A pair of GM/ES summits

Thursday 17th September 2020

Inspired by a report on the reflector by Andy MM0FMF, I decided that a single day outing away up north to activate a couple of GM/ES summits would be an excellent idea. An initial look at the distance from the alternative QTH in Amble, Northumberland to Glenshee between Perth and Braemar indicated a 4 hour drive of some 187 miles which was rather daunting when combined with a day on the hills. I realised that this would require considerable effort, but I needed a challenge, particularly as lockdown had scuppered the ascent of Ben Nevis that had been planned for June this year. In order to get the best points value for the outing, I decided to combine Glas Maol GM/ES-012, the subject of Andy’s report with another lower summit in the area. After quite a bit of thought, I decided upon Badandun Hill GM/ES-037 as the second summit rather than the perhaps more obvious choice of Mount Blair GM/ES-035. This one would require a similar amount of ascent to Glas Maol, but over a longer distance which would help with tiring legs… or so I thought.

I worked out an itinerary for the outing which indicated an 18 hour day. To work in with the best possible activation times, this would mean leaving Amble at 3.40 a.m. As it turned out, I was wide awake an hour earlier than planned at 2.15 a.m., so I decided to get up and on the road in the hope that I would be back an hour early - some hope! The journey went well and with little traffic on the road I arrived at the parking spot in Glenshee at 6.32 a.m. where unsurprisingly I was the only one in the southern section of the car park. I would say that in similar fashion to Andy, I found the A93 a real pleasure to drive. Perhaps the pathetic 198BHP of my Quattro made for a less energetic drive than in his monster truck, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Once I had parked up, I sat for a few minutes before getting out the car just to settle myself and prepare mentally for the task ahead. Outside it was just 7C and there was a brisk cold breeze blowing. I had spent the previous couple of days on the beach in temperatures in the mid 20’s, so this was a bit of a shock to my system. I recovered my kit from the car boot and moved around to the side of the car out of the wind to get ready for the hill. There was a young stag standing on the hill opposite that had noted my arrival, but he moved on as soon as I got my phone out to take a photo of him. Bah!

It was 7 a.m. (06:00z) when I set off to the summit of Glas Maol, a distance of 3.2km with 420m of ascent. Despite the breeze it was rather misty and I stopped on a number of occasions to check my position to ensure that I was not wandering off in the wrong direction. At around 850m asl the mist started to thin and I noted that the temperature had risen significantly. As I climbed up to the intermediate summit of Meall Odhar at 933m asl, the scene became quite surreal with the surrounding summits appearing as islands floating on a sea of mist. I took a few moments to take in the scene before ascending the final section up the fairly steep zig-zag track up to the summit plateau. On the final section I had to keep my head down as I was walking directly towards the rising sun. I reached the summit at 07:28z where I took a couple of photos of the islands in the mist.

The visible temperature inversion.

An even better view of islands in the mist at the summit.

With ample time in hand, I set up both the HF and 2m antennas on the pole and was QRV at 07:50z. Being more than an hour early, I needed to self-spot, but this proved impossible as my phone would not co-operate despite having a solid 4G signal - most likely too much RF flying around. I tried both 2m and 60m SSB without success before deciding at 08:00z that 2m FM held the best chance of initiating my activation. After a few minutes, Robert GM4GUF responded and Christine GM4YMM joined us at 08:10z. Moving to SSB on 144.333MHz, Robert joined me and advised that Robin GM7PKT was looking for me. I swung the beam west, but to no avail. I did however manage a brief contact on the mode with Don G0NES at a distance of just over 500km. At 08:30z I moved to 60m SSB and was soon found by Paul G4MD. The short run of 8 contacts on the band included an S2S with John GW4TQE/P on Mynydd-y-briw GW/NW-060. In order to try to work Don G0RQL on 2m SSB, I returned to 144.333MHz to find a very relieved Steve MM0XPZ who thought that he had missed me. Unfortunately the 670km path down to Don in Devon was not workable. I followed this with another brief session on 2m FM to pick up Ken GM0AXY who had been out when I had spoken to Christine earlier. The remainder of my activation was on 40m CW, starting with Klaus DF7IS at 09:11z. The run of 19 contacts took 22 minutes and included an S2S with Kurt HB9AFI/P on Wandflue HB/FR-012 and a P2P with Paul-Joel F2YT/P.

The set up on Glas Maol.

You can see a long way from up here. More Munroes to the north of Glas Maol.

The view on the way down.

Although I was still ahead of schedule, I decided to go QRT at 09:35z which I hoped would give me some lee-way on the timings for the second hill. I set off down the hill at 10:00z to find quite a lot of people ascending the track. Several times I got stopped and asked to explain the pole on my pack, so it was 11:06z when I reached the car. As it was over 9 hours since I had eaten anything substantial, I decided lunch was required before setting off south to Glen Isla which would be the start point for Badandun Hill. The route that I had chosen was 4.8km with 420m of ascent. On arrival in Glen Isla I found the parking at the entrance to Fergus occupied by a large van, but this was not a problem as there was an area of firm grassy verge just beyond the entrance.

Badandun Hill from Glen Isla at the start of the track to Fergus.

I set off up the track towards Fergus at 12:00z, stopping more or less immediately as I remembered to take a photograph of the hill. After about 200m the track crossed a bridge over the River Isla. I noted a sign indicating that there was a footpath alongside the river, an obvious attempt to route walkers past the property rather than through it. However, I was not going that way, so I continued on the track and found another sign indicating a path up the hill off to the left to Fergus Corrie. The path itself was virtually non-existent as no effort had been made to physically create one, but after climbing the grassy bank I was then back on the track proper beyond Fergus and heading up alongside the Fergus Burn. The breeze had now disappeared and it was very hot and humid in the sun which slowed my progress. At the 580m level I set off right across rough ground to join the track heading south towards the summit, thus cutting the corner and avoiding 80m of unnecessary ascent. In the baking sun the final steep ascent was steep and punishing and it was not until 14:00z that I reached the summit. In hindsight my estimate of 1 hour 30 minutes had been rather optimistic!

The set up on Badandun Hill with the 2m antenna dismantled.

As I had alerted for 14:00z, I was now behind schedule, so I set up for HF and appeared on 60m SSB at 14:10z. Don G0NES was waiting and first into the log and once again I worked 8 on the band, finishing with Paul G4MD at 14:24z. I added the 2m beam to the pole and moved to 2m SSB to find Steve MM0XPZ ready waiting, but there was no sign of Don G0NES on this one, nor indeed of Don G0RQL. Moving to FM I worked Ken GM0AXY and Christine GM4YMM and was then called by Martin 2M0KAU/P on Mount Hill GM/SS-277 - not only an S2S, but a SOTA Complete for both of us. 40m was still open into Europe and produced a run of 10 CW contacts with Jean F6ACV first into the log. The frequency went quiet at 15:17z, so I went QRT and set off back down the track at 15:40z. I was in two minds as to whether I should take a direct descent, but decided on returning the way I had come - perhaps the lesser of two evils. If I were ever to access this hill again, I would certainly not do it from Glen Isla.

View towards Mount Blair GM/ES-035 and the direction from which I should have ascended this hill.

It was 16:50z when I reached the car and after a change of footwear, a snack and some much-needed hydration, I set off for home at 17:00z. The journey went very smoothly with the A93 once again an absolute delight. Having 4WD does give me the ability to shake off tailgaters - a couple of quick bends is all it takes. I was back in Amble for 20:50z (9.50 p.m.) only ten minutes later than planned - plenty of time for a shower and a meal before hitting the sack. Needless to say I didn’t wake up until 9 a.m. the next day!

Despite the amount of physical effort required over what was a very long day, I must say that I really enjoyed this outing. The 12 points on offer were a great addition towards my next target of Double Goat. As usual many thanks to everyone that came on to work me and for those that assisted with spots. I will probably now leave the GM/ES region until 2021 and concentrate on summits a little further south, all subject to what restrictions are in place of course.

73, Gerald


Great report and photos. 73 de Geoff vk3sq

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Good stuff Gerald, you got some great weather. I think Banandun is easiest from Little Forter, further south in Glen Isla. You start out following the Cateran Trail, then head north up the track that goes right to the summit. Sorry I missed you on 2m, at work.

73 Gavin

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It’s a start and sufficient to enable moderately swift progress :wink:

Actually the flappy-paddle gear change is probably the best bit compared to the old 6 on the floor of the previous car. Up to the bend, hard on the anchors, pull the down paddle two or three times to get some revs, off the anchors then turn in and a healthy squeeze on the loud pedal, straighten up and pull the up paddle to get the revs down. Nailing the throttle is likely to result in some squirming and the “Danger Will Robinson” light flashing away. I’m not brave enough to drive it hard with the traction off… my reactions are not quick enough any more.

It’s a nice wee hill and your pictures show you had some nice WX there.

As for Badundan, I can barely remember it. I know for the 1st attempt I arrived at the parking in Little Forter only for a blizzard to start and after 30mins waiting to see if stopped, aborting. The road back to Cray and A93 were fun even with all season tyres on my old Honda CR-V and its FWD/AWD system. Second time it was misty and murky and did rain a few times. ISTR there are plenty of paths not shown on the OS maps. It was so long ago, 21MHz was viable with QRP powers :slight_smile:

I may have a bimble up Glas Tulaichean GM/CS-011 this weekend as the WX should be OK if just a bit cold.

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Interesting read and report. Oh, and good photos too.!

I always enjoy breaking through the clouds when there’s a temperature inversion. Its OK to gloat at all those below in the cloud.!

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That’s probably on account of the weight you are throwing around the road. My relatively lightweight steed allows me to lift slightly before the bend and then apply power through the bend and accelerate on exit. The A93 produced some lovely G forces. I guess I will just have to get up there again sometime soon. :+1:

Well done Gerald. A triumph of good planning - it all worked out well. Lovely photos especially the temp inversion. You did great on 2-SSB. My recent sortie onto there - not nearly as far worked despite an alert but one in CW was interesting.

Hard cornering eh? Good to shake the bugs off the bumper. I hope you can get Ben Nevis done in the not too distant future. I love doing that one despite the quantity of ‘touristy types.’ I never seem to leave enough in the tank for the descent and you’d think climbing it would be harder.
73, John.

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That’s Andy’s truck you are thinking about but, I guess, he was using his pimpmobile!
(Unless you were thnking about the excess avoirdupois he carries :rofl:)

Thanks Gerald for the report and photos. It was also great to get you in the log …good reports for a change😀

73 Allan

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There’s an extra “lockdown kilo” to get rid of before Christmas.

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I have two boating kilos to shift to get back to my usual lardy weight :cry:

Ha ha… I must be the only person to lose 3kg during lockdown. I am keeping an eye on the weight as it came off quite early on (after fighting off the dreaded virus) and it has stayed off despite a lack of hills. Maybe my heavy muscles have been replaced by lightweight fat. :grin:

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