Tuesday, 31 August 2021

GM/SS-148 Meikle Says Law - August 2021

Our departure day of a 6 night stay near Edinburgh, and the day after the English late summer August bank holiday. I wanted to drive back to North Yorkshire on the east side of the country avoiding the Penrith A66 route and the Lake District traffic. The most appropriate unique summit was GM/SS-148, Meikle Says Law, which I have avoided in the past owing to its fairly long walk in. There was ample roadside parking near to grouse butts at NT 612636. The walk starts with a steep descent to Faseny Water, Faseny Cottage and a black stockholding barn, pictured here on our way back:
We forded the burn, as the water on the day was shallow enough, although there was a footbridge 150m east of the crossing that one could have used. A track goes up on to the moorland from here which peters out around NT 590629 and from then on its sheep tracks and a faint rough path in parts to the summit at 535m ASL, where there is a trig point. Although the picture above shows fair weather, it wasn't like that 3 hours earlier on our ascent when we were had a "dreich day" up until the time we lifted the umbrella and headed back down the hill, when the wind farm near to the summit exposed itself. 

It took us 72 minutes to reach the summit, over a distance of 2.75 miles. Judy had her walking poles, I decided to carry a golf umbrella which proved very handy for settling down underneath with my station and Judy's book when we were on the summit:

We weren't intending to stay long in such miserable conditions as we had a long drive home and an arrangement to collect our dog Treacle from the kennels before 6.30pm. The 60m band did not sound very good, with QRN to S7 eminating from the wind farm (I assumed) nearby. Terry GM0VWP/P who was on a Shetland summit was waiting for me to start up on 60 metres using 5354 KHZ. We got the S2S no problem. I followed this with the usual supects, including my friend Nick G4OOE in Scarborough on both CW and SSB. When 60m dried up I went on to 40m where the QRN static was not as noticable, but it was there all the same. I finished my final 16th QSO on 2m FM with Christine GM4YMM, having earlier worked her other half Ken GM0AXY on 60m SSB. 
Packing up we headed back down much the same route - taking us almost the same time as it took us on the outward journey.

Haste ye back to Scotland.... and I will, and soon enough, after what had been an enjoyable short break with some mostly good and a couple of not so good walk routes.  

Monday, 30 August 2021

GM/SS-154 West Lomond and GM/SS-198 East Lomond - August 2021

On our penultimate day in Edinburgh it was worth driving for an hour across the Forth Bridge into Fife to get two easy completes. The two summits were catered for well with free car parking, picnic tables and public toilets on both. We took the easy option and drove round to the East Lomond car park at NO 252058 after our lunch, which reduced the walk distance somewhat, however one could easily activate both summits from the West Lomond car park at NO 227061. This map shows the summits and also the nearby GM/SS-187 Bishop Hill, a summit I plan to visit later in 2021:

It took exactly one hour to reach the summit of West Lomond, on a good path over a distance of 2.5 miles. My new boots were extremely comfortable I'm pleased to say.  They are over 300 grams lighter than my leather Scarpa's. This made quite a difference in my speed and my stamina.
A grey day on West Lomond - yet there were many visitors on foot and mountain bike
I started operating with my FT-65e handheld and whip and worked Ken and Christine (GM0AXY/GM4YMM) straightaway followed by GM0GAV, GM0VEK, GM6ZAK and MM0JJQ. HF conditions were pretty good too, with 45 contacts completed in less than an hour, including my friend from York, Terry, GM0VWP/P who was staying in Shetland on his holidays. We made S2S from both West and East Lomond as Terry remained on GM/SI-177 for several hours. K4DY called in at 1141z on 20m CW. Leslie is one of the regular USA stations that can be be worked from the UK with QRP power. I was using the usual KX3 at 10 watts and inverted vee at 5m AGL. 

We walked back to the car park to have our lunch and then drove through Falkland (Nice looking touristy village - we must return) to reach the nearest parking place for East Lomond, GM/SS-198. 

East Lomond

A short 18 minute walk took us to the topograph and the highest point on GM/SS-198 East Lomond:

Topograph on East Lomond GM/SS-198

On 2m FM using my cheap FT-65e, I was getting a lot of de-sense from the relay station by the car park making difficult copy of the callers. Moving behind the top of the hill helped and I managed to work the same GM guys that I worked earlier on from West Lomond! Maybe I should have kept hold of my old VX-170 and FT-270 handhelds, but the FT-65e has a better battery pack and is lighter. Condx were typical late afternoon on HF - fairly poor and after 30 minutes I packed up. Judy XYL came up to the summit with me, but having climbed it, went back down before I went on the air:
This was our last full day in Edinburgh - we planned to activate Meikle Say Law GM/SS-148, near Duns on our way back south the following day...  

Saturday, 28 August 2021

GM/SS-167 Black Hill - August 2021

There are three Black Hills within the UK Associations - I've activated the other two - Black Hill G/SP-002 near Holmfirth and GM/SS-253 near Biggar. The Edinburgh one GM/SS-167 is worth 2 points and is 501m high. We chose to make a day of it and walk in from the car park at the Castlelaw Army firing range NT 230637, a distance 3.5 miles with 1100ft ascent and with 350 feet of re-ascent from Glencorse Reservoir on the way back. We were carrying our lunch. I took the litre flask of tea so my pack was considerably heavier than on our previous days SOTA activity. Judy, XYL carried the food and observed her strict rule of not sharing the carrying of the radio gear - c'est la vie! My back started to get sore a couple of miles in, but at least with the tea drunk it was a little less sore on the way back. My feet were a bigger problem though, as they seem to have changed somewhat over the last year or two. The Scarpa Kailash boots I have had for two years of SOTA activating and general hiking use, had become less comfortable this year above my (now) arthritic bent toes and I now had blisters on the tops of my toes on both feet.  More on the boot situation later...

It was a bonny walk in:

Glencorse Reservoir - fly fishing in progress when we passed from boat and shore

The farmer at Kirkton Farm is proud of his work 

Walk route taken - access to the fellside was via a field gate at NT 207632

A track crosses the flank of Gask Hill and curves around to reach the summit of Black Hill easing the severity of the climb. After a dry spell the plateau was quite dry. There were a few fell runner types doing stretching exercises on the summit when we arrived. They vacated within minutes, so we took over their position near the small pile of stones denoting the highest point, and set up the dipole. 

There were plenty of visitors passing over the summit asking the usual questions. HF band conditions were poor compared to the previous day with 29 contacts on HF completed in 45 minutes of activity. I broke off on HF at 1217z for my lunch, and then packed the station up.  At 1250z I worked three GM stations using my handheld on 2m FM before we left the summit. Once we reached the road at the reservoir there were lots of people enjoying the lovely sunny day. We got back to the car hot and sweaty and in case, with sore feet, at 15:50 BST. I realised that I couldn't continue the next few days walking in the now uncomfortable Scarpa boots, so we drove straight to Craigdon Mountain Sports and after trying on five pairs of fabric boots I shelled out £160 on what I found to be the most comfortable - a pair of Meindle Tereno Mid GT boots:

With my new Trespass "Blister Free" socks and these new boots I found my feet were a lot more comfortable when we went up into Fife to activate East and West Lomond two days later. Craigdon Sports has a fine cafe too so we enjoyed tea and some nice cake before going back to our cottage near Musselburgh. 

Friday, 27 August 2021

GM/SS-125 Scald Law - August 2021

A short drive from our Air BNB cottage near Musselburgh took us south along the A702 to the parking place for Scald Law. There are laybys on both sides of the road and a really good path to the summit. The main path starts flat for a time and then climbs to a footpath junction where a path comes off Carnethy Hill on the right. From there after turning left it was just a 15 minute climb to the summit, where a young chap had been wild camping overnight:

The 1.5 mile walk took us just 50 minutes. The trig point had had the blanking plate removed, you see this a lot. On this one I extracted enough small stones to allow me to use the hole as a support for my pole, inside one of my fleece gloves to prevent the pole being chafed. The young man wild camping, (see his tent pictured below) asked if he minded him taking a photograph of my activity, which intrigued him. No problem saying yes, go ahead! I set up for an hours of activity on HF and 2m FM. HF conditions were very good on all bands from 60m through to 20m, and there were four summit to summit contacts in my log of 47 contacts.

(KX3 10 watts - link dipole @ 5m - FT65e + whip)

Scald Law Trig Point with wild camper behind inside his tent
The usual suspects and more in the log 
XYL Judy sits reading with Black Hill GM/SS-167 tomorrow's target in front of her
Loganlea Reservoir below and Black Hill GM/SS-167 above it

We left the car at 09:56 and returned to it at 13:18 BST, going back to our cottage for some lunch. In the afternoon we visited the Fort Kinnaird shopping centre and I bought Trespass walking socks, Trespass walking trousers and denim jeans and chinos from M&S - the first clothes shopping I had done since the start of the Covid pandemic 18 months previous!

Thursday, 26 August 2021

GM/SS-272 Arthur's Seat August 2021

It was late on an August Thursday afternoon when I climbed Arthur's Seat, thinking that by around 4.00pm it would be quiet. I was wrong. Due to Covid restrictions and a rockfall on one of the access roads, some of the car parks and roads near to the summit were closed:

The road closure was from beyond the Duddington Loch Car Park where I parked (NT 282727). Just before you enter the small car park on the right hand side, a path leads to a set of stone steps. This is a good path to take to get you quickly to the summit:

The summit and sides of the hill were overrun with folk enjoying what was a lovely afternoon, so after visiting the trig point and topograph amongst the people, I dropped down the side of the hill to the highest placed gorse bush on the eastern side, around 15m down from the trig point. This was higher than the chain link fence near the path and away from most people using the main path. I planted my 5m pole inside the gorse bush and used the bush for cover from the people that were making their way up and down the hill on the eroded hillside, rather than using the stoned footpaths for that purpose. This meant from time to time the public were passing within a few metres of my dipole. Some were asking questions to find out what I was doing. Most were young, non-British and wearing those flat soled plimsoles that seem to be the fashion these days. Lovely far reaching views from the summit and its flanks:

Due to the number of people and the discomfort sitting on the side of the hill against the gorse bush, I kept my activation time short concentrating on the 60m and 40m bands for just 25 minutes, making 28 QSOs, including on S2S with Mikel EA2CW/P on EA2/VI-040 on 40m CW. Going down only took me 17 minutes, and that included a discreet comfort break en-route. With all the people around it is hard to find anywhere to "go" on Arthur's Seat. I did get written permission from Historic Scotland to transmit from the summit. I wasn't challenged however on the day. The document received by email is reproduced here:
I made a short video from my operating position:
Next day I went to activate Scald Law GM/SS-125, more on that activation next....

GM/SS-171 Allermuir Hill August 2021

Continuing on our 6 night stay near Edinburgh and on our first full day, we went just south of the city to activate Allermuir Hill GM/SS-171 in the Pentland Hills. There was ample free parking near to Swanston Golf Club. The walk up was popular and was on well maintained paths.  It took us less than an hour. 

A fence runs over the summit and I set up a few metres down from the topograph and trig point. My activity aroused a lot of interest from passing walkers but this didn't cause me any undue problems. I was able to make 46 contacts on HF in less than an hour using CW and SSB.  The station was an Elecraft KX3 (10 watts) with Pico Twin Paddle Key and Sennheiser Headset. A 4 amp Tracer LiFePo battery powered the radio.  A home made link dipole antenna was used on a 5m pole for 20/30/40/60m band operation, with all bands producing contacts. 


This was an enjoyable and straightforward activation on a good day, which left me with plenty of energy and time to activate Arthur's Seat GM/SS-272 later that afternoon.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

SOTA - Edinburgh Area Fife August 2021 GM/SS-177 Wether Law

In late August we managed to secure a holiday let four miles from Edinburgh through the AirBNB website. The small cottage was located near Musselburgh and was in an ideal place for activating some of the remaining summits I needed to visit in the Pentland and Lammermuir Hills and in Fife. Firstly though on the arrival day, there was one summit in the Cloich Hills that needed attention, having missed out on going there in 2020. The roads from England were busy due to staycationing UK holidaymakers, and a coffee and lunch stop meant we were only ready to start walking at 3.30pm. 
GM/SS-177 Wether Law 
I planned to visit here in September 2020 while staying at The Tushielaw Inn, near Selkirk. However, after activating Mendick Hill GM/SS-195 in the morning that day I was struck down with diarrhoea sickness and we had to abort the climb to Wether Law. So here I was again with Judy, back again 11 months later - but with a different route suggested in a QSO I had with Alan MM0VPM, while he was activating Wether Law in June. I went the same way as Alan, approaching from the north west via the woodland on the Cloich Hills. Parking roadside was available at NT 222499 on the edge of the wood:

The track goes past the Don Coyote shooting range. Shown below is my return route - the outward route was not good as we missed the "forest ride" leading to the important wall crossing point at NT 200484 and finished up walking by the Flemington Burn to cross the wall at NT 200481 - not recommended. Here is the better crossing point at NT 200484 where a trouser saving fertilizer bag had been put over the barbed wire:
This was quite a good return route which was a 2.5 mile walk with 750 feet ascent / 200 feet descent one way:

The forest ride we used on our way back leaves the main track at NT 203487 at a small worked out quarry, where a clearing in the trees goes over the quarry and then downhill to our wall crossing point. Interesting funghi in evidence.  MM0FMF reported that there is a better route with less descent / re-ascent if you go via NT 198488 instead.

Steep sheep pasture leads to the 479m summit from the wall crossing after leaving the wood. I was carrying my usual HF station - Elecraft KX3, 10 watts, 4 amp Tracer LiFePo battery, 5m pole and dipole. I was carrying a 2m handheld and whip but didn't bother taking it out of my rucksack. Here we are on the summit in lovely warm late afternoon sunshine:

Twenty QSOs (3 X SSB, 17 X CW) resulted between 1604z and 1631z (M0HQO 60m was the first in my log, with the last OK2PDT). We needed to QRT and check into our Air BNB cottage at a reasonable time near Musselburgh with Lauren, who is the owner and daughter of the founder surviving member of the well known Scottish Folk Group The Corries (Flower of Scotland). They both live next door to the rented place.  

The walk back on the better route was a pleasure, compared to our outward escapade, taking us just an hour. 

Reports on the other seven summits activated that week in the area are to follow...

Monday, 16 August 2021

SOTA GM/SS-029 Broad Law 16-08-2021

I finally activated GM/SS-029 Broad Law on HF CW/SSB yesterday with fellow Mountain Goat, Pete Freeman M(M)0HQO, who operated on 2m FM. I had originally planned to go there last September before being struck down with food poisoning when I was staying in the area.  This activation completed the Moffat Hills as a SOTA activator and chaser. 

Equipment used GM4OBK/P:  

Elecraft KX3 (10 watts) 4 Amp Tracer LiFe battery 
Palm Pico Paddle - Sennheiser boom mic headset 
60m thru 20m link dipole as inverted vee on 5m travel pole

Equipment used MM0HQO/P:

Kenwood TH7 handheld with 30 watt linear - 4.5 Amp LiFe battery 
Half wave end fed vertical on 5m travel pole
We left Pickering at 6.00am with me driving, reaching the Megget Stone Cattle Grid on the road above Talla Reservoir before 10.00am. We stopped off for a bacon roll and tea at the Rumblin Tum Cafe in Moffat at 9.15am - recommended. From Moffat we used the A701 road turning off to drive past the substantial Talla Reservoir. Our best view of the day was overlooking Talla Reservoir on the road just one mile from the Megget Stone parking place:
Leaving the car behind at 10:02am I was pleasantly surprised to reach the summit walking at my own pace in 83 minutes, over a distance of 2.4 miles with around 1300 feet ascent.
Parking place at Megget Stone - room for 3-4 cars - two guys met and set off just before us

Pete sets off ahead of me for Broad Law GM/SS-029 - the highest point in the Moffat Hills
The walk was quite featureless, tracking the fence to within 50m until we reached the summit.  I  caught a glimpse on my right as I walked, of St Mary's Loch. The climb was not particularly steep in any one place, although it was a little harder climb near the bottom than the top. Start height was at 460m and finish height was at 840m ASL. I set up by the trig point using the centre hole for fixing my pole, and when Pete arrived a few minutes after me he set up his 2m station about 30m to the south, using the fence to fix his pole. 
 There was sufficient room above rubbish in the trig hole to support my 5m pole
The VOR aeronautical installation on the summit

Pete M(M)0HQO about 30m south operating 2m FM

My gear packed up ready to leave the summit
Phil G(M)4OBK with Pete M(M)0HQO on the summit
Operating wise I did OK but found fewer callers than I expected on 40m CW, with the chasers drying up there in less than 10 mins. 40m SSB unusually, produced more contacts than on CW - maybe it was due to changing conditions - it is usually the other way round. So I worked 60m, 40m, 30m and 20m before finishing off with 45 contacts in my log. My hands got very cold sending Morse without gloves on. This is due to the blood thinner tablets the doctors say I must now take. Maybe I ought to list my medication along with my equipment list on these reports? What was I on today? It might interest one or two readers:
Edoxaban 60 mg (Blood thinner)
Bisoprolol 5 mg - twice daily (Beta blocker) 
Enresto Sacubitril/Valsartan 97/103 mg twice daily (To combat heart failure)
Tamsulosin 400 mg (To facilitate urination)
Ibuprofen 400 mg (To overcome an ankle injury 9 weeks ago)
Pete did very well working English and Scottish stations on 2m FM to complete 11 contacts. As we are both close friends of GI4ONL, Pete came across to my station when I was working Victor on 60m SSB to confirm his 12th contact!
We packed up and walked back down together, meeting a chatty group of four walkers from South Yorkshire and Scotland who told us that they had met up especially to climb Broad Law together and then spend a couple of days in the Moffat Hills.
The drive home was slower than the early morning drive north as we were stopped dead for around 30 minutes on the A66 as the final few gypsy's in their horse drawn caravans were leaving Appelby Horse Fair  to head home, wherever that may have been... We stopped for some fast food at McDonalds, Leeming Bar A1 services and were back in Pickering at 8.00pm, 365 miles driven.
I will be back in Scotland towards the end of next week with my wife to activate some more summits. Broad Law was #929 for SOTA Complete and #940 for SOTA unique. My personal challenge is 1000 Completes and I ain't giving up until I hit my target...