Our Mournes completion mission began as I finished work at 4pm on Friday 23rd May 2014. The first half term of my new job had come to an end and I was feeling very happy about the move I had made. An hour and a bit up the A34 later, I was picking up Jimmy M0HGY, as arranged, at his office in Wilmslow. We then made for the M56 and M53 for the run over to Birkenhead.
Our route to Northern Ireland would be on the Stena Line overnight ferry. Meanwhile, Marianne and Liam had flown from Manchester to Belfast and were spending the night with her dad in Larne. Steak and ale pie, chips and a pint was our dinner on our floating hotel, before we bedded down in the en suite cabin.
The next thing I knew, a loud announcement was telling us it was 5.30am, time to get up, vacate our cabins and get some breakfast. Dutifully, we complied, setting ourselves up with bacon, egg, sausage et cetera and tea. As we drove away from Belfast port, the rain was lashing down. Therefore the intended Slieve Muck GI/MM-007 was discarded. I figured that we should drive to the most distant summit in our plans in order to give the rain sufficient time to abate. Hence we were now heading to just over the Irish border into the Republic of Ireland, and Black Mountain EI/IE-021, for the first activation of Saturday 24th May 2014.
This was significant, for it was the very first SOTA activation outside of the UK for both Jimmy and I. The prospect of operating "abroad" for SOTA was the sole motivation for Jimmy to aspire to the Full licence. Indeed the only reason he did the Intermediate was to get access to the Full!
Ireland seems to have a very generous points banding, and 6 points were available for this 510m summit. Furthermore, a tarmac road and a gravel track lead all the way to the summit, so the "walk" was a trivial 100m or so for us. The rain had stopped, but a very thick fog coated the summit. You couldn't even see the transmitter mast up here from beside the perimeter fence!
The highest point was a short walk beyond the transmitter complex, and we continued a little further still to obtain some sort of shelter behind the mound. Using the FT-817 and SOTAbeams MFD, Jimmy EI/M0HGY/P made 7 QSOs on 2m FM, with contacts into GW, GD and GI. With my own FT-817, and 12m GP antenna, I had a decent run of 26 QSOs on 12m, with 9 on SSB and 17 on CW. One S2S with EC2AG/P on EA2/BI-017 was included.
With the first activation of the trip safely in the bag, it was time to head into the Mourne Mountains of County Down, Northern Ireland, with Slievemartin GI/MM-011 being our first target.