CQ SOTA by the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

We’ve been up North these past few days, spending a week in glorious Scotland, visiting friends and staying in Glasgow (which is just a fabulous place of its own), with a side order of SOTA activating.

Glasgow, with its delightful architecture and enthralling food scene is a really great city to spend a few days… But I really wasn’t going to drive 400+ miles North and NOT get at least one SOTA activation in, was I?

After my humiliating failure (relying on HF only) earlier in the month on Illgill Head (G/LD-029), I wasn’t going to walk down another summit with 0 points… For this summit, the plan was to go with 2m FM first, and carry the KX3 for HF as a backup. With plenty of populous areas including Glasgow well within VHF range, this felt like a safe strategy.

I did spend an afternoon before the trip building a neat little slim jim antenna from 300 ohm ladder line and RG-58 coax. Using the brilliant calculator tool by M0UKD, working out the measurements was easy and with a bit of trimming and cursing at the antenna analyser, voila, we had a (very nearly) 1.1:1 SWR match on our hands.

The slim jim antenna weighs less than my trusty AnyTone AT-878UV handheld

So, back to the mountains… The SOTA summit of this trip (yes, singular) was a compromise of accessibility (<1 hr drive from Glasgow) and being able to drag my suffering XYL and our greyhound Otto up there. Fortunately, Scotland has more SOTA summits than you can shake a dipole at, so the choice fell on Conoic Hill, reference GM/SS-239. At only 361m ASL, this very tame summit seemed like a good choice, so off we went on a drizzly Monday afternoon.

The path up Conic Hill, from the car park at the Balmaha Visitor Centre

This was another straightforward ascent. The route from the car park leads up through a wooded area onto a well-marked set of paths, which wind up the mountain. On the ascent, it is easy to forget that one of Scotland’s most famous and beautiful sceneries – Loch Lomond – lies just behind, so it pays to pause and turn around occasionally to take in the scenery.

The summit is easy and at the same time not that easy to find. It feels like there’s three of them, but according to OS Maps the summit is the most southerly one of the three elevations. They are also all within the 25m activation zone rule, but for good measure, we did set up on the “official” one.

The slim jim was quickly attached to the excellent SOTABEAMS 6m Tactical mini mast, and thanks to almost no wind, we were QRV within the space of about 10 minutes. All that remained was hooking up the AnyTone AT-878UV handheld, turning up the wick to the maximum output of 6W and…

This time, it took just one CQ call on 145.500 MHz! Christine GM4YMM was first, followed straight by Graham MM0GON. It took just one more trip back to the calling channel for the pile up to begin. Over the next 15 minutes, 7 more stations were added to the log without having to call CQ again: MM7DCD, GM0HJV, MM0TSS, GM7NZI, MM0IYT, MM1HMZ and MM0GLM. Not a huge exploit maybe by HF standards, but with the Scottish winter reminding us who’s boss, we decided to close down, pack up and hike back down.

In the middle of the pileup

On the way down, we were rewarded by some incredible views of the Loch and the setting sun. Overall, a very successful SOTA activation. Conic Hill is no “mountain” and may only yield 1 (yes, one) SOTA point to activate… But we had a grand time and that’s what it is all about in the end, ain’t it?

One additional thing I learned on this trip. Kneeling on the wet, soggy ground, holding a handheld in one hand and the paper log balanced awkwardly on the backpack does not make for easy logging. It pays using the phone to record the activation (I used the iPhone voice memo feature). Using this, I could go back over the activation later and correct a couple of instances where I’d either not copied down the right call or name. I know some handhelds also have internal recording feature, which would be just the ticket for this. Something to look out for on a future purchase.

Thank you to all chasers and stations that called in and helped me activate this brilliant little summit successfully!

That’s all for now folks. 73 and see you on the next summit. Hauke M0TXH

Activating Conic Hill, GM/SS-239

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