Scotland to California on 10 watts

SOTA summit: Spartleton, GM/SS-182

Activation Date: June 22, 2018

Portable operation: Yes

Radio: Yaesu VX-8 5 watts FM and Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts SSB

Antenna: J Pole and LNR End Fed

Bands used: 2m, 20m and 40m

Hike:  ~3 miles and ~700ft ascent.  (<–click left for GaiaPro track etc)

Solo operation: Yes

Recommend: Yes

Cell Coverage: Excellent

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2018

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 6.44.18 AM
Spartleton, just east of Edinburgh
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Roughly 3 miles and 700 ft of ascent


Looking back to Whitadder Water and start of hike

I’ve driven past this spot before never realizing this was a SOTA peak. Part of it is simply the peaks are gentler here and hence you have to work harder to imagine or recognize that your looking at a local high point.

It wasn’t obvious where to park and I double back on myself and tuck the car into a bit of ground off the road. Looking out through the windscreen is see lots of small black flying things and immediately think midge. I contort myself behind the steering wheel to get my hiking boots on, resolved to literally launch myself out fully ready to stomp off and thwart my unwelcome airborne guests.

I’m not entirely clear on the cross country hiking protocol over farm land in Scotland and I slow ahead of my attended gate entry as a tractor wallows up behind me to avoid any awkward chastisement.

There are geese everywhere primarily new ones with a few adult supervisors. They aren’t clear of my intention and sway one way only to redirect realizing they’ve read me wrong.

I’ve decided to follow a path that should take me gradually up to my peak while avoiding valleys etc. It’s not the most direct and I’m really just feeling my way forward. Maybe I have been a little too lazy in planning given in my mind this is a very short hike. The fence is really no surprise but if has an electric companion that I’m reluctant to shimmy over. It’s not the fear of electrocution but more I don’t want to get tangled, trip, fall or trash the wire component during any steeplejack movement. The fences begin to be flanked by dense copses of trees discouraging traversal and I’m beginning to be irritate with myself for not better planning this simple jaunt to a Scottish peak. Eventually stumbling on a 4×4 track that obviously heads toward the peak I realize I probably have a better exit route albeit through the farm buildings I had really wanted to avoid at the start.

The trig marker seems typical and I think the three insert metal arms point to other trig markers. Staring along one the view is quite beautiful this clear and warm Friday afternoon, north toward Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and some distinct white island maybe near North Berwick. Sadly, this bucolic part of north Britain is littered with wind turbines. In of themselves the single white propellor turning gracefully is quite attractive but when one is flanked by three or four, this then repeated the whole mass is quite an eye sore, hard to eradicate and back more to what nature created.

Trig market and view north over Firth of Forth – Edinburgh top left

I struggle to get a meaningful count on 2m FM. Christine GM4YMM rescues me from my lonely monologue into the Scottish ether. A little disappointed with my inability to come close to activating the peak on 2m FM, I set up my little HF station with resolve and determination making rather good use of the pile of rocks someone has thoughtfully left for me to bury my fishing rod into. I get the impression antenna choice is regional. An End Fed that I am using are popular with the US SOTA fraternity but pictures of UK activations suggest a dipole suspending from a high mast the preferred UK activators HF antenna. Maybe its about buying local; SOTABeams in the UK and LNR Precision a US manufacture.

End Fed strung up over trig point. 10 watts and a wire!

My radio path to the South West (Cornwall, Devon) seems great and amongst other chit chats my 10 watts enables a lengthy conversation with Richard G3MRT and his new ICOM 7300. It’s fun as quite often we are all in a hurry and I enjoy hearing an English voice and trading stories of ex pats that have escaped to the US.

The calls are far and few between. I hear CIO and everything seems wrong. A familiar voice, part of a call sign that I know only too well but I’m thousands of miles from where I normally hear this. The sun is playing tricks on me but apparently it isn’t and Bob (KB6CIO) has his linear cranked to the max, 1,500 watts has carried his voice from California to this bucolic point. Stunned, I’m desperate for him to get my 59 and eventually am rewarded with a paltry 33 that works for me. Bingo, a 6,000 mile plus contact during a rough part of the sun cycle.

Found one of these buried in the ground near the peak. Not sure what they are.

I follow my recently discovered 4×4 trail back down the hill, past the farm buildings avoiding human contact and head north on the road past Whiteadder Water. My skittish geese are sailing west across the reservoir toward the setting sun and moments later my car is heading home to Berwick upon Tweed a rendezvous with Mad Goose.

I drank this at home to celebrate the activation and honor my skittish geese – pretty tasty!!


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