Friday, 22 February 2019

SOTA GM/SS-072 Queensberry - 22nd Feb 2019

I drove to the start point for Queensberry after activating Cairnharrow GM/SS-191 near Gatehouse of Fleet, so this was an afternoon walk. I started my 3.2 mile walk in from the public road at Mitchellstacks NX 965960, six miles from the A76.
This was a good walk on better surfaces than the previous 4 boggy summits I had walked to on this two day expedition. A graded track for the most part took me to Brown Knowe and then I had a dry moor with quad tracks from there to the summit. 5m contours are shown here on the map, making the summit look steeper than it was, however I was tired after the previous day so it took me 110 minutes to walk the 3.2 miles / 1630 ft ascent. 
This was the turn off the track on to the moor at Brown Knowe - New House can be seen beyond, with another ruin that bit further away.  A small cairn was encountered at 680m within the activation zone as I rounded out on to the plateau, but the main cairn at 697m was another 400m further on. The large pile of stones and shelter was a pleasure to see and use, and allow me to finally tick Queensberry off my priority list of summits that I wanted to visit in the region: 

I netted 22 contacts in 22 minutes on 20m CW and 40m CW/SSB - not a bad rate, which included two stateside contacts. I had no callers on 2m FM:
It took me 83 minutes to get back to the car where I changed into fresh clothes for the drive back to North Yorkshire, punctuated with a customary stop at the KFC in Penrith.  I drove 440 miles on the two day trip, walked 18 miles and climbed 4650 feet all told. 

SOTA GM/SS-191 Cairnharrow - 22 Feb 2019

22nd February 2019 was my 2nd and final day in Dumfries and Galloway. I stayed at Barholm Accommodation in Creetown, which fitted my needs perfectly. After my previous days activation in the area on 21st February 2019 (SS-238, 245 and 232) I arrived after sunset. The warden showed me the room and kitchen etc and then left me to it. I'll certainly stay there again when I return to activate the other summits in the area. The accommodation is unattended overnight. 
Barholm is reconstructed from an old pub, the conversion of which was achieved with the aid of a lottery grant - a brilliant and most fitting project in my opinion.  The only remaining pub in the town itself now, is the traditional Ellangowan Hotel. This is a "locals pub" and I got a steak and ale pie meal there and a few drinks, as I was starving hungry after defeating the moorland bogs on the three activations that day. 
Parking place near gate at NX 525542 - Cairnharrow seen in background
My first target on day two was the nearby summit of Cairnharrow GM/SS-191. I drove up the lane off the A75 to grid ref NX520531 and turned left on the broken tarmac road running NNE. I got to the cow barn at 525546 where the road was narrow and muddy. I was able to just turn the car round here without getting stuck, returning to a gate and parking place at 525542. From here I walked back to the cow barn and followed the line of the wall up to the corner at 53391 55268 where there was a through stoned wall stile giving access to the moor leading up to the summit - you will find my track in the SOTA Mapping Project.
Wall access point leads you on to the excellent quad track pictured below:
It took 57 minutes from my car to reach the trig point, which was over the wall and out of the wind, and the best place to set up my station:

I concentrated my operating on the 7 MHz band and made 27 contacts - phone was disappointing with just three callers, yet on CW I had 24 contacts! A call on 2m FM yielded just one caller - Victor GI4ONL near Bushmills who I had already worked on 40m CW. I heard Nick G4OOE/P operating from Ingleborough G/NP-005 on 145.400 MHz, however my 5 watts and whip antenna was not powerful enough to make contact. I also briefly heard John G4YSS but he dissapeared after I called him back - I think John was mobile and travelling between summits in the Yorkshire Dales - this would have been at around 0935z.  After 25 minutes operating I closed down, to allow time to reach the parking place for the walk to Queensberry GM/SS-072, which was 40 miles north east of Cairnharrow.  This final photo is the view north to Pibble Hill SS-232 and Cairnsmore of Fleet SS-065. The Cambret Hill TV relay station can be seen slightly left of centre :

Return walk to Cairnharrow - 3.2 miles with 930 feet ascent  

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Bengray, White Top of Culreoch and Pibble Hill - 21 Feb 2019

I had planned to activate three summits in the Borders area over two days this week, however accommodation at the Tushielaw Inn near Selkirk was unconfirmed the day before I travelled so I decided to go west into Dumfries and Galloway and activate some unique summits there. I booked an accommodation in the right place the day before I travelled which was good and cheap for the solo traveller, so off I went...

Depart Pickering: 0550z
GM/SS-238 Bengray start walk:10:03 arrive:11:04 Depart:11:48 return car:12:34
GM/SS-245 White Top of Culreoch start walk:13:09 arrive:13:43 depart:14:41 return car:15:04
GM/SS-232 Pibble Hill start walk: 15:41 arrive:16:29 depart: 17:11 return car:17:54
As I expected, this was a long day, however my overnight stay in Creetown was only a few miles from the parking place for Pibble Hill....

Equipment: Elecraft KX2, link dipole on 5m pole, Yaesu VX-170 RH770 whip

GM/SS-238 Bengray 
The C class road north from Gatehouse of Fleet led me to the parking place for Bengray at Laghead Bridge. A core path leads from here to Loch Whinyeon.

I used the core path for about a half mile before heading off on uncharted territory towards Bengray over the top of Benfadyeon. I used occasional quad tracks before reaching the fence and wall where I turned up to follow right to the highest point. I stopped at the wall outside of the wood and well within the 25m drop activation zone - noting that the contour spacing on the 25K OS map in this area is 5 metres. 

I made one single contact on 2m FM - with Derek 2E0MIX  in Cumbria. This was not surprising as I was using a VX-170 with the RH770 whip. 40m was rather disappointing and I closed down after 13 contacts on that band:
Visibility was poor in mist both ways and I returned via a slightly different route avoiding the climb over Benfadyeon. Looking back a better route may have been possible via Burnt Mound:
A short drive took me to the track leading to SS-245 White Top of Culreoch.

GM/SS-245 White Top of Culreoch

An excellent graded forestry road with no restrictions or gates took me to NX602624 where there is a parking bay and turning point, pictured above. 

The fence and wall was followed until the summit was neared where the fence was climbed at a strainer post. The forest was felled some years ago and as the top was neared the remaining brash was encountered for a short distance.
A call on 2m with the handheld netted two contacts into Wales. HF was fairly successful with a further 20 contacts:

There was just time to reach Pibble Hill and activate that summit before going to my accommodation for the night in Creetown... 

GM/SS-232 Pibble Hill

The summit was approached from the south from parking near the cattle grid on the Corse of Slakes Road NX525584. There was no recognisable path, just a boggy moor with the occasional faint quad track to follow, never too far from the substantial stone wall on the left.
Pibble Hill ahead on the moor - I will not be going back again

It was mid February and mild - this was the 3rd hairy caterpillar I had seen on the moor, so I photographed it:

I made for the wall and fence at NX 53333 60553 where there was support to bungey my pole at the wall / fence junction. 20 contacts on the 40m band were quickly made in CW/SSB and I went QRT feeling cold as the mist was down again at 1700z.

Distance walked in the day: 8.2 miles with 2000 feet ascent

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

G4OBK 2018 ARRL DXCC Challenge Submission

I've just submitted my annual DXCC endorsement claim to the ARRL. Whilst I hadn't been particularly active in 2018 hunting DX stations I have been more active as a DXer than in recent years, with my main interest at present in Amateur Radio remaining in Summits On The Air (SOTA)In the course of the year I managed to pick up 19 Logbook of the World (LoTW) credits. This was mainly due to two reasons - the newly developed Machine Mode called FT8, where I have used the WSJT-X software over HF radio to provide datamode credits. When the ARRL allowed Kosovo into the DXCC scheme as a valid country this encouraged me get back on and try to work that country on all bands.

So this was how my 2018 claim worked out:

I decided not to submit paper QSLs this year as I only have two, and the cost of an on-line submission with field checking in the UK by Lionel G5LP would cost me an inflationary $20 plus postage, just for two QSL cards to be checked! The cost of submitting the 19 credits for checking via LoTW however was a more economical $14.27.

This year I claimed Z6 Kosovo as a new DXCC Country in LoTW in Mixed, Phone, CW and Data modes and with DXCC Challenge counters on all bands completed from 160m through to 6m, barring the 10m band for which I have a paper QSL for a contact with Z61DX. The other paper QSL I received this year (Thanks to RU4SS) was for a contact with EZ8BO (Turkmenistan) on the 12 metre band in 2004. Amateur radio has been banned in that country now for some years and the operator Eugeny is now "silent key". 
I remember all the DX contacts claimed very well - a few were routine, such as HB9CXZ Switzerland on 160m FT8 - my first HB9 credit for a datamode surprisingly...  The other datamode confirmations (thanks to the new FT8 mode) were BH1TSU China (17m), ZP6ARO Parguay (20m), D44TWO Cape Verde (160m), RI1ANL Antarctica (15m) and PJ4P (17m) and a new counter point for the DXCC Challenge. 

After I cleared up Kosovo for the DXCC Challenge bands, additionally I worked 9K2NO Kuwait on 6m CW, VK9XG Christmas Island on 80m CW and lastly EP6RRC Iran on 30m CW for three more Challenge Points putting me at 2928 Challenge Points and No. 1 Honour Roll Phone / Mixed Mode with all 340 DXCC Countries confirmed. In CW the two countries I haven't yet worked are P5 North Korea and FT\W Crozet Island. 

I now need 72 DXCC Challenge Points to reach my lifetime target of 3000 points.  It remains to be seen if this is achievable with my current station, as this is entirely dependent on the effects of the sun on the next one or two solar cycles and for how long into old age that I am able to continue operating.