The last 8 weeks have seen me focus heavily on my CW with the CW Ops Academy. Around Christmas time I thought about signing up and then got off my back side and applied in early spring. The expectation was that I would be able to join in later on in the year as I’d understood it to be a busy course. Fortunately that was not the case.
So, with 8 weeks of CW laying ahead of me I’ve rather neglected many other things. But it has been worth every bit of effort. The course was run by Keith, G0HKC and had 3 other students. 2 from the UK and the other from Italy. The recommended 30 minutes of daily practice eluded me with all the usual distractions at work and home and I reckon I managed about 20 minutes on average. But even that saw my accuracy in receiving increase as well as the speed I could both receive and send. Additionally I can now head copy reasonably well up to around 20wpm which was impossible beforehand and we’ll above my expectations.
The ‘lessons’ were conducted over Skype twice a week for the full 8 weeks and gave us a chance to talk and compare notes as well as practice together. Keith was an excellent advisor and I will miss the lessons with him and my new CW friends. I have even dabbled in the CWT contests but the speeds are still a little daunting still.
Next up will be the level 3 after some more airtime. Look forward to sharing some slightly better CW from IO84. If you are looking to improve your CW then I can recommend the course entirely.
Recently I attempted a SOTA activation of Skiddaw G/LD-004. It is an easily accessible summit and a really good MTB route (called Back ‘o’ Skiddaw – although I’m not sure there is a link between the lake district and pirates but we’ll run with it). I’ve ridden it before but it has been a few years and the 17.5m route is straightforward and involves 2 out of the 4 lakeland MTB activities, these are of course:
- Riding – Sounds trivial but read on
- Pushing – Right its too steep / rocky / muddy. Get off and push the thing (generally up).
- Humping – Stage 3 is extreme. You have to carry your bike. It is very heavy after a few meters
- Throwing – This is the last resort and usually used in the summer when vegetation is everywhere. Pick up your bike and throw it on the bracken. Step into the flattened area. Pick up and repeat.
As I said the route is straightforward. The kit is standard….
- LiPo – 3S 11.1v 2200mAh
- SOTAbeams SB270 (no longer available but a great antenna)
- VX-8GR APRS handheld
- Fishing pole
- End fed half wave antenna and ilertuner
- Palm paddle key
- 7m fishing pole
So imagine the scene. Dropped son off at cub camp and parked up. the sun is shining and the breeze is gentle. A good spring day. No need to check the high level weather forecast as you can see the summit. Assume its a bit colder and windier up top so pack a lightweight fleece.
Ride off. Enjoy the view. Here are a few photo’s
Nobody this way
Or that way…excellent
Windy, cold and rocky. makes riding fun (ish)
I kept my helmet on to keep the heat in
Whilst on stage 2 (pushing) up seat how (a lower summit and not a SOTA one) a fell runner was coming down with full kit on. To the untrained eye this might sound reasonable but as this is Cumbria it is rare to see a fell runner (because they are very quick generally, blink and they’ve gone…into the mist) and its even rarer to see one wearing a jacket. I was concerned. Sure enough the wind got stronger and stronger. Even though I was on the windward face I was shielded or in some kind of wind flow niceness. It didn’t last. Over the top of the ridge and it was howling and cold. Quick up the top and find a windless spot on the leeward side of the summit.
Skiddaw is a loose rocky summit that is old, as are all the lakeland summits and valleys for that matter but thats a whole new post. The summit might have been in a wind tunnel. 40+mph and around 3c. Not good when you’re in shorts. So on with the spare clothes and set up. No chance of HF today and VHF was going to be a quick one. I tried 2m USB but couldn’t keep the antenna straight so switched to FM and added more rocks to the support. No joy. I had to drop it to ground level and made do with the few contacts I made. Not what I planned at all.
There will be many morals to take from this experience. I like to focus on the positives and ignore the negatives, it helps block out the cold in this instance. So the main points…..
2 hours up……..10 minutes down…….great down hill section weaving around the many walkers who on the whole were much better behaved than they have been in the past. Just don’t touch the brake rotors for a while and keep them spinning. 😉
Next summit will be…….TBC
In a rare moment of rashness I decided to not do any building work today on the summer house. Partly because its nearly finished and partly because Mrs g7kse was sent to the builders yard for 5off sheets of 22m ply and came back with 10 bags of gravel. So as punishment she had to do something construction-like with it. I on the other hand spent a few hours /p in a new venture I’m calling ‘summat on the air?’ There are a few rules to follow.
- You have to be /p – Its best if you walk up a nice hill that may or may not be a summit, hump, lump, fell or other such designation.
- Take a radio and antenna. Set this up in the usual manner.
- Tune about for around an hour, call CQ a few times but in general the idea is that you don’t have a QSO. Or if you do it needs to be with a contest station who is rattling off CW as if it was some kind of percussive attack.
- Enjoy the view, this is imperative.
- Go home and question if you’ve broken something in your rig / antenna / key / brain etc
Here’s a few photo’s to remind me of today’s events. I’m sure you’ll agree that St Bees head is a nice place. There’s an old wartime lookout post (which must have been miserable) and a nice view towards the Isle of Man to the wets and the Lakeland fells to the south and east.
Stay away from the edge
A simple set up with an LNR precision MTR5b and end fed antenna, note leg in lower left of picture.
I can see my house from here
A little postscript….
The Cumbrian dialect has many variations. To the outsider they all sound a bit similar so to help the Cumbrian Dictionary will help you understand. So I have taken this from the dictionary to help:
summat1.(noun. summert) something, e.g. There must be summat wrang, he can normally mek it ower yon yat easy = I think something is amiss as he is usually able to jump that gate with ease.
My favourite word is ‘dookers’ if you were interested….eh?
A little while ago I decided it was time to get a little help with my CW. Whilst I can have a reasonable QSO whilst I’m sat in the shack I tend to make a complete hash of it when /p. The bottom line is that my head copying skills just aren’t there. To try and fix this I enrolled on the CW Academy course for the slightly less than novices (Intermediate). I had expected that I was slated for October but it seems that we’re starting on April 1st! Hope there’s no significance in that.
Many of us know Norman, G7MRL. Not so many know that he took ill before Christmas and has since had to give up radio. He has asked that I help sell his stuff. I have made a list and published it here rather than trying to list it all on eBay. Have a browse and if anything takes you fancy get in touch.