Beinn Nibheis GM/WS-001

Greetings from Fort William, the self-styled “Outdoor Capital of the UK”. We are enjoying it here, the scenery and the haggis especially, although the reluctance of pubs to allow youngsters in compared to England, and the menu prices for meals are not quite so enjoyable!

Anyway, after consultation with whatever weather forecasts we could get our hands on, together with Marianne and Liam’s agreement, it was decided we would do our Ben Nevis expedition on Monday 4th August 2008.

We set our alarms for 5am, and breakfasted on Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and Rice Crispie cereal bars in the holiday flat, while also preparing (of course) a flask full of Heinz Lentil Soup. We then drove up the road to the Ben Nevis Inn, and started the walk from there.

We were soon into a series of steep stony sharp zigzags. Considering these, and looking at the likely line of any earlier “track”, we wondered how they ever got a Model-T Ford up here! We pressed on over the rocks and came to a pleasant respite of a wide sweeping track with a good flat surface to walk along for a short while.

We were then into the long zigzags that climb up the bulk of the mountain. At the corner of each, Jimmy informed me of the altitude. This was depressing news at 750m, but there was a spring in my stride when he said 1200m! We passed two footpath restoration contractors and had a chat with them. They were working their way down the mountain, and the path was notably easier going after we passed them.

There was a feeling of exhilaration as the path became flatter and the shapes of the trig point and ruined observatory/hotel loomed out of the mist. There were stunning views for most of the ascent, but the summit was in cloud.

We selected a vacant room of the hotel in which to set up, and 40m was the chosen band. Jimmy worked through a large pile-up of 23 stations on 7.118MHz SSB, and then it was my turn. After opening with a pleasing S2S into S5, I worked a further 28 stations on 7.031MHz CW (later on 7.032MHz). After packing away, Jimmy and I called on handhelds and got a couple on 2m FM, both from Fort William, one of whom was the famous Robin GM7PKT.

The SOTA Beam was carried, but not used…

Descent was tiring, but we eventually made it into the bar of the Ben Nevis Inn around 4pm, and enjoyed a well-earned pint!

Cheers, Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Nice one, Tom, I bet that had some of us puzzled! You could also have used B. Nimhaise (Ugly Mountain) or my favourite, B. Neamh-bhathais (cloud-capped mountain)! Is the cairn of broken footware still near the top of the zig-zags?

Unfortunately it was a high-noise time for me and I couldn’t copy you.


Brian G8ADD

In reply to M1EYP:
Nice one Tom - glad to work you both and it was , surprisingly, a unique for me.
Enjoy rest of your holiday.

Roger G4OWG

In reply to M1EYP: Done BEN myself with brother. We camped in the campsite at the bottom for 7 days till the rain stopped and the weather forcast was good. Did it for my birthday in september a few years ago… Tell you what I knew I had done my first Mountain the next day… OUT OF SHAPE…
We set off in the sun at 7am then into cloud then rain then snow then the top was white and still ice on the little metal shelter which I am told has been demolished. Made the top for mid day… After that we ran back down it only took 2 hours… A few tips for ppl…
Take Lucozade tablets for instant energy & also Mars bars… You burn so much energy VERY fast. Cupa soup are very welcome at the top…
Last TIP… Dont think its going to be easy even if you are the best hill walker in the world, its not a joke. Be safe…


In reply to M1EYP:

‘The SOTA Beam was carried but not used…’!

My first and last comment!

Don [G0NES]

In reply to G0NES:

I wouldn’t have carried anything for 2m, twenty years ago I took an FT290 and a beam up there and drew a blank. I’m glad things are different now!

It is a very roomy summit, but in fine weather in summer (which does happen occasionally!) you can have literally hundreds of people up there. Besides the arrivals and departures via the Tourist Route, the CMD Arete and the two Carn Deargs, there is a constant stream of climbers popping up over the edge of the precipice, coiling their ropes and heading for either the abseil posts in Coire Leis (if they’re still there, there used to be talk of removing them) or number 4 gully (which is not a descent for the faint-hearted!) Frankly, all it needs at times is a Mr Softee complete with chimes! I’m with M3XLG, it is a testing ascent, but check out the times for the annual Fort Bill - Ben Nevis race!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G0NES:

My first and last comment!

You missed the ‘comment’ bit out Don!

We would have tried some 2m SSB had the 40m SSB not delivered the goods, but it did, and we didn’t need to use the beam for 2m FM.

We did 2m FM, 40m SSB and 40m CW, and made 53 contacts.


A landmark I omitted to mention in my Ben Nevis report, is that it was on there that Jimmy M3EYP, I believe, became the first person ever to activate the four national highest peaks of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. But with him doing his 40m SSB part of the activation before I did my 40m CW bit, he beat me to it and recorded himself as the first person ever to activate all of Scafell Pike G/LD-001, Snowdon GW/NW-001, Slieve Donard GI/MM-001 and Ben Nevis GM/WS-001. In fact he has done this all this year in under 17 weeks! Needless to say, he has demanded that he gets to use the radio first again whenever we get around to visiting Snaefell GD/GD-001!

We had only resolved to do one other hill, what with it being a family holiday. We only actually had advance permission for the one SOTA activation expedition - The Ben - but Jimmy had spotted Druim na h-Earba GM/WS-339, a low summit with easy access, just south of Fort William. Hence we also alerted for this one, figuring that we could ‘bag’ it with an early start one morning, and be back at the holiday apartment in time for breakfast! After a most enjoyable evening out with SOTA legend Robin GM7PKT, we set our alarms…

So, at 5am on Thursday 7th August 2008, we were up and cooking ourselves an early breakfast of white puddings and beans, and in the car shortly after 5.30am BST. The drive took us back around Fort William town centre, and up the hill signpost Auchintore. We parked alongside the picnic spot and viewpoint at NN097722, and set off through the gate opposite.

The grassy path was initially steep, but we were soon into our stride, and soon atop flatter land leading up to the trig point. I nominated a spot a little further on to maximise shelter from the Northerly wind and started setting up. Only to find, to my horror, that I hadn’t brought an aerial with me! Thank goodness it was only 15 minutes or so back to the car. Jimmy and I retreated to the edge of the summit plateau, when I had a brilliant idea. “You are much faster than me” I said, “Why don’t you take the keys and get the 40m dipole, and I’ll wait here? That way we’ll save loads of time”. Jimmy accepted my reasoning and toddled off down the hill.

At the car, he called me on the 2m handheld to confirm that he had found the aerial and was on his way back up. I timed him, and was mightily impressed to discover that he completed the descent AND ascent round trip in exactly 15 minutes. That had probably saved us 15 minutes from if I had gone with him!

So poor Jimmy had to ascend and descend this hill twice over - thank goodness my preparations were tighter for Ben Nevis GM/WS-001 three days earlier! The 40m SSB/CW combo did the business again, and we enjoyed a good activation. The 2m SOTA Beam wasn’t carried as back up this time; it would have been completely pointless. The only place VHF signals were going from here was down into Fort William, and the handies would have taken care of that - if anyone had been out of bed - which they weren’t!

We were back at the holiday accommodation at 9.15am, where Marianne and Liam were still in bed. A perfectly executed plan - almost!


Now we had done GM/WS-001 which was planned and agreed, and GM/WS-339, which was our “optimistic on-the-off-chance” summit. But Jimmy was still pouring over the OS Explorer 392 sheet at every opportunity. As we took a drive out to Loch Ness on the last day of our holiday, Jimmy pointed out of the car window, a few miles outside Fort William. “That’s WS-344” he said, “It looks really easy”. Marianne said nothing, but I think resigned herself to accepting a third SOTA activation of the holiday!

En route back from Loch Ness, I suggested that Cruim Leacainn GM/WS-344 looked ideal for an hour’s family stroll before supper. Marianne agreed, and it seemed our luck was in. As we closed in on Fort William on the return drive, Marianne said that she didn’t feel like a walk, so could I drop her and Liam off first, and then go back out and just do it with Jimmy? No problem, the extra time to taxi Marianne and Liam back to Fort William and drive back up the hill would be cancelled out by the improved prospects for the pace of ascent!

Looking at the map, we weren’t convinced that a route through was possible from the A82 near Achindaul Farm, but agreed that this was the only starting place we feasibly had time for. At NN176795, we turned into the access track for the farm, and to a large parking area by a residence at NN171800. The front door was open, with people bobbing around, so I asked a lady if access to the summit was acceptable, and permission to park. The answer was in the affirmative in both cases, and we began to put our boots and packs on while having a friendly chat with the farmer.

“Just follow the track all the way up” he said, which we already knew from the map, but we thanked him nonetheless. The track was a good hard surface that could have easily been driven up in a normal car, although access was only permitted to vehicles servicing the transmitters on the summit. The track looped and zigzagged around until passing just to the south of the summit.

Jimmy and I branched off to ascend the grassy bank to the top, upon which we set up for 40m. At around 7pm in the evening, this band was not as easy to use as on the two previous activations, which had QRV times of noon and early morning respectively. However, we made five contacts each to secure the activator point and unique, although Jimmy’s fifth was on 2m FM into Fort William.

That completed our GM SOTA, a pleasing haul of 3 uniques and 12 activator points each.



In reply to M1EYP:

Hi Tom / Jimmy

was pleased to work young Jimmy on 40 mtrs ssb and congrats on all the highest summits .

Alistair gw0vmz

The Big One is on!

Ben Nevis is a big hill, and it has also produced a big page on my website, courtesy of the very many photographs taken by Jimmy. I have discarded most of them, but there was still a stack of good 'uns left!

Thank goodness I changed my hosting arrangements a few months back - this page would have taken a fortnight to load up on! As it is, it all loads up NP in a couple of seconds.

Take a look at

Ben Nevis is a very interesting summit.


And the other two are now on as well:

Druim na h-Earba GM/WS-339

Cruim Leacainn GM/WS-344