A long road back

Back in August 2015 we had a team building event at work. This involved silly highland games (hunt the haggis), a navigation challenge, a speedboat trip up and down Loch Lomond, a nice lunch, a nicer dinner and best of all, a free bar. Although the rules were changed when it was noticed that we were all drinking spirits (at a fast rate) and not the odd glass of beer. Hey invite engineers to a free bar and what do think will happen? We’ll drink all the lemonade? Anyway during one of the games I “did” my back. Hurt like hell unless I sat a certain way. The next morning, nothing, no pain at all. I actually forgot I’d done something.

Two weeks late I was up on the Invercauld Estate (Braemar) when it went again. I was 6km from the car and it hurt. It took me 2hrs+ to get back and my back was not best pleased. A quick diagnosis with Google suggested a slipped disc. I took it easy for a few weeks then I had to restart my daily rowing. That regular exercise was an essential part of my diabetes management and my sugars were not good without it. I took it easy but soon was able to row with little problem but not as hard as before.

October and I was in Dublin for a conference and I bagged Ben of Howth. A trivial walk to be honest but my back let me know it was not happy and I should be very careful. It would stab me with pain at random whether I was moving or not. I felt distinctly unwell TBH. Then November I was in Lanazarote. I had a few simple summits lined up. The warm weather did wonders for my back as did a fair amount of swimming and canoeing. Finally in December I was in Southern France for work and managed 2 hair raising but easy walking summits. No pain at all in France. But as soon as I was back to inactive or Scottish weather it was grumbling away.

The normal treatment is to keep active and let it heal itself which it was doing. By late January I saw my doctor who agreed it was a slipped disc but only minor. I wouldn’t be rowing at all with a proper fully slipped disc. He prescribed some stretching exercises from the UK Arthritis Society which are zero effort and take about 10mins a day. These (and some similar) exercises that Neil 2M0NCM sent me have worked wonders. My back isn’t 100% yet but it is so much better. It’s probably 90-95% fixed.

Today was a cracking day and I had marked this as a day to check back performance to see if I need to revisit the doctor. Trahenna Hill GM/SS-143 is a nice hill, about 40mins from here and has the advantage of having a steep bit and a gentle bit of walking. It’s only 2.1km and 270m ascent. I thought I’d try it and immediately abort if anything felt wrong. It took me an age to find all the SOTA gear as holiday SOTApeditions and my general lazyness meant everything was scattered. I had to double triple check I had everything and then came the moment of truth at the car park. Could I do this?

Boots on, hat, fleece, gloves and we’re off. No problems apart from less exercise (plus holidays, Christmas) meant the walking trousers were a bit snug. It was great to be booted up. The computer says 52mins to the summit. Whilst I had to stop for a breather when I normally wouldn’t bother, I still got to the top in 45mins. That surprised me as I didn’t feel at all fit climbing. Seeing the summit cairn and just standing on a real Scottish summit again looking about me was a wonderful feeling. I spent my youth as a slob, got fitter, lost weight and got my health somewhat sorted doing SOTA and to have had to give it up for nearly 6months was terrible.

Anyway it was punishingly cold, I’d forgotten that part. I set up and was about to start when about 11 walkers in a group turned up with lots of questions etc. Anyway they moved on after they had their coffee etc. and I called CQ on 20m CW then spotted myself and had some fun. First, my CW was awful after nearly 10weeks QRT but slowly I worked the stations. It was nice to be on after 1500Z as KA1R was easy, KG3W a bit harder and my ODX was Frandy ND0C in Minnesota. 20m was not busy so I switch to 30m and and a few more contacts. By now it was 1545Z, I was frozen and I wanted to be QRT by 1600Z max. I pulled down the station and hightailed it back to the car. 32mins to get back to the car to complete the warming up.

Now Trahenna is a bumble but when you’ve been stuck in the shack. OK I did 6 activations whilst injured but they didn’t count as they were not hard. This was the first with proper boots, my rucksack on my back etc. The fact it went well is such a boost to me. Now to keep on stretching and rowing till next week and then hopefully another simple summit.

It feels so good to be able get out. Really it does.


I recall seeing your spot this afternoon and thinking whilst doing a convolution " Ah Andy is back up the mountain…great".


I shall be celebrating the success. I’m off to cook the Venison burgers now and will have a drink with a certain Capt. Morgan later on. Well hopefully more than one drink. We’ll see if the Capt. feels like celebrating too!

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Great to see you back on the hills Andy and glad the back is getting better.

73 Glyn

Congrats, Andy, for this encouraging sign of recovery.
Take it easy now. “Poliki, poliki” as we use to say in basque language, which means little by little.
No activations for me here this weekend as we’re having rain alternating with snow, wind and of course, low temperature with all the summits around QTH in white.
I hope to chase you on the air soon.
73 de Guru

Great to see you up and about again - steady does it.

When I did my back I found horse riding a great way to exercise - it strengthens your core :wink:


It must be a good summit, Andy, I see you have it alerted for today!


That’s why RBNHOLE didn’t spot me! No walking today, I’m out to see these boisterous upstarts tonight and I have my earplugs ready.

Excellent riff to that song and the guy has a fine set of pipes. New groups doing stuff like this show time travel is possible… makes me feel like I’m back at school revising for A-levels. They do some good Deep Purple/Whitesnake covers too.

Good to see you have recovered enough to try a bit harder. As you say not 100% and I really hope that you get the whole way without any lasting effects.

I still have bother with my back and always will. I had 2 prolapsed discs at the same time so you can imagine the pain I was in. It took me about 4 weeks to have my first walk round the local grass square, normally takes 6 minutes - took almost an hour. Going for a pee had to be planned ahead of actually needing a pee and I’m am grateful the toilet is downstairs.

I am now capable of tackling larger hills with confidence BUT I have grown lazy now and don’t have the same motivation to get out and about - even a walk along the promenade. Saying that I am forcing myself out for a wee walk today.

Keep up with the exercises and hope you get the full recovery.

Take care and 73, Neil

That was good, derivative but good!

My eldest son is heavily into prog rock, which has seen quite a resurgence in recent years. Trouble is, most of the new bands are Floyd or Genesis wannabees. I pull his leg that it is no longer progressive, it is preservation - in some cases with embalmment!


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Aye, you can say that again. The last few days have been excellent and the weather some of the best I have experienced in winter - had to keep reminding myself that it is February!

Pleased to see your venture up Trahenna went okay. Not a wee hill by any means and we all know that the kilometres are twice as long in Scotland as they are anywhere else in the world. I should know that having done almost 36 of them on this last trip. :wink: Unusually, no leg ache whatsoever despite the grassy tumps… and there’s a few of those around, especially on Nutberry Hill.

Good to work you when you were on Cairnpapple on Friday afternoon and earlier in the day from your work QTH. I don’t understand why we couldn’t make it on 23cms. Will need to take the handheld out locally to check it out, but it looked okay at my end. Pity that I no longer carry the quadruple quad. It’s hard enough racking up QSOs on 2m, let alone higher frequencies, so carrying extra odds and ends is no longer viable.

73, Gerald G4OIG

It was great to hear you again Andy. I was only running 5w so it was tough both ways, but we made it! I’m glad you’re back at it and I look forward to the next one!

Randy, ND0C

Another weekend, another summit.

But first it was something unexpected to see so many comments and likes welcoming me back.

30m only on Minch Moor. First time for any 30m QSOs from this favourite summit of mine. No problems up or down but I did take it slower and did some stretches etc. during the ascent. Getting the bag just right on my back is important now. I was out of the most of the wind but didn’t stay too long. I’m out of practice and not hill-fit so I want to take things easy.

24 QSOs with 11 DXCCs F, DL, HB9, SP, ON, EA, SM, OH, OM, OK & PA. ODX was OH9XX I think.

Summit Minch Moor with a snowy Windlestraw Law SS-071 behind the trig.


A bit unwillingly you worked 30m. Glad to read you enjoyed it. It’s my favorite SOTA band with short and mid range skip conditions when I use to activate in the mornings, with no contest activity and CW only, which is my preferred mode.
I couldn’t chase you this time but I hope to one of these days soon.
Keep doing well with your back. Little by little.
73 de Guru

Hi Andy,
I had only the antenna EFHW on 10/20/40 meters.
Power 1 Watt, but the SWR was very bad. Seven bars on the S-meter FT-817th
My first call rolled over station from Italy.
I waited until nobody called.
Connection with you succeeded. Thank you.
vy73 Jan OK2PDT

I sent you 339 and you sent 559. You were running 1W and I was running 5W so

1W x 2 = 2W x 2 = 4W = 6dB = 1 s-point. Allowing for SWR foldback with your antenna/817 then the 2 s-point difference is believable.

Thanks for S2S. Now I need to visit OK so I can get some completes for all OK summits I have chased. Maybe this summer after the Friedrichshafen Rally. :wink:

Sorry Andy, I mistakenly commented. Seven bars on the SWR meter FT-817th Most of the performance went back.
You’ll be welcome here, unfortunately, with English’m worse off as a friend of mine from Arthurs Seat.

Last weekend I had too much happening to get out but the WX for today looked good with large amounts of sunny weather predicted. I thought I try something a bit more strenuous and noted that Windlestraw Law SS-087 hasn’t been on for 4 years and it’s 8 years since I last did it. This summit is best done when the ground is frozen hard or after a long dry spell. I had neither so it was quite wet and soft on the flatter sections. It was straightforward to climb and I’m sure the path now now goes much further than before. Lots of quad bike tracks have churned up a very visible trail. The WX was good all the way up, T-shirt weather to the summit but just a little cool without a fleece. It clouded up to about 60% cloud and then cleared up as I drove home. Exactly as predicted. It’s an indistinct lump but the views are really rather nice. It’s the first time I’ve been here in decent WX!

40m was very long but 60m worked a dream.

40m CW:   PA, EA2, G, DL, SM. Total 15 QSO
40m SSB:  G.                  Total  2 QSO 
60m SSB:  G, EI.              Total 11 QSO
30m CW:   DL, SM, HB9, SP.    Total  6 QSO

Edit: I just remembered, I did all the 30m QSOs using just 1W into the 60/40/30 link dipole.

Summit Windlestraw Law. A big flat summit with space for lots of 160m antennas!


Hi Andy

Glad you’re getting back onto the hills, Cracking day for it! :smile: Hope the back’s holding up and you’ll be back in full flight soon.

Amazingly a chance to get into the shack for half an hour coincided with yourself, Rob 'RQJ and David 'YDH all being on 60m from summits. I could hear several of the chasers over the S9 noise that plagues my home QTH but you and Rob were so borderline (R1 - R2) that I couldn’t properly tell what was going on so didn’t risk calling and causing QRM and confusion but fortunately was copying David well enough to hear him announce he was going to QSY to 5.3715 so I went there and waited till he turned up and grabbed him before the general melee broke out :wink:

So apologies to “the ones that got away” and hope to catch you all again soon

73 de Paul G4MD

60m was like old times. I was going to see if 20 or 17 would work but as it was so very long since I was last on this one I went back to my old LF operation style and set up at the same place I used back in Dec, 2006. I’ve missed 2 solar maximums since getting licensed in 1990 so I’ve made sure I had a bash at this one which seems to be waning now which is why I’ve not been on the lower bands so much.