Annual Winter Scotland Pilgrimage

I’d spent several evenings pouring over the new SOTA summits map, searching for suitable summits I could activate in my annual winter trip to Scotland before the winter bonus points stopped. . A trip which until I started SOTA was one focused on on winter climbing/mountaineering/hillwalking and x-country skiing. This would be my 2nd trip to Scotland where my objective would be activating and anything else would take second place. But I took my ice axes, crampons and skis just in case!

So off I went in our newly purchased second-hand camper. Moffat being on the way and having a few worthwhile SOTA summits along Moffat dale, this became my 1st stop. Then headed up to Arrochar on the west coast, followed by a stop in Glencoe to nab the only 10+3 of the trip. (GM/WS-017). A slight thaw in the weather made the snow hard going so I headed across to the Cairngorms to finish off my trip on firmer snow…

                                                                                          (a)     (b)   (c)     (d)*

29 Feb 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/SS-082 (Capel Fell) 8– 2,-- 3, 114
1 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/SS-100 (Croft Head) 13– 2,-- 3, 119
3 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/SS-142 (Scaw’d Fell) 11– 2,-- 3, 124
4 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/SS-122 (The Wiss) 1 7- 2,-- 3, 129
4 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/SS-141 (Beinn Ghlas) 10– 2,-- 3, 134
5 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/SS-016 (Beinn Narnain) 16– 6,-- 3, 143
6 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/WS-017 (Meall a’Bhuiridh)11– 10,-- 3, 156
8 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/ES-010 (Bynack More) 15– 8,-- 3, 167
9 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/ES-036 (Geallaig Hill) 15– 4,-- 3, 174
10 Mar 2020 MM6GYU/P GM/ES-050 (The Coyles of Muick) 17– 2,-- 3, 179

( !st column = QSOs, 2nd = points, 3rd = bonus points, 4th = my accumulitive points.)

10 summits in total. 133 QSO’s all morse/cw. Plus a handful of S2S. Few of these summits had mobile signal so I relied totally on the RBN or once or twice being spotted by other chasers. I had intended to activate more than one summit on one day but I ended up only doing this the once.

I used 10mhz mainly and stayed on air until until there were no more callers -
I did QSY once but altering the links often resulted in me getting rather cold and it was sometimes difficult to re-arrange the inside of my bivvi bag without knocking equipment about.! .

(Below = Slab avalanche on the approach to Capel Hill, Southern Highlands)

Equipment taken/used on the hill:-

  1. HB1-1B MkIII
  2. 2amp SLAB battery*
  3. Small morse key
  4. SOTA beams linked dipole
  5. Telescopic pole
  6. Norwegian collapsable snow shovel (For digging snow shelters)
  7. Small two man Bivvi shelter (with a sewn in section to sit on and prevent it being blown off. This proved absolutely superb - My wife bought me it several years ago but until SOTA dawned I’d not needed it - indeed I’d forgotten all about it until some weeks ago
  8. Ipad, + antique iphone 4, but neither used other than taking photos with.
  9. A5 log book, A4 clipboard with callsigns + names of regular chasers. (It seemed a nice thing to greet callers with their names when they use mine.)
  10. Fingerless gloves with a ‘pullover’ mitt - another new purchase which proved excellent . I also carried a pair of simple goretex overmitts which made a great combination. (Gloves from Jack Pyke and only £6.00!)
  11. Map, & compass
  12. Spare gloves
  13. Waterproofs, Spare thin duvet jacket
  14. I don’t often take food or drink into the hills but took some fruit most days.
  15. Bungee cord & 16” length of drain pipe, the pipe which is just the right size to allow my pole to fit inside. Driven in the ground, hard snow or supported by rocks makes an excellent support for the aerial on bare soil or peat and I never had to use any guys, even in winds of 25 knots or over. I guess you call it a drive in and pull out stake!

That lot weighed in at around 15 lb - 20 lb, somewhat lighter than a rucksack full of climbing

(Below = a snow hole in which I also used my bivvi shelter ).

  • The SLAB Battery has now been retired thanks to G4OBK selling me a 2amp LiPo battery pack he had spare. Thanks Phil.

On two summits I had bad qrm on 10116 and a few khz either side - this was a loud buzzing/drilling sort of noise. I was within a mile or less of one transmitting mast once but the second time I was well over three miles from any mast I could see.

(Below = Inside my green caterpillar/bivvi shelter, callsign crib & log book)

My radio gave me a couple of panic moments when it insisted on showing “SSB” when I’d tuned it to the CW segment of 10mhz and once when it showed “TX error” and showed no power output. Both cases were remedied by either switching it off and on or simply fiddling with the Memory button. The radio is carried in a waterproof box. When being used its taken out - perhaps damp could be an issue? Do radios suffer from the cold?

(Below = A fine summit cairn on the Coyles of Muick)

SOTA has introduced me to a totally different Scotland and one I’ve really never taken much interest in before as many of these summits have little attraction for the winter climber/skier.
A number of the these smaller hills are fine summits in their own right.

(Below = the long lonely road home - heading towards the Glen Shee)

David Perry M6GYU
Robin Hood’s Bay.


Your last photo shows a wonderous road for “getting the hammer down”.

The only hazards are dumbass Sassenach holiday makers pulling out of lay-bys without looking, jaywalking sheep and other drivers hooning along in the other direction when you take the racing line around the curves. Luckily, there’s normal lots of views of the road ahead to minimise the risk.

On a hot bike it must be jaw-droppingly awesome.

Gellaig Hill is a pleasant bimble, Coyles of Muick is a wonderful hill. You were ever so lucky and timed this just right.

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Fifty years ago it had a zig-zag which would have been real fun on a hot bike, it was interesting in a car!

Thanks for the report, Dave, I enjoyed the pictures. My winter climbing rucksack used to weigh over 30 lbs, but many of my krabs were steel. Modern gear is lighter but I bet that front pointing up an icicle still has the same rush!

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Did you find the shepherd’s shelter with the calling card from HRH You know Who?

I think walked right past it and didn’t notice it, or maybe that was a cairn I was looking for. It’s such a nice walk through the forest then out onto the moor and up. Nice views all around too. ISTR 17m was absolutely buzzing with signals etc. when I was there in 2014.

The Braemar to Ballater road is another “hammer down” road. The fact there’s a lot more road furniture close to the tarmac (signs, walls, fences etc.) makes it a lot more exciting when hooning about… more stuff to hit and cause a rapid de-acceleration. I discovered the limits of adhesion of 255/35r19 Y Conti SP3 on a cold dry day on there… it’s all very well having torque-vectoring and dynamic traction control on all wheel drive but when you overcook it you get massive understeer. That’s not so much fun on entry to a wee bridge with stone walls. I relaxed the rate of approach after that.

I see David wimped out on your favourite and mine, Creag Ghiubhais GM/ES-067 : :nauseated_face:

That’s the point my ex University mate and now SOTA companion JAP most enjoys and that’s why he always drives his car to the SOTA activation start point and I drive mine. Not very environmentaly friendly but thus he gets the type of fun he likes most and I don’t need at all due to having already had enough of that type of fun.



That’s a nice lightweight station set up, especially now you have the small LiPO. I have never plucked up the courage to just rely upon my Youkits HB1A for an activation, though I have used it successfully for several WWFF activations. I guess the importance that I place on a SOTA activation, together with the need to qualify the summit after so much has been put into it, is the overriding factor. Driving to a car park and walking down to the beach for a coastal WWFF activation hardly compares. :slight_smile:

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I kick myself for not bidding on one which was sold recently for peanuts. I was hoping to be well into building my QCX 30m rig which has sat in its box for 15months whilst I find time to build it but I seem to be spending more time than ever “at work” even though work is in the kitchen.

Tells self… “make deliberate effort to build QCX, just 30mins a night will do.”

I bought mine for £70 from Dave G3RCQ. I usually run it off a 4.2AH LiFePO4 which defeats the object of it being lightweight. :grinning: I still have a 40m Rockmite to build. :open_mouth:

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£70 is obscenely cheap even for an A model. Remind me to get Paul @G4MD to get a bigger anvil to sneak into your bag when we get let out again.


The whole A93 loop is so popular with weekend bikers, has been for years. A constant stream of Aberdonian oil workers buying superbikes and dying on the road.

My policeman pal was in Blairgowrie for a few years, they hated Sunday shifts as it normally ended up with a long shift dealing with the latest casualty.

I got held up last summer after a SOTA when the road was closed due to a bike accident, ended up having to go home via Deeside and Cairn O’ Mount.

73 Gavin

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A trauma specialist doctor chum used to refer to superbike/sportsbike riders as “organ donors”.

“They’re all very likely to become organ donors and it may not even be their fault that they do so. But probably will be.”

I’m in awe of them but openly admit to being far, far too scared to go anywhere near them.

Doctors get me that way too :slight_smile:


I like the callsign crib idea - very organised!

The hardest one pointer in the programme?

It could well be. Certainly hardest 1pt summit I have done. Harder than Galloway summits.

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We’ll try and remember that next time we’re up that way looking for an easy one :-s

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I guess I didn’t do that for 1 point in the winter. Perhaps another time. I did feel a bit sorry for the 1 pointers I was ignoring


I use a paper log so I have/had no other way of remembering the frequent chasers. It seemed the right thing to do as many of the chasers use my name.


I do the same, that is when I remember to get the crib sheet out before starting. After a time you get to know chasers names - some associations between calls and names stick easier than others. I have found a regular review is worthwhile using recent activation logs to see who is currently active.

When activating WWFF it is a different situation. There are so many callers, but still those also active in SOTA stand out. :grinning:

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