SOTA

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.

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Beacon Batch 2019

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G/SC-003, Beacon Batch – 325m, 1 point

There is good parking at ST 489 581 although it is popular at the weekend with walkers.  It is a short walk up the road to reach the access footpath up onto the batch and then an easy gentle climb up to the top following the obvious footpath.  There is plenty of room on top but it is quite busy at the weekend.  If you use the trig point be prepared to move for the regular photo calls.

I soon had the station set up and managed to log ten stations including a few summit to summit calls.

G/SC-003 Log

Journey Details

Date – 1st December 2019

Postcode – BS40 7TZ

Parking – ST 489 581

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 25W PA

Antenna – MFJ Long Ranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 10

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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Dundry Down 2019

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G/SC-010, Dundry Down – 233m, 1 point

Dundry Down from the East is a very easy summit to reach but perhaps not quite so easy to activate on VHF.  There are three large radio masts on the summit that put out a strong signal that de-sense anything operating on 2M.

The summit trig point is not publicly accessible but the top is fairly flat and large areas of the activation zone are reachable.  As others have noted, there is good parking at ST 556 668 and there is a good track from there up to the radio towers.  You are already in the AZ at the car park so choose a spot to operate somewhere along the path that best suits you.  I set up on the corner post where the path turns South but this was a mistake as I was too close to the masts.  Next time I will choose somewhere a bit nearer the car park and further from the masts.  I struggled with the weaker contacts due to the interference but soon enough I had seven in the log.

G/SC-010

Journey Details

Date – 1st December 2019

Postcode – BS41 8LQ

Parking – ST 556 668

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 25W PA

Antenna – MFJ Long Ranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 7

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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Mynydd Machen, Mynydd y Lan & Mynydd Twyn-glas 2019

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GW/SW-030, Mynydd Machen – 362m, 1 point

This was my second activation of Mynydd Machen so with the benefit of experience I knew that parking would be possible part way up the track rather than trying to squeeze onto the verge on the road.  There is a suitable space located at ST 219 904.   This appears to be common practice by the locals out walking dogs but probably not strictly legit without getting the landowners permission.

It is then but a short walk on up to the summit where you will find a large mast which will overload your front end seriously on VHF.

Despite the problems with overload from the mast I was able to make nine contacts which I thought wasn’t bad for a wet Tuesday afternoon.

Mynydd Machen Log

Journey Details

Date – 19th November 2019

Postcode – NP11 7PS

Parking – ST 219 904

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 25W PA

Antenna – MFJ Long Ranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 9

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

GW/SW-024, Mynydd y Lan – 385m, 1 point

From Mynydd Machen it is just a short hop across the valley to reach Mynydd y Lan.  It could be done on foot but I didn’t have the time for this so a short drive got me to the parking spot.

The last time I did this summit I approached from the North West which wasn’t the easiest of routes.  This time I decided to try from the South East instead which was certainly a better option.  There is another alternative route possible from the NW which may also be worth a try following the path up to the radio masts.  Maybe next year.

There is good parking at ST 216 916.  This is a quiet dead end leading up to an industrial site with plenty of space on the side of the road.  From here there is a track that leads up though the woods to the summit plateau.

There is a fairly direct route to the top which is very steep in places, or there are plenty of other longer options leading more gently to the top.  Just keep heading uphill.  At the top there is a gate at ST 210 921 which is worth finding as the top of the woodland is elsewhere surrounded by a wall and wire fence.

There is a large open and fairly flat top which makes it difficult to work out where the true summit lies.  There is a small monument stone at ST 208 923 which I have used.  It’s a bit to the South of the point marked on the map as the highest but well within the AZ.

I set up the radio at the stone but struggled to find anyone to work even though this summit is a fair higher than GW/SW-030.  I think this is because the large flat top just doesn’t provide as good a takeoff at VHF as on 030.  Eventually I had to resort to holding the antenna aloft as high as I could reach to get a signal out and like this I did eventually manage to work four stations.

Mynydd y Lan Log

Journey Details

Date – 19th November 2019

Postcode – NP11 7PN

Parking – ST 216 916

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 25W PA

Antenna – MFJ Long Ranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

The return is just a case of retracing your steps back down the hill although I did choose to take the longer zig zag down in places as the ground was quite wet and slippery on the steep path.

GW/SW-019, Mynydd Twyn-glas – 472m, 1 point

After a slightly longer drive I arrived at the parking spot for Mynydd Twyn-glas. This is another summit reached bu the access road to a radio mast but fortunately this time the summit is a little way on from the masts so not so badly affected by overload.  It would be possible to drive along the track as far as the masts and park there, but again it is private land and as it’s a pleasant walk I chose to park in the car park at ST 236 980.  The route from there is very obvious and not at all steep.  It only rises about 100m over about 2.5Km.

The summit is marked by a trig point which is where I set up the station.  Again this is a large flat top so VHF takeoff is not good.  I eventually managed to get my four contacts and then just as I was about to pack up Don G0RQL managed to slide into the log and get his point.

Mynydd Twyn-glas Log

At the end of the walk back it was just starting to get dark so timing was good, time now for the long drive back home to Wiltshire.

Journey Details

Date – 19th November 2019

Postcode – NP11 5AY

Parking – ST 236 980

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 25W PA

Antenna – MFJ Long Ranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 5

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself

Walking Route Summary

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Wicklow Mountains 7th October 2019

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EI/IE-003, Tonelagee – 817m, 10 points

Monday and it was back to the rain.  There is good parking for Tonelagee but the path from the road is very wet.  Fortunately just after I set off the rain stopped and once past the initial bog it is a very pleasant walk up to the top.

There is a fairly obvious path to follow.  The mist never did manage to clear properly but on a clear day I suspect there would be some good views.  The summit has a trig point which was a suitable spot to set up the station.  I called CQ and soon had six contacts in the log, a mix of Welsh and Irish operators.

EI/IE-003, Tonelagee Log

The trip back to the car is just a case of retracing your steps.

Journey Details

Date – 7th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – O 076 001

Parking (Lat/Long) – 53.041695 -6.3960814

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself

Distance – 3.9Km

Parking Height – 476m

Summit Height – 812m

Time Total –  1h 52m

Time Up 0h 40m

Time Down 0h 27m

EI/IE-012, Scarr – 641m, 8 points

A short drive into Laragh and back out got me to the second car park beside the Glenmacnass Waterfall which was in full flow after all the recent rains.

From the car park it was another boggy start to reach a fairly obvious path up to the summit.

After a pleasant walk up, the final approach to the summit loomed.  There is no trig point but a small cairn offers a little shelter from the elements and somewhere to erect the aerial.  Even though this was a lower summit I soon had eight contacts in the log.  Probably being a bit later in the day there were more people around.

EI/IE-012, Scarr Log

The return back to the car is straightforward, just dodge the puddles!

Journey Details

Date – 7th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – O 114 030

Parking (Lat/Long) – 53.066576 -6.3393393

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 8

SOTA points – 8

Group – Myself

Distance – 5.6Km

Parking Height – 350m

Summit Height – 641m

Time Total –  2h 14m

Time Up 0h 47m

Time Down 0h 42m

EI/IE-035, Trooperstown Hill – 430m, 4 points

Another short drive back into Laragh and out took me to to the start point for the final summit of the trip.  There is no car park, just enough room to squeeze one car onto the verge.  From this start there is a clear track up to the summit where there is a large pile of rocks marking the top.  Not really what you would call a cairn.

At only 430m I wasn’t sure how well I would get out from here but I needn’t have worried. I soon managed to raise enough contacts although mostly into Wales with one final contact to Dec at work in Dublin.  This marked the end of four great days in the Wicklow mountains which despite the rain provided some great walks and some great contacts.  Thanks to everyone I worked whilst over there.

EI/IE-035, Trooperstown Hill

Journey Details

Date – 7th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – T 157 929

Parking (Lat/Long) – 52.974520 -6.2780240

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 5

SOTA points – 4

Group – Myself

Distance – 3.0Km

Parking Height – 120m

Summit Height – 430m

Time Total –  1h 09m

Time Up 0h 22m

Time Down 0h 16m

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Wicklow Mountains 6th October 2019

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EI/IE-005, Kippure – 757m, 10 points

Sunday morning I was promised  sunshine by the weatherman but it broke with extensive cloud cover, at least it wasn’t raining.

I planned to start the day with Kippure.  This is probably the easiest 10 point summit ever.

There is no proper car park but plenty of room at the junction to park three or four cars safely and without obstruction.  It’s then just a case of following the access road all the way to the summit.

 

The top was still in cloud when I arrived, reportedly there is a radio mast there but all I could see was the bottom of some guy ropes. I set up the station in the shelter of an old disused anchor block and called CQ.

It was a bit slow going this morning, possibly because they were reading the IRTS Radio News Bulletin on channel S21 so everyone was listening there.  I did eventually manage to make five contacts mostly into Wales with one into England.

EI/IE-005, Kippure Log

By the time I had finished the cloud had lifted and the sun was shining so I was rewarded with a fabulous view of the radio tower behind me.  It was a bit bigger than my aerial that you can see below it.  As far as I could tell I don’t think it caused me any reception problems whilst operating unless that was why I was struggling to find the contacts.  Possibly I was in below the radiation pattern.

The return to the car is as easy as the ascent, just follow the road!

Journey Details

Date – 6th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – O 141 141

Parking (Lat/Long) – 53.166080 -6.2942943

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 5

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself

Distance – 7.1Km

Parking Height – 520m

Summit Height – 757m

Time Total –  2h 02m

Time Up 0h 40m

Time Down 0h 31m

EI/IE-007, Djouce – 725m, 10 points

A short drive from Kippure took me to the Djouce car park.  By now, a bit later in the day and the sun was shining bringing the day trippers out.

The path up to the summit initially follows the route of the Wicklow Way, a 131-kilometre long-distance trail that crosses the Wicklow Mountains.  This part of the path has been protected by the installation of a boardwalk made up of two parallel railway sleepers taking walkers across the peat bogs.  This is again a very easy route, just follow the boardwalk until the very obvious left turn leading up the final Km to the summit.  There is plenty of room on the summit which is fortunate as it seems to be a very popular walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  I found a quiet spot away from the trig point and set up the station in the shelter of a large rock.  I soon had another six contacts in the log before returning the same way to the car.  The only difficulty being dodging the tourists along the narrow boardwalk.  Another very easy ten points!

EI/IE-007, Djouce Log

Journey Details

Date – 6th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – O 168 077

Parking (Lat/Long) – 53.106988 -6.2562177

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – MFJ Longranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 6

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself

Distance – 7.5Km

Parking Height – 480m

Summit Height – 725m

Time Total –  2h 06m

Time Up 0h 50m

Time Down 0h 43m

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Wicklow Mountains 5th October 2019

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EI/IE-002, Mullaghcleevaun – 849m, 10 points

From the car park there is a clear track South almost to the summit of Black Hill. Follow this and then continue up to the top of the hill.  From the summit there is an obvious track leading South East over to Mullaghcleevaun itself.  Follow this where possible although it is mostly over peat bog.  The track disappears in places and you will need to resort to the compass unless it’s a clear day and you can see the top.  When I did this route in October 2019 the path was very wet and many times it was easier to parallel the path rather than trying to follow it.  The summit of Mullaghcleevaun is a large flat top marked by a trig point and a number of large boulders looming out of the mist.  I set up the station at the trig point and soon worked nine contacts including Dec in Dublin and also into Northern Ireland and Wales.

EI/IE-002, Mullaghcleevaun Log

The return back to the car is just a reversal of the route up although I did skirt around the summit of Black Hill, I don’t think this really helped as the going was very rough, next time I think I will just go over the top again on the way back.

Journey Details

Date – 5th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – O 043 108

Parking (Lat/Long) – 53.138243 -6.4409789

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 9

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself

Distance – 11.6Km

Parking Height – 440m

Summit Height – 849m

Time Total –  3h 29m

Time Up 1h 35m

Time Down 1h 17m

EI/IE-014, Sorrel Hill – 599m, 6 points

Having done Mullaghcleevaun in the morning, Sorrel Hill is just the other side of the road so makes a nice easy finish for the day.  It is an easy route up an obvious track and not as wet as Mullaghcleevaun.

There is a nice cairn on the top where I set up my station and soon had another eight contacts in the log.

EI/IE-014, Sorrel Hill Log

Journey Details

Date – 5th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – O 043 108

Parking (Lat/Long) – 53.138243 -6.4409789

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 8

SOTA points – 6

Group – Myself

Distance – 2.45Km

Parking Height – 440m

Summit Height – 599m

Time Total –  1h 09m

Time Up h 23m

Time Down 0h 14m

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Wicklow Mountains 4th October 2019

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After much planning and preparation I finally set foot in Ireland again late on the Thursday evening for an extended four day weekend climbing the SOTA summits of the Wicklow Mountains.

This is the story of that weekend and hopefully a useful catalogue for any one else planning a similar trip.

EI/IE-001, Lugnaquilla – 925m, 10 points

Known locally as ‘Lug’, fortunately for me as I am not sure I can pronounce the full name. The final remnants of storm Lorenzo was still blowing itself out across the North of Ireland as I arrived at the Baravore car park.  The car park marks the end of the public highway although the road does continue North West through a ford. After the rain deposited by the storm crossing the ford would need a substantial vehicle.

Fortunately there is a footbridge a few yards up river reached by following the path between the sign and the ford in the picture.

Once over the footbridge there is a good path leading West into the large valley but beyond this the path appears and disappears, so unless it’s a clear day and you can see the top you will need to navigate your way to the top.

The summit is surrounded by some fairly steep sections which are best avoided but on the other-hand the flatter sections are mostly peat bog and after heavy rain also best avoided!  In particular the section around 650 metres was crossed by some fairly significant water which needs crossing with care.

There is a good size summit on the top which was handy as the winds were still up around 60 mph on the day I was there, I managed to find enough shelter down behind the cairn and set up the station in the murk.

EI/IE-001, Lugnaquilla Log

Journey Details

Date – 4th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – T 064 941

Parking (Lat/Long) – 52.988030 -6.4129552

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 5

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself

Distance – 12.7Km

Parking Height – 150m

Summit Height – 925m

Time Total –  4h 12m

Time Up 2h 02m

Time Down 1h 28m

EI/IE-010, Croaghanmoira – 664m, 8 points

Once back down from Lug I drove the few miles around to Croaghanmoira.  By this time the water at the ford had risen considerably and the road back to Glenmalure was flooded in places but just passable still but more importantly the rain had finally stopped and the wind speed was dropping.

From the parking spot there is a good clear track leading up to the summit.  Compared to Lug it is an easy walk barely requiring  reference to the map.  The only difficult bit is climbing over the rather rickety gate,

 

 

The trig point at the top clearly marks the summit and affords a convenient spot to set up the station.

EI/IE-010, Croaghanmoira – Log

Journey Details

Date – 4th October 2019

Parking (Grid) – T 087 876

Parking (Lat/Long) – 52.928613, -6.3835931

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 50W PA

Antenna – 2 Element Yagi

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 5

SOTA points – 8

Group – Myself

Distance – 3.7Km

Parking Height – 457m

Summit Height – 664m

Time Total –  1h 22m

Time Up 0h 32m

Time Down 0h 21m

 

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Carn Mor Dearg & Ben Nevis 2019

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GM/WS-003 – Carn Mor Dearg

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.

Allt a Mhuilinn

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.

GM/WS-003 – Log

Journey Details

Date – 31st August 2019

Postcode – PH33 6SN

Parking – NN 144 764

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 75W PA

Antenna – DIAMOND SRH770S

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4

SOTA points – 10

Group – Myself + Peter M7XPE

Walking Route Summary

Profile

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Christ Cross 2019

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G/DC-005, Christ Cross – 261m, 1 point

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.

G/DC-005 log

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.

Journey Details

Date – 27rd July 2019

Postcode – EX5 4LY

Parking – SS 965 050

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 25W PA

Antenna – MFJ Long Ranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself, Belinda, Jacob & MiL

Walking Route Summary

Profile

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Kit Hill 2019

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G/DC-003, Kit Hill – 334m, 1 point

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.

G/DC-003 Log

When done, just get back into the car, what more is there to say!

Journey Details

Date – 27th July 2019

Postcode – PL17 8HR

Parking – SX 375 713

Radio – Kenwood TH-D74 + 25W PA

Antenna – MFJ Long Ranger

Band – 144 FM

Contacts – 4

SOTA points – 1

Group – Myself, Belinda, Jacob & MiL

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