No Grief on The Knock of Crieff

It’s funny how my life has entirely changed since 23rd January 2021. It’s not just changed, it’s been enhanced. Enhanced by a niche part of a niche hobby.

SOTA

The Background
I’ve got a new boss and she decided she wanted to have a teambuild. Crieff Hydro (hotel) would be the venue and the dates were set for 30th & 31st January. I know the hotel well and I also know how to get there in an entertaining way, namely taking the Polo GTi over Glenshee and then to Dunkeld, before taking the Amulree road and Sma’ Glen to the edge of the town.

What I didn’t realise was just how close The Knock of Crieff GM/SS-264 was to the hotel. It’s spitting distance.


sotl.as I’m the blue dot bottom left

There was a three hour window between the end of the agenda at 4pm and dinner at 7pm. We were free to go for a swim, gym, sleep or visit the bar. There was more than enough time for an activation of the hill, so I laid my plans and kept an eye on the weather in the days leading up to the event.

Tuesday 30th January 2024
The teambuild dragged on. My poor colleague Andy started the last (graveyard) session after the due finishing time of 1600h. I’d alerted for 1700h. That wasn’t going to happen. We had a breakout. It was a fairly quick one. Everyone was done. 1650 and we were summing up. I flicked my phone to SotaWatch3 and changed my alert time to 1730. I’d hoped to have a run on 10m but it now looked like I’d be too late.

Finally free, and most of my colleagues went to check in. I’d saved some minutes by doing this at 1500 during a break, so sprinted up to my room and dumped my bag. I then headed to the car park and quickly changed into my boots, slinging my 15l pack onto one shoulder and headed back up the steep drive, cursing the tree surgeons who’d closed the main hotel drive that morning, meaning I had an extra 500m to walk!

There are a myriad of paths up the Knock. In the heavy dusk, I chose the one which looked to be going up the most and headed off into tree cover. Soon, a slight clearance and a wee path up to the left. I took this for 50m and it took me onto the summit of The Knock, as most hotel visitors would see it. Nice benches, summit indicator and a clear view all round.


Knock of Crieff viewpoint at dusk

Except, that wasn’t GM/SS-264., nice as it was. The true summit lay almost 1km to the north east. There isn’t a direct path marked on the OS map, however a well made trail led that way, so I took to it. I passed a few junctions and benches, log piles and way markers. I lay a mental trail of bread crumbs as I trotted along the trail, hoping to later find my way back without incident.


Crieff

Eventually I spotted a gate. Beyond this, the terrain changed. Maybe I was leaving the hotel grounds? It looked like the way up, so I entered the tall broom bushes and followed the narrow path across a flat and then up steepening stony slopes which led to a flattish summit, was adorned with short scrub and bleached stumps. Well that’s all I could make out in the blackness.


into the broom

I popped on my headtorch and it immediately picked out a small cairn. I made a bee-line for it, emptied my kit out alongside and got to work. It was almost 1730.

A couple of minutes later and I had successfully jammed the mast in the cairn and strung my EFHW from west to east. The KX2 was fired up and I even turned on the radio backlight. What had I to lose?

40m first. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It was that time of night that the band was just a wall of noise and I had to spin up to the upper frequencies to find a slot. I wasn’t confident after no one answered my first CQ. @GI0AZA Esther answered my second and reassured my that the WAB chasers had been patiently waiting my arrival. I asked if she could put Ian @GI0AZB straight on, still unsure if I could hold the frequency. Ian was waiting. It turned out, so was everyone else! The pile up may have only lasted 10 minutes, but I put nineteen stations in the log, including the very delightful surprise of @M7TSU Tim, who was on G/SC-010 at this late hour.


having fun on The Knock of Crieff

I really wanted to try for 10m, even just one contact, so as soon as the pile up ceased, I called QSY and headed on up to the heady heights of 28MHz. It was approaching 1800 and I was in complete darkness.

Calling CQ on a KX2 at 28MHz is a strange experience. The first call registers around 1 watt on the radio power meter. Subsequent calls incease in indicated power and eventually the radio shows almost 10 watts and stays there. I was well aware of the inefficiency of RG-174 coax on this band, as well as the less than ideal radiation pattern of my 20m long EFHW, connected to my lossy 49:1. Not much of my 8-9 watts would be getting out. And the band had probably closed.

But someone heard me. The faintest of audio, and I really mean the faintest of faintest. If there had been even a breath of wind, I would not have heard it. I thought I heard it right first time but asked him to repeat it. Yes, @WB8BHN Sewim. I’d heard it correctly. I gave an encouraging 4/1 and got a 5/5 back! West Dundee, Illinois, USA. Against all odds. I was absolutely delighted to pull that off.

Not much more on 10m and a speculative call on 15m yielded no results. Nor did a spot and shout on 2m FM. It was now 1810 and time to head down. I retraced my outward route pretty successfully and made it back to the hotel in 20 minutes. Time for a quick shower, change of clothes and a pint before the 7pm dinner.

No one asked where I’d been.


back at Crieff Hydro

73, Fraser
MM0EFI

20 Likes

Team building as it should be, on a SOTA with a radio and a head torch, a true SMART objective, specific, measured , achievable, realistic and time bound, many thanks for the activation Fraser :ok_hand::+1:

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This report had me biting my fingernails wondering if you were going to get the activation! Hooray, Fraser!
—Jeff KX6I

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I’ve often pondered what ‘team building’ my team might get sent on. Maybe:

Getting flown / boated / walking into some remote wilderness location. Spend a week to 10 days living out of a camp. Collaborating to plan and deliver some complicated programme of work across and challenging landscape in whatever wx conditions Huey throws at us. Then flown / boated / walking back to civilisation for a ‘Don’t forget to clean the truck and submit your timesheets’.

A normal stint at work, in other words!

(I think that counts as gloating)

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Often, friends and family have commented on my love of the outdoors and building old Land Rovers, saying I should do something like that as a job. I’ve never considered doing this, as having them as hobbies gives me something to look forward to, rather than something I have to do every day.

When I started my career with my employer, some 36 years ago, the aim was simply to earn enough money to enjoy my pursuits. So far, that’s worked out ok for me.

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I’ve had two team events there. Both were huge fun. The first was one with a ‘significant’ budget such that we had minibuses collecting people from all over the Central Belt and delivering them home after midnight. A day of mucking about on quadbikes and offroad segways, clay pigeon shooting etc. then a lovely meal and an open bar. The bar bill for 24 people was more ‘significant’ than expected :rofl:

The last time was this summer when we had soft arrows and off road electric things etc. and a lovely meal in the evening. But we had to make our own way there this time so the bar bill was quite ‘insignificant’.

It was great fun in the past because I wondered how easy it would be in the trees to find anything. Trivial was the answer.

The dense forest on the summit has been harvested a few years back. This was what it was like in 2012

And this was the summit cairn surrounded by 60ft tall pines. (Taken 1630Z mid March, it was very gloomy in the trees.)

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That was a bit of a long shot!.. I had to resort to 20m CW to activate the hill back in 2015, but as Andy said, it was well forested then. Stringing out an antenna was not much fun. especially with two of us on the summit, so I resorted to the simple vertical I had taken with me. A bit of research and aforethought won the day. :wink:

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Another great report Fraser with a fine element of suspense.
Here’s a picture from last summer with Moxie the station dog guarding the equipment (and lunch !).


Andy
MM7MOX

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Thanks for sharing your summit photos @G4OIG @MM0FMF and @MM7MOX. Interesting to see how different it looked with trees, and how it looks now in daylight.

Today, we spend an hour and a half out in a field doing team activities. A good laugh but everyone was freezing by the end, thanks to constant driving rain and strong winds. I had the heaters on full blast to dry stuff on the 2.15h drive home. It’s all dry, but I smell like a damp dog.

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I’m just at the bottom of town, I’m thinking of going up to it if the weather is foul this weekend. Glad you had a good one

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Agreed Fraser.

I’ve tried working at things I love: being paid a living wage to do what I enjoy and care about, but having limited choice about the details of what and where. Being too exhausted at the end of a 10-day stint to do much in my spare time other than relax and recover.

I’ve tried working for good money, spending 40 hours a week doing stuff I don’t really care about. And in my spare time having the cash and time and energy to pursue my hobbies and volunteer for the things that are important to me.

Neither is the perfect solution, with the result I’ve been oscillating between the two for the last 20 years since I arrived in ZL. You could probably even work out the frequency of the oscillations and thus the wavelength: lambda = about 5 (light-) years by my reckoning!

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Great report. Love the post work training smash and dash and thanks for the s2s on a post work sunset over Bristol for me.
Impressed you got the US on 10m, all i could manage was @M1EYP on Gun with a rather sketchy receive!

So true. And It takes you places

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I admire what you get up to Matt (that I know about from reading on here).

I plan on retiring in a couple of years. I’ll be 55. I plan to take on something like you do, but on a Scottish (ie Cairngorm) level. I always wanted to work outdoors. Hopefully I’ll get my chance.

Oh Yes! Hidden treasures near home, mostly deserted, and for me an added dimension to foreign holidays. That’s in terms of holiday destination and what to do when I get there.

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I hope! Small M7 issue to resolve first :sweat_smile:, but thats the motivation right there!

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Maybe catch you from GM/SS-104 & GM/SS-105 if you are out on Saturday.
(Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad.)
Andy
MM7MOX

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