First Saturday after lockdown eased and the weather was just superb. Not a cloud in the sky and little or no wind -perfect. Creag Ghiubhais is a 1 pointer just outside Ballater, just down the road from my home QTH in Aboyne. However, in terms of effort, as I carry a QRO pack it is easily the most difficult 1 pointer I have done. There are no tracks to the summit and the steep sides of the hill are covered in knee-high heather with frequent patches of scree. I had to pause frequently to view the way ahead and pick an ascent line. The tree line starts about 2/3 of the way up and frequent avoiding action was needed to prevent my DX Commander poles catching in branches. The summit itself is covered in trees with fairly limited open spaces. A little pile of rocks comprises the summit cairn (there are 2 cairns, one slightly lower than the actual top cairn). Before setting up, I stripped off my sweaty top layers to get them dried out in the sun. The only positive of the trees was provision of shade from the Spring sun. Along with my usual 4-band HyendFed,I tried 2 new antenna set-ups, a 20m vertical Moxon and a WARC fan dipole for 30 and 17m which I had constructed during lockdown. Also, for the first time I took a key to dip my toe into SOTA CW.
Given the low SFI number I wasn’t expecting the bands to be in very good shape, which is pretty much what I found. I started on 40m SSB with a S2S with HB15SOTA and had a reasonable run, but with very few G-land contacts. Switching to 30m CW, F5JKK gave me my first 30m QSO ever, followed by 13 others, all with pretty good reports, so I was happy the dipole was working OK. Apologies if some of my sending was a tad inaccurate.
Moving to 20m to try the Moxon, I found things pretty quiet, so the jury’s out at the moment as to whether the antenna is worth the effort. Noise levels seemed lower than with the Hyend. I did have a dry run with it the day before, setting up on a small hill within walking distance of home and I managed a good QSO with VK4KA, so I knew it worked.
After 10 QSOs I went back to 40m for a couple of S2S and then back to 20m again which proved more fruitful, including VE1WT. Seeing a spot for 5B4APL/P I went to 17m CW and had a good S2S with him for my first QSO on that band. I then did a lot of listening and CQ-ing on both 20m and 40m with little response apart from 2 SVs and KD2EJ on 20m and by that time the SP contest was in full swing. Just before I closed on 20m I had one contact which amused me: I gave the caller an initial 58 report and he objected, saying that as he was running 1.5Kw his report MUST be 59. As he came up to 59 on that over I kept him happy, but dearie me
I ended the day with consecutive S2S contacts with EA8/HB9HCS/P on 20 and 17m ssb, the latter being my first SSB QSO on that band. 69 contacts and 17 S2S for the day.
The return down the hill was very slow as I needed to be sure of my footing nearly every step. The aluminium mast came in very handy as a walking pole. I doubt very much if I will go back to this hill - lots of effort, not even a good view from the top due to the trees and unless you wear gaiters (which I didn’t), you end up with socks and boots full of heather seeds and twigs.
As usual, thanks to all chasers and activators and especially to those who responded to my first SOTA CW CQ. Happy Easter!
Operating position with Moxon poles. The WARC fan dipole is in inverted vee configuration attached to the Moxon reflector pole. The Hyendfed is behind, running away from the position.
Creag Ghiubhais from below. The photo does not do the steepness justice