A week of fun (in the sun)

Brian G4ZRP was up for a week of SOTA fun to celebrate 3 years since he persuaded to start doing some exercise and also to take a rig with me so he could get the chaser points!

Here’s a brief resume of the more salient points. We did 2 substantial walks, The Cheviot and Beinn Dearg. Most of rest of the hills were small 1point hills, many of which are not on the air that often. This was to bump up my unique count and to offer some less common summits to the devoted chasers. I’d normally not bother with these hills as there’s not enough of a walk for me. But with someone to talk to about radio matters they were an enjoyable diversion from my more normal SOTA activations. We finished off with a pair of very easy 2point hills, one a unique and one I’ve done several times.

The Cheviot SB-001

We followed the directions on Jim G0CQK’s excellent website http://www.sb-sota.org.uk/ There was loads of parking space on a Friday. The walk is straightforward, just follow the paths and muddy scars up to the top. The section at the col after the summit of Scald Hill was quite boggy but nothing like the true summit. I have the deepest respect for anyone who made it to the trig before the path was built. WX was OK on the ascent but at the summit the wind was howling so we only operated on 60m. A straightforward and easy 8 points.

11km walk and 627m ascent.

Goseland Hill SS-203

See separate report.

Cairnie Hill SS-275

We parked at NO272161 in a fisherman’s car park. Across the road along the path at NO272162, through the obvious break in the wall and then just go up. Firstly between gorse and spruce and then up through the gorse on the worn path. We crossed fences as and whenever needed. The AZ is huge, once confirmed by the GPS we found a convenient fence and operated. 5MHz conditions were good and 7MHz inter-UK was excellent with a handful of EU stations.

1.3km walk and 150m ascent.

Mount Hill SS-277

This is just a few kms along from Cairnie Hill and features a 29m stone tower, The Hopetoun Monument at its summit. We parked at NO338159 where there is space for no more than 2 cars. There is an excellent signposted path the final section through a lovely wood. Loads of space at the top to setup. We talked to a family where the mother was a signals officer in the TA and she was suitably impressed with the speed myself and Brian got the gear setup and how well it worked. Signals on 5MHz were good but 7MHz was excellent. Again lots of inter-UK contacts on 7MHz and a fine selection of EU stations worked.

1.6km and 132m of ascent.

Norman’s Law SS-262

There’s space for several cars at N0309209. Follow the track to the woods, then over the gate and either across the field if the cows aren’t looking menacing or around the side to the gate the far side. Through the gate and then pick you way up the rough and steep hill through the crags. Not hard at all but late in the afternoon and the 4th hill in 3 days plus a very strong wind made this harder than it is. The views across the Tay estuary in the late afternoon sun were lovely. Again 5MHz and 7MHz were in tiptop form and we worked our 0DX of the week with RA1AVP/1.

1.1km walked and 135m ascent.

Beinn Dearg CS-068

This Corbett had never been activated for SOTA and as it is situated in the lovely Glen Lyon I had singled it out so Brian could get a “1st activated” for himself. Situated just west of Carn Gorm, many people will have looked at this shapely hill from the Carn Gorm summit but as it is below the magic 3000ft level few will bother with it. Their loss!

There is a big car park at Innerwick NN586475. From here you walk past the war memorial to the track. However, due to construction work the path is diverted slightly. A walk through the diversion brings you onto the path above the construction compound. From there it’s along the track through the forest. All the way we were greeted with the sound of stags bellowing as the rutting season is well under way. It’s a weird and disconcerting sound as bellows come from all directions. There’s a right turn onto a seldom used path after about 250m of ascent. Shortly after you emerge onto the hillside. There’s no path then just peat, heather, grass and bogs. The last 2km and 300m of ascent are like this but it was surprisingly easy just requiring your wits to not step into the worst of the soft stuff. We glimpsed a large herd of female deer on the skyline of Meall a Mhuic CS-075. For the last section there’s a line of disused iron fence posts, the wire long gone. One of these was used at the summit to support the antenna pole. 5MHz and 7MHz again in fine form.

10.6km walked and 615m of ascent.

Largo Law SS-259

I’d forgotten this was in a WAB 40 square or I’d have advertised it more. There have been access problems in the past as this is an obvious target for a quick walk and this has bugged the many farms on which this hill sits. So there is one preferred access route. Park between the church and school at NO421038 and follow the clearly marked path. The actual summit cannot be seen from the start. This time 7MHz was quite quiet compared to recent days.

3.5km walked and 228m ascent.

Benarty Hill SS-242

It was already late when we started this one. Park at NT158969 in the small layby. The steps up through Benarty Woods are visible. You climb quickly here, up 191 (sad but I counted them) steps. Follow the path back and forwards to the T junction, left and follow the paths (forest road then foot worn paths) to the edge of the trees. Then over the fence and out along the path in the heather. There’s no climbing really after the trees are left behind.

This was very close to a failure. We’d left it late and it took a total of 45mins to work 5 people on 5MHz and 144MHz. Propagation was fine on 5MHz, just nobody listening. Likewise 40m was busy but 5W doesn’t cut the mustard unless you’re lucky or have been spotted.

3km walked and 181m ascent.

North Berwick Law SS-280

This is a fine and obvious pimple on the flat landscapes of East Lothian and was attacked after a fantastic day at the Museum of Flight, East Fortune. Huge amounts of aero technology, a walk around the first Concorde to enter commercial flight, a chance to look inside some of the famous military radars designed locally (Blue Parrot et al.). A bargain at £8.50 to see Spitfire, ME163, Mig-15, Jaguar, Buccaneer, Phantom, Sea Vixen, Sea Hawk, Meteor, Vulcan, Lightning, Concorde, BAC 1-11, Comet-4 plus a lot more.

North Berwick Law took both of us 18mins to reach the top from the car park. The summit is tiny and we could just fit the dipole in without blocking too much of the summit. Again 5MHz and 7MHz were in good form. We met ex-G0VWS who was planning to get back into the hobby after a few years absence.

1km walked and 130m ascent.

Kirkland Hill SS-164

This was the nearest 2point hill I had still to activate. It’s accessed up the long road that leads to the Kirconnel TV mast from near Sanquhar. This is the wrong side of the M74 to me and therefore by definition is in “bandit country” :slight_smile: The walk is easy along the right of way for about 1km then straight up the hill over longish grass an heather. The sun was shining and it was a fine warm day. From the summit the Isle of Arran and Goat Fell were clearly visible over 80kms away.

3.2km walked and 135m ascent.

Green Hill SS-123

The first time it took me 50mins to climb this. Now after 3years walking it took 26mins including a comfort break. It only took Brian 32mins so I need to put another car battery in his bag to slow him down! We were so into the routing now that we were up and running without any delay. A nice run of EU stations on 7MHz was nice followed by an S2S with GM4GUF on Ben Lomond SS-011. Robert was 59 on my IC-80AD using just the rubber duck. Not surprising for a small beam at his end and an almost LOS path some 93kms long.

4km walked and 199m ascent.

A great week’s SOTA fun. Lot’s of unique for the chasers. It was a pleasure to work so many new stations in EU and to hear time after time “thank you for the new unique”. You can’t have SOTA without chasers and activators and so I’d like to thank the chasers for the devotion they put in to chasing so many 1 point hills. Both myself and Brian were impressed with the scale of the pileups at times.

A few people deserve a mention. Steve GW7AAV was spot control for the first 6 summits. It simply became a matter of calling “GW7AAV” instead of CQ and up popped Steve with the spot waiting. Thanks also to the others who spotted for us including Don G0RQL, Mark G0VOF and Mike G4BLH. Finally a special thank you to G0UOO and GM3TAY/p. Neither of these guys are keen SOTA chasers but both on two occasions they were having a QSO with colleagues on the most common SOTA 5MHz frequency. Now I could call and call and call until noticed on another 5MHz channel or I could interrupt these QSOs. On both occasions I called break and asked if I could put out a CQ for the SOTA chasers I knew would be listening with the intention of QSYing afterwards. Instead G0UOO and his partner gave up the frequency, QSYing up a channel without any fuss. GM3TAY/p offered to do the same but this time I insisted that I’d leave them the frequency. It was a pleasure to meet people prepared to interrupt their QSO for a few moments to give another station a chance to get going. In a hobby that seems to get more and more aggressive and competitive on a daily basis to meet a couple of strangers prepared to help another was sheer delight. Thank you very much.

Assorted pictures in the Flickr group or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf Once more, thank you to everyone who chased us and made this week so much fun. Time to plan something a little more adventurous for next Easter.


In reply to MM0FMF:
Busy week and I think that’s all the Fife summits completed Andy (my home county). Good to catch you on SB-001 on 5Mhz and also briefly for a chat on 145fm - shows that you can work Newcastle with a HH+RD from there.

In reply to MM0FMF:

A great report Andy & it was very nice to work you & Brian on at least a couple of summits :slight_smile:

Thanks & 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to MM0FMF:

Steve GW7AAV was spot control for the first 6 summits. It simply became a matter of calling “GW7AAV” instead of CQ and up popped Steve with the spot waiting.

Thanks for the mention Andy, that is why I call my blog CQHQ it stands for Connah’s Quay Head Quarters. I sometimes think I am the only one still listening on channel Fox Echo yet other times I cannot get to the microphone quick enough before a pile up starts. It would have been great to act as your spotter for the rest of the activations but unfortunately I have to work from time to time. Thanks for the points and the unique summits. I hope Brian enjoyed his visit and you did not wear him out. 5mHz has been seriously superb for inter UK in the last few weeks similar to when I first got my NoV, just when I had started to loose faith in it. I just want some DX on the band in the evenings now and it will regain it place as my favourite band.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

In reply to GW7AAV:

but unfortunately I have to work from time to time

The pair of us guessed that as you were conspicuous by your absence. Never mind, I’m seeing what can be planned for next Easter time.

I hope Brian enjoyed his visit and you did not wear him out

Well I thought I had him tired by the end but the sly blighter still managed to sneak up Hutton Roof Crags on the way home. I’ll try harder next time. More lead in his bag I think.

I’ve studiously ignored the Fife 1 point hills as they’re all quite short walks and I can’t be bothered with packing the bag, short walk, setting up, operating, taking down, packing bag, walk out and drive to next hill. Lather, rinse, repeat. After getting on for 150 activations the set up/take down gets tedious so I do a longer walk now to extend the time between setting up :wink: With someone else to help it’s not the chore it is own your own. I had a range of hills selected and had thrown in the Fife lot “just in case”. As it was we decided we see how many we could do in one day and the three we did were so enjoyable that we tried to polish off the rest. I have to say that they are underated due to the low elevation but all them are different and with a touch of sun and blue sky plus the autumn colours, they were a very real treat.

In reply to Jim’s comment, there’s 3 left to do. Bishop Hill, Dumglow and Steele’s Knowe. It’s suprising how much effort is needed to complete a section, I’ve been concentrating (not exclusively though) on the Breadalbane region of SS (Loch Tay, Loch Earn, Loch Voil etc.) and after some 2 years I think I’ve done about 65% of it! So I raise my hat to anyone who has activated all of a region such as LD or NW etc. And like wise, simply chasing a whole region looks like a big job.

You’re right about 5MHz. It seems to have returned to what I remember it was like when I started. Last year it recovered after the summer doldrums but not until November ISTR. The bigger change was being able to work people on 7MHz SSB. It’s normally a waste of time with an 817 barefoot but it was hectic this last week with both inter-G and EU contacts. I’m not sure if that was simply down to getting spotted as I QSY’d or if the band has improved recently. However, I think I need to get back onto having some CW contacts again and also punt for a filter for the 817!


In reply to MM0FMF:
Hi Andy,
You have me somewhat puzzled. Unless my maps are way out of date and the boundaries have been moved, Bishop Hill, Dumglow and Steele’s Knowe are not in the county of Fife. For the first two of these the border is close - my maps show the border just south of Dumglow running around the northern edge of Loch Glow then across the Black Loch to Wether Hill - for Bishop Hill the Fife boundary is both to the east crossing the track approaching the hill just east of East Feal and to the north where it runs down the Glen Vale - for Steel Knowe, I am lost as to why you might think it in Fife as on my maps it is quite a way out. Has there been a boundary revision?

Benarty Hill which you activated only just makes it into Fife by around 35 meters with the Kinross border running along the edge of the ridge just to the north.

In reply to G0CQK:

Ah well this belief of 3 still to do comes from the simple assumption made by a simple activator that everywhere the other side of the bridge and out that way is Fife!

The fact I’ve completed somewhere is quite nice though especially as they are in general such pleasant hills. The views from Cairnie Hill and Norman’s law being really excellent for such a small elevation. Anyone visiting GM should consider adding some of these to their itinerary, they well worth doing either on the way to do bigger things or on the way back.