Black Hill is one of my winter bonus favourites. It was the 1st hill I activated on HF in 2006. After the struggle with 2m FM in and around Edinburgh it was a revelation to use 5MHz! It remains today a nice, easy leg stretch. My preferred route is from the Bavelaw car park at Threipmuir Reservoir, up the road and then on to the well maintained tracks then straight up to the top. The reservoirs around here capture water before it enters The Water of Leith and in recent years the level has been lowered by about 1m to provide flood protection for Edinburgh. Sadly this means the reservoir is now a huge mudflat
Anquet says 1hr20 for this route but I went at hit hammer and tongs and got up the frozen ground and to the cairn in just under the hour. There was no wind at all and it was quite warm. The Forth Valley and most of Edinburgh were under mist and watching it billow about was mesmerising. The seeing to the West was hazy but North West was great: Ben Vorlich, Stuc a’Chroin, Stob Binnein, Ben More, Ben Lui, Cruarch Ardrain, Ben Ime, The Cobbler were all very clear. That’s not quite 100pts worth of SOTA fun! Best was Ben Lawers though, unlike the others he was completely covered in snow and stood out behind the Ochills like a Toblerone box. Anquet says that the LOS distance is 62miles to Ben Lawers and he was a steady image, fantastically clear air!
I started on 2m and managed to attract Ken GM0AXY and Christine GM4YMM who’s QTH I could see down in Edinburgh. Ken spotted me on 2m and 60m and whilst getting the dipole up I was called by Steve GM7UAU in Greenock which is a fair old distance to work on a handy+rubber duck. The handy, Icom IC-80AD, was laying on the ground when Steve called, quite surprising I’d hear him at all. Later on I heard MM1AVV from Criffel working GM4CXM, but he was too weak to work. Shame.
Onto 60m and it was like shelling peas although quite a few people said there was deep and fast QSB. This was when the Mongolian Hordes arrived. There’s never anyone walking on Black Hill. Except today, when a walking group was doing the Pentlands loop came by. So I had to explain the antenna and smile with the jokes “have you caught any” etc. etc. I almost had my frequency purloined by a Robin GM7PKT and Frank G3RMD double act whilst I was explaining stuff to the walkers! You can’t trust any of these old time G3 calls! A subsequent 3 way sorted that out and Frank chased and Robin was S2S’d. Some DX wafted by in the shape of Leif LA9BM and Kjell LA1ENA. Then I cleaned up the stragglers on 60m finishing with an S2S with Paul GW4MD/p. I think this was my first activation with 4 S2S contacts. I thought I did it on Meall Bhuide 15 months back but one portable station was not on a SOTA summit.
Finally I pulled the links on the antenna and plugged in the paddle. Time to make an idiot of myself on 40m which I promptly did. I’d told Ken it was warm enough for just a fleece even though it was well below 0C. However, I had my new down jacket on within minutes. Fantastic and cosy. Anyway I didn’t realise my head was cold and so were my hands. I’d forgotten the thin gloves which you can operate in and my thick gloves are too thick. Cold hands meant awful sending and a cold head meant it was just dots and dashes. I now know that GWWZ0/G33OAO was actually Les G3VQO. If my head had been warmer I’d have got that, sorry Les. And yes, very QRS was how people had to send to work me. The QRM monster was there but his game is busted. Smart ops zero beat with him and then shift a hundred Hz or so and whilst he runs a big signal keydown you can hear the stations calling as they beat with the constant tone. Especially as I now have a 300Hz filter and can make 7.032 almost bearable! After working DJ5AV the QRM monster realised he was not causing any problems and stopped so I was able to work ON5QRP and ON3WAB. After that I couldn’t think any more. So it was a “SRI TOO COLD QRT” and I packed up.
The walk out as the sun set was lovely. The temperature was well below zero back at the car as I sat getting changed. Some fantastic colours in the sunset above the mudflats/reservoir but after all day outside the camera was too cold to play… it wouldn’t even turn on never mind say flat battery.
All in all a lovely day out and not too hard after a strenuous works Christmas do yesterday. The exercise and cold cleared out the remnents of the Sicilian Red we had with the meal and the long conversations I had with my good friends Stella and Artois during the evening! See Tom, moderation is the key to these things though I think your CW is better when you’re legless than mine is sober.
Total walked: 8.8kms, total ascent: 322m, distance driven: er… it’s just a wee bit up the road from home.