First Year of SOTA & Ben Chonzie

So here I am with a full year of SOTA under my belt. I achieved 24 activations, accumulated 45 points, only had one failed summit when I only got one QSO and I have had so much fun. All due respect to Andy G6PJZ who turned on to amateur radio and SOTA. My longest QSO was with N2BTD from Glas Bheinn G/WS-303 in March 3180 miles. That did amaze me with only 10W from my TX-500. I activated one previously unactivated summit Na Maoilean, GM/WS-351, a very poor day wet and very foggy.

My nearest Munro sits above the town and to round of the year I thought it would be a good reason to activate it yesterday. I think it might have been the biggest hill I’ve climbed at 931m. We did our Unit Expedition Leader course in Ballachulish but it being over 25 years ago I can’t remember the hills we climbed. Weather was forecast mist, fog and rain in the afternoon but the possibility of the higher peaks being clear. I parked up at the car park at Invergeldie, the first car there and set off. The route to a saddle at 810m is mostly a decent stone road for quads/4x4. Steep in places it’s just a heads down and get on with it rather than technically challenging. The fog and mist was falling giving some very atmospheric scenes.

Lots of black grouse around and a few deer sightings in the varying visibility on a distant hillside. As I got up to around 700 - 750 I noted two cairns adjacent to the track. They marked the way to cut the corner and do a more direct approach to the summits final approach. The fog was up and down and from what I could see neither were too exciting to look at and balancing the difficulties of a steeper approach and judging my navigation plan I stuck with it to follow my track and get to the fence line at the saddle and use the fence line as a hand rail. The track stops abruptly and is marked by a small cairn but the path across the heather is readily apparent and the fence line was located.

The fence has fallen down a long time ago and only some of the posts are standing, someone conveniently collected three of them and arranged them in an arrow to mark the point of descent.

I hand railed the fence line the to the NE the path was indistinct in only a few places. Large stone cairns have been built to the left of the fence line to support navigation. At 870m I noted a path that cut the corner of the fence line and even in the poor vis at the time, 50m I judged I could follow it. Reaching the final straight to the summit it was a relatively easy final ascent. I was overly worried about slipping on some rock and impaling my self on the remains of the fence poles which stuck up about 20cm.

As I approached the mountain shelter the fog clamped in and varied between 50m - 100m the rest of the day.

The views I’d hoped for never materialised. It took me 3hrs to get up which impressed me mightily.
Lazily I set up my little Elecraft AX1 and spotted 40m. I had 5 QSO’s in 12mins. One was a S2S with Martin, M7BIA/P, from Shining Tor G/SP-004. On my first activation from the Knock of Crieff one year ago today I also got a S2S from Martin at Shining Tor. Thank you sir.

Kicking up to 20m I got a further QSO with DL2DXA. By this time I’d been joined on the summit by a few Munro baggers. I could have wrapped up there and headed down but I felt it was a little churlish to go all that way and not bother to get a better aerial up. I erected my bandspringer struggling to get the support stake in deep enough to support my carbon 6m pole. In the next 12mins I had a further 12 QSO’s with a further two S2S. I did have a bit of a pile up and I tried my best alas there were a few deaf individuals with a lots of power. I wrapped up with 18 QSO’s after spending an hour on the summit.
On the way down I chose a slightly different path again marked by fence posts and made an uneventful descent.

My knees were throbbing at the end of it. I noted a group who elected to follow one of the more direct approaches and they made slow progress. I met various people making their ascent, I was surprised as with the forecasted visibility I didn’t think it would be attractive. I met one lady who lives at Invergeldie who told me about the last two rescues from the summit. One lady hurt her leg and lost comms to the emergency services ended up spending 14hrs on the hill whilst they searched for her. The last incident a week ago two young lads got lost and had to be led down my the MRT. Cautionary tales, it’s not a technical ascent or difficult navigation but you do have to be prepared.
Thank you to all of you, the chasers have meant I got great satisfaction making contact on the radio. The engagement in SOTA Reflector has been great and gave me guidance and inspiration. Hears to the next year and higher hills


I’ve done it this way and using the path from the cairn. The fact you can follow the track, even when under snow and then go straight up to the old fence and follow that to the summit is what makes this summit seem to be safe for all weathers. You have to try to get lost.

I’ve done it when it was so cold in the strong Northerly wind that the water in my bottle in my pack was partially frozen by the time I got to the top. The short cut knocks a noticeable amount of time off the ascent but it’s wet and soft and very boggy. After the WX we have had the past few days I would probably have avoided it if I was going up now. I don’t think it’s a hard navigation test as there is an obvious brown scar to follow. But it’s not as obvious as the longer track and fence route.

It’s meant to be one of the most boring Munros… but the views can be gorgeous if you get the WX.

Similar views Winter and Autumn

And you get fabulous ice formations on the old fence posts!

Oh, and congratulations on your first year of SOTA. As GM AM I do like to see new people getting involved.


Many congratulations on your first year of SOTA. Thanks a great report and loved the photos! Best of luck for your next activations.

73 - Matthew, M0JSB


Well done Paul and congratulations!

As I was reading your story, the recent rescue of lost wallers on Ben Chonzie came to mind, but you covered it. It just proved that just because someone has read something on google about the “10 easiest Munros” (which comes up on my google feed all the time), that even ones with a Land Rover track to the top still need to be treated with respect. Especially with cooler and shorter days.

Looking forward to hearing of your next one. Incidentally, the Munros around Glenshee ski centre are probably easier than Ben Chonzie in many ways, thanks to the high starting point.


Thanks Fraser. I do need to branch out and get outside of Perthshire and Fife.


Congratulations on your first year Paul and indeed your first SOTA Munro! The first of many I’m sure. Some Munros are on my 2023 to do list. Glenshee might be a good starting point.
Your AX1 seems to be working for you
Best wishes


Congratulations and well done on your first year Paul and on tackling Chonzie, your highest summit to date. I’ve got Chonzie in my diary for the Trans-Atlantic S2S event on 5th Novmber, complete with a descent in the dark! All subject to WX of course… essential for such a lengthy walk in / out.

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A great hill to challenge those keen on the pronounciation of Scottish hill names - of course, @MM0FMF will tell you it is pronounced as it is spelt :innocent:


Pronounce Chonzie like Chorizo? :laughing:


Congratulations. Activating can be quite addictive.

ps. You could also try activating south of the border too !!! :slightly_smiling_face:

pps Nice photographs of the misty hills. Mine never work out like that.

This could be a topic that continues to give :innocent:
From that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, we get the following:
Ben Chonzie or Ben-y-Hone or in Scottish Gaelic Beinn a’ Chomhainn ‘mountain of the narrowness’ or possibly from Beinn Chòinnich , 'mossy mountain

The usual pronounciation is Ben-y-Hone - I still am none the wiser though except it being a corruption of the Gaelic name :confused:

I think locally, I’m a blow in, they pronounce it Ben ‘Honzie’.

Great report and brilliant photo’s @2M0OSB Paul! Sounds like you’ve had a successful and enjoyable year of SOTA! Keep up the good work :+1:

73, GW4BML. Ben