Ladylea Hill is a 2-pointer in Strathdon, close to the village of Bellabeg which is famous for the Lonach Gathering Highland Games. Access is very easy, up a landrover track from a small disused quarry which provides convenient off-road parking. On the drive up from Bellabeg I passed a house with what looked like a 4 element 2m quad on the roof - wonder who that is? The flanks of the hill have been planted with pine trees as part of a carbon capture programme and these are protected by deer fencing. The estate has kindly provided a stile which I navigated carefully, given the weight of my backpack. Weather was glorious - full-on sun and very little wind at the top, at least to start with;later in the day a strong breeze developed but it was from the south, so not too cold. The summit is covered with short dry heather and I had no problems with guying.However, as others have already commented, the bands were difficult with a lot of QSB and high noise levels.
Having decided to take my 2m/70cm dual bander with me (the first outing its had in a while), I started on 2m and happily heard some activity, with MM0CCC/P giving me my first QSO of the day at ~ 148km. I then put up a spot with last week’s hill by not changing the cut/paste. Doh! First chaser was Steve MM0XPZ In Greenock ~ 167km, followed by GI4OSF ~ 313km, although I’m not sure John was a chaser I was very happy with that one. All went quiet after that, apart from MM0XPZ calling me to tell me that GM7PKT/P was trying to call me - unfortunately I couldn’t hear him.
Dropped down to 40m and had a short run in the high noise levels - Bill G4WSB was first in the queue with his usual 59. Checked 10 and 15m - both dead but 17m showed signs of life and I had a non-SOTA SSB QSO with SV3HHH. A spot and several minutes of CQ brought no chasers though. Moved to 20m which also had very high noise and had my first S2S of the day with MM0RFN/P not far from me on GM/ES-080. Shortly after that, OE6GND alerted that my signal was having problems, possibly indicative of low battery power. After checking, I found that the SWR on my 20m delta loop was way high and my signal problem was due to the 857d protection circuits cutting in, so I switched to my endfed, planning to check the delta loop issue later. Another brief foray on 17m brought another non-SOTA QSO with EA8CTF and then I went S2S hunting as loads of spots had appeared and worked 7 in a row on 20 and 40m. I then gave 30m CW a bash and had a run of 10 QSOs including one S2S with HB9AFI/P. I had one particularly difficult QSO with CT7/K9PM as he was in the noise with QSB taking him out frequently, just as he was sending his suffix. Things were not helped by some plonker who thought it was funny to sit on our frequency and send HI repeatedly.
I then took some time out to investigate my delta loop. A quick check with my NanoVNA showed it was resonant at 13.9Mhz with an SWR of 3:1 at 14.2. What the hell? I finally concluded it must be being detuned by the WARC fan dipole which was mounted above it. I took that down and sure enough the delta loop was fine again. Lesson learned and I’m glad the 857 finals seem to have survived.
Back to 20m then with a working loop (hooray) for a couple more S2S then tried 2m again and raised Paul 2M1EUB, a local, whom I first contacted last year. Had a nice chat and then QSYd to 70cm for a report exchange. Then went back to 20m for a final run of 12 QSOs. Ended the day with 67 QSOs and 14 S2S, the best of which was EA8/HB9HCS/P.
Overall, conditions were poor and unstable, with 20m the worst I have heard it. Very few signals from 4X/4Z even with the Holyland contest ongoing and I think I heard 1 US station all day. Interestingly, the RBN network did not spot my CQ on 30m although it had no problem with my previous 2 activations. Either my sending was rubbish or conditions were just too poor.
Thanks to all as usual - here’s hoping for better condx next time.
Map of route up
Info on trees
View of surrounding countryside on descent
Posh cairn beside the track on the way up to the summit