During this year’s holiday in Northumberland, I managed a day activating SOTA summits across the border in GM. The plan was to activate three summits close to Peebles in order to expand my tally of summits in that area. An itinerary was drawn up setting out from the cottage we were staying at in the Coquet Valley at 07:30 local time, with the aim of getting back there no later than 22:00.
To fit in with family arrangements, the day set for this was Tuesday 14th August. When it came to it, I had to leave later than I had intended due to a health issue with a family member which required clearance from mission control before I could set off. That meant reducing the proposed number of summits to two, but even that didn’t go entirely as planned. I had posted alerts on the Monday, but to adjust them to fit in with the later departure time, I stopped en route to update them, posting White Meldon GM/SS-208 for 11:00z, Cademuir Hill GM/SS-219 for 14:30z and entirely cancelling Minch Moor GM/SS-133.
On the way north I was delayed by lorries and also congestion in a couple of towns, so was late arriving at the chosen parking spot for White Meldon (as described by Andy MM0FMF). I kitted up and easily forded the Meldon Burn in my Berghaus Kibos (footwear overkill), soon to find out that my fitness was as poor as I had anticipated. The weather was warm and humid, so it took me 45 minutes to reach the summit by 11:07z. Resisting the urge to set up just for VHF, I erected both the 5 element yagi for 2m and the multiband dipole for HF. This meant that I was approaching half an hour late when I called on 144.333MHz, but after a few calls up came Graham G4JZF closely followed by Colin G4UXH. Their spots provided a steady run of contacts with the usual dedicated band of 2m SSB chasers until a brief shower of static rain temporarily stopped play. This lasted just a few minutes, but it was sufficient to provide me with a wet backside as the rain cascaded off my back onto the plastic tarpaulin that I was sat on. I should have tucked it up inside my jacket to prevent this from happening. In all I made 9 contacts on the mode.
A couple of calls on 2m FM got me into an interesting chat with Jack GM4COX. Having told Jack that it was my intention to activate Cademuir Hill next, he suggested that I activate Minch Moor instead as the midges would be undoubtedly be about on Cademuir. I decided to take his advice and subsequently changed the alert for my second hill. My final session from White Meldon was on 40m CW where I worked another 10 stations within the UK and around Europe. Several calls on 7.118MHz SSB produced no result, so I decided to go QRT as I had to make some business phone calls before I left the summit.
The strong breeze on the summit made it very pleasant indeed and feeling refreshed I fair romped back to the car in half the time that it took me to ascend the hill. I had lunch before setting off for the Minch Moor parking spot in the car park for the Southern Upland Way at Traquair and was once more exercising my legs by 14:25z. I passed a family out on their mountain bikes just outside of the village – well, they were pushing them uphill. Thereafter, I saw no-one which was just as I had hoped. The temperature now had risen to 24C and it was even more humid than it had been, but the excellent track helped me get to the summit in an hour and 20 minutes, despite numerous stops for photographic opportunities.
Even with the strong breeze, it was warm enough for me to strip down to my tee shirt at the summit. I had alerted for 16:20z which was not the best time and was up on 144.333MHz by 16:10z, but G4UXH and G4JZF were already there waiting…… plus a few more - indeed 14 in all, including Carolyn G6WRW and Helen M0YHB on their holiday near Barrow in Furness. As had been the case on the first summit, Don G0RQL provided the best DX on 2m There were no replies on 2m FM when I called, but on 40m CW I made a further 14 QSOs before the frequency went quiet. I was unable to find a clear frequency in the SSB section of 40m, so I abandoned any idea of adding to the total on that mode.
After making a precautionary phone call to my daughter’s mailbox on her mobile (there being no service actually at the cottage, so I did this “just in case”……), I made a high speed descent to the car in just 39 minutes which enabled me to I get back to base by 20:00z, well within the appointed time schedule.
It was certainly good to be back on the GM/SS hills again and to be running 2m SSB. I had tried the band without success during the activations that I carried out in the Algarve region of Portugal at the beginning of the month. There had also been just a few contacts on the band during the expedition up in Orkney in April / May, so being called by the familiar voices of the exceptionally dedicated group of chasers that work 2m SSB was a real pleasure. I felt like I had come home!
Hopefully speak to you all again next Sunday when I am out on the hills with Paul G4MD……
73, Gerald G4OIG
P.S. Thanks to everyone that spotted me, both on VHF and HF.