Activation of ARKLE GM/NS-042. (1st for SOTA.)
GM4YSS/P (used for database) & SSEG Club-call GS0OOO/P.
All times BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS).
‘FUNGUS’-2008 (Fun Goin’ Up Scotland) continued:
2nd day of 3-day GM/NS sortie.
See also reports for Suilven & AnTeallach…
FT817ND-QRP and a 20-30-40-60-80 (160m loaded) link-dipole. 5m H/B CFC mast and 6-cell, 11.1V, 4.4 Ah Li-Po battery. Reserves (not used): VX150 2m-FM H/H. Eight 2.7Ah-AA, Ni-Mh cells to fit either rig. Approx.10 kg pack including 1.4 ltr. water.
Foinaven; the racehorse won the UK Grand National in 1967, coming in at odds of 100 to 1. The Scottish mountain of the same name was one successful 2007 NS target. Its near neighbour (also a famous racehorse) is called Arkle. Last May, while driving to Arkle I was put off by terrible WX, which made it top priority for the 2008 NS expedition. I decided to get Suilven done first as it’s probably harder.
It’s strange but true that mountains can inspire, excite or instil fear. While on the way to Foinaven last year, a view of Arkle from the A838 grabbed my attention and made me wonder how hard it would be. First impressions were of bare rock from the ‘waist’ up and later research revealed no evidence of a bottom-to-top path.
I drove up from Lochinver the night before and slept in the old Fiesta, beside the Laxford River at NC255449; this time getting a better rest. The ‘jump-off’ point for Arkle is at the end of the lane to Stack Lodge where it leaves the A838 at NC 2688 4351. The problem is parking. I managed to position the car well inside a half-made passing place in order to set off waking at 08:56.
Here’s the route I ended up with. From NC 2688 4351, walk down the metalled lane and over the bridge towards the Lodge but swing right onto the track at NC 2693 4374. This Landrover track, which seems to have a much to do with angling, has a good surface and undulates its way around Loch a Cham Alltain to a 90 degree bend near Loch an Nighe Leathaid (NC 2896 4517). I left the track here, walking SE and roughly parallel with the loch.
There is sporadic evidence of a path at the loch-side but I chose to cut the corner whilst at the same time gradually gaining altitude. The surface here is not too rough; grass and Common Spotted Orchids etc and I walked via NC 2937 4479, a rock at NC 2982 4468 into a wide gap in outcrop at NC 3010 4471. Here the gradient increases sharply and the flora changes to heather. Heather-bashing is quite tiring on the flat but on a 30 degree slope in the sun, it’s slow work indeed. There was a colony of Moss Campion in flower higher up.
Climbing out of the gap at an easier angle, I reached a Burn (Allt-a Choir-Uairadh) and mini-waterfall at NC 3036 4479. Immediately north of this a decent path is found at the base of Coir Uairidh (NC 3036 4482). It may well be that this path comes all the way up from the loch via a longer, easier, more westerly route but I didn’t investigate. It is initially narrow and well defined through rocky vegetation but higher up passes over rock only, becoming easier to lose. The path goes via NC 3064 4510, NC 3070 4526, bending left at the 680m Col (NC 3073 4540) to pass over / around the 751m feature. After that, follow the ridge to the 730m Col at NC 3033 4555 and walk over what is reminiscent of the Clints of a Limestone Pavement at NC 3020 4583. One or two of the Grikes here would make good wind-shelters; being large enough to stand up in. The (787m) summit-cairn is located on the ‘roomy’ quartzite-strewn top, at NC 30273 46163. (All points – GPS marked). After photographing neighbours Foinaven, Ben Stack etc, I settled down out of the way, on a QTH of soft, dry moss at NC 3029 4622.
ACTIVATION: ARKLE - GM/NS-042, 787m 4pts, 11:40 to 15:26 BST. 12 deg C, 10 mph wind. Sunny to 12:30 then high cloud cover. WAB: NC34. Loc: IO78NI. (First activation for SOTA.) http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1082453
40m CW: Triggered by a phone-call to Roy G4SSH, 22 x 7.032 CW QSO’s were worked-through in the QSB, taking 47 minutes. 40% were UK stations with closest-in; Ken GM0AXY in Edinburgh. The signal was also reaching DL, F, HB and OK but eleven fewer QSO’s logged on here today, got me thinking that conditions were somewhat down compared to the previous day’s Suilven operation.
40m SSB: As per the day before, 40-SSB produced 9 stations; all in the UK / Eire. Frank G3RMD helped with QSY spotting throughout.
30m CW: Again shortness of skip on 40m prompted a change to 10.118 MHz with the idea of pulling-in more Europeans. This strategy brought some success but skip was still sufficiently short to work G4SSH in Irton, GM4FAM in Inverness (probably ground-wave) and some more distant G’s too. Once again the band-total was 9 stations worked.
160m CW: Now for the day’s treat! Following ‘contrived’ success from Suilven, using the SS repeater; I was hoping to at least equal my one QSO on 1.832 CW. Perhaps GM4FAM would be the only station close enough to have any chance of logging Arkle on 160m at this time of day. The minute I sent V’s to check antenna resonance / slug settings; Cris was right back with a 579 report. I think he was pleased with this Top Band QSO; I know for sure that I was!
2m FM: I tried on here with my modest vertical but to no avail. I couldn’t open a single repeater from Arkle either, but I could hear stations on the outputs of GB3NG and the IOM (GD) repeaters. Once again there was no sign of the half-expected John GM3JIJ, in Stornaway.
80m CW/SSB: Only two stations had been worked the day before on 3.557 CW / 3.724 SSB and today those concerned; Ken GM0AXY and Christine GM4YMM were already in the 40m log. For this reason I elected to proceed directly to 60m SSB after which CQ’s were put out on both aforementioned QRG’s. (Without success.)
60m SSB (channel FE): The final six stations bagged NS42’s 4 points on 5.398.5 MHz USB. This time it was G4JZF - Graham’s turn to struggle with seriously deep QSB but he QSL’d his 55 report eventually. The last QSO was a nice surprise; namely Peter GW3TJE/P offering an S2S with GW/MW-002. We both had ‘mouse-power’ but that doesn’t worry us! We have none of the QRN troubles of fixed stations. The reports were modest both ways but I could hear every word; a result of low-noise QTH’s and a hash-free power supplies! What a good way to end the day.
The descent was a simple re-trace, reaching the car at 17:22.
40m CW: 22
40m SSB: 9
30m CW: 9
160m CW: 1
2m FM: 0
80m CW: 0
80m SSB: 0
60m SSB: 6
Total: 47 QSO’s.
Battery utilisation: 42% of 4.4 Ah Li-Po. (5W inc. FM)
13 km walked and approx 780m (2600ft) of ascent.
Thanks to all stations worked and to G4SSH, G3RMD, & GM4FAM for spotting support. If not as spectacularly unique as Suilven, NS42 is still a very interesting summit. After finding that it hadn’t ‘bitten’ me, from the dangerous terrain viewpoint today, Arkle and I are now lifelong friends. The climb had proved easier than it looked and whilst band conditions could have been better, the beauty of a stark rocky top, underpinned by a ‘Yorkshire Dales style’ grass, heather and wild-flower-clothed approach march, will leave me with a long-lasting warm impression. I could easily become an ‘Arkle and Foinaven bore!’
Again, band conditions were unusual. Communication distances were the least frequency dependent I have experienced for some time, though judging by the absentee list, my QRP combined with QSB and fixed-station QRN, had sadly ruined many people chances. That said, my decision not to try to air ‘big stations’ from these summits was probably justified by the reasonable number of QSO’s that I did manage to work, unconstrained by power supply concerns.
Certainly, QRO has a greater chance of making a noise-plagued chaser happy but there are QRP alternatives available. One is to send the chaser suffix interspersed with the report many times, in the hope that a brief QSB peak will allow free-passage. Another is for the disappointed chaser to call again at a later time or on another band when he judges the path to be most favourable. Either way, I still think that in our exponentially rising EMI environment, the home-based SOTA operator is quite likely to have a terrible time. A top chaser will need skills exceeding those of an activator and perhaps we should be telling the RSGB to be more vigilant in the fight for higher EMI standards that will allow our hobby to continue, at least on a reasonable basis.
The last act of the day was to drive to a point south-west of Ullapool for the next day’s assault on An Teallach. I dropped into the town for fish & chips and ate them in a layby. The ‘Houdini style’ process of transferring from driving seat to sleeping board was getting harder by the day!
73, John G(M)4YSS,
using SSEG GS0OOO/P.
(This summit entered under GM4YSS/P for SOTA purposes)
AN TEALLACH – (GM/NS-004) report will follow in due course.