Saturday, 27 April 2013

QRP TTF 27th April


QRPTTF is an annual event to encourage QRPers to get out of the house and operate portable “from the field,” and of course, have fun. This year's theme was “Happy Trails” – that is, operating from or near an historic trail, and SOTA activators were once again encouraged to join in with the event. Although this is mainly a US centric event, it is starting to take on a more international flavour and I was aware that quite a few European SOTA activators would also be participating in the event. 
Being in the middle of a run of three night shifts meant that I'd have limited time to operate, but with reasonable weather forecast I was willing to give it a shot anyway.

Cleeve Hill
 My choice of operating location was my local SOTA summit, Cleeve Hill - G/CE-001. Cleeve Hill is the highest point of the Cotswolds at 1,083 feet (330 m). It commands a clear view to the west, over Cheltenham the River Severn and into Wales; and to the north over Winchcombe. It is a conspicuous outcrop on the edge of the limestone escarpment, (sometimes called the "Cotswold Edge"). In keeping with the Happy Trails theme, it is also crossed by the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile long-distance footpath,  officially inaugurated as a National Trail on 24 May 2007.

Set up in the lee of the Gorse bushes
 I awoke at 1300z after 5 hours sleep (after a night shift)to find a fine sunny day. However looking out over the hills I could see some big black thundery clouds.
By the time I'd packed, got my stuff together and driven to "my hill" it was just coming up to 1500z. It was still sunny but there was a huge black cloud heading my way. I took my tent with me from the boot of the car as there was every indication that I may well be in for a soaking.
I set up the antenna, an EFHW on a 7 metre roach pole, and pitched the tent in one of my little secluded spots in the lee of  some gorse bushes and got tuned up a couple of minutes after 1500z start time and  just as the first hailstones hit my head. I retreated for cover as the hail came down with a vengeance. Sitting inside my tent listening to 15m, I noticed a strange tingling effect in my ears from my earbud phones. Touching my ATS4 caused me to jump as I took a belt of static. I quickly pulled the antenna from the rig (useful things those phono plugs!) and threw the feeder outside in the hail. I had to sit it out for over 30 minutes listening to the hailstorm outside.

ATS 4b in full swing
Once the hail had subsided, a CQ on 15 metres immediately brought K4DY - Les in NC, followed by Barry N1EU on W2/GC-002 however I notice that Barry didn't log this contact even though I thought we'd completed OK. Rich N4EX was next in the log but with only a report of 439 I knew either conditions weren't good or my setup wasn't as good as usual. I could hear plenty of weak TTF signals on the band but most of them had corresponding very weak pileups and I just couldn't get through.

End of the day

A switch to 20m brought a short flurry of SOTA chasers from SP,OH,DL,OM,OK,G,CT1 before drying up. A coffee and a bite to eat and then some S&P for S2Ss brought OK2BDF/P on OK/PA-009 and OZ/LA1KHA/P on OZ/OZ-008, both on 30metres.
Another foray on 20m added LY,UT,EA4 to the country list.
A break for more hail and then back to 15m for a UT, K2JT - Joe and at last Bill, W4ZV on W4C/EM-047 who I seemed to have been chasing around all afternoon.

Sunset as I pack up
 An excursion onto 40m added LA, HA, DL and I in the shape of I/OE7PHI.
Conditions just seemed really poor with a high noise level, especially after last weekends good offerings so it was back to 20m to sweep up before I had to leave for work. In the bag this time were Ric - G3CWI/P on G/SP-004, N1EU again, this time Barry logged me :-) and the last contact of the night was Tom - M1EYP/P who I first read as N1?? for a final S2S on G/SP-015. I listened and called a bit more on 15m but I was cold, and I had to get packed up an get away. It was unbelievably cold as I packed up, rolling up the tent in a covering of hailstones froze my fingers.I was back to the car and drove straight into work for another 9 hour night shift at 2100z feeling a bit washed out :-(

I thought overall conditions were lousy but maybe it was just my setup.
A quick analyses on RBN between signals from G3CWI, M1EYP, G0PEB and myself show I was 6dB down on Richard most of the time. I really should have located to a better position on the west facing slope for a bit of "gain".

An enjoyable event none the less:
32 QSOs
6 S2S for 24 points.

Results here (placed 16th)

Saturday, 20 April 2013

SOTA - Bryn Awr - GW/SW-026

Bryn Arw - 384m, 1 point

Association: Wales  Region: South Wales  
Latitude: 51 52 46 N, Longitude: 3 1 0 W
Grid Reference: SO 301206, QTH Locator: IO81LV

View to Sugar Loaf, GW/SW-012

View to Ysgryd Fawr, GW/SW-016
I squeezed this one in on the way home from Waun Fach. It's only a 15 minute drive to the parking spot where only one other car was parked. I followed the boardwalks through the nature reserve and then a few switchbacks onto a bridleway, eventually picking up a path towards the summit. With Just under a mile walk this was a lot easier than Waun Fach, although my legs knew that were now into double figure miles. The summit was covered with prickly gorse bushes but with some gaps to find a place to park mysef. A small tree made an excellent pole support so setup time was rapid. There were splendid views in the late afternoon sunshine, with Sugar Loaf- GW/SW-011, Ysgyrd Fawr - GW/SW-016, Garway Hill - G/WB-016 and May Hill - G/WB-019 clearly visible. I Didn't hang around on this one and as soon as there was a break in callers I switched band. All told I worked 27 QSOs, 17 DXCC and one S2S with Rich, G3CWI/p on G/NP-004.

SOTA - Waun Fach - GW/SW-002

Waun Fach - 811m, 8 points

Association: Wales  Region: South Wales  
Latitude: 51 57 46 N, Longitude: 3 8 38 W
Grid Reference: SO 215300, QTH Locator: IO81KX

With the forecast set fair for a fine spring day, I set off home early for the activation of Waun Fach. When I arrived at the car park on the road to Grwyne Fawr reservoir there was only one other car there. The sun was shinning brightly and it was relatively mild.
Following the stream uphill
I hiked along the road to the second foot bridge crossing the river and then skirted the northern bank to the end of the forestry enclosure. At this juncture I headed upwards along the fence line. With a sharp drop to my right and muddy and slippery underfoot this was a careful and technical walk. after the forest gave way to open moorland things became even more difficult. The gradient increased sharply, the conditions underfoot difficult and I resorted to scrambling on all fours several times. This was a long hard climb! Eventually the summit of PenY Gadair Fawr appeared ahead and I was awarded with some great views from the summit at 800 metres, only 11 metres lower than Waun Fach over a mile away.
PenY Gadair Fawr
The hike to Waun Fach can only be described as interesting. This was a walk of about a mile and a half through gloopy wet bog land. More than once I was up to my knees in the bog, gaiters not really helping the ingress of water to my boots. After 1:50 minutes I arrived at the barren boggy summit of Waun Fach. The sun was shinning and I'd seen only three other people. I quickly set up and launched straight onto 14Mhz. Once spotted I had a good run of contacts before moving onto 10Mhz. One thing to note was that the mobile signal was very patchy. One minute my phone would say "No Service" and shortly after it would momentarily pop up. This was good news as I was running the iPhone app SOTAgoat. When I got a signal, the push notifications came rolling in, and I was able to spot potential S2S contacts. I therefore became activator and chaser at the same time, and although a few got away, I managed 10 S2S contacts which was pleasing in it's own right, but the cream was working Bill, W4ZV/p for a transatlantic S2S on W4C/WP-012. He writes about his own activation on his blog.
Summit to Summits

My plans to pack up and move on early to activate a couple more summits on the way home seemed to be evaporating. Every time I said "that's it" another spot would appear, or one of the many hikers would come across and engage me in conversation. This turned out to be a very busy hill top! Eventually I pulled the plug, packed up and made ready for the descent. Not wishing to trudge back across the bog, or tackle what would be a difficult descent, I instead made a direct beeline for the reservoir in the valley below. The descent was very straight forward and as an ascent option I'd also highly recommend it. I passed dozens of people ascending this route and it certainly seems popular.


Ready to roll

The shack

The easy descent route to the reservoir

Grwyne Fawr reservoir

Looking back at the dam

Eventually I arrived back at the start point having walked a total of eight tough miles. It now looked like I'd only manage one more activation, so packed the car and departed for Bryn Awr, GW/SW-026.

Back to the valley floor

Friday, 19 April 2013

New MTR field trials

MTR ver2 (L), MTR ver1 (R), 1000mAh (3S) Lipo, AME Portapaddle II
I took my new MTR, together with my original, to my local summit - G/CE-001, to give it a short workout to check it's performance.  It turned out a lovely sunny day, and although there was a cold northerly wind blowing, I setup in the shelter of some bushes and was positively warm whilst sitting in the sun.
After placing a spot on SOTAwatch the contacts came steadily.I started off on 30 metres and had a run of 8 sations in 6 minutes before the frequency went quiet. I took the opportunity to check my spot, and noticed that Barry, MW0IML/P was on 60 metres cw, so I quickly swapped over MTR's and called him for a quick S2S. Barry was about to QSY to 40m so I took his frequency and called  CQ. I was answered by G3IXZ who also informed me that Dave, G4ASA/P was up 1Khz calling CQ. A quick QSY and I'd bagged my second S2S of the day within 5 minutes of each other.As I had the 60/20 MTR setup, I switched to 20m where I worked 9 stations, including a transatlantic with Bill, W4ZV. An alert from my phone showed that DJ5AA/p was on 40m, so it was a quick swap over to MTR ver2 to make a third S2S followed a few minutes later with S2S number 4 with DL4FDM. Calling CQ on 40m netted another 12 stations on 40 before OK3EQ/p came along for S2S number 5.Another alert indicated OK1DVM/p on 20m, so another MTR shuffle and S2S number 6 was in the bag.With a respectable 36 QSOs between the MTRs, the nice weather and the fact that I had my antenna analyser with me, I took some time to rebuild my 15 and 17 m antennas which had not been behaving that well. To put them to the test I pulled out my ATS4 (yes, that came along too) and put out a CQ on 17m. I was rewarded with 10 contacts which included a couple of Asiatic Russians and one Stateside QSO. A CQ on 15m netted only a single call from OK1MLP to round off the day with 49 QSOs, 19 DXCC and 6 S2S.
Everything worked to plan and although band conditions were not good, the little MTRs performed flawlessly. All that and sunshine, what more could you ask for?

S2S contacts

Out of the wind in the lee of the bushes

The shack

Friday, 12 April 2013

MTR #257

Well I was keen to get this new rig built and on the air, so in one session I completed mounting all the SMDs. The following day I finished off all the through hole components and toroids and was ready for the smoke test! Everything checked out OK and on power up I was pleased that everything seemed to be working.Listening around I heard G3HYO calling CQ so I  gave him a quick call. He came straight back to me and gave me a 599. Pleased with that, I listened around on 30 metres and heard T77C running a pile up. I gave him call and he came straight back and gave me 599. He was giving "real" reports rater than standard 5NN so was again pleased quite chuffed with this. Another hours work and it was all boxed up in it's rather smart little case. I hope to get out on the hills and give it a thorough testing within the next week or so. Another winner form KD1JV.
Ready for first QSO

2 QSOs complete. 599 form G3HYO on 40 and 599 from T77C on 30.
Now boxed and ready to roll
Top view of new enclosure

My KD1JV stable - ATS4b MTR ver1 and ver2

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Another MTR!

I've managed to get myself another MTR from the second run by Steve Webber, KD1JV.
This time the kit comes with it's own box. The option therefore is to use an Altoids tin or this rather smart case.
I'll start building as soon as I get some free time.
More later.
MTR Ver2

Original MTR in Altoids tin