A worthwhile day of pain

Ben Gulabin GM/CS-077 and Meall Mor GM/ES-058

Friday 15th December 2023

Since the middle of October I have been suffering considerable pain in my right leg which has been worst when I have been resting. I have been unable to determine the actual cause – ligament, tendon, muscle or even a blocked vein? High strength Ibuprofen gel has generally sorted it out, so I left trying to get an appointment with my GP until I could be sure of the cause.

My activation of Arthur’s Seat GM/SS-272 in early November had no effect on the pain, either for better or for worse. What I needed was a real test, but not one that was too onerous. I decided that a couple of low-ish summits might just be the ticket, so I set about looking at options for a day on the hills to take advantage of the winter bonus period. After much thought and looking at quite a number of options, I decided on Ben Gulabin GM/CS-077 and Meall Mor GM/ES-058 which would produce a respectable 12 points for just enough effort. I would have the option of calling a halt after the first summit if my leg did not hold up.

It was 03:45z when I set out from my base on the Northumbrian coast, 15 minutes earlier than planned. Use of the cruise control kept my leg reasonably happy until I got onto the roads near Perth where more pedal work was required. I arrived at the parking spot by the A93 at 07:39z where it was drizzling with a stiff breeze and got ready with the help of the car lights as it was still quite dark. I expected it to be somewhat worse on the summit…. and indeed it would be.

After a quick text to let my XYL know I was okay, I set off up the hill at 08:00z. The first part of the track was absolutely fine, but the upper section was in poor condition on the steeper sections, parts of which were just a few stones sticking out of churned up peat. From around the 700m level the track was iced up and there were snow patches here and there. I took to the edge of the heather alongside the track which had thankfully been burnt to promote new growth for the black grouse on the hill. My leg kicked off big time on the steeper sections and I had pain from my toes to my backside, but I had no option other than to get on with it. The ascent took me 1 hour 28 minutes, but this was within the time I had allowed. The wind had increased with height and it was surprisingly chilly at the summit, so I took full advantage of the rocky outcrop at the summit to get some shelter. It took me a painful half hour to set up my station and I was quite relieved to get sat down.

Just as I was about to start my activation, a couple of walkers approached and I went through the usual explanations before I found a clear frequency to use. The walkers didn’t stop long… I guess amateur radio operation wasn’t what they were expecting on the summit. My first contact on 40m SSB was actually a failure. Kris ON3RMB responded to my CQ call, but couldn’t get his report, so he said he would wait for my signal to improve. Mal GW6OVD was actually the first to get into the log and Kris made it a short time afterwards. The contact with Mal was plagued by several chasers calling me, when they clearly could not hear me. This continued for quite a while which slowed me up working through the pile up.

In all I worked 25 on SSB, with the frequency going quiet at 10:27z after I signed with Gary MM0XET. Within seconds the frequency had been taken over by a group for a net, complete with comments about “their frequency” being used by others. Oh well, it takes all sorts. I easily found a clear frequency down in the CW section and after the RBN spotted me a steady run of chasers called in, Lothar DL3HXX being first into the log. CW produced another 18 contacts finishing at 10:52z.

Ben Gulabin summit… it would be very pleasant on a sunny day.

The set up on Ben Gulabin.

During the activation I was in contact by text with long-time activating partner Paul G4MD. He was not hearing me on 40m, so I gave him a call on 60m after finishing on 40m. Unfortunately the noise at his end was horrendous, so we failed to make contact. It was 11:00z when I went QRT and 11:20z when I started my descent which took me 48 minutes. I had time for a snack before setting off for my second summit. Thankfully my leg was holding up fine.

View of Glas Maol GM/ES-012 on the descent… somewhere in the mist.

View from the car at lunch time.

It was a 20 minute drive to the parking spot for Meall Mor that was suggested by Simon GM4JXP. I was running a few minutes ahead of schedule when I set out up the hill at 12:55z. The ascent is quite short, but there are some rather steep sections and rough vegetation to deal with. These areas slowed me up somewhat and the effort on the gradient made my leg painful. I chose to ascend on the north side of the wall, but the better path is actually on the south side…. well, for what passes as a path anyway. It was 13:45z when I arrived at what is, surprisingly, a rather pleasant summit. The wall provided me with ample shelter and with a couple of bungies a means to support my pole. I was QRV at the intended time of 14:00z, only to find that the band was crammed full of stations.

The easy part of the ascent, though it’s steeper than it looks.

View towards Meall Mor summit after the steeper section.

After looking up and down the band for several minutes, I found a narrow gap at 7.162MHz and called CQ while spotting myself. Tom MM0BQJ was first in the log followed by Bill GM0OTS and John G3OKA, but I was only able to hold the frequency for these three contacts before I was evicted…. and that with me running 30 watts. I decided to move well down the band and sent a text to Paul G4MD to say I had found 7.064MHz clear. Thankfully this time he could just hear me and we completed a QSO before the pile up started. In all I worked 27 on SSB, finishing with Ken GM0AXY and Christine GM4YMM.

There was more activity on 40m CW at this time of day, so I settled on 7.035MHz and Mike M6MPC was first to call me at 14:50z. After signing with Mike, there were a couple of false starts with others attempting to use my frequency, but it soon cleared and I worked 18 on the mode, Claude F6AEW being the last in my log at 15:14z.

After taking a couple of blurry photos in the gloom and packing away the kit, I set off down the hill at 15:30z and reached the car in 30 minutes without having to resort to using my head torch. As expected, the ground on the south side of the wall was much easier to walk on, though care was still required on the steeper parts. Walking poles were a great help.

Meall Mor summit cairn.

The set up on Meall Mor with the dipole strung out above the wall.

With a long drive back to base, I took the opportunity to have some food and drink before setting off at 16:25z. Rain set in for a while as I had my snack, but cleared quickly once I got underway. The journey home was straightforward and I arrived back at base at 19:57z. I am always surprised how well the traffic flows around Edinburgh.

After a couple of days with aches, my leg now seems to have settled down and is far less painful than it was before the outing Many thanks to everyone I worked on the bands. Despite the early start, leg pain and inclement weather it was quite an enjoyable day out, but it may actually be my last single day outing. Driving for almost 8 hours and ascending hills is getting harder.

73, Gerald


Well done for getting these done in December. A week ago they would have been under snow, but 14°C for a few days had stripped everything.

New leg for Christmas? :santa:


Ben Gulabin looks like when I did it. I’ve not been up Meall Mor for a while either. I think I may bag the pair over the Christmas break and relive old times.

I’ve just had to put my wallet in the freezer to cool it down after buying 4 tyres, 2x 225/45r18 91Y and 2x 255/40r18 95Y, all runflats. The credit card was glowing :frowning: Still looks like this last set did 17000 miles. I’ll christen the new ones with run out to N. Perthshire!


My middle daughter has just passed her driving test so we needed insurance for her and the car we shared is now very much not mine so it isn’t just the insurance but an extra vehicle. I’m going to need liquid nitrogen for the wallet…

Thanks for the report Gerald, nice to work you on one of the summits. I’m trying to work out how I seem to have less available time than when I was doing paid work…I will get some more activations soon… 73.


Indeed Paul. My activation stats are starting to show a small improvement, but only back to the level of 2017 and that was the year of my heart attack. I had my bypass op in 2018 and I hoped that would then kickstart a new SOTA career, but Covid had other ideas and now time associated with other commitments has become a significant factor. Last year was absolutely dire as you can see. :hushed: Anyway, pleased to work you on this outing. :grinning:


Good effort Gerald. Glad the leg has settled down a bit now but hope some festive feet-up time will see in it fine fettle again for 2024. 73 Mike


I’m in awe of your commitment Gerald, overcoming health issues and then making a very long drive (by my standards) to the summits. The summit I activated last Friday was just over two and a half hours away and I was bent over double when I got out of the car - my back is the problem with me.

But as long as we can still get out onto the hills I think we should be grateful for the opportunity. :slight_smile:

I was intrigued by your graph of activations so I had a look at my stats on the (new) database. I can’t begin to compete with your numbers but looking at the bands used for activations I noticed I’ve not yet had a 12m QSO from a summit. So that will be a target for 2024. I haven’t managed a 160m one either but that will need a lot more planning. :slight_smile:


. . . and a lot more wire.


I think the new leg may have been delivered. I’m beginning to think that I’ve had a trapped nerve which has now eased with the exercise.

Shouldn’t that be madness John? The madness is Uniques based, so it’s no use suggesting I go and bag myself a couple of English summits. Now with just Mullwharchar GM/SS-073 to activate to south of the Glasgow - Edinburgh line (Kintyre excepted), it is necessary to drive 175 plus miles from Northumberland to get to new Uniques… then I have to drive back. Doing it all in a day is getting marginal as I’m nearly 72. I think 3 day outings from now on.

73, Gerald