Activation Report: GM/SS-128 & GM/SS-143

As Elmore James was reported to say

“The sky is crying,
Look at the tears fall down like rain.”

Well for a while I was crying on Sunday, partly because I thought I’d tatered my 817 and then because the sky was actually broken.

The area around Broughton in The Borders is particular pretty with many Marilyns. In particular there’s the Broughton Triangle, three hills in close proximity, Trahenna Hill GM/SS-143, Penvalla GM/SS-145 and The Broughton Heights / Pyked Stane Hill GM/SS-128. Moderately fit people can easily do all 3 in one session, but at this time of year there’s not really enough daylight. Having developed my fitness since starting SOTA in late 2006, I thought it was worth doing 2 of 3 in one hit. Which ones? Well Penvalla is a slightly more outside of things than Trahenna and Pyked Stane, so those two won. Anyway, I’m saving Penvalla for later in Spring to do with Sarah.

The route for the two hills was simple, a sort of combination of the two separate routes I did last year. Up to Trahenna then along the ridge to Hammer Head, down to the col and up and along to Pyked Stane Hill. Back was to be down to the col and then through the glen back to the car park.

I parked in the walkers car park in the ground of Broughton Place NT119374. Through the gate and up the track to the small wooded area at NT122378 then turn right and straight up the ridge till I hit the fence. I came across an ATV track and followed that as it’s easier than walking on short heather. At the next fence turn left and followed that to the next fence junction at NT132376 then right and along that fence to Trahenna summit. The ground is really good even after all the rain we’ve had. 45 mins from locking the car to touching the summit stake.

The wx was intermittent sun with a stiff breeze. However, the breeze was constant and not gusty. In the distance I was surprised to see Culter Fell still had snow on it. The top of Tinto was in the clouds and Broad Law was lost in the cloud. I set up and had a tune around, 60m seemed very quiet but 40 was buzzing. At this point I noticed that I couldn’t get the 817 to show high power no matter which buttons were pressed. Gah! I had the wires to the SLA back to front! A quick reversal brought the voltage display up and the power meter went to full scale. Hmmm, but does that indicate output power or driver power. I couldn’t remember but decided that as the power meter backs off when the SWR is bad it must be monitoring actual output power. Few, 817 OK!

I called and called and called and called. Oops, perhaps the PA was tatered. Then G3RID answered me and informed me conditions were really bad. I got the same report from Don, G0RQL but I still wasn’t convinced the 817 wasn’t poorly. Last contact on 60m was an S2S with Dave G0AOD/p on LD-022. Just managed to hear him and vice-versa. I called and called on 60m but it as dead as a Norwegian Blue. Over to 2m. Nothing. Not a single QSO in 2MHz. Called and called. Nothing. Was this going to be my first failure to qualify in 85 summits? No because a net popped up and after trying to break in for 15 minutes they heard me and the hill was qualified. Close call.

I could see the wx was closing in with a heavy shower coming my way. I pulled the station down in record time and put the wet weather gear on. The next part of the walk is along the ridge. It’s grassy and quite wide, not like some of the highland rock ridges. But it’s gorgeous. Even though the sun was behind cloud it was lovely. Then the first hail shower hit. Ouch! But it was over in a few minutes and the sun came out. Checking there were no more obvious showers about I stripped off and continue the walk on the ridge. The wind was fair howling at times but it was thoroughly relaxing. I’d forgotten how up and down it was but finally I descended down off the Hammer Head to the col. The path was a bit wet here but I squelched through up to the style at NT123393.

It was obvious from here on that the wx was going to a bit rough. The climb up to Broomy Side was steep compared to everything else not made easier by the fact I knew the wx behind was a wall of ‘black’ driven in by a good 25-30mph wind. At least the wind was blowing me up hill. Whack! Another huge hail shower with big 3mm stones that hurt. The walk to the trig point goes up and down over Green Law which seemed damn steep compared to what I remember from last time. With repeated very heavy hail showers every few minutes this was a bit of a trudge but I could see the trig point most of the way. On reaching the trig the wx changed completely, no wind and the summit was in cloud.

I set up again and this time 60m was working nicely. No problems working people but conditions were obviously a bit iffy still. Anyway I managed another S2S with Dave G0AOD again. The wind picked up a bit and I had snow, hail, snow and hail. But each shower only lasted for a few seconds at a time. I packed up and wandered to the trig for some photos. I got a nice one of Broad Law with a significantly white top. The comms tower was clearly visible as was Dr. Evil’s antenna (the VOR beacon). The next hail shower came in and it hurt so much that I had to crouch behind the trig point for a good 5 minutes till it stopped.

The return to the col was a succession of hail showers and very blustery gusts of wind. At one point I needed my hands over my face to shield it from the hail. Back at the col the hail turned to the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen. Some where as big as my palm. It snowed like that for 15minutes until the sun came out. By the time I was back at the car it was like a Summer’s day.

So, not a bad day all things considered. A damn fine walk and if it had been snow not hail, it would have been much more enjoyable. A nasty scare with the 817 and a broken ionosphere at the same time. I was trying to think why reverse powering didn’t break something, don’t know why. Any suggestions?

Distance walked: 11.5km, total ascent: 669m, distance driven: 60miles


In reply to MM0FMF:
Andy, if you look down the bottom right corner of the circuit diagram you will see a series diode in the main power line…I wish they had done the same with the FT857, reverse power is instant death to that one!

An amusing misquote: Down to Trahenna or up to Pyked Stane…you can complete the rest!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to MM0FMF:

I was sat here and heard G3RID work you on Trahenna and then heard…
nothing! Not even a squeek of even any other stations calling you. The band had been almost dead all morning, what I had heard was long skip and even Volmet was very weak. I thought “He will be thinking his rig is broken” and said as much to Helen. I am very glad you qualified the summit and that after all the weather had to throw at you there was some better luck on Pyked Stane.

Great report. Look forward to next time. We will be back in GM at the end of August maybe we will see you then.

73 Steve GW7AAV

In reply to MM0FMF:
You were 31 on LD-046 Andy, called you a few times but no response,thought my 817 was duff,spent an hour on 5 and 7 Mhz for just 2 contacts. 2M saved the day

In reply to MM0FMF:

Hi Andy,

Another excellent report. Are the bruises showing yet? Bizarrely I prefer hail to snow, sleet or rain as it bounces off and generally leaves less water behind, but yes… ouch!

“Called and called. Nothing. Was this going to be my first failure to qualify in 85 summits?” …
The SOTA nightmare! For me it conjures up more adrenalin than any other aspect of an activation!

73, Gerald

In reply to MM0FMF:

Another good report Andy, very pleasant reading and thanks for sharing your photos with us too.

73 Mike