It’s a long time since I’ve written one of these. Anyway, I didn’t have much time this day as we had a family commitment in the afternoon so that meant a short drive and walk was the main requirement. Throw in a unique summit and that would be great.
Dumglow is a small 1pt summit not far from my QTH that I’d never got round to doing. Partly because I was always trying to maximise points earned / mile driven and partly because it’s surrounded to a large extent by forest. I became a mountain goat a year ago last weekend and one of the things that it does is it stops you concentrating on just getting points and you can now enjoy any hill just for the walk and the radio. Dumglow was an ideal target then.
I spent sometime on Friday checking for other walkers reports. They all suggested it was best from the fisherman’s car park but there were a few boggy bit to cross. With the rain the ground would be very wet and this didn’t appeal. Another respected walker suggested bashing through the forest fire breaks was hard work due to fallen trees. He’s normally right so I heeded his words.
That left an approach from the North. The 1:25000 OS map showed a forest road and some firebreaks that looked positive. The Google Maps satellite view showed some very good looking firebreaks. Switching to street view showed 2 possible parking places. All in all it looked feasible. It would be the 1st time I didn’t need a map, just an aerial photo of the forest.
I was out by just gone 8.15 and up the M90 to J5 with the B9097. I turned West but turning East takes you to Benarty Hill which is a trivial summit. If the forest wouldn’t play I was going up here just to activate something. Past Cleish Farm and then straight on the minor road to Cleish. Through Cleish and on to either of the parking places. One is entrance to what looks like a farm track at NT068974. It’s really the access road to a major North Sea Gas pipeline installation, so don’t block access. Failing that you can park at NT064973 where there’s space for 3-4 cars. This was where I parked.
The start of the walk is at NT069975 but the track looked a boggy nightmare so I took an alternative start. From where I parked I crossed the gate into the field and walked up by the trees. At the fence at the top, turn left and after about 50m the fence has collapsed and is easy to cross. Keep going East until you can see a very obvious firebreak. This break continues into the far distance. Go up here and you will join the track you would have been on if the start wasn’t boggy. A few minutes later I was on the track and I followed this up the hill to its end. No thinking needed so I could enjoy the morning. It was neither warm nor cold nor sunny nor overcast. The birds were singing and the whole areas seemed to be alive with Spring.
At the end of the track is a turning circle and firebreaks run left (East) and right (West). You cannot miss these. I checked the aerial photo and walked right. Of course right was not right, it was wrong. A few minutes later I was at a junction of firebreaks and looking at the photo it was possible to reach the summit form here but I thought the final climb would be much steeper this way so I back tracked to the turning circle and went left. Which was right! You just have to follow this firebreak and not deviate. It’s easy walking but a little wet in places but nothing much.
There are a few streams to cross and a few firebreaks meet up. At one you get to see the summit for the first time. Ha! A 75-100m high vertical wall of rock! I knew it was a bit craggy but that view was impressive. I also knew the route I was going to take was much easier. So I continued along the firebreak till I came to a junction of several firebreaks and an old stone wall. It’s important you stay in this firebreak and don’t take the left fork. It’s a bit steep for a moment but returns to the gentle ascent soon. Keep on keeping on until the forest breaks out into trees on your left and jokers on the right and me stuck in the middle with you. Er… good song but not not quite an accurate description. So it was trees on the left and an enormous great grassy bank on the right.
It looks very steep and long. It is very steep but not long. Keep on the track of the firebreak a bit further then climb the bank. If you veer up to the left at 45degs instead of straight up the slope then it’s easier. After a few minutes the ground contours round and you turn right up the hill where the slope is less severe. Keep on to the fence and cross the fence and keep going up along the fence. When the ground levels out you are on the flat topped summit and the trig should be visible about 300m away. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy!
It took me just over 40mins including going the wrong way, admiring the trees and having a comfort break. WX was OK, no real wind but it was cool. It was quite misty down in the valley. The Ochills were actually lost in mist and during the activation the mist closed in for 20mins before lifting. I didn’t have time for all bands so it was toss a coin to see if it was LF or HF. HF won so the 20/17/15m vertical went up.
The bands were very quiet. Oh noes… solar flare! Except it didn’t seem right. The bands sounded quite but I could hear there was a pileup on a 15m station but I couldn’t hear it. I was LOS to Edinburgh Airport and all their VHF services were weak. Ah, antenna problem. Rattling everything found an intermittent in the connection between the wires of the vertical and the BNC feeder to the 817. Well BNC cable sockets are not designed for non-coax cables. With normal service restored I started calling on 14.061+/- and immediately I worked Ken GM0AXY who was a LOS path to me. Hearing a GM on 20m at 59+20 is odd because I don’t hear many G’s on 20m, just John G4WSX now and then. Trade was brisk but not silly. Often there were quite spells and I was glad to have the memory keyer to call CQ for me.
A couple of walkers appeared fascinated by the setup and the chap asked to listen. He wanted to listen to Morse… must be a ham or ex-naval telegrapher I thought. In a quiet spot we were talking about radio and Morse and he asked about speed. I said a few callers today were just faster than I was comfortable with and he said “yes the last one was DL8MBH and you put MBS”. Gulp! When I queried him he said he was joking and I was right it was MBS! That’s when he said he had to learn Morse for his job as a pilot so he could read NDB callsigns. “Ah but they go v e r y s l o w and are easy” I said. “A lot easier than what you’re doing!” was his reply. We had a good chat then him and his Mrs. left. Which was a shame as she was very, very easy on the eyes
After that I tried 21MHz and worked only 3. I was annoyed not qualify it on 15m but it wasn’t to be. Onto 17m. Now I had used RBN to spot me on 20 and 15m but after calling CQ for a while and getting no takers I wondered if 17m skimmers were not running. As I could see the M90 I knew I’d get a mobile signal. I got a working HSPUA signal and a 5mbps link to the net. A quick self-spot and 17m lit up with callers. Conditions seemed to be favouring to the East as there were more Ukrainian and Russian signals than US signals. Maybe this was down to the fact it was earlier than I normally work. Maybe it was down to the antenna orientation. It’s meant to be that best radiation is along the counterpoise with this setup. The counterpoise was aimed North of NorthWest, i.e. slap into the USA but the strongest stations were from 180degs away, i.e. Ukraine and SE Europe. I’ll experiment further.
Time marched on and it was time to go home. 0DX on the HF bands turned out to be UA1ASB on 20m (17 QSOs), UU4JDD on 15m (3 QSOs) and W4ZV on 17m (12 QSOs). I packed all the gear away and took some photos and was ready to leave. As I was LOS to Ken GM0AXY I gave a quick shout on 2m FM from the handy and caught Jack GM4COX instead. I sat down and we QSY’d to 450 into Bobby GM7GAX’s activation from SS-062. I could hear him working Colwyn MM0YCJ but I couldn’t hear Colwyn to the North of me. Very odd. Then I peaked up on Colwyn and he was South… this can’t be. But he was being a tricksy hobbit and was activating White Combe SS-030! So 2 S2S contacts on 2m and then a natter with Jack.
Return was the same route and it was most definitely spring listening to all the birds marking their territory. I also heard my 1st Skylark of 2013 calling. Walk out took about 30mins and I was back home in no time at all ready to shower and go out again. It’s great when the party you’re going to is walking distance as I spent all afternoon conversing with my friends Shiraz and Malbec
Spring is over today, it’s been snowing on and off all day. I spent 2 hrs yesterday remaking the antenna. The wire I used is light but has snapped twice. So I remade it with Teflon covered sliver plated 19/0.1 which is much tougher and doesn’t knot up. It didn’t work in testing. It’s a bent dipole how can it not work. MFJ259 would not show an SWR dip. Also the counterpoise was too heavy and sagged under its own weight too much. Grr! I stopped using the MFJ as a go/no-go test and actually read the display. Little resistive component and reactive component that changed with frequency. When I unplugged the radiating section there was no change. D’Oh! NO RESISTIVE COMPONENT means there’s a short. Of course the short was in the lovely weatherproof, heatshrink wrapped termination. Back inside and 5mins with a knife revealed how it could short. Remanufactured with a lighter wire for the counterpoise and tested again and everything is tickety-boo. The wire used for the counterpoise is the same I use in my LF dipole which has done over 100 activations so it’s resilient stuff. Now for a decent weekend to use it.