The third and last installment (sorry about the delay - visiting too many Welsh hills!)
The late ferry on Saturday from Arran had been chosen to give us a chance for an ascent if we were getting desperate by then…! I longed to get up Goatfell but the forecast was bad again… and it was fell race day so I would have been knocked down in the rush. Hence it was south to Lamlash and the Ross Road for the forest car park and the doubtful delights of SI-084 Tighvein which lived up to its description. Once we found the right route out of the car park we followed the signs to Urie Loch on the forest tracks and narrow slippery path, with the occasional view the coastline and Holy Island.
On reaching Urie Loch, it was round to the south (we had read the SOTA descriptions) and then we started yomping over hillock after hillock as the heather got higher and the summit not glimpsed although Ailsa Craig was visible.
Eventually the GPS assisted us to the trig point at 458m, which was a relief as we were conscious that the time available was running out. Fifteen contacts, including 3 NI (1x70cm) and coastal Scotland in 50 mins was a bit slow but it is only a low summit. However the mention of ‘Arran’ in the CQ did seem to pull in the curious. Most of my contacts were not dedicated SOTA chasers and had no clue where ‘Tighvein’ might be situated (especially with my pronunciation!!) We found a quicker route, mercifully, down to the loch and scampered round and down the path but were caught by the deluge before reaching the trees. We both slipped in the wet conditions but eventually were back at the car with 30 mins to spare.
This gave chance for a brief sunbathe (!) on Brodick seafront before boarding the ferry and watching the view of the glorious skyline disappear as another bout of rain reached us. Goatfell, Beinn Tarsuinn and some of the other smaller hills remain on my ‘to do’ list although I know the other big ones are out of my league.
It was then a drive to outside Moffat where our small ‘cottage’ turned out to be situated at the top of the garden and the owners were amazed how many boxes and bags we were transferring as we all toiled up and down. Other SOTA activators will understand the chargers, spare radio bits and outdoor gear that is involved- so not all of it was my clothing!! We concentrated on those summits that were within easy driving distance, 2 points or higher to give me a chance on 2m/70cm and weren’t too steep as the knees were starting to complain! For the final 4 nights we moved to north of Biggar and visited Tinto which had long been on the list (but was beaten by Culter Hill for me, in the number of contacts and the quality of the walk!)
I was using a VX-7R (max 5w) with Sotabeam dual band dipole on Arran although I had been trying out 2m on a J-pole at home. Both rigs went up the first SS summits, as I thought the J-pole would not work on 70cm, but on Hart Fell (SS-037) an instant S2S with G1ZJQ on G/SB-008 on both bands so surprised me that I forgot to change aerials. (BTW I only had one set of guys so the dipole was supported only by the stone wall).
I then realised the 70cm contact had been on the J-pole with no problems. From then onwards only the J-pole was carried and I think the extra height was a great help on the smaller hills. The disadvantage is the extra time taken to erect and dismantle and I am not sure that my rather weak hands will be able to dismantle the fishing pole in cold weather.
The statistics below showed that I managed 4 different callsigns on 2m on all of the hills (although sometimes it was a lot of hard work!) but on 70cm I drew a complete blank on SS-140 and didn’t qualify SS-170 and 208 (both 1 pointers) – or G/LD-046 on the drive up!. On occasions I made a few contacts on 40m (thanks to M0JLA and the patient chasers) to ensure that I would qualify the hill but this turned out not to be necessary. I managed more contacts into the Lake District than I expected with repeated contacts with 2E0MIX (Derek, Whitehaven), G4WHA (Geoff, Penrith), G1GDB (Derek, Cockermouth) and G4VFL (Andrew, Egremont) – on 70cm with the first three. I gained a loyal band of local chasers, some of whom had to read the manual (shock, horror), or erect a new aerial to talk to me on 70cm but who seemed to relish the challenge. Particular thanks to GM8FHK, GM4COX, 2M0ROT, GM0FSZ, MM0DNX, GM4SQM, MM3OJE and MM3HQC.
It was a surprise to talk to GW4ZPL from SS-082 Capel Fell (41 but we were in cloud and rain before even reaching the forest) and SS-100 Croft Head (52 in the dry).
Croft Head now has an excellent new zigzag path (Southern Uplands Way alternative route) up the eastern spur above the Selcoth Burn. From each of these summits I also made a Welsh S2S - with MW0YDH on Manod Mawr (NW-035) and MW0XMC on Snowdon (NW-001) respectively! I was also told later by GM8FHK (John in Carluke) that my 2m signal was bouncing off the local aircraft and reaching him intermittently – but not for long enough to make a contact! My thanks to M0JLA and all those who talked to me and helped me in my struggles to gain sufficient contacts. I got the impression that XYL SOTA activators were not often encountered in GM-land and, on discovering how many extra contours we had to go up to activate a 2 pointer (or higher), I could quite see why!
Activations – in date order
(all contacts are GM unless otherwise mentioned)
Isle of Arran
SI-093 Fionn Bhealach 10 2m, 5 70cm: GI 1
S1-143 Mullach Mor 7 2m, 5 70cm: GI 1
SI-027 Mullach Buidhe 12 2m, 6 70cm: GI 2, G 1, GD 1, 70cm GI 1, S2S 1
SI-046 Beinn Bhreac 7 2m, 5 70cm: GI 1, S2S 1
SI-084 Tighvein 9 2m, 6 70cm: GI 3, 70cm GI 1
Southern Scotland (based at Moffat and near Biggar)
SS-029 Broad Law 7 2m, 4 70cm: GI 1, G 2, GD 1, 70cm GI 1, G 1
SS-122 The Wiss 4 2m, 4 70cm: G 2, 70cm G 2
SS-037 Hart Fell 6 2m, 6 70cm: G 4, 70cm G 4, S2S 3
SS-140 Turner Cleuch Law 4 2m, Nil 70cm!: G 2 70cm not activated
SS-074 Ettrick Pen 8 2m, 5 70cm: G 4, 70cm G 3
SS-082 Capel Fell 5 2m, 4 70cm: G 3, GW 2, 70cm G 2
SS-100 Croft Head 7 2m, 4 70cm: G 4, GW 2, 70cm G 3, S2S 1
SS-131 Hods Hill 5 2m, 5 70cm: G 1, S2S 1
SS-172 Lamington Fell 6 2m, 2 70cm: all GM 70cm not qualified
SS-049 Culter Fell 15 2m, 9 70cm: G 4, 70cm G 3, S2S 1
SS-158 Black Mount 5 2m, 4 70cm: all GM
SS-064 Tinto 12 2m, 7 70cm: G 3, 70cm G 1, S2S 1
SS-208 White Meldon 5 2m, 1 70cm: all GM 70cm not qualified
and we also activated
LD-046 Lambrigg Fell 5 2m, 1 70cm: all G 70cm not qualified
LD-052 Hutton Roof Crag 8 2m, 5 70cm: GW 1, 70cm GW 1
Total Scottish contacts 218: 135 2m, 83 70cm (plus 10 on 40m)
(My apologies for the wonky table but my attempts at tabs or spacing don’t seem to be appear correctly on the screen! See below for a much better effort thanks to FMF!)