Normally with a ropey forecast for the day I would not have planned an activation, but this looked like the best weather window to try for a S2S with the Svalbard team.
Route up and parking
Cairn-mon-Earn is a 1 pointer located about 40 minutes drive from my QTH, just off the A957 or Slug Road, which runs between Banchory/Crathes and Stonehaven. It has wooded flanks but a clear top with a cluster of comms masts next to the trig point. Access is an easy plod up a logging track/maintenance road that leads right up to the top - just keep turning left at junctions. The start of the track is gated, but if you wanted to take a bike, that would be possible. Parking is available for about 3 cars just up the track from the junction with the A957 - there is also a Forestry Commission sign and active logging warning notices. There was also a notice warning that the forest would be closed to the public on Aug 14th due to a motor rally - glad that was a week away and not the 7th - that would have been really frustrating.
Weather was misty but dry, if a bit drippy from the previous day’s torrential rain. Arrived at the top which was shrouded in mist - I could only see the base of the comms towers and nothing of the surrounding countryside. A single track path leads west through the heather from the trig point to a smaller secondary cairn and I set up just downslope from that. The uneven surface was covered in thick heather and blaeberries - our labradors love those and come back from walks with blue-black tongues.
Looking back at the small cairn - heather in full bloom. This was taken later in the day after the mist cleared
Blaeberries (aka Bilberries)
Looking east towards the trig point which can just be seen far right, surrounded by a large pile of rocks. My mast with 17m delta loop in foreground.
Looking West towards the huge Durris TV mast which supplies TV, FM and DAB to the surrounding area - its the tallest structure in Scotland at 1056ft.
After putting up my tent in case of rain, I initially just put up my end-fed and 17m delta loop. A quick band scan showed some unexpected Es signals on both 10 and 6m. Decisions decisions - do I put up the Moxons now or later? I decided to do it later (and of course by then the Es on 6m had fizzled out). Hey ho.
First QSO was at 0941 on 20m with a S2S with YO5OTA/P. A spot produced a busy pile-up, including SV3IEG who turned out to be ODX for the day, M1EYP/MM near the Scillies and 4 S2S. After that run, with the summit activated, I put up the 10 and 6m Moxons, only to find 6 had gone dead. I then saw the spot for the Svalbard team on 20m.
14.282 MHz was busy to say the least and with, as Andy MM0FMF has commented elsewhere on the Reflector, very strong signals from Spanish chasers, particularly EA7GV. I could hear the Svalbard guys OK though and was very pleased that they picked up my S2S call immediately, with a 55/57 exchange. Job done
I QSYd to 40m and a spot brought another good run including a difficult one with S57S, who was booming in with me but my sigs were down in the noise with him. Seeing a spot by the Svalbard team on 17m I took a look but heard nothing. I also had a temporary coax short to sort out - I think I am going to drop using PL259s as I have had several problems with the centre conductor snapping inside the plug.
For the rest of the activation I dotted about, chasing S2S and trying the higher bands. 17m was not as good as it was on my previous activation on Aug 4th and I only managed 1 QSO, a S2S with S5630KVJ/P. 10m was open to Spain,Portugal and Italy and a spot brought a chase from EA2IF who rustled up a couple more for me from his WhatsApp group. Going back to 20m brought a steady run including a S2S with LX/PA3FYG/P. A contest then started to occupy the band on SSB, so I switched to CW and had a S2S with HB9/DL8DXL/P. Moving back to 40m I picked up another S2S with LA5WNA/P. A spot on an otherwise very quiet 15m brought one QSO with EA1AER and I finished the day with a S2S on 20m with OM1ALT.
64 QSOs and 16 S2S for the day including Svalbard and even the sun appeared after lunch. Happy with that. As far as DX was concerned the bands were not in good shape but QSB and QRN were not bad at all.
As usual, thanks to all chasers and activators, especially the Svalbard guys for making my day.