A minor but meikle achievement

At just 366 metres, Meikle Balloch, GM/ES-082 isn’t a big hill, but today it was a mountain to climb for me.

The six months that have elapsed since my previous activation, still in my first year of SOTA, have been dominated by a debilitating illness which is improving but has yet to depart fully. Today, however, accompanied by my team of wife, son, two grandchildren and omnipresent SOTA dog for moral support, I was determined to get back into the hills, even if it was just a little one, to start activating once more.

Meikle Balloch (the name comes from the Gaelic “Bealach” which means an opening or pass through the hills and “Meikle” which is Scots for great or large) lies just three miles from the Aberdeenshire town of Keith in north-east Scotland, which itself lies at the start of the famed “Whisky Trail” of world-famous distilleries. The summit is just 17 miles from my home QTH.

There is a small parking area for a few cars at the starting point.

The aftermath of the vicious storms suffered by this area less than a year ago is still evident with one of the access paths still blocked, but this is easily by-passed on the other waymarked routes.

The route heads steadfastly upwards and initially arrow-straight through pleasant woodland, which becomes thicker as you ascend, on well-maintained paths throughout.

Just when you think you might not see daylight again for some time, the path bursts out on to the ridge with the summit not too far away.

The summit is wide and heather-covered with plenty of space for antennas. There are fine 360-degree views from the trig point, with Tap o’Noth (GM/ES-054) visible behind it, and further round, views to Ben Rinnes (GM/ES-021) and down to the town of Keith itself in the valley below.

OK, enough of the tourist-board-type waffle. It was time to get the radio out. While the family constructed the tarp tent for themselves to offer some shelter from the disappointingly keen wind, I opted initially for my homebrew compact “up and across” antenna for 20m, coupled to my KX2. I only had my 6m carbon pole with me, which is really too short for this antenna, but I gave it a go anyway.

My illness has left me a little uneasy and flustered at times and so I opted just to listen rather than call CQ. The band soon offered up the familiar tones of Horst @OE6STD and a first S2S of the day was secured. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, I messed up giving him my SOTA reference by one digit (amazing how an 8 can look like a 6 in poor light on a hill) an error which was spotted immediately by my ever-attentive support crew who were listening discreetly behind me. I couldn’t raise him on air again so an instant apologetic email was sent from the summit in the hope that my error can be corrected. It wasn’t a good start for an anxious activator and I was seriously hacked off by such a schoolboy mistake on my part.

No matter, I pressed on and a few minutes later worked Fritz @HB9IQL for a second S2S.

As the wind rose, I changed my antenna on the pole to a 41ft end-fed wire with 17ft counterpoise that I made up a few days ago, coupled to a 9:1 UnUn.

Scanning across the bands, it tuned up well on 20m and 17m and particularly well on 15m where a good S2S with Stephan @HB9EAJ working as F/HB9EAJ in the Vosges Mountains gave me a third S2S contact.

Returning to 20m, I then worked Robert @HB9OME for a fourth S2S and the requisite 1pt for activating Meikle Balloch was in the bag. An hour after arriving, that was enough for me for one day. Time to pack up and head back down via a waymarked path which offers a pleasant round-trip to the summit and back.

Compared with what most activators achieve, today is almost not worth recording but for me, it was a mountain climbed, a significant achievement and, hopefully, a corner turned, despite fluffing my lines and opting for gentle S2S contacts rather than facing the possibility of dealing with a wee pile-up following a spot. Those days will come again, I hope, but for now I’m back in the shack, tired and sore but uplifted by the fact that no matter how small the summit, or how few the contacts, the sheer joy of a SOTA activation on a Scottish hill is irreplaceable.

Soon it will be onward, and upward, once more, I hope. I can’t wait.

73 Mike


Well done, a great achievement. We don’t have any big hills down here in the south west so one pointers, with one exception, are all we can do - but they are still fun. :slight_smile:

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The best way to recover from illness is SOTA. Well done, Mike!
Tnx fer fb report.


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Well done Mike! Great to see you back out again (under supervision)! Hopefully the first of many, although you’ve left it until the days are short and the weather turning. Bad timing :wink:.

I’ve got 13 GM/ES one pointers left to do and that one is near the top of my list, so you may have a Complete soon enough.

All The Best,

Fraser MM0EFI

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Hi Mike,

Thank you for your very detail and interesting report.
Congratulations to have such amazing support team as you mentioned below:

I wish you more and more successful activations and hope to meet on frequencies.

73, Jarek

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Hi John. Thanks for the kind wishes. You’re right, one-pointers can be great fun, too, and you have some glorious countryside in the south-west in which to enjoy them. Happy days. :grinning:

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Perhaps not agoraphobia, Pom, but almost everything else can benefit from our great outdoors. Thanks for your kind message. Very much appreciated. :grinning:

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There’s method in my madness Fraser - lots of opportunities to capture those one-pointers all around us here in readiness for bigger things later :grinning:. Thanks for all your support and encouragement.

Hi Jarek - yes I am very fortunate and especially lucky to have the support of the SOTA family, too. Every good wish and thanks. :grinning:

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Great report and photos @MM7MWL Mike. Looks like you had a very enjoyable outing! Well done for qualifying the summit, I hope to make a S2S with you in the future. Now rest and plan your next adventure :grinning:

73, GW4BML. Ben

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Doing exactly that now, Ben :grinning:. Looking forward to our next QSO. Very many thanks.

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This is what SOTA is about: each of us us has their own goals. Sometimes a 1-pointer is worth more than any other summit!

Take care and 73!

Romain SP6SUD


Hi Mike,
I enjoyed very much reading and I found your story inspirational.
I will be glad to have a qso with you in your next outing. Keep on enjoying the mountain, every step count towards recovering the mood and we are all rewarded with any qso in our bag, never matter how many.

Best wishes, 73 Ignacio


This is so very true Romain, and especially in my case. Every summit is a success for us all. Very much appreciated.Thank you :grinning:

Thank you so much for the lovely comments Ignacio. I see you in my log only twice this year so far but looking forward to many more in future. Every good wish :grinning:

Conratulations, first of many!

73 Martin

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Well done, Mike! Tnx fer fb report and photos . :+1: :smiley:

Geoff vk3sq

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Congratulations. One step at a time. Smart to just do S2S until your confidence builds back

Liked your nice report


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Congratulations for “getting back on track”. SOTA definitely has a therapeutic effect!
Well done!
What a moving story!

73, Sylvia


Hallo Mike

this was an important step… and success

you know:

SOTA is addictive
SOTA is healthy
SOTA is therapy
SOTA is healing

glad that it is getting better again!

73 Armin


Hi Mike, thanks for the report and the S2S on 15m, well done!

The bands were buzzing and the the weather in the Vosges was like in summer.
That’s where I was when we had the S2S:

Welcome back and good recovery!

73 Stephan


Us GM hams do have a tendency to drop the odd Old Scots word into our reports now and again. I wonder of any reader has worked out or googled the word “meikle” in Mike’s report title?

According to the online Collins dictionary, it’s a northern English and a Scots word.