G4YSS: GM/CS-001 BEN LAWERS, 30-09-23
Issue-1 (pse rprt errors)
Activation of BEN LAWERS GM/CS-001-10
30th September 2023 using G(M)4YSS. Unaccompanied
QRO on 2m-FM only
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)
This was the forth and final activation of our nine-night break at Lochs and Glens Loch Tummel Hotel from 23rd September to 2nd October 2023. The first two were half-day affairs on small hills because of the weather but that behaved somewhat better for Schiehallion on the 28th. According to the forecasts the 30th was going to be reasonable and as I planned CS1 for this holiday, this was my chance.
Moonraker MT270M, 2m/70cm, 25W miniature Mobile Transceiver
PYE Cambridge Antenna Filter Type AT29908/AB (adjustable 132-174Mcs, 0.6kg)
3-ele modified SOTAbeam (vertical config.) with 4m RG316 coax
3-section mast and guying kit. (Top section PVC to minimise pattern distortion)
J-Pole vertical half-wave with 4m of RG178 coax (not used)
One HRB 11.1V, 5Ah Li-Po battery
IC-E90 No2, 4-band, 5W VHF H/H with extendable 2m set-top helical for 4m FM (not used)
Pack Wt: 8.7kg (19.2 pounds) including umbrella, Primaloft jacket & 0.75 litre drinks
This mountain attracted my attention many years ago and I have had a GPS route for it for a long time now. Up to this year we were never staying in the right place to be able to tackle it. Gerald G4OIG helped to inspire this with the recent report of his expedition. Thanks Gerald. I need a bit of that nowadays!
CS1 is only a 45 minute drive from the Loch Tummel Hotel so by missing breakfast, it could be fitted in with a long activation time while still getting back for evening meal at 18:15. We visited the dam at Pitlochry the day before so I nipped into Greggs for some sandwiches to substitute for the lack of breakfast.
My old route was discarded. It took in four summits and from an impractical start point for climbing just one mountain. A new route was devised for the GPS that included a bypass path for the HEMA called Beinn Ghlas which is also classed as a Munro. There was the option to fit in SOTA CS10 but that was rejected on the day in favour of maximum time on CS1 to take part in the (new to me) ‘145 Alive’ event.
EXECUTION and ROUTE:
The start point is the Ben Lawers car park at NN 6085 3772 (430m ASL). It’s pay and display and costs £3 for the day. Divided into bays separated by trees and bushes, it’s extensive. Unlike the Schiehallion car park, it doesn’t have toilets.
Getting up at 6am and driving there for 07:15, I set off walking from the car park at 07:49. First you walk through a ‘walled interpretation area’ to a gate then cross the road to the path on the other side. The initial ascent is in pleasant surroundings of bushes and trees. Once on the open fell there is a gate (NN 6165 3925) at which a choice is made. It’s either straight on to Beinn Ghlas followed by Ben Lawers or if just doing Ben Lawers - keep left and go up the valley on a good path. I did the latter.
When you reach the highest point there is a left turn to CS10 (NN 6208 4074 at 870m ASL). Carry on to skirt the the western flank of Beinn Ghlas via NN 6224 4087; NN 6235 4076 and NN 6283 4101. You meet the path coming off Beinn Ghlas’ NW ridge at the col between that and Lawers (NN 6301 4117). From there the path steepens up to the summit of Ben Lawers where there are two pillars. One is a dilapidated trig point (TP-1281) sorely in need of repair and the other a view indicator apparently missing its top plate?
The path is good all the way and currently being improved on the higher reaches but it’s quite a hard climb that took me two hours to complete. The cold and foggy summit was deserted for at least half an hour after I arrived.
BEN LAWERS - GM/CS-001: 1,214m, 10pts, 09:49 to 14:16. 7C. 10mph wind which dropped to 5mph for much of the activation. Dull overcast with unrelenting low-cloud. Vodafone coverage 4G. LOC: IO76VN, WAB: NN64, Trig TP-1281
Here’s the dilema for someone who was planning to stay for up to five hours. The most desireable side of this mountain to set up VHF faces south where 99% of potential contacts are located. As is so often the case, the best appointed ‘residence’ was taken today; in this case by cold wind-blown fog and later drizzle. So as with Schiehallion two days prior, I had to find a ‘bluff’ to hide behind and then poke the aerial over the top. Such a feature exists 30 metres east of the trig point. A high spot going up three or four metres and overlooking the ridge path. It even has terraces to sit on.
Assembling the beam and mast (and for once guying it) takes a while but having got out of bed much too early, if anything I had time on my hands. The home-brewed guying kit was needed because the soil is shallow and rotation would be required for the beam.
145.400/ 145.425/ 145.525/ 145.550 FM – 23 QSO’s:
As before a self spot and CQ on S20 started the ball rolling but progress was pedestrian, requiring regular trips back to S20.
In the log:
MM0RWJ Rab in Motherwell (‘on the site of the old steel works’); MM7DIR Neil - Longridge; GM4COX Jack in Carluke; 2M0IPQ Derek QTH Faldhouse; GM4YWI Tom with ‘50W to a collinear 10mls E. of Musselburg’; MM7WAB Paul at Rankinston, Ayrshire (WAB book No 22648); GM0AXY and GM4YMM Ken & Christine in Edinburgh; MM0XPZ Steve at Greenock (going fishing) and GM5AUG Michael using a Tait channelised rig near Glasgow.
Paul was using 5W to a 5-ely from his 700ft ASL QTH, while Steve told me that he was due some attention from a surgeon to enable a return to hill walking.
Michael’s crystal-channelled Tait TM8110 seemed to be misbehaving. He answered my call on S20, giving me his two ‘rockbound’ QSY possibilites. However on arrival at 145.425, Michael could hear nothing from me though I could clearly hear him. Timely help was on hand when Jack GM4COX, who Michael was hearing, explained the situation. After a QSP’d QSY up to 145.525 all was well and a 59/ 59 exchange ensuied. Thanks Jack!
Power was 25W to the beam for the above and the remainder of the activation except for MM0XPZ and GM5AUG when it was turned down to the only other option, of 10W. I had two reports of ‘quiet audio’ so I must check the rig’s deviation. However I was trying to talk softly so as not to disturb other people at the summit. It took almost an hour to log the ten stations and I had many curious visitors in that time.
After lunch and back on 145.400 with CQ’s on S20, I worked MM7SST/M Seamus and MM7MOX/P Andy. These were two friends anxious to contact one another as they’d arranged in advance. Seamus was on his handheld, just walking away from the summit of Schiehallion GM/CS-005 (where I’d been two days prior) but at the time Andy was heading up GM/CS-111 (Creag Bheag), where I worked him S2S later, he having caught the train to Kingussie.
Seamus had only a hazy knowledge of things SOTA so I explained the basics with Jack GM4COX filling him in on the 25m rule a while later. He would have preferred to stay at the top a few minutes to get a few contacts but his non-radio friends wanted to get out of the cold wind and hill fog ASAP. Apparently I was not the only one with no view!
I worked Seamus quickly while he was still in the AZ but Andy didn’t call him until later. In between times, Jack GM4COX worked Seamus but by then it was estimated that he may have walked out of the zone. Seamus was using a new type of upgraded Baofeng H/H with ‘a long set-top antenna’ and it sounded fine.
At 12:50 local time my son Phil G0UUU/M and I had a pre-arranged sked in the all-modes section at 144.675-FM. There was never going to be much of a chance but it was worth a try. Phil was using 50W to a 5/8 from his car at Ravenscar, a high spot north of Scarborough. I pointed my 3-ele SSE but neither heard anything from the other. At 335km, it was just too far for our setup and the mode. Phil had a choice of modes but I was stuck with FM.
Part-3; 145 ALIVE:
I had never heard of 145 Alive until my activation of CS5 two days before when I heard Jack 2M0OGM mention it. It was taking place from 1pm to 3pm local time but beyond that I only had a sketchy idea of the form it would take. A list of frequencies and regions, supplied by G0UUU helped. Phil suggested 145.550 for the area surrounding Ben Lawers. That was good because I ‘knew’ the man who would be in charge of the net.
Switching back up to 145.550 in the FM section after the failed sked, I immediately heard Fraser MM0EFI/P on GM/ES-059 explaining the procedure to the listening stations. At the end of each sentence he would say ‘break’ and drop carrier. I took this as an invitation to call in and was made very welcome upon doing so. Fraser asked if I’d heard his instructions? ‘Yes, enough to get the gist of it.’
Fraser would control the net and call us in when required for people to work one another. It sounded simple from my viewpoint but a lot harder for Fraser who exchanged S2S with me from GM/ES-059 Kerloch. Reports were 59 both ways then he put a coule of stations through for me to work contest style in as little time as possible.
I exchanged with GM4JXP/P Simon S2S on GM/ES-068 Craiglich and MM7MWL/P Mike S2S on GM/ES-070 Hill of Fare, both were 59/ 55 exchanges as I was pointing SSE and they were somewhat off the beam’s axis.
After that I was given the choice of QSY to my own frequency or wait for further callers after the Aberdeenshire stations had worked one another. I’d had more than three hours sitting mainly motionless in fog and a draft at 7C and was by then shivering. I chose to wait, which suited me. That way I could have a walk around to get warmed up again and come back for more QSO’s should there be any.
My deadline for leaving was still well over an hour away and unless the weather is attrocious, I always experience some regret when the time comes to go down. Because it takes so much effort to get up, I want to stay for as long as possible.
When I retured after half an hour I was called by MM0UHR Chris – 3 mls S of Arthur’s Seat (Edinburgh) and this signalled the start of a lucrative five minutes as follows:
GM6ZAK/P Andy S2S on GM/SS-077 Mount Hill; 2M0IIG/P Mark on a high spot at Edinburgh ‘not SOTA’; GM3YEW Dave in Abernethy; 2M0DOI Denis - Arbroath; 2M0OGM Jack at Bridge of Earn; 2M0NEG Richard – Angus and finally MM0GOG Duncan in Bathgate.
For what I think is the first time for a long time, all of my sent reports were 59. The majority coming back were also 59. Other than that they were all in the range 55 to 58 with one 53 and a 44 from Arbroath. Many of the lower reports were undoubtedly because turning the beam was both awkward and time consuming, which makes a good case for the vertical I used on Schiehallion.
For the last hour of the activation there were light rain showers. By the time I left it was light rain. From the summit down to the beallach (col) it was blowing across but not bad enough to bother with a coat. Once back on the bypass path there was much more shelter and lower down it stopped. This path has its minor ups and downs so there is some re-ascent.
The car park was reached by 15:43 where two dutch fellows mentioned my radio antics from the summit.
ASCENT & DISTANCE:
Ascent 815m up + 31m dn = 846m (2,776ft)
Distance 2 x 5.8km (7.3 miles)
Start point at 430m ASL
Drive from/ to hotel: 42min (24 miles)
Walk started: 07:49
GM/CS-001: 09:49 to 14:16
Returned to Car: 15:43
Summit time: 4hrs-27min
Time Car to Car: 7hrs-54min
23 on 2m-FM inc six S2S’s
SOTA Points: 10
The activation lasted from 09:37z to 12:49z in three sessions. An early lunch filled one gap and a walk up to the trig filled another. I logged 23 stations which was as much down to Fraser and his 145 Alive net control as it was to my own efforts.
I got a lot of attention from passers-by because I was close to a path going east along the ridge. Half the people leaving that way came back after a few minutes saying, ‘It’s the wrong path’ so we got two chances to chat!
I’m afraid the many questions being fired at me just about wiped out my QSO with Ken GX0AXY but fortunately we got the reports over. However I never did find out how he’d done with his computer problems when suddenly Ken’s XYL Christine was calling in.
Two young lads (and a few other people) who were on a seven Munro epic, asked all sorts of questions mostly coming back with ‘Oh Cool’ in response to my answers. One was, ‘Did you carry all that up here?’ I told them that getting a radio licence wasn’t that difficult these days and took their photo, saying they’d be in my report. They were keen to know how to access it, so I wrote a few details down on a scrap of paper ripped from the log.
I got comments from other sources too: ‘It’s a long way to come to get a good TV picture.’ ‘Are you measring the height of the mountain?’
There was low-cloud for the entire activation. It was condensing as it touched the antenna and mast which spelled constant dripping onto where I was sitting, including my log, whether it was raining or not. In the end I had to resort to the umbrella.
Like Schiehallion on the Thursday and for the same reasons, this was going to be a VHF only activation, a decision reinforced by the 145 Alive Event. 25 Watts with the filter and beam was the choice but all but about seven QSO’s could have been achieved with a 5W H/H to a vertical.
The 145 Alive event was a resounding success and Fraser MM0EFI/P did the difficult job of net control extremely well especially when you consider that he was doing it from a mountaintop himself. My QSO count was increased from 13 to 23 because of it. Yes, we had fun but there’s a more serious aspect to it. I hope someone from OFCOM was listening to all the RF flying around on frequencies which could be eventually lost without it. We had one scare ten years ago and we can do without further threats. If anything 70cm is in even more danger.
Lochs & Glens:
Lochs & Glens Loch Tummel Hotel looked after us very well. Food, accommodation and service were all well up to standard so we’ll be booking with them again. L&G offer coach holidays of short duration; usually 4 or 5 nights. They release the self drive holidays a month or two in advance. We always put two of these breaks together, in this case to make 9-nights and in June at Ardgartan ten nights. This can have its issues. For some reason it’s not guarenteed that you don’t have to move rooms mid holiday, though in a lot of years it’s not happened yet. However it’s worth the conversation when booking and on arrival. Also you might not get the same dining room table unless you request it with the staff.
Loch Tummel is handy for GM/CS; Ardgartan for GM/SS and Fort William for GM/WS including ‘The Big One.’ They have a further three hotels in Scotland.
Costs: Twin room for 4-nights: £388
Costs: Twin room for 5-nights: £485
To ALL STATIONS worked and for the SOTA phone service and GM0AXY for spots. Many thanks to Fraser MM0EFI/P for his efficient 2-hour net control. Thanks to my XYL Denise for the use of her car. Now we have to drive home.
73, John G4YSS
Ascent/ Distance Summary; Four GM/CS Activations September 2023:
24-09-23, GM/CS-107 Drumcroy Hill: 248m (814ft) / Distance 2 x 3 km (3.8 miles)
26-09-23, GM/CS-100 Dun Coillich: 222m (728ft) / Distance 2 x 1.7 km (2.1 miles)
28-09-23, GM/CS-005 Schiehallion: 765m (2,510ft) / Distance 2 x 5km (6.3 miles)
30-09-23, GM/CS-001 Ben Lawers: 846m (2,776ft) / Distance 2 x 5.8km (7.3 miles)
TOTALS (4-SOTA’s): 2,081m (6,827ft)/ 31km (19.4 miles)
SOTA Points: 22
Miles Driven: 857
Above: Parking £3 for the day
Above: No Sherpas handy
Above: The wooded section
Above: Looking back to the path junction. Ben Lawers via Beinn Ghlas or the Bypass path in the photo
Above: Looking uphill to the Beallach (col) between Beinn Ghlas (right) and GM/CS-010 Meall Corranaich (ahead)
Above: Arrival at the Beallach NN 6208 4074. Photo - GM/CS-010 Meall Corranaich Meall Corranaich. If you want to add this on the way to Ben Lawers it’ll cost you 204m of ascent and 2 x 1.2km up and back to the Beallach
Above: The start of the Beinn Ghlas bypass path
Above: The Beinn Ghlas bypass path undulates a little
Above: The Beinn Ghlas bypass path joins the main path to Ben Lawers at a second Beallach
Above: Ben Lawers path
Above: Well up on B.Lawers. Path repairs
Above: GM/CS-001 Ben Lawers trig point TP-1281
Above: View indicator not that I saw any views!
Above: VHFM activation with Sotabeam
Above: Moonraker MT270M, 2m/70cm, 25W Mobile
Above: Two energetic and enthusiastic lads on a seven-Munro round were curious about the radio. Recommended an Amateur Radio Foundation Licence
Above: The View indicator with the missing top plate plus an item that wasn’t there when I arrived
Above: On the way down and back on the bypass path
Above: Nature reserve notice
Above: A nature trail leads off the main path here. Only to be used on ascent.