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G4YSS: Glas Bheinn GM/NS-044, 14-10-12


#1

G4YSS Activation Report, GM/NS-044, 14-10-12.
(Includes WAB/ mobile run report for 12-10-12)

GLAS BHEINN - SOTA GM/NS-044. FIRST ACTIVATION for SOTA.
Using GM4YSS/P and SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P. HF/ VHF QRO on 40m; 30m and 2-FM.
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr UOS as ‘z’).

EQUIPMENT:
IC706-2G 100W. Adjustable dipole 80 thru’ 20 and coils for 160m. 5m mast; 1m end sticks.
IC-E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with 7.4V /1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery. J-Pole for 2m FM.
Battery power: 13.2 Ah Li-Po (Tested on return - 91% discharged).
QRO pack: 12.3 kg (27 pounds) inc 0.75 litres drinks food and Primaloft jacket.

Introduction:
This expedition was the second & last in a 7-night self-drive holiday at the Highland Hotel, Strathpeffer from 8th to 15th of October 2012. For details of the earlier sortie to Ben Wyvis & Little Wyvis - NS5 & NS50 on 10-10-12, see http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=7338#foot

Glas Bheinn is a name that has been familiar for many years but until a month ago, I had no idea where it was. While checking it’s location I found out why I’d heard of ‘it’ before. In fact there are half a dozen Glas Bheinn’s in GM/WS alone and some are bigger than NS44. No doubt a search would turn up further Glas Bheinns which apparently means ‘Big Green Hill.’ To properly identify GM/NS-044 we need call it Glas Bheinn (Assynt).

This SOTA was selected mainly because of its unactivated status but also because it was not too arduous for a QRO activation and was fairly straightforward from an access viewpoint. It can be reached from Strathpeffer in less than 90 minutes driving time on good roads via Ullapool. Being surrounded by such famous names as Suiven, Arkle, Quinag and Foinaven, all of which I have previously activated, it is right in the centre of a favourite area.

An internet search intimated that there might be a path in from the north but the 1:25k map didn’t show one. A GPS route was derived from this information but it only contained 5 waypoints. Other than that, this was very much a fact finding mission, especially on the lower part of the hill. After a 5am start for Ben & Little Wyvis, a few days previous, it was decided to be civilised and fit this between breakfast and evening meal at the hotel. After Wednesday’s Wyvis day, no strenuous effort would be permitted.

EXECUTION:
The drive to Assynt on quiet roads took from 08:45 to 10:07. About a mile NE of the start point for Quinag there is a path going off to the right at NC 2384 2845 with sufficient space to park 3 cars just off the road. A car was parked there already with a man and woman just leaving it. If I’d been a minute earlier I could have quizzed them about the route but that would have to wait until we all returned to the road in the afternoon. Drinking down 0.8 litre of orange juice, reduced the amount I would have to carry.

By the time I was ready to start at 10:19, the two walkers were up on the first slopes of Glas Bheinn and appeared to be heading for the gap down which flows a burn into Loch na Gainmhich. I wish I’d watched them more carefully as it might have saved some time and effort when I walked west from the path junction at NC 2398 2839 instead of turning right onto the Lairig Unapool path; an easier option. It was so wet, both on the paths and beside them, that frequent detours and an eventual back-track was needed. The going was tedious until the contours tightened, indicating better drainage, whence I was able to gain some height to skirt an outcrop at NC 2443 2787.

I found a path at NC 2449 2775 but it soon disappeared. A few difficult moves were required to climb up to an easier grassy slope at NC 2449 2770. A two foot cairn was then located on the main ridge at NC 2438 2761. It occurred to me that I might have been better taking a direct line to this cairn from the Lairig Unapool but looking down, the NW slopes of the hill looked steep. Moreover, the lower reaches of it were hidden from view. I was later to find out that the couple I had seen would go this way on their descent; via a shallow grassy gully at approx NC 243 277, which is visible from the parking place. It’s a lighter green than its surroundings.

I wasn’t at all happy with my route up the NE shoulder but now on the ridge, the cairn was a clue that from here the route would be straightforward. In fact I could see a faint path going up the rocky slope ahead of me at NC 2437 2758. This ridge path took me all the way to the top via NC 2459 2714; NC 2493 2686 and NC 2521 2665.

At least two rain showers passed closeby producing strong rainbows. Since the path generally follows along the western lip of the ridge, I found myself constantly in the grip of a cold, stiff breeze. The cairn overlooking Coire Dearg to the left and at first mistaken for the summit, was eventually bypassed. The extensive top is rocky with grass interspersed. I found that the path became ill-defined a couple of hundred metres from the top but by then the summit cairn was in sight. The centre of the two metre high cairn on the true summit was GPS’d at NC 25475 26478. There is a shelter a few feet away and the immediate area is covered in large rocks a bit like Great Gable.

GLAS BHEINN (Assynt) GM/NS-044, 776m, 4 pts, 11:43 to 15:08. Wind 20 mph. Temp 5 deg C. Patchy sunshine at first, showers & low-cloud, then sunny. LOC: IO78ME, WAB: NC22. EE (Orange) Mobile phone coverage (texts tried only). Great views! QRO. No previous activations.

Just over 100m ESE of the summit is a grass patch (NC 2555 2644) large enough to take an 80m dipole. I put my small pole & peg prepared flysheet there and set up the aerials just in time to avoid a wetting from a shower passing through from the east. The soil here is sparse and only about 40mm deep so the pegs had to go in at a shallow angle with very little hold against a brisk breeze. A few heavy items gleaned from the nearby rock field solved that problem. A poly sheet and sit-mat added a touch of home. I had more than enough food and the rig was set up, as light rain impacted on the fabric above.

All was ready by 12:20 local but there was no point in phoning Roy G4SSH who was at Hornsea Radio Rally with Nick G4OOE. A CQ on the main SOTA channel should do the trick.

7.032.7 CW - 20 QSO’s:
A short CQ brought in DL3HXX Lothar who then spotted me. I informed him that as far as I knew, he was the first person to work NS44 and he seemed quite pleased with that. Power output was 50 Watts at this stage but it gradually became evident that my QRO didn’t seem to be doing as good a job on 40m as QRP did 4 days prior. By 11:42z I raised the power to full after having trouble getting John G4WSX into the log but just before this, G4SSH turned up unexpectedly. Roy and Nick G4OOE had rushed back from Hornsea Rally to work me. I was honoured. They passed on regards from SOTA ops who they had met there.

The session lasted from 11:22z to 11:51z but propagation to Europe was down on that for UK stations and even the latter were having minor problems at times. Countries worked consisted of: DL; LA; G; GW; SM; SP and OM. 60% of the contacts were within the UK but I was a little surprised when the frequency ‘dried up’ so soon, especially on a Sunday. I felt sorry for the Europeans; they didn’t seem to have had a fair crack of the whip so I made a mental note to try 30m CW if there was time.

7.135 SSB - 29 QSO’s:
Geoff M6MZX was the one to answer my CQ and as I remember it, this was done in short order. Quite quickly I had a small pileup but now there were even fewer non UK callers, which was probably to be expected with SSB after a CW session weighted in the UK’s favour. A 13.2 Ah Li-Po battery allowed unrestricted use of high power and 100 Watts was used for almost all the SSB part of the activation.

At 12:13z there was an S2S QSO with M0TTE/P Simon on G/WB-006.

Early on, Juerg HB9BIN called without success. DF5WA Bert was helping him with the ‘overs’ but Juerg just couldn’t hear the report. I called Bert instead and worked him with difficulty. I had minor misgivings about the validity of this QSO but Bert must have been hearing me in order to guide Juerg; so into the log he went with the benefit of the doubt. Conditions must have improved because 15 minutes later HB9BIN entered the log quite easily. Roy tells me that in addition to being a keen activator Juerg, as a chaser, only collects uniques. GM/NS-044 was undeniably that and for everybody. G1INK broke off from his home brew beer mix boiling for a rare call. Steve said, ‘Thanks for the new one.’ Evidently Steve is another collector of uniques. Listen out for him activating in Scotland soon.

Clive MM1YAM called in. It’s a long time since I worked Clive from Eccleshill, Bradford and now it seems he has moved to Scotland and is living in Lairg. We had a brief chat and I must say it was great to work Clive again. At the end Roy called me as 2E0OOO. I asked about conditions on 30m with a view to putting it on. In theory at least, it should give Europe a chance. Mark G0VOF came in with some info about Andy MM0FMF on a summit. He’d been on 5 MHz but had moved to 30m. I QSY’d to 30m to try for an S2S with him.

When I went out to change the dipole links, there was blue sky and sunshine. Looking over to the summit cairn I could see someone sitting there and we gave each other a wave. This was the couple I had seen earlier but why I hadn’t caught them up on the ascent or seen them earlier than this, I don’t know. Three and a half hours had passed since they set off. Where had they been? Maybe they had taken a longer route out of sight from mine.

10.117 CW – 7 QSO’s:
With the link dipole running asymetrically (the ‘hot’ leg with 20m selected and the other with 40m) I had a VSWR of about 2.5:1. Nevertheless, it does the job on 30 satisfactorily and it saves the work of adding dedicated links for the band. There are already enough things to tangle and snag.

I could hear a vague whisper of Andy MM0FMF on 10.118 but I would never have known it was him unless I’d been told. He was readability 1 - probably we were too close. I threw my callsign in once but the response wasn’t timed right for me to be convinced it was me he’d heard, plus there were plenty of other stations calling him.

The nearest clear channel was 10.117 or was it 10.116? A CQ got a reply from S51ZG with 599 both ways. This was a good start with good propagation into the target - Europe. I half expected a long session but surprisingly, it didn’t materialise. After OZ3RT; DL2HWI; HB9AGH; I3VAD; G4WSX and F8FKK the frequency dried up despite most of the incoming reports of my 100 Watts being 579 to 599.

During the session and once on 7 MHz, I had ‘CFM’ sent to me a couple of times. Something I have not heard before. In response I merely sent my callsign and SOTA Ref and hoped for the best. It seemed to work.

It was disappointing not to have added much to the tally of Europeans but time and considering the Watts I’d been outputting, battery power too was running out fast. There were still a few things I wanted to do so without labouring the point, I QSY’d to 145.500 FM.

145.500 / 145.575 FM – 3 QSO’s:
I tried 145.575 first and was hoping for my newly reaquainted friends on the east side of Scotland, namely GM0UDL; GM3PIL; MM0ZRF and MM0LOZ but I must have been too far west or too low down. With 50 Watts to the 2m vertical J-Pole, contact was made with MM6BIP Adam on 145.500 located on the east side of the Island of Lewis in the Western Isles. Reports were 59 plus both ways.

In fact two stations called in at once; the other being MM0TQH Rich in the Moray Firth area with a second pair of 59’s. It was during this QSO that we QSY’d back up to the Inverness chat channel of 145.575 in the hope of attracting stations from there. Other than that, Rich was content to chat on S20 for a while which is typical in this remote area. Being a ‘townie’ it makes me slightly uncomfortable. Rich told me that 145.475 was another channel that was used as a meeting place in a certain local area but I didn’t make a note of just where.

MM0DHY/P Adrian was, as it turned out, the final station worked in the day and he was an S2S on GM/WS-275. Adrian was using just 5 Watts but was coming in at about 53. By now it was almost 2:30 pm and I wanted to be packed up and off by 3pm. I asked the VHF stations worked if they had a Top Band facility but none had. It was worth a try!

1.832 CW – Nil QSO’s:
100 Watt CQ’s on here had the expected result. 1.843 SSB was also tried.

5 MHz USB - Nil QSO’s:
With the 60m links out and 100W, I called on three channels with a CQ on each; even remembering not to use the clubcall (well most of the time anyway). No result.

433.500 FM - Nil QSO’s:
I called using 20 Watts to the vertical 2m J-Pole working as a three lambda by two with a VSWR of 1.7:1. Once again - zilch but you don’t get if you don’t ask.

The above were done on the offchance and though 160m had been alerted the day before, there was no time to arrange for real time spotting for that, 60m or 70cm.

Had there been any more time, I would have liked to have tried 20m but I’d promised to be back to Strathpeffer for the evening meal. The HF/ VHF station and accommodation was packed away inside 20 minutes but I paused at the big summit cairn for yet more photos. This time it was sunny, clear and looking quite settled. Before leaving, I selected a few rock samples both small and medium as there would be very little reascent on the return.

THE DESCENT:
The plan was to walk down the ascent path as far as the 2 foot cairn and find a path that I suspected must exist down to the northwest. The cursory glance on the way up just wasn’t enough so I tried a bit harder, walking to and fro and peering down as far as I could see but to no avail. If there was a path it wasn’t giving itself up easily so I struggled down the way I came up, leaving to the NE and round the outcrop again.

If there’s ever a next time I will ascend from the NW up the gully to the cairn. I suspect that simply walking down the ridge a bit further and perhaps past (north of) the 596m spot height may have revealed a good descent route though steep. As it was, what with QRO and the added weight of rock samples, the inertia of the rucksack was a little overmuch for swinging around outcrop and climbing down steep grass and over rough ground.

To avoid mistakes made on the way up, involving rough ground and boggy detours, I retained height for longer and joined the Lairig Unapool path at NC 2401 2799. At that point I met the female of the couple who I’d seen at the start of the day walking along with two sticks and a pained expression. She didn’t like the track’s rough, stony surface but all was now revealed about the pale green gully descent which they’d just come down. I estimate the gully to run approximately via NC243277. Apparently they had climbed Glas Bheinn about 7 times, sometimes on snow but always going up the far side and descending via this gully. I got back to the car in 63 minutes at 16:11.

Before setting off, I reinstalled the IC706 but 2m-FM calls on the drive home got no reply. The journey back to Strathpeffer was completed between 16:25 and 17: 35 with a few photos of tasty mountains and Ullapool in sunlight on the way. The roads had been so empty that there was even time for a quick bath.

ASCENT & DISTANCE:
Car to NS44 Glas Bheinn: 530m (1,739ft) ascent / 2 x 3.3 = 6.6km (4.1 miles total).

CHRONOLOGY:
Left Strathpeffer: 08:45
Parked car: 10:07
Walk started: 10:19
GM/NS-044: 11:43 to 15:08
Returned to Car: 16:11
Drive: 16:25
Back to Strathpeffer: 17:35

Walking times: 1hr-24 min up / 1hr-3 min down.
Summit time: 3hr-25 min.
Time Car to Car: 5hr-52 min.
Gross time Hotel to Hotel: 8hr-50 min.

QSO’s:
20 on 40m CW.
29 on 40m SSB.
7 on 30m CW.
3 on 2m FM.
0 on 160m CW.
0 on 160m SSB.
0 on 60m USB.
0 on 70cm FM.
Total: 59

Total miles driven (8 days): 1,340 at 52.2 mpg (Citreon C3 Picasso Diesel.)
Miles; Scarborough to Strathpeffer: 382.

COMMENTS:
This expedition was mounted from the (Shearings) Highland Hotel in Strathpeffer described in the previous (Wyvis’s) report. http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=7338#foot The intention on these trips is to put three summits on the air in the week and that aim was fulfilled in this instance.

Once the Wyvis’s had been activated, the relatively easy Glas Bheinn was chosen from a few hitherto unactivated NS summits. It could have been Morven, Scaraben or Smean but they were even further to drive to.

The intention is always to GPS mark a good route on summits which are new to me but in this case no path was found up the lower parts of the hill. In the absence of a path, it could also be stated that no satisfactory way was found either. However the path up the ridge is well defined right up to but not including, the rocky summit but the lower part of the approach needs further work.

The people I met at the end confirmed that there existed a long route which curved around and attacked NS44 from the west. They also said that the much more direct ‘pale green gully’ approach was viable. With the latter knowledge and my own experiences, if I ever went back again, I would route via NC 2398 2839 (path junction - turn right); NC 2401 2799 (leave path - head for ‘pale green gully’): NC 243 277 (estimated position of ‘pale green gully’); NC 2438 2761 (2 foot high cairn on ridge) and thence follow the ridge path described.

Band conditions on 40m were not as good as 4 days prior on the Wyvis’s where 5 Watts were employed. The 100 Watts used on NS44 in the prevailing band conditions was more or less equivalent to the 5 Watts used then. Considering the fact that this was a Sunday as against a Wednesday for NS5 & NS50, I expected to work many more stations. These mountains are very far from some of the target chasers in mid Europe which is why, in the mediocre conditions prevailing on 40m; 30m was added. It was therefore surprising when that strategy produced only a further 7 QSO’s but I must say that the ops who did work me were quite pleased with the ‘new one.’ This was especially true of Juerg HB9BIN who seemed ultra determined on 40 SSB.

A token effort was mounted on 1.8 MHz but no QSO’s were made. Despite the power used, NS44 is a long way north and west; away from the more populated Scottish east coast where QSO’s were made from Ben Wyvis. Contact with England is not expected in anything but freak daylight or night conditions. Stations worked on 2m-FM didn’t have 160m facilities.

Its years since I tried 5 MHz. I have never yet failed to get at least one contact on 60m and two activations have relied on this band alone, but I have heard that the band is used less often these days. This, like 70cm, was done on a whim when I heard that Andy MM0FMF had been using it. However, you can’t expect off-the-cuff SOTA contacts on a band that you barely ever appear on and without prior notice.

All in all, the holiday and the activations were successful despite generally mediocre WX and on the Friday in particular, it was nothing less than appalling. The weather windows for the two activation days were almost perfect.

So there it is. Another NS SOTA bites the dust.


WAB/ M:
The IC706-2G, 100W HF/ VHF QRO setup in the XYL’s car (using croc clips, a 25A circuit breaker, 12 AWG wire and a mag-mount) came into its own on Friday 12th of October. This was a terrible day. It rained cats and dogs for about 36 hours and flooded the main roads - closing some of them. This was the perfect opportunity for a spot of mobile WAB’ing on 7.160 LSB - so long as I could get through, that is.

Setting off from Strathpeffer, as soon as my wife started her afternoon rest, I went south through a flooded Beauly with water above the front apron (the fire brigade were pumping the road out when I returned), down the A831 to Cannich and beyond on ‘C’ roads to Glen Affric and into Glen Cannich, getting almost to Loch Ness on the way back. The week so far had been sparse from a WAB-net viewpoint but today was the best yet with between six and a dozen stations on 7.160. Control was being handled by either Brian G0BFJ; Ken G0FEX or later by Tony G3XKT.

In over 70 miles covered, the following thirteen grid squares were activated: NH54; NH55; NH45; NH55; NH44; NH33; NH43; NH34; NH23; NH22; NH32; NH42 and NH53. Discipline, efficiency and friendlyness was just as it always has been and apparently most ops hadn’t previously worked many of these areas which made it all the more worthwhile and enjoyable. I worked a few more squares in the week but it was never as good as this. The day after this, I was all set to activate NH24/ Portable but could only raise one station preliminary to this - G0GMY, Paul.

The antenna used was a home-brew mobile whip which I tuned in at home on a mag-mount. I found it in need of minor shortening, probably because it was designed for 7.060 and hasn’t been used since. Now that 40m is twice the width and WAB has moved up 100kHz, it’s getting harder to cover all of it with a narrow band aerial. After tuning it as an installation, I thought I would beef up the mag mount by adding a second magnet forward of it - an old TV CRT magnet. I should have checked the tuning after this because it had been thrown out of resonance to the degree that it was over 4:1 on 7.16.

Luckily, I had with me a second home made whip which has a 15mm removable rod in the top. This is a lightweight one that I made for use in CT3 and it was pushed into service in GM. It is helically wound with 2,180 turns of 0.4mm dia copper wire on a GRP rod, 1.22m long x 5mm diameter and weighs 3oz (85gm). Its end to end resistance is 5 Ohms and it is primarily designed for low windage and to bend double inside a suitcase with other /m antennas.

THANKS to:
ALL STATIONS worked. G4SSH; DL3HXX and G6MZX for spots. Once again, special thanks to Roy G4SSH/ 2E0OOO for his liaison/ spotting Service on 40m SSB after he and Nick ‘shot back’ from Hornsea Rally. The staff at the Highland Hotel Strathpeffer for advice, mountain WX forecasts & sandwiches. My XYL for the use of her car. To the WAB organisation for providing the side show when the WX was bad.

73, John G4YSS
Using Scarborough Special Events Group Club call - GS0OOO/P & GM4YSS/P.
(Please Note: GM4YSS/P will be used in database.)


#2

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

A very interesting report as usual. After your QSY to 30m I monitored 1832KHz for a couple of hours, but didn’t hear a whisper from you. It is a few months since I had my 50ft vertical up at home & I immediately noticed the higher noise level on that compared to my full size dipole in a quiet location. I may have heard something on that from somewhere like Pendle Hill, but from home on the vertical in early afternoon there really wasn’t much hope. Nice to give it a try though.

5MHz has been a little quiet over the summer as conditions were quite poor in the middle of the day. It is now coming back into it’s own & I usually monitor FE more regularly again. Of course last Sunday I was monitoring 1832 so missed your calls on 5MHz Hi!

Thanks again & best 73,

Mark G0VOF


#3

In reply to G0VOF:

5MHz has been the worst I’ve ever known it this summer. It’s been poor and as a result there have been less people using it. So there have been less people chasing on it. Which makes it appear worse to activators who don’t spend so long calling. Which makes… lather, rinse, repeat! It certainly starts to pick up at this time of year and is well worth using for QRP SSB activations as it is so much quieter than 40m SSB.

However, I’ve stuck with it as I try to activate to a known pattern, 5MHZ SSB, 7MHz CW, then either 30m or 20/17. I also try to hit alert times so the chasers have a higher degree of certainty that I’ll be where I say roughly when I say. Not always possible though.

Good to see John back up the NS summits. I’ve missed my mini-expeditions to IO78 these past 2 years and seeing John back up there has got my mind spinning at possibilities as I have some holiday to use before the end of the year.

Andy
MM0FMF


#4

In reply to BOTH:

Mark G0VOF & Andy MM0FMF:

Thanks for the info on 60m. I had heard that it wasn’t delivering but as you say once that idea gets established, people are less likely to use it. We haven’t been through a full cycle with 60 yet so we’re still learning. I think we’ll need it on a primary basis though. 3.5 & 7 are just too far apart. Let’s hope we get an allocation and it’s a wide one. Much of the time, it could be the most useful band SOTA ever had. At the moment I am put off because of exclusivity and possible delay due to procedures/ non SOTA when you’re pushed for time or the WX is threatening. I used it a lot about 5 or 6 years ago and was very pleased with it, especially the low noise, which of course would not be the case for a general amateur allocation.

Mark:

As for Top Band. It’s hard enough in England but with more determination / prearranging, I might have logged one or two from Glas Bheinn. I get the impression that northern GM amateurs are glad to get local contacts on any band they are to be had. They seem to go out of their way more and are very enthusiastic. Thanks for listening for so long. It certainly demonstrated your enthusiasm, as if we needed any more confirmation of that!

Andy:

You are doing a good job up there. There are so few of you GM activators and so many hills. The fact that the NS summit list is filling up so well is a testament to the efforts of you ‘locals.’ Sounds like there’ll be a few more soon but I see a target I have had since 1978 has ‘fallen’ namely Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair. So remote, it’s not true. I partly lost interest in the '80’s when the rumours of a well preserved Focke Wulf Condor there, were scotched.

I think I heard you operating on 10.118 while I was on NS44 but you were just about unreadable. Well done on CT3.

73 to both, John.