What is a man to do? I wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to play on the hills as Mrs. FMF is away with FMF junior #1 at her mother’s. This left me to look after FMF junior #2. He’s bigger than me now so I can’t shout at him anymore. He’s also quite well house trained for a teenager and can use a microwave and kettle. So he can heat stuff and cook PotNoodles! Actually he knows how the shower works and amazingly the washing machine and iron. Stunning really. He was working Saturday and Sunday so I thought I’d get back at reasonable time to cook something proper. This meant that big drives and big walks were out. Also they were doing emergency emergeny-repairs to the Forth Road Bridge and the traffic was predicted to be chaos that way.
I decided on a pair of 1pt backup summits. I’d kept Torlum Wood SS-227 and Knock of Crieff SS-264 as something to do when stuck hills. Now seemed a good time. The WX was for quite big winds, low cloud that would break higher later in the day and be better further North East with no rain. Didn’t sound horrible really. I managed to over-sleep so I left the house about 1hr late. You could probably do the drive to Torlum Wood in round about 1hr from here at 8.30am if you were a bit on your toes. As you approach Creiff (a sort of highland Bognor, lots of wealthy retired gentle folk, some fabulous old stone houses) you can see Torlum Wood. According to the map the hill is called Torlum, and the wood is, strangely, Torlum Wood. Anyway, it stands proud of the river plain. It’s only 393m so it’s not that proud but it is obvious.
I took it softly and pulled into the parking space (NN833188) at 9.44am. This is a gate to the woods but there’s space for 4 cars without blocking the gate. There is some forest work taking place so mid week conditions may be different. The WX was stunning, it was a proper spring morning, birds chirping, sun shining, no real wind, warm and lovely. I packed a lighter weight collection of clothes and set off up the track. I turned right at NN824188 and probably went no more than 200m along here before I could see that a lot of forest had been felled. Now this wasn’t to be a big walk and seeing a steep slope of clearfell rememnents and dead bracken made me think a bit. I could follow the paths to the summit or get a sweat on by going straight up. So that’s what I did.
After the slope eased and the bracken finished it was just a yomp over heather but it was hot enough to remove hats. Gosh, a change from the perishing cold on Tinto in the snow last week. Then the summit is in sight along with the trig. A simple nose following session leads to the trig point. It took me somewhere around 45mins from leaving the car. The views were glorious and for an added and unexpected bonus… a fence complete with posts and wire. Result! The view were cracking. In some ways it was a bit like Longridge Fell, lovely quality farmland that gave way to moors and hills. Ben Chonzie SS-015 was in the mist just, it cleared away regularly to show a big snow cornice still. Likewise Creag Uchdag SS-022 was in and out of cloud. But apart from that there was lots to see. Mor Bheinn SS-098 was very pretty, it’s amazingly knobbly. I can remember the feeling of remoteness on that summit so it was nice to see it again.
The highlight of the view was looking across Strathearn and seeing the mighty Lednock Dam up in the hills. You don’t realise that they build hydroelectric dams high up in the hills as you drive up to them. It’s only when you can see just how high up they are compared to the level of the power stations that the picture fits together. It was interesting to note that a 250m wide dam is so obvious at 13.5km distance.
So onto the air. First up 60m and Don G0RQL was having a natter with G1ZRN. Don very graciously let me interrupt his QSO, call CQ SOTA and then QSY down to 5.3665 out of the way. He also put a spot on for me. What a gent. And he got his point too. Lots of rapid QSB on here but still 13 worked including Rober G0PEB/p on SE-012. After that down to 40m CW. Conditions didn’t seem brilliant but we did have that huge flare during the week. Mainly G stations worked with a few foreign calls. I worked 17 here and interrupted the flow when I heard Iain MM3WJZ/p on 2m FM. A quick S2S as he was on Ben Vrackie CS-065 then back to 40m. I did here briefly an OK calling but everything went quiet. Now as I was doing easy summits so I had more time to spend on the air than walking. I hadn’t been on 40m SSB for a year as I get annoyed at the mayham and often poor operating practice so I avoid it. But today I was in a mellow mood.
7.118 was showing all the hallmarks I avoid. Most of EU was calling ON9CBQ. I went down to 7.114, spotted myself and called away. Another 14 in the log and everyone was well behaved, no calling over the top. A pleasant surprise. My last 40m contact was with Rob G0HRT who told me Rob G4RQJ was on 60m. Back onto 60 and an S2S with Rob on NP-017 followed by Martyn M1MAJ/p on SW-006. After that I looked at the lovely sky, looked at my watch, looked at Knock of Creiff across the way and decided I could spend another hour here and still polish off another activation and be back home at a reasonable time.
Up with the 20m antenna and again it would not resonate. I could hear S51JS/p on S5/KS-061 at 57 but the SWR was high. So I set the 817 to 1W and worked him 2nd call. I faffed about but gave up and QSY’d to 17m and the antenna was fine. It was like this on Tinto last week but I put that down to the snow affecting the elevated radial as it was less elevated with the snow! Another self spot and a fine run of stations presented themselves. All 4 corners of Europe and N4EX. Once again, I asked for EU to QRX and USA only and every single chaser stood by and let me work Rich N4EX. Thank you. 18 worked on 17m CW and I was finished on this summit with 66 QSOs in total.
60m: G, GW, GM, GI
40m: G, GI, DL, F, EI, GM
17m: US, OM, EA, LY, N, OK, OH, S5
10 mins to pack up, 25 mins down to the car and 10 mins to get to Crieff Hydro. I parked the car at The Knock car park and was away like a shot. This hill is a hugely popular local spot but the actual summit is beyond the viewpoint inside the Sitka plantation. I was concerned about getting the antenna up with the trees and was wondering if maybe the 2m vertical would work if nothing else did. Anyway it’s about 12-15mins to the viewpoint up a very wellworn path through mature managed mixed woodland. And what a view. Right along Strathearn with the massive of the Ben Chonzie group one side or across to the back of The Ochills. I think it was probably the best view point for a 15min walk I can remember.
From here the path continues down then up to the deer fence. You go through the awkward gate and across a felled area through the next gate and then into the real forest. There is a marked path off at the 2 o’clock direction, this is not the way. Go straight up into the trees. In no time I found a pile of stones marking the summit. You could not really see the sky the trees were so dense. I went a bit further and there was a tiny clearing. No way to get the dipole up unless I went across the track. There were fresh MTB tracks so that seemed a very bad idea. I thought I’d try the 20/17 vertical.
I tied the pole to a self seeded sapling and whizzed up the antenna. This antenna is so quick to deploy compared to the dipole. Still it wouldn’t work on 20m. This was so annoying and so I spent 5mins measuring which way to tune the 817 to get the SWR down. I decided the radiator was short. So I used the 17m link that shorts the loading coil to extend the radiator and bingo 1.2:1 match. Onto 14.061 and call. Nothing. Call, call, call, call. OK the trees are not helping here. Call and IK1NPG came back. He tried to summarise Proust’s “A la recherche du temps perdu” in Morse complete with QSB. 3 mins later I thanked him with SRI MNI QSB 73 73 QRZ? Nothing. I did manage to get a phone signal and self spotted again.
John Lennon wrote a song Instant Karma. Self spotting should be known as Instant Pileup! I had a steady run of contacts for 40mins but no Rich N4EX. Never mind I worked 21 stations aorund Europe and Ukraine. I’m happy with that. Antenna down, quick photo of the summit cairn and down I went. Admire the view then back to the car. 25mins up 15mins down. This is well worth the effort of walking up even if you don’t activate it.
20m: I, DL, F, OE, EA, OK, HA, HB9, US, LY, S5
In total: 18x DXCC, 5x S2s, 5 bands and 3 modes worked. And it was sunny and warm. Can you have more fun with your clothes on? I don’t know! I do know I had a huge amount of fun and was back at a reasonable time to cook up a curry for Junior #2 and his mate.
I remember reading something Richard G3CWI wrote that once you get to Goatdom you can start enjoying things more. He was right. The worry that you may not qualify the hill goes right away. You’re able to enjoy every QSO simply because it’s a QSO. It may be important for others, but for me it was having fun in some lovely countryside. Next week I feel a Munro is in order. Not for any reason of points/uniques but because I can. (Well I hope I can!)