G4YSS: Carn Garbh GM/NS-101, 1st Act'n 08-09-14

G4YSS: Activation of ‘New SOTA’ - GM/NS-101, 08-09-14.
Report 2 of 7 in 2014 G4YSS GM/NS series.

GM4YSS/P and SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P.
HF QRO/ VHF QRP; 72 QSO’s on 40m; 30m; 20m and 2m-FM.
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as z).

Second SOTA in the series of GM/NS-114; NS-101; NS-074; NS-014; NS-111; NS-037 & NS-020 during 10 night stay in the Dornoch Hotel 5th to 15th September 2014. (See other reports).

GENERAL DATA for this series of activations:
7 SOTA’s each on 7 separate days including:
All-time new SOTA’s: 4
Munros: 2
Total Ascent: 4,560m (14,960ft).
Total Distance Walked: 82km (51 miles)
Total Activator Points: 24.
Total QSO’s: 512.

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver.
SainSonic MX-P50A, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier (designed for FT817).
Link dipole for 80m thru 20m on a 5m CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
(Home-Brew tuneable loading coils for 160m - not taken on this summit).
6 Ah Li-Po battery (no reserve).
Vertical J-Pole for 2m FM.
Reserve 2m-FM/ PMR rig: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHFM/ UHFM, 5oz H/H (Like UV-3R).
QRO pack: 9.9kg (21.8 pounds) including 1.25 litre drinks & food.

This expedition was the second during a 10-night self-drive/ 7-SOTA holiday at the Dornoch Hotel from 5th to 15th of September 2014. SOTA`s worked in chronological order and separately reported were as follows: GM/NS-114 Meall Dheirgidh; NS-101 Carn Garbh; NS-074 Beinn Tharsuinn; NS-014 Ben Klibreck; NS-111 Maovally; NS-037 Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill & NS-020 Ben Hope.

GM/NS-101 and the Wellington Bomber:
Unlike the summit of the previous day (NS-114) I had no GPS route for this hill until recently. In contrast to NS-114, which to me is rather forgettable mainly because of the name which I can’t even pronounce, Carn Garb is a summit I have been familiar with at least on paper, since the 1970’s. This hill will be forever associated with the WW2 Wellington bomber, the wreckage of which has lain on it’s northern slopes since 1941.

This hill’s name appears in David Smith’s ‘High Ground Wrecks’ listing along with a grid reference (NC 895139) and a couple of other bits of info: Aircraft No: R1093. Operational Unit: 20 OTU (Operational Training Unit). Crash date 30-07-1941. The latter happens to be my ‘minus eighth’ birthday but that wasn’t the reason for trying to add it to my SOTA expedition. I have seen over 80 WW2 aircraft wrecks on UK hills over the years and still have an interest in photographing them.

As well as the aircraft, further attractions of NS-101 were once again its unactivated status and the fact that it is fairly close to where we were staying, giving rise to the assumption that this could be crammed into half a day. In the end I had to move pretty quickly to achieve this and in addition look for the aircraft with the disappointing result that I failed to locate it in the meagre 10 minutes I allocated to the task. In fact the plan to find the Wellington became a casualty due to lack of time in the half-day sortie and was sacrificed for the more important aim of SOTA activation.

Once again I tried my best to ensure that Denise was happy before taking off for the second day running. We first drove out to Tain to look around the shops and visit an all important ‘sconery.’ We are rather old fashioned and like our scones. In fact I consider myself something of a connoisseur, rating them in bites; eg a six-biter; an eight biter or a mammoth twelve biter etc. Taste, fruit content and consistency also come into it but not as much as the size.

I won’t bore the reader further but when this process was ended, I found myself driving away from Dornoch for the SOTA at about 11:20 and panicking for every minute that passed. In fact this situation was to repeat itself in the week but I don’t regret it. After all it was my XYL’s holiday too. Some time was saved by the fact that we had driven up the A9 to Glen Loth two days before to ‘suss out’ the start point for this walk. That meant I could go straight there without delay. The Glen Loth turnoff is on the A9 between Brora and Helmsdale and there is space to park a car (or two) at NC 93618 12910 without obstructing the narrow road. The start point is about 3km up the road from Lothbeg and just after the Sletdale Burn Bridge.

I readied myself as rapidly as possible, throwing out a lot of the extraneous kit of the day before, with the aim of faster travel. Today the WX looked promising so despite a stiff breeze I dispensed with the Primaloft jacket, flysheet, umbrella and spare battery too. After adding some extra fluids, this resulted in a weight saving of 1.5kg. I still had to find my way up this unfamiliar hill, a process which can cause delays if you make bad decisions.

I was underway from the car (NC 93618 12910) by 12:08; straightaway climbing a deer gate and following a grassy track up hill. After 350m at NC 93309 13025 the track forks. I chose the right fork going uphill. Wrong! I soon found myself climbing too high and looking down on the track I should have been on. With time of the essence, it was too late to change so I pressed on, hoping for the best and following a narrow path through bracken. Passing through NC 93231 13025; NC 92559 12731; NC 92107 12844; NC 91821 12979 and NC 91541 13160 I was eventually forced to loose some height and head for the river crossing. The extra ascent wasn’t wasted however. Compared with the track below me, I had at least ‘cut the corner,’ making it not a bad option after all. The route was boggy in places.

On approaching Slettdale Burn I could see that crossing it wasn’t going to be staightforward. It is as much a small river as a large burn but walking upstream brought me to a place where the flow was split either side of a small ‘island.’ The crossing at NC 91183 13181 almost resulted in wet feet but not quite. I wouldn’t like to cross with the burn in spate however.

Stopping now and then to eat late billberries, I followed up the north bank of a small tributary (Allt a’ Choire Riabhaich) crossing another small burn and turning right up Glas Choire to walk up the left side (west) of the burn. Waypoints marking a meagre path were gathered on the way as follows: NC 90967 13053; NC 90680 12970. Fine so far but by NC 90450 13033, the second bad choice came to light. On the west bank going NW, there was almost no path and the ground was rough. I could see a good path high on the right hand (east) bank of the burn which I GPS marked later on the way down at NC 90344 13287. This is easily missed on the climb when the valley turns right so NC 90450 13033 should be disregarded when building a route. The east bank path is quite good and I had picked the wrong one from a 50.50 option.

Eventually any path petered out so I went directly to the eastern summit of NS-101 at around NC 901140 (13:38 BST) with the intention of activating it from there but the lure of the Wellington bomber crash soon took me to the other end of the mountain, an extra 1000m at least. On the way there were views of windmills which were not too far away.

No Wellington:
With a 90 minute walk-in I knew I would be pushed for time later, so I made a rushed search down as far as NC 89477 13954 finding nothing but frogs and a lizard. I am certain that given time and the acceptance of more height loss, I could have located it easily. As it was I had to abandon the token search and head for the SOTA summit at the western end of the hill. This I marked at NC 89275 13778 but one could be forgiven for missing the marker; a tiny cairn mostly overgrown with grass. I also found a quad track running along the top from west to east.

The longish climb, bad route choices and a diversion had used up an hour and 43 minutes and I still had to find a place to set up out of the strong and not so warm wind. This was especially true today because warm clothing and any form of shelter had been sacrificed for speed (without much in the way of result). There was precious little to hide behind on the windswept top so I headed back towards the east end with the idea of saving precious minutes on the return. A bee-line squandered further time when I found myself cursing in deep peat haggs with regrets about not using the track; a longer way around. A small raised clump of grass was all I could find to hide behind so throwing off the rucksack I set up without delay at NC 89887 13745 (530m ASL).

A drizzle-laden wind was blowing from the NE at around 30mph so it was a relief when the wetting ceased after 5 minutes. The included angle on the dipole was quite pronounced by the time I’d got it balanced against the wind on the un-guyed mast. I phoned Roy G4SSH and must have sounded a bit panicky as by now it was almost half past two and I hadn’t even called CQ!

GARN GARBH - GM/NS-101, 545m, 2 pts, 13:18 at east summit/ 14:03 at actv’n pos’n. Left at 16:25. Wind 30 mph. Temp 11 deg C. Overcast/ one light shower. No low-cloud. Reliable EE (Orange) Mobile phone coverage. DAB coverage from 1/4 of the way up. LOC: IO88BC, WAB: NC81. No previous SOTA activations.

7.022 CW - 14 QSO`s:
7.032 was blocked by a terrible noise so I asked Roy to spot me on 7.022 which happens to be in the FT817’s memory. As it was I had to nudge down 500 Hz to clear a QSO. Starting with G4SSH (599/ 559) entities worked on here were: G; DL; PA; LA and F. Incoming reports of my 50 Watt signal ranged from 579 to 339 in QSB and the session took 20 minutes. A reasonable start.

7.129 SSB - 26 QSO`s:
Mick M0MDA found me calling ‘CQ SOTA’ one channel down from the usual QRG and I logged him 59/ 57. EI2KD Rod appeared from the WAB net on 7.160 and Jack GM4COX was working /m from his car near Crianlarich. There were plenty of 59’s going both ways; the good conditions helping with the time factor. As is now standard procedure, Geoff G4WHA/A was prioritised so that he could get back to serving in his shop ASAP. Countries logged were: G; EI; GM; GW; PA; DL; EA. There was just one S2S and that was with John GW4BVE on GW/MW-014 following an on-air tip-off. With the conditions prevailing, this session formed the backbone of the activation. Even G4SSH came in with ‘59 both ways’ near the end.

10.118 CW – 10 QSO`s:
With one 20m and one 40m link pulled out, I worked ten stations in ten minutes starting with John G4WSX. Countries worked with 50 Watts were G; CT; F; OK and DL. One - PA0INA, is a friend of one of our local Scarborough Amateurs and it was good to work Fritz DL4FDM again.

14.275 SSB - 21 QSO’s:
Another ‘phone-a-spot’ from G4SSH and I found a lucrative market on 20m. My 50 Watts, got me into the following countries: OE; EA; OK; CT; F; CU; VE1; S56; SV; DL; I2 and SP. As per 40m SSB there were many 59 reports coming my way including a 59 plus 20dB from both G0TDM and DK9VQ. This was a much improved state of affairs compared with the previous day on this band. The VE was Phil VE1WT (57/ 55).

145.575 FM - 1 QSO:
This was my first encounter with GM3PIL (Nairn) this year. Ray, along with Andy GM0UDL, had helped me with a Top Band sked from Ben Wyvis in 2012. He has a great big colinear for 2m-FM and this was to help in the coming days when my activations got further away from his QTH. He asked about Top Band, which in 2012 he’d aired by tuning up his HF beam & coax, saying he had now erected a dipole. I promised to take my 160m loading coils along on the next one. To save time for this contact I used just the Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W, 2-70 H/H and duck. This rig is tiny, lightweight (130gm) and cheap at £22 yet effective. Ray was 59 on Carn Garbh and he gave me 56 to 57. I was amazed.

The ‘up route’ was followed down, apart from finding the correct path on the east side of the Glas Choire burn and taking a lower path round the corner to the car via NC 91978 12879. I could have simply followed the track round the latter and in fact did so for the final 1200m. The car was reached in 67 minutes arriving at 17:32. After an afternoon of worrying about the time, that put me slightly ahead of schedule which in turn enabled arrival at the hotel for 18:15 with half an hour to spare before evening meal. One further ‘Brownie point’ in credit!

490m (1,608ft) ascent / 10.8 km ( 6.7miles) walked.
Walking times (To & From Eastern Summit): 90 min up / 67 min down. Total: 2hr-37min.

14 on 40m CW
26 on 40m SSB
10 on 30m CW
21 on 20m CW
1 on 2m FM
Total: 72

Battery utilisation: 5Ah estimated.

This seemed like a long walk with a poor ascent time due to way finding, marking and an error or two with paths. Unfortunately bracken was a feature for a second day; the tick count having risen by two to a total of five confirmed since I typed the NS-114 report yesterday. As for ticks, there are still two or three possible further candidates and I will have to see what happens. These have been very much smaller and flatter than I have experienced in the past and they also seem to have a way of getting under the first layer of skin.

The Wellington bomber turned out to be a little elusive. The grid ref. that I have predates GPS by at least two decades and I never expect them to be accurate. Indeed why should they be. I am fairly certain that visitors to these sites just estimated the positions while looking at probably an inch to the mile map and I have known them to be up to half a mile out. The ones I have visited have been tied in better than that using compass triangulation up to 1997 and GPS after that.

In this case it would seem from internet photos, that the wreckage may well be further down the hill. With a SOTA waiting and little extra time, I had no desire to lose even more height down the ‘wrong’ side of the hill. Another problem is that internet photos, in fact any photos taken especially those with a wide angle lens, tend to flatten out steep terrain to such an extent that estimating position from them is made more difficult. I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed but it was my choice not to dedicate at least an hour to the search. Since returning another grid ref has come to light namely NC890139. This was derived from a friend of a friend who has been there.

The weather was a lot better than the previous day but the strong, cold wind was retained. The excuse for rain that actually fell counted for nothing and again there was no low-cloud to hamper navigation.

As was to be the case for the duration, 40m was the SOTA mainstay with 20m coming a close second. After 33 contacts the day before, 30m CW was relegated to third place with just 10 QSO’s.
2-FM brought in my old acquaintance Ray GM3PIL (QTH Nairn) with his offer of help in putting some of these remote NS summits on Top Band. Though nobody else called in, I was more than pleased with that. As always, Roy’s spotting helped to save valuable time.

I could have activated from either the western (SOTA) summit or the lesser one in the east. Both of these and a wide surrounding area is in the activation area. Operating further east cut the descent time by around 9 minutes.

Ticks continue to be a problem a week after the returning from Scotland. The count is now five positives with more pending. The latter are too small to tackle as yet.

ALL STATIONS worked. Hope you enjoyed bagging the ‘new one’ even though it was only another little 'un. Thanks also to G4SSH, M0MDA and HB9CSA (DL4FDM Fritz) for spots. Once again, thanks to Roy G4SSH for his rapid telephone liaison/ spotting Service and to my XYL for the use of her car.

73, John G4YSS
Using GM4YSS/P (database) & Scarborough Special Events Group Club call - GS0OOO/P.

Previous Report: GM/NS-114
Next Report: GM/NS-074 in due course.

NS-101 Photo No’s:
5-Crossing Burn
8-Looking Back
25-Overgrown Summit Cairn


Hi John,

Many thanks for all the summits on your North of Scotland trip and thanks for working me quickly. It is very much appreciated.
I was using a new antenna for HF at work which seems to work reasonably well. I asked my boss and our landlord if I could have one outside and they said yes. In fact my landlord put it up for me. I am using an endfed wire antenna for 40m, 20m and 10m which is 66 feet long and is about 12 feet off the ground but totally in the air in a straight line.
Hope to work you soon when you are out again.

Again many thanks

73’s Geoff GM4WHA / G4WHA/A

Hi Geoff,

It’s a pleasure and I certainly got a lot out of this trip. The WX was pretty well ideal. A bit on the warm side but great for one SOTA per day.

You have that Landlord & Boss eating out of your hand! However, I fully understand the need for quick QSO’s so rest assured I will continue to get you in the log ASAP.

I might be out on the coming weekend but it depends on the weather. It’s got to break sometime. Meanwhile we enjoy it. Keeps the winter shorter. I hope to be out quite a lot come December but only with simple 2FM kit.

Keep calling in!
73, John.