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Minch Moor GM/SS-133 and a big apology

I haven’t been able to get out to play SOTA for the last weeks. I have vacation days left but we are mad busy at work and I’ve not been able to use them. On top of that we had new windows fitted to the house and there was a lot of work needed to move furniture (and most of my shack) so going AWOL to play when these jobs needed doing wasn’t an option. The WX in GM before Christmas has been classic anticyclonic gloom with no wind and the sky almost touching the ground. Climb up above 500m ASL and you pop out of the gloom into amazing frozen wind-free winter wonderlands. I said that as soon as I could play the WX would change and it has. We’ve had rain and a lot is predicted for the next few days.

But today was looking OK, maybe misty but OK. When I started SOTA one of the first summits I did was Minch Moor and I must have done it every year for the last 15 years. There is something special which I cannot explain but I really enjoy activating it. Mrs. FMF took a photo of me activating in seriously deep snow and -14C temps that the RSGB chose as the cover image for their centenary issue. So it has a soft spot in my heart. Despite activating it earlier this year (with the belly dancing ladies) I went back as it’s 15 years to the day since I first did it. No points but bonus points. But 3 pretty easy points TBH.

I haven’t been out for weeks so I couldn’t find half the gear, I repaired the feeder system and it was missing, then I had a load of other bits and pieces to find. Why didn’t you get ready last night Andy? Well I was watching Netflix and drinking assorted cocktails so get the gear ready or have another cocktail. Yes, alcohol won. I’d driven off and had to come back for my camera. I knew if I didn’t take it I’d pop out above the clouds and miss brilliant photos. If I took it I was assured mist and gloom :slight_smile: And its battery was flat so I threw another cigar lighter USB charger in the car, the 45min journey would put some life in the battery.

It was a rubbish drive there, lots of traffic and huge amounts of filthy muck flying off the tyres, constant windscreen washing was needed. Anyway I got to the usual parking place and it was packed full. I thought wait 10mins and someone will return. But I drove off looking for another spot and found one. Booted up, ensured I had radio, battery, antenna etc. and set off. Just as I passed the car park, a car was leaving. Typical. It’s a 4km 400m ascent so I posted an alert and set off fast… I had a lot of Mrs. FMF’s cooking to work off. Computer says 1hr27, I did it 1h15. I’m happy with that.

People were just leaving the windshelter and other people on the summit didn’t want to use it so It was mine! I set up the 5m pole and the 30/20/17 dipole. I thought I’ll polish of 30m and work lots of EU then 20m for DX. I had forgotten my headtorch so didn’t want to be too late as it was very thick mist at the top, 50m visibility max. I had a must stop time of 1500Z. I had an emergency wind-up torch with would be useful in an emergency but if I had the headtorch my must stop time would have been 1530Z.

Now I had a load of feeder issues last time out and I went to some trouble to check and fix everything and remake many connections, some had failed after 15 years so even if I had made them well initially, 15 years wear and tear needed addressing. I put the links in for 30m and check the SWR. Rubbish. I did not believe it. Ah… put the correct links in each half of the dipole. SWR was still awful. But Deutsch Wetterdienst was now louder on 10.100.8MHz. Lower dipole centre and look at what was wrong. Oh yes… fully connect BNC male to female rather than just offering it up and not twisting it home. Boy was that RTTY loud now!

Fire up keyer and we were spotted first call by RBN. And then the mayhem started. I have never, ever, ever heard 30m so busy. 30 stations in 43 mins including taking 5mins break to explain what was happening to a lady walker who asked very sensible questions. What slowed down the working rate was the difficulty in pulling a call out of the wall of callers. Hard work but joyous hard work. When the band went quiet, I pulled the links for 20m, called CQ and generated another wall of callers. Oh heck, didn’t expect this. I was just getting into my stride having worked F, CT,SM & HB9 when the rain came.

Now I had been sat in the mist so everything was damp. But this wasn’t drizzle or thicker mist. No, this was damn great big lumps of water falling out of the sky and a heavy rate. I cover the radio and log and looked about. Couldn’t see any difference in the clouds but it was proper rain. So I did what no activator ever wants to do… I apologised profusely and went QRT and packed up. I really, really do apologise for having to stop because I was expecting a lot of callers now and none of the calls were dupes from 30m. But it was proper rain. I rushed packing away the station and when it was 3/4 dismantled and packed the rain stopped. I was in two minds to setup again and got the dipole out of the bag. Then it started raining again. So I packed up and set of down to the car.

30m: F, DL, HB9, ON, EA2, EA7, SM, OH, OZ, OK, S5, HA, PA, SP, G worked
20m: F, CT, SM, HB9 worked.

I cannot recall when there were so many stations calling me. Must be 4 or 5 years back. I don’t know if this is because it is Christmas and lots of people about, or the sun. Or everyone has missed my godawful sending over the last 5 weeks they were pleased I was back. I’ll post a picture as I dry things out.

Once again, I am so sorry I had to rush and go QRT and could not work the 20m pileup, I really am. WX looks very wet for the next few days but if there’s a window, I’ll pop out and do 20m first from whichever summit I find myself on.

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I’ve had huge pileups the last two or three times I’ve been out.

I put it down to more sunspots, less SOTA Activators out on the hills for Chasers and on 40m in particular, short skip, opening my qrp setup up to a much wider audience.

Tonight I will abstain from the liquour and may get out and up somewhere tomorrow, having given myself a well earned day off. . .

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I’ve only done a couple of Scottish summits. The weather on the first was perfect but I was literally blown off the summit of the second. But at least it was dry. Rain I don’t like!

Propagation conditions have deteriorated today - someone’s waving a magnet about. But they will stop soon I hope.

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Some pictures

The 5m mast and 30/20/17 dipole running NE-SW (aimed at EU). I’m in the wind shelter looking East. Average visibility, it got better and got worse at times.

Looking West to the trig point and cairn. People keep rebuilding the cairn into different shapes but this shape has been around for the last few visits.

2/3rds of the way back to the car, out of the mist and Storm Arwen damage is visible.

As you can see it was really misty at times. There’s parts of the path where you walk through with trees on all sides close in. Now there is a new series of The Witcher on Netflix. I wouldn’t normally watch such stuff but my son said I’d enjoy it and I did. The off hand humour seems modern against a medieval feeling fantasy world. Anyway I’ve been re-watching series 1 so I can make sense of series 2. As such I’ve got 8hrs recent exposure of people walking through misty, murky woods when suddenly something unpleasant emerges wanting to eat them. I did think, “gosh, it’s like being in The Witcher” as I walked through the woods. There was no wind so it was amazingly quiet, all I could hear was my rock-concert induced tinnitus :frowning: But there were no monsters. Sadly I was hoping maybe the lovely Yennefer would walk out of the mist with a deep yearning for an ageing overweight radio ham and be unable to remain clothed. But that didn’t happen either. :slight_smile:

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Welcome to the Wall Club. Now add a small linear and you’ll find it even better. :joy:

I know what you mean about Minch Moor being special. I’ve activated it twice and would willingly do so again. For me that’s saying something. :grinning:

Wow! It must have something to have caught you in its spell. It’s possible that the Minch Moor Road dates back to Pictish times as well as having Roman connections. It was a major medieval route a long time before Sir Walter Scott wrote about it and his journey on it one Hogmanay. Some maybe you can just feel the ancient history through your feet when you walk the area.

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… thanks for the report, Andy, and the S2S-QSO from DM/BW-147 :+1:

73, hny, Roman

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Had exactly the same on 40m ssb today… couldn’t beat 'em off with a stick. :grinning:

Personally I think it is the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year.

Well Gerald I thought it was brilliant. I was surprised by how much ice was on the path on the way up along with snow remnants. Then this mayhem on 30m and I was so looking forward to another 45mins on 20m but that damn rain had to come and spoil things.

I’m sure old Sol had a hand in things because so many of the QSOs today on 30m were 599 both ways and I’m only running 4.5-4.7W on this 817.

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Big pileups on 21MHz as well. Nice Christmas present! :sunglasses:
73 Matt

Well with both the SFI and the SN over a hundred its reasonable to expect the bands to be ackling nicely! Make the most of it, a trio of active sunspot groups has just rotated out of sight and the inactive side of the sun is coming into view so things will steadily quieten down to near minimum levels over the next week - unless the sun throws a nice surprise at us and activates its dud side!

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I think everything about Minch Moor is right… from the parking spot to the final track up to the summit. There is no bog, there is no Galloway ground, the path is well graded, there are interesting views and other things of interest on the ascent, it doesn’t take that long and when you arrive there is plenty of space at the summit.

As for “feeling” the Celtic vibes, probably not for this 90% English man. Ask my wife… she’s more Scots than I am. :grinning: