I was booked to activate the Moray Firth ARS station at the Keith and Dufftown Railway for Railways on the Air so needed a quick hill that minimised my driving; ES-069 Ben Aigan fitted the bill nicely and had the added attraction of not being activated before. The weather forecast was not promising with a rain front approaching from the North West but the day started out sunny and bright so off to Mulben.
Parking is easy at the Forestry Commission car park at NJ333493 where the Moray Monster Trails (off road biking) start. The ascent of this hill could be done all the way on a bike. The start of the walk is the service road for the TV mast at NJ321497, gravel but really well made. I would call this ascent easy but the walk, with the forest to one side and improving views on the other, is quite pleasant. The mast is surrounded by numerous buildings and two “electric moons” (satellite dishes) and, at present, access is restricted as there is work taking place on the mast. No problem, just continue on the good “road” heading south towards the summit of Ben Aigan. Ignore all the cycle trails off; you need to follow the one labelled Ben Aigan. One section is labelled as steep (not my idea of steep, but then I think the bicycle is the creation of Satan). Shortly you reach a point where the cycle track departs (labelled “Jumps”) and the hill track is slightly less well paved. When it splits take the right fork and after a couple of hundred metres there is another clear, stony track which leads left to the summit. Unusually the summit trig point is rectangular – I have seen the usual truncated pyramid and the quite common cylindrical but I am not sure I have ever seen one that is just a rectilinear concrete block).
The summit was very windy, so after feeding biscuits to my new black companion – I have another Labrador – the mast was set-up, looking like a one-string fiddle, and I was qrv a few minutes early. Paul G0HNW was the first of a very long list of contacts on 5MHz, conditions were much better than they have been for months and signal reports were in the main excellent. I noted that Graham G4JZF managed to make the contact without having me qsy to another frequency (very unusual) but even more so was Mike GW0DSP who gave me the best report on 5MHz he has ever given me, normally his local qrm is awful. I guess the fact this was a unique summit was a help but it appears that there were many more chasers around than I have experienced for quite some time. Where there were problems ensuring my reports had been correctly received it was obvious that one or two of the better located stations were keeping an ear open for the activation and advised if the report was not correct (without any help of course) – thanks guys. Once 5MHz was exhausted, Frank G3RMD kindly helped spot my move to two different frequencies on 40m and the band came up trumps. A long list of stations, Eu and UK, were worked to make this the most prolific activation I have had in a long while. Maybe there is something to be said for 1 pointers after all!
With all this excitement I had failed to keep an eye on the weather. The TV mast on the nearby top had disappeared where previously there had been clear views all around. The antenna was quickly disassembled but not quickly enough and before I could get the waterproof trousers on the rain got me! Never mind, the descent is easy and unchallenging so a brisk walk kept me warm enough on the way down.
Operating GM3TKV from Dufftown was not too pleasant in wet trousers but I did manage a role reversal working G8ADD from WB-019 with me as the chaser.
All in all a fun half day, if rather wet towards the end, with an incredible list of regular and new chasers in the log. My thanks for the spots and for the low-key help when needed