4ISJ by M1BUU

Bredon Hill - G/CE-003

Saturday dawned overcast but dry and I packed my bags now loaded with the RM20 and UM40.

First stop was G/CE-003, Bredon Hill. It's only about a 20 minute walk to the summit from the car park and I was soon set up and ready to roll. The untried UM40 was hooked up to my 40m EFHW. WOW- loud, loud, loud signals bang on 7.028Mhz. A contest and a FISTS activity day were in full swing. There was no way I could compete here with this racket.
So it's hook up the RM20 instead and things are a little better. There's still a contest running but my frequency seems a bit clearer. A couple of CQs and first out of the hat is Claus, DL1HBL followed by 16 further stations in the next 30 minutes, EA, OK, SP, OM, OH, DL, HB9, CT1, F, and OZ.
Happy that I've made a reasonable dent in 20m I decided to try again on 40 metres.
I owed it to Colin.
If anything, things are worse. I have terrible BC band breakthrough and I'm trying to contend with someone nattering on about cricket scores on top of a contest and FISTS stations...

Suddenly I hear the FISTS station, who was bang on my rockbound frequency, signing QRT.
A quick QRL?, no reply and I'm calling CQ.
The silence is deadly (well it would have been if it wasn't for the cricket and the contest stations).
A few more CQs and then, as if by magic, out of the hash pops PA3FF. You can always tell when RBNgate has worked it's magic! This was followed quickly, but with some difficulty, by 5 more stations; G, GM and DF. I found that if I switched my tuner to "tune mode" the Tayloe bridge provided enough of an input attenuator to reduce the BC interference to a workable level. Of course it also meant that my OP signal was similarly attenuated.
I'm uncertain as to how much power was actually making it to the antenna.
After seven seriously hard minutes and a lot more CQing I called it quits for 40.
After a cup of coffee and an attempt to warm up my frozen fingers I made another attempt on 20m.
This netted another nine stations adding OE, HA, S57 and SM to countries worked.

By 11:45 I was packed up and making my way to summit number 2, G/CE-001 - Cleeve Hill.

QSO Map from G/CE-003

Cleeve Hill - G/CE-001

After some lunch I was on Cleeve Hill and ready for operations by 13:50z Once again 40m was quite shocking! I opted for 20metres to start the running. I called CQ for 18 minutes before  I eventually got a call from CT2IWW. It was 4 more minutes before I was obviously spotted on SotaWatch, but even this only netted a further 6 callers. However, the second of those callers was the super loud signal of Barry, N1EU to add to EA, I, S5, and OK. I made another futile attempt at calling again on 40metres but my CQs were drawing no attention in amongst the general melee.
I checked Sotawatch on my phone and saw that I was not being picked up by RBN. I added a manual spot and was pleased to shortly hear G4AFI calling me. I managed to work another 9 stations, an improvement on the earlier activation, but it was very hard work. This added G, GM, DL, OH, and HB9 to the DXX total, the HB9 contact being a S2S with HB9TVK/p on HB/ZH-015. I'm sure there were other stations calling me but the QRM was intolerable. A big thanks to those that persevered and especially for the S2S! On top of all this, and not helped by wearing gloves, my key decided to randomly decide to stop playing ball.
It would randomly stop sending and drop dashes which lead to some very sloppy morse :-( Back on 20m I managed another 9 QSOs adding OE, HA, CT1 and YO. Particularly nice was the QSO with OH9NB. He was running 5 Watts and a good 599. When I told him I was running 300mW he also reduced power to the same level. He was still 599!
QSO map - G/CE-001
The cold was getting to me, 40 was not getting any quieter and happy with my lot I packed up after my first  Mighty Mite Challenge. A challenge it certainly was :-). If there's a next time Richard, can we have a non contest weekend? This is what I was confronted with!


The challenge encourages people to get out on the hills with the simplest of rigs. The results show that even with wide open receivers and milliwatt power good results can still be achieved. OH9XX later sent me this video of my signal as received in Finland on 14Mhz.

 RBN shows the spread of my spotted signal which ties in nicely with the stations actually worked.
G4ISJ/P RBN spots 7/12/13
A lot of the effort obviously goes to the chasers, who go the extra mile to winkle out our tiny signals amongst the QRM. Thank you.

Overall I worked a total of 56 stations, 40 on 20metres and 16 on 40metres.
I worked 20 DXCC entities:
CT, DL, EA, F, G, GM, HA, HB9, I, OE, OH, OK, OM, OZ, PA, S5, SM, SP, W, YO.
Best DX was Barry- N1EU in the state of New York.

A big thanks to all the chasers and to Richard, G3CWI,  for coming up with the idea.
A very special thanks to Colin, M1BUU for building and providing me with a 40 metre Rockmite without which I'd be 16 QSO's down on that score above.
If anyone deserves to win this challenge it is Colin, and I duly nominate him to take away the trophy.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Rock Mite 20

Richard, G3CWI,  recently posted the following on the SOTA reflector:

Who would be interested in holding a Mighty Mite Weekend? Each individual Rock Mite would be allocated a number and maybe there could be a prize for the activator who makes most contacts over a weekend on their Rock Mite(s) and a prize for the chaser who works the most Rock Mites.

Well in for a penny, in for a pound, I promptly sent off for a Rock Mite 20 metre kit (RM20) so that I could enter the fray.

The rig is dead simple to build with only one SMD component to mount. All the rest are through hole components and there's not even any inductors to wind.

Rock Mite 20

Mounting it in an Altoids tin took longer than building the rig. The hard bit is always the metal work!

In the tin

Power measurement
 A quick check out on the bench showed that everything appeared to be working, signals were heard and a rough power measurement showed that we were getting approx 400mW output power.

A quick check on transmit resulted in several spots on RBN so at least we know that it's getting out OK

Bench test RBN spots

Today I took the RM20 up to my local SOTA summit to see if we could raise any contacts.
I placed an alert on SotaWatch and within 30 secs of calling CQ the calls starting rolling in!

Rain clouds over Cleeve Hill. G/CE-001

When I say rolling in, there were 7 callers. I was pleasantly surprised with the rigs performance, the receiver being very sensitive, if not a little wide in the bandwith department :-)
What shocked me most was when Jean - VE2JCW called with a great signal and obviously pulling my minuscule signal out of the ether. Thanks Jean for a Transatlantic QSO on the RM20's first outing.

RM20 Log

RM20 QSO Map
When I say there were only 7 contacts, that's when the "pile up" subsided. Happy with the results I put the kettle on for some afternoon tea, changed over to my MTR rig and ran QRO at 4 Watts O/P. This lead to a further healthy run on 14Mhz.

Log fills up with QRO 4W!
With the rain holding off, I made the most of the day and brought out the ATS4 to fill in the missing bands, 21Mhz, 18Mhz, 10Mhz and 7Mhz. Finally I modified the antenna, reinstated the MTR and had a final long chat with G0FVV on 5Mhz.

My spot behind the gorse bushes.

It was dusk when I packed up, it was blowing a gale and there were hints of moisture in the air.
Total QSO map

Total QSO's for the day.
All in all a good day out and the RM20 certainly seems capable of a few contacts.
In total 20 DXCC countries for the day from 52 contacts on all bands from 60-15 metres

 We now just need to wait for Richard to announce the Mighty Mite Challenge rules!