With 2020 plans consigned to the future plans lists, I wanted to plan something in 2021 that I might have a chance of doing. With everything heading in the right direction for Scotland and England in terms of border opening etc. I made plans for a week backpacking in Scotland. A seed was sown in my head around 20 years ago from reading a trip report from @G3CWI doing a trip out of Corrour station. Some years later I watched Trainspotting and the scene in that film re-enforced my curiosity to plan a trip out of this unique station.
Day 1 12 km, 845m ascent
At the time of planning the trip it wasn’t clear if the sleeper train was running so I spent a fair chunk of day 1 on trains. I got out of Corrour station at around 15:30 and set off. It is light well into the night up here in June so I knew I had enough hours to work with. When I reached the summit of GM/WS-110 the weather was good and there were 2 Golden Plovers in summer plumage chirping away on the summit.
Getting to GM/WS-253 there were no paths and the ground was rough. I reached the summit and it started raining. I was unsure whether to bring my bothy bag when I was also carrying a tent, but on only my second summit I was glad to have this to quickly get some needed shelter on a summit.
Being a Saturday evening struggled to make 4 QSOs despite this summit only having been activated once before 17 years ago. I hadn’t planned to camp on the summit, but it was getting late and there was flat(ish) ground so I setup camp. I also had a recent weather forecast which said it shouldn’t be too windy.
Day 2 18 km, 1539m ascent
One of the biggest challenges with this trip was setting a schedule so that I could ensure RBNHole would post my alerts to SOTAwatch. It is hard to know the terrain from a map and rough terrain over the course of a day could throw the whole schedule for the trip out. What I hadn’t realised was that on summits in the area, in general, 4G coverage was good.
I set an alarm for 5:45 and tried to make up the ground I should have covered the night before. I was glad I camped where I did, the location of my planned camp had no suitable ground to camp. From the off it was a map and compass day in mist (and intermittent rain). There isn’t much I can say about GM/WS-177, perhaps there is a path up the hill by a different route and perhaps there was a nice view somewhere beyond the cloud I was in?
I reached the summit of GM/WS-049 after a few hours of constant rain. Again, bothy bag saved the activation. I don’t think I could have found somewhere to even put my tent on this summit. The weather started to improve and by the time I reached the summit of GM/WS-011 it was a nice afternoon with brilliant views across Lochaber. My SOTA day was over but I still had a Munro to grab and to get to a suitable camp to setup for the next day.
Day 3 23 km, 1822m ascent
05:30 alarm and going to by 06:15. The night before I had re-calculated my times based on my experience of the past 2 days. It was going to be a long day. I got 4G signal on the summit of GM/WS-069 and posted my revised schedule for the day. Sitting on the top of GM/WS-069 in the morning sun working the chasers was a really happy memorable moment.
I kept my schedule for GM/WS-037 and worked my way through the now familiar set of chasers for this trip. A lot of the summits around here have great narrow, exposed ridge lines, but the ridge over to GM/WS-020 was a really good one with a grade 1 scramble thrown in the middle. A couple of QSOs from this trip will stick with me. After a couple of backwards and forwards of G?, G3?, /P? I finally pulled out G3CWI/P from the noise. Nice to work a fellow FID. I haven’t worked Richard @G3CWI since August 2002. Little did I realise Richard was on a roundabout near a motorway.
A lot of the summits on the Mamores traverse require re-tracing your steps, so I reversed the ridge and headed over to GM/WS-058. Each day, it was a sense of relief to get the final SOTA summit bagged, but today I had another Munro and half of Ben Nevis to climb. It felt like a real slog to get round to the Mullach nan Coirean, but it felt silly to leave a lone Munro to come back for in the future. It seemed to take an age to descend from here to the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel. It was tempting to stop down here for the night, but I knew the weather the next day was good and the day after poor, so I needed to make the most of the next day. I finally reached the half-way Lochan below Ben Nevis at 22:30 and set an alarm for 4:45 am to make the summit for 0800.
Day 4 20 km, 1124m ascent
I have been to the summit of Ben Nevis around 10 times, but always after climbing on the north face in winter. I have never gone up the tourist route. The amount of litter detracts from this route, but the paths are well-maintained. There were a couple of snow patches to cross on the summit and I was setup and on the air by 0815 for GM/WS-001. The weather couldn’t have been any better, blue skies and a gentle breeze. I got a real thrill pulling @G4OBK out of the noise for this activation. Up to this point, the weakest station I worked, but we got there and it put a nice smile on my face. Thanks for persevering with this one Phil.
Traversing the CMD arete with a heavy pack meant this took longer than I thought. The summit of GM/WS-003 was a little trickier than I expected for setting up an antenna. No where to get pegs in and no rocks big enough to wedge a mast in. I set up right at the small summit cairn and the antenna blew over twice in the now stronger wind. People were arriving at the summit and I was concerned about the mast falling over with a tangle of wire and people so this was the only summit I had to quit with people still calling apologies.
I descended to the col between GM/WS-003 and GM/WS-002. Traversing high ground means planning water pick up points requires thought over a day. I sat in the col and took stock. I had pushed hard the day before. My feet had taken a beating over the rough ground for the past 4 days and I was faced now with another long day over the Grey Corries traverse with weather worsening towards the end of the day. There were no paths off the traverse to escape (on the map) so it felt a little too committing with my level of fatigue. I made for the valley and had a very pleasant night in the lower valley.
Day 5 13 km, 250m ascent
I set today as a much needed summit/SOTA rest day. I didn’t want any ascent/descent in my legs and I didn’t want pressure to maintain a schedule. It was a pleasant enough morning walk over to Corrour station. Lunch in the cafe at the station was very very good after 5 days of food I was carrying. I couldn’t help but have a pint with my lunch too. I worked my way down to Loch Ossian and had a relaxing afternoon doing not a lot, just listening to the black throated divers calling away.
Day 6 8km, 570m ascent
I decided to set an early alarm and grab GM/WS-091 before a midday train home. I was down to 2% phone battery and struggling to get phone signal on the summit. I failed to send an SMS SOTA spot. I had no alert set of this summit. The wind was around 25-30mph on the summit and in thick wet cloud. This was on the limit of my go/no-go for setting up the radio. But who knew when I would next be back here with a radio? I called CQ and to my absolute surprise, I worked 4 SOTA chasers; PG4I, EA2DT, F5LKW, YO6CFB. @YO6CFB was the weakest station I worked on the whole trip, I got a feeling that we both got a real thrill out of this QSO. I was elated that I managed to pull this final summit off with no alerts/spots and in grim weather. My apologies to any chasers who turned up looking for me after F5LKW spotted me, I had no idea I had been spotted. A late breakfast/early lunch at the Corrour station cafe and I was southbound on the train for home.
30/40m linked dipole
6m travel mast
1500 mAh LiFePo4 9.9 V battery
All but 1 of the QSOs were on 30m for this trip. I felt that this bit further north than my normal summits around the North of England changed my expected signal strengths of some chasers. It was much more of a struggle into Scandinavia for me from up here.
Going over Munros with a tent, sleeping bag, 6 days food etc. is hard work. A better approach for such a trip could be to get into an area and use a tent as a basecamp to do day trips from. But this approach didn’t lend itself to the summits in this area. I was surprised at how good the 4G phone signal was from the summits around here. This helped with adjusting plans.
Finally, thank you to all the chasers. It is a real buzz getting to a summit and hearing the familiar calls in the pile-up and working down the list. I hope in sharing this report you get a sense of what was happening at my end of the key.