Well that was an interesting day out, flash bang (

OK I lied about the wallop.

Apologies to whoever I was just starting a QSO with from Gyrn Ddu GW/NW-050 at about 12:30.

A lightning bolt struck the summit very close to me. Which rather threw me off my stride on the radio… plus I had ringing in my ears for a while.

I then played the shut down and hide game for 20 minutes until I was sure it had moved off. I walked off with my antenna and mast in my hand instead of having it sticking up above by head in my rucksack.

Closest strike I’ve had in thirty years in the hills.

A couple of other guys were less lucky a bit further south.


In reply to MW0WML:

Nasty. I also had an incident today. One year I was within 100m of strikes twice on separate hills. Best avoided.

73 Richard G3CWI

In reply to G3CWI:
If you spend enough time on hill tops you will get this in the end… pretty unlucky getting two close strikes in one year though!

I took this picture in Scotland in 2005. I was snapping away with the camera to my eye and then I looked at Sue and realised all her hair was standing on end! There was in fact never any lightning, but we legged it all the same.

We spread out in case it did strike so at least one of us would be OK to help the other.

Unfortunately there is a fundamental flaw in this strategy when you are on your own…


Whereas my own timings worked out somewhat better. More by luck than judgement I would be the first to acknowledge.

I awoke on Saturday 25th January 2014 at 6am, due to being fast asleep before 10pm the night before after staff football. I knew Maz, Jimmy and Liam would all be intent on having a long lie-in as usual, so I took myself for a little walk up Gun G/SP-013.

The initial part of the path was waterlogged as usual, but most of the way was “passable with care”. I set myself up on the lower side of “Mickey’s Tree” to gain a little respite from the cold breeze. The clouds parted and a sunny blue sky ruled for most of the morning.

It was 12m stuff as usual for me, but only CW and SSB. It was a bit nippy and I never could summon the enthusiasm to do PSK31. If that 12m ad data stalwart Steve G6LUZ had asked if I would be doing it in our SSB QSO, I would have no doubt said yes and done some. However, he never mentioned it and found myself in reverse first three letters of the alphabet mode.

It was a desperately poor QSO rate throughout the activation. I did stick it out for nearly five and a half hours though, and so a total of 66 QSOs was racked up. This comprised 11 on SSB and 55 on CW. S2S QSOs came in courtesy of Gyuszi HA2VR/P on Prédikálószék HA/KM-007 and Simon G4TJC/P on Black Hill G/SP-002, both on CW. SSB S2S QSOs were made with George SV2NCH/P on Analipsi SV/TL-092 plus the Madeira Island pair of Peter CT9/OE5RTP/P and Inge CT9/OE5IRO/P, both on Pico Ruivo de Santana CT3/MI-001. They were very good signals and provided the highlight of the activation, even eclipsing my earlier call from Ian VK5CZ.

A surprise visitor was Richard G3CWI, just as I was working the CT3 S2S contacts. Well not quite a surprise as he had earlier texted me to say he was coming. But that initial text was unexpected at least. Sensibly, Richard was wearing wellington boots on Gun Hill today. Less than sensibly, I don’t think he had studied the weather forecast in great detail. Neither had I to be honest, but I’m just lucky and get away with stuff.

Other interesting contacts were had with Madjit UK7AL (Uzbekistan), Victor ER5DX (Moldova), Sergey EX8MLE (Kyrgyzstan), Eduardo CO8LY (Cuba) and Ahmet TA3AX (Turkey). Plenty of the Russian special Winter Olympic ‘22’ call stations were around as well. A few other 12m SOTA activations were heard, but I failed to work them, so these will go into the SWL section. These were Viktor EN7JHF on Staurnyn-Burnu UT/CR-047, Peter OE5AUL/P on Grillenparz OE/OO-316 and Herbert OE9HRV/P on Mutjöchle OE/VB-335.

Around 1.15pm, I decided I was tired, cold and hungry, and it really was time to be packing up and going home. This wasn’t such a bad move as I was to find out shortly after. Firstly, to my surprise, the path back down the parking area was virtuallu all under deep water. It was mostly dry on the way up, and there hadn’t been any rain whatsoever! I could only deduce that there must have been significant rain just before I arrived earlier, and that the damp ground had drained in the intervening hours.

A bit of light rain was felt in the air just as I reached my car. I kitted down (or should that be dekitted?) and got in the car. As I turned the ignition, on automatically cam BBC Radio 5 Live on 909kHz medium-wave. And every few seconds came a menacing static crash. Looking ahead of me, I could see a rather nasty torrent of grey approaching from the side of The Cloud G/SP-015. I rang Richard G3CWI on his mobile to warn him. Richard had spotted it and was halfway through packing up. I later learned that he had had to hunker down in the heather while the storm passed, taking a beating - and a soaking from an incredible hailstorm.

Driving down to Rushton Spencer, I had a spectacular view of the electrical storm, and some terrific displays of forked lightning. One particular bolt was horizontal, and seemed to zap across from The Cloud to the wooded area on Gun where Richard usually sets up. I hoped he was OK and was relieved to receive a text from him later to say he had got back to his car in one piece.

As I drove through Bosley village, the hail was so intense and heavy that visibility was reduced to next to nothing, and all the cars on the main A523 road ground to a halt. I definitely got off that hill at the right time!

Activation summary:
66 QSOs.
12m CW: 55
12m SSB: 11
DXCC: 21

CO: 1
CT3: 2
DJ: 1
ER: 1
EU: 1
EX: 1
G: 6
HA: 1
I: 1
LZ: 2
OH: 1
OK: 1
RA: 18
SV: 4
TA: 1
UK: 1
UR: 15
VE: 1
VK: 1
W: 3
YO: 3

Many thanks for all the calls. It was nice when the USA/Canada chasers began to come through shortly after local midday. Not often you work Oceania and North America in the same SOTA activation!

73, Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

I thought I had it bad enough being pelted and soaked by the hail/rain on Black Hill. Fortunately the electrical activity stayed well to the south of me, noted in Glossop.

Did everybody’s radio gear survive the lightning?

73, Simon

In reply to MW0WML:

That’s a great photograph Gerald. I have never seen it happen myself. It requires dry air as well as charged clouds.

I had a few nasty incidents on 2m:

On another occasion had the front-end of my radio destroyed by a nearby strike (2m again). On that occasion I was operating from in my car. I managed to unplug the feeder using a cloth as an insulator but as the storm intensified it started writhing around, buzzing and firing sparks. That really was very frightening in the confined space of the front seat of a car.

I do have a lightning detector:

I recall having it with me on bad weather on the summit of Mellbreak in the Lakes. I was in my Bothy Bag and the alarm was going crazy. I had a pole up and struggled to think of what to do. I survived but again it was most unpleasant.

Another interesting one was an activation of Stingwern where I watched lightning strike three of the nearby summits in quick succession before legging it down the hill. It was actually quite beautiful and curiously mesmerising before the vulnerability of my location “struck” me.

I did write an article on the subject that was published in Radcom. I really must update it and put it on my website sometime. Lightning strikes on people are rare but we are especially vulnerable.

73 Richard G3CWI
(shaking slightly at recalling these various close encounters - cup of tea needed).

In reply to MW0WML:
glad your ok gerald i remember a flash of lightning a bang and the words lightening!lightening!lightening!coming over the airwaves i did shout you but no reply thank’s for the summit sean&wayne 2w0wds

In reply to G3CWI:

OK, while we’re in recollective mood, I think of my first activation of Helvellyn G/LD-003.


We had heard distant rumbles of thunder as we were passing Dollywaggon Pike. Plenty of people on the summit of Helvellyn, and I got the activation done (back in the good old days of 4 contacts on a 2m FM handie).

We descended the Wythburn Path and were then walking through the field back to Dunmail Raise where the car was parked. There hadn’t been any thunder since Dollywaggon Pike, but now there was lightning, and thunder a few seconds later. We counted the gap and found it was steadily decreasing. It “bottomed out” at 3 seconds, then the gap started to increase again, back up to 10 seconds, allowing us to relax somewhat.

The suddenly a blinding flash of light and apparently* simultaneous deafening crack of thunder. *word inserted for pedantry-avoidance purposes]. So the storm was, unexpectedly, right on us. We then got a thorough soaking as we completed the final few hundred metres back to the car.

My only other close encounter was during an activation of Shining Tor G/SP-004 in the 2009 Backpackers series.


Hearing static crashes on my FT-817 in the final hour of the session and then getting little sparks between the 817 case and my finger “encouraged” me to switch off and disconnect early, and while I could still lay my hands on some dry things to insulate with while I did so!


In reply to M1EYP:

One of my favourite recollections is heading for Helvellyn along Striding Edge when a storm suddenly appeared, having been previously hidden by the bulk of the mountain. I was looking down into Nethermost Cove only to be dazzled by a horizontal flash of lightning that was actually below us. There wasn’t much we could do except hope and carry on, there are no safe descents there!

When the storm finally reached us yesterday (I had been tracking its advance for some time using the Met Office site) we got a couple of centimetres of hail deposited in no more than a couple of minutes, for a while it looked as if winter had finally arrived! Apropos, this is the first time I can remember seeing snowdrops and crocuses in flower at the same time as fuchsias and geraniums!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

“There wasn’t much we could do”

Therein lies the problem Brian. So often there is not that much that you can do to reduce your risk substantially when you are out in the hills - beyond hoping for the best.


73 Richard G3CWI

In reply to MW3PZO:
Yeah, got a bit exciting for a little while. Glad you heard me… it was kind of an instinctive shout.


In reply to G3CWI:

On another occasion had the front-end of my radio destroyed by a
nearby strike (2m again). On that occasion I was operating from in my
car. I managed to unplug the feeder using a cloth as an insulator but
as the storm intensified it started writhing around, buzzing and
firing sparks. That really was very frightening in the confined space
of the front seat of a car.

Scary! A 500MJ pulse, a coupling probe into a resonant cavity containing a lump (sorry, well toned hunk) of RF absorbent hydrocarbon - what could possibly go wrong? ;o#

Luckily, I was off the hills before the lighting arrived yesterday. Thanks all for the heads up though, its something to keep in mind, especially on a long walk…