August 2009 SOTA and other adventures
30th August 2009 G/WB-023 Hegdon Hill
Jeux sans frontieres (Games Without Frontiers)
On our way from G/WB-016 Wapley Hill I heard a familiar voice on 2m it was Richard G3CWI and he was calling Jimmy MW3EYP/P or Tom MW1EYP/P on GW/SW-015 Mynydd Llangorse. At that point I had no idea he was on a summit but followed him up to 145.525mHz and listened. As the terrain changed I got snippets of information and I was fairly sure he was on G/SP-004 Shining Tor this was eventually confirmed by a SOTA Tweet from Martyn M1MAJ’s SOTA to Twitter service. Whenever Richard called CQ I called in but kept loosing contact. Eventually I got a proper readable signal, we stopped the car and both Helen and I worked him. I knew we were very close to Hegdon Hill but was not sure we could get the station up and running in time for a summit-to-summit. After driving about 100 yards further on the TomTom said “You have arrived at your destination.” Where the heck was the trig? We were opposite the transmitter station. Both Helen and I were sure it said in the write up that there was a lay-by we could set up in similar to that other roadside summit G/TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold, but when I rechecked the print out I realised we were wrong. We drove up and down the road three times and turning the Discovery around on narrow lanes is not fun. We eventually parked up just a little further down the hill than from where I worked Richard and I got out to look for the trig.
The trig was directly opposite the transmitter station in a field but we had missed it due to trees on the field’s edge. I decided to set up on the verge by the gateway to the field and walked back to get my gear. I dropped my rucksack on the ground where I intended to set up and Helen called to me to look up. There was an overhead power cable running up that side of the road. Helen told me it was also wiping out HT on the FT-857 in the car. No point in setting up there then and maybe no point in trying to do HF. I crossed the road and started to set up near a gateway on opposite. Helen came over with her rucksack and was fishing in her bag for the handie, “You won’t need that we are just doing 2m FM and I will use the 857” I said. Apart from anything the light was fading fast and I did not want to be stood on the edge of an unlit road in the dark. I borrowed the J-pole and tuned to 145.525 and Richard was still at it. A summit-to-summit was in the bag a nice start.
Running the full fifty watts I soon sucked the life out of my last 7AH seal lead acid battery but not before I had ten in my log and Helen had her four. Number nine was Tom MW1EYP/P on his descent from GW/SW-015 Mynydd Llangorse. For a while we both thought it was another summit-to-summit but Tom later informed me he was outside the activation area. It was not much of a loss as we already had the chaser points from Jimmy on that summit from our activation of G/WB-016 Wapley Hill. However it was just a pity I could not give Jimmy the point but I could not hear him even though he was higher up the hill than Tom. Chris M0VQE was the final station in the log and then after three or four CQ calls on both my chosen frequency and the calling frequency I gave up with a few drops of rain splattering the down. I was in such a hurry to pack up that Helen had to point out that the mast was still strapped to the gatepost I had used and I had to open up the rucksack for the wire cutters to clip the cable ties. Back in the car we realised just how cold it had gone.
Soon we were back in the cosy cottage and after a coffee I went for a shower then changed to go out for our evening meal. We never got to the pub we planned to visit because Helen said she was not really hungry after the baguette we had eaten for lunch so we settled down to watch a repeat of ‘Top Gear’ on Dave. A while later instead of the big meal and beer I had been expecting I settled down to boiled egg and soldiers, which I had not eaten in years and enjoyed it. Before we went to bed I put all the batteries on charge and we set up TomTom and GPS for G/WB-017 Shobdon Hill.
When we arrived back at the cottage there was a note on the door saying we did not need to leave at 10 am, as there was no-one coming in after us. Waking on Monday 31st August the weather was looking distinctly poor with dark skies and the occasional shower. We had breakfast and I packed the Discovery putting the walking gear and rucksacks on the top for ease of access. Helen came out to the car and said, “It doesn’t look good!” I said we should head for the hill and see what the weather looked like when we got there.
We had targeted the longer but less strenuous looking walk from the NE end of the hill and headed for the start of the Mortimer Trail at SO406643. I am not sure if Richard G4ERP’s parking spot at SO407642 is the same one as in the one we downloaded into the GPS from Richard G3CWI’s site, but when the TomTom said, “You have arrived at your destination” we were on a bend with nowhere to park. The GPS did not seem much better as we were having trouble getting a lock on the satellites possibly due to being in the lea of the hill and possibly because of the dark clouds overhead hiding an electrical storm. There was no signal on the mobile phone either. After driving up and down the road looking for a parking place we pulled in to re-examine the map. There did not seem to be enough detail and I got out the laptop to check multi-map. I needed Google earth or something but having no mobile phone meant we also had no mobile Internet.
We discussed leaving the car where it was and following a nearby path that I could not find on the map but uncertainty and the fact we might be blocking access to a field added to the disincentive to walk maybe a mile and a half further than planned. We made our decision we would go home, come back another day and try from the SW end. As I got out of the car to return the laptop to the luggage compartment big drops of rain told me we probably were making the right move. I was seriously disappointed our wonderful weekend had to end this way and even more so when the rain never really got a foot hold all the way home.
The cottage was great and we hope to make a return trip soon to the same venue and tackle Shobdon Hill and three others within easy reach of there. If it is not later this year then a return trip should also include a second activation from Hergest Ridge after a visit to Hergest Croft Gardens with the camera, but don’t tell the mother-in-law. I know she would love the gardens but if she wants to come we will need a bigger cottage and have to take two cars. We now have 8 out of 23 WBs in the bag, which is a big enough chunk to think of trying to finish them off but then again we have 8 out of 17 SPs and 5 out 7 DCs so the book is open as to which region gets finished and how many years it takes us.