VK3ARR's SOTA Blog

Ego loqui ad viros super montes

G/SC-004 Staple Hill

Heading up to the Cotswolds, I noticed a SOTA summit on the way. Given it was my birthday, and after yesterday’s misadventure, I put the hard word on being able to activate it on the way back. As it was, it was so close to our route back that it wasn’t really a big deal at all. Or so I said.

Staple Hill is actually quite easy to access, along firm forest paths. They were a little muddy, due to rain, but at no point were they unpassable. We parked at the access gate that Phil G4OBK mentioned in his blog, and walked in. It took us about 15 minutes to get into the activation zone.

It turned out that I’d somehow sold the summit as being so easy to access that it was drive-up, so the 15 minute walk was a surprise. The unsuitable shoes was a setback, but the pathways were good enough. Because of that, we didn’t bother trying to find the trig point, which is apparently off the track. Once I was in the forest at the far end of the track, I set up and tried to get going.

This was something of a disaster. It would seem that Qantas’ baggage handlers have excelled themselves, because I had no end of trouble setting up the Buddistick. The tripod I had has a number of cracks in it that it didn’t have before, and what had seemed a minor antenna fall at Christ Cross had actually broken the attachment plate. I managed to get the vertical set up with some velcro straps I had, but I couldn’t get the SWR down to a decent level. In fact, it was infinite more often than not.

I eventually diagnosed a loose PL-259 connector that I was able to jam in, and my wife graciously held onto the antenna for the vast majority of the activation. I got onto 20m, and managed to work Vlad OM1AX for my first OM contact, and followed it with another (OM8). Two Spanish contacts and a Polish one did enough for 20m, and so I decided to QSY to 40m to get local G contacts.

Right as I was trying vainly to find a clear frequency on 40m, and just as my wife said, “how much longer must I hold this?” the heavens opened up with some solid hail. We had a reservation at 6:30pm at River Cottage Canteen in Axminster, so that was that. No 40m, and no G contacts. I dropped everything quickly, and we headed back to the car and home, in sunshine. The hail was quick, the rain quicker, but it was nice to walk back without having to put our hoods back on.

Holding the antenna up, calling CQ

Holding the antenna up, calling CQ

The view from the access road, near the summit woods

The view from the access road, near the summit woods

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G/DC-001 High Willhays

With the weather looking fine for Wednesday, I had a plan to activate High Willhays and Brown Willy, the high points of Devon and Cornwall respectively. We set out early, High Willhays first, heading for the public access road from Okehampton Camp that everyone seems to use. I had an OS map of Dartmoor to help me out, and we set off for the summit at about 9:30am.

I had the OS map, but having studied it hard over the past few days, I stupidly kept it in my pack, resulting in missing a turnoff over Rowtor, and taking a longer route, which added about 1km to the journey. This extra kilometre would be the killer in the end. The path was steeper, the distance longer, and by the time we were back on the right path, my wife was exhausted, the jet-lag taking a strong toll. With Yes Tor and High Willhays looming above us, and another kilometre to go, we decided to head back.

While I am sure we could both have made it, I suspect I wouldn’t have been the most popular husband by the end of it. So, we took a nice long walk on Dartmoor with a radio on my back instead, and headed back to the car by the proper route. Having seen Yes Tor and High Willhays up close now, though, I have a strong urge to head back and complete the task. The landscape was stunning, and the weather was beautiful. I’d also spent so long thinking about getting up there, that to turn back early was very disappointing.

Having given up on High Willhays, it seemed prudent to give up on Brown Willy too. Thus, we called it a day SOTA wise, had lunch in Launceston and spent the afternoon in Looe. This was a good antidote!

Okehampton Camps

Okehampton Camps

West Mill Tor

West Mill Tor

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

Dartmoor sheep

Dartmoor sheep

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

Dartmoor

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Brook

Brook

Small brook

Small brook

Dartmoor sheep

Dartmoor sheep

The path from the access road

The path from the access road