A good day turned bad ?. ( GM/WS-001 & GM/003 )

Or was it the other way around?

I’d already activated 4 summits on this trip, and was keen to do ‘The Ben’ (WS-001 & its neighbour Carn Mor Dearg WS-003 in one day.

I planned to avoid the tourist route which is a long plod and ascend the Ben via the Ledge Route, which is a relatively easy scramble. The 'van was parked at The North Face car park in the woods not far from the Allt a Mhuilinn, a stream with a decent path up to the North Face of the Ben.

The Ledge Route, a route I’d done solo in winter 3 times but never in summer. The weather was warm enough if a little damp - so was the rock. But summer or winter the climb is no more than a pleasant scramble with only one bit of difficulty lower down (the Ramp) Its a fine simple mountaineering route, activate ‘The Ben’, then across the Carn Mor Dearg arête another fine route to activate that summit. A good day out.

Setting off from the forestry car park at 0830 I arrived at the CIC hut around 1030. The route looked very different and unfamiliar without the blanket of snow. It was rather damp and the rock was wet. the route finding quite different from winter when there is normally the previous climbers footprints to follow. I was slightly apprehensive as I set off, my confidence lowering along with the cloud and mist.

August 22nd and not much snow in the gully below. Route finding is relatively simple - as long as you don’t go via this ledge, which is a dead end with a big drop.

I passed only one couple making their way up the ridge.

Upon reaching the summit plateau about an hour and a half later I could see a continuous line of people plodding along the tourist route. I was surprised to see a couple of Scottish Black faced sheep wandering around too. There isn’t much to eat up here. One group of young men were carrying a life sized plywood cut out of some character from Star Wars which they wanted a photo of on the summit.

At the remains of the old observatory I discovered that the area was now thick with litter, human faeces, toilet paper and various rubbish people had left behind, as was every cairn of shelter I could see…

I left the crowds (and the shit) and sat out of the way and got set up. My 1st QSO was 1226utc with Andy, F/G4AFI followed by another 35 callers in the next 45 minutes including GM0GAV/P on GM/SS-264 and another S2S from a summit in Romania.

I can’t remember the exact order of things but at some point during the 45 minutes I noticed I’d been incorrectly spotted as being on GM/WS-003, which was my next summit. I simply did not know what to do and in any case I had a poor phone signal and not much power left in my phone for Carn Mor Dearg. All this way and I’d mucked my activation up. How the wrong spot appeared I do not know . My initial CQ SOTA calls generally include my summit reference, as do most of my S2S exchanges. I’d also got the correct reference written large in my log book page to reduce the opportunity for errors. Either way I felt this was a disaster.

Fed up I packed the kit up and made my way despondently to the Arete, the mist now thickening and a light drizzle reduced visibility I took a compass bearing into the gloom. The Arete between the two summits loomed out of the mist and I only met four people going the opposite way towards the Ben.

It had now started to rain. I guessed it was only going to be a quick shower. I don’t know why. I wore a windproof - but not waterproof jacket. My Goretex kit still in the bag. A couple of hours later and now pretty much soaked through, I set up just below the narrow summit ridge of Carn Mor Dearg. I got into my snug, but wet summit shelter I’d carried with me and put on my spare fleece. Rain drops from my hat dropped onto to the log book wetting the paper, water from my wet kit dripped onto my radio & morse key and rain splattered against the shelter…

Calling CQ SOTA I knew may not produce much traffic as most of the contacts from the Ben would have thought, incorrectly that I was again operating from the same summit. But what else could I do? 10 minutes of calling on 14mhz got me a Canadian station, giving me a 229, before I noticed my radio battery was down to 11v. I’d come all this way, got soaking wet, got spotted on the ‘wrong’, summit and now I might not even be able to qualify WS-003. Jan/OK2PDT answered a few minutes later. Hope became possible. Another ten minutes of calling got me an American caller giving me 229. Searching across the band for contacts I came across a Russian station calling CQ DX. Vlad gave me 559 and salvation. Just to make sure I answered another American station and got a 229.

I packed up and sloshed my way down hill to the van. I looked at my watch. A ten hour day. A long day on the hill for me.


  • I later emailed those affected and corrected the reference.



Personally I’d call that success Dave. Two major summits accessed via a difficult route and activated in poor weather, however uncomfortable, must be a triumph. I think I’d have resorted to 2m FM to activate WS-003 to attract a different audience and perhaps get a spot on explaining the summit reference issue. However, having had similar problems in the past, such a plan doesn’t always work out how you want it to.

Many thanks for a great report. The photos of your ascent up The Ben have confirmed my desire to use the tourist route when I eventually get to doing the summit. :grinning:

  1. Gerald

Looking at the photo of the line of people on the summit and seeing some of the same on Snowdon makes me glad I did Snowdon 40 years ago and have no desire to return to it and confirms my decision to avoid Ben Nevis!


Sixty years ago my first time up Snowdon was also on a bank holiday and the crowds were just as horrendous back then. I remember a constant stream of walkers coming up the railway track, including an attractive YL in clumpy boots and a bikini! We took one look at the old cafe and bar and retreated. A few years later and my first time on the Ben and it was also very crowded. I remember being struck by the sight of a substantial cairn of broken footware where the Pony Track levels out by the Lochan, it included sandels, flip flops and medium high heels! These honey pot summits are best done midweek in February!

I never thought of doing Ledge Route as a summer ascent, I remember, though, one time remembering that I had never visited Carn Dearg so toiled up the steep stoney slope just right of the crags - a route that I wouldn’t recommend to my worst enemy in summer!


Monday, 1st December 2014 I activated Snowdon (my first visit). I walked up the tourist route, passing three or four people on the way. I had the summit to myself for ten minutes or so before one other person arrived. Timing is everything, though I’m sure it is more difficult at the moment.
I’d love to visit the Ben one day…

1 Like

Not like this though.


You got that every time the train arrived at the top! Hill walkers never need to use that flight of steps from the terminus, I never did. The train tourists went straight up the steps, took a selfie, and headed straight down for a quick cuppa and souvenir before the train left again.


Hi Dave,
Thanks for your report read with great interest, especially your ascent route. Looks foggy which is how I mostly remember it and it is a pity the way it’s being mucked up. Sorry you got wet too. It makes it all a bit miserable. I think you’d enjoy WS1 better in February, would be my advice. You reminded me about the bad phone signal which makes activating a lot harder and correcting errors near impossible.

I see you have been putting in a lot of hard work up there and done your old favourites 17 and 19 again but not on skis this time. 42 and 57 also.

I know you are a CW purest and I admire that greatly after knowing G4SSH but Gerald had a good comment there about taking a H/H for emergencies. It would have been a crime if you’d not managed to qualify a big one like CMD after all your efforts.

After having to cancel our September holiday to Arnhem last month for the second year running, we booked for Fort William instead. I think it’ll be the fifth time staying there since 1962. Hoping the WX will be kind but it often isn’t. Never mind, there’s always WAB/M or a good book.

We’ll discuss your exploits at the club if/ when we eventually get back there! I can’t go to Kevin & Leslie’s garden party as I’ll be away so I won’t see you there either.

You did a great job and as Gerald points out it was a success!
73, John


Dave, Dear oh Dear! Having summited The Ben around fifteen times myself up various summer and winter climbing routes, I share your despair! SOTA on Britain’s highest peak should special. I can’t believe it’s got into such a state.

You picked a decent route up too. My son had wanted to climb the Ben since he was 7 and I swore he was going up a decent way. So by the time he was 11, he was ready for Ledge Route. He had a great day, except for a really slimy traverse not long after we came out of No. 5 gully. Possibly above where the ice climb “The Curtain” forms.

A couple of years later we were back and I took him up Tower Ridge, again a brilliant day out.

Well done for getting the activation on both peaks! Sometimes SOTA activations and indeed hill days just need to be “toughed out”. It’s a shame you had to do this on two fine peaks.

Here’s a picture (of the route) from the day. We scrambled down the start of the CMD Arete to get back to our tent. The photo was taken from somewhere below there.

73, Fraser



Lucky lad doing those sort of routes at his age.




Gerald’s and your advice re- H/H is sound - but I’ll try my best not to use one. :grinning:

Now that my winter climbing days are maybe over (Who wants to climb with a 71 year old!!) I agree with your comment about feb being the best bet in winter. However having done a couple of trips up north with my radio kit in winter (for bonus points), I think going up in summere weather is somewhat more comfortable and you can activate two summits per day in one walk if you plan them. I don’t think I could have managed those two in one day in winter.

During this trip the weather was misty & damp - but warm for 3 of the days and the remainder were bright sunshine, shorts and no wind. Pure luxury and I did more double day activations than I’d have achieved in winter without getting frozen! I must be getting soft.

. Good to meet up again, although i think there must be problems with the current arrangements at SARS.


Thanks Gerald - You are right of course, it was a success - it just didn’t quite seem to go as well as planned… Re 2 m. Yes, that would have been an ideal tactic, but I didn’t carry one.

I think the scenery around the North Face takes your mind of the long uphill plod!! :grinning:


Hello David,
it’s hard when it happens but later, when all went well, it’s a awesome story for your memories.

73 Ludwig


Been there, got the teeshirt. Loads of them hanging in my wardrobe. I appreciate your CW preference, indeed 2m SSB is mine, but I haven’t achieved qualification using that band + mode on many of the summits I’ve activated. There are quite a number of examples where I’ve tried and failed. Getting zero 2m contacts on Ord Ban ES-074 will forever be a thorn in my side - I was so sure that there would be someone to contact on 2m, even if I had to resort to FM. :frowning: