Meall Alvie is a mostly forested 2 pointer just outside Braemar, about 35m from my home QTH. I had previously avoided it due to the unpleasant-looking way up shown on several Walkhighlands posts. However, on perusing the posts more deeply, I found that there was a better way up rather than struggling all the way through trackless knee-deep heather like the notorious GM/ES-067 Creag Ghiubais. As per my previous activation, I did a scouting ascent a couple of weeks ago just to check access, given the recent storms.
Park at the Invercauld Estate car park just outside Braemar. Fee is £3 for all day. On my scout trip the meter wasn’t working but on the day it was. The £3 goes towards maintenance of a toilet facility, which I did use first thing and it was very comfortable with an electric radiator keeping things warm - it was -1C outside.
From the car park, walk up the track past the sawmill and take the second track on the right just past a swampy area of the main track which has stepping stones provided at the side. This track is a bit overgrown and on the day had little streams running down both sides.
The track eventually peters out just as it reaches a new forestry plantation area. On my scout trip a new plantation fence was being installed and this had been completed by the activation day:
Walk straight uphill along the fence and then go up through the woods - there are a couple of short tracks bashed by forestry vehicles that lead uphill with a lot of branches underfoot, but these “tracks” very soon peter out and you have to make your way through the trees - mostly mossy underfoot and quite a steep pull.
Looking back down one of the “bashed” tracks
Looking up through the trees
Once out of this tree zone, you come to a more open area with wider spaced trees but knee-deep heather underfoot. I also passed several large wood ant nests.
This last part is heavy going, but just keep heading up towards the North East and you eventually hit the low wall that divides the summit in two. Just follow that along until the actual top. The area on the north side of the wall is open and not too steep and that is where I set up. Small patches of snow still present with about 6" still lying next to the wall itself. It took me about 1 hour to ascend.
Looking North West
Great sunny day and hardly any wind.
Being a glutton for punishment, I’d taken my delta loops, moxons, end fed and 2m beam. I set up the Hyend quickly and was QRV on 40m at 1009 with a S2S with MM0GOG/P on GM/SS-158 first in the log. Inter-UK signals were excellent and a spot brought a good run of 35, including a good few EU stations as well. After the pile-up dried up, I chased GW0WPO/P for a S2S.
I checked 10m and heard an A6 coming in strongly, so deployed a 10m moxon. A spot brought just 3 QSOs with Greece and Russia though.
A spot on 20m brought a run of 20 QSOs including the first of several during the day with Dinos SV3IEG. Right at the end of the pile-up of EU stations, W4KWM called in from Georgia. Notable for his absence from the chasers was EA2DT, Manuel. I think this is the first activation I have done when I have not worked him.
I then took a break to put my 2m beam together. I’d taken this mainly to try for a S2S on FM with Fraser, MM0EFI/P, who was going to be on GM/CS-008 toi the West. We weren’t very hopeful about this as the path looked rather unlikely from the Sot.Las profile Fraser sent me:
I attached the beam to its carrying tube and stood and waved it in Fraser’s general direction once I saw his spot. Amazingly I heard him once he’d turned his beam East, so we made a good S2S QSO.
I next tried 17m, putting up a delta loop. The band seemed pretty lively and a spot brought a run of
17 QSOs, including SV3IEG for our 2nd QSO of the day, W1HI (RI), AE4FZ (NC) and AJ4EO (NC).
Back down on 40m I picked up the husband and wife team of M7NDC/P Naomi and G7WKX/P Simon (good name…) on G/LD-017 and then went back to 17m and had a nice non-SOTA QSO with WA5FWC Gar in Texas - check out his QRZ page and marvel at his antenna farm.
Another 17m spot then brought another 7 chasers, including N2BTD (NY) and KN3Y (VA). I then put up my 17m moxon to try a comparison with the loop. Results were not great - the moxon seemed noiser and signal reports from EU were well down compared to the loop. I’m not yet writing moxons off though (see later).
I saw a 40m spot from Fraser MM0EFI/P on his second summit of the day on GM/CS-025 so had another S2S with him, followed by another with HA7WA/P on 20m. I could hear that Fraser had generated a lot of interest on 40m, so put out another spot there which brought a nice run of 17. Right at the end of that I was called by a 2E0. The exchange went like this:
Me: you are 59 with me, QSL?
2E0: Thank you for 55, you are 57. My name is…located in …
Me: Thanks for the 57 but please correct your report. It is 59 not 55.
2E0: I have 55 is that correct?
Me: no, 59 5 and 9, 5 and 9
2E0: I have 55 in the log, is that OK?
Me: negative, negative. 5 and 9. 123456789. 123456789. 5 and 9.
2E0: 55 QSL?
Me: Negative. 5 and 9 5 and 9. 123456789. QSL?
2E0: was that 4 by 5?
Me: thoughts…is this guy winding me up?
End of QSO. The 2E0 is not in my log I’m afraid.
After that I put up a 15m loop and had a short bash on that band but got just the 2 chasers YO5MCM and R2RZ.
After chasing 2 more summits I put out a 20m spot which brought 9 EU chasers including a S2S with EA2/F5ODQ/P.
15m still seemed lively, so tried that again and had a non-SOTA QSO with ND1X (CT) who gave me a comparison report between the loop and end-fed. Loop 2 S points better. A spot then brought my third QSO of the day with SV3IEG and a presumed groundwave contact with 2M0BOO about 50 miles to the East of me.
Finally, hearing some activity on 12m, I put up a 12m moxon (no 12m loop yet, but planned). Unfortunately I had forgotten that I had not adjusted its attachment points for the longer spreaders I was using for 17m, so it was a bit floppy. Despite that I managed 2 contacts, one with SV3IEG for the 4th band of the day and actually my first 12m QSO - thanks Dinos! The other was with KJ4USV (VA) who gave me a 58 report, so the floppy moxon seemed to work OK. CQs brought no more activity, so I went back to 15m but a spot and CQs brought nothing, so I called it a day at 1533.
I was packed up and back at the car by 1730.
129 QSOs for the day including 11 S2S. Best DX was WA5FWC. Best chaser SV3IEG - 4 bands.
Thanks to all for another nice day on the hills.