In the bleak midwinter…….

On a cold, cold  January day with the wind coming from the north, the ground solid with icy patches, the snow fields you have to cross are frozen solid, the hill temperature below freezing and not forgetting the wind chill factor.

What do you do ?

Easy answer !!

You choose a summit then go take part in a SOTA VHF Fun Day…and did I just say Fun ?

Roddy 2M0IOB ( Roddy’s Blog Post) had mentioned a joint activation when the VHF Fun Day was announced and had suggested another hill, I thought that his suggested hill would be declared by its regular activator ( I was wrong). I put forward Beinn a’Mhanaich, a hill I have now visited on three occasions plus it was within easy travelling distance being just under 60 mins away.

Every piece of equipment was charged up midweek in anticipation and as I repaired the coax lead for my 5 element 2m beam, this was getting serious. It was a good excuse to head on to my local hill a couple of days before to check if it worked.

Bob on a'Mhanaich

Bob on a’Mhanaich

Sunday arrived, it was still dark’o’clock when we set out, heading the usual route over the Erskine Bridge and then heading for the west bank of Loch Lomond then taking the road built to facilitate the heavy lorries which was used to carry materials to build our new nuclear facilities.

We reached the starting point at NS 270905 , equipment was unloaded, rucksacks on and we headed up the Strone climbing steadily for 1.5 km until we met the gradual ridge walk until our ‘scran’ break, if you take in the views at this point (NS 266929). Looking back, the Firth of Clyde runs SW towards Ailsa Craig and to the S, the North Ayrshire hills and Inverclyde are in view and to the west side of the hill,if you glance down to the Gareloch, Faslane Naval Base is in all its glory but after the break, you start heading towards the first bealach where you meet a quick 600ft rise in height and just as you make the top of this, the summit cairn shows in the distance letting you know, almost there. We passed a stone which strangely looks like a shaped altar ( the Gaelic name for the hill is ‘Hill of the Monk’ ),  a quick leap over a gate and it is a quick sharp short ascent to the  summit. The vista changes completely now, in a 270 degree view there are snow covered hills as far as the eye can see, whilst looking back in the direction we had come are the Arran Hills and Ailsa Craig.

Beinn a'Mhanaich one week later

Beinn a’Mhanaich one week later

The breeze was a northerly one and yes, it was chilly.

There is directly to the east of the summit cairn, little ‘nooks’ which are ideal in which to set your station, the hill itself was busy with a steady stream of walkers arriving, well into double figures. One trio had used the direct approach from the glen after travelling up from Auchengaich Reservoir, an interesting route.

A quick bite to eat and a welcome cuppa then it was down to business, Roddy had set up on 2m FM, I was on my starter band of choice 4m FM. First return call was from Steve UAU, our regular chaser from Greenock, a line of sight contact. Calling again heard a 2W station calling me back, it was Alun who at the time was heading up Moel Eilio , this was exceptional as Alun was using a  Garex 4m flexiwhip on his Wouxun 4m handie. We arranged to meet later for a STS (Summit to Summit) contact which funnily was made on 2M FM as I could not hear him on 4m. I later contacted Alun by email and the spot he had worked me on 4m had an outlook to the Irish Sea.

Next in my log was Marc, a GI3  in Belfast, I had previously spoken with Marc on my Goat Fell activation, a good strong signal report between us. I had a quick jog ( to heat up !) around the hill before returning to work John, a G0 station who was sitting /M in the cliff area near Whitehaven in Cumbria. I next called and spoke with Alan, XXP who was heading up on to Green Hill in the Lowther Hills area, I worked Alan later on the summit for another STS on 4m. Lastly I spoke to some relatively local 4m stations, Bill ELF and Colin LGB.

4m went dead for me so I joined Roddy on 2m FM and proceeded to work our fellow blogger Neil, 2M0NCM who was activating Craigenreoch, one of his nearest SOTA summits. We had heard him call whilst we were heading to our summit and had given him a call back but later we made the STS on a rather busy frequency in which eight activators were on at varying times. Next STS was Derek who was on Pillar, one of the highest fells of  the Lake District before working Bob, AWV who was mobile near Langbank. The next STS was with a dual activation in North Wales, Alun, who I had made earlier contact on 4m and Barry, a MW6 station who had for his first SOTA activation chosen a good ‘un. Next in was a blog regular Robin, PKT who was on Beinn Iaruinn 23kms NE of Fort William.

By this time, the temperature dropped rapidly with the grassy area now beginning to set solid under our feet, my left index finger tip had frozen solid even with a pair of gloves on plus the afternoon was getting on, it was time to break down everything and head back down the hill along the ridge back to where our car was  parked. We reached the car after 1hr 40 mins and the daylight then dropped if we had been any later we would have come off the hill in darkness. Everything  stowed away and off we headed back to home and civilisation.

My thanks go to Roddy, 2M0IOB for firstly putting forward the idea of a joint activation and secondly for the banter and keeping back whilst I did my usual leisurely stroll up a hill.

It was a great advertisement for SOTA and going by the response there may be further VHF Fun Days proposed.

An unassuming ‘Graham’ hill which gets overlooked by its more popular neighbours, it is worth the effort for its 360 degree panorama, Ben Nevis can be seen from this hill under the right light <photo>.

The hill is wrongly marked on the Ordnance Survey map as being in the MOD Danger Area, as you ascend the hill’s first 3 kms you pass warning signs every 50m telling you to ‘Keep Out’, military exercises take place there on a regular basis.

I haven’t included many photos of this activation as it was my 3rd yearly visit to the hill, for other photos, please follow the previous photo link below.

The photo of ‘Bob on a’Mhanaich’ © Roddy 2M0IOB

Information Overload

STS distances

to Robin PKT on Beinn Iaruinn- 97kms (60mls)

to Alan XXP on Green Hill – 101 kms (63 mls)

to Neil  NCM on Craigenreoch -103 kms (64 mls)

to Derek MIX on Pillar, Lake District – 207 kms (129 Mls)

to Alun and Barry on Moel Eilio, North Wales – 338 kms (210 mls)

Google Maps of  stations worked locations  <HERE>

Previous Blog posts

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2010

2009

Picasa photos

2011 HERE

2010 HERE

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