This was my second activation of GM/ES-050, having previously been up in October 2020. The weather was pretty similar to my first trip - frosty, very sunny with little or no wind.I tried a different route up from the North which has better views and would recommend it over my previous route from the East through Alltcailleach Forest, which is entirely in trees until right near the top and pretty boring.
Parking is at a layby on the B976 just outside Ballater next to a gate giving access to a path which goes past the small Loch Ullachie. The Abergeldie Estate has unfortunately not done any clearing up yet after the big storms and the otherwise good track is still littered with dozens of fallen trees, a few of which required detours to get around.
Notwithstanding the obstacles, I was out of the trees onto open moorland in 30m. A single track path then runs south all the way to the Coyles. This is obviously used by bikers, judging by the tire marks. There were a few boggy bits to splosh through, but as things were still more or less frozen, it wasn’t too bad. Views of the hills to the southwest were very nice and Lochnagar was looking particularly majestic:
Got to the top after about 1 hour 20m walk. Didn’t see a soul all day, which surprised me, given the beautiful weather. For the first couple of hours I was in my shirt sleeves, then a cold breeze sprang up after lunch requiring fleece and woolly hat but still pretty comfortable.
Operating position: L-R 2m beam, 17m delta loop, HyendFed wire
The cairn in the background is a secondary - the true top with another cairn is further South West.
Started at 1042 on 145 FM but 10 minutes of CQs brought nothing. I could hear a couple of locals ragchewing about Covid but that was all. Disappointing.
Moving down to 40m, I was a tad surprised to hear some US stations in the ARRL contest but easily found a clear freq. G0FEX was first in the log - I note incidentally that the ADIF output from Log4OM often puts the stations logged during the same minute in the wrong order, even though they are correct in the master log. Hey ho. A run of another 26 ensued, including EA2DT, whom I had missed last activation.
Moving up to 20m, I got a quick S2S with DL2KL/P and then miraculously found a reasonably clear freq in the maelstrom of the ARRL contest. Another 25 in the log, including Guru EA2IF and a second S2S with SP9MA/P.
Dropped back down to 40m to pick up a S2S with G0KYS/P and then tried 2m again. Nothing heard on FM, although interestingly I heard a strong CW beacon around 145.9 - BJ1SV, which is a Chinese satellite. I presume that must have been passing overhead. Moving to SSB I heard a few G station whispers, including G8T calling CQ contest, but CQs proved fruitless until at last I got a call from Brian GM8PKL in Edinburgh, who was my only 2m contact for the day.
I then put up a 17m delta loop and a spot brought a decent run of 17 including Dinos SV3IEG, Fraser MM0EFI calling up from his home and a 2 station S2s with SP9BIJ/P and SQ9BQW/P. I also worked UR5IRM who I guess must be in “Russian” Donbas, as I thought most Ukrainian hams were now off air
Pausing for a sandwich I had my first major technical glitch on an activation - my mobile phone appeared to have packed in. Battery was 100% charged at the start so that wasn’t the issue. I eventually managed to see a very faint screen but was unable to see alerts or send spots. When I got back home it was working fine and I think it was something to do with the automatic screen brightness adjustment, rather than overheating in direct sun which was my first thought. However, the phone had worked perfectly in 30C temps in Lanzarote… So, I had to revert to the traditional methods of listening and calling CQ (shock/horror )
Tuning around on 40m I picked up OK4KOP/P on a GMA summit, followed by S2S with M0KXN/P and G8TMV/P.
Tried CQs on 2m SSB again - nothing.
15m was socked-in with contesters, 12m was quiet and all I could hear on 10m was a couple of Brazilians working the contest. So for the final run of the day I went back to 17m. I found a clear spot and called CQ and asked folk to spot me (which they did but not on Sotawatch) - thanks to 2M0IIG and others, which did get me some more callers including KI4SVM in SC for my only transatlantic QSO of the day. A few minutes later Hans MM6HDZ called in from Ballater - the first time we locals had heard each other. He was running 10w to an endfed. Then 5B4AIX Noz called me, which was my furthest East for the day. Just before I packed up I tried to pull in a DL6 who called me, fading in and out above the noise, but I just could not read his full call unfortunately.
Went QRT just after 1500 and was back at the car by 1730.
89 QSOs for the day including 7 S2S
Thanks to all as usual for a very enjoyable day out.
More scenic views from the top:
Looking West at Cairn Toul (I think) GM/ES-003