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GM/NS Winter expedition - 7 summits.


#1

I’ve spent a couple of weeks winter climbing, x-country skiing and mountaineering in Scotland each winter for many years. This trip was going to be different - not only because the conditions were not suitable for my ‘normal’ winter activities due to lack of snow and above freezing conditions. My ski’s and most of my winter mountaineering kit stayed at home. This time I was taking my SOTA kit and I’d spent days pouring over SOTA summits & maps in the hope a ‘plan’ would jump out of my research.

Then I saw two unactivated summits, GM/NS-131 & NS-118 not too far west of Lairg. These became my 1st targets. I could then travel west to do some other hills I’d not explored before. A start of a plan!

D. It is a long drive from my home near Whitby. 435 miles later and nearly 9 hours driving later I pulled up outside the Oykel Brdge Hotel. It was closed but that didn’t matter as I’d planned sleeping in my estate car. Despite being on an ‘A’ road there was no traffic. Perhaps not too surprising as it is narrow with passing places.

D1. From Oykle Bridge (OS 19, NC 386009) 9:30 the next morning I was off for the 8km walk to Craig Loisgte mostly via a forestry road. My progress only hindered by having to climb over 2, 8ft deer fences. I was at the summit for 1200. Six or seven small stones in a pile showed the summit. It was clearly off the tourist trail.


My ex-army tarp kept out the wind!.

8 CW QSO’s later, (I only do morse). 7 on 7mhz & 1 on 10mhz and it was quiet enough for me to pack up and go back to my car.

D2. I drove to Glen Rossal and the Achness hotel for a pint and stayed in my car again. A meeting with a game keeper assured me that I’d not have any problems parking several miles up the road to the glen. “no one lives there any more”, he told me. One less worry and so the next day I left my car in the Glen (OS 19 NC 428103) and an hour and half later I was installed on NS-118, Beinn Sgeireach. My 2nd unactivated summit. This one had a better view and I could see Suilven rising out of the rolling hills to the far west as Andy (MM0FMF) said I would. I’d never seen it before. It was spectacular enough from here!.

My tarp up again to avoid the cold SW wind and I soon had 18 QSOs all on 14mhz, including two from the states and one from Asiatic Russia. I’d heard the Russian guy send his call twice before quite fast - probably around 30wpm so I expected he was in some contest I couldn’t hear so didn’t reply. But here he was again as soon as I resumed my hand morse CQ at around 17wpm. A quick reply with 599 from me and he shot back again at 30wpm. I wondered whether he was thinking I had one of those inbuilt CW readers? I looked him up later and he has a trophy from the Scottish Tourist Board for the first Russian amateur radio station to confirm contact with all 56 districts of Scotland.

Well pleased with my results so far even if they were rather easy hills.

My next base was just North of Ullapool. GM/NS-057, Ben Mor Coigach and possibly GM/NS-070, Sgurr An Fhidhtler if I had the time and inclination. Another night in the car!

D3. Most people set off fr to these two hills from the west at the end of the road at Culnagraig. But from the A835 to the SE there’s a pefectly good track from Blughassary - a car park at (OS map 15 NH 133015). I left on foot at 09:30 and arrived at the 1st summit Ben More Coigach (743m) at 1115.

The splendid view towards the summit ridge and the only person I met on any of the 7 summits. On 7mhz I quickly got 11 QSO’s including an S2S to HB/BE-110. A golden eagle treated to me to a gentle fly past and I could hear ptarmigan calling below me. It was only 1255 so I packed up and made the next summit only 1k away towards the NW in sunshine, to Sgurr an Fhiehlier (717m) Arriving at 1430 I soon had 8 QSOs on 14mhz, 4 of them from NA. All quiet I was back at the vehicle 3 hrs later and treated myself to fish 'n chips in Ullapool.

The view north towards Suilven:-

D4. Drove to Forest Lodge bunkhouse (OS 20 NH194813) where there was only 1 other person. Whole room to myself with own shower/toilets. Lovely! Tomorrow Meall Dore Faid GM/NS-061 (730M)

D5. I had seen an alert from fellow Scarborough Amateur Radio club member David Holmes G4ZAO/P who was activating a hill in NP land and decided I’d chance my activation for the time he’d be on 7mhz. I was in no hurry packing up but underestimated my ETA on the hill which was only a ‘short’ couple of km from the road. I put some speed on and got to the summit 1hr 30 minutes later. I was hot!! I did hear G4ZAO/P but it was a very weak signal and he was QRL but I got 21 QSO’s on 7mhz & 14mhz including 4 S2Ss.

D5. Sgurr Mor GM/NS001 (1110m) Leaving the car at Lochdrum (OS20 NH253755)on the A 835, it took me 4hrs to hit the summit. Somewhat longer than I expected. The delay caused by my deciding to a take a more direct line through the broken crags on the NE face. Interesting scramble though. I got my shelter up in the lee of the cairn and as the sun was out my shelter being dark got comfortably warm. This got me 10 QSOs on 7mhz + 1 s2 with HB land, 9 QSOs on 10mhz including 2 S2Ss, then another 5 on 14mhz. It was now 1430 and by the time I’d packed my stuff up I decided not to treat myself to a dash over to NS-002. Only 2km away but… I must be getting soft. Another night in the car alongside the loch! 2.hrs back to the car via Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich a smaller munro to the NE, where I discovered this little howff.

D6. Little Wyvis GM/NS-050 (764m) at the village carpark in Garve (OS20 NH NH 401640) at the foot of Little Wyvis I made my way up the zig zag stalkers road in quick time, arriving two hours later, but had to edit my previous alert as I was going to be somewhat later than my ETA. It took me a while to get my shelter up as it was rather windy on top and there was no natural shelters. I got 23 QSOs all on 7mhz, including my last S2S with HB land. On my my way down I met a farmer trying to catch a last years lamb and offered to help him. He turned out to be the owner of the hill and we had a n enjoyable chat as he was keen to reinstate much wildlife onto his land as he possibly could. He’d already built a house from the Sitka Spruces he’d cut down and replaced with native species. I got a short lift down to my car. Just about the only conversation I’d had on my trip.

D7. An early morning start and another spectacular drive down the A835 & A890, got me to Achnashellach from where I’d activate Guar Tholl GM/WS-109 (907m), or its neighbour Beinn Liath Mhor, WS-097 the next day. Now if you are an aficionado of bothies, bunkbarns or private hostels there is one place in Scotland which most walkers, climbers and mountaineers who’ve done time in Scotland will know of. It has a certain reputation. And that place is where i decided to spend at least one night. Gerry’s Hostel. I was initially the only inmate. It lived up to its reputation.* (OS 25 011487)

D8. Guar Tholl GM/WS-109 (907m), An easy stalkers path from the station got me to within striking distance of the summit, but on the bealach (col) it was windy, cold and the steep rocky slopes shrouded in cloud. The forecast was for fronts moving in from the SW. Getting up wasn’t going to be a problem but navigating out on a possibly pathless summit without ending up on steep rocky ground might be. I’m not sure I really wanted to sit on top of a cold summit in the wind, shelter or no shelter and then have the possibility of navigational problems in deteriorating weather . If I was late down I’d also have to experience another evening in the hostel. I decided to return to the car. Another spectacular drive down to Sheil Bridge at the head of Loch Duich.

D9 The weather had turned and rained hard overnight. The weather had turned. My next target SW of Shiel Bridge was WS-185 just below the cloud base in the gloom. The hill was wet. The forecast said another bigger front would move in by the afternoon. I had two choices. Sprint for the hill or retreat to the comfort of my home? I headed home - and by the time I got to Glasgow it was pouring down.

Radio Kit

a) A You-Kits hb1b Mk III covering 7, 10, 14, 18, & 21mhz. Its like me and does morse only. carried in a kitchen plastic box - along with a spare pencil. Although the radio has internal LiPo batteries mine looses a volt or two after an hour or so pounding. As I wasn’t always assured of a re-charge I had a 2amp slab battery which hardly dropped a volt between the odd re-charge at the two bunkhouses I stayed at.
b) An ex-army key. Tough and an excellent key. Carried in a plastic box which also has a pencil & spare ear phones/bud within.
c) A linked dipole from SOTA beams, covering 7, 10 & 14mhz.
d) A 13ft fishing pole which collapses short enough go in my rucksack along with a couple of bungee cords for for securing to posts/rocks/trig points and so on.
e) Odds & ends such as spare crocodile clips, bit of wire and wire snips, tape etc.
f) I carry a cheap (£1) pair of headphones, some spare ear bud 'phones and also a small battery powered speaker within its own box.

Miscellaneous.

a) A5 logbook, my Ipad and my newly acquired I-phone donated by my wife to replace my ancient Nokia.
b) A piece of A4 sized plywood to which I can use as a writing support or to sit my key on.
c). Two sit pads.
d) The shelter is an ex army 8 x 6 tarp + a bag of several tent pegs and para cord, which can be erected and supported using a walking pole in a number of configurations. Unfortunately I can only manage one or two!.
e) A couple of heat pads if my finger/s get too cold to manage the key. They turned out to be excellent!
f) My Zeiss binoculars which live around my neck.

Hill Gear

a) Goretex jacket and overtrousers. These are for wet/bad weather use and I normally carry or wear a light windproof in addition.
b) Spare hat, Spare gloves & goretex mitts.
c) Light insulated ‘belay’ jacket.
e) A headtorch and spare small torch, Swiss army knife.
f) Plastic survival bag. Map, compass and pacing/timing card & pen.

This lot only weighs in at around 26 lb or so.

summary

A completely new experience for me and a totally different view of Scotland’s summits and hills. This trip was a perfect combination of my love of hills, mountains and outdoors and operating CW.

I was extremely lucky to activate in Scotland within the mild weather window. Operating in ‘normal’ winter conditions would have not have been so pleasant or even possible in many instances.

To my surprise I think all the hills I visited had relatively good mobile signals as did most of the glens, making the posting of alerts and self spotting possible, which was all I needed. Had I an assistant it would have been great to have logged calls and been able to reply with callers’ names as did some of the folk who answered me. I think I’ll have to make a list of names of those chasers who appeared in my logbook - and yours - time and time again. I’m sure most of you know many by name too. Without these regular SOTA chasers it wouldn’t be quite the same. It all most felt like a friendly club. Thanks to you all.

In short I’m glad I became a ham and guess I was extremely fortunate that three or four of our club members are keen SOTA operators, otherwise I may not gained the confidence, knowledge and help to enable me to to take part in SOTA. This will be the first of many similar expeditions I hope.

David Perry M6GYU,
North Yorkshire.


#2

Thanks for the report David, seems like an excellent trip!
I did a solo trip to the Isle of Coll a couple of years ago, its such a good feeling when planning pays off and things work out.
Well done and I’m hopeful that we can work on the key sometime soon.

73, Colin


#3

That’s my kind of speed! It sounds like Serge was testing you David. I don’t ever recall him replying at speed, but then again I probably wouldn’t copy it anyway! :wink:

Pleased to bag a contact with you on NS-001. Unfortunately propagation or timings negated the possibility of making further contacts with you. Well done on what you achieved and for those correct decisions on leaving some of the hills for the future. Great to see the photos and read about the outing - many thanks for posting this on the Reflector.

73, Gerald G4OIG


#4

Looks like I’ll have to add your name to my list of callsigns + names Gerald. Its only just dawned on me that you (Gerald) were one of the callers. :grinning:


#5

Well I have a crib sheet for CW which I sometimes use - though I am really expert at leaving it in my backpack. :grinning: I update it fairly regularly. I always feel that it adds a bit to a contact when the activator responds to the chaser with a personal name. It certainly makes it a bit more special when an activator sends my name to me when I am chasing. Gradually, as an activator you then get to know your “audience” until you can quickly put a name to quite a number of those calling without referring to the list.


#6

Dave,

Thanks for the very interesting report.

Regards,

David
G4ZAO


#7

Good stuff those NS summits. Not sure about sleeping rough in the car though, I’m too old now and want my creature comforts too much. I suffer camping out when contesting. But it’s a discomfort made bearable by having lots of radio toys and plenty of Whisky. But activating SOTA and walking means I want a hot shower a decent meal/drink/wifi and bed.

You were lucky with the WX which is always good for people who have made an effort to drive all that way.


#8

Excellent report.

Fantastic

Great

Wunderful

Regards
David
G0EVV


#9

Thank you for your great report and the photos.
It makes me really feel like going again… (as I plan already for the Easter time :slightly_smiling_face:)
I am glad that I could be one of your s2s contacts.

73 Armin


#10

Not brilliant staying in the car for more than one or two nights. Mrs P kept mentioning I should stay somewhere with a proper roof over my head - which I did for three nights!. But there’s another post with the ‘headline’; “Shock as Yorkshireman spends £1” which may explain my attitude!.:roll_eyes:


#11

Yes, I know plenty of Yorkshireman and lived there for 3 years as a student. There’s no pockets in a shroud however. Finding the sweet spot between enjoying each day and being the richest man in the graveyard is the hard bit.:slight_smile:

XYL sanctioned expenditure should always be taken advantage of!


#12

You are of course correct! And I probably wouldn’t have slept in the estate if it had been below freezing.


#13

Hello Dave,
Further to our chat at the club, just arrived in Keswick and saw your report while signing into the WIFI. Riveting yet an easy read with every word digested along with the photos plus the replies too.

I agree with what you told me about kipping in the car. Not the best thing but the advantage is you put it right where you want it for an early start the next morning. I will take a look at your hostel link but from what you told me, I may not be staying there!

Love your simple tarp shelter now I can see how you rig it. Also interested in the little stone shelter you found. I think it’s the same one I passed in 2005 & 16 and if I remember right my last Sgurr Mor report has some photos of the inside of it. I really was taken with that. There’s another one on beside the track up to the lochan.

That 2 x 2km extra to include NS2 is probably harder than it looks but Barry GM4TOE managed both summits in a day plus someone else since. I’d love to try it but it would mean fewer bands, rushing etc. Harder too, it’s already a 10 mile walk in and out and 3k’ of ascent.

Little Wyvis took me back a few years too. As you say there’s not a lot to stop the wind on that one. Great that you got a lift down the final bit of the track. We could do with a few more friendly farmers including ones who like driving uphill too!

I should think being an ex Navy op you would be able to handle 30 wpm, unlike me who has to ask for repeats of callsign. If it’s the same Russian who collects WAB and SOTA it’ll be RV9DC Sergei. He’s a good op and friendly too but it’s the first I’ve heard of his GM chasing achievements.

As you say, there are a few like-minded people at SARS. Who would have though five keen SOTA activators in a club that’s miles from any summits of note. Just shows how SOTA has spread.

You got some of the February record good WX. We could have booked this LD trip for Feb but thinking of daylight we made it March. Big mistake. After annoyingly driving over on the last bright sunny day today, I’ll be very lucky to get up anything in the next three. Never worry, there’s always 3.760-ssb /M in the XYL’s new car which I spent hours wiring up recently.

I really think you achieved much here, not least the new ones you researched and put on. It sounds like you won’t forget it for a long while either. Wonder what you might be planning next?

See you at the club - next meeting 18th I think. I’ll bring some maps!
73, John

PS: Presume you checked for ticks??


#14

Thanks John - I appreciate that, coming from such a stalwart of SOTA.

Not all RN ops could read at 30wpm. I only can because I took part in this http://davidwperry.blogspot.com/2009/10/royal-navy.html - I suppose once its in your head it came back pretty quickly once I got back on the air after a 47 year gap!!!

Thats two of you have identified my Russian QSO and I never even mentioned his name or callsign. :grin:

I’ve nothing planned again yet but it won’t be another Scotland trip for a while.

CU next week.


#15

Some of us have to “slum it” in standard saloons… no wonder I only ever manage one night, but it is useful for getting a second day of activating in or avoiding the need to put up a tent on field days. I haven’t done it in a while - obviously the attraction of Travelodge is making me soft! :wink: