A Challenging Activation of GM/NS-073

“Challenging” is a relative term but I can only go on my experience of today and say this was very challenging for me. A long walk over pathless, rough ground then a fearsome wind to deal with on the summit. :slight_smile:

We are as far north as we will get on this trip around part of Britain. Tomorrow we head east towards Inverness then over the next three weeks or so travel down the east coast.

The weather forecast suggested there would be a window of good weather this morning but
an early start would be needed. So at 07:50 local time I left the campsite at Kinlochewe and set out on foot for GM/NS-073 the 692m Beinn a’Mhuinidh. I think this is pronounced Beyn a’Vooni but I’m sure I will be corrected if it is wrong - as it probably is. :slight_smile:

The commonest routes up to the summit go up the steep south west side of the hill which overlooks Kinlochewe and Loch Maree. I had read some reports on line which spoke of “grabbing handfuls of heather” to make the ascent up the steep terrain. I had a look at the lower slopes yesterday which were covered in tall bracken and decided on a longer but less steep route.

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 018/21

The starting point is in the village in the lower left and starts along a track before at some suitable point I would head north to the summit, approaching the summit from the east as this avoided more steep bits.

This is the view looking down towards the track shortly after starting the climb.

The starting elevation is only about 40m above sea level so reaching the point when the slope would start to ease off at 300m was a longish climb. Once you leave the track there are no more paths so progress is simply a matter of looking ahead and choosing the best line and avoiding as much of the bracken as possible. Fortunately the bracken here was only leg high and quite thin.

Reaching the 300m contour line I was expecting to see an extensive and flat moorland head of me. Instead it was a jumble of small hillocks and it was hard to pick the best line through them.

But eventually the summit of Beinn a’Mhuinidh came into view. On the left in the image below.

The summit has a small and neatly constructed cairn.

Throughout the walk until this point there had been very little wind, just enough to keep the midges away. But on reaching the summit three hours and twenty minutes after setting out the wind was howling out of the west. It was so strong I literally could not stand up beside the summit cairn.

I crept forward on hands and knees to take this shot of Beinn Eighe before retreating.

In the lee of the summit there was a small sheltered depression where I could set up out of the gale. I also took a few photographs which could have been better if I had climbed out of the sheltered spot but I wasn’t going to risk being blown off the mountain. A posthumous photographic award does not appeal to me. :slight_smile:

Looking east to Sgurr More.

And north. In the centre, peaking through the notch is An Teallach. To the right of it Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair. I camped close its summit many decades ago. On the far left Slioch.

Setting up was fun with a 6m pole and linked dipole. The bend in the pole isn’t due to the tension in the guy ropes - it’s the windload on the pole. The centre of the antenna is only about 3m high as the wind was too strong for any more.

I had put up an alert for this activation so I was relying on RBNHole to post a spot. This was essential as there was zero phone signal where I was sitting. I might have got something by crawling to the edge overlooking Kinlochewe but I didn’t want to experience that blast again.

On 20m CW I started my first QSO with SP9MA but then the mast fell down. :frowning: Curiously, reception was still good with the wires on the ground but the SWR went off the scale when I tried transmitting.

I tried again after wrestling with the antenna and completed a QSO with F8CZI. I then struggled with two operators but couldn’t make out their callsigns. Apologies to O?7GR and F??QR. There was quite a bit of traffic and a callsign with a “/” was transmitting but they were very faint. It might have been my first CW S2S but the moment was lost.

Four more successful QSOs were made with F5JKK, R5FQ (my first ever Russian QSO), OK2PDT and then the unmistakable sound of EA2DT. :slight_smile:

And then the mast collapsed again, this time telescoping down rather than the simple fall over it had done first.

There were still people calling me and on another day I would have tried other bands too but at this point I decided to quit, partly to avoid damage to the antenna but mainly because rain was starting to fall. By the time I had packed everything away it was raining quite heavily as I started the long trudge back to the campsite.

One of the Lochans near the summit.

And no thread by me is complete without a few nature shots.

This is the caterpillar of the Northern Egger moth which can grow to 8cm. It feeds on heather and bilburry. Its Latin name derives from the Greek for “Hairy caterpillar”. :slight_smile:

Obscure botany stuff now. The next two shots are of club mosses. They are more closely related to ferns than mosses. They can be very hard to identify so “Club moss” will have to do. I have a book on them but haven’t brought it. :frowning:

My GPS says the total distance covered was 18.7km, total ascent 856m and time taken just over 7 hours. The rain on the return leg was only intermittent but sitting in the campervan now I can hear the real stuff has now arrived and it is pounding on the roof.

Many, many thanks to all the chasers and my apologies for not staying on the summit longer but the wind and then the rain brought the curtain down. This was only the third activation of this summit and the first in CW - and I couldn’t have done it without you. In hindsight this might have been a perfect opportunity to try my MP1 antenna as I think that would have stayed upright - but I just wasn’t expecting the wind.


1:25k mapping is essential in these parts: it shows the true nature of the ground. But the clue is in how wiggly the contours are on th 1:50k map, they are the give away the ground will be all up and down, uneven and hard work.

Here is the 1:25k view of the summit… it tells me that I’ll be working hard walking on that ground.

©Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey. Media 018/21

Still you did it and activated it. Result.



on some pictures it seems to be not so difficult, but I know the inadequacy of small pictures, viewed in the warm shack, to the reality in the mountains. And the viewer couldn’t feel the storm. Especially the storm could make all so hard. Reading your report I had the feeling of a hard and rough activation.

Good job!

73 Ludwig


It was much easier on the return leg as I could look down and see the best route to take. I usually find route finding on the decent harder than when going up as you often can’t see the ground ahead - but not this time.


Well done John, I was on Càrn Dearg, Monadh Liath GM/CS-037 today and it was wild also! Forecast was gusting to 45 Knots on top and it felt like they had it right. But it did stay dry for me.

Enjoy your holiday.
73 Gavin


It was not wild but proper windy down near Edinburgh today. There was some on and off drizzle but driven by the windy it was stingingly nasty. Then I could see proper rain coming so I gave up after 30mins on the summit. Rain never arrived, dropped on hills next to me and it was sunny back at the car park.


Ludwig, thank you, the ground was not too bad. It was boggy but it isn’t deep. I guess the peat is not very thick here. On my local Dartmoor you can sink in very deep in some places.


Gavin, thank you. I recall we have had a CW QSO but my brief drive-by activation today wasn’t the best time for another. :slight_smile:


Well done John and thanks for an honest report.

After many thousands of hours spent in the mountains, I am sure that the wind is the most debilitating force of nature.
I too have crawled to the final summit and as I have said before, receiving realistic signal reports has alerted me to the mast taking a tumble. I now use masts that are described as “put on” rather than telescopics, which do seem to pick the worst moment to telescope.

Perhaps I could mention www.hillbagging.co.uk where 25000 maps are downloadable with about 5cm per km on the ground. Stick and paste just the bit you need.



Very well done John. Many thanks for an excellent report and some marvellous photographs. It’s amazing that you could concentrate to make any contacts with a raging gale and the challenge of re-erecting the antenna in those conditions. Hopefully the weather will be kinder over the coming days. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

73, Gerald


Very well done John. Told you there’d be no phone signal up there :wink:

I know from experience that dipoles receive just as well when they’re lying on the ground.

Your pronunciation is good I think. In all the years I’ve been in the hills, the English climbers tend to get the hill names spot on, putting many Scots to shame. I suspect they practice more than we do, fearful of being laughed at and “sent home tae think again”.

73, Fraser


Fraser, thank you. I did find a website which helped on the pronounciation but it took me a while to work it out. Even some of the lesser burns have name which might take me an afternoon to work out how to say them. :slight_smile:

By odd coincidence I read something recently on here about antenna on the ground, a loop I think it was, but it did say it was mostly only for reception but could be used for transmission. My experience today suggests matching it to get the SWR down would be the challenge.


Gerald, it was the noise of the wind which was a surprising challenge. It was making so much noise whipping round my head I had the volume turned up very high just to hear anything.


David, I’ve used the hillbagging website before but the routes I found online on various sites for this summit didn’t look easy for me. I scouted out the popular western routes yesterday but I wasn’t won over. The height of the bracken was a major factor. It might be different in the Spring.


oh yes! Now I know it’s not my pole is especially cursed.

The last one: some weeks ago the pole was on the top of a small look out and collapsed in the middle of a QSO. But I could go on with the wire hanging over the wooden balustrade. It was only the clicking sound that I know what happened on the level above. I shouldn’t use the pole from the beginning.
73 Ludwig


Take your pole and remove all sections.
Clean the outside bottom surface of each section.
Clean the inside top surface of each section.
Extend pole and pull each joint gently tight then twist maybe 30-45degs max. Not much twist.
Pole will not collapse now.

Or arrange setup so there is some gentle bend in the pole. The tension will stop it collapsing.


Good advice. I haven’t cleaned the pole since the last two activations. Blame the camping! :slight_smile:


This is also my way, mostly with success.

When using my 6 m vertical wire on the pole (no constant bend) strong wind which alternatively bends the pole made it collapse, also in case of clean sections.

Murphy says: there is always a way.


:+1: that’s exactly why my sloper endfeds don’t have this problem.

Inverted Vs, though, can also be setup in a way that the fishing rod gets bent and this tension is usually enough to prevent it from collapsing.

Well done, John, on braving the elements and having a successful activation.




Great work John, looks like a proper adventure! The photos are fantastic.