So, 50+ years since becoming an SWL; 30 years since climbing my first Munro; 20 years since SOTA was created; 2 years since gaining my Foundation licence and 2 months since properly starting to chase SOTA activators, I have finally managed to complete my first summit activation. About time, too!
A nice wee local hill to start with; Craiglich GM/ES-068. A beautiful but freezing morning saw me setting off from the home QTH at 6am in the company of XYL, Ann, and YK9L, Sula. We were on the hill by 7am after parking at the ample Queen’s View layby. It’s becoming busier now that there is a wee coffee cabin nearby but thankfully there were no cows (or bulls) in the first field before the path proper starts.
Craiglich is a gentle uphill walk on good paths, initially through forest then across heather moor. It might not be high (476m) but the rewarding views across Aberdeenshire from the summit are excellent. Enjoyed wonderful vistas looking south-west to Lochnagar and west to Morven with the Cairngorms beyond.
There’s plenty of space around Craiglich’s summit cairn for a SOTA setup. My choice was my Elecraft KX2 working 10w with a W3EDP inverted-vee antenna on a Sotabeams 7m telescopic mast. It’s a lightweight and compact but versatile rig that fits neatly in my rucksack with all my other usual hillwalking stuff.
There were plenty of lessons to be learned, though. Firstly, better not to attempt a first activation on a busy Sunday when contests rule the HF wavebands. Finding a free frequency was a challenge on 20m but I settled on 14.290 and after a couple of CQ calls, SP9JKL (Jerzy) was first into the log at 8.26. That was followed a minute later by OM1AX (Vlado), then the bonus of a summit-to-summit with IN3ADF/P (Markus) on the six-pointer I/TN-162 Monte Cingla. Three down and one to go which was soon provided by SV3SFJ (Nasos). A first activation was achieved!
Next, a QSY to 7MHz yielded no clear channels so was abandoned, then a placing a speculative spot on 21.231 came up blank after a number of CQs. Back then to 20m and when looking for a free frequency I heard EC2AG/P (Antonio) and completed a S2S with him on EA2/BI-030, the single-pointer Garbea.
A new spot on 14.319 brought the much appreciated response from one of my SOTA inspirations, Fraser, MMOEFI, from his home QTH which I could probably shout to from the summit - well, not quite but it’s less than 10K away. I was delighted with that. Next was another S2S, this time with CT2GSN/P (Joao) on the single pointer CT/MN-035 Monte Sameiro, followed immediately afterwards by EA2EVM (Cesar).
It was then another lesson was learned. When a second EA2 called in with an excellent signal, I forgot myself and in the excitement failed to record his full callsign in my notebook despite exchanging signal reports. I was very frustrated with that. Note to self: do not get too excited or distracted when operating but continue to log methodically and comprehensively - and with good handwriting when using a paper notebook!
No matter, the Craiglich activation rounded off with OH3GZ (Jack) and then IU1KGS (Carlo).
I did have my wee Yaesu FT-4XE handheld with me with a Diamond whip antenna in case of any S2S opportunities but I didn’t use it as I must admit I was still annoyed at missing the EA2 callsign.
To avoid making other mistakes due to brain fog, I decided to call it a day. In 45 exciting minutes, I logged 8 countries and 10 QSOs with 3 S2S and was back at my home QTH by midday. All in all, that was more than satisfactory for first attempt, though.
After such a long wait, it has been a thrill to activate my first summit, which I hope will be the first of many. For now, sincere thanks to chasers, activators and SOTA administrators for making a trip to the hills an even more memorable experience. I’m already polishing my boots and charging the radio batteries for the next one…!