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GI SOTA reports


#1

This will be a long thread with 16 activation reports to post in - and any subsequent discussions. To begin, here is an overview of what we did:

Thursday 27 March

GI/AH-004 Divis 2 points
0901 to 0937 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 10, 80SSB: 3
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 4
S2S with GW4BVE/P & MW0COP/P on GW/SW-007

GI/AH-009 Tobernaveen Hill 1 point
1202 to 1319 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 7, 80SSB: 3, 2FM: 1
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 7, 2FM: 3
S2S with GW4BVE/P & MW0COP/P on GW/SW-010, and with 2W0BYA/P on GW/MW-002

GI/AH-008 Big Collin 1 point
1452 to 1620 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 17, 80SSB: 8, 2FM: 2
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 12, 2FM: 1
S2S with GC0OOO/P on GW/NW-001, M0RCP/P & M3OOL/P on G/LD-025 and GW4BVE/P & MW0COP/P on GW/SW-035

GI/AH-010 Carn Hill 1 point
1754 to 1836 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 19
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 4

Friday 28th March

GI/AH-005 Agnews Hill 2 points
0824 to 0855 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 14
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 5

GI/AH-007 Slemish 2 points
1123 to 1259 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 11, 40CW: 12, 2FM: 2
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 2, 2FM: 4

GI/AH-001 Trostan 4 points
1709 to 1831 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 13, 2FM: 2
MI3EYP/P: 2FM: 4

Saturday 29th March

GI/AH-006 Mid Hill 2 points
1018 to 1032 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 4, 80SSB: 1
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 4

GI/AH-002 Knocklayd 4 points
1543 to 1606 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 2FM: 4
MI3EYP/P: 2FM: 5

GI/AH-003 Slieveanorra 4 points
1859 to 1926 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 2FM: 8
MI3EYP/P: 2FM: 4

Sunday 30th March

GI/AH-011 Cross Slieve 1 point
0858 to 0926 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 11
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 4

GI/MM-016 Knockiveagh 1 point
1331 to 1359 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 2FM: 6
MI3EYP/P: 2FM: 4

GI/MM-013 Gruggandoo 1 point
1615 to 1646 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 13 80SSB: 1
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 10

GI/CA-003 Carrigatuke 1 point
1857 to 1933 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 25
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 4

Monday 31st March

GI/MM-001 Slieve Donard 10 points
1211 to 1250 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 5
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 7

GI/MM-002 Slieve Commedagh 8 points
1436 to 1539 UTC
MI1EYP/P: 80CW: 6, 80SSB: 1, 2FM: 4
MI3EYP/P: 80SSB: 4

TBC…


#2

Totals:

80CW: 155
80SSB: 85
40CW: 12
2FM: 54

306 contacts, 16 activations (8 uniques for M1EYP, 16 uniques for M3EYP), 45 points, 11 hrs 25 minutes of activating, about 25 hours of walking


#3

In reply to M1EYP:

Great Tom,

Intensive or what?!! When did you eat? You certainly crammed in some activity. Good planning it must have been. Well done to Tom & Jimmy in offering interesting summits and getting through a lot of hard work.

Your QSO rate was 26/hour, which is a good figure to average, when you consider band conditions of late.

How do you follow this?

73, John. G4YSS.


#4

Divis GI/AH-004

This hill stands right behind Belfast as you sail into the city from the Irish Sea. The crossing from Birkenhead on Norfolk Line ferries was very smooth, and accompanied by a hearty evening meal, a comfortable bed and a full cooked breakfast. What a way to travel!

My last visit here in 2005 was just a few weeks prior to it being opened up to the public under the National Trust umbrella, so prior permission was required, and obtained. This time, it was a much simpler job of following Jimmy’s faultless co-driver navigating, and parking up at the National Trust car park on Divis Road.

This gave a much easier approach than last time when we had to trudge through bleak boggy moors to get to the summit. We didn’t even put our walking boots on for the 30 minute walk up the access track that serves the Divis/Black Mountain BBC transmitter site and the M.O.D. compound. We set up for 80m just in front of the compound, and enjoyed the views over the city and Belfast Lough.

At 0901 UTC, I called “QRL?” on 3.557MHz CW, to be immediately greeted by a “GM de G3CWI”. So Richard got the first contact of the tour, and it was certainly one that kicked off an excellent, enjoyable and highly successful five days. After Roger G4OWG was worked at 0916 UTC, it appeared I had cleared the pile-up, and so it was time to test the all-important strategy we had been preparing. Could Jimmy make himself reliably heard on HF QRP without using morse? It seemed the answer was 80m SSB, and that’s what I had been practising in the weeks and days leading up to the GI trip.

I sent “QSY 3.660 SSB”, something that became commonplace at the end of my CW pile-ups. We tuned to 3.660, but found it to be in heavy use. However, 3.659MHz seemed viable, so I suggested to Jimmy that he call there repeatedly, and hopefully someone would find him. Within only a minute, he was found, G3CWI providing Jimmy with his first contact of the trip as well as mine. Richard advised that John GW4BVE/P and Pete MW0COP/P were activating GW/SW-007 on 3.667MHz, so we quickly QSYd there and got the S2S contacts.

Returning to 3.659MHz, Jimmy completed a further four QSOs, and myself another two. Graham G4JZF was heard calling, but QSB got in the way of a successful two-way exchange, so that one got away. The first activation in GI-land had gone like a dream, and we were soon enthusiastically walking down the long access track back to the car, and still confident of at least three activations on our opening day.

Back at the car, I took advantage of the high situation to do a spot of broadcast SWLing, compiling a reception report for Five FM 100.5, from the city of Newry. That appeared to be a new one since my last visit at New Year. We then drove out towards Antrim at the North East corner of Lough Neagh, and our next summit, Tobernaveen Hill GI/AH-009.


#5

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom,

Congratulations to you and Jimmy for a very impressive series of activations. You certainly covered a lot of ground in a short space of time! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your summit reports.

Am I right in assuming that you didn’t experience any receiver desensing problems on Divis on 80m? Did you try 2m there at all?

Unfortunately other commitments have kept me away from the hills during the past few months, but I’m planning to do some activating from May onwards - although at a more leisurely pace than yours!

Best wishes,
Fred
GI4MWA


#6

Nice to work you on 80M CW, it wasn’t easy to be heard through UK’s chasers HI, great job !
Vy 73 de Chris F8DZY.


#7

Thank you for the nice comments.

Fred, I had no problem with 80m at all on Divis, but my 817 received 59+++ of silence right the way across 2m. I tried a call, but didn’t hear anything. Whether I would have heard anything through that lot with the RSS I don’t know. In 2005, we just about managed some local (Belfast) contacts on 2m with 817 and SOTA Beam, but it was difficult. The ‘blocker’ seems to have gone, but there is lots of other QRM still up there.

80m was a breeze.

When we return (not in the immediate future), we hope to stay in Newcastle, or on a campsite in the Mournes, and complete the GI/MM region (12 to go) and at least one more GI/CA summit. I understand that there is absolutely no access to GI/CA-002, GI/CA-004 and GI/CA-005.

I was amazed, and slightly chuffed to realise upon my return that I had snagged a first activation - Gruggandoo GI/MM-013. Rather a nice little hill, and a straightforward approach. My first “first activation” in years! There used to be plenty of them up for grabs - not any more!

You ought to get out with Colin GI0RQK (GI AM) and do something in GI/SW - a very rare totally unactivated SOTA region!

73, Tom M1EYP


#8

Tobernaveen Hill GI/AH-009

From Divis GI/AH-004, Jimmy directed a route towards and beyond Antrim town, and steadily up narrow back lanes towards a clump of forest perched atop a hill. This was Tobernaveen Hill GI/AH-009, and we found the same parking spot and access point as used in 2005.

We knew this was a short walk, a small distance along the bridleway, then turn right up a slightly steep and very muddy track into the forest. As we turned left for the summit, the mud beneath our feet turned to bog and was quite difficult to negotiate. We emerged into the small clearing containing the trig point, and wondered if we would have enough room to erect the 80m antenna.

We just about managed it, but need to bend the guy strings over low tree branches. Thankfully, there was just enough room to have the actual dipole legs up and in the clear.

Business was brisk again on 3.557MHz CW, as it then was for both Jimmy and myself on 3.660MHz SSB. The pairing of John GW4BVE/P and Pete MW0COP/P were worked summit-to-summit again, this time on GW/SW-010, while Dave 2W0BYA/P was worked on Great Rhos GW/MW-002. We finished with three local contacts on 2m FM using the VX-7R and RSS after the main station was packed away.

We heard Dave G6LKB and Jordan M3TMX calling, and called them in, but the QSB won the battle.

Things were going well. The 80m CW/SSB combo was working a treat for us both, and with only a short descent to the car, and a short drive to the next hill, we had a chance to complete a four summit day on day one. Jimmy directed the route to nearby Big Collin GI/AH-008.

Tom M1EYP


#9

Big Collin GI/AH-008

A short drive through the lanes from Tobernaveen Hill GI/AH-009 brought us to the B94 Ballyclare to Ballymena road. A short distance down here was the lay-by and picnic area we were heading for.

After parking, we climbed over the ‘secret stile’ (an short unbarbed section of fence) and headed off up the grassy slopes. These are quite steep and unforgiving initially, but once the first crest is reached, the land opens out for a gentle amble all the way to the summit.

The weather was most pleasant this afternoon. Gentle breeze, dry and lovely sunshine. After a couple of abortive attempts, the 80m antenna was eventually in the air, and I sat down to connect up the antenna feeder, microphone, Palm Paddle and SLAB to the FT-817. Jimmy was checking the SOTAwatch Spots and shouted out “GC0OOO/P on Snowdon, 3.557 CW, waiting for M1EYP!”. Anticipating an exciting CW S2S, I quickly tuned to 3.557, only to then hear the sound of the SOTA Pole crashing down again!

I re-erected it and improved the guying angles at the speed of light, and then, sat back down on my mat, slightly breathless. Perhaps a good job I was opening on CW! 3.557MHz had John GC0OOO/P in full flow, so I waited for a 73 and sent my callsign in. John came back immediately, and the activation was off to the best possible start. After completing the GI to GW CW S2S, John left me the frequency, and I worked 16 further stations in short order.

The sending of “NW QSY 3.660 SSB” worked perfectly, for many stations were instantly lined up for Jimmy on 3.660MHz. A run of further S2S came courtesy of Rick M0RCP/P and Thomas M3OOL/P on Seatallan G/LD-025, and John GW4BVE/P and Pete MW0COP/P on Myarth GW/SW-035. This completed a perfect three S2S GI to GW with the BVE/COP team, and gave us the opportunity to congratulate John on his completion of activating every summit in GW, becoming the 12th person to have activated an entire association.

After packing everything away and donning the rucksacks, I switched on the VX-7R for a quick call om 2m FM. There on 145.475MHz was a 51 signal from John G4YSS, operating GC0OOO/P on Snowdon! I had already got my 10 chaser points from the earlier 80CW contact, so I passed the handy to Jimmy to try to call him. To my surprise, John heard Jimmy first call and worked him straight away. I made two further local 2m FM contacts, and we set off down the hill, highly satisfied with an excellent activation.

Big Collin is one of those hills with a terrain and gradient such that the descent is quick and easy, taking perhaps only a quarter of the ascent time. We were in the car by a quarter to five, and just about in time to squeeze in a fourth activation and get ahead of schedule. We drove out towards Carrickfergus for Carn Hill GI/AH-010.

Tom M1EYP


#10

Carn Hill GI/AH-010

This would be my third visit to this hill, which was my first ever GI SOTA back in 2003. It would be Jimmy’s second visit, but first as a licensed amateur and therefore it was, as every summit on this holiday, an activator unique for him.

We paused briefly in Ballyclare to buy some additional OS 1:50,000 maps we needed, and then continued into the minor lanes between Ballyclare, Newtownards and Carrickfergus. We found the concrete driveway up to the farm at the bottom of Carn Hill, and drove up it. There is nowhere to park on the road, so we have always parked, with permission, in the farmyard, or parking area for the residence up there.

A man from the house came out to see who we were and what we were doing. I got out of the car and said “We wondered if it would be OK to walk up to the summit”, pointing at the hill behind me. “Oh aye, no problem” came the reply in deep Ulster brogue. “Where should I leave my car?” I asked, hoping that he would invite me to use his drive or the farmyard, and not send me back out onto the roads to find something. “Drive it up the road to the transmitter, and leave it outside the compound” he instructed. That would reduce a short easy ascent to a very short very easy ascent, but who were we to argue?

Jimmy in actual fact still ended up doing most of that section on foot, as he walked between successive gates opening them for me to drive through. We did park outside the transmitter compound as instructed, then set off on foot for the summit. From this point we had a short walk of about 300m, with around 40m of ascent, to the trig point.

It was nearly 6 o’clock, with about an hour’s daylight remaining, but the descent was short and easy, so we decided to set up 80m for the fourth time in the day. A long run of 19 QSOs on 3.557MHz CW was followed by Jimmy making just 4 on 3.660MHz SSB, hindered somewhat by worsening conditions and heavy QRM. But we had both made it, the first day was complete, we were one summit ahead of schedule and the 80m CW/SSB strategy couldn’t have worked out any better. I wondered if we could maintain the pace? I started to get ideas of adding more summits to the schedule if we could, but kept such thoughts to myself for the time being.

We arrived at Jimmy’s Grandad’s (also called Jimmy) house in Larne, Co. Antrim, after 8pm, with a Chinese take-away.

The day was rounded off with me slipping out for a couple of pints and a drop of Black Bush with my brother-in-law Campbell, who was also stopping at the house with his son!

A successful day which couldn’t have gone any better.

Tom M1EYP


#11

Agnew’s Hill GI/AH-005

We knew we were pushing ourselves to the limit with 6am get-ups after being out activating until 9pm in the evenings, but motivation and enthusiasm gave us the required energy to defeat the fatigue.

Yesterday started with a full cooked breakfast on the ferry, and then no soup. Today we reversed that with our normal “operating conditions” for the holiday of cereal bars for breakfast, and a litre flask of hot soup carried in my rucksack. Today’s offering was Blue Dragon Thai Green Curry soup - and very nice it was too.

Agnew’s Hill is the closest SOTA hill to Larne, and so after driving out on the A8 and then the A36 Ballymena road, we were soon turning right at Kilwaughter and heading upwards with the hill sloping up on our left. The parking spot here is a small rectangular walled pull-in. We walked a few hundred yards down the road from here to the large ladder stile into the field, signposted The Ulster Way.

The ascent was a steady slog up bleak peaty moorland, parallel to a wire fence, reminiscent of the approach to White Hill G/SP-006. When the cross shape of the ladder stile loomed out of the thick mist, we knew we were nearly there. The path here starts to weave gently upwards through rocks and heather (and bog of course) before reaching a cairn on the long summit plateau.

The wind was strong and cold, and carrying stinging icy rain, so shelter was vital. We dropped off in a southerly direction, choosing a bank to settle into for the operating position. Jimmy and I laid out the dipole legs and erected the 80m aerial on the fishing pole. We did a decent job, with the configuration barely looking threatened despite the hostile conditions.

Despite being at least an hour earlier than planned (and one summit ahead of schedule), the very first call on 3.557MHz CW was answered by Mike GW0DSP, who was followed by a decent run of a further 13 QSOs. The switch to 3.660MHz SSB worked beautifully again, with Alistair GW0VMZ answering Jimmy’s initial call. Jimmy quickly worked another four, before the frequency lay empty. We packed up in the miserable drizzle and unanimously agreed not to bother with the usual departing calls on 2m FM on the VX-7R and RSS.

The descent was difficult and eventful, as a result of the incredibly slippy and greasy surface of lush wet grass on steep peaty banks. Despite the best efforts of my Meindl boots and both walking poles, I was flung onto my backside twice! The second time, as on a long bank, and my waterproof over trousers offered no friction whatsoever. The result was an accelerating slide down the bank, which appeared unstoppable as I looked for a way to arrest my plummet. I hadn’t thought to bring an ice axe! A large rock accelerated towards me from below, so rather than injure myself on it, or slip past it into a large deep puddle, I thrust out my left boot at it to bring myself to a halt. Jimmy, witness to this Frank Spencer-esque mishap, lowered himself down the same slope extremely gingerly!

We were back at the car at 9.30am. Things were still going well. I turned the ignition, turned the heater up full blast, and let Jimmy direct me around to Slemish GI/AH-007.

Tom M1EYP


#12

In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom,

Your summit reports are very good - keep them coming!

Very interested to hear about your successful use of 80m on Divis. It might even persuade me to make a 80m dipole… When I activated Divis on 2m the main problem was the MoD blocker, but your experience suggests that VHF is basically unusable. By the way, Slieve Croob (MM-010) is another ‘noisy’ summit on 2m, although the takeoff across the Irish Sea is excellent.

I have already been chatting to Colin about a possible joint activation - summit not yet decided!

73, Fred
GI4MWA


#13

The blocker was definitely gone, but the was still S9 of RF QRM across 2m - or so my overloaded rigs seemed to think. I have successfully activated on 2m FM on Divis before, WITH the blocker present AND the QRM, so I wouldn’t call it unusable. It’s probably better with a horizontal beam (which maybe I did in fact use back then) and SSB/CW on 2m.

80m was absolutely fine though, no problems. I didn’t try 40m.

Tom


#14

Slemish GI/AH-007

This is easily the most distinctive and recognisable hill in County Antrim, and arguably in the whole of Northern Ireland, Mournes included. It stands alone, but high and narrow, a uniquely tall semi circle arching high out of the ground from any direction. Jimmy navigated the roads well from Carnalbanagh Sheddings near Agnew’s Hill GI/AH-005, but it was hardly necessary. The profile of Slemish was unmistakable through the drive across, as were the many large brown road signs that pointed the way.

Still in “do lots of summits quickly and keep ahead of schedule” mode, we were a little disheartened to pull into the car park/picnic area and observed what looked like a long arduous climb up to the base of the main mountain. For some reason, I always remember Slemish as being much quicker and easier than it actually is! It isn’t very far horizontally, but effort must be expounded to climb to its summit. St Patrick tended the sheep on the mountain when he was enslaved here in the 5th Century, local tradition informs.

We set off under grey cloud and damp air, up the steep muddy and stony track, and decided to ascend the very steep way, saving the steep route for the descent. As the scrambling began, I reminded Jimmy of his performance when we first climbed here in 2003, and he refused to put his hands to ground, insisting on walking every step on feet alone and putting abject fear into his father! This time, he scrmabled safely, effectively - and quickly, reaching the final graded walk onto the summit minute before me.

Out on the summit, the sun was out. It was still cold in the wind, so we first found some shelter in lee of it, then set about setting up for 80m. However, first I had a listen on 2m FM and put out a call. To my surprise, it was instantly answered, and Jimmy and myself ended up making three QSOs each.

We completed putting up the 80m dipole, and I kicked off on 3.557MHz CW as usual. 11 contacts were followed by two from Jimmy on 3.660MHz SSB. I checked the spots and found several UK chasers, headed by Marc G0AZS bemoaning the fact the couldn’t hear us and asking if I was going to do 40m. So we put the 80m kit away and put up the 40m dipole. The result was a successful 12 contacts into ON, DL, F, HB and OK - but an unsuccessful none into UK! Sorry Marc et al, we did try!

The route down was the ‘less steep’ path recommended by the information boards at the car park. It was nonetheless tricky in the muddy greasy conditions, and still not without a couple of minor scrambles. I slipped over and onto the ground for the third time in the day, and I was glad to get on level ground for the final walk back to the car park. Too glad. Minutes later, my right foot zipped across from under me, and my entire 18 stone plus rucksack was dumped sideways along the ground again. The only bit of pain experienced from the fall was where my VX-7R had got sandwiched between my body and the ground. Thankfully, the handheld was unhurt.

Hmmm, four times in two summits on one day - on the seat of my pants. Not good. I thanked my lucky stars that I never sustain injuries when I fall (which I do plenty of times when playing squash and football), picked myself and lunged for the relative safety of the car.

We had a little relax in the car with the radio on and a couple of crunchy Granola bars, before setting off North, this time for Trostan GI/AH-001, our first completely new summit of the trip.

Tom M1EYP


#15

Trostan GI/AH-001

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.

Tom M1EYP


#16

In reply to M1EYP:

Sorry Marc et al, we did try!
I know… I was convinced I was going to hear you you on 40m. :frowning:
Thanks Tom and don’t worry about us “moaners”… it was just the “Tom and Jimmy” red mist that came down… and presumably it overwhelmed some on CW on the next summit :slight_smile:

73 Marc G0AZS


#17

“The ‘Tom and Jimmy’ red mist”… What a concept!

Mid Hill GI/AH-006

Onto the morning of Saturday 29th March 2008. We had three days activating left in GI, but needed to bear in mind that the last day required us to be in Belfast by around 8pm. That was a more distant consideration though, for in our main objective - the Antrim Hills - we had 7 down, 4 to go. Could we get those 4 done today so that we could concentrate exclusively on the South East of the province for the last two days? It would challenging with two of the remaining four being pretty tough prospects.

We were in the mode of tackling the biggest challenges first. So our first target was Mid Hill GI/AH-006. This was the nearest remaining SOTA summit to Larne, looked a long walk-in from anmy approach, reported as “a swamp” by previous activators and well-known to be the most hated and despised summit ever for Colin GI0RQK, the Northern Ireland SOTA Association Manager!

We took the coast road up to Glenarm, then cut inland on the country lanes. Jimmy successfully navigated me to D173113, the start of the road to the Quolie reservoirs. Most of this access track is a public road, but we couldn’t see any parking opportunities. We briefly continued onto the last small private section, marked for the sole use of the water board and the Mid-Antrim Angling Society, just to find a turning spot. However, a landrover from the farm was soon up behind us, so I had the perfect opportunity to seek out some quality local knowledge. The chap said we were absolutely fine to park right up at the end of the track, by the second Quolie reservoir, and that he would let us out later should we find ourselves ‘locked in’ by the fisherman keyholders!

During the initial part of this walk, I couldn’t understand GI0RQK’s problem with Mid Hill. A walk along the right-hand side of the reservoir was followed by a delightful stroll, tracking the babbling brook upstream towards its source at the summit. It was when the stream petered out as a defined water course that it became difficult. We had around a mile to cover trudging through trackless heather upon very soggy ground. It was darned hard work! We could see our objective, the summit, but it never seemed to get any closer.

We did finally reach the summit just after 10am. We set up for 80m, and opened, for a change, on 3.660MHz SSB. I don’t think we even live-spotted this one via SPOTlite, but immediately back came Colin GI0RQK, who worked us both. Colin and I discussed meeting up later for a joint activation of Knocklayd GI/AH-002. Now Colin was one of those that particularly enthused and encouraged me with my learning of CW, by taking a keen interest in my progress. After we exchanged reports, he said “How about a wee CW contact now Tom?”. So that was it - for now - on SSB, and over to 3.557MHz we went. After working Colin for the second time, I then worked George GI4SRQ, Phil G4OBK and Roy G4SSH. There were no further callers, but that was my four and thus qualifying quota. I sent the “QSY 3.660 SSB”, hoping that one of the CW stations just worked would pick it up and spot it. I wasn’t able to check on this process, with us not seeing a computer terminal until more than 72 hours later, but I’m certain it must have happened, for Phil G4OBK, Alistair GW0VMZ and Danny EI6GS were all lined up instantly on 3.660MHz SSB for Jimmy.

Simple, straightforward, a good old fashioned SOTA activation of 4 contacts each! A blast from the past - and quite a refreshing antidote to last night’s zoo on Trostan GI/AH-001. Plus it quite suited us. I had already figured that with two really challenging summits, and at least one more significant walk planned for the day, 90 minutes of activating per summit as per the previous two days, could not squeeze into the schedule. Which is probably why I chose not to live-spot this one. That left me with a twinge of guilt, but countered by the fact that at least four of those we worked could be considered as regular committed chasers.

The descent was on marginally easier terrain than the ascent, due to my decision to stick closely to the forest edge until we got down to the stream, which we then followed down to the reservoir. Back in the car, we found we hadn’t been locked in by the anglers, and were able to head North again without delay.

Tom M1EYP


#18

Knocklayd GI/AH-002

From Mid Hill GI/AH-006, we followed the lanes to McGregor’s Corner, the B94 through Clogh and the A44 up to Armoy. We were again in mobile 'phone contact with Colin GI0RQK, who told us that he had actually parked to the south of the summit, not up in Ballycastle as we had expected. This was good news, as this approach was much shorter - although punishingly steep. During the 'phone call, it became apparent that Colin was already on the summit! We had some catching up to do. Jimmy monitored 2m in the hope of a bonus chaser unique from Colin, but never did find him.

At D105339, the lane running north from the B15 was actually signpost ‘Knocklayd’. We followed this all the way to the farmyard at D110350, where permission to park and access the hill was granted. This is one of the things I just love about SOTA in GI. Permission to park on, and access private farmland is always granted, immediately and with a smile.

We climbed over a fence to get into the hill, and then the real work commenced. It was straight, steeply up. This was 1000 feet of ascent crammed into three-quarters of a mile. I found it tough, and needed several sitting-down breathers. I thought my calves and thighs were going to burst open! Jimmy, who had not enjoyed Mid Hill GI/AH-006 earlier, expressed how much he was enjoying this ascent in comparison, and repeatedly skipped far ahead of me.

Eventually, I lost sight of Jimmy as his charitable threshold was reached and he lost interest in keeping a watchful eye over his poor old dad. As I crested the summit, I saw the large mound with trig point atop, similar to Trostan GI/AH-001. A strong cold wind was at my back, so I assumed that Colin and Jimmy were on the other side of the mound shelter, and hence why there was no sight of them.

They were. It was good to see Colin again, and we spent twenty minutes or so catching up before I even considered playing radio. I was amazed that Colin had remained on summit for the three hours since we spoke on the 'phone, just to meet up with us! He had long since made his SOTA contacts, and was, by his own admission “a wee bit cold”!

Jimmy and I drank the entire litre flask of mulligatawny soup, said goodbye to Colin who was commencing his descent, and got ready to activate. This constituted me putting my rucksack back on and standing up; we were going for a 2m FM only activation, wanting at least one more summit for the day after this one, in spite of the fact that it was already approaching 4pm.

I made four contacts, and Jimmy made five, both a mixture of QSOs into GI and GM. The last couple of contacts were slow in coming, and we wondered if it would have been more efficient after all to have gone straight for HF. However, when Jimmy closed at 1606 UTC, we didn’t have any packing away to do. It was all on our backs and ready to go.

The last summit we did jointly with Colin GI0RQK was Cross Slieve GI/AH-011 back in 2005. That was also the occasion of Colin’s completion of all GI/AH region summits and he was the first to achieve this. Here on Knocklayd GI/AH-002, I became the second to completely activate GI/AH, but Jimmy would have to wait a little longer, having not been a licensed amateur in Easter 2005.

We dropped gingerly and leggedly down the steep grassy slope back to the farm, both of us using zigzagging to ease the pressure on our legs whenever practicable. Down at the farmyard, the farmer wanted to chat and ask us if any of his sheep had strayed onto the upper flanks of the mountain. In the car, Jimmy and I munched on some Granola bars, so it was around twenty minutes after completing the descent before we actually started driving again.

By now, we were accepting of the fact that we couldn’t get two more summits in, so resigned to the fact that tomorrow would begin with another drive north, before a long drive south. Normally, I would not consider starting another summit at 6pm, but we had done Slieveanorra GI/AH-003 before and knew it to be safe, straightforward, and suitable for a torchlit descent if necessary. That is where we headed next.

Tom M1EYP


#19

Slieveanorra GI/AH-003

Despite being a four-pointer, I recalled this as being a very easy and safe walk. We drove Westwards along the B15 from Knocklayd GI/AH-002, and then Jimmy, complete with the OSI Road Atlas of Ireland upon his lap, directed me along country lanes. He was customarily successful I taking me to the start of the access track at D144278. There is plenty of space to park here, so we did, and just after 6pm, we were wandering along the stony track, part of the Moyle Way, and into the forest. Our boots were pretty wet after Knocklayd GI/AH-002, so we stuffed them with newspaper and left them in the car. Trainers would suffice for Slieveanorra, with its hard access track all the way up to the transmitter complex on the summit.

A short distance into the forest, and we spotted a yellow tent at the side of the track. A chap was preparing one of those packet hiker’s meals, the types they sell in Millets and Yeomans. I have never tried one myself. We chatted to him for a while. He was a Scotsman, and was walking the Moyle Way in two days. Conscious of limited daylight, we got on our way again, and made swift progress as we wound our way up the weaving track to the summit.

After a rest, a natter and a few photos, I eventually switched on the VX-7R hand-portable, fed to the RSS (SOTA Beams Rucksack Special) antenna standing above my head. It was nearly 7 o’clock, and if I recall correctly, we initially got going by gatecrashing an existing QSO having been unable to solicit any action from the calling channel. However, after the two stations in Scotland were worked - and they left us their frequency because they were going QRT anyway - there was a steady stream of GI callers until we closed down at nearly 7.30pm.

The only packing away to do was placing the VX-7R in my jacket pocket and the logbook and pencil back in the zip compartment of the mapcase. The target was to be back at the car by 8pm, just about in the last dregs of daylight. As we passed the tent again, there was no sight nor sound of the Moyle Way walker, who was either fast asleep, or somewhere in the dark of the adjacent forest hunting for his supper!

We reached the car ahead of our target time of 8pm, and commenced the drive back to Larne along the A2 Antrim Coast Road. The menu in the chip shop we called in at offered a full Chicken Maryland meal, so I ordered a couple of those to devour back at my father-in-law’s house. The battered chicken, battered pineapple rings, battered banana, sausage, bacon and chips were washed down with a couple of cans of Harp lager, all in good time for the commencement of Match of the Day on BBC1. In the meantime, a check on the text revealed that Macclesfield Town had won 2-1 at home. What a great day!

Tom M1EYP


#20

Cross Slieve GI/AH-011

We couldn’t quite squeeze all eleven GI/AH summits into three days, but three-and-a-bit days is probably a competitive enough record to withstand any future activity. Until G1INK takes a visit over there anyway!

So we did have to drive out North once again on the morning of Sunday 30th March 2008, and up the A2 Antrim Coast Road it was. This is a lovely road to drive in daylight, for it clings right to the coast and offers great views across the Irish Sea to the Mull of Kintyre, and around each successive bay around County Antrim. From Larne, we passed through Drains Bay, Ballygalley, Glenarm, Carnlough, Glenariff and Cushendall, before we took the minor road that passes to the west of the hill.

In 2005, we had ascended through farm fields from the East, but I wanted to investigate a public road indicated on the OSNI 1:50,000 sheets. This road turns left off the lane we were on, and was gated, although only one gate was closed. There was a small parking area at the top, and from here it was a trivial walk along the summit ridge through a couple of fields.

Jimmy spent sometime agonising over the map and exploring around all the possible candidates for the true summit. I made up my own mind quickly as to where it was, and set to setting up for 80m. An almost full day-off yesterday had reignited my enthusiasm for HF, and I was QRV at 2 minutes to 10 local BST. Not bad considering that the clocks went forward during the night, and I had ordered a later 7am get-up to compensate.

A steady stream of caller was worked on 3.557MHz CW, interspersed with an interlude of four SSB contacts by Jimmy on 3.660MHz. I didn’t bother with lots of CQing after the pile-up was worked down, nor a blast on 2m FM. I wanted to make the most of the easy descent and allocate the time for the long drive south.

A very long drive south. Eighty miles no less, to Knockiveagh GI/MM-016.

Tom M1EYP