Saturday 8th July 2023 was shaping up to be a great SOTA day. Not only was the GW event on, but OARC were having a SOTA day too. This meant potential summit contacts on HF to GW and GE, as well as more local ones on VHF, as there are a few OARC folks active in GM. The weather was splendid too. Blue skies, 25C with a bit of a cooling breeze.
I’ve been off work all week - Mo is recovering from a spinal op - and she is recovering well. Not well enough however for me to climb my first choice Glas Maol GM/E-008, with its’ premium VHF take-off. So, instead I plumped for Morven, which I can literally fall out of bed on to. Usually I’ll walk or bike, but to shorten my time away from home, I decided to take a quick drive in a not-so-quick vehicle.
What to Pack?
Obviously the toolbox of radios - my Yaesu FT-857d. Also my hand held, not because I planned on using it, but because it would allow Mo track my progress on aprs.fi, via my QTH digi-peater, which would be considerably cheaper than using Garmin In Reach. My 8400 mAh LiFePO4 (1 kg) powered the ft-857d. I took a 7m spiderbeams pole, a 2m fibreglass one, the 2m yagi, and ususually, my 40/20 m linked dipole. (It was going to be windy on top and I planned on having me and any masts in the same sheltered place.) A litre of water, first aid kit and some snacks made up the kit. Oh, and a token waterproof. It was shorts and T-shirt weather, however there were storms forecast nearby.
I set off from the house at 0910 BST. It’s a 2 mile drive, but I managed to get this down to 1.5 miles by taking a short cut through the woods, a bumpy one at that.
bouncing through the local forest in Mavis, the 1969 Land Rover
The rough car park for the direct route up Morven is at NJ 41006 04430. I grabbed the (heavy) bag and headed up past the ruins of Balhennie and then pretty much straight up the hill on a stony path. I’ve climbed Morven so many times that the endless false summits no longer bother me. Lots of wildlife out today though. I saw red kite, mountain hare, newt, frog, curlew and the summit Ptarmigan posse. Time taken was 1 hour 10 mins, which is 10 minutes slower than my record, when I was only carrying a bum bag (fanny pack) and handheld.
approaching the summit of Morven 872 m GM/ES-018
Yes, it was windy on top. 30 mph+ from the SE. It was also very warm and I’m glad I put factor 50 on my very white legs before setting off. There are two summit shelters. Being a Saturday, I didn’t want to use either of then, with Morven being a popular hill. Instead, I jammed the sturdy 7 m mast into a smaller cairn just to the south of the main mound and build the VHF set up alongside, ready for some 2m SSB and FM action. It took a little longer than usual. I’ve been spoiled using end feds for the past while!
Good to Go!
I hooked up the radio to the two feeders and had a look around on the web to see if anyone was on 40 m SSB. No one was, so I spotted on a fairly quiet band and put out a shout. GW4ZHI Bryn, came straight back, 5/9 and he was on a summit too. Bingo! (GW/MW-027). Just as we were completing the QSO, the radio went dead. Well, the RX audio went quiet, like when you turn the squelch on. Only, I hadn’t. I could see S9 signals on the screen, which was my pile up starting, only I couldn’t hear a thing. I announced that I was going QRT for 5 minutes and then went to check the settings.
I went right through the bands, including VHF and UHF, but no joy. I then checked every menu setting. Twice. Finally and reluctantly I executed a master reset of the radio. Still nothing. “Well, it is the encoder or the speaker”, I thought. I wasn’t about to take the thing to bits on the hill, so had to call it a day. I put a fake spot on (sorry @M1EYP Tom!) with the comment that my radio was broken. I then took everything down, which wasn’t the happiest part of the day, given I’d only just put it all up!
Thoughts turned to my Yaesu FT-3d. Could I rescue the activation? Not with the hand held alone and I didn’t have an adapter to take the HT’s SMA to the N-type on the end of the coax for the yagi. I could however connect the hand held straight to the short stub of coax that feeds the yagi, it having SMA’s at both ends.
I re-spotted, posted a tweet, which is sometimes better than a spot around here, and put out a call on 145.500 Mhz. As soon as I let go of the PTT, I heard another station calling CQ SOTA! It was @GM4YMI Mike, who was over near Aviemore on Meall a’Bhuachaille GM/ES-027. We had a QSO and I got a Complete! Good start, now could I bag another two? I wandered around the summit plateau, calling CQ and waving the yagi around, trying to shelter the radio from the wind as much as possible.
The third came from GM1TGY Charlie, who lives near Aberlour and follows me on twitter. He was listening on 2m for me, whilst collecting squares on 6 m FT8. Then came GM0NRT Bill, from Aberdeen. He struggled to hear me through the wind, but we eventually exchanged details. Then out of the blue, blasting in 5/9 was 2M0WTN Alistair, a twitter follower and regular chaser. He was /m from up near Wick and gave me 5/9 too! He’d been looking for me on HF, then seen my message on SOTAWatch3 and taken to his car to get a good spot for a 2m chase. 150 km Superb!
By this time, I’d had enough of running around the summit, waving my yagi like a lunatic - well that’s what the three hikers who arrived during my activation must have thought, so I packed the yagi away and headed down back to the car, taking around 45 minutes to get back.
the entire route, as recorded via MB7UAZ and the FT-3d
I was home for just after 1pm, still annoyed that I’d missed the summit to summit opportunity of the year, but pleased to have qualified the summit, with two summit to summits, and thanks to some superb chasers on 2m FM.
This morning, I went over to the bothy and took the radio out of the bag. I hooked it up the the battery, connected it to an aerial and it burst into life, including the RX audio. Nothing worse than an intermittent fault, is there? I left it running on the CW segment of the 40m band, as there was plenty of contest activity. We went out for the morning. On our return, it was still running fine, so I took it apart. Wiggling the speaker wire caused the audio to fade and then falter, but testing the speaker wire with a multi-meter showed it to be fine. That left the connector. Out came the board. I flipped it over and re-soldered the pins, before re-assembling the radio. Hopefully that has done the job.
Sunday afternoon soldering
Finally, apologies to the HF chasers and fellow summiteers. Hopefully we will do it all again next year.