G4YSS: Beinn Dhorain GM/NS-082, 10-09-13

G4YSS: Activation Report - GM/NS-082, 10-09-13.

BEINN DHORAIN - GM/NS-082 - 2 points.
GM4YSS/P and SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P.
HF - QRO on 40m CW & SSB.
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr UOS as ‘z’).

First SOTA in the series GM/NS-082; NS-107; NS-071 & NS-089 from Dornoch Hotel Sep-13.
(See other reports).

ICOM IC706-2G - HF & VHF QRO with spring-loaded CW toggle switch in mic.
Link dipole for 80m thru 20m on a 5m CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
Home-Brew tuneable loading coils for 160m.
Vertical J-Pole for 2m FM. (Not used)
1 x 6Ah Li-Po (plus a second in reserve).
IC-E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with 7.4V /1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery & rubber duck.
QRO pack: 12.6kg (27.8 pounds) including 0.5 litre drinks, Primaloft jacket & light umbrella.

This expedition was the first during a 7-night self-drive/ four SOTA holiday at the Dornoch Hotel from 9th to 17th of September 2013. (SOTA’s worked in chronological order and separately reported: Beinn Dhorain NS82; Ben Horn NS107; Carn a’Choin Deirg NS71 and Ben Griam Mor NS89.) NS82 and NS107 were afternoon only activations. NS71 and NS89 occupied full days.

Aside from creating a basic three-waypoint GPS route some years ago, planning for this SOTA took about five minutes and was in fact forced by circumstances. I had come to Northern Scotland with the activation of at least one new summit in mind but frustrations caused mainly by the week’s weather prospects, delayed that pursuit until later. The day before I had driven up the 406 miles from Scarborough so I selected an easy summit not too far from the Hotel.

According to SOTAwatch, Beinn Dhorain had only one previous activation to its name with 14 QSO’s on 60m and one on 2m. M1YAM - Clive (who is a ‘Bradford lad’ like me) was the previous activator on 26th February 2007. This information told me that almost certainly no chaser in any country outside the UK would have NS82 in their log so it ought to be very popular on 40m.

I had no idea how Clive had accessed this hill in 2007, but climbing Beinn Dhorain’s eastern slope looked fairly straighforward from the 25k map. However, no paths were shown and there was more than one potential start point along the Glen Loth road. The obvious choice was to walk up beside the burn from where the road bends to its closest approach (NC 9358 1587) but that would mean a greater height gain than if I was to drive further north up the hill. In fact the difference is around 50 metres; over 160 feet which is significant with a QRO backpack. Against this is the fact that climbing from the more advantageous position in terms of height would add significantly to distance. I would leave the decision until arrival so that I could see the type of terrain I was up against.

I didn’t know it now but coincidentally as well as today, I would be following in Clive’s footsteps the day after this too. It would be reminiscent of tracking Clive’s snowy bootmarks up Thorpe Fell many years ago?

The drive via the A9 and Glen Loth took from 12:48 to 13:23 which included a delay caused by an agonisingly slow convoy system operating at a roadworks on the A9. We all trundled through at a regulation 10mph, ‘to safeguard the workforce’ which is fair enough but there was only one worker and he was inside a massive road roller that would have demolished an average car had one hit it.

Driving along the narrow Glen Loth road, I could see that there was a deer fence parallelling the road and preventing access to the hill. The only gate I noticed along this fence at (NC 93816 16236) was not really in the right place for a direct assault up the burn but I might have missed others.

Ignoring the gate, I continued along the road, reaching a parking place just before a cattle grid at NC 93776 16922. At this point the deer fence terminates giving easy access to the hill. In fact this start point would have been much better suited to climbing the neighbouring hill Ben Uarie (623m) than for accessing NS82. From here, to get to Beinn Dhorain, a crossing of Ben Uarie’s eastern flank would be required. The terrain didn’t look too bad so I set off walking at 13:55.

For what it’s worth I followed the following waypoints (which were actually marked on the return): NC 93547 16576 (rough ground-no path); NC 93254 16142 (meagre path); NC 93173 16039 (meagre path); NC 92922 15934 (path - possibly one up the burn from the gate). From there I went straight up the steep NE facing side in low cloud to the summit cairn which was marked at NC 92544 15643.

As stated before, this was the route followed on the way down. In fact on the ascent I strayed too far to the right in trying for a more direct route but encountered steep and rough ground across Ben Uarie’s flank as far up as NC 92763 15937. The error not only held me up but made me angry with myself for wasting the limited time I had available and I was forced to loose some height to correct it.

If I ever do this again I will certainly accept the greater ascent but with a more direct route from the gate at NC 93816 16236 or if possible, from the road’s closes approach where it crosses the burn at NC 9358 1587. The problem is that I forgot to look for a gate in the deer fence at the latter point. Either way, I would then go up beside the (today, almost dry) burn via NC 92922 15934 to the col, then south to the summit. That must be a more civilised way to do this hill and probably the way Clive went. There may well be a path of sorts all the way up? My method today meant that some of the climbing avoided by taking the cattle grid route, was thrown away because of multiple, albeit small, reascents both ways. So the lesson was learned the hard way today. ‘KISS!’

BEINN DHORAIN - GM/NS-082, 628m, 2 pts, 14:48 to 17:02. Wind WNW 25 mph. Temp 10 deg C. Overcast with low-cloud 60% of the time and some drizzle. No midges. Reliable Vodaphone coverage. Intermittent hazy views. LOC: IO88CC, WAB: NC91.

After GPS’ing and photographing the small summit cairn, I set up the dipole at a shallow deression 50m due west. After leaving my mobile at the hotel, I was on the spare today. This is an old but compact Nokia (8310?) which resides permanently in the rucksack. After telling Roy that I’d be on 40m CW in five minutes, I then thought of the WAB’ers that I’d promised to call, so apologies for the short delay on CW.

7.160 SSB (WAB NET) - 9 QSO’s:
Geoff - G7BGA ran me down the net in under 10 minutes and the WAB’ers were logged as follows: G0FVH; 2E1ADT; GW0FGO; G8CBU; EI2KD; DL7UCW; G3OKA and G0RYM. Power was mostly 80W. What a good way to get a flying start. Putting on what turned out to be three mobile squares that morning whilst investigating a possible start point for NS71, made me think of the WAB chasers.

7.033.5 CW - 29 QSO’s:
There was heavy SOTA traffic on 40 CW today so I nudged up above 7.033. G4SSH was first in the log after calling him with 80 Watts. Phil G4OBK was next but he could not be around for the 1.8 MHz session later on.

Countries worked were: G; DL; GM; SP; OE; PA; OK; I; HB9 and OM. Half were in the UK and signals were strong with plenty of 599’s exchanged. Some lesser 559’s came in from the more distant Europeans. The single S2S was with Gyula - OK/HA2VR on OK/VY-063 (559 both ways). Best ‘DX’ was probably I2CZO. Power was 80 Watts throughout.

7.136.5 SSB - 29 QSO’s:
Roy kindly directed the chasers up here via SOTAwatch but proir to the spot ‘taking effect’ GM4MNV in Glenrothes answered my CQ at 15:08z. Ray was testing a new headset mic so I gave him a report of 59 with good audio, though as I remember it, a little ‘clippy’ at first until he backed it off slightly. Next came the SOTA chasers starting with M0MDA. 23 of the stations worked were in the UK; the exceptions being: DF5WA; PA0SKP; DJ5AV; DK7ZH; DL3JPN and EA2CKX; the latter with a 51 incoming report and clearly a decent antenna.

Near the end I ran out of log and started writing new contacts down beside old. It took some sorting out later. Ken; GM0AXY who I’d worked earlier in CW, brought XYL Christine GM4YMM in from the garden for SSB. Depending on how you assess it, there were in effect two S2S’s: M3ZCB/P Caroline on GM/LD-007 Fairfield and M1MAJ/P Martin who was with Caroline. Power throughout was 100 Watts. There was no need to ‘spare the horses’ from a battery viewpoint; time was the least plentiful commodity.

1.832 CW & 1.843 SSB - nil QSO’s:
With my 160m loading coils in place and after another spot by Roy, I called CQ with 100 Watts on these two frequencies for a short period from around 15:35z. Eventually there was a reply on 1.832 but try as I may, I could not get this station into my log. The signal was just about the weakest that could have existed without it being completely undetectable and the only letters I could make out from it were ‘PA’ at 15:47z. He was timing his responses to my QRZd’s and CQ’s so he must have been hearing me better than I was hearing him which is unusual given the QRN differences between a summit and ‘real life.’ I was really sorry that this one ‘got away’ but if it was a PA, that was remarkable in itself, at this time of day over a 1000km, albeit almost 100% sea path!

145.500/ 145.575 FM - Nil QSO’s:
There wasn’t time for the luxury of a full blown session on 2m-FM using 50 Watts to a vertical half-wave because I needed to get back for the evening meal at the hotel. However I did root out the IC-E90 handheld to put out a token CQ using 5 W to a rubber duck, without result. Or should I say, without immediate result. I was told by a local station a day or two later, that I’d been heard but that the signal was too weak to give a reasonable chance of a QSO.

For the last half of the activation, the low cloud had mostly receded but a light drizzle started on the way down. The descent route was as described earlier but again I wished I’d chosen a closer parking place. However, the undulating walk back to the car took only 35 minutes to 17:37. I was back at the Dornoch Hotel by 18:21 in good time for the evening dinner, which is served between 18:45 and 19:45.

ASCENT & DISTANCE (Start point at 340m ASL):
Approx 310m (1,017ft) ascent / 4 km (2.5 miles).

Left Dornoch Hotel: 12:48 (via A9 to Glen Loth)
Parked cattle grid: 13:23
Walk started: 13:55
GM/NS-082: 14:48 to 17:02
Returned to Car: 17:37
Drive: 17:48
Back at Dornoch: 18:21

Walking times: 53 min up / 35 min down. Total: 1hr-28 min.
Summit time: 2hr-14 min.
Time Car to Car: 3hr-42 min.
Gross time Hotel to Hotel: 5hr-33 min.

29 on 40m CW
9 on 40m SSB (WAB)
29 on 40m SSB (SOTA etc)
Nil on 160m CW/SSB
Nil on 2m FM
Total: 67 (QRO)

NS82 is a reasonably easy 2 pointer in summer at least but if I were to put it on again, I would chose to walk from as close to the hill as possible. The best start point is probably where the road crosses the burn at NC 9358 1587. If the deer fence cannot be negotiated at that location, there is a gate at NC 9382 1624. Even considering the fact that this area is quite far north, it’s still a puzzle why this hill doesn’t get activated much more often.

This week’s introduction to the 40m band had been a good one. Inter-G and European chasers, were having few problems with my signal; in fact the band was as good as ever. As it turned out, all 67 QSO’s were worked on 7 MHz and the QSO count was enhanced firstly by running down the WAB net and secondly because of Roy’s (G4SSH) spots.

Sadly 160m failed to deliver but there was that fleeting ‘PA?’ heard only. In fact it was to transpire that out of four days activating, today’s session on 160 was the only time I heard anybody, let along worked them.

ALL STATIONS worked. To G4SSH and M0MDA for spots with a separate thank you to Roy G4SSH for his spotting Service.

73, John G4YSS
Using GM4YSS/P and Scarborough Special Events Group Club call - GS0OOO/P.

Note-1: GM4YSS/P will be used in the database.
Note-2: This is the third of a series of four reports in non-chrono order. NS107 will follow.