Activation report: Slieve Binnian - GI/MM-003

Preparations for our first activation started on Friday 29/7 when Brian, 2i0TCA and myself got together at his home QTH to put together some kit for an HF activation on 40m.

To cut a long story short, we cut a dipole for 40m and gathered some items which would allow us to have the antenna at approx. 18ft above ground level in the centre in an inverted V configuration. Once this was sorted, rucksacks taken out of storage and plans made we decided on a departure time of 09:30

Next morning, activation day Saturday 30/7

After packing my rucksack I began to wonder if this ascent would be quite a challenge, with 2x 7.5Ah Sealed Lead Acid batteries, a Yaesu FT857D, LDG YT100 tuner along with additional clothing and essentials I decided to weigh the rucksack - 14.5kg ! (On the way after picking up supplies, I then packed another approx. 3kg of food, water and clothing.)

Got to 2i0TCA’s house and the car was packed. Arrived at Slieve Binnian car park almost to schedule.

From the car park and for the first 3/4 of the climb, it isn’t possible to see the summit due to the terrain, and also the cloud as it was quite low. It was almost like a trek into the unknown!

This was my first time on this mountain, in actual fact the first time I had climbed a mountain in 22 years or more. We began the trek for the summit at 11:15am with the sun beaming down on our backs… it was actually verging on the uncomfortable side of hot.

We reckoned on it taking around 2hrs to complete the ascent (not taking into account my asthma and general unfit state) Thankfully after a short distance of about a mile the sun disappeared behind a cloud - little were we to know this would be the last we would see of it until after we returned to the car.

In general the ascent went well, with some rest stops which became more frequent when we hit the very steep part, it was also at this stage that I ended up cutting the battery pack into two pieces - I had neatly taped these together previously for ease of handling. Brian very kindly took one of these 2.5kg batteries which had been in my rucksack. We arrived at the summit around 1:25pm The cloud had dispersed nicely and we were greeted with a spectacular view of the Silent Valley and it’s reservoir on the other side. The climb is well worth it just for this alone!

After a spot of exploring for a good antenna site, we decided on an area that was away from the main arrival area, which is quite narrow due to the rock formation. A well earned lunch was then consumed and we got down to radio.

During a reasonably trouble free set up we heard Karen 2E0XYL & Neil 2E0TDX operating 2m FM on 145.400 from another summit somewhere in the Lake District on our Wouxun HT. Unfortunately at this stage our hands were full with a 40m dipole that didn’t want to be erected. We agreed to give them a call once we had got properly set up, only to find by this time they had gone QRT - must have missed them saying so as it seemed they were there one minute and gone the next. Well, there’s a bonus gone for both SOTA teams… nevermind - lesson learned.

I began to call CQ SOTA on 40m while Brian walked a little distance off to try 2m FM from the Wouxun handie. I had no response after a dozen calls or more, a quick tune around found several stations calling CQ Contest - I had forgotten the RSGB IOTA contest was on this weekend. A quick “2i0VAX/P” and I had a response from the Polish contest station of SN3S who gave us the rubber stamp 59 - at least our kit was working. Brian also confirmed his kit was working by putting a successful call into the GB3LY repeater, which is in Limavady at IO65nc over 75 miles away.

Now to find some SOTA guys (and girls)!
It suddenly dawned on me… in the past I had noticed people “Self Spotted” on the SotaWatch website - perhaps that would work, if nothing else it would give everyone watching a bit of a chance to work what is a relatively rare summit. After a bit of messing around with my iPhone I had Spotted myself on the website - to my surprise, within 30 seconds I had a pileup the first of which was HB9AGH in Zurich.

Quite a lot of stations worked, and apologies to anyone trying who wasn’t able to make a successful QSO with us. With a little practice it should become easier - logging was a bit of a nightmare due to the wind picking up and blowing the pages around. Lesson Learned - bulldog clip required! Or perhaps one person log and one person operate the radio would be a more efficient way. I am sure we would have had more contacts had we been more efficient. Cant really expect SOTA chasers to wait around all day while an inexperienced activator wrestles with his logbook!

Last contact was logged at 16.03pm with GI0VKP - we swiftly packed our kit away - some of which had become quite wet from the low cloud which had moved back in - we were down to approx 100m visibility.

We began our descent at 4.25pm - it was uneventful even though visibility was so poor thanks to the fact that we were able to follow the mourne wall (and had Brian, who has a lot of experience on most if not all summits in the Mournes)

Returned to the car at 5.50pm - there was a lot less chat on the journey home, everyone was pretty wrecked!

All in all a good day was had by all, and am looking forward to the next activation (with a lighter rucksack!)




In reply to 2I0VAX:
Hi Pete,
Congratulations on your first (of many I hope) SOTA activation. You picked a fairly tough one to start with and I was very pleased to work you on it.
I was on Holiday in NI a couple of weeks ago, and had a wander up Slieve Lamagan and Binnion and activated on 2m ssb, 5 Mhz, and 7MHz. I was running an FT-857 @ 50Watts into a multiband linked dipole and a pair of phased loops on 2m. Wonderful walking with stunning views. I was very fortunate with the WX with wall to wall sunshine.
I use LIPO batteries with my 857, which gives a better performance and much less weight compared with Lead Acid.
I also had a walk up the Glen river and activated Donnard and Commedagh in thick mist and heavy rain; not nearly as much fun!
Enjoy your SOTA walks and well done on your first activation.

73, Frank

Thanks for the reply Frank,

Not sure which one will be next, but Commedagh is on the cards for an overnighter sometime hopefully before the nights get too long. Unfortunately the WX here is a little hit and miss… makes planning an outing quite difficult… usually means it’s a spur of the moment thing. We spoke about LiPO batteries on the way home in the car, the advantages of weight versus the disadvantages of cost, unstability (fire hazard etc) and the fact some sort of protection circuit would probably be needed to protect them from discharging below the critical level. I have a little experience of using them in R/C aircraft and it does kind of put me off using them in this particular application. Perhaps they have progressed in the last 12-18 months since I flew with them last.

Thanks for the words of encouragement



In reply to 2I0VAX:

“During a reasonably trouble free set up we heard Karen 2E0XYL & Neil 2E0TDX operating 2m FM on 145.400 from another summit somewhere in the Lake District on our Wouxun HT.”

Congrats on your first activation Pete and Brian - hopefully one of many! Sorry to have missed you yesterday:-(

Neil and I were on LD-013 Coniston Old Man and had been listening out for you - I even asked someone if you had been spotted on the reflector around 13:21z. We were on 2 metres fm from 12.37 - 14.11z before qsy’ing to 4 metres and then back on 2 from our next summit LDW-037 Brim Fell from 15.40 - 16.32.

Hope to work you S2S sometime soon.

Karen (and Neil)

In reply to 2E0XYL:
Hi peter it was nice to work quite a rare summitt i am glad you had quite a good day best 73s Dave M3XIE

In reply to M3XIE-1:

It was a pleasure to work you Dave, and all being well there will be many more in the coming weeks. Look out for Slieve Croob, Slieve Commedagh, and the very rare (not activated since 2003) Eagle Mountain (GI/MM-008)