Well, here goes my first activation report…
A short introduction of myself to get going,
My name is Craig and I’m 26 years old and been licenced for 16 years. I owe my love for portable HF operations to my dad and to my local group the Ayr Amateur Radio Group who were very active in a host of special event weekends throughout my younger years, notably with a club member starting the ILLW which we all still enjoy every August to this day. As often happens, I lost interest in the hobby shortly after passing my intermediate but regained it again stronger than ever after returning from travels down-under to complete my engineering degree in 2018/19, I think the effect of being back in my studies, in a technical environment ignited the radio spark again.
Anyway, back to why you clicked on this post!
Mullwarchar GM/SS-073 and Craignaw GM/SS-096 have been on my radar since first discovering SOTA and obsessively studying the map of Scottish summits somewhere around the end of 2019, as I was just returning to hobby. I think it would be fair to say they are up there with some of the more remote summits in southern Scotland and as a result I had put them on the back burner when I first started in my SOTA adventures due to inexperience/lack of confidence in my route finding, SOTA activations in general and solo hiking.
And on the back burner they stayed until the 4th of January this year when I went in search of the Grey Man of the Merrick - a mimetolith in the shape of a mans head located on the south eastern side of the Merrick GM/SS-028.
The route took me past Craignaw and to the south of Loch Enoch where Mullwarchar lay across the water almost in arms reach. With most of the route scoped out, I kept my eye on the forecast for my next opportunity.
Which as it turns out, was less than two weeks later. With a favourable forecast, I packed the backpack and sent out an alert for both summits, aiming to claim the summits first winter bonus points. I landed the van in the carpark of Bruce’s Stone - an engraved boulder commemorating the Battle of Trool fought in 1307 where Scottish soldiers ambushed the English some 700 years ago - and began my hike in the early morning light, just enough to not have to get the torch out.
My route took me up the glen to the east of the Buchan Hill, past Loch Valley and Loch Neldricken and onto Loch Enoch, following in my footsteps of the hike weeks prior. The going was much harder as the frozen ground of early January had made way for Galloway’s famous bog, loosing sight of my boot and occasionally half of my calf at times!
I was finally on the summit of Mullwarchar GM/SS-073 after two years of looking at it on the map and researching routes, however sods law strikes and in came the mist.
No matter however, the activation went off without incident and I got to field test my 3D printed SOTA Beams Pico Balun mast mount I had designed the week prior (some changes in work for the V2), with two S2S contacts to HB/AI-010 (HB9FUE/P) and SP/BZ-065 (SQ9BQW/P) on 20m aswell as a few VHF contacts into northern England and locally.
With the wind chill dropping temps down to around the -3 degrees mark and my older iPhone, which I was using to log, shutting down if out of my pocket and in the wind for any period of time, I packed the gear up and high tailed it for Craignaw, conscious of the limited sunlight we have at this time of year. This took me down the east of Loch Enoch, with spectacular views of the white sand beaches and the towering Merrick and range of the awful hand beyond.
Struggling with my temperamental phone, I didn’t get any photos of the Craignaw approach, which is a shame as the huge smooth outcrops of granite and sheer amount of erratic’s scattered around was quite the sight. Again, the activation went off without issue with two Summit to Summit contacts with GI/MM-010 (MI0TXM/P) and G/LD-035 (G6WBS/P).
Thanks to some information passed onto me by Denis GM3YDN on 2m, while on Mullwarchar, I learnt that in December 1979 a USAF F1-11E Aardvark had impacted the west side of Craignaw during low level training. I found the impact site, still littered with aircraft components - I found a 6 inch section of the titanium compressor ring with the bottom of 6 compressor blades still attached - still where they had landed 43 years ago.
Thanks to the advice of the only other person mad enough to be in this section of the Galloway forest park that day, the chap I had run into at the summit, I made my decent off Craignaw to the south west, cutting out a good chuck of back tracking I was intending to do and returned to the van without incident 8 hours and 21km after setting off.
All in all a spectacular day in Galloway and an excellent way to kick start what will hopefully be a big and successful year in the hills.