With the realisation that time was running out to take all my leave from work, I figured I could afford a half-day to attempt an activation of a new hill for me. That opportunity came good when I had a meeting in our Taunton office in the morning… with the hill in question, Will’s Neck, just a few miles to the north of the town.
I nearly didn’t get there, thanks to articulated lorry with a trailer attached, who had got stuck in the country lanes leading up to the Lydeard Hill Car Park! Fortunately, the driver finally managed to extricate the vehicle and we could resume the journey. There’s plenty of free parking space at the car park and a well graded track that leads all the way to the summit.
The climb up to the summit is a gentle incline and takes about 20-30 minutes from the Lydeard Hill Car Park. The path is obvious and you can take in some wonderful views across Somerset.
I had brought two radios with me, the Yaesu VX-120 2m FM handheld and a brand new uSDX+ HF transceiver, which was to be used for the first time (having charged it up the previous evening).
G/SC-002 is 386m above sea level and construction at Hinckley Point is clearly visible, along with views across the Bristol Channel and into Wales.
The Yaesu VX-120, whilst an ‘old’ handheld, was also new to me but I had had a chance to try it out the previous weekend – with great results. I’d built a 2m Slim Jim antenna and I already had a 6m fishing pole to use as a support. I’d tested it all out a few days prior to this trip by going up Pilsdon Pen Hill Fort, setting it up and operating from a favourite spot of mine.
Back at the summit of Will’s Neck, I found a shrub that appeared to have a dog collar screwed to it – which was somewhat random, especially as it was about 7′ (~2m) above the ground! Anyway, it was ideal for holding up the fishing pole, with the Slim Jim hanging down from the top of it.
Operating at the summit started at 14:00 and I was answered straight away, with another three contacts made in pretty quick succession. At least I had now activated the hill and decided to continue with 2m FM for at least an hour. Between 14:00 and 15:00, I made 12 contacts and a special thanks to Dale, 2W0ODS, who spotted for me and sent me this video… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GdnHxiwJSY. Thank you, Dale!
By the time I decided to try out the uSDX+ transceiver, my hands were frozen. It may have been sunny / cloudy but at the top of the hill with 25+mph winds and a temperature of around 8-10 degrees C… and no gloves… I was glad of the opportunity to move around and get the 40m antenna unravelled.
The fishing pole was redeployed as the centre support for the wire antenna, with one end heading off back to the previously used shrub, and the other side pinned out to the ground opposite it. A 1:1 balun was plugged into the back of the uSDX+ and a few calls put out on 40m (LSB).
It was much harder making contacts, with plenty of other stations on the band, trying to carve out a little spot where I wasn’t affected by interference was hard going. Using the internal battery, I was probably running about 3w only.
I managed four contacts, ranging from North London, up to Chester and down into Cornwall, before giving up due to the cold and light beginning to fade.
Overall then, with 16 QSO’s in the log, the activation was deemed a success. The Yaesu VX-120 with Slim Jim is a fantastic combination for SOTA operation – compact, quick to setup and use, and it works well (I got a few comments about the excellent audio quality from it). This is one setup that will be coming with me when I head up Moel Siabod later in the year.
The uSDX+ transceiver is equally compact but the antenna will need to be changed. As a single band aerial, it’s somewhat limiting (I don’t own an ATU, so couldn’t tune it up for 21MHz), and I’d seriously consider a SlideWinder et al. for the future. The uSDX+ wasn’t perfect, with the mic socket playing up, but other than that I was rather impressed by it’s capabilities – considering the price and what it is. So, the HF setup needs some more work…