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Bad Times on GM/CS-094 & Happy Times on GM/CS-083

Last chance for a weekend off work before Christmas

Saturday 4th December 2021

We set off from home at 1000z. The plan was to head into Perthshire and climb Beinn a’Chuallaich GM/CS-053. There were snow showers forecast for the morning and we’d planned arrive there when the weather cleared, leaving enough time for the climb before darkness. We’d then camp up somewhere and maybe do something in the same area on Sunday.

However, we spent time rescuing stranded motorists on the high part of Glenshee Road. This and the slower driving conditions meant that we’d need a plan B…


Dora having a wee rest at the top of the Glenshee road, having spent time towing lesser-prepared SUV’s to the top

Looking at sotl.as, I saw we would be passing near to Blath Bhalg GM/CS-094, 641m. That would do, and Beinn a’Chuallaich could wait until tomorrow.

We parked up at NO 00158 63103 on the Moulin Moors Road and set off up a steep grassy track, which led up to a hut. It was breezy, but at least the snow had stopped.


Parking spot


Up the grassy track

After a km, the track ran out and we started following ATV marks up through grass and heather. The tracks soon faded. The last 1.5km to the summit was pretty grim. Boggy grass, knee deep heather with increasing amounts of snow. The heather usually gets shorter with altitude. This didn’t. Indeed, it continued all the way to the summit. Even the summit had long, snow covered heather!


Mo, heather bashing

The northerly wind really was blowing across the top. We found some respite to the south side, in a shallow dip, setting up station by sitting on the bivi bag, with foam mats for insulation.


GM/CS-094 Summit area

There was a line of old fence posts heading south. That would have to do. Three lengths of velcro saw the mast supported. It was a little close to our operating position and a bit lower than us, meaning the first few metres of the W3EDP were lying on top of the snow and heather.


The mast set up

I’d been told not to waste time! When I turned on the kx2, it was set to a 60m SSB frequency, so I thought, “Why not?”.

Oh and I’d forgotten my logbook. Time to learn how to work VK Porta-log, with frozen fingers.

Well I made four contacts. I was hearing stations 5/9, they were hearing me around 3/3 with QSB. I really should have been on 40m, but didn’t have the patience to try and find a free frequency on a Saturday afternoon.

VK Porta-log worked well, except that I had to input the operating frequency for every QSO. I was terrified I’d lose the info, so screen-shotted it to be safe. I must read the manual…

We packed up and headed back over the summit and into the teeth of a strengthening gale. Mo was less than happy at this point! She’d forgotten her goggles and her big “deputy dawg” hat, so I lent her mine…


Smiling, but not for long…

We linked in together and headed into the spindrift. Descending through the heather was infinitely easier than climbing and we were soon out of the worst of the weather.

We arrived back at the Land Rover around 1620, having left at 1300 and spending around 20 mins on top.


Back at Dora

The plan was to head over past Pitlochry and find a camp spot. We had food to heat for dinner, but ended up stopping at the Chippy in Pitlochry. The white pudding suppers (plus Irn Bru) were amazing and just what we needed after a cold couple of hours on the hill.


White Pudding Supper from “The Plaice to be”.

We drove on and eventually camped up down the side of the lovely Loch Tummel. Over a glass of wine, we had a look at options for Sunday. I was politely informed that there would be no “heather bashing” on tomorrow’s hike , so that put Beinn a’Chuallaich off the agenda again. The WX was set to be fine. To me, that meant we must avoid popular mountains such as Ben Vrackie and Schiehallion, which would no doubt be crowded.

We decided on Meall na Leitreach GM/CS-083, as it had a track and a reasonable high start point in the Drumochter pass of the A9 road.

Sunday 5th December 2021
There was a good forecast, however the wind wasn’t due to drop until 1200. We had a leisurely start and didn’t get moving until 1000. We took lovely roads that cut northwards to join the A9 at the Dalnacardoch snow gates.


Schiehallion GM/CS-005 from Loch Tummel


on The Old Military Road (which isn’t ploughed in winter)

After a short trip up the A9, we parked at the end of the short public road that leads down to the level crossing beside Dalnaspidal Lodge. Lesser vehicles were parked at the top, just off the A9.


Parking for Meall na Leitreach GM/CS-083

We set off at 1100. The ascent was fairly straight-forward, initially following a Land Rover track across the flat valley floor, crossing some sluices and then a rough ATV track towards the summit plateau. The track was hard to follow due to the snow cover, but at least the heather was short!


Sunrise at noon

The wind eased as expected and by the time we gained the summit it had dropped to a light breeze, but still a cold one.


Meall na Leitreach

The mast and aerial guys were easily pegged into the firm ground. I stuck with the W3EDP, stringing it roughly east to west. After a coffee and a bite to eat, I called cq on 20m SSB at 1300, again using VK porta-log.

Different results today! A major pileup ensued. I’m guessing because activations are tailing off in many parts of Europe at this time of year.

I can see from the log that I’m going to have to change the time of the last contact. It was a summit to summit and I hadn’t worked out to add his summit until I was half way down the hill. The log has been time stamped from my last modification.


Working the pileup

We had a quick and pleasant walk back down our ascent route, getting back to Dora at around 1500.


Drumochter pass

By the time we were back enjoying a meal and a couple of drinks in our Local, the misery of Saturday had been forgotten, with Mo saying, “that was a great wee trip, we should do that more often”.

As for Porta-log. It’s a clever app and actually easier to use than paper/pencil with cold fingers. However, phone touchscreens aren’t reliable in wet conditions, so the Jury is out. Uploading the log to the database was an absolute breeze though.

73,
Fraser

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Excellent write up and photos!
73, Roger

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Thanks for the great write-up Fraser.

I’d setup my sota gear in the garden on Saturday (I don’t currently have any permanent antennas for the lower bands) and it was starting to get a bit chilly chasing even down here, but nothing to what you were going through! I was a bit mystified by the asymetric reports as I was only running 10w, hence why I double checked with you, but now I understand :slight_smile:

Glad Mo and you had a much better day on Sunday,

73,
Jonathan

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Jonathan, Thanks for the QSO on Saturday. All of the 60m contacts were into the South West, with the exception of yours.

Thanks for persevering!

Cheers,

Fraser

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Hi Fraser and Mo, another great report with photos. Thanks for sharing.

Cheers to you both :champagne: :beers:

All the best for Xmas and HNY. :partying_face:

Bye, Geoff vk3sq

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It’s never a proper SOTA adventure without a slice of misery, thankfully you got yours out of the way early doors. I’m sure there were a few motorists very thankful that you turned up too.

Wonderful photos, thanks. Mark.

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Cheers Geoff! :tumbler_glass::slightly_smiling_face:

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Many thanks for another great report and cracking photos Fraser. It looks like I’d better break out the 4 season boots, the crampons and pack an extra fleece. I’m hoping to get north of the border before Christmas… if the weather and other aspects of life permit.

73, Gerald

P.S. I’ve just renewed my webbing gaiter straps (gave up on rubber ones years ago)… statement of intent? :thinking:

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Cheers Gerald. It was good fun and I’d not been on a hill on HF for a few weeks, so nice to get back on it.

Early days, but it’s snowing heavily at home this afternoon. A couple of years back we had a similar spell of weather and then my neighbour went on to climb Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 in January with no snow cover. It’s impossible to predict with these changing climatic conditions. Of course last year, it was like the Alps here, but we couldn’t travel!

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Thanks for the fine report Fraser.
Btw, you use a nice car. I imagine I have had such a car when I was going on summits many years ago to work in 2 m / 70 cm / 23 cm Contests.

73, Ludwig

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Thanks Ludwig. I really need to make more use of the pneumatic mast. There is never enough time…

73, Fraser

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This was my dream!

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It’s the tyres! I’ve had 5x 4wd vehicles. The (sadly missed) HiLux had normal 85 section M+S tyres and was simply awesome in snow in 4wd hi with 50-50 split. No centre diff so you had to keeps your wits about you if you could end up on tarmac. Then 2x Honda CRVs with the part time auto selecting AWD. AWD with a 50-50 split was selected once the front wheels started slipping and it stayed on for a time once front and read wheels were back to the same speed. Both had normal all season tyres and again they were remarkably capable in snow. Then the A5 had a Torsen diff, permanent 4wd with 40-60 split but could vary from 80-20 to 10-90 split. And humungous summer tyres. Amazing in anything but snow etc. as there were no krebs on the tyres so no grip Likewise the Xdrive car now, huge amounts of magic to vary the power split but it too is on summer tyres. I really should buy some now the HiLux is gone. But I also need wheels and pressure sensors. I’d have gone for 17ins all round and skip the asymmetric front/rear sizing. But with the bigger disks and brakes you have to have 18in or they wont fit. So bigger bucks.

I think there was another track when I did it 2013 that went up Dalnacarn Crag and nearly to the 1st summit. Though it was very wet underfoot. But it was a cruddy day so I was in a hurry to get back to the car. Last activation in my old CRV.

I can imagine a bit of compressed snow and some wheels polishing it and that wee road would be “fun”! I did that hill in June and there were some quite significant snow patches still there on the way up from Dalnaspidal. ISTR it was a jolly walk with good views but not as good as that fab picture of the pass :slight_smile:

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Is it a 24 volt FFR chassis or has the box been moved onto a 12 volt vehicle?

Hi Fraser,
Re vk port-a-log, to retain the frequency between contacts, use the option in the logger settings to do just that. Have a good look at all the logger settings. The callsign shortcuts are very useful if you can settle on your most frequently used prefixes. Also setting the RST shortcuts to your most frequently used reports can be handy, saving more taps.
The user manual is easy to read and comprehensive. There are a few functions that are not obvious but very handy, like refreshing the spots screen.
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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Good trip Fraser! Don’t think there is any easy way up Blath Bhalg, I went from a bit further west but same deep heather! Remember it was windy and cold when I did it, but cleared up on way back down.
73 Gavin
GM0GAV

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Thanks Andrew!

I had the App.on my phone and had never used it. It was learn as you go at the weekend. Since then, I’ve downloaded the latest version and updated the settings. I have seen all of the functions you mention.

Their attraction for me was being able to upload the log to the DB in a matter of seconds!

Cheers , Fraser

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Hi John, Always 12v. As far as I’m aware, 24 volt FFR (fitted for radio) Land Rovers were all military. Dora has always been a civilian.


Originally the Hertfordshire Police remote command unit. Painted NATO green when we got her.

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Cheers Gavin. It’s funny how the wee ones can be memorable for all the wrong reasons. I’ll add it to the (short) lost of hills to never return to!

It is all about the tyres. My X4 had to retreat from the top of the Cairn last week. It would have made it up with the winters on. After I bought it, I had a scary moment on some very shallow Spring snow and immediately hunting for winter tyres. I got a great deal on a set of used alloys and budget winter tyres off an X5. Same pcd but slightly larger overall diameter. We normally run them from November to April. The car is about to be traded though, so I’ve had to leave the original wheel set up on. This gives me The Fear!

As for the route, I did see a GPS trail on sotl.as, which may be the route you (and Gavin?) took. I opted for the track in order to minimise the heather bashing for Mo, who is struggling with her upper back at the moment and awaiting surgery. Can’t keep her down though!

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