Maybe it’s the gremlins again or I am just unlucky – fancy choosing probably the only location in the UK with claggy cloud and high winds! There is space for a car just before the road junction at NN699590 or on the grass at the junction. The path starts at the roadside, passing Drumglas (a shooting lodge) and wends its way up the hill under the pylon, crossing one fence (at a gate) and a number of walls. The path on the 1:50000 is accurate, ignore the 1:25000 it has many misleading detours. The temperature when I left the car was -6C and the sky had loads of light cloud amongst the blue – it was perishing cold and damp with a light wind. The higher up I got the stronger the wind and after about an hour I was cloaked in cloud as well; this did enable me to get very close to the Red Deer before they spooked. The path gives a slow but steady ascent of this hill and I left it at 800m (NN679618) for the final ascent (by compass bearing!). The summit has a trig point and an enormous cairn (which provided an element of shelter). I put out a quick call on 2m and Robin GM7PKT replied immediately – we could have waved at each other – if there was any visibility!
Having finished with Robin I put up the mast for HF; in the wind this proved a bit of a challenge. Once the mast was up it just collapsed again even if I used all my strength to twist the joints tight; the roach pole was showing signs of advancing age (I know the feeling) and paint was starting to spall off the surface which I guess was leading to the liability to let go at the joints. I called CQ almost exactly on published time, and then called CQ again, and again……. I received a reply from GM4FAM with poor reports both ways then nothing. !0 minutes of calling CQ and M1MAJ gave me a call to tell me I was getting out but there were very poor conditions, giving me a 23 report. He spotted me (many thanks) but from here on in everything went pear shaped. In conversation with GW0VMZ the pole collapsed, and then with G0TRB the same happened. Putting the pole up again it finally snapped!!! I managed to jury rig an antenna at about six feet off the ground in the centre and went on to finish with G0TRB and have a chat with GM4COX/P for a summit to summit with our fairly constant 54 between each other plummeting to 41 in the space of an over! I managed to also work G0RQL, GW0DSP (great signals Mike) M0COP and G4CPA before the band committed suicide and I could hear nothing. Taking the advice of my guardian angel I dismantled the “antenna” and headed off down the southerly ridge where there is another shelter about 0.5Km from the summit where I stopped for lunch. Needless to say that at this point the cloud cleared and I could see the view although Schiehallion remained cloud topped.
The descent down the south ridge is a great walk (in winter); the name of the ridge is Tom na Moine – Hill of the Bog – and it is, but was mainly frozen. This ridge rejoins the inward track at NN689593 for an uneventful return to my car.
My apologies for cutting this activation short, no doubt those watchers of Fairford will tell me why conditions on 5MHz were so bad but it had all the makings of a solar flare causing a SID. Now I need to put my substitute pole into use and possibly rejig the antenna so I can also use 80m.
My thanks to all who persevered to make a contact under these interesting conditions.