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.
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.