I was at the Galashiels Rally this last Sunday and had planned a quick activation of a 1pt summit on the way home. The rally was small but enjoyable and it was a pleasure to have a good chat with Geoff GM4WHA and Mark MM1MPB about SOTA matters. Also fellow MT member Jim G0CQK popped by. The club’s table was next to Mike’s 2E0YYY stand and he appeared to be busy. I had a natter with Mike about his exploits on Belling Hill the day before where had seemed to have had some fun.
So the choice after the rally for me was either Meigle Hill or Sell Moor Hill. Both a short walks. Meigle Hill actually rises out of Galashiels and Sell Moor Hill is on the less direct route home for me. The WX was neither brilliant nor was it bad so the nearer of the 2 hills one, Meigle Hill. There are quite a few routes up this hill. The area here around the Tweed valley is quite hilly and very pretty so the number of paths is not surprising. Meigle Hill must be quite distinctive as it houses 3 masts, a substantial 80m mast owned by Lothian and Borders Plod, plus a mobile phone mast and other all with a significant number of dishes on them.
My route was from the water works at the top of Manse Lane up the path. There’s space for a few cars here. There is a sign posted and waymarked route to the summit. I really should learn to read maps better. This walk is only 1.5kms and only when I noticed how steep and how much ascent was needed did I check the map properly. OK, so it was twice what I estimated but it was 3.15pm and there was plenty of light for 3 hours. Just in case I ended up staying a bit too long I threw the headtorch in the bag. The cloud was very heavy but it was mild, 11C and virtually no breeze. The summit was nearly in the cloud though.
The path is obvious from the churned grass, but do make sure you take the right path so you don’t end up in the private house. After an easy start through the 1st gate the ground steepens a lot. Not difficult but simply a grind but the view opens up behind you. At the next gate the ground becomes horrible due to the water logged nature and the fact there are cattle in the field. Walk around the water works building. I followed boggy path over moorland now, unlike the previous field which was well improved farmland. The slope was steeper and I realised why I now walk in proper high wicking T-shirts and trousers not cotton T-shirts and jeans. Yeuch! You get so sticky when exerting yourself in the wrong clothes.
The slope starts to ease off as the power lines and path converge. The top is quite flat and very squishy. Finally the trig point and cairn appeared close to all the metalwork on the summit. Time to top 30mins against a predicted 40mins. The Eastern side of the summit is mature pine woodland and an ancient drystane dyke runs between the masts and woods. It ran NE<>SW and had a useful wooden post on it… ideal for lashing fishing poles. Pole up, dipole run out and the rope ends held under some stones on the wall.
I was about 10m from the 11kV power lines and they were to cause some irritation on 60m. I self spotted and called a few times with S4 noise. It sounded like there was an arcing insulator. However, I had no real problems working about 10 stations on 60m. Propagation was starting to extend as stations were in the Midlands or South. But it was easy to qualify the summit despite the racket from the power lines. I didn’t have much time so I decided to miss 40m/30m and try 10m.
10m has been absolutely spectacular the last few days. I did hope I could get out on Saturday to try for an S2S or 2 with the NA-SOTA guys but sadly I couldn’t. I did listen to 10m and heard in a 30 minute period a collection of US states on 10m that would make any state collector happy: Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado. So I thought I’d try 10m on Sunday. The antenna is a 10m EFHW (end fed half wave) with an AA5TB clone matchbox. Down came the dipole up went the EFHW.
I’d been given details of Andre K1YMI’s ongoing 10m activation frequency but I couldn’t hear him. I could hear every other amateur on the planet. Gordon Bennett, there was nowhere clear between 28.350 and 28.700! Non-stop wall of angry monkeys! For some reason I couldn’t get a blob on match but only about 1.5:1 but that would have to do. Another self spot for 28.3375MHz and away I went. After calling for a few minutes I had nobody in the log. Tuning around I heard all sorts of delights. I called a 4O station who was calling CQ and heard “who is EYP?” followed by “M1EYP, Tom, 59+”. Damn cheek of Tom taking my contact! He must have been loud because I could hear Tom on backscatter about 21 in the noise.
Back to my QRG and I called again and flash, bang, kerpow! There was keen SOTA chaser/activator and AM Guy N7UN in New Jersey. A quick exchange and that was my first SOTA SSB contact into NA. Guy said he’d had to wait for me to come up out of the QSB. Next in the log was Phil VE1WT who told me he was really getting into SOTA and thoroughly enjoying it. Then EB7CIN and EA7HF made 4 QSOs and the summit qualified on 10m. I was out of time so started to pack up. Well I had to tune a bit more and bust a momentous pileup on W4LT in Florida with my 1st call. It was amusing to find a 4.5 watt signal was louder than the huge zoo that was calling him. Then I heard Hugo XE1KQ calling CQ with no takers. Sadly QSB got me and Hugo could only get MM0F?? from my call. That was the DX that got away.
Just past 5pm, 430m ASL and it was mild enough to stand about in a T-shirt. The cloud was lower than I though because everything was very damp as I packed away. I went down the hill like the clappers and was back at the car in 16minutes. Boots off and a gentle drive home with some fine activation spoils and also some good rally bargains which were smuggled in to the shack when Mrs. FMF wasn’t looking!
Oooh, that was fun! It’s good stuff this 10m. Last solar maximum I wasn’t interested in HF so this is the 1st time in 21 years activity I’ve heard 10m wide open. Crazy but entertaining.
Total walked: 3.1km, total ascent: 215m.