SOTA is an awards programme that is aimed at radio amateurs who want to combine operating amateur radio with walking in the hills and mountains.
I first started with SOTA in August 2016 when one day I heard someone calling “CQ SOTA” from the top of Walbury hill. I had heard of SOTA but had never really got around to investigating so I answered the call and from that moment on I was hooked.
I found the main SOTA web site at www.sota.org.uk and started reading. Once I had registered I was able to log my first chaser contact and so gain my first point. Only 999 more needed to get my first award.
In 2017 I started a programme of hill fitness training in anticipation of trying to activate a few summits. Below you will find a few posts relating my progress.
After a long drive up to Fort William on the Friday we woke early Saturday looking forward to the walk up the CMD and around to the Ben. The weather was pretty wet with amber warnings in place for the amount of rain to expect but still, I am sure we have had worse in the Brecon Beacons.
We parked up at the free North Face car park near Torlundy. It is a pleasant walk from here up through the forest to the edge of the access land. The route is signed most of the way for the CIC hut. Due to the amount of rain that had come down in the past few days the rivers were extremely swollen and dramatic.
From the forest we followed the obvious path SE until we reached 340m where there is a less obvious path forking off to the left up towards Carn Dearg Meadhonach. This path was initially very boggy as the ground is not so steep causing the water to pool. Once we got onto the steeper ground it was less boggy but the paths were now more like waterfalls.
It’s a long steady slog up to the first summit but nothing too difficult. At times the path disappears for a while but is soon found again and leads straight to the top bypassing the more northerly summit of Carn Beag Dearg.
Once onto the ridge-line it’s an easy traverse over to the first SOTA summit at Carn Mor Dearg where we set up the stations and soon had four contacts in the log. By this time the wind was up above 25mph and the temperature down around zero so with the cloud-base at about 800m and no visibility we decided to return back by the same route we had ascended rather than to complete the circular route over Ben Nevis. It will still be there next year.
Parking for this summit is difficult. There is just about room to get a car onto the verge at SS 966 050. The track up to the trig point is over private ground so you may want to activate from the roadside which is within the AZ. I walked up to the true summit, there is a trig point there buried in the hedge but it may take a bit of finding. I set up the station on the gatepost beside the water board mast and soon had four contacts in the log with a bit of work, there were not many people around on 2M that morning.
On the way back to the car we had a quick look at the small mast on the farm building near the gate, this is the GB3EX repeater mast.
There is no route required for Kit Hill. The car park is beside the trig point right in the AZ, just get out of the car and set up your station.
I set up on top of the trig point which is the opposite side of the car park from the monument where most visitors a drawn to. I had to work a bit to get any contacts but eventually had four in the log including Shirley and Andy who once again saved the day, thanks both.
When done, just get back into the car, what more is there to say!
From St Austel head North on the road to Roche. There is a small parking area at SW 992 575 with room for four or five cars if parked carefully. The path from here up to the trig point is fairly overgrown but passable. From the trig point up onto the access road though was very difficult this year as it is badly overgrown. Just battle your way through the gorse and brambles and don’t wear shorts as I did! Once onto the access road it’s easy to reach the summit plateau where you will have to take a guess which is the highest point as it’s pretty flat. I was out by about 90m this time but the whole area is within the AZ so it isn’t a problem. I set up the station using the Long Ranger again due to the problems previously with the beam.
It took a bit of work to put four contacts in the log but eventually I did it before packing up and setting off back to the car. The return is much the same as the ascent.
From Camelford, take the SE road onto Bodmin Moor. Follow the road to the end where there is a good car park with room for probably fifty cars at SX 137 818.
Continue SE on the obvious path to reach the col between Showery Tor and Little Rough Tor. From here there is a less obvious path down to the bridge over the De Lank river. It’s really more just shorter more worn grass rather than a path proper. The top of the path is nearer the Showery Tor side of the col on a bearing of 150 deg. From the bridge just follow the obvious path up onto Brown Willy.
On top I soon set up the station but on connecting the beam I found the SMA plug had fallen off. They are not really designed for repeated connection and do suffer accordingly. Fortunately I had packed the long ranger as backup so I swopped to this to put four contacts into the log, enough to qualify the summit.
After a bit of lunch in the sunshine on top it was soon time to return to the car and head off into Port Issac for an afternoon sightseeing.
Drive to Okehampton then head South onto Dartmoor passing over the A30. Follow the road to the end and at the camp turn left then immediately right, don’t go over the bridge. Follow this road until the end where there is parking space for probably a dozen cars at SX 590 912.
The path South from the parking is obvious passing West Mill Tor and Yes Tor. We took a diversion on the way down to have a look at Yes Tor which has some interesting construction on the top.
Setting up the station on top of High Willhays, I soon had ten contacts in the log.
The walk back to the car was uneventful, a nice break on a long journey down to Cornwall.
After failing to activate these summits on our previous attempt over the bank holiday Peter and I decided to have another go at the route, slightly less ambitious this time. Having already activated Mynydd Mawr in May we chopped that one off the start and also skipped the couple of two pointers at the end to shorten the trip down to a manageable two days.
GW/NW-024, Trum y Ddysgl – 709m, 6 points
Arriving at the Rhyd Ddu car park at about 7:30 pm we set off for our first night, camping below the impressive Y Garn crags. Note that the car park (SH 570 525) only allows you to buy tickets to cover the rest of the day, there is no multi-day or overnight option available. We bought three tickets for Friday and wrote on two of them “Sat” and “Sun” and displayed all three. A bit of a clue for any would be car thieves but we never had any problem with them or with the warden so it worked for us.
There is a good footpath linking the car park to the B4418 which we followed up past the reservoir to Bwlchgylfin. There is a stile of sorts here which will get you onto the access land and the end of the easy walking for now. Follow sheep trails and whatever you can find to work your way up and over the Clogwyn y Barcut ridge. There is no stile over the wall top but it’s not difficult to climb. Once over the wall there is a path of sorts that will take you down into the Afon Tal-y-mignedd valley. This is where we set up camp for the night with a plentiful supply of fresh water flowing.
From camp we continued SW to pick up the ridge above Craig Trum y Ddysgl. There is no path we could find until near the top. It is a gruesome slog up the slope through thick undergrowth, mostly heather with fortunately very little gorse. As you near the top it will thin out to a pleasant round grassy summit.
We set up the station on the summit and soon made seven contacts using my two element yagi. I was especially pleased with the last contact which was with Ken, G1NCG, just south of Swindon near our home town. This was a distance of around 150 miles. We were also glad to finally qualify this summit after failing on our last attempt due to bad weather.
GW/NW-020, Craig Cwm Silyn – 734m, 6 points
The walk from Trum y Ddysgl to Craig Cwm Silyn was probably the highlight of the day. Even though it was mostly in cloud it was quite dramatic with some lovely ridge walking along reasonable paths.
There is an interesting obelisk half way between the two summits at Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd. This was apparently put up to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
As you approach Craig Cwm Silyn there is an interesting section of crags at Craig Pennant. This is almost a grade one scramble and makes a nice distraction on the ascent but is easily climbed with a bit of care.
On reaching the summit of Craig Cwm Silyn you will be pleased to find a summit shelter complete with built in furniture to sit on.
We set up the station in the shelter, I again used the two element yagi and were soon rewarded with five contacts in the log.
GW/NW-014, Moel Hebog – 783m, 6 points
After the pleasures of walking from Trum y Ddysgl to Craig Cwm Silyn, the route we took from Craig Cwm Silyn to Moel Hebog was hard work but had it’s own rewards.
We chose to drop off to the SE following a wall down near the ridge line. In the cloud this involved some carefull navigation but once the wall was found it was easy enough to follow down until we reached the lower sections which are very steep on a loose surface.
With hindsight this was perhaps not the best option to descend and next time I will probably try and find a high route back around past the Obelisk. Once down though there is a pleasant picnic area at the end of the road at SH 540 492 where we had lunch. From here there is a navigationally challenging section until you pick up the old inclines leading to the disused quarry.
The quarry must have been a scene of intense activity in the past but slowly nature is taming it and restoring the ugly industrial past back to something more pleasant to walk through. I am sure there is a lot of history encapsulated in this small valley. Passing out of the quarry and on up the Bwalch Cwm-trwsgl there is a good path now all the way to the top of Moel Hebog. There is a spring just before you ascend Craig Cwm-trwsgl. If you are short of water it would be wise to fill up here as there is nothing on the top until you descend from Hebog on the other side.
On the summit of Moel Hebog we set up the stations and soon had eight contacts in the log using the yagi once again.
GW/NW-019, Yr Aran – 747m, 6 points
From the summit of Moel Hebog find the path down towards Beddgelert to the NE . It’s a bit craggy in places but perfectly passable. We chose to spend the night near an old settlement beside the Afon Glochig to the North of the path before descending into Beddgelert in the morning.
Turn left under the railway as you enter the village, this path will take you to the main A4085 where you will turn left again heading NW out of the village. 430m along the road there is a track on the right heading N for 150m to pick up the footpath. Here the track continues clearly in the direction you want, but it is signposted informing that it’s not a public footpath so we turned E on the RoW then found an unmarked path leading up and onto the access land. From here it’s a slog through undergrowth until the original track is regained. Follow the track to the end and then navigate on a bearing until reaching the slope of Yr Aran. Enjoy the view of the nice footpath back down in the distance if it’s a clear day!
The final push up onto the top of Yr Aran makes a nice change with a good path to follow.
At the top we set up the stations, this time I decided to use the MFJ LongRanger antenna as I had carried it all weekend. It didn’t take long to put five entries in the log, including a S2S into Northern Ireland which was a nice bonus.
From the top of Yr Arran there is a path off to the North which decends and meets up with the Snowden path out of Rhyd Ddu. Once down onto this it’s an easy walk out back down to the station car park in Rhyd Ddu.
We arrived at the station car park at Rhyd-Ddu on the Saturday lunchtime after an early start from Wiltshire that morning. Fortunately after six hours in the car it is a pleasant and fairly easy walk up through the forest to reach the access land at SH 560 540. From here heading West there is a clear track leading up to Foel Rudd and beyond to the summit of Mynydd Mawr. Follow the fence line until you regain the access land at SH 553 543. From there it is a fairly steep path in places but not requiring any more than good walking skills. Once you reach the summit of Foel Rudd the path levels out for a pleasant walk around the ridge line and on up onto the summit of Mynydd Mawr. Once on top we set up the radios and soon had seven contacts in the log.
From the summit of Mynydd Mawr we decended by the same route we came up until we reached the edge of the access land where we turned SW towards our planned spot to camp for the night.
There was a path of sorts on the NW side of the fence so we decided to follow this but it was a mistake. We needed to lose height but the path contoured around the mountain. We ended up descending rough ground to reach the valley floor. We should have crossed the fence at the stile and continued down to pick up the track marked on the map at SH 555 541. Once we eventually reached the track it was an easy route out back to the road at SH 545 533.
GW/NW-024, Trum y Ddysgl – 709m, 6 points
Turning left onto the road, 150m to the East there is a gate of sorts that lets onto the access land on the South side of the road. From here it is a steep ascent through thick undergrowth to reach the wall on the ridge above.
Dropping down the other side of the ridge there are bits of paths here an there to follow until reaching the Cymyffynnon valley where we headed South into the bowl and to our destination for the night beside Lyn Cymyffynnon.
In the morning we woke to incessant rain which rather put a damper on proceedings. With breakfast done and the tents packed away we headed up the flank of Trum y Ddysgl. With the alternatives of the steeper ground to our right and a longer route to our left we picked the best route we could find up the hill.
There are no paths up and when we were there the whole hill was deep in vegetation. It was a hard climb up. Eventually we reached the ridge line which was a little easier going but still tough. The summit was a welcome sight for sure although enveloped in thick cloud so no views at all.
The other two set up their radios but mine did not survive the night. When I tried to switch it on after breakfast it would not start so I was reduced to sharing with Richard. We called CQ but really struggled to make any contacts. After much perseverance we managed to get two contacts in the log but not enough to qualify the summit unfortunately.
Eventually we gave up trying. The wind was bitterly cold and we were wet through from the rain so we decided to call it a day and head back to the car by the same route we came in on. The return was uneventful.
Overall we had an enjoyable weekend even if we didn’t manage to achieve all our aims. It was worth it for the experience and great to get back out wild camping again.
Setting up the portable station ready for the coming backpackers contest season so I thought I would pop over to my local summit Walbury Hill to test the gear before the first contest in a couple of weeks. This is a quick and easy walk over to the trig point from the car park.
The route doesn’t really need much explaining, just look out for the gate where you turn South over the field to the trig point, easily missed if not paying attention.
I set up the station on the trig point and put up the mast right next to it.
Everything went together quite well and I soon had ten contacts in the log including a few of the locals, thanks Neil, Ken, Rob and Robin.
Day two of out Lake District 50 point tour. With 32 points in the bag on Saturday today we aimed to bag Blencathra and Skiddaw to complete the tour.
Although these two mountains are right next to each other there is no obvious route between the two. Possibly because both are on the large size they are not often walked as a pair. They both have their own good parking but neither is easily reachable from the other providing many hours of debate and pouring over the maps before the trip.
In the end we decided to do Skiddaw first as it was worth more points and so rather than leaving us with the problem of getting back to Skiddaw at the end of a long day we parked in the Blencathra car park and tackled the route over to Skiddaw first thing. This gave us the option to walk out down the path from Skiddaw house if we felt we couldn’t manage Blencathra after all. We were certainly glad we did it this way by the time we got back to the car.
The Route across to the Skiddaw path is not at all clear and will take some very careful navigating. It also involves a fairly major river crossing so shouldn’t be attempted unless you are confident the river is not in flood. I have included a zoomed in map here showing how we did it. With hindsight, where we turned South after the river crossing I think I would next time try heading straight up the hill to join the path above.
G/LD-004, Skiddaw – 931m, 10 Points
Once across the river and onto the path around Lonscale fell the rest is easy. It’s a good path over to White Beck and then it’s a motorway up to the summit. For a bit of extra spice take in Little Man on the way up for another Wainwright, although we didn’t.
Skiddaw summit is pleasant enough with plenty of room to set up. We found a spot next to the shelter and soon set up our stations. It was my turn to operate this time but I found it quite quiet despite putting out a spot on APRS2SOTA. I eventually had six contacts in the log including more from the Blackpool rally and a summit to summit (S2S) contact with Rob G3YTS over on Helvelyn, it was enough so we decided to have lunch and then pack up and make our way over to Blencathra. It was as this point that I realised my lunch was still in the bot of the car so instead I sat and watched the others eat their lunch. Then just as we were leaving the summit I heard a call from David M0YDH activating a WOTA summit so I quickly worked him barefoot to give him a WOTA S2S contact and making it seven in my log.
G/LD-008, Blencathra – Hallsfell Top – 868m, 8 Points
Leaving Skiddaw summit by the same route we arrived we soon reached the junction with the path down to Skiddaw house. This is youth hostel out in the middle of nowhere. We were still debating the best route over to Blencathra as there is no path marked on the map. After much discussion we decided that it was quite likely that there would be both a path from Skiddaw down to the hostel and also a path from there up to Blencathra so we went for it. On reaching the youth hostel I realised that there must be someone looking after all good SOTA activators as on the wall outside the deserted looking hostel was a sign saying “open at 5pm” and next to that, a small lunch box with a sign saying “Flapjacks, £1.50 each”.
There were four inside so we scraped around and managed to find £3.00 for two of them. They were the most delicious flapjacks I have ever eaten, thick with butter and sugar, probably make you sick on a normal day but after no lunch they couldn’t have been better or more welcome. They powered me straight up the side of Blencathra all the way to the top.
From the hostel follow the track SouthWest for 1/2 a Km until you come to a sharp bend and a fence line. Turn East here, there is a path of sorts heading in roughly the right direction. At the boundary fence you could take a bearing on the summit and head off cross country but we opted to stick with the path which although a bit further was much easier going. Follow the path up past the Cloven Stone, a fairly obvious landmark, and on up past the cairn to a crossroads where we turned right, heading back towards the path over Sharp Edge.
If there is any visibility at all this is an extremely obvious landmark well deserving of it’s name. Turning South below Sharp Edge, there is a path from here taking you across the small scree slope and on up-to the ridge leading onto Blencathra summit itself.
The summit is fairly compact with steep drops but there was room for the three of us to set up with some spacing. We soon had five contacts in the log and all to soon it was time to head back down to the car and the long drive back home to Wiltshire. Mission accomplished.