Beinn Bhreac GM/SS-081 unique #492

My aim to hit 500 unique activations suffered a wee setback as when I have been able to go out for a longer drive the WX has been rubbish or I have been busy. Anyway there are many Grahams and Fionas known as the Luss summits, lots of them all with some common features, they’re steep and rough. They’re located on the West bank of Loch Lomond and sit between the Gare Loch (sea loch) and Loch Lomond. Gare Loch area is home to significant amounts of UK military, we have a munitions store, nuclear munitions store, naval base, nuclear missile subs, nuclear hunter/killer subs and a massive army training area. So we do have beauty and the beast at the same place.

I looked and decided that Beinn Bhreac GM/SS-081 and Tullich Hill GM/SS-103 look like a nice round. I didn’t know if my legs were up to this as I haven’t done a serious walking for a while. I had a reserve hill, The Fruin GM/SS-240 to add on if I only did one big hill. I checked the road works website and found that the road to the easiest starting point is now closed from Feb 2024 to July 2025. Wow! Just as well I checked I found another route that added 200m extra walking so no problem really. The WX was for sunny with clouds, lots of sun, cloudy with sunny spells then rain. OK, must be on the way back to the car by 1600. I gave up checking MWIS as the forecasts were always dire compared to other sites but I looked and it said no cloud-free Munros and a stiff wind that could blow you over on higher ridges. Yes the usual end-of-the-world stuff…but I threw an extra fleece in the kit. KX2, a few 10m antennas, the multiple band EFHW thing and a few cans of Diet Red Bull clone.

Anyway to get there I have to cross or go around Glasgow. I was up very early (for me) and took the motorway across Glasgow, luckily the sop/start traffic at 7.40 only added 20mins to the journey and I’d left early because I knew this would happen. After that the roads were reasonably clear but the volume of traffic around Glasgow was such you tend to chug along at 40/50mph. Up the side of Loch Lomond and turn left at the Glen Douglas sign. The roads is narrow but a good surface and runs from Loch Lomond to Gare Loch and is steep with hairpins at each end but quite gently sloping in the middle and quite straight. There’s a hill walker car park with space for 8 well parked cars or five sloppy parked ones. Into there, boots on, bag checked for antennas, radio, battery and chocolate bars, extra fleece and I was off by 0910Z.

Now we’ve had a wet February and March and these hills are steep and grassy and there’s a lot of rain falling in this part of Scotland so I expected the ground to be wet and plenty of water in streams. Well I didn’t expect this much!. At the end of the car park there is a gate and ATV/farm track. It was muddy and soft, so soft that about 20m after crossing the gate I put a boot into ground that swallowed it to my ankle. I got my foot out quickly, didn’t loose the boot or get wet socks. Ha ha, the gods smile on me! It got worse after that. The path was either soft mud that my feet sank 3-4cm into or firmer and squirted water everywhere with each step. I think there was more water running down the surface of the track than in The Orinoco river. :frowning:

(Taken on descent) This shows the track after about 20mins of ascent. Diabolical but not as bad as lower down. The WX looks jolly here looking East, if you looked behind me it was dark grey and foreboding. From the top of the slope in the distance there’s another 130m of ascent and 400m to walk.

It gets marginally better under foot as you climb but the ground is miserable after the rain. The path wanders about but goes basically where you want so I followed my nose and it till I came to a fence and no gate. The Fruin is reported to have lots of barbed wire to cross so I had about 50cm of water pipe foam insulation (weighs nothing) that you can slip over the barbed wire to cross it easily. But I didn’t need it here as the barbed wire was lose and crossing the fence ws no problem. Up, squelch, up, squelch and there’s the trig and I’m there. Job done in 1hr40 and the computer said 1hr20. That’s OK. MWIS was right… it was blowing hard at the top but I didn’t notice the wind on the way up. I was ever so glad of the extra fleece. So it was thin fleece I walk in, extra thin fleece over that and my Hagloffs Belay Jacket (only 380g) and quite windproof. I was cool in the wind but not cold.

Now I’m on a new diabetic drug. The old injected one was withdrawn when they discovered the mild increase in risk of Pancreatic Cancer using it was actually bloody great big risk so no more injections for me. Just tablets. They are some kind of Voodoo because after 36 days my sugars are 15% better and I have lost somewhere from 500-700g in weight. There are many side effects. One is feeling nauseous after exercise and I felt really sick. They can also trigger hypoglycaemia. You can feel that way if you are hypoglycaemic (sugar too low) and also a bit woolly headed. Now it’s better to by hyperglycaemic (too much sugar) than hypo especially 681m up a hill in the wind. Not knowing if this was a side effect or hypo onset I had a bar of chocolate. And the next side effect is eating too much sugar makes you feel nauseous. So I still felt sick, more sick. But with the chocolate in me it’s not a hypo but a side effect. OK, I’ll live :wink:

Next was to check the route to summit #2. Now I was thinking I’m not fit enough for another 30mins walking along the ridge, then dropping 350m then climbing 330m up another wet, steep slope but with not track. My legs were complaining and I thought, see how you feel after this activation, I had a must stop time to give me enough time to get to the next summit, activate and get back to the car before the rains. I took some photos of the route and had a good recce.

At the summit of Beinn Bhreac GM/SS-081 looking North to Ben Reoch summit, a Hump. The route is down and up over the first bump, then down and then slope down to the col.

Tullich Hill GM/SS-103 on the left and the col. It’s steep-ish to the summit of Tullich but not as steep as Beinn Bhreac.

Tullich Hill GM/SS-103

Looking North up Loch Lomond. When the sun shone on me it was only cool but still very windy. The views up here in good WX are really something special.

Looking South down Loch Lomond. You can see how variable the cloud was. In the distance on the left is Conic Hill GM/SS-239. Plus all the island that show the Highland Boundary Fault. The more I visit Loch Lomond area the more I understand why it is such a tourist pull.

A red faced, sweaty, nauseous MM0FMF. Trig point on the left. ( A bit too much zoom on this one!)

Up with the pole, EHFW etc. out with the KX2, (I’ll never hear it in this wind) and onto 10m. The wind was gusty and strong. Anyway, right back came SV3IEG… he must have a wire to Scotland from Greece. 599+++ signal and so that’s a multiplier for the challenge. No more on 10m so down to 20m I worked 4 before the mayhem written about elsewhere. I couldn’t make myself heard above the incessant non-stop calling so I QSY’d to 15m and just like that, worked EA7GV, WK2S and 7N1FRE, Europe, America and Asia. I still get a buzz being called by Japanese stations so that made up for 20m :slight_smile: A nice run on 15m then down 40m SSB on the WAB net (7.160LSB) and a gentle and well behaved net. Finally 30m and possibly more mayhem. I couldn’t make split work on the KX2. Like Andy G8CPZ, I’ve read the book now. So I just added+1kHz if RIT and started calling CQ SOTA DE MM0FMF/P UP1 k and that did the trick. Quite a nice straightforward run of chasers. One last call on 10m brought in N4MJ.

All the time the wind was getting worse and I reached the point when I thought, “enough”. I looked at the route to the next summit, I looked at the clouds in the distance, I tried to stand straight in the wind and whilst I could have climbed the next summit if it was essential I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. If you don’t enjoy things then why do them. Hill qualified on 15m,20m,30m & 40m and 2 QSOs on 10m, that will do. So I had a big drink, packed up, kept the extra fleece on and took more photos. Then it was back the way I came.

Across Glen Douglas is Doune Hill GM/SS-054 on the left and Cruarch an t-Sidhein GM/SS-080 on the right. The latter is a bit isolated and the quick route involves a trespass on MoD land. There is a track and a bridge across the Douglas Water which is convenient. But the track leads to the fence at Glen Douglas Naval Munitions Depository.

It was just as difficult coming down, the grass was slippy, it was steep and wet. Three times the grass parted from the ground leaving me to slide a few metres in the mud then go a**e over elbow and slide further. Three times! You’d think I’d learn. I did slow a bit on the way back. Just before the gate where I found the soft mud and sank to my ankle on the way up, remember? Well I found it again and went in up to my shin. I pulled my leg so quickly my sock was still dry but managed to put my calf muscle into a cramp. So there was strange hoping and screaming chubby bloke at the gate until it relaxed. Grrr!

Further towards Gare Loch is Glen Douglas Naval Munitions Depository. Lots of wee bunkers dug into the hill side that stores up to 44000tons of naval munitions (torpedoes, depth charges, shells, 30mm canon shells, 20mm rounds, bullets, cruise missiles etc. ) as it’s just a few miles from HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane where navy ships are resupplied. Also HM nuclear subs are based there. The Trident components and the “hot stuff” is kept under much more security at the base.

No it’s not a post-modern version of a Hobbit burrow but one of the many independent munitions stores. There are many of these and private rail and road down to the naval base about 5 miles away. I’m assuming that the sirens that scared the bejesus out of me at 900Z and 1000Z followed by voices over a tannoy came from here

I stopped where you’re not allowed to stop to take this photo because it’s not something you see everyday in the UK.

The special police here all carry Sig Sauer P229 and SA80 rifles and have proper hard Glasgow dogs! The easy way to Cruarch an t-Sidhein (pronounced Croo-arck Sheen) is down the prohibited road, over the private bridge, up to this fence then along the prohibited road then around the corner of the fence and follow the fence up hill. It’s not an offence to be outside the fence but the plods will not be happy if they catch you on the road and bridge. People (not SOTA people) have climbed it this way but I’ve had one close call with MoD police on Saxa Vord that I don’t want another.

Back to the car, whole can of Red Bull in almost one gulp and I chilled out before driving out to inspect “The Facility” and to recce The Fruin. Whilst sat in the luggage area of the car a fabulously pretty blonde in a Mini Cooper pulled into the car park. I was expecting her to get out and be wearing some Lycra running gear into which she had been vacuum packed, which would be pleasing to view, and then run off up the hill faster than a Greyhound. But no she pulled in to let and Amazon van past. She did smile and wave though which was OK :wink:

I drove out past the Naval base but I didn’t see HMS Vengeance arriving back after 201 days underwater pointing her Tridents at all the naughty despots worldwide. And I checked out parking for The Fruin during the roadworks but most of the likely places were access routes to Garelochhead Training area where they do lots of live firing. So it looks like The Fruin will have to be from another place.

It was a good day all things considered. I’ll be back for Tullich Hill another time. Just 8 to go to unique #500.


Enjoyable read, looked like a good day out !

I never noticed or knew about the ‘covert’ out of bounds installations in the area ! Rather curiously fascinating. My only memory walking in the area was being robbed in Arrochar, robbed by the £8 quid in parking for the day…… I hope you avoided that at this time of year.

1 Like

Mo always makes me take her on a tour of such places when we are down that way. Last time, we saw this:

Complete with Royal Marines gunboats escort and SBS ribs buzzing about too.

Then we drove up the hill above Faslane for a better view, before heading down that fantastic road to Coulport, where they send the subs to pick up their missiles. All of the roundabouts between Helensburgh and Coulport are gated with a road slicing through the middle. That way the nuclear warhead convoys don’t have to slow down.

Finally, a trip to Glen Douglas to look at the missile stores. The MOD road isn’t as long as you think Andy - it just runs down to the jetty. One of the aircraft carriers was in recently for a re-supply. Also, the private rail sidings just join the regular West Highland Railway. Also at the foot of the map you see the oil tanks. Crude is off-loaded from tankers here and piped right across Scotland to Grangemouth for refining. There’s a lot going on in Loch Long!

MOD road and rail sidings highlighted


There was a tanker docked when I drove past. That boat is a Vanguard class with a 2054 system. When I was playing with the machine that goes ping in 2000, the 2054 was done deal so I never worked on them.


Many thanks for the super report Andy. Glad you survived the after-effects of the drug / exercise combination. Maybe you’ll slow down to my speed when we ascend Mullwharchar. :wink:

When I saw the route on the map, my first thought was “wow, that’s steep”. I’ll certainly not be doing it from that spot, if indeed I do it at all. I have started to rate summits for difficulty to try to determine which are within my capabilities (getting older you see), but I’ve not found a suitable equation yet. Basic distance multiplied by height doesn’t work when you’ve got a summit with a steep ascent like this one. :hushed:

I bagged a previously unactivated summit on Mull for my 500th back in 2016, but unactivated summits are few and far between nowadays. Maybe there is a wee summit somewhere in the world awaiting your presence. :grinning:

73, Gerald

1 Like

It’s a little steep :slight_smile: I think it was 571m ascent in 2.5km walked which averages to about 1 in 4.5. I was surprised that I didn’t really notice it on the up, I just kept plodding and plodding. It would be easier if the ground was firm and no squelchy bits. If you look at the summits here, about 8 SOTA summits, they’re all the same… squiggly contours close together: i.e rough ground and steep(ish).

If you study the maps and you can see that there are paths marked on the others. Beinn Dubh can be done from Luss, so 5k and 550m ascent, that’s just a plod. Beinn Eich can be done from the farm but there is only 1 parking space :frowning: That’s steep like Beinn Bhreac but Doune Hill can be added quite easily. So more bang for your buck. Beinn a’Mhanaich and Beinn Caorach can be done from their respective car parks on the Glen Fruin Haul Road and are done as a pair. Singly they’re 500m ascent over sufficient distance to be OK, but the route between maybe “moist” and is steep!

There’s a reason I’ve left these summits alone despite doing SOTA for 17 years… they’re harder than many more Easterly and Northerly summits like the Perthshire ones and Grampians etc. for fewer points :slight_smile:


Take off the flattish bottom section and the gradient for the majority of the climb is 1 in 3 to 1 in 4. I’d be taking lots of pauses for photographic opportunities! As you say, there’s more points available for the same amount of effort out further east and north. That, plus the travel logistics from Northumberland, is why I’m focusing my efforts over there. :grinning:

1 Like

With lots of those lovely, dangerous things from your initial list. I think you “can access” an underground storage tank from that road too.
Memories dim, last time I was there I had just graduated!!!


There’s also a winding house near there, which looks out of place given there are no coal mines anywhere nearby. It’s heavily fenced off.

1 Like

And this place which I saw briefly. There’s a large building with buttressed walls that suggests it’s a big tank and then I found this.

Isn’t Google grand when you know what the keywords are!

1 Like