Once again this year I was active from the Outer Hebrides in Western Scotland for a DXpedition with the Cambridge University Wireless Society. The trip took place from 6th to 10th September and included a visit to the Monach Islands (EU-111) and a number of mountains in the Outer Hebrides islands which count for the Summits on the Air award scheme.
The trip started when Martin G3ZAY, Dominic M0BLF and Stuart M0NKI (who had come from G3WGV's QTH in the Lake District) met up with Tim M0TDG and Oksana M3OXY in Oban on the lunchtime of Sunday, 5th September. We caught a ferry from Oban to South Uist, about 6 hours away as the ferry went via Barra, and, at about midnight, set up our tents behind the Gatiff Youth Hostel on Berneray.
The next morning we awoke to a fantastically calm, sunny, day and were met at the nearby harbour by SeaTrek, who took us on a RIB to Ceann Ear, the largest and most accessible of the Monach Islands. We were able to have only a few hours on the islands, since the weather can be very changable in September and we therefore could not get permission to stay there overnight. Luckily, however, we were able to get the 20m station set-up within seven minutes of landing and M0TDG earnestly started on that band whilst Stuart and I set-up the 40m station. During the late morning progress was very slow and by 1300UTC both stations were QRT as we had lunch and walked around the island. There was no pileup to attach us to the radios. As Europe came home from work, the bands got busier and by the time we had to pack up the equipment just before 1600UTC, Tim was working a big pile-up, with the best DX from 9V. Given the limited time we had there, and the poor conditions, which only allowed us to have contacts with five US stations, we were quite pleased with the QSO total of 386.
The following night was spent back on Berneray and the next morning, with the weather still holding, we decided to climb Eaval, a mountain on North Uist. Unfortunately, as we were changing, I realised that I had accidentally picked up a very old pair of walking boots which I could no longer fit into, so whilst Tim, Stuart and Oksana operated Eaval, Martin and I headed for a sports shop at Benbecula airport where I found some boots which I could fit into. Eaval was a horrible climb, with bog all around it and all the way up, and the only reasonable access to it was via another hill first. The general concensus when the three returned at about 1700UTC (eight hours after they had set out), covered in mud, was that it really was not worth it for a one-point SOTA summit. That evening, Stuart and I decided to operate briefly from the hostel back on Berneray.
As the weather was so good, we decided to ask SeaTrek whether they would take us to the St. Kilda Islands. They would, but only if the weather was good enough, and that meant less than a force 4 wind on the shipping forecast. Since it was easier to get to St. Kilda from further North in the Hebrides, we moved the next day (Wednesday) to Harris and, in the afternoon, climbed another SOTA summit, Chiapaval. This was a very enjoyable walk for all of us, and significantly easier than Eaval.
On the Thursday, SeaTrek had another commission and so we could not get to St Kilda then. After two days climbing hills, Tim, Stuart and Oksana were less than keen to do another one and so Oksana suggested heading to the beach. Driving up through Harris yesterday, we had seen a lovely beach on the South-East coast and so headed there. We also took radios with us and so Tim and I were able to make some QSOs from the shoreline, while trying to shelter from the cool breeze. In the evening, we telephoned SeaTrek who told us that St. Kilda would be possible the next day, and so to meet them at 0600UTC at the nearby harbour.
When we reached the harbour, we were met with bad news. The latest update of the shipping forecast was for a force five wind and so it was not safe to go to St. Kilda. We were very disappointed with this news and decided to spend the rest of Friday sightseeing on Lewis (which is actually the northern part of the same island as Harris). We are not convinced that the force five wind ever materialised: certainly it was still calm on the land all day
On the Saturday morning, we headed back to the mainland from Stornoway to Ullapool. The weather was still holding but we knew that a front, bringing wind and rain, was coming in from the west. As it had not arrived when we docked, however, we decided to do one last mountain, Stac Pollaidh, just a short drive from Ullapool. The summit of this mountain involves a scramble, so we decided to put the stations as near as we could to the top (and withing the 25m rule for SOTA) and, after some difficulties putting up the aerials in suitable locations, got on-air. Sadly, Tim's FT-817 stopped working while there, and so we all had to make our four QSOs on one rig. As we were finishing this, the rain started, and so we packed-up very quickly and headed back down the mountain. We said goodbye to Tim and Oksana at the foot of the mountain, as they would be continuing their trip. After a very miserable drive across Scotland, Martin, Stuart and I spent a little time with GM4FAM before heading to Dunblane to meet the remnants of the GMDX group's AGM in the local pub. That evening, the DXpedition finished with a meal in the Stirling Arms, Dunblane (not recommended) before staying in a hotel in Falkirk for our final night.
Photgraphs are now on Flickr.
|Date||Mountain||Island||Island Group||SOTA||IOTA||IOSA||SCOTIA||WAB||IARU Grid|
|6 Sept 04||-||Ceann Ear||Monach Islands||-||EU-111||OH06||DI22||NF66||IO67EN|
|7 Sept 04 (PM)||Eaval||North Uist||Outer Hebrides||SI-132||EU-010||OH02||HI13||NF86||IO67JM|
|7 Sept 04 (EVE)||-||Berneray||Outer Hebrides||-||EU-010||OH05||HI15||NF98||IO67KR|
|8 Sept 04||Chaipaval||Harris||Outer Hebrides||SI-129||EU-010||OH01||HI21||NF99||IO67KT|
|9 Sept 04||-||Harris||Outer Hebrides||-||EU-010||OH01||HI21||NG09||IO67MU|
|11 Sept 04||Stac Pollaidh||-||-||NS-086||-||-||-||NC11||IO78JB|
We mainly operated on 40m and 20m SSB with some 2m FM.
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Our previous trip to Scotland was in 2002.