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G4YSS: AONACH BEAG GM/WS-002 , 21-May-10

AONACH BEAG, GM/WS-002 on 21-May-2010, using SSEG Club-call, GS0OOO/P.

G(M)4YSS using GS0OOO/P - unaccompanied.
All times BST (UTC plus 1) unless otherwise stated.
Note: GM4YSS will be used for entry into database.

Equipment:
HF: IC706-2G QRO HF-VHF-UHF.
Batteries: 8.8 Ah Li-Po. Link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20. H/B slug-tuned loading coils for 160m. 4 section - 5m H/B CFC mast with 1m end-supports.

VHF: IC-E90 6-4-2-70 H/H (5W) with 1300 mAh integral battery.
2m Band aerials: Half-Wave H/B, J-fed vertical on short mast.
QRO Packweight: 13kg.

Intro:
After the successful GM/WS-001 - Ben Nevis activation and first ascent by Hazel on the 19th May, I was looking around for something easier to end the holiday with. In 2008 I used the Nevis Range Cablecar to access half way up Aonach Mor and more easily activate the 4055ft Aonach Beag about 5km to the north. The first cable car is at 10 am and again that meant that instead of a 5am start we could have an unrushed breakfast. There was no question of Hazel accompanying me on this one. Ben Nevis had taken a severe toll on her and even after 2 days she could barely hobble.

Nevis Range Gondolas:
http://www.nevisrange.co.uk/summer/ (Tel: 01397 705825): The charge is £10.50 per-person (return) and the operating times at this time of year are daily 10am to 5pm (wind-speed limited). The journey time is 12 minutes and the station heights are; lower 100m at NN172775 and upper 655m (2150 feet) at NN1876 7561. The saving in ascent is 555m and the distance covered by mechanical means is about 2.5km. In case I was to miss the last (down) gondola at 17:15, I checked on the walking option. There is a good mountain bike track that winds around beneath the cables. Otherwise you can walk under the cable-car supports but it’s steep and there are the remains of brushwood cut down as part of maintenance.

The Ascent / descent route:
Denise Hazel & Jack accompanied me up to the top station but ‘QSY‘d’ off for tea & coffee as I slogged up to the snow-line in warm conditions and no wind. The route goes something like this: Leave the Gondola Top Station at NN1876 7561 (I was underway by 10:22 today) walking west along the bulldozed track for a very short distance to NN 1871 7550. Bear left off the track here on a path which goes up to the snack bar at NN 1859 7493 via a bridge over a burn. From there you can walk SSW diagonally uphill over pathless grass between the snack bar and the chair-lift cables before crossing under them to pick up the path at NN 1837 7457. This short cut may not be possible in winter due to hurtling skiers.

After continuing south for about 100m to NN1849 7441, there’s a decent path which was easy to follow via NN1865 7425, NN1876 7408 and NN1907 7393 to a communications mast and wooden hut at NN1922 7395. The path gets a bit vague around here and it wasn’t until after NN1926 7350 that I picked it up again, leaving it to nip over to Aonach Mor’s extensive snowy summit (1221m). The GPS coordinates for the large Aonach Mor summit cairn are NN 19306 72952. Today I was forced to walk on snow over much of this area and there were large cornices along the precipitous east side of this narrow ridge. These were mostly unstable; some had already dropped away and most had cracks a few feet deep. I did no more than take photos from a safe distance before phoning Roy, G4SSH to relay my intentions and though I was successful Orange mobile coverage was patchy here.

There is a good path over grass, from Aonach Mor via NN1931 7235, to the low-point of approx 1090m at NN1939 7190. After that the character changes as the path makes a ‘summit bid’ over and around outcrop and loose stones (NN1946 7170 and NN1962 7164) to the small summit cairn GPS’d at NN 19718 71494. The top of Aonach Beag is featureless, vegetation-free and windswept and apart from some low, ice-shattered quartz outcrop, there is little to hide behind. Today it was all under snow. The east side is precipitous and on this occasion had dangerous looking cornices which were showing signs of cracking. There is good grass just a little way SW off the top with loads of space to set up a dipole on a gentle slope.

It is again worth mentioning that ‘Mor’ means big and ‘Beag’ means small. In this case Aonach Beag is the SOTA being 13m higher than Aonoch Mor. This is unfortunate as it’s less accessible. Also if the intervening col were 15m deeper, we’d have two 10-pointers here.

AONACH BEAG, GM/WS-002, 1236m (4055ft), 10 pts, 12:15 to 15:00 BST. 12 deg C - increasing. Less than 3 mph wind. High cloud with hazy sun at times but no low cloud. Substantial lying snow at the summit. Great views of Ben Nevis’ north face at only 3km range. One other person seen. WAB-NN17, LOC-IO76MT.

30m CW - 12 QSO’s:
10.118 was a quiet frequency (at my QTH anyway). Ambrosi HB9AGH was first in the log followed by F5SQA. Just like on Ben Nevis 2 days prior, it was unexpected to work G’s on here but three made it in. I used 10 Watts for much of the time but increased to 50W when needed. Countries worked: HB9, F, G, D, PA, LA, ON & SM. I’ve been quite happy with this band of late but the highlight was an S2S with Aage LA1ENA/P on LA/TM-059. Thanks Aage!

40m CW - 13 QSO’s:
As is oft the case Roy G4SSH immediately ‘jumped’ on my ‘QRL?’ on 7.032. From then you know it’ll be easy. Just a question of waiting a minute or two. If anything it was more difficult to make myself heard on here than on 10 MHz. It may have been ionospheric conditions or just QRM. In fact a small QSY was required half way through in order to dodge an interfering QSO which had started on ‘my’ QRG as a result of a CQ. 40m was covering: G, D, HB9, F & OK for me. Power was 10 W to 80 W; the latter required for Frank DL2EF. A QSY alert to 7.060 SSB was heard by G4SSH and efficiently posted.

40m SSB - 19 QSO’s:
This was where most of the G stations made successful QSO’s; in fact 13 from 19 of those logged in SSB were G’s from England and one from Alderney. Other than that, incoming were: EI, SM, DL, F, OK & ON. Brute force was often required so the battery was straining a bit. EI2CL - Mike did nip to CW mode on the SSB QRG and his strategy seemed to work noticeably better than our earlier SSB QSO.

160m CW - Nil QSO’s:
Aonach Beag (as far as I know) has not appeared on Top Band as yet. One reason that I had brought QRO was to try to change that fact, having failed in 2008. Then I had heard Phil G4OBK calling me but could not get back to him with a puny 5W. I doubt under these daylight conditions that we could have made it a success with 100W but it was academic; unfortunately Phil was out walking the C2C and was not available. I called CQ for 5 minutes but heard nothing. Closer to dark or even in the middle of a mid-winter day it may well have been a different story. If Andy or Cris who live near Inverness had been active it would have been easy.

80m CW - 3 QSO’s:
Whilst keeping a careful eye on the time so as not to miss the last gondola down at 17:15, I gave a call on 3.532 CW, knowing that ‘SOTA Control’ would have by now posted it. Roy had and again G4SSH was also first in this log section but could only give me 229. Roy’s spot brought in Mike EI2CL and Michael G0HIO but in order to help other possible contenders, I used 100W for all three QSO‘s. There was nothing further despite a few CQ calls.

80m SSB - 3 QSO’s:
Since 80m was not working too well because of D-Layer absorption, I stuck with full power on 3.724 and G0RQL was quick to respond. It’s always a relief to know that you’ve been found. After Don came Mark G0VOF/P. His delight was obvious; he had not heard a whisper from WS2 on 30 and 40 but this band was quieter even though it wasn’t fully open. It was also the first time he’d worked Aonach Beag. Just as a QSY to 2m-FM was announced, G4JZF called in and we were able to exchange reports after some difficulty and with a little help from Don saying ‘Over.’

After a few more photos of Ben Nevis the HF station was packed into the rucksack in order to make the short position change for VHF onto the snowy summit proper.

2m FM - 3 QSO’s:
Last time (2008) GM7PKT Robin was ‘about’ on 145.500 from the summit of GM/SS-009 and we worked an S2S with 10 points going each way. This time CQ calls over a period of 5 minutes on S20 brought nothing. I’d switched off and was about to pack up but upon remembering about the Inverness area frequency of 145.575, I thought I’d hang around a while longer to give that a try. It was encouraging to hear voices on there and being now a little pushed for time, I broke in to work Laurence MM0LOZ and Peter 2M0WTE/M both over on the other side of Scotland. Bill GM8RBR heard us so we went ‘one down’ to work him at his QTH on the Isle of Skye. These three QSO’s were done with 5W from an IC-E90 to a vertical half-wave. Bill turned out to be the last but time had all but run out anyway. It was coming up to 3pm and the final gondola was at 5pm.

The descent of WS2:
This was a re-trace of the ascent route but I retrieved some nice rock samples for a friend first. The cable car was still doing a little trade when I arrived at the top station for 16:26. By 16:40, after descending over 1800 feet whilst doing nothing but just sitting admiring the view, my Grandson was trying to frighten me with his new rubber snake at the lower station. Job done!

QSO summary – WS2:
30m CW: 12
40m CW: 13
40m SSB: 19
80m CW: 3
80m SSB: 3
160m CW: 0
2m FM: 3
Total WS2: 53 (precisely the 2008 total).

Battery utilisation: 81% (measured) of 8.8 Ah Li-Po. (Plus 3 x 5W QSO’s on IC-E90)
Ascent & distance: 850m (2789ft) – 10.6 km (6.6 mls).
Elapsed time: Walking time: UP: 1hr-52min; DN: 1hr-26min. Summit time: 2hr-45min. Gross time: 6hr-3min. (Times from and to the Gondola top station; i.e. walking & SOTA only.)

Conclusion:
This was a relatively easy 10 points but without the use of the Cablecar system it would have been quite a workup with over 1400m of ascent. Its use made this activation a family ‘inclusive’ even if it was in a small way and my 2-year old Grandson Jack would have ridden up and down it all day long, had we let him. Despite some haze, the views particularly of the western neighbours were fabulous.

In General: The two targets of the holiday were less than 15 minutes drive from our rented bungalow. The week’s WX did cause a lot of anxiety when you are trying to minimize the risk of failure for a relative newcomer to mountain walking on Britain’s highest mountain but the reality never seemed to be half as bad as the forecasts. Most importantly there was very little sunshine and what midges there that were abroad were not biting. Ben Nevis and Daughter-in-Law Hazel’s achievement there were by far the highlights but WS2 rounded a pleasant week off well. She is really proud of herself though still suffering joint pain and muscle stiffness some 6 days later.

WS1 Ben Nevis (19-05-10) Report: http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=4461#36318
WS2 Aonach Beag 2008 Report: http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=2379#

Thanks: To ALL STATIONS WORKED, to G4SSH & G0VOF for spotting & to G4SSH for telephone support. Thanks to Nevis Range for lifting me & my SOTA equipment to 655m; half way up Aonach Mor for just over a tenner.

73, John G(M)4YSS,
using SSEG GS0OOO/P.
(This summit will be entered under GM4YSS/P for SOTA purposes)

In reply to G4YSS:

Thank you once again for a superb report John, & yes I was very pleased to work you on 80m SSB. I am certain the alert for GM/WS-002 didn’t appear until mid-way through Friday morning. As I had a day off work & had looked at the alerts I think I would have noticed that one :wink:

As it happened, I had planned a trip to a spot of local high ground to play a bit of radio & continue my experiments with a short vertical wire for use on the higher HF bands when they are open. My previous experiments using the FT817 had been quite successful, but as I was not planning operating too far from my bike I took the FT897 & a 7Ah Slab.

I took a variety of antennas with me & had successful chaser QSO’s on 2m SSB/FM & 4m FM.

I think I missed you by a matter of minutes on all the bands you had worked & I think I may have caught that tail end of your last 80m CW QSO. I had been following the spots but my phone seemed to take much longer to refresh.

At home I can tune my 80m loop in seconds on virtually any band, but the bit of wire I was using on Friday took a little longer to bring down to a reasonable SWR. When I saw a spot for 3.724 MHz SSB it didn’t take me long to re-tune from your last CW frequency & fortunately I could hear you :slight_smile:

At that time of the afternoon on 80m, conditions were terrible, but you were ranging from S7 to S1 on my bit of wire, but all good readable. I had been running about 25 Watts on 2m, but with such an inefficient antenna on 80m I turned the power up to 70 Watts & gave you a call. I was not surprised when you answered, I was amazed!!!

GM/WS-002 was indeed a new summit for me so thank you very much for the new one John :slight_smile:

At some point you said you were going QRT, & shortly after, Graham G4JZF called you. I was not sure if you could hear him, so I called you to let you know. In any case you came back on the air & worked Graham, by which point I had started filming.

You don’t need to spend long in a rural location to realise just how noisy urban locations have become. I don’t think I could have worked you from home, & despite the more than adequate quantities of RF being fired at the ionosphere, Graham still struggled with you, whereas I had good copy on a bit of wire.

I have already posted this video on the “Sporadic E” thread, but I think it really belongs here with this report.

Thanks once again for making me attempt what I would not think was possible :slight_smile:

I really must build something portable for top band!

Best 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0VOF:

Mark,

Thanks for the comments. You have put some work into them and they’re interesting; particularly the circumstances of our QSO at your end. I agree that 80m probably should not have supported a QSO at that distance at that time of day & the month but it was so quiet on there. It’s very nice to hear what your transmission sounds like (even though I did get the summit name wrong) and via a video in such beautiful outdoor surroundings at your ‘local spot’ of 1100 feet ASL makes it even better. Thank you for that!

Roy G4SSH sometimes tape records my efforts but I’m often mixed in with a lot of noise. He (and I) have overhead high tension cables not too far away in our village so I agree with your comment about urban environments. In my opinion things are now so bad that if you take a slightly pessimistic view, HF amateur radio below about 14 MHz is all but finished from the average radio shack. I certainly have no desire to be a chaser and admire their efforts greatly considering what they have to put up with. I just wish I could serve them better; do more bands and stay longer but there are usually limits with SOTA. All we can do is to try to tip the balance back in the chasers favour by carrying QRO to a ‘half’ decent aerial and hope to cut through their local EMI. I do try to conserve battery power by using say 10W to 30W generally and it’s surprising how many chasers tell me, ‘Couldn’t hear the report at first but you’re now up to 57 in QSB.’ All I did was wind up the output, HI.

Your video showed that it was realizable to collect WS2 on 80 but either few believed it possible and maybe didn’t try or as you say ref Graham G4JZF, their local noise precluded it. I was a bit disappointed to work only 3 stations on there. I do like 80 and I think it has ‘delivered’ for me time and again in sunspot low / G-land.

Your equipment shown in the video looks interesting. I know Roy (SSH) has a couple of those 897’s and likes them very much, though one has gone wrong (under guarantee fortunately). He uses that model for his /A ops in Cornwall with just an indoor antenna and does ‘very well thank you,’ as far as SOTA chasing is concerned. As for your antenna, it’s surprising what will work if you tune it; thinking too of mobile installations here. It may not be hugely efficient but it seems to throw out sufficient RF at the correct angles for working the distance required.

As for Top Band. It’s a difficult band for SOTA and we cannot expect brilliant results (in daylight) no matter what the antenna can be erected (in the constraints of a SOTA scenario at least). I use an 80m dipole which is coil loaded half way up each leg but the whole thing is so low down in terms of wavelength that it may as well be underground. That said though, it does work after a fashion and works great once it’s dark. I like 160; it’s fun. Trying (if not the impossibe) the improbable just suits my temperament and it seems that a hardcore of chasers see it that way too.

Good luck with your activations and thanks again for the interest shown. I think the setup you were using will do the job just fine for SOTA.

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John,
Sorry I missed you (again) on your recent Scottish expedition. Well done in putting on 160m again. I would have been pleased to work you on Top band, but otherwise engaged, I’m afraid.
Congratulations to your DIL in ascending The Ben.

73,
Frank