So here I am with a full year of SOTA under my belt. I achieved 24 activations, accumulated 45 points, only had one failed summit when I only got one QSO and I have had so much fun. All due respect to Andy G6PJZ who turned on to amateur radio and SOTA. My longest QSO was with N2BTD from Glas Bheinn G/WS-303 in March 3180 miles. That did amaze me with only 10W from my TX-500. I activated one previously unactivated summit Na Maoilean, GM/WS-351, a very poor day wet and very foggy.
My nearest Munro sits above the town and to round of the year I thought it would be a good reason to activate it yesterday. I think it might have been the biggest hill I’ve climbed at 931m. We did our Unit Expedition Leader course in Ballachulish but it being over 25 years ago I can’t remember the hills we climbed. Weather was forecast mist, fog and rain in the afternoon but the possibility of the higher peaks being clear. I parked up at the car park at Invergeldie, the first car there and set off. The route to a saddle at 810m is mostly a decent stone road for quads/4x4. Steep in places it’s just a heads down and get on with it rather than technically challenging. The fog and mist was falling giving some very atmospheric scenes.
Lots of black grouse around and a few deer sightings in the varying visibility on a distant hillside. As I got up to around 700 - 750 I noted two cairns adjacent to the track. They marked the way to cut the corner and do a more direct approach to the summits final approach. The fog was up and down and from what I could see neither were too exciting to look at and balancing the difficulties of a steeper approach and judging my navigation plan I stuck with it to follow my track and get to the fence line at the saddle and use the fence line as a hand rail. The track stops abruptly and is marked by a small cairn but the path across the heather is readily apparent and the fence line was located.
The fence has fallen down a long time ago and only some of the posts are standing, someone conveniently collected three of them and arranged them in an arrow to mark the point of descent.
I hand railed the fence line the to the NE the path was indistinct in only a few places. Large stone cairns have been built to the left of the fence line to support navigation. At 870m I noted a path that cut the corner of the fence line and even in the poor vis at the time, 50m I judged I could follow it. Reaching the final straight to the summit it was a relatively easy final ascent. I was overly worried about slipping on some rock and impaling my self on the remains of the fence poles which stuck up about 20cm.
As I approached the mountain shelter the fog clamped in and varied between 50m - 100m the rest of the day.
The views I’d hoped for never materialised. It took me 3hrs to get up which impressed me mightily.
Lazily I set up my little Elecraft AX1 and spotted 40m. I had 5 QSO’s in 12mins. One was a S2S with Martin, M7BIA/P, from Shining Tor G/SP-004. On my first activation from the Knock of Crieff one year ago today I also got a S2S from Martin at Shining Tor. Thank you sir.
Kicking up to 20m I got a further QSO with DL2DXA. By this time I’d been joined on the summit by a few Munro baggers. I could have wrapped up there and headed down but I felt it was a little churlish to go all that way and not bother to get a better aerial up. I erected my bandspringer struggling to get the support stake in deep enough to support my carbon 6m pole. In the next 12mins I had a further 12 QSO’s with a further two S2S. I did have a bit of a pile up and I tried my best alas there were a few deaf individuals with a lots of power. I wrapped up with 18 QSO’s after spending an hour on the summit.
On the way down I chose a slightly different path again marked by fence posts and made an uneventful descent.
My knees were throbbing at the end of it. I noted a group who elected to follow one of the more direct approaches and they made slow progress. I met various people making their ascent, I was surprised as with the forecasted visibility I didn’t think it would be attractive. I met one lady who lives at Invergeldie who told me about the last two rescues from the summit. One lady hurt her leg and lost comms to the emergency services ended up spending 14hrs on the hill whilst they searched for her. The last incident a week ago two young lads got lost and had to be led down my the MRT. Cautionary tales, it’s not a technical ascent or difficult navigation but you do have to be prepared.
Thank you to all of you, the chasers have meant I got great satisfaction making contact on the radio. The engagement in SOTA Reflector has been great and gave me guidance and inspiration. Hears to the next year and higher hills