A Day of Firsts on Minch Moor

SOTA summit: Minch Moor, Scotland GM/SS-133

Activation Date: Oct 11, 2018

Unique: Yes and my 150th

Call sign used: MM0SNA/P

Portable operation: Yes

Radio: KX3 and 1296Mhz SG-Labs transverter

Antenna: 4 element Arrow 2m Yagi and SG-Labs provided 2 element Yagi

Bands used: 2m and 23cm

Hike:  ~2.5 miles and ~1,300ft ascent.  (<–click left for GaiaPro track etc)

Hike and AZ profile: Well defined trail to peak and AZ is flat, exposed with limited trees

Solo operation: No with Gerald (G4OIG)

Recommend: Yes

Cell Coverage: Excellent

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2018

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 7.15.32 AM
Minch Moor (red teardrop) near Innerleithen, Scotland
Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 7.10.24 AM
Straightforward hike with trail all the way to top

Gerald and Paul, a joint activation

It’s been a long time in the making.

Gerald (G4OIG) had reached out quite a few months back that he also spends time in Northumberland and we should consider a joint activation. He’s successfully undergone some very serious heart surgery which is essentially what delayed our intended outing.

It’s game day.

One of the greatest enjoyment for me in SOTA is the sense of community. I know many voices and call signs from on the air, I know many callsigns and the written word from our communal web watering holes and so to meet any of them in person is a treat. We’ve met at SOTA events, sharing stories and tips and then separately we’ve met and then as two complete strangers walked off into the wilderness with not much more than a common goal to bind us together.

I saw a dark shadow peering down our walk way from the street and having spoken to Gerald moments early new it was him. He’s picking me up in Berwick and we set off across a series of windy roads following the path of the Tweed river west toward its source. My wife isn’t a very keen driver and so it’s a treat to be a passenger this morning and look at something other than straight ahead and the road. It’s a long drive through Coldstream, Kelso, Galashiels and eventually almost to Peebles.

On a separate note my wife and I had visited Peebles a week after the activation and like so many towns in the Tweed valley was simply charming and worth a visit.

Peebles on the river Tweed. Great place to visit!!
John Buchan, author of 39 Steps grew up near Minch Moor. Loved that story as kid!!

We park and follow the The Cross Border Drove road. I can’t help but think of the Joan Baez rendition of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and I feel compelled to share this with Gerald and he reminds me the The Band were the original authors.

We’re walking steady upwards surrounded by lingering mist. Its a very pretty ascent and an equally easy trail to follow which  we both appreciate.

We pass a gate and the stone wall around us has slate poems and pictures. Very surreal.

Poems and messages to future hikers…..

Further up we pass an elegant sculpture celebrating man’s attempt to foster wild life growth.

Point of Resolution….rings in field are intended to promote wild life growth/protection…not alien in origin
A sign reminds us that we are following a significant  800 year old route across southern Scotland
Nicely signposted. Turn right, head up trail 1/2 click and you’ve arrived….which we did
Gerald (G4OIG) at peak. We both had ~25lb (10kg) packs. Too heavy and definitely a kitchen sink day!

2m SSB and FM, what a struggle

It was all meant to me very easy. 35 watts on 2m SSB and I’d nab a bunch of stations up and down the UK allowing me to get onto the main event, which was my maiden voyage with 1296Mhz here in the UK.

It’s windy up here and in my haste I forget to hang my pack under the tripod and 4 element Yagi strapped to it. Bent and dejected the setup lies sideways on the ground and I try to straighten two of the Yagi’s elements. A rough start and a clue to the next hour or so.

My avalanche of 2m SSB calls is really just Pete (GM4BYF) and Tom (GM8MJV). I’m thankful to them but a little concerned at my lack of progress. My experience to date with 2m FM in the Borders has been questionable and I find myself ‘begging” on the calling frequency for anyone to rescue me. I’m thankful to Pete, MM0INE who was mobile and I think pulled over to get me out of this little predicament.

MM0SONA/P, a first

After my long journey through the 3 UK ham exams in 2018, I’m now a proud holder of a UK Full call sign M0SNA. This wasn’t quite the first SOTA experience I had imagined for my newly minted call sign but it makes for a memorable first outing.

1296Mhz…..yes, yes and yes

I’ve written separately about my initial exposure to 1296Mhz back in the US and Minch Moor will be my first activation using my own gear. Pete (GM4BYF) and I had communicated early in the week and I knew he would likely be around to chase me on 1296Mhz. Given this is a microwave signal it’s range is quite limited versus say HF and very impeded by mountains, hills and bad weather. This all makes for a bit more of challenge and hence providing a heads up to potential chasers can increase chances of success.

Success. He’s loud, very loud and far exceeds what I had expected. Seems like 2m FM quality and not what I had expected from SSB. Better still he hears me. A whopping 36 kms but it’s all good enough and in the bag. Tom was a little harder to hear followed by no one else as I turn the Yagi through the compass points. Raindrops accelerate toward my throughly exposed setup and its time to stow it all away.

1296Mhz SG-Labs transverter and Yagi
First microwave activation, am I a happy camper or what?

I wandered over to look at Gerald’s setup. I’ve learnt so much at looking at how others operate and heavily modified mine based on their’s.

Peaking into his backpack he has a very neat, weatherized and essentially ready to go 857D (100 watt station) with batteries stowed within a waterproof plastic shell. Neat, very neat and a far cry from my collection of wires, batteries, boxes etc that made up my station. Mine has me far to mindful of bad weather and constantly looking over my shoulder for rain, snow and sleet.

Gerald operating very successfully on 60m voice
Gerald’s “shack in a pack” 857D, batteries, weatherized, crash proof, ready to go solution. Neat!
“Shack in a pack”
Gerald’s photo of his “shack in a pack”
Gerald’s photos of his “shack in a pack”

All in all a very fun activation despite the challenges and diligence required.

First time to use of

  • my new UK Full call sign M0SNA (MM0SNA in Scotland)
  • 1296Mhz microwave
  • Joint activation with Gerald (G4OIG)

and my 150th unique activation


Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 7.08.59 AM
My chasers, modes and frequencies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.