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Ben Nevis trip - MM1BUU

I think most know of the back story of my trip. In a sentence - I’ve been wanting to summit Ben Nevis GM/WS-001 for many years, and for various reasons it didn’t happen, this year the loss of our dear friend Guru, EA2IF, was the final push I needed to ‘get it done’. I’ve just celebrated my 43rd birthday and you never know what is around the corner, it was time to finally tick off ‘The Ben’ whilst I have the capability and resources.

My parents own an Autosleeper Amethyst motorhome and I’m extremely lucky to be able to borrow it. The motorhome is getting towards being a ‘classic’ now, but it’s in excellent condition considering it’s age and it’s had a few upgrades in recent times.

My parents live in Carlisle, about 75 miles north of me. It seemed silly to bring the motorhome to my house, so I arranged to pick the motorhome up on my way to Scotland. I work on Wednesdays, and I wanted to do Ben Nevis on a weekday to try to avoid the crowds a little bit. I figured a three day trip was needed, giving me a whole day to do the mountain without having to worry about travelling. My initial thought was to set off on Thursday 12th May, returning on Saturday 14th May, but then it hit me - did I really want to attempt my first ascent of Britain’s highest mountain on Friday 13th? I decided I would do my summit attempt on Monday 16th May instead.

I hit my travel times almost precisely, I arrived at my parent’s place at around 9.15am on Sunday morning and was offered a coffee and a biscuit whilst I helped to load of my kit into the motorhome. I had a quick refresher course on the various systems on the motorhome. I had planned to leave Carlisle at 10am and I managed this within a few minutes. My goal was to make it Tyndrum for around 1pm to have lunch at TJ’s Diner. The journey went well and I was back on the road again just before 2pm, having had a toasted sandwich and a coffee.

The drive to Fort William was straightforward although I really missed not being able to listen to the radio- there was no FM broadcast signal to be sniffed out apart from the odd bit of ‘Nevis FM’. I had to make do with the glorious Ford diesel engine!

First stop was Blarmacfoldach viewpoint, which is the start point to activate Druim na h-Earba GM/WS-339. There is a good sized apron of tarmac, plenty big enough for the motorhome.

The walk up GM/WS-339 is simple, it’s basically just a straight line from the gate and there is an obvious path.

I used my FT817 and 5 band dipole to make 33 contacts. I started on 17m CW and did each band down to 40m. On 40m I tried some SSB, but the band was extremely noisy and we were all struggling. I managed 3 SSB contacts before I decided that it was time to pack up. The weather was really good, much better than I expected, so I stayed a little longer than planned. I also enjoyed the view of Ben Nevis!

I’d had an email from the campsite saying to just drive straight to my allocated pitch, no need to check in at reception. Having been through the awkward experience last year of somebody parking on my allocated pitch at another campsite, I was a little anxious, but it all went brilliantly. There was my pitch, ‘Nevis 51’ just waiting vacant for me. I managed to back the motorhome on to the pitch perfectly in one shot - which I was quite proud of!

I settled in the motorhome, making some food and checking the map, weather forecasts etc. I was fascinated by the fact that the motorhome has a proper full sized cooker and hot running water - I didn’t even have to walk to the scullery to wash up!

I was really hoping to get a good night’s sleep, but unfortunately the wind really picked up during the night and the motorhome was moving about quite a bit. I was worried about the roof hatch blowing off, so although it was quite warm inside, I had to get up to lock the hatches. I was a bit groggy as the birds started singing, but I forced myself to stay in bed a little longer until my alarm was due.

I had breakfast and left the motorhome just after my intended leaving time of 7am. (It seems to take longer to do stuff in a motorhome!) The weather was mild but every so often there was a gust of wind strong enough to unbalance you if it caught you by complete surprise. I’d seen the mountain weather forecast and I was aware about the gusts being forecast, I was fully prepared to turn back and abort if I deemed it necessary. I have been known to abort mountain missions in the past.

Whilst the weather was very unpleasant, I felt as though I could cope with it. Obviously the higher I got up the mountain, the worse the weather got. About 3 hours after starting from the campsite, I reached the summit of Ben Nevis - my photo records the time as 1013am (0913utc). I did something a little bit stupid in that I climbed up to the trig point, I had to hug the pillar until there was a slight lull in the wind in order to get back down again.

There was no way at all that I could put up a HF antenna in such horrible weather, so I had to try VHF with my handheld. I put together the SOTAbeams RSS (flowerpot) antenna and I was grateful for the 12 inches of snow which I planted the antenna in to. Sheltering behind the wall of a ruined building I managed to make 3 QSOs and then I heard only silence. I thought I was going to fail. I was CQing with desperation but I had no replies. My hands were starting to get very cold and I was about to give up when I had the idea to try to hold the antenna up in the air with my hand. It was quite a fight to keep the antenna up in the wind, but I held it long enough to finallly make contact with a mobile station somewhere near Inverness. With four contacts in the log, it didn’t take me long to chuck everything in my bag and start making my descent.


Ben Nevis Summit.

Once below the cloud again, it was quite pleasant, although I felt damp - even though I had waterproof everything on, water finds a way in. I was feeling quite happy that I managed to get to the top, but mentally I was telling myself that the adventure wasn’t over until I made it safely back to the motorhome. The descent seemed to take a long time, but all went OK.


So glad to back at base camp!

I made use of the campsite facilities and had a long hot shower, after which I felt quite a bit happier. I went to the Glen Nevis centre and bought myself a Ben Nevis tee shirt - I felt that it had to be done! Somehow I ended up at the campsite bar and I had a celebratory beer.

I slept well during the second night - I was obviously very tired and the night was quite calm, unlike the night before. The weather on my morning of leaving was beautiful!

Packing up the motorhome took a little longer than I expected and then I had to queue to empty the grey water tank. It was then me holding the queue up whilst the grey water dribbled out!

I had a bit of an explore around Fort William as I hadn’t been there before. I had a coffee before setting off on my journey south. My parents had suggested travelling back via Stirling rather than going down the western side of Loch Lomond, although the route is a little longer, the road is certainly much smoother - I’m surprised I had any teeth left after my journey north!

I stopped at Crianlarich, in a car park to make and eat lunch. I was finally back at my parent’s place at around 4pm. It took quite a while to locate all my stuff from the various lockers within the motorhome but I don’t think I’ve left anything behind! After a cup of tea and a biscuit, I set off for home, arriving at about 6.40pm.

Apart from the weather on Ben Nevis, everything went to plan. I’m glad to have got a ‘tick in the box’ and the SOTA points were a nice bonus.

Would I do Ben Nevis again? At this point I’m still undecided. I think I might be tempted if some very nice weather was pretty much guaranteed.

I made a vlog - just a very rough edit of some video clips I took. I’ll warn you now, the video of the summit might give you nightmares!

73, Colin

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Lovely weather on Ben Nevis, indeed.

At motorhome about to start climb.
“Expecting it to be a bit windy”.
Cut to scene of barely visible operator in horizontal rain and 50kt wind, appearing to speak but words blown away.

Cut to operator back at the bus saying “yes it was windy but I made 4 contacts”.

A masterpiece of British humour. Loved it.

73 Andrew VK1DA/2DA.

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Hi Colin, congrats for you activation and thanks for your report and video. Great camper!

cheers, :beers:

Geoff vk3sq

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Good job!

That summit video :rofl::rofl:
Anyone up there in shorts and a T-shirt?

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Absolutely well done Colin. Proud of you! Your callsign on the Ben list. You fulfilled a lifetime dream and yes it is easier with a bit of snow. There wouldn’t be many people up there and you were lucky to get away with 4 contacts using QRP on VHF. Quite a bit of luck involved there but the rest was down to good planning and execution. Great photos and report. Love the camper!
73, John

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Hi Colin

FB on conquering the Ben! Pity about the wx but I expect that you will be able to return one day in more favourable conditions.

GL/73
Nick G4OOE

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You know the answer already Fraser…

I felt rather overdressed!

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Thanks John, I had done all that I could to qualify on 2m, I don’t have an amplifier, so 5w from the handheld is the maximum I can put out. I do have the use of an IC7000 but there’s no way that I was going to take that and the associated large LiFePO4 battery up such a big hill.

My target mode of qualification was 20m CW, so if that wasn’t possible, I figured that using a VHF beam wouldn’t be possible either. I opted to take my old SOTAbeams RuckSack Special - which was a free gift from Richard many years ago. I thought the RSS would be an improvement on the 1/4 wave set top antenna that I usually use.

Yes, it’s great that I’ve finally got my callsign on the GM/WS-001 activators list, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get on that list. I admit that before my trip I did feel a bit worried about tackling the mountain, I was trying to get as much information as I could beforehand. I felt physically ready, although I had purchased a new pair of boots with some birthday money a couple of weeks ago and I reckoned that I’d need to break them in. I’ve been lucky not to suffer blisters in the past, but after a short walk around my home town, the new boots were starting to rub and I ended up with inch round blisters on each heel. Needless to say, I haven’t had the new boots on since, I did all I could to protect the blisters and thankfully they weren’t an issue for my walk up Ben Nevis. I ended up wearing my old, comfortable, but worn out boots.

I note that you’re in Scotland, I guess I was just one day in front of you when I passed through Tarbet!

Have a lovely trip.

73, Colin

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Well done mate. ‘A picture tells a thousand words’, the short summit segment summed up the WX nicely.

I suspect this won’t be the last camper trip now.

Mark.

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Well done Colin. Congratulations on a brilliant outing and getting the summit ticked off your list. I’m surprised that you even considered taking a video at the summit under those conditions. 4 contacts on 2m was precisely what was needed under the circumstances.

As for climbing up to trig points in a gale, welcome to the club. It reminded me of what Paul G4MD and I did on Tinto GM/SS-064. Our descent from the trig was almost on hands and knees. :joy:

73, Gerald

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I do enjoy using the motorhome, I took it to the National Hamfest in 2019. We’ve also had trips to Scotland and Devon.

I haven’t paid for my diesel yet, but apparently I used around 70 litres for my Ben Nevis trip. At roughly £1.75 a litre, that works out at about £125. It’s not cheap to move all of that solid wood furniture about!

We will definitely be making some more family trips in the motorhome, I’m not so sure about radio trips though.

73, Colin

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Congratulations Colin.

Are you aspiring to join the exclusive “Activated all G* association highest points” club?

Scafell Pike G/LD-001
Ben Nevis GM/WS-001
Snowdon GW/NW-001
Snaefell GD/GD-001
Slieve Donard GI/MM-001
Les Platons GJ/JE-001
Le Moulin GU/GU-001

Still only a handful of members so far!

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Congratulations, hopefully in 2023 I can tick off Ben Nevis activation when we visit Scotland.

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Colin,

That summit video is priceless !!.. “you lips are moving but I can’t hear what your saying”… were you comfortably numb?

73, Lea M0XPO

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Ha! I would have a long way to go, I’m still at less than 50% of the list!

I’ve discussed IOM a few times, especially as I’m so near to the ferry at Heysham, however the costs are eye-watering!

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Hi Colin,

Looks like a great trip. I was keeping an eye on MWIS a day or two before your trip, it didn’t look too promising for you. However, MWIS can sometimes be overly pessimistic. Also, I think this WH forecast region is fairly broad. There seem to be lots of micro climates up there.

Glad you managed to get to the summit and that you had a great adventure. I can imagine the sense of relief for that 4th qso!

73 Matthew M5EVT.

1 Like