The Mournes in May

Thanks for the heads-up Martyn. I thought it looked a long walk overall anyway, and the contours around the 2nd summit are rather close together! Hence why I delayed this pairing until the Saturday when we have a clear day. We may do something else afterwards on the way back to Belfast, but these two to complete GI/MM are the priority.


Well we ('HGY & 'EYP) finished the Mournes (GI/MM SOTA region) yesterday with activations of GI/MM-009 and GI/MM-008. What a walk that was! We then spent the afternoon and early evening zooming around in the car and ramming in activations of GI/MM-013, GI/CA-003 and GI/MM-017 before making it to the ferry terminal 5 minutes before check-in closed!

What an excellent week, with 14 activations, a region completion, our first non-UK SOTA activation, arcades, cafes, Ulster Fries, Guinness, Bushmills and Jamesons.

Having experienced the Western Highlands, the Cairngorms, Snowdonia and the Lake District, the Mourne Mountains remains my favourite UK playground of all.


Anyway, here I am back in Macclesfield on a glorious sunny Sunday. The chores are done and I am clear until I need to pick up Marianne and Liam from the airport around 4pm.

Somewhat disturbingly for this super day, there is yet to be any UK SOTA activity. I guess it’s down to me then to go and put some on. The sunny day will turn into a Cloud-y day. Catch you from G/SP-015 in a bit…


In reply to M1EYP:

Well we ('HGY & 'EYP) finished the Mournes (GI/MM SOTA region)
yesterday with activations of GI/MM-009 and GI/MM-008. What a walk
that was!

Hope you got some views: we were in the clouds on Eagle Mountain - couldn’t see one end of the HF dipole from the other :frowning: We did get some breaks in the cloud on Slievemoughanmore, so some glimpses of views. I also managed to slip when crossing the Rocky Water, but didn’t get too wet…

Having experienced the Western Highlands, the Cairngorms, Snowdonia
and the Lake District, the Mourne Mountains remains my favourite UK
playground of all.
We’ve only visited the once, but it’s certainly one of the best!

Caroline M3ZCB

It was glorious all day Caroline. In fact it was so sunny and with no protection from any sort of cloud that the sun was a problem to be protected against. Sunhats and factor 50 were the order of the day. We were able to pick out all the other Mournes summits on the skyline and continue our conversations about where exactly the true top is on Slieve Bernagh GI/MM-004, and on Slieve Binnian GI/MM-003.

On the former, the summit point is mapped as being at the wall corner of the Mourne Wall, but the nearby crags appear to be significantly higher. On the OSNI map sheet (1:25000, but nothing like as good or accurate as OSGB Explorer sheets), a 710m contour appears to pass between them, indicating that the lower point (the Mourne Wall corner) would be outside of the AZ, even though this is the point that the summit grid reference would indicate. The prospect from Eagle Mountain GI/MM-008 convinced us we were right about the crags being the highest point on this mountain.

However, when we were up there, it was clear that no point on the grassy section between the crags and the wall corner would be anywhere near 25m below the highest point, so the mapping looks a bit suspect.

On Slieve Binnian, we had a very claggy low-vis day. There are several tors along the summit, all within the AZ including the connecting sections between them. We felt that a large flat section of rock was the highest point when we were up there. Several photos on the internet show different rock outcrops as the nominated summit, but again, the view across from Eagle Mountain suggested we had picked the right one. Not too much of a concern, as the whole lot would be inside the AZ anyway.

Poor visibility was also suffered on Slieve Muck GI/MM-007, but otherwise we enjoyed clear weather and stunning views.

I am wondering how you “didn’t get too wet” if you went over in that very watery saddle between Eagle Mountain and Slievemoughanmore GI/MM-009. It seemed to me that you either balanced on the very occasional stepping rocks - or you were in a foot or so of water/bog! On our return leg, from that point we contoured around Slievemoughanmore, rather than walk over it again. That took us onto some very rough terrain and was not enjoyable, but allowed me to get into my stride and probably saved a bit of time. I was certainly back into a decent rhythm by the time we had rejoined the normal route at the saddle between Slievemoughanmore and Pigeon Rock Mountain, and had plenty of energy to pass over the latter fairly speedily.


Our Mournes completion mission began as I finished work at 4pm on Friday 23rd May 2014. The first half term of my new job had come to an end and I was feeling very happy about the move I had made. An hour and a bit up the A34 later, I was picking up Jimmy M0HGY, as arranged, at his office in Wilmslow. We then made for the M56 and M53 for the run over to Birkenhead.

Our route to Northern Ireland would be on the Stena Line overnight ferry. Meanwhile, Marianne and Liam had flown from Manchester to Belfast and were spending the night with her dad in Larne. Steak and ale pie, chips and a pint was our dinner on our floating hotel, before we bedded down in the en suite cabin.

The next thing I knew, a loud announcement was telling us it was 5.30am, time to get up, vacate our cabins and get some breakfast. Dutifully, we complied, setting ourselves up with bacon, egg, sausage et cetera and tea. As we drove away from Belfast port, the rain was lashing down. Therefore the intended Slieve Muck GI/MM-007 was discarded. I figured that we should drive to the most distant summit in our plans in order to give the rain sufficient time to abate. Hence we were now heading to just over the Irish border into the Republic of Ireland, and Black Mountain EI/IE-021, for the first activation of Saturday 24th May 2014.

This was significant, for it was the very first SOTA activation outside of the UK for both Jimmy and I. The prospect of operating “abroad” for SOTA was the sole motivation for Jimmy to aspire to the Full licence. Indeed the only reason he did the Intermediate was to get access to the Full!

Ireland seems to have a very generous points banding, and 6 points were available for this 510m summit. Furthermore, a tarmac road and a gravel track lead all the way to the summit, so the “walk” was a trivial 100m or so for us. The rain had stopped, but a very thick fog coated the summit. You couldn’t even see the transmitter mast up here from beside the perimeter fence!

The highest point was a short walk beyond the transmitter complex, and we continued a little further still to obtain some sort of shelter behind the mound. Using the FT-817 and SOTAbeams MFD, Jimmy EI/M0HGY/P made 7 QSOs on 2m FM, with contacts into GW, GD and GI. With my own FT-817, and 12m GP antenna, I had a decent run of 26 QSOs on 12m, with 9 on SSB and 17 on CW. One S2S with EC2AG/P on EA2/BI-017 was included.

With the first activation of the trip safely in the bag, it was time to head into the Mourne Mountains of County Down, Northern Ireland, with Slievemartin GI/MM-011 being our first target.


After driving back over the border into Northern Ireland, and passing through Newry, we headed down the A2 through Warrenpoint and Rostrevor. Shortly after the village, we turned left into the forest roads and a further 1km or so to the car park in Cloghmore Glen. Our second summit of Saturday 24th May 2014 would be Slievemartin GI/MM-011, near Rostrevor on the south east corner of County Down.

The route from here climbed a steep forested slope, but mercifully, via a series of long sweeping zigzags. It wasn’t until leaving the the top boundary of the forest that the route became steeper, but it was only a short and easy walk from here to the trig point.

Jimmy actually beat me in terms of QSO numbers on this activation, and it wouldn’t be for the last time on this GI expedition! He notched up five on 2m FM, while I kind of limped to four on 12m CW. If the quantity was lacking, the quality wasn’t too shabby, with Israel (4Z), French Guiana (FY) and a S2S with EA2CW/P on EA2/VI-043 in there.

All good so far. We descended back to the car and reasoned that we had time for a third activation on the day. So it was off in the direction of Knockchree GI/MM-014 before meeting up with Marianne, Liam and my father-in-law Jimmy at the holiday cottage.


From Slievemartin GI/MM-011, we returned to the A2 and drove eastwards along the South Down coast. Shortly before Kilkeel, we turned left (North) and headed for the parking spot by the farm entrance between Knockchree GI/MM-014 and Aughrim Hill. This would be our third and final activation of Saturday 24th May 2014 and would be bathed in warm sunshine.

After completing the farm track route to the forest rides, we now face a mainly level and even slightly downhill in places one kilometre walk to the south. Eventually, we began to curve around to the right and out of the trees. The final approach to the summit looked steeper but in fact was very easy along graded zigzagging green paths.

We both chose to move a little beyond the summit for shelter, and our chosen spot gave us a splendid view over the coastline. Jimmy MI0HGY/P got off to a flyer with old friend Sean MW3PZO/P straight in the 2m FM log, but he was soon stranded on just two contacts.

24MHz CW brought in 8 QSOs for me, followed by three on 12m SSB including S2S with S57MS/P on S5/RG-027. This summit-to-summit was on SSB, so I invited Jimmy over to grab it for his 3rd contact. He did so, then kept hold of the mike in search of his fourth and qualifying QSO. This came courtesy of EA2LU who had also worked me a few minutes earlier.

After walking back to the car, we drove north up the B27 Moyad Road. This cuts straight through the centre of the Mourne Mountains and some stunning scenary. Our holiday cottages were on the B180, a couple of miles west of Bryansford, and with a quite beautiful view over the Mournes from the patio / garden area. We had an enjoyable dinner of Marianne’s homemade Irish stew, following which Marianne’s dad and I went for a Guinness and Jamesons in the nearby Maghera Inn.

A pleasing first day’s work in the Irish hills. We would be setting our alarms for 5am in order the bag an early activation on the Sunday.


Sunday 25th May 2014 began early with a 5am get-up, and a breakfast of toasted soda bread. I prepared a small flask of tea for Jimmy and I, and we set off to tackle Slievenalargy GI/MM-015, previously known as Tullynasoo Mountain. This is a northern outlier from the main Mournes area, a couple of miles west of Castlewellan.

We parked in the quarry at J304355. From here, we walked through the gate and along the track, which faded away pretty quickly. Much of the rest of the way does not remain as vivid memories, as I simply plodded uphill following Jimmy’s navigational instructions to the letter.

We reached the summit in light but constant rain, hence we set up quickly in order to take shelter in the big bothy bag. Jimmy and I managed to get our initial contacts fairly reasonably, on 2m FM and 12m CW respectively. However, we both then faced real challenges to add to our logs. Fourteen minutes later, I got through to IK2ILH on 12m SSB and eight minutes later I got a S2S with HB9CAT/P on HB/TI-101, back on 12m CW.

As I worked 4Z5PF on CW to qualify my activation, Jimmy had still made only one QSO. With Michael 4X6HX on frequency and on SSB, I offered Jimmy the mike. Contact was made, following which Jimmy took over the 12m SSB calling, adding OM5DP to take himself to within one QSO of qualification.

Things remained difficult though, and it was only at 0814z, well over an hour after the start of the operating, that Jimmy got that all-important QSO on 2m FM. I added just a couple more to take my total to 7 QSOs, 3 on CW and 4 on SSB.

A mutual lapse of concentration while descending and omitting to recheck the map and do a bit of precautionary compass work, resulted in us veering in the wrong direction and losing some time. After recovering the error, we were back at the car in another 20 minutes or so, and then back at the cottage during mid-morning.

Another one down. The next day we would go out for another early morning bag, this time of Slievenaglogh GI/MM-012.


On Monday 26th May 2014, it was up at 5am once again, to cross another of the Mourne Mountains off from our to-do list. From our cottage, we returned south down the Slievenaman Road B27 Moyad Road that slice through the central Mournes via a couple of high passes.

The car park to be used for Slievenaglogh GI/MM-012, was just into the start of the track at J284214. Unsurprisingly, at not long after 6am, ours was the first vehicle in there for the morning. The track was near enough level, but long, with nearly 3km needing to be walked before meeting the Mourne Wall. At this point, we doubled-back to follow the wall south, and soon enough, steeply uphill.

Although the contours did squeeze closer together on the map, indicating a fairly steep approach, this was much harder work than it appeared. Perhaps with it being not such a popular hill, the tracks were not particularly well trodden or established. It was a relief when the slopes began to ease as we approached the summit, but I was apprehensive about the descent to follow later.

Radio stuff started very slowly for us both. Eventually though, Jimmy did start to get a trickle of 2m FM contacts. By the time he did, I had given up on 12m and had switched, reluctantly, to 40m CW. Here I quickly got 5 CW QSOs followed by 10 on SSB. Meanwhile, Jimmy was racking up 9 on 2m FM.

I did return to 12m in the hope of grabbing a Challenge multiplier, but to no avail. I did hear Phil G4OBK, only to read his message as “MI1EYP/P NIL SRI”. I did think about asking Jimmy to get himself below the activation zone on his descent, and quickly working me with his own FT-817 with a bit of feeder connected! I decided that I couldn’t be bothered with such a silly and desperate approach, and in any case my position in both the UK and World 12m Challenge tables was not going to change anyway, in either direction.

After descent and drive back to the cottages, we found that Marianne had left Ulster Fry cooked breakfasts for us in the oven. We took quick showers, then hungrily devoured these platters of sausage, bacon, black pudding, white pudding, tomatoes, beans, soda bread and potato bread.

We met up with Marianne and Liam at some kind of bird / butterfly / reptile centre, and then went into Newcastle for cafes and arcades. That evening, I went out with the two Jimmys (my father-in-law and son) to the Thierfurth Inn in Kilcoo for Guinness and Jamesons.

The weather forecast for the following day looked favourable, so we plotted to attempt the nearby pair that dominated the view from our cottages - Slieve Bearnagh GI/MM-004 and Slieve Meelbeg GI/MM-005.


So Tuesday 27th May 2014 was the day set aside for Jimmy and I to have a full day’s walking in the Mournes. Of course, by making our own travel arrangements by overnight ferry, we had added two further such full days on the Saturdays at the start and end of the holiday.

A full day meant that there was an extra duty to fulfil during the early morning preparations - make the flask of soup! Baxters Scotch Broth was the variety selected to accompany us on what looked to be a fearsome and formiddable pair of mountains.

Really, we could, and perhaps should, have walked directly from our holiday cottage. However, I took the “Every little helps” attitude and parked by the entrance to the Ulster Way, on the Trassey Road at J311313, thus saving us half a kilometre of walking at each end of the day.

I had been for a walk down this section of the Ulster Way with Marianne after dinner earlier in the week. On that occasion, the ford across the path was impassable in normal footwear, although I did get across via some stepping stones and one tricky move. But on this warm and sunny early Tuesday morning, Jimmy and I crossed with ease, and began to gain height on the Trassey Track as it started to gain height and wind its way around between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Bearnagh GI/MM-004, our first target.

The main route on the ground was not marked on the map, but was well established as it passed through the disused quarry and clung to the lower flanks of Bearnagh on its approach to the Mourne Wall. As we reached the wall, which is the saddle between Meelmore and Bearnagh, we paused for consumption of energy-giving chocolate bars ahead of the steep final ascent.

Before commencing that final ascent, we had a little explore around the saddle area. Jimmy had previously stated that he wanted to follow the Mourne Wall up part or all of Slieve Meelmore, before moving across to Slieve Meelbeg. I had expressed that I was not comfortable with all that unnecessary extra ascent, and was sure there would be a route on the ground between the two saddles, even if not mapped. As we hunted around the area, we did indeed find a connecting path, and made a note of this for later.

For now though, it was steeply uphill, on the fearsome slopes of Slieve Bearnagh. This was jolly hard work, and we must have chatted and rested for a good 45 minutes once in the summit area, before thinking about setting up for radio. In fact it was probably important that we did so. From the map, it appears that the summit is the 739m spot height on the corner of the Mourne Wall. However, close by is a large craggy tor which is somewhat higher. Of most concern, was a 710m contour that appeared, on the map, to pass between the Mourne Wall corner and the crag, meaning that whichever was the summit, the other couldn’t be in the activation zone!

Well, in fact, while I was up there, I was absolutely convinced that there was nothing like 25m of drop between them, and that both were comfortably in the activation zone. However, the crags were definitely higher, so I set up at the base of one of these, around 10m vertically above the plateau, to be absolutely sure.

With 12m being unreliable, I was now using the SOTAbeams EFHW with Micro Z tuner as the system of choice. I did get the multiplier though. My activation comprised 3 QSOs on 12m CW and 4 on 40m CW. Jimmy fared batter, recording nine 2m FM contacts.

Before descent, Jimmy decided to try and attain the true summit. He clambered up a large sloping slab onto the next level and explored around the back of the crags. He returned later to say that he had got to within 2 or 3 metres of the true summit, but that the final approach would have necessitated some rather steep scrambling, so decided against it.

The next section - the steep descent back to the saddle - I was not looking forward to one little bit. However, moving slowly, carefully and consideredly, we worked our way back to the saddle and began to follow the earlier identified connecting path on our way to Slieve Meelbeg GI/MM-005.


The saddle between Slieve Bearnagh GI/MM-004 and Slieve Meelmore (non-SOTA) by the Mourne Wall, for the second time on Tuesday 27th May 2014. Most walkers, from here, would now make for that latter summit, but we followed the more direct path that connected to the saddle between Meelmore and our next summit Slieve Meelbeg GI/MM-005. This isn’t indicated on the map, but is quite clear on the ground. We made it to the Mourne Wall at J303282 in good time and took a breather and a choccy bar here, using the wall as some shade from the blazing sun.

We only had a little over 100m vertical ascent to go from here, over a horizontal distance of about 300m. Albeit steep, it wasn’t too bad underfoot with plenty of horizontal “footprint steps” in the grass. It didn’t take too long to top out at the summit cairn and another Mourne Wall corner.

We set our aerials and selected our operating spots, in the shade of the Mourne Wall. Baxters Scotch Broth soup was served, and enjoyed. Jimmy was first to be QRV, and with him finding two S2S opportunities almost immediately on 2m FM, I tail-ended him to also work Simon GW4TJC/P on Snowdon GW/NW-001 and Gerald MW0WML/P on Moel Hebog GW/NW-014. In between, Guy N7UN and Barry N1EU came in on 12m CW to give me the Challenge multiplier, before I offered the summit on 40m CW, for which there were four takers.

So I ended with eight contacts from a mixture of three bands, while Jimmy pipped me with nine on 2m FM. For the descent, we returned by the Mourne Wall to the previous saddle, but then turned left to follow the trodden path and then track downhill in a NNW direction. Once on flat farm land, this met the Ulster Way at J294294, which we then followed the 4km or so back to the car.

After the evening meal that night, I set up my 6m delta loop in the garden area of the cottages, and brought the feeder into the lounge. This was to try and contribute something for the Tall Trees CG in the 6m UKAC. As it was, I worked only two stations, one in IO64 and one in IO94. Jimmy just worked Dave in IO64. Some time later, it occurred to me that Jimmy and I could have taken in in turns to walk outside with the VX7R handheld and be worked on 6m FM. That would have added hardly anything to the distance km total - but would have given us each an extra multiplier, as we were in IO74 square. But possibly not in the spirit of the contest? In any case, the idea never came to be within the contest period anyway, so it didn’t happen!

A rest day was planned for the Wednesday, on which we took a trip via ferry over to see Strangford Lough. The next SOTA mission of the GI holiday would be Slieve Muck GI/MM-007 on the Thursday.


Yet another early 5am get-up on Thursday 29th May 2014. This was just an early morning summit bag though, not a full day’s outing, so no big flask of soup was prepared. A small flask of tea certainly was prepared though, and this accompanied Jimmy M0HGY and I into the car with all the other gear as we set off around 5.50am.

Only a short drive was required from the cottage, just around 4 miles down the Slievenaman Road to the little car park at J280279. The only thing was, it was raining rather heavily. Jimmy and I waited in the car listening to Radio Nova from Dublin, waiting for the rain to ease. When it became a cross between a very fine drizzle and thick damp mist, we decided to go for it.

We crossed the road and climbed the stile, making our way slightly downhill to the very good wide stone path. This remained flat level as it contoured around Ott Mountain, but then became less distinct as it began to climb towards the Mourne Wall. The wall was reached at the saddle between Slieve Loughshannagh and Carn Mountain (neither are SOTA), and we climbed the ladder stile over it here.

The route to Slieve Muck GI/MM-007 summit from here was very grassy, damp in places, and undulating. From the 510m ASL at the Mourne Wall, we climbed to 557m, then dropped to 540m, and then up again to the 588m peak of Carn Mountain. There was then a drop to 530m before the final haul up to 674m ASL, and the summit of Slieve Muck. As we were becoming accustomed to, the Mourne Wall was our company for the final 3km.

It was raining steadily at the summit, but after photos we decided that we could avoid going in the bothy bag by choosing operating spots where the direction of the wall backed into the wind. This kept most of the rain of us and our gear during the activation as well.

Three contacts were managed on 12m CW this time, before I moved to 40m CW. Only Roy G4SSH worked me on 7.032MHz, but eight stations responded to the self-spot for 7.128MHz SSB. Jimmy managed four 2m FM QSOs from 3 DXCCs in 13 minutes, an easy activation for him.

The descent was accompanied by worsening rain, but it mattered not. The points, unique and multiplier were all in the bag, and the weather forecast was good for the next two days. The Mournes completion was very much on. After spending the rest of the day with Marianne and Liam, we took my father-in-law back up to the Thierfurth Inn in Kilcoo for Guinness and Jamesons while Marianne and Liam were watching Britain’s Got Talent on the telly in the cottage!

Jimmy and I agreed to a 4.30am get-up on the Friday morning for an activation of Slieve Binnian GI/MM-003.


Friday 30th May 2014 came around, with three Mournes summits yet to be activated. So the plan was to activate Slieve Binnian GI/MM-003, leaving the pairing of Slievemoughanmore GI/MM-009 and Eagle Mountain GI/MM-008 for the Saturday. Jimmy directed me through the town centre of Newcastle and on the A2 coast road towards Annalong, before turning right up to the car park indicated on the map at J345219. However, we did not park here; an adjacent sign pointed up the farm track saying “Car park £3”. Yep, that sounded good, and we found that this meant that we could get the car a further half kilometre than otherwise. Fortunately a farm worker was up and about despite us arriving there at 6am, so we could pay and get walking.

A walk a further 500m up the track brought us to its end, and reunited with the Mourne Wall, which we would now follow to the summit. The first kilometre or so by the Mourne Wall was good going and rather pleasant, being along a path well made from carefully placed boulders. After passing the first wall crossing the path, the route quickly got steeper, and some work was required.

Jimmy and I were ascending quickly with a good rhythm going, and we soon reached the point where the Mourne Wall disappeared steeply uphill into some crags. The path weaved away and made for a gap in the rocks, which we passed through and around to the summit.

After exploring around the area, we settled on a patch of flat grass, sheltered by surrounding rocks, as a place to set up. Jimmy was set up first, and was immediately in S2S contact with Mike GW0HIO/P on Cadair Berwyn GW/NW-012. I tail-ended that one for myself, and then concentrated on getting my 12m Challenge multiplier. George GI4SRQ was worked to achieve this, but nothing else was heard on the band.

Jimmy went on to record nine QSOs, all on 2m FM. I added eight on 40m CW to my one each on 12m and 2m, and this included S2S with Michael DL3VTA/P and Tom DL1DVE/P, both on Kahleberg DM/SX-003. An early lunch of Baxters Chicken Broth was enjoyed from the flask, before we packed up and descended. We were back at the cottages around lunchtime, and spent the afternoon with Marianne and Liam, again doing the cafes and arcades in Newcastle.

Jimmy senior was not up to seventh consecutive night at the pub, so it was just young(er) Jimmy and myself for Guinness and Jamesons at the Thierfurth Inn in Kilcoo. Avoiding Britian’s Got Talent was the main objective, but we had to be back for Coronation Street!

Some packing and car loading was done prior to the following morning, when we would commence our long journey home with activations of the final two Mourne Mountains.


Saturday 31st May 2014. The last day of May. The last day of our holiday. And the last day of the SOTA 12m Challenge. Would we get the last two of the Mourne Mountains activated? Would I be able to add some additional 12m Challenge multipliers?

After a 4.30am alarm call, we began by breakfasting on bits and bobs that we had left - soda bread, potato bread and cold sausage. A flask of Baxters potato & leek soup was prepared, and we loaded our final bits of luggage and SOTA kit into the car.

It was again only a short distance to drive from our holiday cottage near Bryansford. We went down the now familiar Slievenaman Road, but past the parking spot for Slieve Muck GI/MM-007. We continued onto the B27 and parked by the road junction at J271252, where there is plenty of space beside the road. This is directly beneath the summit of Slieve Muck, and would have been the start point for my approach to that top before Jimmy did his excellent research to find a better route.

On this occasion though, we were heading off on the opposite side of the road - west, and along the Ulster Way to Slievemoughanmore GI/MM-009. It was necessary to climb that one to get to the next one - Eagle Mountain GI/MM-008, which stands behind it. However, first we had to climb over Pigeon Rock Mountain (not SOTA), which the Ulster Way passes over en route to Slievemoughanmore.

The data underlying this undulating route was not-too-bad in one way, yet soul-destroying in another:

Parking spot: 370m ASL
Pigeon Rock Mountain: 534m ASL
Saddle: 390m ASL
Slievemoughanmore: 559m ASL
Saddle: 400m ASL
Eagle Mountain: 674m ASL

This would then all have to be done in reverse to get back to the car, although I was already starting to hatch a bit of a plot to change things up. Pigeon Rock Mountain was topped and we were soon ambling down the gentle slope to the saddle ahead of Slievemoughanmore GI/MM-009. There were a couple of damp and boggy bits to negotiate here, but then we were into the steep ascent of our target SOTA hill.

The ascent of Slievemoughanmore was steep and punishing. The path underfoot was not too brilliant either, and I didn’t relish the thought of reclimbing and descending this pointy lump for a second time later in the day. As I neared the summit, I was having a good look around the area. It was easy to see that the hill really was not very wide at all, and the contouring around it rather than walking back over it, might be an option for the return.

The summit itself was a short walk north away from the wall and Ulster Way route. We set our stations up looking North West from the hill, hence enjoying a fabulous view over the central Mournes and reservoirs. I only managed five QSOs from this one, but as that included two on 12m CW for the multiplier, and a 40m CW S2S with DL2DXA/P on DM/SX-057, I was more than satisfied. The other two contacts came on 20m CW.

Jimmy MI0HGY/P also finished with five contacts, all on 2m FM. He had qualified his activation long before me, racing to his first four QSOs in just seven minutes. It was around 9.30am local BST when we packed up and set off for the traverse to Eagle Mountain GI/MM-008.


From Slievemoughanmore GI/MM-009, it was a fairly steep descent to the saddle ahead of Eagle Mountain GI/MM-008. This would be our second summit of Saturday 31st May 2014, and our last in the Mourne Mountains region (GI/MM) of Northern Ireland. This saddle was extremely watery! At one point, the only way across is to walk along the top of the dry stone wall, which is surrounded on both sides by standing water that is around two feet deep in places. At another point, long strides and very good balance was needed to progress between the precarious stepping stones.

The ascent of Eagle Mountain, albeit steep, was mainly good going, as the path was good. Rocks had been placed helpfully, and there were plenty of well established zigzag options to alleviate the impact of the gradient. Once we reached the wall corner at J243233, the gradient eased considerably, and we could amble up to the summit, which we could now see.

It really was a glorious day, and we had been wise to apply factor 50 and wear sunhats. However, there was no protection for poor Jimmy though, when he got stung on the neck by a bee, right by the summit cairn. I checked his neck and saw that nothing had been left there that needed to be removed, and his discomfort eased quite quickly. The bee, which was now writhing around on the ground, was put out of its misery by the sole of my right boot.

Yet again, it was five QSOs for Jimmy on 2m FM, with four into GI and one into GM. No GD, GW or EI came back to him on this activation. Over on my station, there were signs of a bit more life on 12m, with a bumper 10 QSOs, all CW, and beginning with a S2S with DL2DXA/P, who was still on DM/SX-057.

The switch to 40m CW added just two more contacts, but one of these was another S2S, this time with OZ/DL6AP/P on OZ/OZ-005. We packed up and began our return walk around 12.30pm local BST.

After descent to the watery saddle ahead of Slievemoughanmore, I made the decision to attempt to contour around the north side of the hill back to the saddle with Pigeon Rock Mountain. Jimmy was unhappy with this as it would take us onto rough and unknown terrain, but I was flagging, and needed to be able to stretch my legs and get a rhythm going again.

As it was, it was not a particularly pleasant or easy piece of walking, but it did the trick of getting my rhythm and energy levels back up again. As the saddle with Pigeon Rock Mountain came into view, I was quite surprised with how well we had held our contour - we must have remained close to 400m ASL all the way around.

Pigeon Rock Mountain was far to wide to consider a similar sort of bypass, and in any case, it wasn’t necessary. I had got myself going again, and the slopes to ascend and then descend might have been tiring, but they weren’t steep. We reached the car at around 3.30pm, and I still harboured ambitions for three more activations in the day.

“Gruggandoo” I announced to Jimmy, much to his displeasure! The poor lad was absolutely shattered, and just for once, I was stronger and fitter than him. Nonetheless, I knew he would have plenty in the tank even while tired. Furthermore, Jimmy can be a light sleeper in any new bed, so I figured that wiping him out completely would mean he got a decent kip on that night’s ferry.


So that was the Mournes completed - all 17 of the originally listed GI/MM summits, all activated by Jimmy and I over the past six years. With time available on Saturday 31st May 2014, I decided to activate the nearby Gruggandoo GI/MM-013 before attempting to shoe-horn in a couple of “drive to the top” summits before the ferry.

Jimmy directed me back up the B27 through Hilltown, left onto the B25 and right onto the Mullaghgariff Road. We parked, as in 2008, beside the byway entrance at J194261. I remembered this as a very short and easy walk, and I suppose it was, but it somehow appeared more demanding after the exertions of the morning!

I quickly got into my stride along the stony track, and was soon pulling a long way in front of the fatigued Jimmy. I knew this would be very temporary though, and by the time I reached the first gate he was within speaking distance of me behind me. Good job too, for I was about to head the wrong way!

After another couple of gates and fences, a very damp boggy area needed to be negotiated to get onto the summit area. There is little to celebrate the summit up here, but for a small and paltry cairn. However, the views are stunning, especially so on a day of glorious weather like we were having.

Well 24MHz was continuing to behave itself. Nothing spectacular with just six CW QSOs, but no threat of failing to qualify or pick up the multiplier. Jimmy was having a more difficult time however, and had only picked up two replies on 2m FM. I tuned the EFHW onto 20m for him, and spotted him on an SSB QRG. EA2LU and EA2DT did the honour for him to qualify, so we could pack up and go to the next one - Carrigatuke GI/CA-003.


After Gruggandoo GI/MM-013 on Saturday 31st May 2014, we faced a bit of a drive west into County Armagh for a known easy-access summit. Our route took us through Newry, Camlough and Newtonhamilton, and out onto the A29 Keady road. The access road - which is a public road - to Carrigatuke GI/CA-003 summit is a right turn off the Keady road, and we were there more quickly than I imagined we might.

The road leads up to a car park, which has a transmitter installation at one corner, and the trig point at the opposite corner! I at least parked on the opposite side of the car park to the trig point, to allow for a “person-powered” final approach!

Jimmy went off like a train on this one, with three 2m FM contacts inside two minutes. He would have to wait for his fourth, but it did come, eventually, around 20 minutes later. In contrast, my first 24MHz QSO didn’t seem to be happening at all. After many many unanswered CQ calls, I did find another CQ SOTA on 24.893MHz CW. This was Jurg HB9BIN/P on HB/BE-104, and we made the S2S, albeit with difficulty. Jurg was 599 with me, but me only 339 with him. We got there in the end though!

With no time to waste, I wasn’t much for flogging the dead horse that 24MHz had become around teatime. So I moved over to 20m CW, and added seven quick QSOs in 3 minutes of operating there! Apologies to all those unhappy with the “quick band change” operators! However, I did have a ferry to catch, and wanted to squeeze in a fifth and final activation for the day.


From Carrigatuke GI/CA-003, it was a fair old way back to Belfast. We drove north to Armagh, and then north east on the A3, A27 and M1. The ambitious plan on the evening of Saturday 31st May 2014 was to squeeze in an activation of Cairngaver GI/MM-017 before catching the overnight ferry.

Cairngaver, which is prounounced with a silent ‘g’, is not really a Mourne mountain, but lies on the south of Belfast Lough between the capital city and Bangor. It is very close to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. I was watching the clock anxiously at all times. Could this really be done? We were pushing it!

Jimmy directed me onto the concrete road past the farms and up to the summit of Cairngaver. We grabbed our stuff out of the car and legged it to the trig point, beside which I set up the SOTAbeams EFHW system and FT-817. Jimmy MI0HGY/P, was not going to set up the MFD here, but attempt to activate using only handheld and rubber duck. We thought he would have a reasonable chance of achieving this, being so close to Belfast.

Well, nearly. He quickly got to three contacts on 2m FM, but that was the end of that. He couldn’t get a fourth for love nor money. What he could do however, was ask one of the local stations just worked to listen for me on 12m SSB! For I was struggling to even get a single QSO on 24MHz. Fortunately, 2I0ETW was able to oblige, so the multiplier was in the bag at least.

I moved to 20m CW, but only raised EA2LU. The clock definitely seemed to be ticking faster, and I had earlier said that we needed to be away by 9pm at the latest, with check-in closing for our sailing at 9.30pm. At 8.53pm, I self-spotted on 40m SSB, with Jimmy needing one contact and me needing two. The comments field was populated with “Help!”.

Six minutes later, we had both qualified the summit. Six minutes after that, we were packed up and leaving the summit, five minutes later than my earlier self-imposed curfew. Jimmy’s directions now needed to be spot on - and they were. I rolled into the check-in at Belfast harbour at 9.25pm, and apologised for being late. “Ach, no bother, you’re fine” replied the girl on the check-in. One more car rolled up behind me, so we weren’t even the latest!

After parking up and locking up on the vehicle deck, we went straight to our cabin and got showered and changed. Then it was straight down to the grill and bar for a celebratory meal and beverage. My ribeye steak and chips and two pints of Guinness went down without touching the sides as we sailed out of Belfast harbour. There was no danger of not sleeping well in that cabin on this occasion! Even Jimmy got a decent sleep.

All in all, a terrific week in GI, and we now have three of the five SOTA regions there fully completed. Many thanks to all the chasers, especially those that went the extra mile to help us out when required.


Photos from this trip are now visible on my Facebook page:

At some point in the distant future, they will also appear on my website

I have a big backlog of updates to do for that site, hence why I invite interested parties to see the photos on my Facebook wall.