What a fab day!
Not having been up a hill for a fortnight was starting to get to me. The Bank Holiday WX forecast wasn’t too brilliant and 5MHz propagation (my normal activation band) had been very poor the past week or so. I decided to make a simple 2m vertical antenna and activate something overlooking an area of large popualtion to give me a fallback if 5MHz proved impossible.
I ended up with a SlimJim made from 300 Ohm twin feeder fed with a few metres of RG174. A quick test with the MFJ259 showed the SWR as 1.2 at 144.3MHz upto 1.6 on 145.7MHz so no tuning was needed there. The whole thing coils up to almost nothing and sits in with HF dipoles in my bag.
A check on 5MHz showed conditions to be better than recent but not brilliant, so I made sure I had the 2m antenna and some dipole extensions to allow operation on 80m aswell as 60m/40m. All that was needed was a hill with a good view of either Edinburgh or Glasgow or both as that would give me the biggest possible 2m audience. The nearest was Ben Cleuch in the Ochills near to Stirling. At 721m, this hill has good access and is very popular with local walkers, especially as it gives good views North to the Highlands.
I parked in the town of Alva near the cemetary. There is a small car park here and a “Farmer Palmer” type aswell who has assorted “No Walkers” and “No Parking” signs scattered about. I made sure I parked away from all of these.
The initial climb is quite brutal as the Ochills rise very steeply from the South. The WX was variable, overcast with occasional spots of rain and a quite cold wind from the North. Ignoring that, good progress was made along the track as it zig-zagged up the South face. It’s not too long before the track straightens and heads North into the hills.
There is a good Land Rover track up from Alva and the normal route to Ben Cleuch turns off this part way and ascends a grassy track to the summit of Ben Ever. From Ben Ever you can descend slightly then push up the final slopes of Ben Cleuch. When I reached the turn off point, the track on the ground didn’t appear to head the correct direction and didn’t look like on the map. That’s because you can’t see the correct track when looking uphill! I decided that the path I could see would take me to the summit of Ben Ever and I could walk along the ridge towards Ben Cleuch but being a lazy type it looked far too steep. I decided to continue along the good track to its end and then would turn right and climb up to Ben Buck and walk back along the ridge to Ben Cleuch. Probably a mile or so further, but the climb was spread out nicely.
This plan worked out brilliantly. The path is in a steep valley and you get a fantastic view when you finally climb out of the valley up to the Highlands. There’s an easy track up to Ben Buck and you can clearly see the summit of Ben Cleuch from here. The walk to Ben Cleuch is a doddle along the fence. Boy was that wind from the North cold. It was on this ridge that I was in both a hail and then snow shower! Snow? May? Anyway it was over in a minute or so and didnt lie.
I set up and was delighted to find 5MHz working quite well. Serious QSB meant that activity went in waves. But I was able to work distant stations G4GKE, G8BKE and G0RQL when the QSB allowed. The Welsh Mafia were easy pickings and were big signals all the time. No takers on 2m, which did suprise me.
Paul G0HNW told me that Cris GM4FAM wanted to try 80m and I set this up when the pack on 60m had been cleared. I had a quick try on 40m for ON3WAB but 10minutes of calling produced no contact. The 80m add-ons were plugged in and 80m given a go.
The SWR was a bit high, I think the antenna is more influenced by ground effects than on 60m, so I kept the power low, just 2.5W from the 817. After a few whistles and ‘waaaaaalos’ Paul G0HNW said “It’s working fine Andy”. He was a very good 59+ and I was suprised by his strength. I called Cris and was stunned that when he gave me a 58+QSB report. A few minutes nattering gave me my 1st ever QSO on 80m and put a smile on Cris’ face as even with his huge DX magnets (many Beveridges) he would have been hard pressed to work me on 60m.
Back to 2m FM and a nice handful of contacts with SOTA chasers followed. Andy MM0USU told me Robin GM7PKT would be on shortly so I packed up the HF gear and left the 2m antenna on the fishing pole and waited. I worked Robin for an S2S on 2m FM. We probably were true LOS as Robin gave me 59+++ when I set the 817 to as low as it would go. That was a great way to finish off the activation.
By now the wind was seriously cold but the sun was out. I packed up and walked out the way I should have come in. Back down to Ben Ever and over that. On the way down I could see the path clearly I couldn’t see on the way up. Looking back up it was obvious, but only when you know where to look! The walk out in sun was gorgeous, especially out of the wind.
So another 4 points, success on 60m, 1st time QSO on 80m and good results on 2m. Also proved that 2 new antennas work FB on 80m and 2m. Photos on Flickr.