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)

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