Meikle Balloch is a gentle 1-pointer just East of the small town of Keith in Moray. I picked this as the forecast was for sun most of the day but windy - everywhere seemed windy, so staying low also seemd a good idea.
This must be the easiest 1-pointer I’ve done; there is a small Forestry car park at the base with room for about 10 cars and the well-maintained path up is waymarked from there and goes more or less straight up the hill. The map below from Walkhighlands shows a circular route, but I just went straight up and down. Strange it only had 5 previous activations.
View of trig point- path up and down is to the left
It took me 25 minutes to reach the trig point and the summit is reasonably flat, covered in heather and rough grass. It was sunny and warm as forecast (tee shirt and shorts all day) but the wind was pretty strong, which caused some issues setting up my Hyend-fed as inverted L. Both DxC masts needed double-guys on the upwind side (first set-up attempt blew down) and the topsoil was not very deep, resulting in much prodding around with the guy stakes. Having got the masts and wire up just ahead of my alerted QRV time (a record for me…) I decided to leave my new 17m moxon until later, in order to get the activation qualified in case the wind got stronger/caused more problems.
I picked up 3 quick S2S to start with on 20m followed by a spot which brought a decent run including 5 more S2S. I then took a look at 40m but unfortunately there was something about the end-fed set-up that had detuned things for 40, so I had an unusable SWR which was annoying as the band seemed very active. I therefore went back to 20 with another spot which produced some regulars, including Jak OH3GZ, Ricardo EA1DHB and Manuel EA2DT.
I found 15m open but a spot didn’t produce any chasers, just a nice QSO with Guran SM2DPS/EA5 who was blowing the dust of things in his holiday home near Alicante. Back on 20m I picked up a few more S2S and then decided it was time to put up the 17m moxon.
During the morning there had been a steady stream of walkers and cyclists visiting the summit and a few people came over to ask what I was doing, one nearly walking into a guy rope . A small dog also investigated my wrapped sandwich lunch. Given the number of visitors, some of whom loitered at the trig point eating sandwiches, it was good that the summit also has a few small trees to provide toilet break cover.
17m Moxon test
In order to accomodate the longer spreaders required, I have modified my 10m/6m moxon hub to take larger diameter fibreglass poles. Makes it a wee bit heavier but the whole thing is still manageable one-handed. It took 5 minutes to get it up on my aluminium mast, which I left unextended because of the wind so the moxon was only about 2m up. I then had problems with it rotating in the wind despite having a guy stake arrangment at the base to prevent that. Seems the jubilee clamps which hold the mast sections were unable to stop the upper section rotating in strong gusts. Have to think about a solution for that. Anway, despite it swinging around a bit I put out a spot, turned the output up to 80w and was rewarded with…one chaser, Dinos SV3IEG who gave me 57. Happy with that so far. I then got a 59 from EA5H, but no more chasers despite lots of CQs and a second spot. Decided to tune around and hearing an OM working lots of JAs I turned the moxon East. Immediately heard JI3DST/5 on Shodo Is IOTA AS-200 who picked me up first call - I gave him 57 and he gave me 59, but I took that with a pinch of salt as he was in “expedition” mode. Great to get my first JA on 17m though and a reasonably rare location to boot. I kept the beam East and tried another spot but had no further contacts from that. At some stage I did hear someone call S2S but they were very weak and faded out and the beam was probably pointing the wrong way.
General conclusions: the moxon seems to work well ; need to solve the rotation issue; also had one spreader telescope in so in very windy conditions the joints probably would be better taped;not many chasers on 17m - pity, as the band was evidently wide open to JA. I also heard a pretty strong VK6. Later on lots of US stations appeared - see below.
View of moxon - leaning a bit by then. End of sloper in foreground
Back on 20m a spot brought a good run including a S2S with Guru EA2IF/P and my first ES S2S with ES/SQ9MDN/P. Took a lunch break and decided to re-configure the end-fed as a sloper to try and fix the 40m SWR problem. That worked, although the sloper was more a banana-shape in the wind. A spot brought a good run, with Mark M0NOM first in the log operating GB4LHR. A few regulars were logged - Alan 2E0AGB, M0JLA Rod, Bill G4WSB,Dave G0FVH and Dave G4IAR.
The wind having dropped a tad by now, I went back to 17m,turned the beam West and heard a lot of strong US signals. A spot and a few CQs brought a nice QSO with KN4LIU, Danny near Chattanooga, then W4KCK James in S.Carolina, VA3DFG in Ontario and W4UW George in Tenn all giving me pretty nice reports, including 59 both ways with George.
Back on 20m I got the key out for a S2S with S5/F5MOG/P and then tried 15m again, working VA3VS, Bob, with a strong Scottish accent - (him not me) in Windsor Ontario.Back on 20m a spot brought a contact with W8OQ in Michegan who was pleased as he was running 30w to a wire antenna. Chris F4WBN was his usual 59. I finished the day back on 17m with WB6QEX (no, not Calif), Peter in Maryland. I went QRT at 1630 local as it started to cloud over and few spots of rain fell.
82 QSOs and 22 S2S for the day; ODX JI3DST/5 9000km. As usual, thanks to all chasers and activators.