My daughter Alice (M7SQT) requested that I pilot the taxi service of mum and dad at the end of May 2022 to take her and fellow Exeter University Geology student Connor to Ardnamurchan campsite so that they could complete their undergraduate, end of year 2 geology mapping project. I had not been to such remote places since the many trips to north Scotland which my parents had taken me on in the 1970’s so I relished the opportunity! Furthermore, I arranged a stay at Fort William on the return journey so that I could climb and qualify Ben Nevis, GW/WS-001.
Sadly, I had a severe flare-up of sciatica and struggled to walk from the reception on Glen Nevis Touring Park campsite to my tent! So, I left a day early and was pleased to participate in platinum jubilee celebrations of HM Queen Elizabeth II at home in Wolverhampton. My wife and I returned to Ardnamurchan a month later to collect Alice and Connor. There was no time for Ben Nevis but Alastair and Ann-Marie (MM6HMA/P) activated the Point of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse (the most westerly point of the England / Scotland / Wales UK mainland) and Alice qualified Ben Selig, GM/WS-335.
In May / June 2023, Alastair and Ann-Marie returned to Ardnamurchan campsite – no SOTA but we took in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, the Ardnamurchan whisky distillery, Sana Bay (where Alastair swam as if it were the Caribbean!) and the Point of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. We moved to Glen Nevis Touring Park for the second half of the week and at 0300 UTC, Alastair left the tent at sunrise, bound for Ben Nevis (around 18 hours of daylight in Fort William at this time of year). Six and a bit hours later and Alastair (MM0TYM/P) was on the summit. I had taken too much stuff – need to re-visit my risk assessment and estimate of water to carry!! Weather conditions were perfect – clear, sunny and little wind. The views were amazing!
I went to the trigpoint and gave my mobile phone to a self-appointed summit photographer. This lovely lady took photographic evidence of my being the highest Alastair in all of the UK and Eire. There were not many people around and the summit shelter was free for a SOTA station.
I called CQ at 0928 UTC and Steve in Greenock (MM0XPZ) came straight back. Colin (GM0HBK), Isle of Skye, responded next. I had spoken to Colin last year from the Point of Ardnamurchan, as had my daughter Alice (MM7SQT/P) at the same time but she was on Ben Selig, GM/WS-335. It was nice to have another QSO with Colin this year. Robin (GM7PKT/P) responded next from near Fort William and then things went quiet so I returned to the calling channel. John (GW4TQE/P) called CQ from G/WB-006, Caer Caradoc in Shropshire! I could hear him clearly at 51 and he returned a report of 32. Gordon (GM4OAS) from Mallaig was up next; Gordon was also a QSO from Point of Ardnamurchan 12 months ago so it was great to renew acquaintance and also speak to Gordon the next day from Mallaig station.
Further QRZ availed no contacts so I returned to the calling frequency and tucked into a cheese bap. When I had the maximum amount of cheese and bread in my mouth, EI/M0KXT/P called CQ from EI/IN-001 Errigal. I managed to swallow enough bread and cheese so that we could each confirm signal reports of 56. I made further calls and concluded the activation with GM4GUF, Robert in Biggar.
The summit was now starting to fill and so I packed up and began the descent. I managed to develop blisters on my right toe so descent became slow and painful but I made it to the Ben Nevis Bar and Restaurant (part of Glen Nevis Touring Park) where two pints of the local beer (kept in excellent condition) were very quickly consumed! I couldn’t walk another step so taxi of wife was called to take me back to the tent. This was a gruelling activation but very, very, very satisfying!
(This report and my activation are dedicated to the memory of my mum (Barbara Hopkins – died 26/08/22) and dad (Shirley Hopkins – died 08/12/19) who climbed Ben Nevis via the same route on 3rd October 1954 on their honeymoon – visibility: poor and misty!!) – They gave me and my brother a love of camping, cycling and climbing mountains.