We chose to approach Trostan from the south, so from the A43 Glenarm road, we forked left onto the B14 road to Cushendall. This took us into the heart of the forestry area along very attractive roads. As we gained height, I was typically unable to resist scanning the car radio for VHF broadcast DX or new stations. The one I got confused me initially, with the RDS display of BBC_FYLE. I then realised it was BBC Radio Foyle, the BBC Radio Ulster local opt-out for Derry. Why the 8 characters available on the RDS couldn’t have been utilised as BBCFOYLE I don’t know! I briefly pulled in the write down enough details for a reception report, then continued the short distance further up the road to our route - The Moyle Way.
I couldn’t see any sensible parking options, so I continued a little further, and just over the brow of the hills was a long lay-by on the right hand side. Result. It was now 3 o’clock, and we were up for another good walk. We still harboured ambitions of sneaking in Slieveanorra GI/AH-003 as a dusk activation, but Colin GI0RQK had warned us that Trostan was “a fair old hike”, so we realised it was probably less than likely.
We walked back down the road to the signed footpath for the Moyle Way. This started in splendid stile, following the right hand side of a gushing stream, punctuated by waterfalls every few yards. ‘Great’, we both agreed. At the head of this series of cascades, the path chicaned left over a stone bridge. This track continued straight ahead in a south westerley direction, with no indication of a sweep back north, so we followed some faint but definitely trodden tracks through the woods, remaining alongside the river.
This became increasingly challenging, negotiating the low branches, swampy ground and felled trees abound, but after about 20 minutes, we were reunited with daylight, and were back out on a clear and wide track, going in the right direction.
We continued to make progress uphill, but the increasingly boggy ground slowed us ever more. We lost our legs up to our knees in some points and needed that unmistakable rush of adrenalin to swiftly skip out of the mire! Eventually, we reached the edge of the treeline, and made more steeply uphill over open moorland.
Unforutnately, the challenge of the walk was not done yet. We could now see our objective, the summit of Trostan, but getting there was a different matter. We had to negotiate countless peat hags and banks, cruel on our tired bodies. It was perhaps not the best choice for a third summit of a day, and we made up our minds to do another challengin prospect - Mid Hill GI/AH-006 - as the first in tomorrow’s runnning order.
As we crested onto Trostan’s vast summit plateau, the bog was suddenly left behind, and replaced with hard lunar-like terrain. Still the wind would present challenge, so we sheltered on one side of the huge mound upon which the trig point perches. 5pm, not bad, so up with the 80m dipole.
80m CW began in typically good form, with plenty of good contacts made. However, as we neared 5.30pm, the operating of some callers was becoming disruptive to say the least. Some were calling 3 or 4 times at the end of each previous QSO, while others didn’t listen properly and assumed I was working them - when I was actually working someone else. Some continued to announce their own callsigns even after I was into a QSO with a chaser, and this seemed to encourage other stations to pitch in as well, thinking it was calling time again.
All this began to seriously slow down my QSO rate, and I was concerned about Jimmy getting his contacts, and us both getting down a less-than-trivial descent before dark. As the rumpus continued on 3.557MHz, and I was forced to wait for what seemed like an eternity after completing each QSO before I could begin another, I had had enough. This was absolutely compounded by the very sudden drop in temperature, increase in wind and onset of a heavy hail shower. For the first time ever, I chose not to finish working the pile-up. If you were one of the well behaved stations in there, and you missed out because of this, then I am sorry.
Anyway, I sent “SRI STORM PSE QSY 3.660 SSB”, figuring that Jimmy would get his contacts, and stations that were waiting for me on 3.557 CW could work Jimmy on 3.660 SSB instead. However, 3.660 SSB produced absolutely nothing. It was probably the wrong time on a Saturday evening for any prospective success from a QRP SSB station.
We packed all the 80m gear away, then Jimmy called on the handheld and RSS. Immediately he got George GI4SRQ down in Armagh, and I took a mobile call from Colin GI0RQK while Jimmy was working George. Colin and I firmed up some joint activation plans for tomorrow - Saturday - while Jimmy continued to call.
He was having no luck, but twenty or so minutes later he managed to gatecrash a local net across the water in the Ayr area. Three stations were on it, they were all more than happy to help, and we both had the points in the bag.
The first part of the descent, headlong into the now icy wind, was rather unpleasant. We longed for the shelter of the forest. Once in the forest, we followed the wide track all the way and did not try to cut through the forest again. It led to a T-junction, and turning left brought us to where we had left it on the ascent, only a few metres up!
The final descent by the stream and waterfalls was in the last shreds of daylight, while care was taken when road walking back up to the lay-by, for it was now virtully dark. It was 8pm, and the end of another SOTA-filled day.
We drove back to Larne along the A2 Antrim Coast Road, listening to and logging two more VHF boroadcast stations of interest - 107.7 Argyll FM and 103.7 BBC Gaelic. Just before arriving, we collected a take-away from around the corner. We had ordered “steak pastie” and chips twice, but discovered that “steak pastie” actually means a battered beefburger in Northern Ireland! It mattered not, we were hungry. Again, I adjourned to the local club with my brother-in-law Campbell for a couple of pints of Harp after taking a quick shower, while Jimmy stayed in and chatted with his cousin Calum. Another pleasing, but tiring day.