Shocking eh ? Bawb activating two GM hills in five days..
It’s another five time activation hill and possibly a hill that most folk try to avoid after a visit.
I tend to visit when conditions are cold with frost on the ground, the colder the better as you then can walk over the normally boggy bits of which there are many plus this visit was inside the SOTA Winter Bonus point dates.
I had hoped to catch the hill a few weeks ago but overtime was offered and taken instead but I had hoped the same conditions would soon appear again. I had mentioned to my oldest daughter, Lora if she could drive and drop me off and return for me later on Thursday. All agreed it was down to planning.
The day arrived but a detour via the doctor plus a hospital visit as a precaution, about 10.30 I decided just to go ahead and posted an alert as we headed through Greenock then I got home and grabbed my packed rukkie and we headed the short drive to Muirsheil Ranger Centre near Lochwinnoch. It takes only 40 mins from the house but care had to be taken as patches of ice dotted the single track road which takes you out from the B786.
We arrived and as I expected not many cars in the car park, I got out and set the phone GPS, threw the rukkie on my back and waved Lora goodbye.
I set through the main gate and headed at a good steady pace more to heat me up as it was bitterly cold, the ENE wind came blowing briskly across the open moor but on a good track, I made good time and soon I arrived at the ‘Muirsheil Inn’, a metal container with table and chairs and a welcome stop for some water and an orange. I spoke to two walkers who were also heading to the Stake so I headed up the east side of the mine fenced area and as I reached the top I headed west to find the burn in which I headed up along on what is possibly sheep trails and surprisingly I found an old quad track which then headed east and west in places but it wasn’t long until I reached the high point at NS after ploughing through the usual heathery bits where I saw the destination for the first time.
This open area after you leave the mines is barren and featureless and would entail compass work if caught in mist or low cloud, I have experience of early morning mist in this watershed area and was more than glad when the mist cleared. It’s amazing what a cup of tea can do. I could have done with some later.
I headed for the fence slightly to the west of the summit and crunched my way over the boggy bits and soon I was heading up the fence line. I reached the summit and it fully hit me, a cold piercing wind. A quick visit to the trig point then it was to build the 5 ele Yagi before my fingers froze. The fence here proves a boon as I bungeed the mast to a fencepost, I sat down and connected everything and straight on to 2m FM.
I had left my 4m FM gear at home as I felt after two activations this year and a struggle for a single contact on each it was time to give 4m a rest. I had alerted for 70cm FM so I would try it later.
First call back was Christine YMM followed by Ken AXY in Edinburgh who are earlier activators of the hill. A quick chat as I wasn’t for hanging around today. I was on air for just over an hour.
A welcome call again from Jim GLM from his home town of Dunfermline then EBT from Clydebank called in wondering where I was. In the middle of nowhere I replied. Next was Tommy OJE in Darvel whom I spoke with on my previous activation. I never held any contact for long as the wind was cutting through me even though I had put on warmer clothing than normal, I even broke out the lined winter trousers, a fleece lined tartan hoodie but I’d chosen the toasty boots again and no problems there.
Fellow blogger and activator Roddy 2MØIOB called in from his home QTH with a strong signal, this hill has excellent VHF and UHF take off and very few signals were weak today. A mobile station about 10 ml to the NE Craig HGV called in next and was no problem and my nemesis Neil 2MØNCM called me from the shore front at Girvan, not having an ice-cream but he did regale me with his description of the hot filled rolls he was taking home to share not with me but with oor Cat CNC. I hope you enjoyed the indigestion I wished on you !
Neil was gone to eat his rolls whilst I got colder and colder but I was kept busy with contacts. Next in the log was John OIN from just to the south of me in Ayr, a quick chat with John about 23cm and how quiet the VHF band is especially midweek. I called out and could hear another fellow blogger Graeme 2MØGIL calling me from the Whiteinch area of Glasgow, once again a quick chat before I headed to work Graham GON from Helensburgh.
Next in the log was Steve UAU whom I knew was about as he had ‘spotted’ me on the SOTA spots page and we agreed a later sked on 70cm. I got called next by another Graham IVG who was mobile in the Kilsyth area. Final contact before I headed up to 433mhz was Mark who called in from Cairniehill in Fife just N of the Forth Road Bridge, it was a busy day so far and to be honest busier than I expected.
First call on 70cm FM brought Neill SXV from Muirhead whom I had worked from Duncolm last year, next was Stevie SUB from Garelochead and finally on 70cm was Steve UAU from Greenock. Three contacts on 70cm I was more than pleased with that.
By this time I was glad the 817’s mike had the ‘up’ and ‘down’ control and a last call on 2m FM brought Russell RSP who lives just around the corner from Burns birthplace in Alloway near Ayr. Time to pack up and go…
I had a quick look round and took a couple of photos and packed my phone away whilst grabbing the rukkie and making sure I never left anything. On my first SOTA trip to this hill I had left my two bungee cords on a clump of reeds and luckily when Roddy 2MØIOB was there 13 months later, he retrieved them and returned them to me.
I climbed over the fence and headed down the west side of the hill to the point where I now headed over the frozen bog to the high spot and I had a look for signs of the quad track I had seen faintly in places but only an odd bit could be seen, the track looked as if it hadn’t been used in a long time. It would be handy as the track comes down the hillside and heads east when NE would be handy.
A hill with an excellent 4km track out to the old mines area but then a featureless, pathless yomp to its summit but rewarding with good VHF radio take off, I have worked into Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Lake District on both 4m and 2m on earlier activations. A hill worth the visit if only the once. I reckon between SOTA and other trips I am now in double figures.
I soon reached the mines area and stopped at the ‘Muirsheil Inn’ for more water and had a quick sip or two and suffered from ‘brain freeze’ as the water was sooooo cold. Did I say it was a cold day ? I noticed an addition just to the N of the mines area and took a wee detour to ‘nosey’ and the images will let you know what it is. Interesting.
I rejoined the track and I made good time into a steady breeze and found both my daughters waiting on their dad so a good bit of fun on the way home.
A cold but worthwhile day out! a hot bath to take the chill out and celebrated later with a chilled cider. It had to be.
My thanks go to Neil 2MØNCM for his unknowingly supplying with the post title and for those who took the effort to work me.
My earlier blog posts on the hill
a related ‘spooky’ post HERE