A Prickely Unique

Beinn Mhealaich GM/NS-087, 592M, 2 SOTA Points,

I only decided to do this one a few days before the activation, but could not find an awful lot about it searching through T’internet, no routes, limited pictures etc etc. However it is only 40 minute drive from my QTH and thought id go for it anyway.

I turned off Scotland’s “Main Route North” the infamous A9 at Culgower, a small hamlet between Brora and Helmsdale. At NC975120 i parked just outside the gates of Culgower house, walked up past 3 homes to a path marked on the map. But once i came to the “path” it was very overgrown with gorse, and had to fight it all the way to the end. Much to my disappointment it ended at a tarred single track road at NC988124. I could have drove right to this point had i A, looked a bit harder at the map and B, not drawn a route on my map…Never mind.

So now starting again at NC988124 you simply follow the track past some old caravans full to the roof of white containers??? Then next you come through some gates to a lovely holiday home overlooking the sea. Going past their log pile i came to a fork, go right and not left!! Left takes you to the owners garage hiding behind some tall bushes!! On coming back and taking the correct path this time you come to another tall gate tied shut with rope but easily opened. On the other side is more gorse bushes but a bit easier to negotiate the way through.

At the end of this path it opens wide and i could not follow the path anymore. Some work on the electrical pylons must have taken place recently as there is fragments of broken ceramic insulators scattered underneath the one i crossed. Basically from here i took my own path up over the heather until i eventually found what could be considered a path. Very overgrown, to the point i didnt use it and walked along one edge to where it ended again. From here to the summit was very water logged. I pulled the HT out about 10 minutes from the summit to draw up a bit of activity on VHF, but whilst mid QSO and not watching my next step i fell up to my knees in a little gully. Luckily nothing injured and carried on to the summit.

VHF first and i got 3 contacts back to back within the first 2 minutes, then nothing for the next 5 to 10 minutes?? Checked over the rig, antenna, coax etc. Opened up a few repeaters next for a test and everything was fine. So back to .500 and i worked GM3JIJ in Stornoway, pretty sure this was this first contact to Stornoway even from the home QTH. Then started setting up the 20m vertical a few cq’s produced nothing and after spotting a nice little roll of calls came in. With the body temp dropping from sitting around it was time to pack up, a few more calls on VHF and it was time to go.

I wish i had taken a decent camera to photograph all the wild deer up here, between all the different groups there must have been 200 or so, quite a spectacular sight. This time following the path from top to bottom i lost it again 15mins walk from crossing under the pylons so i didn’t feel so bad that i could find it at the start. I decided it would be quicker to walk along the A9 back to the car and not take the gorse path, on doing so i noticed a nice big lay-by on the southbound side, just about 300m or so from the junction that isnt marked on my map. So this could be a good place for anyone else doing this one to start.

With 5 hours walk for a 2 pointer im sure it wont get a big rush of activators but i would recommend it if your in the area, the views out to the north sea and the east coast are stunning.


In reply to 2M0ETR:

As I continue my studying of the Zen of SOTA on my path to enlightenment I can say this Adrian…

…the points don’t matter as long as you enjoyed yourself.

Nice report too!

Chanshi Andy

In reply to MM0FMF:
Your exactly right Andy. Points can sometimes be a distraction to the ultimate prize…Having a bit of fun in the great outdoors.


The points matter - until you’ve got 1000 of them. Then uniques become the target. And as they spiral ever outwards, it is more important than ever to enjoy and appreciate a nice walk in the great outdoors, and maybe enjoy a bit of radio as well. With 1012 activations behind me, I top one invisible honour roll - the one that indicates that I’ve had more fun from SOTA than anyone else!

Radio and SOTA stuff aside, I ask myself in reflective mood what my most enjoyable walks on SOTA summits have been. These are in no particular order, and are subject to change, but the following spring to mind (links for those that want to see the photos):

  1. Whernside G/NP-004, circular from Ribblehead Viaduct: Whernside 2008

  2. Cadair Berwyn GW/NW-012, from cafe/waterfall, MG activation: Cadair Berwyn NW-012

  3. Wild Boar Fell G/NP-007, from the East side, NP Fun Day: Wild Boar Fell NP-007

  4. Rogans Seat G/NP-014, traverse from Kisdon G/NP-026 in winter conditions: Rogan's Seat NP-014

  5. Kinder Scout G/SP-001, circular route from Grindsbrook: Kinder Scout SP-001

  6. Slieve Donard GI/MM-001 & traverse to Slieve Commedagh GI/MM-002, from town of Newcastle, virtually at sea level: Slieve Donard MM-001

  7. Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 & traverse to Beinn Mheadhoin GM/ES-005, GM4TOE’s famous route as published in Trail Magazine: Ben Macdui ES-001

  8. Ailsa Craig GM/SS-246, island summit, boat from Girvan, strenuous short walk but exhilarating views from summit: Ailsa Craig SS-246

  9. Pen y Fan GW/SW-001, always a lovely and deceptively easy walk, with magnificent views: Pen y Fan SW-001

  10. Red Screes G/LD-017, Fairfield G/LD-007 & St Sunday Crag G/LD-010, a linear walk from the Kirkstone Pass Inn, finishing in Patterdale. Stunning views and terrain all day: Red Screes LD-017

  11. Snowdon GW/NW-001, via the PYG Track is always an enjoyable walk with great views - providing the weather is good - which is all too infrequent in Snowdonia! http://tomread.co.uk/_derived/snowdon_2007.htm_cmp_m1eyp3100_hbtn.gif

  12. The Cloud G/SP-015 - well I couldn’t leave it out, and of the many routes I have taken to the summit, the most rewarding was definitely a 20 mile circular walk beginning and ending at my home QTH, with an overnight camp (with radio operation) on the summit: http://tomread.co.uk/_derived/new_page_4.htm_cmp_m1eyp3100_hbtn.gif

So there’s my dozen best walks, at least as I am thinking this evening anyway! Trying to pick these purely on the basis of the walking, and disregarding experiences with the radio for doing SOTA, is difficult! I wonder what others’ best walks for SOTA have been?


In reply to M1EYP:

The points matter - until you’ve got 1000 of them

No they don’t. Or instead of driving North for 2hrs to get 4pts and a unique,
I’d drive South for 2hrs down to The Puddles and get 8 or 10pts and a unique.

Driving effort and cost would be the same and I’d be goated by now. If points did matter I certainly wouldn’t have driven 700+ miles for 5pts and 4 uniques like I did last March!



There are a few unusual characters like you around Andy. The words Paul and Gerald spring to mind. But most of us normal folk do/did chase the MG before becoming all purist!


In reply to M1EYP:

  1. Red Screes G/LD-017, Fairfield G/LD-007 & St Sunday Crag
    G/LD-010, a linear walk from the Kirkstone Pass Inn, finishing in
    Buttermere. Stunning views and terrain all day:
    Red Screes LD-017


That is a VERY long walk! :wink:


Brian G8ADD

In reply to M1EYP:

There are a few unusual characters like you around Andy. The words Paul and Gerald spring to mind. But most of us normal folk do/did chase the MG before becoming all purist!

While keeping true to our prime objective of activating Uniques, Paul and I actually did have one eye on achieving Mountain Goat, certainly from the half-Goat stage. Every opportunity was taken to maximise the points value while we cranked up the Uniques, but now the “heat” is off - witness our recent 6 NP summit sortie. 5 of the summits would have earned us fairly easy winter bonus points next month. 32 points would have been earned rather than 17, but it is no longer such a big deal. I suspect that in time, points earning will slide even further down the agenda.

So you see, Paul and I are more “normal” than you think we are!

In reply to 2M0ETR:

Thanks for the excellent report Adrian - maybe one day I’ll get that far north. Already looking at fly-drive deals based on Aberdeen…

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G8ADD:

I’m sure you knew I meant Patterdale Brian! Half of the letters are the same and it’s the same number of syllables…


In reply to M1EYP:

Its a very nice walk, too, Tom.

I have been thinking of what my best walks would be, trouble is, most of them were last done by me in pre-SOTA days, and the weather when they were done is such an integral part of the experience that the list is permanently open to revision! Just a few of them, then, for the flavour!

  1. The Snowdon Horseshoe starting with the summit ridge of Crib Goch and NOT chickening out and going around the Crazy Pinnacle!

  2. Bidean nam Bian in deep snow, starting with the Dinnertime Buttress of Aonach Dubh, to the summit of Stob Corrie nan Lochan, then the gracefull ridge to Bidean, followed by an easy ridge to Stob Corrie nam Beith and on around to An t-Sron…and so to the Clachaig!

  3. The Aonach Eagach (the Glencoe one, that is!) during a spring thaw with the gullies of the Bidean nam Bian massif avalanching…and so to the Clachaig again!

  4. Liathach from the East on a clear cold day with occasional snow showers…chickening out on some of the teeth of am Fasarinen!

  5. Another lovely horseshoe walk:- Yr Elen - Carnedd Llewellyn - Carnedd Dafydd - back down the ridge of Mynnydd Du.

  6. The Ennerdale Skyline, starting and finishing at Gillerthwaite - value for money with four SOTA summits en route but a LONG day!

At this point the memories crowd and it is difficult to pick favourites! All these include at least one SOTA summit but are mountain walks for the connoiseur.


Brian G8ADD