A Morning Jaunt - Carn na Drochaide GM/ES-025

Guru made me do it!

The weather has been shocking (literally) in Eastern Scotland for a couple of weeks now but it looked like there would be a window between a period of heavy showers and strong winds. That window was this morning, Thursday 12th August, between dawn and 12 noon BST. Of course, today being “The Glorious 12th”, we were slightly limited in our choice of short hikes, with many local ones situated on shooting estates. Carn na Drochaide is entirely situated on National Trust for Scotland land, where no shooting takes place.

Mo and I were up at 0440z and away from the QTH an hour later, arriving at Linn of Quoich car park an hour after that.

We set off along the 2km stroll east along a basically level vehicle track by first crossing the brand new bridge over the Quoich Water. The old bridge was swept away in 2015 thanks to Storm Frank.

Crossing the Quoich

We were following the route according to the walkhighlands website, which told us to look for a faint path heading up diagonally from the main track. This switches back fairly quickly, slightly ascending before a row of pines, before turning sharply up hill and ascending towards the west side of Creag a’ Chleirich, but not ascending it.

Beginning the ascent

Views opening up

It’s a straightforward ascent from there. Even though the path peters out on occassion, the main hill is always in sight.

We soon gained the foot of the final slopes to the summit ridge. There’s a nasty gully here that could present a problem during a descent in bad weather! It’s is named on the 1:25,000 maps but not 1:50,000.

Clais nan Cat gully

The summit ridge, with the summit around 500m behind

The promised sunny spells didn’t really appear and the wind seemed to be picking up earlier than planned. We plodded along and up the broad stony summit ridge, strewn with various cairns and eventually found the one that marked the summit. Ascent time 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Looking east from the stony summit ridge

North to Ben a’ Bhuird and Ben Avon GM/ES-004 & GM/ES-006

Thankfully the summit cairn was large enough for us to shelter in lee of the now stiffening and surprisingly chilly southerly wind. Mo helped me get the mast up and I was able to get a 4G spot away easily using sotl.as. I was using my Elecraft KX2, running 10 watts into my inverted V.


Band conditions were forecast to be mediocre but I hoped that our 0900z on-air time would be early enough in the day to activate the summit on 40m SSB. Things did get off to a good start, with 5/7 reports from PA5KM, F4WBN & MW0GWG/p.

I then worked a series of English stations, with 2E0AGB, M6BLV and G0RQL all giving me reports between 5/7 and 5/9.

Enter EA2DT and EA2CKX with 5/5 and 5/2 respectively, followed by another flush of English lads - G4WSB, G4IAR, 2E0FEH and G4IVV. By now QSB was an issue and the signal reports subsequently dropped.

There was a lull and no answer to my CQ calls. Then to my surprise and delight - EA2IF appeared, a decent signal to me. We exchanged callsigns and reports but by now the fading was an issue, so further conversation was problematic… I did hear Guru say, “looking forward to the report and video.”

With fourteen stations in the log, conditions worsening both on the bands and with the weather, I called it a day. Operating time was around 13 minutes. Time on the summit was around 40 minutes.

Cairngorm lumps

We retraced our ascent route until a strand of pines at NO13650 92106. Here we were expected to turn 90 degrees left, the way we had come up, but it looked more sensible to head straight down to the main track over about 200m of trackless heathery slopes. We actually picked up a narrow track and it deposited us beside the waterfall of the East Allt Coultain, giving us the bonus of seeing the small falls, as well as saving around 1km of walking. I would recommend ascending this way, saving 2km over all. Leave the main track at NO13505 91897 and gain the ridge to the right of the falls.

The Cairngorms are associated with granite, but limestone abounds lower down

Beehives with Carn na Drochaide behind

Descent time was around 1 hour 40 minutes and we were soon heading back home. I can recommend “The Bakehouse” at Crathie for a stop off. The “1 foot long” hot dog was amazing and their freshly baked artisan breads are wonderfully yummy!

A pretty straightforward hike and also an interesting one, with plenty to see on the way. We managed the whole trip in around 4.5 hours, so great for a half-day, or allowing plenty of operating time on the summit.

I’ve never failed to activate a summit since getting the KX2 and am always delighted to bring in Spanish stations on 40m despite the 10-12w SSB output.

So there’s the report Guru, thanks for making me do it. Sorry, there’s no video!

73, Fraser


Thank you so much, Fraser, for the activation, the QSO and the great report. As I said in a previous thread of yours, I enjoy better a written report with beautiful pictures (like this one you’ve just published) than a video.
The QSB made your signals vanish and I completely lost the comment you made me after the callsigns and signal reports exchange. It’s usually a big struggle to hear activators from North and Central Europe on 40m. The skip is short and only the EA, CT and South of France put a decent signal to me on 40m. The rest of Europe, are usually not copied or copied with marginal signals. I’m often giving very poor signal reports like 22, 32, 33 and 42, 43 (these two are actually quite a good copy) and stuff like that. It’s not that I’m mean, it’s that I’m giving a real report to let the activator know how difficult is for me to copy him/her.
The landscapes you showed us in this report are beautiful and they mede me feel eager about going there to see them with my eyes and enjoy those beautiful areas.



Looks like a nice hill… pity that you weren’t able to bide a wee while longer. No chance of being on myself to work you - currently providing grand-daughter with a few days away which is far more onerous a task than a 4 hour 1,200m ascent! :grin:

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As someone who used to keep bees and tried (unsuccessfully) to get heather honey off Dartmoor a few times I looked with envy at all that heather in flower. :slight_smile:

Then I saw the photo of the hives. My guess is they belong to Murray McGregor from Blairgowrie. He has 4,500+ spread over 100+ sites in Scotland. I’ve visited him and he runs an impressive setup. Had a bit of controversy in the past but he knows his bees.

Probably. There’s a yellow Unimog (my dream car) often seen transporting hives over the Glenshee road and around Deeside. Some of the hives are within a mile of my QTH in Logie Coldstone, so he must get about a bit. I wonder if the Estates take a cut?

Nice to catch you again Fraser, I’m sure I heard you say my callsign correctly so I think the 'IHV must be a typo in the log. Thanks for the nice write-up and pictures.


Thanks Jonathan and apologies for the typo. I’ll get it corrected. Great to hear you again today.


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The traditional payment is a pound of honey per hive. :slight_smile:

And Murray had a couple of Unimogs when I met him - bought from Scottish Power I recall.

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Thanks again for the excellent report Fraser. I keep waiting for the short skip to appear - but it didn’t this morning, so I could hear most of your chasers but not you. Next Time! Thanks Paul

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I really need to build a 5Mhz antenna and get some NVIS going, as the closest stations I can hear are always around Yorkshire to Merseyside.

Great report Fraser with photos; and good for Guru for motivating you. :grinning:

73 de Geoff vk3sq


Done! You were near the bottom of the sheet. My writing gets worse as the activation goes on!

73, Fraser

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20/40/60 probably makes most sense unless you plan on doing digital on 30m or learning Morse. 60m is, of course, rather rubbishy during the peak of the day in the Summer, much like 80m due to D -layer absorption. It gets much, much more fun as we move into Autumn / Winter.

I spent some time only activating on 60m back when I started SOTA. It worked well as the band was NOV access only, there was less traffic so more chance of getting a channel. But repeated ‘almost’ failures where it was taking a long, long time and a real struggle to get 4 QSOs with QRP SSB even with 40 & 80m, in the Summer that prompted me finally to get off my backside and get some Morse skills. This was before people did self spotting from summits as well. In addition there were few other associations outside the UK so other bands like 20m were less useful than now. Well worth having in the activation armoury though. IIRC my 30/40/60 dipole is 26m long to give you some idea of its size.

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Thanks Fraser! I’m a fan of keeping it simple with notebook+pencil, even when just chasing, but sometimes the decryption can prove challenging if I leave it too long :slightly_smiling_face:

73, Jonathan

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The worst thing is the trek to set out and gather in both legs of the dipole. To set the 40m links isn’t a 10 second job either. Overall it feels like fettling the antenna adds half a kilometre to your walk! No wonder I’ve never bothered with 80m. :joy:

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So no chance of Top Band, then? :wink:


G4YSS John Earnshaw is the SOTA Top Band King I reckon. I do operate there a lot from home and I did several activations there in my first five years of SOTA using a 10m pole and 130 feet long inverted L. I would encourage activators to give it a try! It’s hard work though, more to carry and it has to be near dusk, overnight or early morning to stand any chance of real success. My most memorable activation on 160m was from Snaefell GD/GD-001 where there was plenty of room for laying out the antenna top. I used the Scarborough Special Events Group callsign GT7OOO/P but only worked three stations on 160m CW: G3WPF (Reg), EI2CL Mike, G0TDM (John). I din;t try SSB. This was in May 2009 between 1520 and 1525z. Within 10 minutes of contacts drying up on 160m I was working G4SSH Roy (SK) and others on 80m CW.

Will I activate on 160m again? Its possible, but I doubt it…

73 Phil

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Thanks for the memory - why do you get the good weather and I always seemed to find “average” Cairngorm weather :cry:
Picture from first activation (must be a long time past, that is two Labradors ago)


It was a four hour window of “OK” weather Barry! There were 40mph winds shortly after and all the next day.The August weather has been very frustrating in the Eastern Highlands this year, with really low cloud most days and really heavy rain.

From your picture, it looks like it was a tad blowy on that trip!

73, Fraser

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