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Almost another 'went the day badly' on GM/SS-104 & GM/SS-105

Hmmm… more FT817 shenanigans, more on that later. I’ve not been out for a few weekends, WX, VHF field day, looking after the time-share hound. I’ve accrued lots of vacation and as the WX is spectacular, time for some SOTA. But the WX is too spectacular, temperatures up around 28C are being reported for the Scotland North of Glasgow Edinburgh with wall to wall sun in the West and morning mist and afternoon wall to wall sun in the East. It was misty this morning till 1000Z then the sun appeared at 1200Z and now it’s “Scorchio”. It was the same yesterday. I was going West but it looked to be too hot for a long walk. So I revisited and old pair I last did in Dec 2007, 13 1/2 years ago.

Meall nan Caorach (sounds like coo-rack) and Meal Reamhar (sound like ree-far with a soft f) are located 20km NW of Perth in a nice glacial glen that runs parallel to 'Sma Glen and Glen Shee (the one near Perth!) The summits are 1km apart so the descent and re-ascent is “noticeable” :wink: The access is easy as there is a splended track that runs the whole length of the glen. If the WX was not so splendid I’d have done the longer Southern approach but as it was hot I repeated the shorter route from the North.

I parked in the wide access track for Girron Farm on the main road about 1/2 mile South of the village of Amulree. Last time I parked in the village but even on Dec21st there was lots of traffic on the road making walking hazardous. There is plenty of space to park and not restrict the access for large farm vehicles. This time the car said 17C when I pulled up and the hill tops where in thick mist and it was very overcast, last time it was wall to wall sun but -11C. I was glad of the mist, it would keep the temperature down for some of the ascent. But a 28C change in temp is quite something for Scotland :slight_smile:

Meall nan Caorach GM/SS-104

Boots on, I’d already added 2x 2L water bottles to the car and added an extra 1L of water to my bag making 2L carried. There are a few streams but with the heat and long dry spell I could not rely on them. Just a simple HF activation plan hence 60/40/30 and 30/20/17 dipoles and a 2m J-pole. I applied lots and lots of sun creme, the thick white stuff that is all Titanium Dioxide (really cheap factor 30 from the supermarket), I’ve been using this for Summer walks for years, it works for me and doesn’t remove itself with all the sweat and annoys midges as well. I locked the car and was off. The path leads to Girron Farm which doesn’t look abandoned but was devoid of life. The path goes round the back of the farm and meets an overground looking path that leads all the way to Logiealmond the other side of the hills. It also goes past the foot of both targets.

The view from Girron Farm to the targets. This was taken on the return as you couldn’t see more than 200m up the glen because of the mist when I was setting off. Mean nan Caorach on the left, Meall Reamhar on the right of the valley. There was a glacier here 10000 years ago

From here I followed the track watching the mist come and go. It’s an easy climb although I was feeling the heat and humidity so I struck a positive but laid back rate. Well I had all day to do these and loads of daylight. . When I got level with the col between Meal nan Caorach and Carn Ghorm I struck up to the col. It’s about 150m ascent in 600m or 1:4 slope so I made it easier by taking a more diagonal approach to the summit. Despite the heat and long wet grass from the mist, it was not that much of a challenge and soon on the ridge. From there it was much easier and I followed a newer fence to the trig at the top. Of course, we must not leave litter when we’re out, someone should tell the landowner, there were extensive trip hazards of old fence wire and posts to keep a very sweaty FMF on his toes!

The computer said 1h19m to the top and it took me 1h25 and I was happy with that. It was weird to be in thick mist and not cold. Then it lifted and the scenery was brilliant, then it came back. It did that for most of my time on the summit and was always misty to the South. Only once I was half way to Meal Reamhar did it clear up.

After a measured drink and a firtle with my clothes due to the sweaty nature I set up with the 60/40/30 dipole, I had alerted for 30/20/17 but forgot. Now I’m in the process of changing mobile provider after 13 years with Three. The simple reason is Three wont provision VoLTE on my phone as I didn’t buy it from them. Discussions with people closer involved in UK networks persuaded me to try EE. A PAYG SIM in my phone unlocked all the 4G featues Three say “is not possible with that model of phone” such VoLTE and Wifi calling. But that isn’t what impressed me, no it was the signal strength. The last time I used EE was in August 2019 up near Ben Loyal, it was better than the Three but not much. But I had the EE SIM in an old 4G phone and now my Three SIM is in the old phone so I can receive calls to my longtime number and the EE is a much newer phone. All I can say is WOW!

I was calling CQ on 60m and trying to type in a spot but immediately worked John GW4TQE/P for an S2S. We had a quick natter and John QSY’d. I got my spot out and worked 3 more stations then called in CW and had GM3XOQ come back in SSB. We had a good old natter and I eventually left him the frequency. His audio sounded lovely and I wasn’t surprised to hear him say he was using a TS-590… they always sound nice to me. After that 40m CW then 30m then 20m CW. I didn’t mean to miss out SSB, I simply forgot I’d not done it.

The mist came and went but there were some damn fine views. First looking West at Ben Chonzie GM/SS-015 and Auchnafree Hill GM/SS-039. Ben Chonzie still has the low clouds sticking to it.

Looking North. The white building, middle distance left is Girron Farm passed on the way in. Near distance right is Carn Ghorm and the ascent was up to the col between this hill and the summit. In the far distance on the left is the lovely Schiehallion GM/CS-005. The pointy hill on the right is Farragon Hill GM/CS081

Look at the next target Meall Reamhar GM/SS-105. The route was straight down by the fence and as straight as possible up the other side. Still very misty that way.

Finally the 30/30/17 setup. Compact and strong poles like this are unobtanium at present so I am treaty mine with great tenderness. It’s going to be Feb 2022 before this type will be back in stock :frowning: The sky is much clearer this side of the glen.

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Meal Reamhar GM/SS-105

After some more measure water consumption I packed up and was off to the next hill. It was straight down the steep slope to the track then straight up the other side. Except the mist was gone and it was now silly hot and there was no way I could a) go straight up and b) maintain anything like the pace the computer predicted. It said 25mins from top to top but it took me 40mins. And boy was I hot and jiggered when I got there. I finished the water in the extra bottle and just lay in the grass for 10 mins. I had 1L left so allowed mysef 1/3L now, another 1/3L when I set off leaving a 1/3L for the trip out. Though there were some streams flowing fast by shallow across the track and the Girron Burn was accessible in an emergency. I also applied another bucket of suncreme which was the smartest move of the day as I was in the sun for a long, long time and I have no sunburn today.

Meal Reamhar GM/SS-105 summit cairn and Meall nan Caorach GM/SS-104 in the backgorund

Zoom onto previous summit showing Trig Point.

I set up for 20m and was still amazed at the EE signal strength. At the car both Three and EE had a signal, Three was in HSPA mode at 1/4 FSD and EE was full on 4G at 7/8 FSD. But on both summits Three had dropped to “Emergency calls only” i.e. it could hear another networks the 3G signal but not Three’s own. EE stayed no worse the 1/2FSD the whole time.

FT 817 setup and a tune about 20m showed it was somewhat quiet apart from FT8 signals. I was just typing in a spot when the 817 keyed constantly. It was in CW mode and I couldn’t see what was happening to stop it. I couldn’t change mode and turning of my external keyer/memory did nothing. So I hit the power switch. I get paid at work to do trouble shooting so I forgot my years of experience and started faffing about. I turned the 817 back on and it would not TX in any mode. Booger… we’ve been here before. Much panicking after climbing this damn hill in the sun and no damn TX. Again; :sob:

What I should have done is consider the fault symptoms. The rig was in CW mode and was keyed constantly. I use an external memory keyer so the 817 is plain CW keying. i.e. ground the key line and you get a continuous signal. So the cause could be the keyer was faulty holding the key line down or there was a fault in the cable from the keyer to the 817 or the 817 was faulty. I should have removed all cables from the 817 including external power. Then powered it up, then checked all the buttons did something, then put it in SSB and attached the mic and checked it. I think had I done that it would have been fine. As it was I could not get it to TX at all. The last time I fixed this leaving the rig on charge to the internal battery then after 30mins trying it on internal power restored TX capability. So I put it on charge even though no battery inside, put a spot for 2m up, stood at the cairn and called on the VX-170.

I was able to work Gavin GM0GAV outside Perth so I had at least one QSO. No points but I had activated the damn summit. We nattered for a bit and he offered solace about the 817 and hoped I’d get a few more on 2m. I called for a bit using the rubber duck but no takers. I wandered back to the 817 and tried again, no TX. So I left it powered and was tuning about in CW when it TX’d all by itself again and I couldn’t stop it. So power off, power on and no TX. In for a penny I tried brute force power cycling using the battery connect really fast for about 15 secs. Then powered it up and put it into SSB and it would TX.

Hurrah! Hurrah! I felt like Dr. Frankenstein… It's Alive - YouTube

So I put it into CW and it started TXing and after cycling the power would not TX on SSB. Now you’re all thinking is there any cable attached to the key socket that could have an intermittent short in it? You are but in the heat I wasn’t. Then I though power cycling fixed this but lets get all the crap disconnected so it’s easier to do and I REMOVED THE PERMANENT EXTENSION CABLE TO THE KEY SOCKET. Much power cycling and again I was like Dr. F. as it would TX in SSB. I switched to CW and it was sat in receive then I inserted the extension cable and ZAPOW! TXing. I pulled the cable out and it stopped. In, out shake it all about, the extension cable had a short. Connecting the keyer direct and we had CW TX and SSB keying worked.

I think, and I could be wrong but if the 817 powers up with the key active it locksout TX in any mode for safety reasons. I’d expect that lockout to clear when you power it up without the key active but it doesn’t. So maybe this is a random effect. As soon as the faulty cable was removed and the 817 give a thrashing on the power cycle it did recover. Weird but that’s how I got it working on the summit.

Setup for 20m

After that I spotted for 20m and worked 8 stations on CW and SSB. I tried on 30m but nobody wanted me. At that point it was just too hot. I took some photos, drank the next 1/3L and packed up.

Panaroma looking NW to NE. The far horizon shows Ben Lawers Munros, Glen Lyon Munros, Schiehallion round to the Beinn a’ Ghlo group and the nice valley of the Girron Burn.

Looking ESE to S with Perth in the middle (not that you can see it)

After that it was a slow descent to the track then a slower walk out that the walk in. Boy was it hot in that sun but there was quiet a strong breeze now that helped. It was a long time to get the car but back at it I immediately started the engine and put the AC on max. I sat in the tailgate removing boots from steaming feet and putting cool socks and shoes on. Then I had a can of hot Red Bull. Then about 1L of very warm water. Then I got in the car for some cold air and belted up and was about to drive off but thought my glasses would help. Out of the car, open tailgate find glasses, shut tailgate back in car and belt up. Then get out, open tailgate and get phone out of rucksack and close tailgate, get in car, connect phone to provide music and belt up and drive off. The car had been sat in sun all day and said 26.5C. I though that would drop once moving but it didn’t! In fact driving through a tree lined area for about a mile with no view of the sun the temp rose to 28C. Which is silly hot for Scotland.

All the good work done by exercising in the sun was spoilt by me buying a Chinese takeaway when I got home. Takeaway left whilst I had a cool shower then an evening of unhealthy food and many large G&T’s. Both the tonic and Gin had been in the fridge all day so those drinks were rather refreshing.

Now to find somewhere for tomorrow with more 27C temps predicted, it wont be Ben More GM/SS-001 which I had on my list of summits for this week :slight_smile:

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I think you might be correct. It’s happened to me on a couple of occasions, once I’d just shutdown while I changed bands and decided to pack up. The second time I was on a drive-on summit and went back to the car to get my ATS3B backup rig. Both times powering off the radio and leaving it for some time (at least 10 mins I think) fixed it - although note that I disconnected the external battery both times and my 817 doesn’t have an internal battery fitted.

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Thanks, Andy, for another amusing, entertaining and interesting activation report.

I’d have loved a chaser QSO with you and even more an S2S, but I’m again off, stuck in the hospital due to the remaining digestive transit jam problems, which seem to have finally sorted out this morning by the surgeons. I’m feeling much better now and I look forward to getting back home in a matter of few days. I’ve spent several days not eating/drinking anything at all other than physiological saline solutions through my vein, so needless to say how thin and weak I’ve got. It will take me some time to recover the strength and physical condition to get back into climbing mountains again. I hope not too much…
I’ll enjoy chasing in the mean time.

It’s been interesting for me to read about your struggle and final successful overcome of the problem with that shorted connector. It reminded me the recent failed activation I had because my FT-817ND wasn’t switching ON and it was due to a very stupid, simple and easy to fix problem that I should have investigated, found and solved at the summit, but I inexplicably didn’t, deeply enough at least.

It’s true that some rigs do different things when they detect different key/paddle connected at power on. When I set up, I put the antenna in place first and then switch my FT-817ND rig on before having yet plugged the Palm paddle or the microphone to the corresponding connectors coming out of my compact and fully preconnected SOTA-kit in the customized red wine bottles wooden box I’ve shown here some times in other threads.

Well, I hope you won’t have to deal with unexpected failures at the summit again and you just have another great day out in the 28° C of your unpronnounceable for me Scottish mountains.
I’m in a comfortable room with A/C these days but the TV speaks about temps over 40°C in many places accross EA. Go figure how crazy a SOTA activation can be under such heat and the smashing Sun.

I’ll be looking forward to reading your next activation report.
Good luck!
73,

Guru

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Well, when you do decide to go up there, you’ll be pleased to know that on Monday I revved up the midges in readiness for you. Only trying to be helpful you understand, after all Simon and Nic did that for me, so one good favour… pass it on as so to speak. :wink:. Under the circumstances I had to abandon all thoughts of HF and CW and just kept to SSB and FM on 2m. It was just too darn hot for me as well. I’d have welcomed a blast of some horizontal driving sleet.

Many thanks for the interesting report for SS-104/SS-105. I think I’ll wait for some bonus points to make the drive up there worthwhile. :grinning:

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Hearing you have had more success with your health problems makes me feel much happier than fixing a problem with my 817.

I have just done some repair work. To make life easier, I had a 3.5mm stereo 90deg angled jack plugpermanently connected to the Key socket on the 817. That cable ended in a 3.5mm stereo cable socket. There is a power cable always connected as well. So on a summit it’s simply connect plug from memory keyer into cable socket, connect battery to power socket, connect antenna, have SOTA fun.

The key extension was at fault. Now the cable came from a pair of “ipod” headphones from one of my kid’s devices. Over the years I lost track of the number of headphones/earphones I bought. When the kids broke the earphones, I kept the cable. So this cable had a factory fitted plug and an FMF fitted socket. I cut the socket off and there was still a short in the cable. I cut a few inches off and there was still a short. At that point it went into the bin and I fetched another similar cable from the stock pile. New cable made and so I’m back in business :slight_smile:

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I was surprised to see the spot! It’s becoming a habit planning an activation then finding someone is doing it just before me. It happened on Wether Law GM/SS-177 the other week. I thought I hadn’t done for a while so I have a bash only to find someone (MM0VPM? must check that) had just done it. Then I was planning Ben More and lo… you’re spotted on it.

I assumed you did the Benmore Glen path then up to the bealach then up and down to each summit and back out the same path?

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I went up from Benmore Farm, but on the steep direct path - much improved with nice steps now for much of the steeper part. I was early (as I tend to be when I leave early :wink: ), so I had a 20 minute rest at the 720m level. After activating Ben More, I went down to the bealach and up the zig-zag to Stob Binnein. Returned via the route from the bealach around the side of Ben More. Very painful on the toes on certain sections due to the gradient - walked down backwards to get some relief! :grin:

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Nice report Andy

I did Wether and got wet - I would have melted this past week!

My 817 is also not playing nicely but as I don’t do CW it won’t be the exact same cause - however I shall look for alternate but similar reasons (powerpole connector widget for example!)

Alan

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Hi Andy, thanks for the great reports and photos :grinning:

73 de Geoff vk3sq