Ramblings and reports 2009

Ramblings of an untidy mind by Steve GW7AAV

A tale of two Mells.

Oscar Wild said “Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do” and I must say that I agree with him. I have always had more hobbies than I had time and work is a necessary evil in my mind. I haven’t always hated my work but various changes over the years have left me feeling under stress, because I feel under stressed. It sounds contradictory but it is not, somehow the job I am doing at the moment is so mind numbingly simple that I cannot get interested enough to remember anything. The present culture of the safety Gestapo has me running around doing the impression of a headless chicken and I have started to have dreams of my colleagues and bosses heads neatly stacked inside my fridge. I really should never have watched ‘American Psycho’, but hey it was a great film.

Well I wasn’t going to start chopping off heads or murdering my way to the top job in my company, but I needed to get away. Helen needed a break as well. She enjoys her job but problem employees, problem customers, mechanical breakdowns and end of the financial year meant she had been under massive stress too. The grey men with thin watches were the final straw because after a week with the auditors she came home and spent the night on the Internet looking for a weekend break.

Helen booked a weekend at the cottage attached to the Kirkstone Inn in the Kirkstone pass at the foot of G/LD-017 Red Screes and we made plans to activate on Saturday 14th March. This was an ambitious plan for us as it was somewhat bigger than we normally tackle. Maps, GPS info and every written description of the route we could find were sourced. We were quite excited by the prospect.

24 hours later our plans were in tatters. Apparently although the holiday company had accepted the booking and the cottage remained un-booked for the weekend/week the owners of the Kirkstone Pass Cottage has rejected the payment and informed the holiday company they no longer wish to let the property for short breaks.

More long hours spent trying to find somewhere to stay put us some way from our original target summit and neither of us fancied getting up at the crack of dawn to ensure a car parking spot in Kirkstone Pass. A quick look at Memory map revealed we would be able to see G/LD-037 Little Mell Fell less than a mile away from the new accommodation and G/LD-035 Great Mell Fell was not much further. It was a bit of a come down from Red Screes but we would want to do them at some time, so we made plans to do these two.

Our plans to do just one ‘big one’ gone and having all day on the Friday to travel up to the Lake District we decided to pick off a few South Pennines Summits en route. I had four in mind and posted alerts. I thought we might have got three of the four done because of how long I tend to operate for, but the weather had other ideas.

It was Friday the 13th and I am not superstitious but maybe I should be. We packed the car the night before and should have been ready to go at 09:15 hrs GMT after dropping the children at school but I found Helen searching for the GPS. Some time later she found and programmed said tool with the walking routes. We then found that we had lost the mount for the Sat Nav, which Helen had programmed with all the parking spots. Time for another treasure hunt! We ended up with the Tom Tom stuck to the dashboard with ‘Blue Tack’ and we still haven’t found the mount. Seems silly really because the Discovery has a built in Sat Nav but there is no way to get all those useful parking spots, places of interest and amateur radio repeaters locations across to it.

An hour or so wasted and we were on the move, but we only got twenty feet before Helen realised she had left the details of the accommodation behind. She dived back in to the house. Twenty minute later I went to see where she was. She was on the telephone to the holiday company asking if they could email her the details they had sent in writing. The email duly arrived and she lent over to turn her printer on, and there on top the paper tray was the document she had been looking for.

Finally on the road we headed for G/SP-017 Billinge Hill. We parked just off the road near to a transmission tower at SD522018 and followed the footpath sign along the road past Beacon Farm towards the other masts. At the end of the road we did not need to cross the stile by the gate because the gate was missing. We walked alongside the radio compound with the fence on our left. At the end of the compound we turned left and walked along the field margin and thus up to the summit. It was extremely muddy.

At the summit the sight of a lone girl sat on the bench by the stone building greeted us. She stared aimlessly into space and seemed to look right through us. Unrequited love? Drink or drugs? She seemed a sad character. We headed for the trig.

As I set up the HF dipole along the fence it started to spit with rain. Helen set up her mast with the J-pole near to the trig and we were just about to start when we were ‘muggled’ by a series of dog walkers all with questions. After discussions ranging from what we were doing, to dogs, to family tree research, the state of the weather and if there was any truth to the global warming myth. At 11:40 we started to call CQ.

At 11:45 Mike GW0DSP was first in my log on 5.3985 ssb, followed by Brian G4ZRP, Paul G0HNW and finally Arthur GW1LDY. By 11:55 with no further callers I had to pack up because the rig was so wet I never though it would work again. Propagation was as abysmal as the weather because even running 100watts from the FT-857 I was struggling for contacts and reports from the ones I got were not brilliant.

Helen was struggling on 2m as well but for a different reason. Desensing was evident even on 5 megs, seen as short bursts of dead carrier, but on 2 metres FM it was horridly difficult to make a proper QSO even though everyone was 5/9 when the transmitters went quiet. Helen only got five contacts in her log and so between us we did not even get into double figures. A somewhat disappointing result but at least we qualified it. I did give a quick half dozens calls from both the four metre and 23cms handhelds after packing up but not surprisingly I got no replies. I cannot see us rushing back to this do this one again any time soon.

Back at the car we dried off and debated what we should do. We headed for G/SP-010 Winter Hill and hoped that by the time we had arrived and had eaten some lunch the rain would have ceased. No such luck! The rain proceeded to get heavier all the way there and by the time we were eating lunch it was officially declared torrential. Half an hour later we headed for the motorway and all thoughts of any more summits that day were forgotten.

Arriving at last in Lakeland the rain had finally stopped but we splashed through muddy puddles unloading the car into the adequate accommodation leaving a few marks to be removed later from the cream carpet. Whatever else was wrong with the cottage we had booked it was not the view. There are few poor views in the Lakes and we had a great one of the two Mells to keep our targets in mind.

After unpacking and a quick coffee we changed and headed for the Sportsman Inn, Troutbeck (http://www.cumberlandtaverns.co.uk/sportsman.htm ) which is just off the A66 between Penrith and Keswick for an early evening meal. I can thoroughly recommend this one, so much so we went back on Saturday night for another try. On approaching the bar I was delighted to see a fine range of good ales. For a moment I was torn between Jennings Cumberland Ale and the Marsdon Pedigree, but I opted for Jennings Sneck Lifter 5.1% ABV which turned out to be a good choice, a superb tasting rocket fuel if ever there was one. The meal was excellent and our early arrival meant that we had good service before the evening rush started just as we left. It was a totally relaxed AAV with a slightly silly grin that crawled into bed a few hours later.

That bed wasn’t the most comfortable I had slept on but the beer probably helped me getting good nights sleep. It did not however prevent the wind rattling the windowpanes from waking me up a bit on the early side. I crawled out of bed but immediately crawled back in again; the cottage was as cold as the inside of a refrigerator. Eventually we braved it and sat eating our breakfast cereal and drinking coffee in the lounge huddled together under a duvet.

We had intended to activate both LD-035 and 037 on Saturday but as I stepped outside the cottage it was hard to remain vertical. If it were like that here it would be awful on the summits. Discretion being the better part of valour, when the going gets tough the tough go shopping, so we that is what we did. A trip to Keswick and then on to Cockermouth picking up a few trinkets for the kids before heading back to the cottage to eat lunch.

By the time we had eaten it looked as though the wind had dropped a bit. It would still be blustery, but we might just be able to keep the mast up. We headed for Little Mell Fell and reasoned we might do Great Mell on the way home on Sunday.

We parked at the spot recommended by Richard G3CWI in the lay-by opposite the grass covered water service reservoir at NY423235, crossed the stile and followed the path to the summit. It should have been easy but it seemed steeper than it looked, we had been a bit inactive of late and the wind was making things tricky at times or at least that was my excuse for being passed by a dog walker who was coming down after passing us on the way up.

On the summit there is no shelter but we sat with our backs to the wind and set up the station. The fishing poles for both the HF and the VHF antennas were almost bent double and we expected them to snap at any moment. The views from the top were in true Lakeland tradition excellent but my eye kept being drawn to the Sportsman Inn and my thoughts to the evening meal and another few pints of Sneck Lifter.

We were set up by 16:00 and the activation started well with a summit-to-summit contact with Martyn MW1MAJ/P on GW/SW-008 Cefn yr Ystrad. I would normally have been disappointed with just 8 contacts on 5 megs but it was twice what I got on Friday and conditions were equally poor on that band. A QSY to 80 metres was more successful taking the total to 26 in all and included a summit-to-summit with Martyn’s XYL Caroline MW3ZCB/P also on Cefn yr Ystrad. Helen struggled a little on 2m FM and decided after the fourth and qualifying contact to give up and log for me. She also grabbed Caroline for the chaser point to take our joint tally to 31. CQ calls on 7.115 and 7.090 remained unanswered as did hand portable calls on 70.450, 433.500 and 1297.500. I did not expect anything from the last three but if you do not try you will never know.

By 17:00 we were packed and on the decent. The cottage being less than a mile away we had showered, changed, and where walking through the door of the Sportsman Inn at 18:00. Two minutes later I was sat with 2/3rds of a pint of Sneck Lifter waiting for my meal. What started as a disappointing day finished being an exceedingly satisfying one.

Sunday 15th March started early and badly. Our neighbours in the adjoining property were obviously insomniacs and the sound of Radio two played at 130 decibels permutated even the three-foot thick walls of the cottage at 05:30. We lay in bed for a full hour and half trying to blank the noise and get back to sleep, but at 07:00 they decided to run a bath, at that point we realised that hot water system for all of the cottages was located in the loft space above our bedroom. I resisted the temptation to impersonate Vlad the Impaler by impaling both my temporary neighbours and the owner of the cottages on my SOTA poles and had breakfast, followed by lots of coffee.

The owner had told us there was no hurry to be out of the property as no one was coming in and was quite surprised to have us deliver the key to back him before 09:00. It was a gorgeous morning and all my wicked thoughts quickly disappeared and my state of mind more resembled a Disney cartoon with Bluebirds and butterflies flitting about than a Hammer House horror film, by the time we parked up on the verge at NY407247.

We followed Richard G3CWI’s directions along the lane to the second stile on the right at NY404245. After crossing this we followed the obvious path with the fence on the left at first along the edge of the wood. There appears to be more than one path that leads to the summit because although we followed the GPS track we had plotted in advance on the way up we came down another way but ended back on the same path along the fence at the same point. I am at a loss to figure out where we went wrong or where we got back onto the right path and we neglected to activate the GPS on the way down so we do not even have a record on that.

The assent was a little steep in places but we have done much steeper and higher summits, so no real worries, however due to it being mostly grassy it might be a bit slippery just after the rain. We had no rain just baking sun; it was great but a little sapping. We took our time, enjoyed the views and finally set up on the summit at 11:00.

First up on 5 megs was another summit to summit with Andy MM0FMF/P on GM/SS-143 Trahenna Hill. As he was on 5.3985 I tried 5.3715 with limited success and got four more contacts. Eventually I QSYed to 3.666 for another seven including summit to summit contacts with John GM8OTI/P on GM/SS-254 Cairnpapple Hill and Caroline MW3ZCB/P GW/SW-009 Mynydd Troed. After trying 40m without any takers I gave 60m another go and got a further nine contacts on 5.3985 which maybe proves nobody bothers listening anywhere else than channel Fox Echo on 5 megs anymore.
Helen managed six contacts on 2m FM and also grabbed Andy on GM/SS-143 on 60m and Martyn MW1MAJ/P on GW/SW-009 to make our joint tally 29 contacts.

By 12:30 we were on our way back down to the car. En route back to North Wales at just after 14:00 Helen and I grabbed some chaser points from Rick M0RCP/P on G/NP-005 Ingleborough while travelling down the M6. Back in the shack after a fairly uneventful journey I was early enough to grab chaser points from Carolyn GW6WRW/P on GW/MW-006 Pegwn Mawr and then John G4YSS using GX0OOO/P on G/LD-008 Blencathra which added even more to my good mood.

The ups and downs of SOTA, after an unpromising start it was a great weekend.

This report is intended to appear on my website at http://gw7aav.googlepages.com when I get around to it and will include photographs that will appear first at GW7AAV - Steve's collections on Flickr

Regards Steve GW7AAV

East for Easter.

After our Lake District trip I was itching to get out on the hills again, the children were off school for Easter break and both Helen and I had some of last year’s holidays to use up. Much discussion of where to head was somewhat curtailed when Emily my youngest asked “Can we have a house with a swimming pool this time?” That kind of limited the where to bit as nearly every suitable property had already been booked.

Eventually Helen found what turned out to be a cracking place at Birdforth not far from Thirsk that fitted the bill. A quick look at the map showed it to be near enough to North Yorkshire Moors and TW-001, 002 and 003 for an activation or three.
My joy was fairly short lived when I was told in no uncertain terms that this was not a SOTA trip. To slightly cheer me up she added, “We are not doing more than two summits”.

Unfortunately when you look at the three summits they are all fairly long walks for one point each (which kind of makes up for G/TW-005 Bishop Wilton Wold) and we were taking the Granddaughter who is only four years of age with us. So like Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) in the Highlander would say, “In the end there can only be one!” and we chose G/TW-001 Urra Moor – Round Hill.

We had a leisurely start after getting up late and with breakfast over Helen made some sandwiches. Much to my surprise we somehow managed to squeeze seven of us plus rucksacks, walking poles, SOTA poles, boots and coats into the Discovery. It was not long before we were close to our destination and as we had not passed any shops or service stations we diverted a little to buy some drinks for everyone. We parked, as suggested by Richard G3CWI, in the lay-by at NZ573033 and headed up the Cleveland Way Path. To be quite honest Helen and I could have sat in the lay-by all day watching the motorbikes go past on the B1257. The site of the so-called Yorkshire TT brought back memories of a past life and our once annual visit to GD for the real TT races. The path starts out like a roughly paved staircase and goes up quite steeply at first. My initial impression was that this is easy, like walking up to bed, but before the ascent is half over the knees were burning. Eventually the ascent flattens out and from then on it becomes an easy plod.

I expected to be waiting for Faith, my granddaughter, but she was almost always up with who ever was in front until the last few hundred yards when she said she didn’t want to go on. Faith’s reluctance lasted just long enough for someone to point that I was already at the trig at which point her energy came back and she was off to join me in a flash. Maybe the influence of the Dora the Explore cartoon on the television had something to do with her finding the day a big adventure. Hopefully she will want to tag along on future adventures, with her cheerful “I’m the leader” she certainly kept me smiling.

Apart from Faith, the highlight of the walk for me was a fearless grouse that was sat at the side of the footpath, close enough to touch and engaged me for some minutes in a staring contest. What a pity I did not have the camera. I was seriously taken by the sense of being alone on the Moors despite having most of my family with me. There is a raw beauty to the place that somehow did not equate to my previous experiences of the hills in other parts of the UK. I came away thinking that although I would rather be awed by the Welsh Hills or dumbstruck by the beauty of the Lakeland Fells and although I feel a sense of being at home in the Scottish Highlands, here was where I wanted to be alone. Here was a place I could clear my head and just think.

The rest of the party joined me and we took possession of the trig point. Probably a good job there were not too many ‘muggles’ about, just two very interested chaps who asked a few questions and sat listening with bemused looks. The antennas were erected close to the trig point and Helen and I sat at the base of the mound at about 45 degrees to each other.

I was off to a great start on 5mHz starting with a summit-to-summit with Andy MM0FMF/P on GM/NS-020 Ben Hope. Phil GM4OBK/P on GM/SS-123 Green Hill worked Andy next and I followed him from 5.3985 to 5.4035 for a second S2S contact. This one turned out a bit special, as although Phil lives quite close to TW-001 and had activated it twice he had never actually worked it before. I always value S2S contacts above the rest but I enjoy it more when it is one I have done myself, having activated SS-123 the contact was a little bit special for me too. I QSYed down to 5.3715 and got another eight contacts, all regular chasers before a try on 3.666. Ten more on 80m with a couple of callsigns I didn’t recognise made a total of twenty. 40 metres was in a strange state, all I could hear were Turkish station, needless to say my CQs fell on deaf ears. Once again 70 and 23cms calls remained unanswered. Finally I erected the four metre antenna, is nobody on 70mHz around here I wonder.

At one point I thought Helen was doing better on 2m FM than I was on HF, she certainly never seemed to stop. She bagged 16 in the end with only two or three callsigns I recognised. With a joint tally of 36 contacts I considered the mission a success and we headed back to the car. We were soon back at the cottage and within ten minutes we were all in the swimming pool. What a great way to relax the muscles after a walk especially when followed by a hot shower later. How the kids had so much energy left after their walk I do not know, but needless to say we all slept well that night.

The rest of the week was filled with trips to the beach at Scarbough, during which we left brilliant sunshine behind to sit in fog on a crowded beach, the National Railway museum at York, which is wonderful place and free to get in and to the Thorp Perrow Arboretum in Bedale which houses a falconry and has flying displays three times a day. Okay I would have rather done those other two TW summits but it was a nice relaxing week and we remained active by swimming in the pool every night. Not doing TW-002 & 3 leaves them open for a weekend sortie sometime so maybe a nice romantic cottage for two somewhere near Gisborough is on the cards sometime soon.

This report is intended to appear on my website at http://gw7aav.googlepages.com when I get around to it and will include photographs that will appear first at GW7AAV - Steve's collections on Flickr

Regards Steve GW7AAV

Thoroughly enjoyed reading both reports Steve. Great stuff; love the detail!

Look forward to your next activation reports.


In reply to GW7AAV:

Very informative reports Steve and a real pleasure to read. Interesting to see that Gregory the Grouse has moved home - you may recall that I encountered him on the way up The Cheviot in April 2007. Perhaps he knows SOTA activators are there for the radio activity and not his scalp!

73, Gerald

The English man who…

The Englishman who went up a hill and came down a mountain was a bit of a twee romantic comedy staring Hugh Grant. From what I can remember the best bit was when a mechanic is asked about a broken part he has removed from a car, and replies “I don’t know what you call it in English, but in Welsh we call it a bethyngalw.” Bethyngalw is the Welsh equivalent of an English “thingamajig”. Fortunately I had a native Welsh speaker on hand to explain the joke to me at the time.

The recent promotion of GW/NW-076 Mynydd y Cwm to Marilyn status seemed a little like the plot of the afore mentioned cinematic fiction, and laughable enough to be almost comical. It was also somewhat amusing to hear people getting emotional about the fate of G/SP-016 Raw Head which had been demoted to sub-Marilyn status, even if I did feel a bit the same way myself. Well “never look a gift horse in the mouth” as they say, Mynydd y Cwm is only about 20 minutes away off the A55 and I could consider it as one of my local summits and less than a mile from where my XYL Helen GW7AAU works.

Try as I might I could not persuade Helen to come with me and mount a midnight raid on the first day of inclusion as a SOTA summit, but it is probably a good job as it might have been a bit crowded with Barry 2E0PXW and if the car hadn’t broken down on route Mike GW0DSP alerted for that night. I was however determined to get out and do it as soon as possible. Roger MW0IDX was alerted to do it on the Sunday and there were many SOTA points to be grabbed during the International SOTA weekend so I stayed in and had an enjoyable chasing session. The weather over the next few days was mediocre to say the least and then I was back in to work. My first chance would have been Monday 11th May but the glorious sunshine took me by surprise, as the weather forecast I had seen had been gloomy. I must be more prepared so I can be more spontaneous in future. Looking at the weather forecast Tuesday 12th May looked like it might be a good one and I made my mind up to give it a go.

Although I prepared everything the night before I left packing the rucksack until the morning of the activation, just in case the forecasters were wrong. They were not wrong and it was glorious sunshine, so ten minutes after I had dropped off the daughter at school and handed over the granddaughter to her mother I was packing everything into the car.

Helen had warned me over GB3CR 70cms repeater that there was an RTA on the A55 half an hour earlier, but it was clear and I sailed along without any problems. The route to the summit took me off the A55 just before Rhuallt Hill and down the old Rhuallt Hill to Rhuallt itself. Normally when I go this way it is on some errand or other for Helen and I turn left down the B5429 and head for Tremeirchion but today at the cross roads I turned right pasted the Smithy Arms and headed up the narrow bumpy road towards Cwm. I took the first road that I saw on the left, which was marked with a sign ‘Not suitable for wide vehicles’, a good job I left the Humvee at home then! There is a bit of a crest and then a junction I drove straight on here and eventually I came to the small car park on my left that I had seen in Roger MW0IDX’s video Mynydd y Cwm GW/NW-076 - YouTube . It is probably, no scratch that, it is definitely not the way to navigate up around a summit but I did everything from memory after watching Roger’s video and looking at it on Google Earth. Thanks for that Roger!

First issue of the day was my camera. I had given the batteries out of my compact camera to my daughter when hers failed. Fortunately I had just grabbed the camera bag and had the digital SLR but that meant even more weight to hump up the summit and despite Rogers’s video I wasn’t totally sure just how far it was. Thank goodness it was as gentle a walk as it looked.

I booted up and as in the video I crossed the style and followed the path until I came to a fork at which point I turned up the left arm of the fork walking slightly up hill until just before a water tank on a trailer. I then followed a track on the right through the woods up to a small stone kern at the summit. This track looks a bit indistinct in places at the moment but I suspect that after hoards of SOTA activators and hill baggers have ticked this one of their list it will be easily recognised.

At the summit I unpacked the handheld and called Helen who had taken her dual band handheld to work and had it on her desk. She was first in the log and I was bang on my alerted time, which pleased me. I thought later that I missed the chance to work her on 70cms, which was a pity. Although Helen was only a mile or so away she had to lean out of her office window to escape the QRM from the computers then it was the expected 5/9.

After giving Helen her chaser point I set up the dipole. I think it was Barry 2E0PXW had said to me “You should have no problems, there are loads of trees for dipoles.” He was not kidding, the whole summit is wooded and as I did my best Stan Laurel impression I managed to get the HF dipole wrapped around a good proportion of them plus getting the wire caught in brambles and the like. Just when I thought I was finished as I walked back to the rig the mast collapsed and I had to start again untangling the wire from both tree branches and undergrowth. It was nearly 40 minutes after arriving on the summit that I finally got going.

Frank G4RMD answered my CQ call on FE 5.3985 and his excellent signal gave me hope that the sixty metres band was working for a change. Frank spotted me and a run of eleven more contacts ensued, most of which where strong solid signals. QSB seemed to be minimal although still evident. At 1038 UTC I QSYed to 3.666 and was once again spotted by Frank and later by Barry 2E0PXW which brought another eleven contacts. My next QSY was to 7.118 but despite a fresh battery and winding the power up on the 857 from 20 to 100watts I heard no one coming back to my calls. As always I moved down to 7.090 next and get the same reply, just the hiss of static. When I got home I realised I had not been spotted on 40 metres and should self spotted from the mobile.

After getting no reply on forty metres I lowered the mast to set up the four metre antenna but called on the Wouxun to complete silence. The end fed half wave antenna had worked better at home than the Watson end fed half wave I have up, but I drew a blank.

My next QSY had been intended to be to 144ssb where I intended to use up the rest of the juice in the two slabs by running the full 50 watts but I found that I did not have the N-type to Pl259 adapter on the rig. The missing adapter is still puzzling me as I have three and only one is in use. Both my 857s have one and they are usually left on the rigs, but at the moment neither of them are where they should be.

I had earlier hung the 2m J-pole from a tree and then stood on the coax breaking the antenna at the join between the matching section and the vertical element. I put out a call on 2m FM on the rubber duck. I got Charlie G0PZO at 5/9 each way but although he spotted me I got no further calls. I had to do a running repair on the j-pole using teeth and a penknife. I had no way to check the SWR but I threw caution to the wind and worked a handful of stations. I spoke to Mike G4BLH and we both called each other on 4m but silence both ends had me doubting the antenna. Someone, possibly Mike, told me that Carolyn GW6WRW was spotted on 60m working from GW/NW-008 Y Lliwed and down came the mast again and the coax was reconnected. As I went to take out the 5mHz links in the dipole I heard Nick M0RAR calling on S20 from G/WB-010 The Wrekin and got a nice summit to summit contact. Nick was quite chatty and me being me I was equally verbose but eventually we said our 73s. I was just about to get up and tackle those links when Roger M0IDX who was mobile called me. It was nice to get Roger and return the favour as he had given me the chaser point when he activated the hill.

Eventually I pulled the links and called on 5.3985 thinking that I might have missed the chance of a S2S with Carolyn. There she was, but who else was calling? It turned out to be G0CQK on G/DC-005 Christ Cross and after a little confusion I worked Jim and then QSYed up to 5.4035 and got my third S2S with Carolyn. I then moved down the band to 5.3665 and called CQ. I had to go here as 5.3715 was in use and there was also a CW QSO on 5.2595 making five out of seven channel in use at the same time. It has been a while since I heard 5mHz so busy.

I never expected to get any calls this far away from Fox Echo and having worked a good few chasers already but Helen M0YHB came back to my CQ and subsequently spotted me. Roger GM4OWG/P came back to me from what he said was a rare WAB square and was followed by Jon GM3JIJ from Stornoway Isle of Lewis to make contact 35.

Looking back I worked Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides, a couple of stations in Devon and Cornwall, Dublin and the East coast of England so all points of the compass. It was great to 5mHz working back to near its full potential for NVIS. There were some notable callsigns missing from the log and Quentin GW3BV has already said he couldn’t hear me so it was not perfect for everyone, but great for me.

I would have liked to go back onto 2m and made a few more CQ calls but I had intended to pack up and leave the summit at 1200 UTC and it was 35 minutes later than that when I strapped on the rucksack.

The descent, what descent? The walk back to the car took 15 minutes but half of that was used up by me taking photographs of the route and even leaving that aside I was travelling slowly due to being about on the limit of what I could carry. I arrived back home in time to have a long cold drink and then do the school run.

Even with a few disappointments, as described above, it was a mighty fine day. The sun shone and the trees kept me out of the wind. All in all this is a summit that I can recommend for those passing on business or in search of grander hills who just want to do a flying visit and those that find they cannot manage the bigger summits. I have a feeling I will be back on this hill soon, probably with Helen and hopefully we can make it in to a few log books on 2m SSB and 4m FM then. I did try 23cms as well but an antenna would need to be raised above the tree line to stand any chance.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

This report is intended to appear on my website at http://gw7aav.googlepages.com when I get around to it and will include photographs that will appear first at GW7AAV - Steve's collections on Flickr

In reply to GW7AAV:

I never expected to get any calls this far away from Fox Echo and
having worked a good few chasers already but Helen M0YHB came back to
my CQ and subsequently spotted me. Roger GM4OWG/P came back to me
from what he said was a rare WAB square and was followed by Jon GM3JIJ
from Stornoway Isle of Lewis to make contact 35.

Excellent read Steve and very pleased to work you.
I was on holiday in Dumfries and Galloway a birthday treat for my XYL.
This and the fact Tansy (our dog) had a stroke the week before we left meant no SOTA activations. But (cunning plan) I decided to do a few rare WAB squares the three NW and the three Lighthouses on the Mull of Galloway.
Unfortunately I could not raise the WAB net on 3.760 but managed to work plenty of non WAB people on 80m and yourself, Carolyn and Jim on 60m from NW95 Killantringan Lighthouse.
Tansy has made a remarkable recovery so should be back to ‘them thar hills’ before too long.

Roger G4OWG

In reply to G4OWG:

Thanks for giving me a call. I don’t collect WAB squares but I always log them in case one day I decide to start. Sorry to hear about Tansy, but glad that recovery is well underway. I hope to be out again soon (next weekend?), possibly doing Moel Gyw which I have never got around to doing or maybe back to Moel Y Cwm so Helen can get the point.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

My photographs from Myndd y Cwm are here…

Viewed in order they give an idea of the route to the summit for those of you who cannot watch MW0IDX’s video on YouTube because you don’t have broadband or have it blocked at work.

Photographs from my other recent activations are also available for your perusal.

Regards Steve

Which hill? Witch Hill. Activation of Pendle Hill G/SP-005 24th May 2009

The American Author Helen Keller said “Keep your face to the sunshine and you will never see the shadow.” well that is a great quote but we don’t get much sunshine around here but Saturday 23rd May 2009 was an exception and when the sun is shining this SOTA guys mind turns to summits. The question was which one to do?

I had in mind a quick jaunt up the road to one of the Clwydian Range that I haven’t done yet GW/NW-053 Moel Gyw but suddenly out of the blue Helen said “If it is nice tomorrow we could do Pendle Hill”. Which summit to do? Witch summit of course.

The Pendle witch trials of 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history and twelve people were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. The accused witches lived in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashire, a county which, at the end of the 16th century, was regarded by the authorities as a wild and lawless region: an area fabled for its theft, violence and sexual laxity. Not much change there then. It was okay because we would keep our face to the sunshine and never see the shadow.

There was some concern with both of us that we might be caught up in bank holiday weekend traffic so we decided to leave it until after lunch on Sunday. This left time for some chasing in the morning and my observances of 60 metres seemed to show that around 1600hrs has been when the band has been most stable. This is contrary to observations from previous years were the band seemed to die at around this time.

Following the Tom Tom’s directions we took exactly 1hr 30 minutes as predicted with no hold ups and no excitement, only a little disappointment. The disappointment came in the guise of ON9CBQ/P on ON-014 who called and called and called on 7.118 for ages before he got a contact. I was listening on the FT-857D but the Atas was not doing it. I tried with100w mobile until he went to 20m and then I tried again when Peter ON4UP took up the mic.

Soon I was spotting the dark satanic mills and I knew we were in witch country. A sign pointing the way to Nelson appeared to the right and I commented to Helen “We can not be far from Mike G4BLH’s here, I hope I can get him on 23cms”. My mind drifted off to the greatest British hero of all time who shares his name with that town and for a few minutes I was cruising the Mediterranean stood on the poop deck with the wind in my hair. What hair? I was suddenly rocketed back into the land of the living and we were in Pendle.

“This doesn’t look like Inky’s parking spot,” said Helen. “I think we need to go over there,” I said recognising the summit from Steve’s video. A little way on we saw a line of cars and pulled over. “It doesn’t seem as easy as it did in the video,” said Helen. “We have done bigger ones,” I replied and we set off.

Maybe I set too fast a pace from the start but Helen started to have tightening of the calves on the flat and by the time we were one third up she was in some pain. We took it very slowly but by half way she persuaded me to go on ahead. Without Helen or the kids to regulate my pace I charged on too fast coming to a grinding halt about three quarters of the way up. I sat down and waited until I could see Helen below and made the final push for the top. Our fitness levels are obviously a lot lower than we would like, but I did not seem to notice the two and half stone of my rucksack, breathing seemed to be the problem. My lungs seemed ready to burst and this by anyone’s standards is just a tiddler. It was extremely hot though, fantastic but “phew!” hot.

I have got used to being passed on hills by hill runners on their way down who already passed me on their way up, but to be passed by mothers carrying their babies and Asian women in Burkas wearing high heel shoes is as embarrassing for me as it is stupid for them. Snarling hounds of hell they might not have been but just as dangerous were the dogs descending the hill as I climbed up it.

Hurtling towards you fearless and oblivious they could easily have knocked dozens of walker off their feet. I can understand why none of them were on leads, I certainly would not have liked to be dragged down that path be a mutt.
I arrived at the summit plateau and looked back, Helen was nowhere to be seen.

The plateau and the site of the trig point was like someone had just replaced my batteries with Duracell Energiser and I sped off for the summit like one of those pink bunnies. I touched the trig and then headed away from the madding crowds and pitched camp. I gave Helen a quick call to find out were she was and by the time I saw her I was set up ready to go.

Helen did really well getting set up quickly on two metres as her first contact, which was with Jordan M3TMX was only 11 minutes after mine. First in my log was G4OBK on channel Fox Echo 5.3985mHz at 1549UTC. I had a run of 14 contacts with G, GM, GW and one GI, which was not a bad tally on 5mHz, the way the band has been lately. There were notable calls missing from the list including the two regular EI stations and the two Dons, maybe I was too late in the day or maybe they had taken advantage of the WX to do some gardening. Who knows?

After finishing on 60metres I dispensed with tradition to give Mike G4BLH a call on 23cm. I was only on the rubber duck and Mike’s signal was a bit iffy at first but I moved up to the trig point and Mike moved out into the Garden for 5/9 each way, H/held to H/held. Apparently Mike can see the trig from his QTH so I gave him a quick wave. I told Mike I would call him on the Woxoun 4 metre hand held and put out a CQ call as I walked back to the rucksack. John MW1FGQ who is a fellow member of the Mold and District ARC answered me and we too exchanged 5/9 reports. A few calls later I gave up on 23cm and called Mike again. Not surprisingly we exchanged the same reports. John followed close behind and was end stopping even on the Woxoun’s rubber duck but spoiled the party by giving 5/8. The intention had been to try again later with the half wave antenna on the mast but we never got around to it.

The next QSY was to 80m and I found the band in much worse than expected state. Only seven in the log this time on 3.660 but it is always nice to work the younger amateurs such as Jimmy M3EYP and Jordan M3TMX and indeed give them some chaser points back.

I announced I was QSYing to 7.118 but found the top portion of the band useless due to broadcast stations and moved down to 7.090 where Mike BLH found and spotted me. I had a fresh battery and when after a few calls I got no reply I turned up the wick to 70 watts from the 20 I had been using on 60 and 80m. Shortly after I received two calls from Croatia, Miro 9A4MF and then Ozren 9A7W followed by Rudy ON4CMT from Belgium. Mick M0PVA and Geoff M6MZX made it five on 40 metres. 14.285 yielded Mike and Mick again plus Roland SM1CXE. 20m was busy further down the band but rather than work other peoples pile ups I moved up to 10m on 28.500 where I did a little better getting five in the log, including Mike, Mick and Geoff again but also Nel YO2BBX. After a lot more CQ calls I did a quick QSY back to 60metres and wound the power to full but there were no stragglers.

The sun seemed to be rapidly disappearing so we started to pack up for the descent. As we packed Helen told me she had worked three on 70cms FM and twenty-one on two metres, with my thirty-nine that was sixty contacts, I was well pleased. Once again the two metre SOTAbeam had been humped to the top of a hill to remain unused and I never got to use the half wave verticals for four and six metres but everything else had been tried more successfully than ever before. If we had been two hours earlier we may have had chance. Oh well! Our late start meant I had no summit to summit contacts in the log, which is unusual but Helen managed to get Chris M1DTJ/P on G/SP-004 Shining Tor and Richard G1JTD/P on G/NP-007 Wild Boar Fell.

I had tried to keep my face to the sunshine but the shadows were lengthening as we headed off the hill. The descent down felt somewhat precarious as we have both grown used to using walking poles and I forgot them today. They would have helped on the ascent too and I usually use them to keep the ends of the dipole above the ground. I was somewhat miffed that there were no witches dancing around the trig as I had my matches ready for a bonfire, my Van Helsing hand book and several cloves of garlic, but there were no trees for a witch burning anyway. Helen too was hoping for a witch so she could mug her and steal her broom to fly down from the top. Maybe next time we head that way we will see Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, who knows?

Back at the car we changed out of our walking boots, tipped the remainder of our water supply over our heads and opened a bottle of Pepsi. The Pepsi was just warm it was close to boiling on our dry throats it burnt like Nitric Acid, “Arg!” The journey home was as uneventful as the journey there with just a quick stop for some ice cold drinks. We both felt a little stiff next morning but while Helen wants to start Flat Places on the Air I have said if we did more summits we would not feel it so much when we do. We will see!

Thanks to all those who worked us, to Mike G4BLH for all his Spots and to G4OBK for his initial one. I did not need me mobile this time out.

This report can also be viewed at on my web site -sotaactivationreports2009part2 - gw7aav2
…and will include photographs that are available at GW7AAV - Steve's collections on Flickr

I have recently updated my website at http://gw7aav.googlepages.com including my activation reports for 2008/2009.

I also now have an amateur radio blog called CQHQ that I am working on. Please have a look. If you have a Googlemail or Gmail account you can use your email address and password to sign in to Blogspot then you can leave comments. I have no subscribers yet so you could be the first.

The URL is http://cqtownhq.blogspot.com/

Regards Steve GW7AAV

In reply to GW7AAV:

“Maybe next time we head that way we will see Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, who knows?”

Do it in mid winter, you might see the Dark Morris!

Great report!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

I believe that the Dark Morris is actually catching on with some Morris sides so it might be possible to watch one taking place while munching on a figgin. That would be an interesting way to round off an activation.

It just occurred to me that the odd mic keyer we hear on 2 metres might in fact be a Dark Morris man jingling his octiron bells.

73 Steve GW7AAV

MADARCs go out in the baking sun.

As life passes by at pace and I find my self getting less and less done that I want to do I spend more time running about on errands or sitting around waiting for others and my mood drifts to darker places. Often I find in my darkest moods my most creative and inspirational thoughts, but when the sun shines I can be happy despite whatever life throws at me.

It was Monday 1st June 2009 and the sun was shining so I was in a good but flippant mood and it was during one of those periods running around on an errand for somebody else or at least not one I wanted to do that I was monitoring the seventy-centimetre repeater GB3CR that is located on Hope Mountain GW/NW-062. I had spoken to a quite a few different people that morning and put them right this was the (former*) Clwyd Repeater not the Chester Repeater, that it was between Mold and Wrexham and not on Moel y Parc with the much abused GB3MP. No, there was a much more discerning clientele on here (who am I kidding I use it don’t I) and no the North West Repeater Group have nothing to do with its up keep. After being put in my place that Hope Mountain is actually one and a half miles closer to Wrexham than Mold and after my replying that it was nearer the town of Hope than either Wrexham or Mold someone came on and changed the subject. * The borders changed it is in Flintshire now]

Dave 2W0PWR is the Secretary of the Mold and District ARC of which I am the Chairman and after a little discussion of the work going on to the club’s new shack/workshop facility he mentioned he was thinking that as he had a day off on Thursday he would do a SOTA activation. “Where are you thinking of?” I asked and when he said Moel Famau GW/NW-044 I suggested that seeing as I was off too I could reciprocate and activate Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051, which is accessed, from the opposite side of the same road. We would discuss it at the Wednesday night meeting in the Mold Rugby Club over a pint of Guinness.

The errand in question had been to get a couple of noises emanating from the Land Rover Discovery that had been spotted by Helen and her brother Phil checked out. There was a squeak from the nearside front and a rumble (that I could not hear) from the offside right. I suggested that the rumble was not as ex-car mechanic Phil thought a wheel bearing but simply the knobbly off road tyres of the concrete road and the squeak just a bit of grit in the brake callipers. One out of two was not bad and the garage agreed with me, but the brake pads on the back would not last too long. I booked it in forall the pads to be done next morning.

I dropped off the Disco at 8am and was told they would phone me when it was ready. At 1pm I had a call from the garage to say the suppliers had sent the wrong pads, but they now had the right ones and it would be ready for 3pm. After collecting the kids from school it was on the mountain bike for a pleasant bike ride down the banks of the river Dee with its inspiring views of the steel works. How I hate our industrial wastelands.

I arrived at the garage to be told they could not work out what was wrong with the car. The brakes were working but the brake pedal would suddenly push back up when you were almost at a stop and you had to stand on it and push with all your might to stop it rolling. They had ordered a sensor for the anti-lock system and would try it next day. Fortunately they gave me a lift back home in a pick up and I threw my bike in the back.

All day next day I waited for news. It was looking more and more like the activation on Thursday was in doubt. Finally a knock on the door at about 4.30pm and the Discovery was back. That was the trigger and all the batteries were put on charge.

Wednesday night confirmed that Dave was still up for it and over a pint we made the massively detailed plans. “I will head there after I drop the kids off,” I said. Okay, see you there” said Dave. Arriving home later I logged on and put up an alert. I was surprised when Dave’s alert said 12:00 UTC but next morning it had changed to an hour before mine.

Next morning after dropping my daughter at school and waiting with for granddaughter to be picked up by her mother I was talking on GB3CR and Dave came on. He was arriving at the car park for Moel Famau. He had the jump on me and would be set up before I had even left home.

A little later I was on the road. There were no real problems just slow drivers and I never got once got to within 10MPH of the speed limit all the way there. Tractor, learner, tractor, man in hat, lorry in wrong gear up the hill, two old women talking, but soon I turned left off the main road and put my foot down on the single track road with the antennas ping ping pinging on the overhead branches. Suddenly I was testing those new brake discs as a coach load of school kids reversed down the lane towards me. They worked!

The coach backed into the bottom car park for Moel Famau and I pressed on for the top car park on the Foel Fenlli side. I gave a little sigh; at least they were going up Dave’s hill not mine I thought.

I parked the Discovery, removed the dual band antenna and the ATAS, and booted up but as I put my rucksack on the dammed coach full of kids pulled in and the hoards of hell emerged to potentially ruin my beautiful peaceful sunny day.

I pushed on up the hill calling Dave from time to time to see if he was set up, but soon I was standing aside to let the ant like procession of school children wend there way shouting, screaming and moaning their way up the path. I swore quietly under my breath as I watched a crisp packet drift away on the breeze. I made contact with Dave and let him know I was on the ascent.

At the halfway mark where you turn left of the winding route and head up towards the summit the school party was having a rest. I smiled at them even though I did not feel like smiling and pressed on to the top. Pressing on through knee-deep heather. “Boy, this has grown over” I thought but I had missed the proper path because the children were sat on it. Eventually I picked up the real path and was soon at the summit. I called Dave and a small group wanted to work me but I told them to wait while I got set up.

I got the FT-857D from the rucksack to find the ‘select knob’ was missing. I hoped it was in the rucksack and not back on Pendle Hill. Unfortunately an intensive search yielded nothing so I guess it is somewhere on the witches hill. Anyone know where I can get a new one?

With the dipole and a 2m J-pole set up I called into Dave on 145.400mHz at 0959z for a S2S and then QSYed down 25kHz to work the waiting chasers. I had intended to do 2m last so after the waiting chasers had been worked I started up on 5mHz getting Frank G3RMD almost immediately. As Frank attempted to get a spot on for me Phil G4OBK called in to say he had already done it. A run of eleven contacts followed including a second S2S from Mike GW0DSP/P on Hope Mountain GW/NW-062.

I did not hang around too long when the calls dried up and pulled the links in the dipole to move to 3.666mHz. As I did this I put out calls on 1297.5 and 70.450. Nothing on 23cms but Graham GW0HUS came back to me on 70mHz for my one and only contact on this band.

80 metres yielded only a few contacts but I did get one ON station in the log and a tip off that Dave GW6DTN/P was further down the band. So I called him for a third S2S from GW/NW-039 Foel Goch.

40 metres started well with DL, ON, and HB9 stations in the log as well as G and GM before the FT-857 shut down because of overheating in the sun. This was somewhat annoying as I still had one 7amp hour battery left unused.

I left the Yaesu to cool down and tried 23cms and 70mHz again but got no replies. I was expecting Mold club member John MW1FGQ to be listening on these frequencies so I resorted to the mobile phone and gave him a ring, but got an engaged tone. I picked up the dual band Kenwood hand held and started calling on 2m FM. First up was Brian G0JCQ operating the RAFARS call sign of G6RAF/A followed by a run of familiar call signs some chasers others not before I was called by Alan GW3NPJ/P on GW/NW-32 Carnedd Y Filias for the forth S2S of the day.

After working Roger MW1IDX/M the calls once again dried up and rather than give another call on S20 I gave John MW1FGQ another call first on 23cms then 70mHz and then on the mobile phone. This time it simply rang and rang. I tried the FT-857 that was now cool again on 10 metres. There were voices up and down the band talking in some language I could not make out but no one was coming back to my CQ calls. I stood up to intending to change over to 20 meters but was called by EA1DKF. As I wrote the time in the log I realised I needed to pack up and get down to pick up the children from school.

At this point the school party passed by heading back off the hill and a pretty, but sour faced, young woman approached and announced, “I am an archaeologist. Do you know what you are doing is illegal?” “How?” I asked. “You can’t drive poles in the ground” she said. “I haven’t driven any poles in the ground they are on the surface” I explained. “Only the tent pegs are in the ground and they are just an inch into the soil at an angle.” “It is still illegal.” she said “You can’t drive anything into the ground it is an Iron Age site”. I tried to explain that my pegs are no further into the surface than a walking pole and that bringing 40 school kids up here throwing litter around did more damage than I would do in a lifetime but to no effect. I said that next time I would find a none-intrusive method of erecting my antenna and inform the SOTA group of the restrictions. I restrained my self from saying what I really thought, that that biggest damage to ancient sites is done by licensed grave robbers and vandals like her. People who ignore the past are fools but those that dwell in the past are bigger fools. As she walked off I hoped I never saw the jumped little Nazi ever again and wished her every misfortune but did not let it ruin my near perfect day.

While taking down the fishing pole I called Dave to let him know what I was doing and found him working Dave GW6DTN/P and so I grabbed GW/NW-039 Foel Goch on 2m FM too. Then packed up and headed down. Total score for the day was 46 contacts from 80m to 2m. Dave 2W0PWR concentrated on 2m and had 27 in his log.

Packing up seemed to take longer than normal and Dave left his summit ages before I did. The quick route down from Foel Fenlli was out of action due to rebuilding of the steps but despite this we arrived back in the car parks simultaneously. After a refreshing bottle of water and a chat with Dave I replaced the antennas on the car and was about to head home when the mobile rang and it was John MW1FGQ. “Too late I am in the car park. You missed me.” I told him. It was a little disappointing to not get John on 23cms and 4 metres as he was an easy line of site, but he had forgotten I was on and left his mobile phone behind after a tea break.

It was an absolutely fabulous day despite my knob falling off, the Nazi protector of dead people, and the St Trinians School day out. Oh and the fact that I carted up the camera only to find I could not take any pictures because the batteries were flat. Luckily the possible sunburn has turned to a nice shade of tan but how long it will last in this typical British weather is anyone’s guess.

This report is intended to appear on my website at http://gw7aav.googlepages.com
when I get around to it and will include photographs that will appear first at GW7AAV - Steve's collections on Flickr

Regards Steve GW7AAV

Please visit my amateur radio blog at http://cqtownhq.blogspot.com/ or http://cqhq.wordpress.com/

In reply to GW7AAV:

It was Monday 1st July 2009 and the

Can I borrow your time machine Steve as I’d like to buy a lottery ticket that wins something just once!


Great report Steve, which generated a couple of belly laughs as I read it. Pity about the archaeologist having a dig.

Andy makes a good point; let me know what was the best weather weekend in Snowdonia in the remainder of June, if you don’t mind.


In reply to MM0FMF:

No time machine here Andy, but unlike you humans I don’t experience linear time and yesterday might be tomorrow while today was a week last Wednesday. It is working shifts that does it, I never know what day it is due to something known as time dilation, 12 hours on nights is like a week, while four hours on a mountain playing radio in the sun is like 10 minutes. Anyway date corrected to fit in with the human concept of time ;0)

Thanks for letting me know.
Steve GW7AAV

as for the belly laughs: Sorry, but I find these nazi phrases are absolutely inacceptable! May I please ask you to avoid them in the future!

Thank you Gentlemen!

73 Bernhard DL4CW

In reply to DL4CW:

Not that this is the place for such discussions but I fail to see why you are offended, unless you are one yourself in which case I would hope you would be offended. The day I start being politically correct is the day I give up breathing. I am sorry if you or anyone else finds anything I say offensive, but there are no racial implications intended. We do have Nazis here in the UK too and their evil is on the rise, I treat them with the same contempt as I do the Brown shirts of history. I have had and continue to have many German friends none of whom have ever questioned my use of the phrase from time to time and agree with my complete revulsion of the fascist spawn of hell.

73 Steve GW7AAV

August 2009 SOTA and other adventures

GM/NS-133 Creag Thoraraidh

The almost annual invasion of Scotland by the AAV clan had been somewhat spoiled last year by two weeks of incessant rain and I was hoping and praying this year would not be the same. As some sort of insurance we decided to have an earlier break than usual and went for the first two weeks in August. There was mutiny afoot as well and we opted for a coastal holiday to keep the “Can we go to the beach?” voices happy. We thought we would find somewhere to rent easily enough but trying to find a big enough house in an area far enough removed from previous adventures turned into a chore. Eventually a house was found right up in the North East corner about fifty-five miles from John o’Groats in the town of Brora.

Our usual plan is to have one week at about halfway between home and our cottage for the second week. Unfortunately we could not do that this time as the property was booked the second week. A search for somewhere else for the second week ensued and dragged on and on. Nowhere suitable seemed to be available. It seemed everywhere we wanted to go was booked “Due to the games”. Eventually we came South of the border in to England and booked a place in Seahouses for the second week, which seemed like a good base for some of the Scottish Borders.

A few busy weeks followed and we still had not looked at the potential summits for our two weeks. It was getting close and Helen and I sat down with a list of all the summits within 30 miles of our accommodation. For Brora we had a big list and most of them were un-activated, but the closer we looked the more we could see why. Most of the summits showed no sign of any paths and those that did where a route march before you started. We could have spent several weeks reconnoitring simply to work out where to try and park.

GM/NS-133 Creag Thoraraidh stuck out like a sore thumb because it showed a transmitter mast on the top, which indicated there must be a track up it. It was on the list but we could not find anywhere else suitable for our family party. That was okay with the kids, they would chill out on the beach for a change but I was somewhat disappointed.

The drive to Brora was long (455 miles) and kept getting longer as delays popped up on the SatNav and we re-routed to avoid them. We had been able to program various things in to the TomTom such as locations of summits and the cottage and we were using it, but the Discovery has built in SatNav and we had this running as well. Strangely a message popped up on the Disco’s screen warning of a delay that the TomTom’s traffic warning system missed. We had two seconds to decide which one to follow. We chose the wrong one and found ourselves in a queue. After two minutes we came to a sign saying 1hrs delay from here but the Disco came to the rescue with an alternative route. After ten hours we arrived in Brora but 500 yards from our destination TomTom then took us on a wild goose chase down some narrow country lanes, through a ford and alongside the beautiful Brora Loch. It was worth getting lost for the view but it took ages to find somewhere we could turn around and go the way the Discovery wanted to take us.

The house we had rented was one of the best we have had. It was not perfect but very close to it, the décor was a little dated, the paint on the eaves a horrid shade of near burgundy red, and the sixties style staircase was rickety bordering on scary, but it was spacious and welcoming with a large conservatory well kept gardens and had a huge paddock alongside. The paddock was perfect for my antennas and we soon had a home from home with everything bar the QRM on HF. Access to the beach was via a path through next door’s paddock and across Brora Golf Course.

After the drive up no one felt much like doing anything until Sunday afternoon and so we spent the 2nd August wandering along the beach and searching in rock pools for crabs and other sea creatures. Monday 3rd and the girls wanted to spend the day on the beach so after a little diversion to take some action shots of the Discovery crossing the ford we ended up on the beach opposite a former secret government listening station. Here I set up the portable station and played radio while the kids flew a kite and tried to dig to Australia.

Tuesday 4th found us at the Falls of Shin watching the Salmon leap, playing crazy golf and eating ice creams from the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre which is owned by Harrods and has a larger than life waxworks of Mohamed Al-Fayed dressed as a Scottish Laird in a kilt with a dog at his feet as its centre piece. I felt the same revulsion at the image as I do when I see the dictators of this world fawning over their giant bronze or marble effigies paid for by the blood of innocents. Later that evening we took a scouting party to find the access road for Wednesday’s SOTA activation.

Wednesday 5th August was bright and sunny, with very little wind. It was a perfect day for the summit we wanted to tackle but probably a bit too warm for anything bigger. We travelled North East up the A9 through Helmsdale to a roundabout. From here the new stretch of the A9 goes straight on while to the left the old A9 Navidale Road follows the contours of the hillside and soon becomes a single lane. Before you reach the single lane there is a house higher up on the left as the road bends right; access to NS-133 Creag Thoraraidh is via the tarmac private road in front of the house. Helen asked the lady of the house were we could park and if it was okay to walk up the path. She was most friendly and curious as to why and said we could drive up if we wanted to, as she owned the land. She said we should not miss her duck pond and told us to toot our horn at a special place and her tame deer might visit us. We drove up past the pond and found somewhere out of the way to park. The tarmac road continued for about half a mile to a transmitter enclosure. About a hundred yards short of this was a rough stony and rutted track that lead to another transmitter at the other end of the summit. It was quite hard going walking on this path but the long heather and boggy ground either side of it meant there was no alternative route. As we approached the second transmitting station we could see the trig point on our left. Now we had to bog hop our way treading carefully and probing with our walking sticks. Then we had to get over the wire fence and finally the ground around the trig was a little firmer.
My first order of the day after getting Helen in the log was to cable tie the mast to the fence. I put both the 2m J-pole and the linked dipole on the same mast and set up the FT857 on 5mHz running 30 watts. The first thing I heard was Barry GM4TOE/P on GM/ES-001 Ben Macdui which was a nice summit-to-summit start. Twelve more followed on 5mHz and as I was switching over to 7mHz Helen called me to work Jimmy MM3EYP/P on 2m FM. Jimmy was with his dad and Barry on Ban Macdui. Helen worked Tom MM1EYP/P; she had also worked Barry on 5mHz and managed to find a couple of locals on 2m thanks to being tipped off in advance by Robin GM7PKT as to where they might be hiding. Later she worked me from the trig on 433mHz FM as I made the trip back to the car, giving her five contacts and even qualifying on 2/70 alone, which has to be good that far North on a handheld into a simple aerial. A nice run of twenty five stations on 40m from all over Europe kept me busy for about 35 minutes, including a nice summit-to-summit with Martin OE5REO/P on OE/OO-072 Herrentisch and then I tried 80m. 3.666mHz was almost dead and I only got three contacts and those were a struggle. Calls on 14.285mHz yielded nothing although there was plenty of conversations on the band so I gave one last ditch call for stragglers on 5mHz and much to my surprise I found four stations to give me a total of 47 matching my personal best tally. The walk back to the car was easy as I had a spring in my step.

Thursday 6th we visited Dun Robin Castle and probably walked twice as far as we had on the summit; visiting the house, museum and gardens with a little rest while we watched the falconry display. I thought it well worth the visit but maybe not worth the entrance fee. Being members of National Trust we usually get into these sorts of places free.

Friday 7th started by seal watching at Loch Fleet and then into Dornoch for some lunch were we found their Highland Games about to start. Having never been to a Highland Games we decided to give it a go and for a few hours we were enjoying it until suddenly we all seemed to reach our bagpipe threshold and just had to get somewhere quiet.

All week locals had been asking if we had tried the wonderful fish and chips from La Mirage in Helmsdale so we decide to give it a try. The restaurant was fully booked so we ordered at the take-away. An hour can seem like seconds when you are enjoying yourself but spent waiting to be served when you are hungry and being bitten to death by midges it seems like a lifetime. These were the first and only midges all week but they made up for it. “Was it worth it?” you might ask. No it was not. These people must have no idea what good fish and chip tastes like. The chips were dry and like eating cardboard, while the fish had no taste whatsoever and the batter resembled a greasy sponge, naught out of ten for effort. It was so bad in fact that we could not face anything else and went to bed hungry.

Next morning we were up early and packed so efficiently that we were on the road at 9am (local) with a whole hour to spare.

To be continued…

This report is intended to appear on my website at http://gw7aav.googlepages.com
when I get around to it and will include photographs that will appear first at GW7AAV - Steve's collections on Flickr

Regards Steve GW7AAV

Please visit my amateur radio blog at http://cqtownhq.blogspot.com/ or http://cqhq.wordpress.com/

Further note: I have over 1500 photographs to upload from the holiday so it may be a week or so.

In reply to GW7AAV:

“These people must have no idea what good fish and chip tastes like.”

After getting soaked on Gt Knoutberry hill on Sunday, I changed into dry clothes and headed for the Fisherman in Settle. I had jumbo haddock, chips & mushy peas (£8.25 eat in price) all washed down with a bottle of Copper Dragon Golden Pippin ale. Worth every penny !

In reply to G1INK:

After 9 years living the correct side of Hadrian’s Wall I still lament the lack of mushy peas up here. Whenever the subject is mentioned my colleagues wince at the thought of them. However, when pushed all them were reluctant to admit they’d never tried them. The fools don’t know what they have been missing.