Activation Report: Binnein Beag and Aonach Beag (G

I decided to spend the New Year with the Glasgow University Mountaineering Club at the Steall Hut in Glen Nevis and of course thought to try some radio. Space in the rucksack was limited by essentials such as bottles of whisky and port but I managed to fit in my Icom T8E and a telescopic whip.

I arrived in Fort William by train and set off up Glen Nevis. I wasn’t terribly keen on the likely long trudge but thankfully I managed to hitch a lift most of the way. The inverse lift probability rule of hitch hiking seemed to have been applied: the less traffic there is the greater the chance of someone picking you up. I suspect making a rope visible at the top of the rucksack also helps to add bona fides. I found the walk from the carpark harder than expected because of a heavy bag and very little light. I had not been to the hut before so spent some time looking for the bridge in the dark. The Steall Bridge consists of three cables: one for standing on and two hand holds, so it’s not very visible. I was careful crossing because I was concerned that it would have been difficult to recover if the weight of self and bag went off centre.

The weather was unfortunately warm, remaining above freezing, as it had been for some time previous to my arrival so most of the snow and ice had thawed. I had been hoping to climb the Steall waterfall but it was disappointingly liquid and I believe the remaining snow was soft. This just left walking so on Hogmanay I set off up Binnein Beag.

We approached up a spur from the North East. It’s a small hill (as named) at 943m and was generally easy going. It does become quite steep towards the top though and there were some scrambly sections. After one scramble I was slightly concerned to see a cliff drop off to my left at the bottom of the steep snow slope which continued our route but I kicked steps easily in the soft snow and felt secure.

The activation itself consisted of a few unanswered CQs on 145.500 and 51.510 and some chocolate before deciding this was not terribly enjoyable in the cold and mist. The visibility was about 100m. I didn’t think there was much chance of contacts as we were mostly surrounded by higher hills and I had no phone signal for a spot. I also did not want to annoy cooling climbing partners too much by hanging around. We descended to the saddle and then West without incident.

I managed to mobilise myself and one other by 1000 on New Year’s day for a walk up Aonach Beag. I decided I was not keen enough to do the Ring of Steall leaving at 0700 as some people did. Today was rather colder and by about 650m things were starting to freeze. We encountered some snow that had started to ice up at this point so we applied the crampons . I found it fairly hard ascending Stob Coire Bhealaich because the surface layer was breaking on most steps. The ascent to Aonach Beag was more straightforward with some cornices improving the view, which today was excellent with snow dusted mountains visible for miles in every direction.

On reaching the summit I unpacked the radio. My CQ on 145.500 was immediately answered by GM7PKT, who I think was on his way back from an activation, and then by GM4XQJ. I logged these on a soggy piece of paper which conveniently froze when exposed to the summit air. Then my NiMh battery died. Warming it under clothing might have helped but we did not want to hang around at that point anyway in case conditions deteriorated. I was pleased to have made these contacts so easily without so much as an alert. The nominal 2W output proved sufficient for a good report from Falkirk, a distance of about 75 miles.

In reply to MM0HAI:

Nice report. I have fond memories of Steall, including a New Years eve sitting on the doorstep drinking whiskey and watching the northern lights!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to MM0HAI:
Thanks for providing a very interesting report Alistair. You did really well to get the two contacts in that remote area on basic VHF gear. There were some nice cornices up there last year but that was in May, not January! There’s not much shelter on that top so you wouldn’t have wanted to hang around even if your battery hadn’t died. Your approach is refreshing - climbing first with a bit of SOTA tagged on and any QSO’s a bonus.

I know what you mean about companions. No matter how politely they try to hide their feelings, you are always left suspecting that they would rather not sit and watch somebody talking into a plastic box!

73 & HNY,
John G4YSS

In reply to G8ADD:
Unfortunately no aurora but we put some lights in the sky in the form of mini hot air balloons.