Activation Report: Ben Challum CS-021

I’ve been studiously avoiding this summit having read a few dire warnings about how easy it is to fall down the cliffs on the South top. But today it was time to do it. WX was for lifting clouds during the day but chance of heavy rain later and/or fog. 80% chance of clear Munros… seems worth taking the risk.

I did the Munroist’s trade route… a big trench that makes navigation easy. So I parked in the layby on the A82 opposite the entrance to SAC Mountain Research Centre/Kirkton Farm. Down the access road, over the bridge and follow the West Highland Way signs. At the ruins of St. Fillan’s Priory there is a rough vehicle track. Follow this up to the level crossing and over the railway. Easy so far. Now this is a Munro so there will be a motorway sized path, there always is. But I couldn’t find it. I ended up too far West and at the end of the track. I couldn’t remember the directions I’d read and thought when in doubt go up. Looking up I saw some more walkers by a deer fence. Ah, follow the deer fence was the advice.

It’s steep here and the ground is quite wet. Anyway I veered back and up finally arriving out of breath at the first stile. It was very humid and oppressive and there was no breeze. Not nice. Also all the peaks (Ben More, Stob Binnein, Cruarch Ardrain, An Caisteal, Ben Lui, etc. etc.) where lost in the cloud. Bottoms! Now the stile is described as awkward. Someone has made the handrails about 1ft too short so I was very ungainly in crossing the deer fence. The ground gets wetter, you climb steeply and meet another stupid stile that is awkward to cross.

From here the ground just gets worse and worse. Only people with webbed feet will enjoy it. Or make sure your footwear is waterproof. I continued to follow the sheep fence up. In fact you can follow the fence right to the Southern top. The higher sections are just posts now but there are some excellent rusty fence wire trip hazards too. The fence is ideal for navigation in case the predicted fog appeared. Finally the slope eased right off. My trousers were covered in mud already. The level bit is the real bog. Appalling is the only word. The best part of a kilometer of awful ground. Hover boots would be ideal for this section, or rocket shorts. As it was I splashed and waded on.

At least there was a breeze and the cloud was lifting. It seemed that it was lifting at the same rate I was climbing. Finally after ascending the thick-end of 600m did the ground improve. All at once nice good ground to climb. And climb you do, 300m in 1km. If it wasn’t for the lovely breeze I’d have given up. But it was enough to dry off all the sweat which had been running out of my forehead as if the Three Gorges Dam had sprung a leak. The path is really good and easy to follow.

Then I was at the South top. Would I fall off the cliff? Well I suppose you could if you were daft, blind and not paying attention. The trade route trench is oh so obvious as it skirts West, climbs over the strange cleft in the ridge and then along the narrow bit before descending down to the main ridge. A drop of about 50m in fact. I don’t do exposure but had no problem on the narrower bits of this. Especially as the cloud was still lifting. So as I climbed the last 70m I got to see more and more of the target. Bingo, summit reached in 2hr40m.

The cloud lifted right up as a reward. It was very murky though. I’m getting fed up with murk around here. Beinn Dorain: murky day, Beinn Odhar: murky day, Beinn Caorach: murky day, Ben Challum: murky day, Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh: murkey. A pattern is emerging. However, the views were amazing. Even for a murky day. Creag Mhor and Glen Lochy in particular. Boy is that summit remote.

Radio set up, cloud came down. 60m was dead, phone coverage was dead. I gave up and went to 40m CW. Conditions were not good but I started working stations. It was either lots of G’s calling or suddenly just a few week HB9/DL stations. 17 QSOs later there was nothing. I’d been eaten alive by midges (no Skin-so-Soft with me). I didn’t like the way the clouds were getting blacker and the bottoms of the them were rotating. Like the bases of thunderstorm clouds. No crashes on the radio though. I tried 60m again and found Brian G4ZRP and told him the WX was on the turn and I was away. But by the time the LF dipoles were packed up it looked not bad. Hmmm, 20m or go? With a 2hr walkout and 2hr+ drive I decided to go.

I did give a quick call on 2m FM with the handy for Ken GM0AXY. I know he can work this as it’s almost LOS to his QTH in Edinburgh. I got his XYL Christine GM4YMM. Then GM4XQJ whilst Christine got Ken from the garden. Then Ken and then Jack GM4COX. WooT! Qualified on 2m with a handy and rubber duck. A few photos and energy bars and I was off down.

The ridge is a little exposed but you’d have to try hard to come a cropper here. I wouldn’t do it if it was bad. Anyway return was the reverse. But it was a real pain on the knees. Steep winding path down and it was much slippier this way than before. It took me 1 hour to descend from the North top to the start of the b-awful bog section. I sat here and had a Mars Bar looking back at the summit. By now the black clouds had gone the cloud was about 1200m as Ben More was just clear. I should have stayed for 20m :frowning: With that it was across the bogs. My dry trousers were soaked 1km later. Then down the steep sections by the deer fence with more shenanigans on the stiles.

Crossing the bridge I met a tired walker doing the West Highland Way. His target was Tyndrum, 5km North. I offered him a lift but he declined. Just as I got to the car the rain started. Quite heavy. Boots off and the heavens opened. Not a downpour or deluge. But imagine standing under several thousand fireman’s hoses. I have never seen anything like as I drove to Tyndrum for a cup (bucket) of Rosy at The Real Food Cafe. The rain abated as I arrived so I could get indoors. The food/drinks here are excellent and the staff have a great attitude. I looked at the deluge again as I drank my 500ml cup of tea. Excellent.

Then a drive back in dreik, drizzle, rain, deluge, downpour and Biblical “rains that Noah survived”. Oh yes, the predicted heavy rain did arrive. All in all a good day, Ben Challum mastered, 4 QSO on 2m, bucket of tea and whilst my legs are telling me I’ve been up a Munro, I’m not crippled with knee and ankle aches like I was last week.

Total walked: 12.75km, total ascent: 992m, total driven 170miles


In reply to MM0FMF:
Hi Andy,

Thanks for your very intereting activation report, a most enjoyable read. That sounded like a hard slog. Amazing north south divide in the WX as down here in Hampshire we were blessed with very hot sun and a clear sky. In fact it was a really clear sky last night, a pity about street lighting etc preventing me from seeing the less bright stars. Google Sky Map is a fantastic app.

Your 40M CW sigs were really loud, S8 with me. Probably the loudest I have heard you. Usually on 60M I struggle to dig you out of my highish noise level. Perhaps propagation was favouring inter G at the time.

I look forward to your next activation.

73s Andrew G4AFI

In reply to MM0FMF:

Thank God I did that one in winter, it was one of the coldest days of my life but I hate bog-trotting! I hadn’t heard this malarkey about it being easy to fall off - it brought on a little boggle, anybody that falls off that must be really trying!

Sorry to miss you, I had a little trip to Bristol!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

I have to agree Brian. I can understand the warnings given about Ben Nevis especially when snow covered as you can walk across the cornices and easily fall to your death. But there does tend to be quite a lot of alarming reports lurking on the net that can put off people like me who don’t do exposure. I suppose the authors may be trying to protect themselves in these ever more litagous days.

In real terms there was more exposure here than the “exposed” path on Beinn Dorain I did a few months back. That path seems worse than it is. But I felt completely comfortable here and not very comfortable on the Beinn Dorain path. Although I did feel quite chuffed with myself once the excess adrenalin had metabolised then. I know I wasn’t alone as the bod following me didn’t like that path either! But here on Ben Challum I was happy. There’s a bit were you walk along the top and the ground either side slopes away at more than 45degs to oblivion, well down to the Allt Gelan a’ Chlachain on the left 650m below or into Coire Challum. But the gorund at the top is about 1m wide so it didn’t phase me other than thinking “probably not a good place to trip”. With that in mind I just walked across. That was as the mist was swirling in and out. It’s quite freaky when the mist clears and you see just how big the drop is!


In reply to MM0FMF:

Hi Andy, Was it really good views? I did this one last month and the heavy cloud base was at 400m where the first stile is and then it just got thicker and it rained all the way from the car to the summit and back. The views were - well poor to say the least. I could have just shown a photo of any top and said it was Challum.

So I can’t comment on the “falling of the cliff” as I never seen a thing, zero, zilch, visibility was about 10m at best so never actually saw much of the cliffs.

As for the boggy bits, I found it was less boggy - not a lot mind you but more wet than bog, on the east side of the stock fence.

Good time you made on the way up. Pity I never got you on 2m as I was on my local hill chasing and never expected you to venture on to 2m FM. I worked with the handy and duck on Challum and managed 6 QSO’s in 15 minutes then made a run for it!

Not wanting to steal your thread but here is my piece on this summit. Beinn Challum GM/CS-021 | 2M0NCM 'n' Cat's Oot n aboot

Take care

Neil 2M0NCM

In reply to 2M0NCM:

Nah, the views are rubbish, you didn’t miss much, see this is the best I could manage…


Mind, it’s on my list to go back to…in the winter…when hopefully the bog will be frozen.

Nice report Andy, I’ve been rubbish at writing anything remotely like an activation report recently, will have to get my finger out.

Iain, MM3WJZ

In reply to 2M0NCM:

Hi Neil,

Thanks for the S2S from GM/SS-256 onto G/SP-013 Gun on Saturday!

Nice S2S on 2m fm from such a modest summit as Grey Hill on my vertical. What was your set-up?

I was using FT-857, X-300 collinear and turned the power up to 20 Watts to make it easier for you.

Apologies for thread hijack, but no email address on your QRZ page.

73 Mike

In reply to 2E0YYY:

Hi Mike, yes good contact to The Gun - wonder if it was a clean shot! HI.

A lot of the activators up here in GMland quite often hear you lot on 2m FM down in Englandshire but try as we do most of the times you are either beaming the wrong way or there is too much activity on the frequency for you to hear us calling. Many a time I have sat freezing calling for the S2S but have to give up when the icicles start hanging from the tip of my nose.

I was only using one of those 5 watt Wouxon dualband handies with a 3 element beam. The Grey Hill is one of my local hills so am up quite often more so lately as I am off work for a few weeks so it helps keep me fit and a chance to play radio and get some chaser points.

I worked out the distance between us as about 293km so not too bad, get a lot of the G summits from SS-256. And as for a being modest summit, 1 hr 10 min to top for 1 point!!

73 Neil

In reply to MM3WJZ:

You’re right, the view is rubbish :slight_smile: I like your one from Geal-charn of Ben Alder. Now I know what Geal-charn looks like! I got quick glimpse of Ben Alder before the cloud and rain came down when I did it with Brian G4ZRP a while back.

In reply to 2M0NCM:

I don’t avoid 2m, I just forget to turn the handy on or have run out of time. It sits in an outside pocket of the bag and is there ready for use when I remember. But by the time I’ve done 60m and either 40/30 and possibly 20/17 it’s normally time to go, especially on the bigger summits/walks. When I do remember it sits monitoring 145.500. Looking at the map Ken/Christine are LOS to Ben Challum which is why they were simple to work on the duck and a counterpoise.

Shame about your weather, I find it hard to start walking in the rain. You’re right about the ground, t was much better on the East side of the fence. Still diabolical but less so than the West side! Those stiles are a just plain awkward!

As for beaming, Mike doesn’t do beaming. He uses assorted vertical omnis. That makes it difficult to null out any local stations etc. or peak up distant ones.


In reply to MM0FMF:
Hi Andy Great report .I felt that I had been with you.I am away on holiday and not got HF fixed up on the caravan.I did WB 010 on 2 SSB and if points scoring were on effort to get to the top I would mark it as a 6.73 Geoff G6MZX

In reply to G6MZX:

Its interesting to see how people’s impressions differ, Geoff. I put down WB-010 as very easy, as it has a Landrover track to the top and is not particularly steep. WB-006 is a much more brutal climb but like all these lower hills it is soon over.

If we could agree an objective set of parameters it would be interesting to record some sort of index of difficulty for each SOTA summit - though I wouldn’t mind betting that somebody has done it already and the figures are buried somewhere in the internet data blizzard!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
Hi Brian Dont take my comments as a complaint .My poor old legs are getting worn out.The joke is I had a Land Rover Defender at the car park at the bottom which would have got me to the top in five minutes.I will possibly be on MW 035 in the morning .73 Geoff G6MZX