72 at 72

Thursday 22nd February 2024

I booked two nights at Perth Broxden Travelodge so I could get three days on the hills, principally to take advantage of the winter bonus points. Two and four point summits would be the focus of this outing, possibly two per day, all subject to the weather. I emailed Fraser MM0EFI advising him of my visit and we agreed a joint activation of Morrone GM/CS-060 on Friday 23rd February. This would give me a day before and another after to carry out some lone activations.

The weather forecast changed more or less hour by hour on the run up to my chosen dates. I therefore chose a number of summits with relatively straightforward routes which would be easy to access if the conditions were bad. As it turned out, the weather was much better than expected.

It was 5C and raining when I set out from Amble on the Northumberland coast at 03:20z on Thursday 22nd February, but I knew the rain would ease as I headed north and indeed it did. It was 07:10z when I arrived at the parking spot where the weather was a relatively benign 1C with virtually no breeze. The chosen summit, Meall Tairneachan GM/CS-080, is very close to the Foss Mine track which branches off the B846 between Aberfeldy and Tummel Bridge and the parking spot almost opposite the track entrance was empty. As I got ready a couple of pickups and a large earth transporter passed and went up the track.

I set off up the track at 07:40z, ten minutes later than I had intended, but I had quite a bit of slack in my schedule to allow for bad weather. The track, which starts at 300m asl, is initially in a forested area before it exits onto open moor at 560m asl. I hadn’t gone very far before it started snowing. The track was free of ice until I left the shelter of the forest, the first real obstacle being a cattle grid which was extremely slippery. A second cattle grid higher up was just as bad. I rested here as one pickup and the earth transporter passed heading back down the track, both drivers giving a friendly wave. I found it safest to walk at the side of the track as it slippery elsewhere. It was not a day to rush the ascent. At a turning area, I headed up right across tussocky ground to reach the summit trig point at 09:40z.

Slippery cattle grid.

Target coming into view.

Schiehallion looking cold.

The trig at last.

There was around 3cm of snow lying on the summit. With the temperature sitting at -1C and a chilly breeze blowing with some lengthy gusts, it felt much colder. I set up about 15m from the trig on the east side where I was able to get some respite from the wind. I found a clear frequency on 40m to start off on SSB and placed a self-spot, which for some reason did not appear immediately. It was therefore 10:04z before I was called, Robert M0RWX being first into the log. A huge pile up then ensued. 40m was in fine condition and the 5 watts from the FT-817 was received by some chasers at s9 plus. The skip was quite variable, later opening into Europe… or was it just that the UK stations were initially that much stronger? I worked G, GW, GM, GI, EA, F, PA, DL, I, SP and OH, a total of 47 stations in 36 minutes. The last to be worked on 40m SSB at 10:47z was Jukka OH3GZ, who was the first to be worked on 30m CW at 10:56z . I worked G, GI, GM, F, ON, DL, I, S5, SP, SM and OH on this band… 25 contacts in 20 minutes finishing with Damian SQ9IDE.

Something to look at as I operate… for a while.

The sheltered spot for operating.

Another view of the set up.

The sun had broken through the clouds at the start of my session and the occasional band of snow passed so I got a combination of the two at the same time. When I finished on 30m it was cloudy again and getting darker by the minute. The view of nearby Schiehallion GM/CS-005 was disappearing fast. I decided that to set up for 2m was not a particularly good idea, especially I was already 17 minutes behind schedule. I therefore packed up and made my way up to the trig to take a few photos… cue sleet. That decided my next summit. I would got not continue up the track to Tarragon Hill GM/CS-081, but would return to the car before going on to Drumcroy Hill GM/CS-107. I didn’t fancy being 8km from the car if the weather worsened.

Weather closing back in.

Descent to the track.

Setting off at 11:44z, I found the track was now clear of ice and I made good time on the descent, stopping only to chat to driver of the earth transporter who was returning to the mine for another load. He told me the mine was more or less finished and he was just moving low grade material that had been extracted to the storage area down by the road. Hopefully they will continue to maintain the track in the future as it provides an excellent means of access to the summits.

By the time I got back to the car, I had a pain at the top of my right leg. I sometimes get this after walks as I have had a small inguinal hernia for about 8 years, courtesy of another SOTA summit. The pain usually goes away quite quickly. I therefore decided to have a quick lunch and then drive the 8 miles to the parking spot for Drumcroy Hill to see whether the pain reduced. In fact the opposite happened and by the time I reached the parking spot I was feeling extremely unwell, nauseous and very hot. This was something I had not experienced before. Ascending the hill was out of the question and with the rest of the outing in jeopardy, I decided to let Fraser know the situation and cancel the planned joint activation for the following day. Eventually the pain eased and I was able to drive to my accommodation. To add insult to injury, the weather had now cleared and it was lovely and sunny.

I think my rapid descent down the track was the cause of what happened to me. The track surface was as hard as concrete. In future I will need to be more careful. Although I had very little pain after a relaxing bath, I decided I wouldn’t risk any further ascents until I had had time to rest and assess the situation. It would have been irresponsible to tackle Morrone the following day and I certainly did not wish to be a liability for Fraser. Reluctantly I cancelled my second night’s stay and drove back to Northumberland the following morning. Thankfully I experienced no issues driving and a short break to check out Eyemouth on the coast just off the A1 gave me an opportunity to test my walking capability as well. All was good.

So a rather annoying experience. Just one summit activated, but a decent activation at that. I’ve had a few problems up in Scotland in recent months, but some successes as well. I aim to keep positive and put this experience behind me, the same way I’ve done with bad Scottish weather and being bitten by a dog - I still bear the scar. I love Scotland… I hope it comes to love me.

72 (due to me using QRP for a change) and many thanks to everyone that came on to work me. Oh… and the 72 at 72 title?.. 72 contacts on my 72nd birthday. Some present I gave myself.

Gerald G4OIG (GM4OIG/P)


Happy Birthday Gerald!

Beautiful, if not cold, photos…

I feel ur pain…turning 72 in June myself.




Gerald, Congratulations on the 72/72 and a great report. Mo and I did that one and I managed it on 2m only. I remember it being breezy and struggling to find shelter. Nice to see it in winter.

Well that would have made for a good SOTA report/Radio Rover video. :grinning:


An excellent report, I really enjoyed reading it. At 83 I live vicariously through the exploits of the SOTA activators. And before I forget, Happy Birthday.
W6LEN Jess


Gerald, congratulations with your 72 at 72.
A great write-up and fantastic images conveying the mood described in your report. Thanks for the contact on the day and being able to be a small part of the day’s proceedings.

73, Robert

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Welcome to the half gross club. I had to explain what a gross was to my kids.


Many thanks for an excellent report, which I really enjoyed reading. Loved the atmospheric photos too!

A shame that you weren’t able to activate as many summits as you’d planned, but always better safe than sorry when it comes to being out on the mountains. Hopefully you’ll have better luck next time you head up to GM. At least you had decent radio conditions which enabled you to write a catchy subject title. Perhaps you had it in mind before you started the activation?

I wonder how much time we spend obsessively checking weather apps in the days before a planned activation? Perhaps someone more mathematically talented than myself might suggest a formula for this (following on from another recent thread!)

I had to look this up too! Every day’s a learning day on this reflector!

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Sheesh… it’s a dozen dozens, everyone knows that. You’ll be claiming you don’t know how many Barleycorns in an inch next. Or how many pounds in a hundredweight!

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There’s some good views from Meall Tairneachean, you got one or two. There was a plan to build a new mine with roads and big changes but it’s on the Farragon Hill side as the old mine was getting exhausted. That was a few years back and I don’t know if it came to anything, I must check.

Anyway, good to hear you don’t seem to have a current injury and let’s hope there’s nothing lingering. We can’t have you out injured as we will need to start planning our expedition to the mighty Mulwharchar soon. April’s out, I’ve a holiday, Blackpool and some dog-sitting to do in between. I do intend to tack a G complete and Craiglee GM/SS-150 on to the return from Blackpool, if the WX cooperates.

Seems like a lifetime since I was on the top of this one with Mrs. FMF but it was only 14 years ago.

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Happy birthday Gerald.

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Happy birthday, young man!


Could be worse: Thankfully, SOTA does not use the Stones, Furlong, Fortnight system.


Gerald, fine report and it looks like a spectacular solo winter day. Congrats on that and making 72. Sorry about the pain. The hot and nauseous sounded like a heart attack. Glad it wasn’t :grinning:


Many thanks for all the kind comments and the birthday wishes. I did enjoy the day despite the pain which thankfully didn’t last, but it was worrying at the time. Now I’ve had time to reflect, my biggest pain is not having been able to join the others up in Braemar the following day and of course the loss of more experiences on the hills… and the points which I am trying to accrue to get my 2 x MG on Unique summits.

There’s no pain in becoming 72 Pete. We are as old as we feel. I don’t intend to hang up my boots just yet. The physical pain on the day was transitory. I will be taking steps to try not to repeat the event! :grinning:

I think my failures are best left in print Fraser. :joy:

Well Jess that’s why I do a write up of each outing. When I do hang my boots up, I can see myself sitting in the pub with a pint of decent ale thumbing through my reports and dreaming of times past. :grinning:

I actually took a small camera with me on this one Robert to see whether the quality was better than my phone. Both are only 8MP, but I think the camera wins the day, especially with the shots of Schiehallion which I doubt would have been so good on the phone. The downsiode of course is that it is something else to carry… and I already have a kitchen sink and a lucky anvil. :wink:

I never thought of it that way Colin. Such measures are long forgotten… as is my ability to do a quadratic equation. :joy:

With my “good” fortune Matthew, I spend absolutely loads of time! Seriously in times past it was a case of just doing the activation whatever the weather because there had been so much effort, time and expense put into the outing. Occasionally the weather was too bad to be out on the hills, but I can count those days on the fingers on one hand. I am rather more cautious nowadays with my activation partner Paul G4MD being confined to barracks and me going out on my own. The stakes are considerably higher when I’m not accompanied.

Indeed Andy. The Foss Mine is finished and just the extracted material, low grade at that, is being moved out. Whether the new mine is being accessed from the east I wouldn’t know. As far as I can ascertain it may be as that route gives better access to the A9.

Been there, done that, got the teeshirt Pat. 2017 HA and stents, 2018 triple bypass aged 66. Assessed as physiologically being 58 pre-op, so hopefully I’ve carried that through, but I am slowing up. As long as I don’t come to a standstill. :joy:

73 all,



Hi Gerald,

Congrats on passing the 72 milestone and surviving the experience. My next one is in June when I expect to reach 75. Since about May last year I’ve been struggling with a variant of encephalitis which has taken away my driving licence, prevented me from activating any summits other than those I can reach as a passenger in another vehicle and given me and the whole family a big shock.
However, onwards and upwards.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA


Hi Andrew,

I’m really sorry to hear about your situation. That must be extremely frustrating to say the least. I hope you can team up with some of the locals and get out up a few hils and do some joint activations. Getting out would certainly do you good, physically and mentally. :grinning:

Take care and 73,


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