Breaking stuff, Losing stuff & Making stuff (and then forgetting stuff)

Last week I decided to ride to work, but take in a SOTA summit on the way. I’ve done this before, but to be honest I’ve not done much cycling in the past 12 months.

Thursday 21st March 2024 Benaquhallie GM/ES-065 1 point
I set off just after 0800. I was on my hardtail mountain bike, hoping I could ride up some of the hill and down all of it. That would be about 5km. The rest of the 50km was tar. Some logic!

at the top of “The Slack”. Deeside is littered with WWII granite pill boxes at key road junctions, river crossings etc

An hour of tar bashing and I was heaving my bike over the fence and pushing up the first field on the route. After that I was able to ride quite a fair bit of it, as it wasn’t too steep. The track was pretty greasy in places, so when progress became difficult I just got off and walked. I certainly walked up the last bit, as it was pretty steep.

starting the push up

It was a breezy day, thankfully in my favour. I was happy enough though because of the stone wall that crosses the summit. I jammed the mast into the wall, pre-strung the 2m Slim-G and then put my 41’ wire over the top of it.

everything I had was in my bike back pack

Turning on the radio, it sounded like the band was closed. Then it dawned on me that I had no audio. I popped the back off to reveal a broken speaker wire. As soon as I looked at it, the other one broke. Because of my stripped out kit I had no headphones. Oh dear!

What to do? I removed the now redundant connector and stripped back the broken wires. I stuffed them through the radio side of the connector. They appeared out of the other end, so I simply folded them back and then loosely re-assembled the back panel. turning the radio on brought the audio back to life, so good to go.

I had a good run of 12 stations on 40m, then went to 2m FM with my handheld, as promised to the WhatsApp group and the NE Scotland email group. Well, that achieved nothing. Everyone was away or busy, except for @GM5ALX Alex, in Aberdeen. I could hear him 5/5 but he had no copy.

Activating Benaquhallie GM/ES-065*

One of the WAB chasers messaged to ask if I was going back on 40m, so I did, and added another 12. Right, time to pack up and get to work. For some reason, I un-screwed one of the thumb nuts that retain the KX2 rear cover. I didn’t need to because it was already loose. It dropped into the heather. It was gone. Forever. I gave up searching after a while and packed everything away.

I hauled the bike over the wall and found an ATV track that dropped down the hill in the direction I needed to go. A great descent, with heathery and then grassy tracks leading to a single track road and ultimately to my route to Westhill.

the descent

I got there about an hour later. Sore legs. Maybe 50km plus a summit was a bit much for the first commute.

The next Few Days
I repaired the speaker wires. I looked online for the knurled thumb nuts I needed for the radio. They are some Imperial 4-40 UNC type thing. Pretty sparse in the UK, unless I want to buy 50 from Mouser. Elecraft stock them. They aren’t expensive, but the $30 shipping certainly is. I need to look for an alternative…

I’ve also been messing around with a 70cm LoRa RX only i-gate and accompanying battery (18650) powered rx/tx tracker. I got them up and running with the little stubby antennas provided. Once they proved reliable, I set about making a 1/4 wave antenna for the mobile tracker and a vertical 1/2 wave dipole for the i-gate. Now I just needed to test this on a hill.

Wednesday 27th March 2024 Morven GM/ES-018
On my doorstep and my first ever SOTA summit. Perfect for a test. Except it had been snowing for 48 hours on the hill and for 24 hours at the house. The forecast for the day was for more snow, but a clear/sunny window for two hours between 1600 and 1800. Morven it was then!

By lunchtime the forecast had changed. The snow free window was now just an hour and the sun wouldn’t be coming out to play. Oh well. I packed for the worst, just chucking the EFHW in the bag, as well as my bothy bag and some warm clothing, winter boots and the rest. I strapped the LoRa tracker and my FT-3d (APRS HT) to the pack and then pulled the rain cover over them. It would be interesting to see an A/B test.

setting off. Morven in the gloom

My PB is one hour. I wouldn’t beat that today. Instead, I paced myself up the steepening trail in deepening snow. It was over the top of my boots when I reached the first level section. The second level section was worse, with post-holing being the main feature. However, I cheered at clearing skies on glancing behind once the falling snow subsided.

starting to clear

On reaching the third and final level section, my heart sank. It was a white out. The summit was a few hundred metres in front of me and invisible. I plodded along, using the line of old fence posts to guide me and soon popped out on the top. 90 minutes today, so no records broken, One good thing though, the promised wind hadn’t appeared.

Morven 872m GM/ES-018 4 points

There’s an old post at the summit, crying out for a mast. I’ve never used it before but today I would. As it happened, the coax from the EFHW just reached the edge of the right hand shelter when the antenna was erected. That done, I screwed the RH-770 on to the handheld and spotted/whatsapped on 144.500MHz.

I put @GM4JXP Simon and @MM7RVC Chris in the log. Both WhatsAppers. No one else. I then settled down in front of the KX2. Well, when I say settled down, I mean cowered down. The wind was picking up and was blowing almost directly into the entrance of the shelter. 10m SSB first, I thought.

HF set up. No guys

The band had recovered after a week of solar vandalism and I quickly put @N4EX Rich and @W4GO Matt in the log. I could hear a US station call summit to summit, but he was weak and with the wind noise I struggled. I pulled the ear buds from the radio case and tried again. Worryingly my left ear became quite warm and uncomfortable every time I called CQ. First time that’s happened. Probably not all that good for my health, so I gave up. Sorry to who ever you were, but we almost had a 10m S2S GM to USA.

activating GM/ES-018

15m brought a couple more, as did 20m. Not great but I guess things are still settling down. 40m added another 10 to the log. As soon as there was a 5ms gap in the chasers calling, I called QRT. I’d been operating for 30 minutes and that was enough.

Morven contacts

The weather was clearing nicely but the wind had picked up so much that the ground was moving. I shook the cold out of my body and quickly packed up, remembering to retrieve the LoRa tracker that I abandoned on top of the post.

Morven summit cairn

For the return journey it would be strapped to my front. In the future I will build a longer antenna and sort out a better mounting system.

clearing skies and spindrift

half man half machine

The wind pushed me on my way and surprisingly didn’t stop pushing me until I was down a couple of plateaux. Looking back, I could see my tracks were the only ones and would be the only ones to reach the summit that day.

tracks in the snow

My only mistake was falling up to my waist in the same drift/ditch twice - once on the way up an once on the way down, only the second time I snapped one of my 30 year old Leki walking poles. Sad times.

I was back at the Landie at 1800 and home 10 minutes later. The dinner was almost burnt, as Mo, who tracks me on, had got confused by the plethora of trails and callsigns on the map and had thought I was back at the Landie 30 minutes before I was. Ah - technology!

I had 2m APRS and 70cm LoRa running in parallel. At several points today I was not LOS to the i-gate. Granted, I was never more than 6km from home, but the i-gate seemed to receive every spot.

The LoRa trace

Anyway, a gamble worth taking. Good kit test and despite me being snowed on most of the way up, the weather window did indeed exist and I was able to make the most of it, enjoying some stunning snowscapes as well as a nice wee bit of QRP DX.

Now, where can I find a 4-40 UNC thumb screw?


Fraser MM0EFI


You’re a far better man than me Gunga Din
de W6LEN / Jess


Similarly situation for me recently. I bought a secondhand 2m transverse for my KX3. It came with everything except the two 4-40 UNC standoffs that hold the board above the auto-ATU. Thankfully Elecraft provided the precise spec and I found two on eBay, but they still cost me a fiver… far less than the shipping cost. Expensive bits of metal. :hushed:

As per usual I missed you on both these hills. Well, why should it have been any different? :grin:

Great report and pics as usual.

73, Gerald

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If you must back off those thumb nuts, and you must do it over heather, bring a magnetic wand from Temu. Telescopic, and it lifts 2 pounds. It will attract a steel object from a km away, and it makes a noticeable click whilst doing its job. Folded, it’s as long as an ink pen and has a pocket clip like a pen. Less than two dollars US with free shipping.

Elliott, K6EL


The nuts aren’t magnetic. I tested the remaining one. Had they been magnetic I would have been back up the hill with a magnet!


I doubt it was a choice. Mine regularly work loose too. The KX2 is a wonderful rig, but not flawless.


As a dedicated & evangelical long-handled icexe user I often wonder what happens when those hiking poles snap. Lotsa sharp edges & opportinities for injury?

Great report,and pics. As we have come to expect!


Such a pain when they get jammed in a rock and your momentum is greater… They bend and then buckle. Nothing too bad in my experience ! life got better when i started using tensioned poles (Z poles)…

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It’s always sad when some piece of equipment you have had for years gets broken. I got 25 years out of a pair of Leki poles (bought second hand). The current Lekis came from eBay again second hand but to be honest they were unused. I kept broken parts in case they were useful but I had a clear out last year. It’s a case of watching and watching as there seems to be a huge turnover in these items. ISTR I paid £40 inc delivery for a pair that retail for over a £100.

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Nice report, Fraser, and I’m glad you talked me out of coming! The 2m QSO was a result, as I managed to throw the Slim G out of my home office Velux window!


I had to edit the title to add “forgetting stuff”.

I didn’t fancy the cycle to work this morning. Instead, I headed west up the Deeside way to Ballater and climbed/pushed my bike up a snowy Craigendarroch. GM/ES-078

I’d been drying out the radio kit overnight and in my haste to select just what I could fit in my bike bag forgot to pack the 9:1, which is the only means of connecting my 41’ wire and 17’ counterpoise to the radio.

I ended up holding the antenna connector against the BNC centre pin. The counterpoise wire was shoved in the left side hole in the radio case.

sotabeams guy rope holding the case shut until I find a thumb nut

40m was a bit problematic. The antenna would remain matched for two or three QSO’s and then the SWR would shoot up. It behaved much better on 20m and 10m, and I even managed to add some EA8 DX. :grinning:

25 in my log, which is my highest tally from here from three visits.


I enjoy reading your reports Fraser. At one point something is failing or missing for an activation. On my side, it happened that I left the house with a nearly empty battery for the KX2 because I thought it would still be good to go. Luckily I could manage to finish the 4 required QSOs before the transceiver stopped working. Now I always make sure that every piece of equipment is in good condition before starting the hike.


I don’t know what diameter or length you need but check your old RS232 / DVI / etc cables, one of the thumb screws may fit as a temp solution!

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Nice try Tim. However, it’s a nut I need.

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Doh, that’s embarrassing. Believe it or not I’m an engineer…

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I dislike ordering from Amazon in nearly every situation, but the USA site has brass 4/40 thumb nuts in a 25 pack for about 18 bucks, and a ten pack of nylon nuts for under ten. The nylon nuts may be more likely to stay in place without working their way loose.

If Amazon UK does not have this or if other reasons make it impractical, I can grab a pack and mail them to someone to distribute to those in need. I’m willing to buy and mail them gratis for the sake of worldwide SOTA peace and brotherhood. :grinning:


You’ll be telling us you have an alpenstock next.

There was a loud crack. The middle section snapped well under the snow. It took a bit of time to fish it out and even more time to fish myself out.

Good shout Andy. Just picked one up for £20 off ebay.

I actually bought these when I was a student. Well I bought one to be precise. I couldn’t afford two. Then I found another one on a hill somewhere.

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Me too. Thanks for the suggestion and offer Keith. I searched amazon yesterday and nothing came up. Searched again and found these!


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Good find Fraser. “Drop in the heather” friendly colours (or colors in the interest of trans-Atlantic relations :wink:)

But am I the only one who can’t tell the difference between the 3 colour options on offer?


I stuck with tradition and ordered black. Goodness only knows what colour will turn up!