Activation Report: Broad Law SS-029

I’ve been up here before with Brian G(M)4ZRP in April 2007. The WX was awful at the time, a roaring gale and thick mist. I can remember we didn’t push the pole up much lest it snapped! Now I fancied another stretch of the legs this weekend but initial WX reports looked fairly dire so I didn’t research anything special. However, by Saturday the forecast didn’t look that bad for Sunday so I decided Broad Law may be a possible. The main reason being that as it has a VHF NDB at its summit it also has a fairly decent track up it too. Not tarmaced but good hard core. With the relentless rain we’ve had I wanted something that would not be wet underfoot. It’s also a “enough” exercise. I need to get some fitness back after a slack summer.

Having decided on the track approach, last time I did it from the Meggett Stone on the narrow Talla reservoir road, the only problem remaining was access. A long time back before SOTA I did venture as far as the farm which straddles the access road (Hearthstane Farm and Estate) and was put off by the signs. They implied death to anyone thinking of walking through the farm. Since then the Land Reform Act (Scotland) has gone through. So now the farm has the old signs saying “no thoroughfare” and new signs asking you to keep dogs on leads because of the sheep and lambs. Confusing indeed, you aren’t allowed through but if you do venture past please keep your dog on a lead. I ventured! Later on crossing by some large animal sheds there are more signs… “Beware: Bull in Field”, more dogs on leads signs and “If this gate is padlocked then hunting is in progress”. It does strike me that these signs are there to put people off but I really don’t know whether any of them are justified. Lot’s of people are going to come through the farmyard to wander on Broad Law and it strikes me that if they don’t want people wandering through they should do what the owners of many estates up North do. i.e. Put in a specific path for people accessing the hill that keeps them away from the buildings.

In the end I just walked smartly past everything making sure I left all gates as I found them and marched off into the dreik. Well it had to rain didn’t it. Not much. Not enough to warrant GoreTex although 20 minutes later it was fleece off and GoreTex on. I didn’t need over trousers though, the rate of heavy drizzle was wetting me at the rate the wind was drying me. There’s little to report because I just followed the track. No skill, not hard, no navigation. Follow trail till I walked into the mist and the only decision was do I operate from the trig point and NDB site or the PMR site. NDB won as I hoped there’d be less RF there. From leaving the car to touching the trig, 1hr41 versus a predicted walking time of 2hr10. I’d have been quicker if it wasn’t howling and damp!

The fence supported the antenna and off I went. Things were slowish, Brian G4ZRP was waiting and it was a bit slow after that. I worked G3PLX (of PSK31 and other stuff fame.) I could have spent all day picking his brains about his new full digital transceiver but I needed more contacts. Still it was a good contact over quite a short path confirming 60m being quite lively. Anyway a few more contacts later the heavens really opened. I haven’t been out activating in such bad weather for a long, long time. I became a bit of a fair weather SOTA activator 18 months back. I’ve proved I can go out and get soaked so I don’t need to do it anymore! But as the heavens opened I worked John GW4BVE and he spotted me. He told me the WX for his Lleyn expedition didn’t look too clever but I hope they do get a few decent breaks. Anyway I hung about working the small pileup that materialised. Well I was wet and doing a smash grab now would be ignorant as chasers were making the effort so I thought I should. When there were no more chasers I pulled the plug, another day without VHF or 40m CW contacts.

Return was the reverse. I was astounded to meet a woman walking up. I thought I was the only person mad enough to be out in the weather. She thought the same! After that it was plod down and scoff some sandwiches. I need to lose some lard so I was on 3/4 rations and no Mars bar either. I decided I didn’t do enough ascent or do it fast enough to earn a treat like that! 1/4 of the way down the mist lifted, the howling wind dropped and the rain stopped. It was grey but pleasant for nearly all the remaining walk. The last 1/2 mile was in heavy rain though. Which was nice as most stuff was just about dry when the heavens opened. Pah! Summer weather, don’t you love it.

Total walked: 11.8km, total ascent: 712m, total driven: 80miles.

Thanks to all the chasers and John BVE for the spot. I’d really like a nice dry weekend soon please, with clouds at least 1400m high. Please.