At last, the report…
After my heart attack in early July, it took quite a time to get an expedition with Paul together. The combination of having to prove myself on small hills first and progress to steeper inclines was not the only thing that held us back. Issues with work kept Paul from being able to commit to a date, but eventually we settled on the second week of October, come hell or high water as it were.
Monday 9th October 2017
Paul kindly drove this time so that I would not have to drive long distances in combination with climbing hills. We set out from Stourbridge at our usual time around 03:40z and kept to routine with a bacon and mushroom buttie and a coffee at Tebay services. The weather was mixed, but probably better than we expected… that was until we approached the border with Scotland. However, when we arrived at Stobo at 08:40z, it was just dull. The parking spot that Paul had determined by the phone box was occupied by a white van and it was only by chance that I had read a report on Scottish Hills, so I knew that we would to be able to park opposite the kirk. The road looks like a private drive, but no-one came out of the houses near the kirk to see us off. Careful not to damage the newly seeded verge, we got ready for the unknown – my first real physical trial since July.
We set off along the John Buchan Way at 09:05z with a huge amount of time allowed in the itinerary to ascend Penvalla GM/SS-145. The path was easy to follow and gently sloping until we got near the foot of the hill. We made the decision to take a fairly direct route to the summit up the shoulder of the hill, but due to the terrain this did not actually gain us any time. If anything it was harder going than the narrow track up the spine of the hill. Although the over-riding consideration was to take it easy, the heather yomp turned out to be a good test for me, both in terms of the steepness of the approach and the time taken for the ascent. We arrived at the rather featureless summit at 11:45z and settled down amongst the vegetation ready to brave the cool wind that was blowing.
The final approach to Penvalla GM/SS-145
View from the summit to Trahenna GM/SS-143
While I settled down to some sandwiches prepared by my XYL, Paul started to set up for his activation. He was operational by 12:07z with John G0TDM providing a quick first contact on 60m SSB and a spot. 10 contacts were made in 20 minutes around G, GM and EI. Although it was midday, Paul decided to give 80m a try and the band amazingly provided a further 5 contacts on SSB, again around G, GM and EI. A move was then made back to 60m to pick up Rod M0JLA/P on Mellbreak G/LD-036 with a further two contacts also made. The skip on 40m SSB was fairly long and the band produced a total of 10 contacts around G, DL and PA, with Zbyszek SP6BBE completing the activation at 13:43z.
I started on 2m SSB at 12:15z to be immediately called by John G0TDM, but for some reason he immediately disappeared and it was Don G0RQL who was first into the log. John actually made contact number 4. Derek G1ZJQ and Mike G4BLH went out portable to work me which was pleasing. Having an internet connection on my phone, I noted Viki M6BWA/P was on Mellbreak G/LD-036 on 2m FM, so I moved there to work her. Shortly afterwards Paul came across to pass on a request from Don G0NES for me to go back to SSB which I did and we made contact. In all 9 were worked on the band.
After I changed the antennas over, Jorge EA2LU was first into the log on 30m CW, followed by a steady run on contacts around DL, HB9, I, OK, ON and SP – 11 contacts in all. I opened a link on one side to run the antenna as an off centre dipole and tweaked the auto-ATU for 20m. Mariusz SP9AMH was the first to call and a total of 15 in all were worked on the band on CW. Countries worked were OE, OH, OK, OM, SM and there were three DX contacts with George N1GB, Rick N4EX and Phil VE1WT. It was 14:05z when I went QRT.
We decided to take the “normal” route down the spine of the hill, setting off at 14:27z and arriving at the car at 15:50z. I was pleased to be feeling well and relaxed and if anything I found the walk easier than those that I had undertaken in Scotland for some time. The following day would be a tougher test with a 6km walk in and a 650m of ascent. We decided on Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips and a reasonably early night ready for the 06:00z departure.
Tuesday 10th October 2017
A short half hour drive got us to the parking spot up a valley just beyond Moffat. The established route to Hart Fell GM/SS-037 was easy to follow, initially following the track past a field of domesticated deer towards Hartfell Spa and then setting off left steeply up to the spine of the hill. The lengthy and fairly steep ascent once again tested my abilities without any adverse effects other than a bit of indigestion, an issue caused by the statins that I had been prescribed. We reached the summit at 09:51z after a gentle 3 hours, actually 90 minutes early! Unfortunately there were no views to take in as we had been in the cloud from around the 500m level.
The route to Hart Fell GM/SS-037
Part way up - Hart Fell somewhere in the mist
We used our tarps on the fence to get some respite from the cold wind and this time I was up and running first at 10:12z. I started on 2m SSB and a few minutes calling, back came Brian G4ZRP. The going was slow and I only managed 7 contacts in around 35 minutes, so I deemed it was time for lunch before the HF session.
My set up on Hart Fell
30m CW was somewhat more lively than the previous day, with Fabio IK2LEY first into the log at 11:15z. Other countries worked were DL, HB9, OE, OH, ON, PA, SP and S5, with a total of 15 contacts made. Hans HB9AGO/P on Motto Crostel HB/TI-100 called me for an S2S. Moving to 20m CW, Ola SM0CUH was the first to call followed by Juerg HB9BAB/P on Hohmattli HB/FR-027. George N1GB provided the only DX contact, with DL, OK and SP being the only other countries. After I had worked just 7 worked on the band, the frequency went quiet. I noted Viki M6BWA/P was on High Stile G/LD-012 on 2m FM, but when I tuned in she was about to QSY to 70cm, so I reconfigured the set up and followed. It wasn’t long before both she and Rod M0JLA/P were in my log.
Paul had an amazing activation on this summit. Starting on 60m, a total of 20 contacts were made between 10:19z and 10:50z, with Michael EI3GYB first in the log and G, GM, GI and EI worked. A swift change over to 80m once again produced results, even better than the previous day, with 11 contacts made with G, GM and GW headed up by Allan GW4VPX. 40m was in similar good fettle, with G, GM, GU,. EA, EI, HB9 and PA worked. The band total was 18 contacts, making one more needed for the half century. That came courtesy on Viki M6BWA/P on 70cm using my kit.
Paul operating at Hart fell trig
After leisurely packing the kit away and a couple of phone calls, we set off down to the car at 12:40z. On the descent we met a couple of walkers who asked about the poles and actually knew about SOTA, but we entirely forgot to enquire of their names, or indeed did we give ours. We arrived at the car at 14:42z, giving us plenty of time to relax back at our accommodation before getting something to eat.
Looking back towards Hart Fell
Paul had spotted a new noodle bar where we were staying, so we opted for that followed by an excellent pint of beer courtesy of Paul and a piece of vanilla brioche which I usually take on these outings. We had planned another 06:00z start the following day, but the weather forecast did not look good. However, the route from the south was simple enough and we hoped that the approach would give us some shelter from the rain and wind.
Wednesday 11th October 2017
On checking out of our accommodation we found the weather was not as bad as we had feared, but of course we were only at a low level. It was 06:06z when we set off for the parking spot for Broad Law GM/SS-029 located near the Meggett Stone. It was blowing a right hoolie when we arrived and raining hard. I got out of the Landie to test the conditions, and found the ground underfoot was pretty much waterlogged. After a while it was evident that the weather not going to improve, so we got ready and set off up the hill at 07:41z.
The initial section up Broad Law GM/SS-029 - several miles to go beyond this
The conditions worsened as we gained height and often our progress was hindered by the crosswind, but we eventually reached the summit at 09:33z where it was absolutely horrendous. Given the conditions, setting up for HF was totally impossible. I managed to attach my tarp to the fence to get a modicum of shelter while Paul went to see if it was any better over by the radio installation on the summit. Unfortunately it wasn’t!
Broad Law trig and pond
It seemed to take an age to get set up, but it was only 22 minutes in reality. Even though I was using the largest diameter sections of the pole, the 2m beam was bent over to around 30 degrees from the vertical. Water was dripping everywhere and my attempts to self-spot failed completely – the water prevented me using the touch screen. Thankfully just 5 minutes after I started calling, Brian G4ZRP found me on 2m SSB at 10:00z. Don G0RQL followed and spotted me. In mercifully quick succession, John G0TDM, Frank G3RMD and Walter G1BBY then worked me. In fifteen minutes it was all over and Paul then helped me dismantle the kit. We set off down the hill at 10:25z and reached the car at 11:30z.
Footpath or stream?
It took a while to stow the kit, after which we decided to get away and at 11:51z we set off for home. Stops for petrol in Moffat and some food and drink at Tebay preceded delays on the M6, so it was 17:42z when we arrived back in Stourbridge. After a welcome cup of tea and a piece of cake, I set off for home, which I reached at 19:57z. The first priority was to get the rig into the airing cupboard and lay out the rest of the kit to dry off.
So with the trials behind me and my health stable, Paul and I have our next outing to Scotland planned, all subject to me being called for surgery of course. Maybe we will work you then… hopefully under better weather conditions!
73, Gerald G4OIG