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More Southern Uplands Activations

Activating Unique Summits has its drawbacks in that you eventually run out of options. So it was for me when planning our customary post-Christmas sortie. I had activated all the main summits south of the Glasgow - Edinburgh line with the exception of Deuchar Law and Dun Rig in the Southern Uplands, Mullwharchar in Galloway and the Kintyre summits. A stay at the Tushielaw Inn, where we stayed in December 2018, fitted in well with the first two and I had researched the access points for these. The only question was what to do on day three. Here my interest in HEMA came into play. We decided that I would activate a HuMP while Paul activated a SOTA summit that I had already activated. It was easy to plan this as not far from the other summits planned were Minch Moor GM/SS-133 and Mountbenger Law GM/HSS-228 with only 5 miles between the parking spots.

Saturday 28th December 2019 - Deuchar Law GM/SS-144

A lie in - well not quite as I hardly slept. I had contracted sinusitis courtesy of my grandchildren at Christmas and it was difficult to breathe. I spent most of the night propped up on the settee. Although I was feeling pretty dire, I was determined to get the outing underway and so set out from home on time at 04:00z, arriving at Paul’s QTH at 05:30z. Paul offered to drive, but I said I would be okay. He wasn’t in that much better a state as he had only just recovered from a bout of flu!

The drive north up the M6 seemed to drag on account of the miles of roadworks which challenged my powers of concentration to the max. It was with considerable relief that we eventually we reached our breakfast stop at Tebay, only to find half the world had the same idea. Queuing for our bacon buttie is not our usual style, but breakfast was soon behind us and we were on our way again. We reached the parking spot close to Glenlude at 10:49z, a quarter of an hour early. There is a large lay-by / turning area opposite the access to the farm, but I chose to park in a smaller parking area a little to the south to avoid causing any problems.


Glenlude from the parking spot.

We set off towards the hill at 10:50z, taking the farm road to the entrance gate. A report that I had read suggested passing the farm on the northern side and this was easy to achieve by going through the entrance gate and then through the gate on the immediate right. From this point a quad bike track meandered up the southern flank of The Rig to the extensive sheepfold shown on the Ordnance Survey map. Once at the sheepfold, a cairn beckoned us to continue and this then took us down to where the Southern Upland Way crossed a fenceline at a gateway. From here the route over to Deuchar Law was clear and it was a case of locating the best ground to walk on.


Open ground towards Deuchar Law.

It was 12:37z when we located the small summit cairn, such as it is. A strong cold wind was blowing over the summit and I found it hard to stand still to take a photo of the cairn, so our first action was to find a suitable position to operate from. Our ascent route had taken us past a series of depressions in the ground and we decided to get what shelter we could from these. Setting up was “fun” and my pole collapsed several times before I got the beam roughly pointing south. Paul was similarly finding the conditions difficult and set up his antenna at half mast height.


The wee summit cairn.

My first call on 2m SSB received a response from Mike G4BLH/P in Lancashire and we had a brief chat while Mike spotted me. Despite the spot there were no further calls and I kept calling until the time had passed the alerted time of 13:30z. I then changed the antennas over and put out a call on 10.124MHz to be called by Mat DK4WD. When I signed with him there was a pile up on the frequency and I had trouble picking out callsigns and this lasted for some time. In all I worked 21 on the band in half an hour, by which time I was getting quite chilled, so I decided to go QRT and pack the kit away. I could see Paul had made a similar decision.


HF antenna rigged… well it worked okay!

Paul had started on 60m, as is his usual MO. There is more often than not someone monitoring his usual frequencies of 5.3985MHz or 5.4035MHz to start the ball rolling and put on a spot. However on this occasion no calls were forthcoming, and the band was devoid of activity apart from a couple of very faint G0’s on CW further down the band. He therefore moved to 80m, where he was quickly found by Rod, M0JLA who kindly spotted him and kicked off a run of a further 18 contacts, every one of which was a regular chaser and finishing with David, EI7GEB. A very enjoyable start to the expedition!


Looking back at Deuchar Law on our descent.

Packing up was as much “fun” as setting up. Thankfully none of the cloud had produced any rain and we started our descent at 14:43z. An hour later we were back at the car in good time to get the kit stowed, our footwear changed and on our way to the Tushielaw Inn before dark. Rab welcomed us on arrival at 16:20z and showed us to our rooms. There was ample time to get some rest before we adjourned to the bar at 18:00z. A couple of pints of Fursty Ferret went down well with the mixed grill that Gail prepared for us and around 20:00z we retired for an early night in preparation for the following day.

Sunday 29th December 2019 – Dun Rig GM/SS-052

Breakfast was at 07:00z by arrangement and as on our previous visit, the fare certainly did not disappoint. Although I had slept like a log, I was still not feeling very well and didn’t quite manage to finish the haggis, proof of my state indeed! I was also a little slow, so we were slightly late getting off to the parking spot near Glen House.

I parked up at the end of the public road at 08:20z. It was extremely muddy on the verge and it would have been difficult parking a two wheel drive vehicle there. It wasn’t that pleasant getting ready and this delayed us setting off along the estate road until 08:50z. It was another grey cloudy day and even at the parking spot it was quite windy. The forecast was for 40mph plus winds with 60mph gusts up on the tops and this indeed proved to be the case.


Glenshiel Banks.

We made reasonable progress on the estate road as far as Glenshiel Banks nestled between the hills. What a lovely spot and the weather was almost benign at this location. Things were due to change however and conditions got progressively worse as we ascended up what was initially a quad bike track, but soon became a grassy path which took us up to around the 560 metre level. After that it was a case of regularly checking the GPS to make sure we were on course for the summit as the visibility had reduced to little more than 20 metres and our route of necessity meandered around the hags and ditches that criss-cross the summit area. At around 600 metres we encountered patches of lying snow, thankfully not sufficient to cause us any problems.

Eventually we located the fence running up to the summit from the south-east and we followed this to the highest point. The wind was so strong at the summit that we could hardly stand, so after the customary touch on the trig we retreated to a position behind a waist-deep hag which provided some protection from the wind and where we hoped we would be able to operate long enough to at least qualify the summit. There was no chance of putting up an antenna for 2m, so we decided to share a low-slung HF antenna and it took both of us to get this up.


Dun Rig trig in the mist.

Paul started first on his usual 60m SSB and thankfully today Bill G4WSB was there waiting and his contact and spot spawned a run of eight chasers in as many minutes, again all “regulars”. This was no time to be hanging around, so as soon as the frequency had been quiet for a couple of minutes without any response to Paul’s CQs, he pulled the plug on 60m and handed the antenna over to me.

I connected my kit to his ATU and we retuned the antenna to 30m. It took a while for the RBN to spot me and it wasn’t until 12:46z that Josef OK1FMJ called me, much to my relief. In all I managed 9 contacts around OK, UA2, DL, OH, OE and EA in quarter of an hour before the frequency went quiet. The run included an S2S with Javier EA2GM/P on Paisano EA1/AT-208. As we were getting thoroughly chilled it was time to close down, so I called CQ for a couple of minutes and then announced that I was going QRT. This activation was of necessity not as “thorough” as our usual MO, so apologies to anyone who missed out.


Time to pack away and get off this hill.

We set off down the hill at 13:20z, checking our route against our ascent. Conditions slowly improved as we descended and it was once again quite calm at Glenshiel Banks. The walk back along the estate road was quite slow and seemed to take ages. I was pleased to take off my 12.5kg backpack when we reached the car and even more pleased to get back to the Tushielaw at 16:20z. We both felt somewhat dehydrated, so only allowed ourselves one pint of beer with our meal, choosing fruit squash to pack in the liquid. Needless to say, the food was once again very tasty with three meats on offer in a carvery style platter.

Monday 30th December 2019 – Minch Moor GM/SS-133 and Mountbenger Law GM/HSS-228

Breakfast at 07:00z again and thankfully I was feeling much better. We paid our dues which were extremely reasonable and were seen off by Rab and Gail at 07:40z. Paul was taking the usual route to Minch Moor up the Southern Upland Way from Traquair. We arrived at 08:05z and twenty minutes later Paul set off up the Cross Borders Drove Road that forms the SUW at this point. I set off back south to my parking spot at Paddock Slack, a forestry access to the Kirkhouse Forest.

My ascent would be little more than one kilometre over trackless ground. Initially I found a quad bike track up what was the steepest part of the ascent, but this veered away from the direction that I needed to go, so I set off across variable ground. Visibility was around 20 metres, so I regularly checked my position and I reached the beehive cairn at the summit at 09:30, a full half an hour early than scheduled. The wind at the summit was very cold and running at around 20mph, so I was very thankful of the null point that the cairn afforded.
Being early I decided to operate 30m CW first as the RBN would spot me. Before I made a start I gave Paul a call on the 2m handheld and found he had just arrived at the trig on Minch Moor. That was the first contact in the log. The second was Andy DL6AP on 30m CW, followed by Guru EA2IF, Kurt HB9AFI, Manuel EA2DT and Mario DJ2MX. There was a bit of confusion during my activation as a SOTA activation started up co-channel. Several people called, but did not respond to me. I therefore decided to call it a day on HF and get set up for 2m as it was almost the alerted time.


The set up on Mountbenger Law.

Mike G4BLH/P was first to call me on 2m SSB and he kindly spotted me on the HEMA website. Steve MW0ISC was next, to be followed by Peter GM7EEY. Then came Don G0RQL, Bogan MW0HCC and finally Rob G7LAS. There were no further callers and I had the option of returning to HF or trying 2m FM, but it started to rain so I took that as the cue to go QRT. The descent took me just 19 minutes as I knew which parts of the hillside to avoid and after changing my footwear, I set off to pick up Paul. Needless to say I had plenty of time to relax before he arrived as his walk was much longer than mine.

The wind on Minch Moor was no less cold than on my summit, and Paul set up in the lee of the trig point for a bit of shelter, using his “Trig Jig” to great effect to quickly mount his pole. Calling on 5.3985MHz, John MM0GGI further north in Kylescu just pipped G4WSB to the post to be Paul’s first contact, but Bill kindly posted the spot that started a run of 9 regulars on the band. By the time the run had finished, with time pressing and Paul feeling rather chilled, he decided against doing a further band and quickly packed up and made his way down to rendezvous with me.

Conclusions

This was the first attempt at a SOTA + HEMA combination with the two activations running concurrently. It worked well and Paul and I are already discussing possibilities which will allow him to activate SOTA summits that I have already activated while I bag a HEMA summit nearby. At least we should be able to get one QSO in the bag with zero effort!

Our thanks to everyone that came on to work us. My particular thanks to Mike G4BLH for going out portable to work me on 2m SSB and who was unfortunate to miss out on the Dun Rig activation. Paul’s thanks to Bill G4WSB and Rod M0JLA for the very timely spots. Also our apologies to Andy, MM0FMF who had texted Paul on both Deuchar Law and Dun Rig to try and arrange skeds, but unfortunately these were not received in time to act upon.

73 for now and see you again,

Gerald G4OIG

5 Likes

Hi Gerald,
I read that from start to finish and my overall impression could be well described by the word ‘Bleak.’ Temps in single figures and low cloud promote ‘damp’ everywhere from outside of you to sweat which will not readily evaporate into such an atmosphere and combined with strong winds, cause chilling on a large scale. We don’t like these conditions do we? Looks like it was fine thankfully, but adding drizzle, rain or the worst thing, sleet makes life totally unbearable. You and Paul did well to brave the conditions especially in such winds. HF and VHF too and a heavy pack when you’re feeling grotty from disease. I cancelled Christmas Eve in the Lakes due to a sore throat and asthma.

A good decision to do a HuMP. That would have been the driving force for Mike G4BLH to go mobile, as he did for me late on New Year’s Eve for Top Band. It counts as very good support!

That certainly was a magnificent summit cairn to hide behind. You’d be glad of that!

I haven’t heard the names of any of those summits but the word ‘Law’ gives me a rough clue as to their location. We are booked in near Galashiels in May so I will be in amongst them. Broad Law is one I noticed but I haven’t done Cheviot for years. Both have WW2 aircraft on them.

Thanks for your report and photos.
Hope you’re both well now,
73, John.

Your report makes 2M0MIX and GM4VFL’s activation yesterday GM/SS-274 and GM/SS-285 look like a breeze, though a VHF only activation has its challenges in South Scotland to get 4 QSOs, plus a QSO on 4m.

On GM/SS-285 we had to move clear of the tree line to get a view south and remain in the AZ to get the contacts.

The cairn and the trees on GM/SS-285.
P1080981r

A good report of things to come !

73 de
Andrew G4VFL

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Qualifying a summit on 2m gets progressively more difficult the further north you go. 2m has always been my preferred band for SOTA and I have always run around 25 watts to a 5 element beam, mainly on SSB, though sometimes on FM and/or CW . Even with that level of power, contacts are not guaranteed. Indeed I have had to resort to HF on several occasions to qualify a summit and on some there has been no evidence of any 2m activity whatsoever.

Well done on qualifying the two you activated using just 2m FM. If you do venture further north, then sneak an 817 and a bit of wire into your backpack as a backup.:grinning:

73, Gerald

Hi John… err well, not exactly 100%, but somewhat better. This batch of virus is clinging on which is unusual as I have been able to shake them off quite quickly since being re-plumbed. Anyway, I managed to bag a couple more Scottish HEMA summits last Saturday and seemed to be better outdoors than when closetted within four walls.

The drive to do a HEMA summit in combination with a SOTA summit on this trip was down to fact that I have been up Minch Moor twice already, once as myself and once as my alter ego. :grinning: Lovely as it is, a third trip along that stretch of the Southern Upland Way failed to appeal when there was summit to be bagged, regardless of the flavour. You know me, forever the opportunist!

I’m sure that you will find time to visit at least one or two GM/SS summits from near Galashiels. I have enjoyed them all and I am currently sampling the HEMA ones in the area, easily managed on a day trip from our Northumbrian residence. I usually manage one outing when we are there. Hopefully I will catch up with you in May as we haven’t been in contact for some time.

73 for now, Gerald