Activation report after successfully activating two Outer Hebrides SOTA summits, one a unique:
- Forsnaval GM/SI-200
- Beinn a’Charnain GM/SI-203
- Elecraft KX2 10w
- 40/20 EFHW
- 3m RG174 coax
- 6m Carbon pole
- and a partridge in a pair tree!
A week ago I was talking with the farmer that farms Pabbay Island where the last unique SOTA summit stands on ‘Beinn a’Charnain’ GM/SI-203 from the Outer Hebrides - one which I missed to activate a few months back on my SOTA expedition because of really bad wx conditions… He said to me that there was a potential opening for us to join him cross over to the Island one day the following week and asked would I like to join him. The downside was, I only had two days holiday left to take from work, and I wouldn’t know what day we were going to cross because of wx conditions, that’s even if we could get across!
This would possibly be my only chance, maybe for some time as the farmer would be busy lambing until the end of April 2024, so I decided to take a big risk and say YES, I will join you! He also said I could invite and bring the family - happy days!
Two evenings later, we found ourselves in the campervan driving north heading for Scotland. Unfortunately the normal ferry port (Uig - Tarbert) we take was closed due to maintenance, so it was Ullapool to Stornoway we had to book.
After 5 hours of driving on the Friday evening, we pulled off the main road, headed for a B road and found a nice little pulling where we settled for the night - a good nights sleep was had by all!
Approximately 08:30 on Saturday morning after having breakfast in the van, we continued our journey to Ullapool. It took a further 5 hours (after stopping a few times in-between for food) and we arrived at our destination, Ullapool ferry terminal. The Christmas lights were shining bright, little Lyra was in her element! It was beginning to get dark, so we waited patiently to board the ferry.
Once we were on, it took 2 hours 45 minutes until we were back on the Island of Lewis and Harris for the second time this year - what a wonderful place to be at this time! A 30 minute drive west of the Island and we were parked up at a campsite ready to shut some eye and have another good nights sleep.
I wasn’t expecting this trip to go ahead this year, but for my advantage, I had managed to gain 1998 activation points, which meant I only needed two more to hit my second mountain goat - perfect timing! Before leaving home to attempt Beinn a’Charnain, I did some research, and found a nice easy to access summit on the Island of Lewis called Forsnaval GM/SI-200 - believe me, you don’t get many straightforward SOTA summits on this Island! I had plotted a route and hoped for good weather so we could do it as a family.
Sunday morning came around fast, Martha had been busy making some granola at home for our breakfast while being on the Island - this went down well once nailing a bowl full, we headed for the start of our route - little Lyra led the way as if she knew exactly where she was going
We followed this nice tarmac road for approximately 3/4 mile until we hit a comms station on top.
The ground was quite boggy and there was a cold breeze in the air, but we were all dressed for the occasion - no rain though which was a benefit.
I set up my station just beside the trig stones and put a CQ SOTA call out on 7-CW first followed by 7-SSB shortly after, managing to work a total of 28 stations, two of which were S2S contacts, thank you very much Matt @MW0KAX and Tim @M7TSU.
The summit was qualified, another point added to my score and the rain held off - happy days! I put a call out on 145-FM but unfortunately no takers, so I packed up and we all headed back for the van.
It was now time to drive down South into Harris, we were staying the night at a campsite called ‘West Harris’ - I do recommend if anyone wants to visit the Island! As we approached the border, the wx changed for the better, it was blue sky and sun all around, fantastic wx for this time of year. We were getting messages saying it was awful back at home??? I think we made the right choice to come up north. In this case, we made the most of our time/weather and headed for Luskentyre Beach to end the evening.
After a lovely family evening had watching the sun set behind the mountains on the beach, we finally drove to our campsite and hooked up. Exciting times, I received a text message from the farmer saying to be at Leverburgh port for 07:30 in the morning, it looks like Tuesday was going to be the big day, in more cases than one!
That night, I didn’t sleep the best, I’m not sure was it because I was excited to activate my final summit planned, or I was worrying that the weather may change and the day would be cancelled. Nevertheless, the alarm clock went off at 06:00, I jumped out of bed to check the weather… it was dry and pretty still, I was on a winner I woke the family up and we had breakfast together before heading to Leverburgh port at 07:00.
When we arrived, it was very quiet. In the distance I could see a boat with a light on just hovering in the water by the pier. We parked up, put our essential clothes on. I grabbed my rucksack with my SOTA gear and snacks in, and we all started walking towards the boat. A really friendly farmer came to greet us and invited us onto his boat - we were getting closer!
A couple of other guys jumped on bringing two dogs to round the sheep up on the Island - it was then time to set off for Pabbay as I am from a farming background, we had plenty of stories to share, so before you new it, Pabbay was in view.
We soon reached the docking area, you could tell this had been done a few times, the boat was parked up with perfection. Once the tie ropes were tied to the boat, we all jumped off. The farmer and his work friends went to sort the sheep, while me and the family went on a mission to climb a mountain Beinn a’Charnain.
If you google Pabbay, you will see there is loads of history on the Island. We walked past what looked like an old Church with, I’m presuming, grave stones scattered around. There was the old fallen down stone house here and there, with a large well my guess was??
Little Lyra was in the carrier, we decided to take it just in case the wind was bad or it rained. She is getting rather heavy now, or I am getting unfit, so Martha led the way pretty much to the top!
The route we took was approximately 1.6 miles, it began on nice green fields hard under foot, this was much better than the boggy ground I had to traipse through on my last visit to the Island! We then hit a rocky area as we approached the summit col, not long after this we were on top with a huge smile on our faces
The views from the top were amazing - it was a clear day and we could see for miles. It was nice to look back at our boat journey to Pabbay. I had a quick breather while Martha and little Lyra sheltered beside the trig out of the wind eating snacks. I then set up my HF station and used the small half cairn for cover.
I chose a free frequency on 7-SSB, spotted myself and put a CQ SOTA call out. Just as I de-keyed the microphone, there was one almighty pile-up coming out of the little Elecraft KX2 speaker - what a great feeling! It took some doing working through all the stations, but I enjoyed every second of it. I ended up working a total of 61 stations and then a further 7 on 7-CW - great times! I was exhausted by the end and starting to get a little chilly. After putting final calls out and had no return, I packed my station up with an even bigger smile on my face - job done and what a good feeling it was!
To top this activation off, I got weak on one knee and managed to propose to Martha from the top of Beinn a’Charnain - she said YES
With smiles all round, and after trying to explain to Lyra that I couldn’t give her a ring as well, hi, we made our way back down to the farmers log cabin which was just beside the sea with fantastic views. The farmer and his friends invited us in to join them for dinner eating home made sausage rolls and raising a dram to celebrate many occasions on one day which was perfect!
Unfortunately it was then time to leave, so we slowly made our way back to the boat and off we went back to Harris.
Then on Wednesday it was a 4 o’clock start and a 15 hour journey home back to Mid-Wales - we were all glad to see our own bed, but sad that we had to leave the Island, it is one beautiful place!
I’d like to say a massive thank you to the whole SOTA community for all your support and lovely comments that were written on the nice post my good friend Allan @GW4VPX put up on the reflector - thank you very much Allan from the BML family!
My Outer Hebrides mission is now complete - I wonder where next??? I do have plans, hahaa!
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a lovely festive period and a Happy New Year!
73, Ben & family