GM/CS-001 Ben Lawers
Thursday, 10th August 2023
As I hadn’t been up on the hills since April, my fitness, or rather the lack of, dictated my choice of summits for this outing. I was initially thinking of repeating my failed outing to activate GM/CS-010 and GM/CS-041 in April, but I decided to activate summits where the public would be around in case I needed assistance. As it happened everything went fine and I have had very few aches. My ankles and feet did suffer because the 11km route was all on established stony paths, whereas I often walk to summits over boggy or soft ground which although more challenging in some ways, is generally kinder on the feet.
I set out from my Northumberland base at 03:00 local time and the now familiar journey to the Ben Lawers car park run by the National Trust for Scotland went without a hitch. I arrived at 06:37, just as others were also arriving to wake up the camper van brigade ensconced in the car park. Once out of my car, it wasn’t long before the local midge population descended and it was then a rush to get ready and set off… of course I’d forgotten to pack my repellant! I was on my way by 06:58 on the route to Ben Lawers described on the Walkhighlands website.
Typical view of the excellent path on the lower section of the walk.
As I said, the route is on man made paths the entire way. It starts at the 430m level and with 690m of ascent there is very little height lost en route to the 1103m high HEMA summit of Beinn Ghlas GM/HCS-012. Thankfully I soon left midgeland behind and made good progress to where a new deer fence was under construction at around 650m. Shortly after this, the track split and I took the route on the right to directly ascend to Beinn Ghlas which I would activate first. At this point the track steepened sharply and I soon entered the mist layer which restricted visibility to around 20m. The dampness created a heavy dew which made the stony path rather slippery so I proceeded with caution. I took a short pause every so often and a longer break at 825m where there was a large boulder to perch on. I had allowed an extremely generous 3 hours for the 4km ascent on account of not being hill-fit. I reached the wet and windy summit at 09:32 to find the smallest summit cairn I have ever seen.
Beinn Ghlas summit cairn… blink and you’ll miss it.
After a quick photo of the inadequate summit marker and checking on OSMAnd that this actually was the summit, the first thing I wanted was to find was shelter. To the north-west was a steep drop-off, so I looked on the south-east side and found a large rock formation which provided exactly what I was looking for. I checked this was within the activation zone before setting up. A gap in the rocks also provided an easy means of supporting the pole, though I found that the pole needed some maintenance before I could get up and running on 40m SSB at 10:10 local (09:10z). I made a total of 15 contacts before the run dried up which was good enough for me, so it was onwards and upwards and I was off to Ben Lawers at 10:15z.
Eroded trig point on the summit of Ben Lawers.
I had dried out when I set off, but the weather was to get worse before it got better. The walk between the summits took an hour plus another 5 minutes chatting to the maintenance crew working on the path, one of whom was an ex-military radio op. I was surprised that they were out there working in the poor weather conditions. It was still very misty with drizzle in the air when I reached the summit at 11:20z, so I dropped down to a grassy area to set up where it was much calmer, at least initially. As I was putting up the antenna it actually started to rain, but thankfully it eased as I settled down to operate. Unfortunately as I sat down, so did another 10 people… some under my antenna. The hazard of activating a popular summit at lunchtime.
In the mist… with the trig and topograph behind.
I did wonder whether I would have further issues on account of the weather and indeed I did. The 817 mic was damp and refused to work so I stuffed it inside my jacket and prepared to start on 40m CW. This mode was also blighted by the damp, the 817 deciding the narrow gap on the straight key was equal to key down, so out came the tool kit once again to allow me to open the gap right up. As a result, my morse was not exactly brilliant. Once I had it keying okay, I put out a call and Phillippe ON7GO was first in the log at 12:08z. After making a number of contacts, I heard /P coming through the pile up. An S2S with Bruno HB9CBR/P on Hasenmatt HB/SO-001 was the result. In all I worked 23 on 40m CW around G, GW, ON, PA and DL. Signals further afield were rather weak and I only scraped contacts with Manuel EA2DT and Graziano IW2NXI.
The frequency went quiet at 12:33z, so I tried SSB and success… the mic had dried out. Declan EI6FR was first to call me at 12:36z followed by a string of regular chasers. Pedro EA2CKX managed to get through and at the end of the run so did SP6KEP. In all 15 were worked on 40m SSB. At this point I realised that the wind had changed direction and I was now getting rather chilled, but I was conscious that there was little other than northern Europe in my log. I had already decided that I didn’t want to change antennas to run 2m and I was tempted to call it a day at this point, but I decided to give 30m a quick try. Tonnie PA9CW was first in the log on the band at 12:59z to be followed by another 19. The run included several G calls, PA44WFF/P in PAFF-0234, Colm EI9FY/P on Sorrell Hill EI/IE-014 and Tom HB9EVF/P on Aeugsterberg HB/ZH-012.
Set up on the summit… untidy, but it sufficed.
After packing up, I left the summit at 13:55z (14:55 local) and took the direct route back to reach the car park at 16:50 local. It was 21:21 local when I got back to base courtesy of roadwork delays… 356 miles, 7 hours 45 minutes on the road. Still damp when I got in (me and the kit), but I’d had one brilliant day. Can’t wait to get out again… I must be mad!
73, Gerald G4OIG