Wednesday 28th May 2014 was a non-SOTA "rest" day for Jimmy and I, but that did not mean a non-walking day. We went with Marianne and Liam to the Silent Valley Reservoir and did an enjoyable circular trail walk there. We also looked at the visitor centre and exhibition that explain all about the construction of the reservoir, tunnels and Mourne Wall all those years ago.
Later we moved onto the seaside town of Newcastle, County Down, for arcades, cafes, shops etc.
Yet another early 5am get-up on Thursday 29th May 2014. This was just an early morning summit bag though, not a full day's outing, so no big flask of soup was prepared. A small flask of tea certainly was prepared though, and this accompanied Jimmy M0HGY and I into the car with all the other gear as we set off around 5.50am. Only a short drive was required from the cottage, just around 4 miles down the Slievenaman Road to the little car park at J280279. The only thing was, it was raining rather heavily. Jimmy and I waited in the car listening to Radio Nova from Dublin, waiting for the rain to ease. When it became a cross between a very fine drizzle and thick damp mist, we decided to go for it.
We crossed the road and climbed the stile, making our way slightly downhill to the very good wide stone path. This remained flat level as it contoured around Ott Mountain, but then became less distinct as it began to climb towards the Mourne Wall. The wall was reached at the saddle between Slieve Loughshannagh and Carn Mountain (neither are SOTA), and we climbed the ladder stile over it here. The route to Slieve Muck GI/MM-007 summit from here was very grassy, damp in places, and undulating. From the 510m ASL at the Mourne Wall, we climbed to 557m, then dropped to 540m, and then up again to the 588m peak of Carn Mountain. There was then a drop to 530m before the final haul up to 674m ASL, and the summit of Slieve Muck. As we were becoming accustomed to, the Mourne Wall was our company for the final 3km.
It was raining steadily at the summit, but after photos we decided that we could avoid going in the bothy bag by choosing operating spots where the direction of the wall backed into the wind. This kept most of the rain of us and our gear during the activation as well. Three contacts were managed on 12m CW this time, before I moved to 40m CW. Only Roy G4SSH worked me on 7.032MHz, but eight stations responded to the self-spot for 7.128MHz SSB. Jimmy managed four 2m FM QSOs from 3 DXCCs in 13 minutes, an easy activation for him.
The descent was accompanied by worsening rain, but it mattered not. The points, unique and multiplier were all in the bag, and the weather forecast was good for the next two days. The Mournes completion was very much on. After spending the rest of the day with Marianne and Liam exploring around Strangford Lough, we took my father-in-law back up to the Thierfurth Inn in Kilcoo for Guinness and Jamesons while Marianne and Liam were watching Britain's Got Talent on the telly in the cottage!
Jimmy and I agreed to a 4.30am get-up on the Friday morning for an activation of Slieve Binnian GI/MM-003.