Frozen pen on Ben Ledi

I had plans for an extra long weekend in the highlands but the weather forecast was particularly bad. Snow, high winds and a storm coming in. So a change plans was required and a hill that is sheltered for most of the approach and with lots of options to bail. I choose Ben Ledi GM/SS-023.

The approach was pretty pleasant, through a snow covered forest in the lee of the hill, but once on the ridgeline the wind picked up along with the windchill. The accumulations of snow in places was quite deep, requiring wading. So a quick activation was required.

I cannot think of many permanent installations on Scottish hills, maybe the summit shelter on Ben Nevis, but thats about it. I was so surprised to see a summit cross near the summit which I used as a quick Mast solution in these difficult conditions.

I researched the cross later and understand this is a memorial to a Mountain rescue leader who sadly passed away on a helicopter crash during a rescue on Ben More. A very poignant reminder and it certainly made me think about the risks that mountain rescuers take helping those in need on the mountains.

After getting the antenna and radio sorted, I should have put the shelter up. I didn’t, opting for the radio in its case and dry bag. Today was the first serious outing of the EFHW, and it works - I spotted on 40m and was so pleased to hear @GI0AZB and @GI0AZA immediately answer the spot followed by a huge pile up, which I worked. Thanks to everyone who chased!

It was cold and still snowing hard, so I decided to get a few contacts on 10m before heading down. I then QSY’d to 10m. At this point my pen stopped working.

I had lost my pencil yesterday and so used free pen from my hotel last night. Well by this point it had frozen. A quick solution: record the activation on my phone. This was harder than i thought, I couldn’t remember the callsigns accurately and I had a few embarrassing minutes trying to get the callsign of a @SV2OXS correct on SV/MC-077 and then @SQ9JTR on sp/bz-048. In the end i wrote callsigns in the snow, to dictate back to my phone. I have to apologise, especially @sv2oxs and a big thanks for having patience with me.

I managed a very quick 10 QSO’s on 10m and then packed up quickly to make my retreat, with axe and crampons being required for the descent. Packing the mast was really difficult as allot of ice had formed and this needed removing. I have to say the Sotabeams Tactical mini is a beast.

A few improvements for next time:

  • Waterproof logbook.
  • Backup pencil.
  • Put the shelter up !
  • Fast activation, just use 5w and leave an external battery at home.

You just gotta love those breathtaking views from the GM munros! :joy:
Well done!



Thanks for another great report and photos. Looks like quite the adventure.

Well done Tim!

73, Matthew

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Great to work you on the summit Tim, very well done, those conditions and pictures tell a tale for sure.

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i recommend a normal pencil and a sharpener :smiley:


I should have posted this one, better demonstrates the wind……


Welcome to Scotland :scotland:
Good effort! At least you had the place to yourself.


Brave man, well done.

That’s why I always carry 3 pencils in the rig carry-bag and one in a rucksack pocket. I sometimes get a broken point mid-QSO with cheap pencils. You can’t go wrong with Staedtler Noris [Other expensive quality pencils are (probably) available]. You don’t have time mid pile-up to sharpen your one-and-only pencil. I once accidentally dropped a pencil between the rocks on the summit cairn and it took me ages to retrieve it. So, take a few!

After one bad experience when my pencil log writing faded like invisible ink on normal paper during the rain, I now always carry a small Rite-in-the-Rain notepad. I continue to use normal (cheap) paper for logging but have the waterproof one as backup.


Ooooh! Pencil porn :wink:


Hah! Quality doesn’t come cheap. It would be penny wise pound foolish to spend a king’s ransom (at least here in the UK) for a KX2 and risk messing up a pileup logging with a cheap pencil


I don’t know what this says about my taste, but since Screwfix went completely digital, may have to consider actually buying one !

It’s wise advice, will invest in a few


I bought a box of 36 HB pencils from ASDA in 2006. Probably under £2 cost back then. There are 20 still in the box, 2 in the SOTA bag, 2 in the overseas/holiday SOTA bag, 2 in the kitchen. So I’ve lost or broken 10 in 18 years.


uni-ball 768184000 SN-220 Power Tank Broad Retractable Ballpoint Pens - Black ( | eBay Haven’t tried them below -20°C (-4°F) yet, though :wink:

I can confirm that the Lakeland HB pencils I use have been okay at -10C. :joy:

Well done on the activation Tim under difficult conditions. Ben Ledi is an excellent choice for such a situation with its excellent relatively short path. I was pleased to work you.

73, Gerald


When learning CW decades ago we had to sharpen our pencils on both ends.


I wonder how many on summit. It’s so easy to mislay - or worse, lose - small items (pencil, guying pegs, antenna winder, pole stopper, Palm paddles, connector-adaptors, small cables, etc) on summit especially in long grass or high winds.

I’ve had to impose on myself a strict routine of putting small items temporarily in my (brightly coloured) SOTAbeam bags or in the rucksack until they are finally stowed in the correct place at the end of the activation.

Well I’ve lost

  • 4 mild steel tent pegs, always by being distracted during pack up. Now each tent peg has a piece of yellow 1mm cord, 500mm long attached. You can see the cord even when the peg is in deep heather.

  • 2 plastic bulldog type clips, in both cases they ‘pinged’ off the pole into the vegetation. One was on an OK summit and its loss was pain for further OK activations as it was needed to stop wires flapping about. I spent 15 mins searching for it till it started to get dark and I had to walk out.

  • 1 pole top bung on an F/CR summit. I thought put this in the bag or you’ll loose it. I didn’t and I did!

  • almost lost the Palm Paddle. It was actually stuck in a fold of material in the rucksack but it was one big emptying session and check everything. It was the last item in the bag.

  • pencils in the undergrowth

As you say, a strict routine is essential. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.” The bag always gets packed the same way in the same order. You feel you are becoming completely OCD about things until you accept strict order of unpack/setup/takedown/packup works without items vanishing.


I dropped my K9ARK 9:1 in the heather at the top of Longman Hill. The replacement one is twice the size and orange, and still with me.

A couple of times I’ve left items on a hill and had go to back up the next day to retrieve them.


Propelling pencils might be the way to. Dirt cheap to buy in packs of 10 -

No sharpening needed - That said I always carry a couple as you don’t get much warning when they are almost finished.

And they have a small rubber at one end which comes in handy at times.


…or visit the Swedish household goods outlet :innocent: