I was meant to be doing something else on Sunday but it was cancelled at the last minute and that meant I could go out SOTAing. I though Ben Ledi as it’s easy but good exercise. Then I checked and the forecast was for 40mph winds from the North and -12C wind-chill. OK let’s find something else. Innerdouny Hill GM/SS-169 and Lendrick Hill GM/ SS-190 make a nice pair. Both only 1pt so doing them before the Winter Bonus doesn’t loose you any points. They’re a 50mile trip and always deserted if you get the times right and no need to get up early and rush up North.
Littlerig car park NO012071, space for 8 cars. Up the path, take the right fork at the split and follow the path to the big wide clearing you cannot miss at NO038076, follow the path by the fence to the rig. Simples! There’s been more felling since I was last here in 2018 and it seemed very different. Anyway I was marching away when I saw a path off to the right. Hang on this is the big wide clearing you cannot miss. Well lots of self-seeding trees means it not so obvious any more. The big wide clearing seemed cramped and lacking in wide open space. The trees are getting big. They don’t seem to be growing up but more like putting on middle-age spread. It looked different to 4 years back and very different to the 1st time I did this route.
The sky was 80% blue but clouding and the wind… the wind was strong and Baltic. At the summit 1st job was on with the down jacket. I setup down from the trig to get out of the worst of the wind. Onto 60m, and SWR was bad. Jiggle connections, still bad. Is something detuning the antenna in the ground? Add in a 2m, then 2m+2m patch leads, SWR doesn’t change but enough to drop power to about 2.5W. Hmm… I spotted and worked 2 stations but was unhappy with the readings. OK 40m. I never have had an SWR issue with this antenna on 40m. SWR was bad. Lower antenna, check links are in. Check connections to dipole centre, looks good. When raising the pole I heard a click in the speaker, lower pole and shake. Click, click, click. Careful examination showed the braid was cracked and intermittent to its dipole leg.
I have 19in (1/4wave) of wire hanging from 2m handy earth to improve the rubber duck, yes it works. I snipped about 10cms of that and used it with some “insulting” tape to connect the braid up. Antenna up, SWR 1:1. Onto 40m where it was quite manic on CW and busy on SSB. Then 30m which was busy to.
Fixing the antenna stole 30mins so it was no more HF but pack up and back to car for 5min drive to next hill.
Looking West, distant hills are Stuc a’Chroin GM/SS-010 and Ben Vorlich GM/SS-008. Much cloudier by 1200pm. The wind was really strong and gusty and tiring. But there were some lulls ow. Then the wind was roaring again.
Looking East to Bishop Hill GM/SS-187
My first visit in 2007 I operated from the fence in this picture because it was so misty I wasn’t sure where the trig point was. I’m standing with it behind me !
The trees are much bigger than they were in this photo from 2018
Summit trig point.
MM0FMF suitably attired for the -5C wind-chill. Long sleeve high wicking top, fleece, Down jacket, Winter Buff. There was plenty of frost on the ground and frozen puddles.
42 QSOs, 2x 60m, 26x 40m, 14x 30m. Just over 1h10 to the top from the car and 45mins back.
It’s about 5 mins to the parking for this one. Space at the forestry track for 8 well parked cars. It was busy on the way to Littlerig but deserted when I arrived at 1410Z. Now it is starting to go dark early up here at 56N and that limits how much you can do. But since I bought a cheap Decathalon LED headlamp and practised using it walking the dog I’m happy to try using it to get off summits where I know the paths are well defined. So check the headlamp a) works and b) is in the bag and I was off. Compuer says 45mins to the top and it was right.
The wind was still blowing but much reduced in ferocity. Up went the 20m setup and the SWR was bad. Bah, the fix must be broken. Lower antenna, nope fix is OK. Raise antenna and it’s still bad. Lower antenna and check carefully. Now the centre of the coax and broken obviously after moving it to fix the brain. More work with the Leatherman and up with the antenna and everything was OK. 20m was nice a lively but I was short of time after the repairs. I had a stop time and so when it came I stopped.
In the packing up I lost a tent peg. This kind of things bugs me because it may be a cheap tent peg (aluminium 9gms) but if I could lose a peg I could loose the paddle or worse the car keys. Well the keys are attached to me but the principle is everything has a place in the bag and when it’s spread out on the summit. I packed up and spent 10mins searching for the peg but it was lost in the long grass. Damn!
The route to the summit is simple. Follow the forest track and count 3 hairpin bends then look for the cairn on the right and walk up the firebreak, out at the top and follow the path to the cairn and trig. Again, simples!
Small but obvious!
The firebreak is more obvious. Since I first came this way in 2007, the firebreak is getting more overgrown. At the middle the branches from each side just meet. Next time I’ll bring my pruning saw to make it easy to pass.
At the top the light was gorgeous. This is looking back at the fire break and you can see the obvious path in the grass.
The hill in centre far distance in Innerdouny Hill GM/SS-169. If you zoom you can see the trig.
Summit trig. The same type of orangey Lichen is growing on this as on Innerdouny.
Summit cairn. This is the true summit, a few metres higher than the trig. I operated at the trig in case I did 40m and there were WABbers about.
I operated on 20m and worked 15 stations in 21minutes. Route out was the reverse. The sun had set behind some hills and it was going dark and chilly. I didn’t not need the headlamp really but it was useful when in the fire break.
Hey what’s this Greenpointing then? Well the firebreak is much overgrown and covered with wet earth, mud, moss and fallen pine needles. It’s also steep in places. Very steep. It never sees the sun to dry out. The result is it used to be easy to get up and down. Now it’s easy to get up but coming down is a nightmare, you start to slip and you cannot stop. Last time down I had to hold on to a branch and take a step or two down and then grab another branch and essentially inch my way down. It was not fun and I was soaked with water coming off the trees. This time I took the sensible approach… crampons!
Well Grivel Spider instep crampons. I read somewhere of someone using crampons on a seriously steep and slippery grass slope and thought I know just where that would work well. They called it Greenpointing though it has other meanings to proper climbers as opposed to hill walkers. I wasn’t sure just how well the Spiders would work as they are meant for icy paths not slopes. But they did a brilliant job. I fitted them at the top and walked across the flatter grass to get used to them. On the slopes they just worked. Every few steps I checked the straps and they held and did not slacken. The Spiders did just fine. I would not use them on an icy slope. But on paths etc. sure they’re OK. And on slippery grassy moss fire breaks where I can grab branches if needed. Instead of taking 20-30 mins to creep down the fire break I was down in 5mins and then off with the Spiders and 10mins to the car. Job done.
Back home I started looking up aluminium tent pegs on eBay. I unpacked the dipole centre to repair it and thought… “could I have put the peg in my bag?” Out of habit, everything goes in the same place in the bag. Anyway, it was hiding in the FT 817 bubble wrap bag. How it got in there? I don’t know.
I may buy some titanium tent pegs and save myself carrying an extra 50g