G4YSS: GM/CS-005 SCHIEHALLION, 17-06-24

G4YSS: GM/CS-005 SCHIEHALLION, 17-06-24
Issue-1 (pse rprt errors)

Activation of SCHIEHALLION GM/CS-005-8
17th June 2024 using G(M)4YSS. Unaccompanied
QRO on 2m-FM (QRP on 4m-FM)
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)

EQUIPMENT:
Moonraker MT270M, 2m/70cm, 25W miniature Mobile Transceiver
PYE Cambridge Antenna Filter Type AT29908/AB (adjustable 132-174Mcs, 0.6kg)
J-Pole vertical half-wave with 4m of RG178 coax
2-section mast
One HRB 11.1V, 5Ah Li-Po battery

Reserves:
IC-E90 No2, 4-band, 5W VHF H/H with extendable 2m set-top helical for 4m FM
Pack Wt: 8.7kg (19.2 pounds) including umbrella, Primaloft jacket, 0.75 litre drinks.

INTRODUCTION:
This was the second activation during our nine-night break at the Lochs and Glens Loch Tummel Hotel from 13th to 22nd June 2024 (Self Drive). The first was GM/CS-100 Dun Coillich two days prior.

Rain and more rain plus the weather forecast kept changing making decisions difficult. No matter which one I looked at, non were perfect for this activation but when putting things off repeatedly you eventually find that you’ve run out of holiday.

After an enjoyable activation of Schiehallion in September 2023, I felt the urge to go back. Also it’s close to the hotel but I would have to accept single figure temperatures, breezy conditions with low-cloud and rain showers. Indecision followed but in the end my wife put me straight. ‘I need a visit to the hairdressers tomorrow so you go up your mountain today.’ ‘OK, fine!

EXECUTION and ROUTE:
I set off walking at 09:26 from the Braes of Foss car park at NN 7531 5566 (330m ASL/ £3 per day). There were three other cars parked opposite the toilets. Should it be needed, the overspill car park is 0.3 miles back along the road and up the hill.

Go straight out of the car park SE; turn right at NN 7537 5558 and left through a gate at NN 7534 5554, then you’re on your way. After a few minutes, ignore the left fork.

The path leading to the base of the mountain is smooth and well surfaced with gates that close themselves behind you. Further up there are steps and it winds around a bit. The first cairn comes into view at NN 7303 5454 (870m ASL) – it’s a big one. There the made-up path ends with a notice reminding you to follow the path ahead – a much less agreeable one which passes through an extensive rock-field.

Not far after the cairn you pass a shelter of sorts at NN 7269 5457 (930m ASL). It’s actually just a rough wall, porous looking and not very well built from available rocks, of which there are many! As height is gained the rock-field becomes ever more challenging but I’ve seen worse. It’s just tedious and a mile long leading to the extreme west end of the ridge.

There are cairns to help you and some sections early on that are merely gravel. The ‘path’ tends to hug the left (south) edge of the ridge. The highest point – not a cairn or trig point but just the highest natural rock, is at NN 76252 53643 (GPS-2023).

The ascent had taken 1hr-41min including close to half an hour to negotiate the rock-field. There was no one around as I started with the setup but after a short while two young ladies arrived. We’d already met on the way whence they’d asked if I’d climbed this one before and were they heading in the right direction? Unfortunately they’d brought a heavy rain shower with them.

SCHIEHALLION - GM/CS-005: 1,083m, 8pts, 11:07 to 13:45. 6C, later 7C. 15mph NW wind. Low-cloud lifted fleetingly just before the end. Heavy rain shower then drizzle. Dull overcast - brighter later. Vodafone coverage 4G. LOC: IO76WQ, WAB: NN75 – No Trig.

The J-Pole was set up on a 2.5m mast wedged into a crack. I settled down just below the summit facing south, the coax being just barely long enough.

145.400/ 145.475 FM – 8 QSO’s:
A self spot got the session underway and I was called by mobile station MM0XET/M. Garry gave a location between ??? and Gleneagles. QSB took out the first place name. He was 59 at first, fading down to 42 for a short while, then coming back up. He gave me 33; later 55 and was pleased to make the contact. ‘You’re a brave man to be up there on a day like this.’ I was OK actually. Base layer, fleece and a Primaloft jacket with the hood up, ensured that I only shivered minimally and only after an hour. The worst thing was the lack of a view.

GM4ODW called at the same time as Garry but of course mobiles have priority, especially if they’re moving. The name given sounded like Rory, which is what I wrote in the log but later research on QRZ.com revealed the name ‘Ruaridh’ which may well be pronounced the same? The QTH was given as Pitlochry. He was 300 feet ASL, using 50 Watts so it was 59 both ways.

After these two there was a lull filled only by a few minutes of CQ’ing on S20, then I heard MM0JNL responding. George, the repeater keeper at Berwick-on-Tweed, gave his QTH as Kirriemuir, Angus (IO86KO). When it became apparent that we had a few things in common, an interesting conversation ensued.

During the course of this exchange I found out that George’s father was born in the same town as me; Bridlington East Yorkshire. He in 1929 and I 20 years later. His Dad was a fisherman out of Brid and later North Shields where he had a trawler named Bordermaid. I was able to match that. My own father Ray had a 40 foot wooden trawler called Eileen at Brid’ in the 60’s followed by a 50 foot steely called Dalriada at North Shields in the 70’s.

Ray got out of fishing when he saw a bleak future, ending up in Whitby with the coble Friendship, taking anglers out jigging. Up to retirement, he worked for Leeds Uni. They had labs at Robin Hood’s Bay where they needed marine samples for research. They even supplied the coble Njord for the purpose.

In 1942, when he was 13, George’s father, also called George, was ‘employed’ helping to rescue downed airmen from the North Sea. He was the one slung into the ogin with a rope around his waist to grab them so that they could be pulled aboard. Fascinating! Dangerous!

George junior, who recently moved up from Churnside, was using a Diamond X-510 vertical collinear with 100 Watts so it was 59 both ways. It’s surprising who you meet on amateur radio and what we sometimes have in common, often discovered after some random comment. Hope I got the story straight?

After another 5 minutes of fruitless CQ’s I self spotted a second time, adding the note, ‘One more QSO pse.’ Still nothing until finally GM8PKL came back to a CQ on S20. I made sure we got the reports over on S20 for this vital forth contact as I’ve lost people in QSY’s in the past. After migrating to .400 Brian gave his QTH as South Edinburgh at 160m ASL in IO85JV. We had a long chat interspersed by appeals from me for further contacts and also my rig periodically cutting out.

Brian suggested that lunch time can create a good chance of catching mobiles and this proved to be the case later on. He tried hard to spot Schiehallion from his shack window, eventually deciding there were local hills in the way. Nothing else was forthcoming to add to the log until 11:30z, some 22 minutes after Brian & I started.

GM0VEK was next in. Armed with a list of VHF stations worked from CS5 last September, I was able to greet him with his name and QTH. Namely Peter in Kirkintilloch 59/ 55.

I was expecting to hear avid SOTA chaser Steve MM0XPZ in Greenock at some point and at 11:35z I wasn’t disappointed. The exchange was 59/ 54 whence Steve told me he was doing lots of exercise to make himself fitter with a view to some activating. Good to hear!

70.450 FM – Nil:
Later on, Steve suggested a QSY to 4m-FM so digging the IC-E90 out of the rucksack, I got up to the highest point and called him. I had serious doubts about whether I could match 25W and a mast-mounted half wave on 2m to 3W and a set-top extended 2m rubber duck on 70.450 MHz. Yes, 4m should go a bit further but this wasn’t remotely a fair fight. In the event, I registered Steve at 55 on the handie’s meter but never managed to get back to him no matter how loud I shouted. Sorry Steve but nice try and thanks. I would have loved a QSO on 4m but nobody else came back either. That didn’t surprise me. At times 2m had been like pulling teeth, never mind 4.

At 12:07z a CQ on S20 was answered by MM0SAX/M George South of Perth. After moving to .400 we had a brief chat. George lives in Glasgow. Now a break for lunch; I needed to warm up. A walk around followed by some food helped but I didn’t eat the apple pie left in my rucksack from Great Shunner Fell back in March!

The final QSO of the day was provided by MM3XIA when I answered his CQ on S20. We QSY’d one down to 145.475MHz. Ian’s QTH is Biggar and he was using a Diamond X-510, the second one I’d worked today. The exchange was 57/ 43 and we ascertained between us this QSO was my ‘DX’ of the day. Something like 100 miles; Biggar being way south of the conurbation.

Well, that was it. The summit was no longer deserted and my self-imposed time limit was fast approaching. While packing up I had a brief conversation with a young man who was curious about what I was up to but when I tried to explain I think his eyes glazed over somewhat. This in contrast to the two girls who I spoke to just after arriving. They asked further questions to try to understand. Our hobby must look rather odd to mere mortals but many, in fact most, engage pretty well. Like Radio Amateurs, hill walkers are a friendly breed wherever you go.

Descent:
Like me, the low-cloud was showing promising signs of wanting to be on its way. This was now the brightest it had been all day and it was a shame to leave. This seems to happen to me too often but at least by now the drizzle had stopped. Fully deployed on the way up to fend of two short but heavy rain showers, the brolly now doubled as a steady; a much needed accessory in the one mile rock field. Just before reaching the car park a backward glance revealed a mountain now completely clear of cloud. Just my luck.

Pleasant views on the descent made for better photography but my MP3 player abruptly cut out. DAB and the BBC World Service made a fine substitute and I learnt much about the World today. Sadly, not all good.

The car park was regained by 15:20. A quick de-boot and I was at the hotel half an hour later. Another good day.

ASCENT & DISTANCE:
Ascent 765m (2,510ft) / Distance 2 x 5km (6.3 miles)
Start point at 330m ASL

CHRONOLOGY:
Drive from/ to Loch Tummel Hotel: 13min (6 miles)
Walk started: 09:26
GM/CS-005: 11:07 to 13:45
Returned to Car: 15:20

Walking Times:
Ascent: 1hr-41min
Summit time: 2hrs-38min
Descent: 1hr-35min
Time Car to Car: 5hrs-54min

QSO’s:
8 on 2m-FM
0 on 4m-FM
SOTA Points: 8

COMMENTS:
The decision was made for a VHF only activation based on the height of the mountain and the less than reliable weather. The 25 Watt rig and two-cavity Pye filter isn’t a light combination but it’s lighter than lugging the HF QRO kit, used on the lower summit two days prior. HF with a long dipole would be tricky to do on this summit per se but it could be deployed slightly to the east in the AZ. HF doesn’t need to be right at the top anyway but it’s better if VHF is.

Considering that this mountain overlooks highly populated areas to the south, the band appeared dead at times but the QSO’s I did have were all friendly and interesting. I think some of the problem was the day. Today was Monday but I got 12 QSO’s with an identical setup from CS5 last September and that was a weekday too; a Thursday.

Why did the Moonraker M270M mobile rig keep randomly cutting out? Your guess is as good as mine but I may well be forced into using it again before it can be bench tested.

The mountain has a good path over the lower and middle sections but the tedious summit ridge is rather taxing. The problems are the larger rocks, which today were wet and slippery and the tendency to loose the path where it’s ill-defined and snakes left or right. It keeps mostly to the southern edge or ridge centre and is marked by the occassional cairn. Last year I lost it by wandering off to the north side and had to climb directly back up to reach the summit. This year the errors were more minor, the mist not helping.

The Braes of Foss car park (£3/ day) is in a confined area so if you don’t want the trouble of walking the extra distance from the overspill and struggling back up there when you’re tired at the end, it would pay to get there early. Today the car park was at sub-20% capacity so Monday with a poor forecast gave the advantage in this department at least.

THANKS:
To ALL STATIONS worked and for the SOTA phone spotting service used twice.

73, John G(M)4YSS

Photos: 2-6-4-7-11-12-15-17-19-21-29-30-44-47-49-55-57-59-63-68-69-71-72-73


Above: Schiehallion ahead. Cloud on the top


Above: Braes of Foss car park £3/day


Above: Underway on an excellent path


Above: Further up


Above: Rain on the way. Walkers stopping to don waterproofs


Above: The first big cairn


Above: Summit of Schiehallion GM/CS-005. ‘Smile please.’ Thank you.


Above: Moonraker M270M. List of stations worked on VHF from CS5 and CS1 in 2023. Only worked two of them!


Above: 2m J-Pole and mast


Above: The first signs of some visibility. Loch Rannoch


Above: On the way down


Above: Dropping out of cloud


Above: Looking back


Above: Weighing Schiehellion and ‘G’ 1774

13 Likes

Thanks John, another great report with photos. :+1:

cheers:Geoff vk3sq

2 Likes

Thanks for another great report John. Your description brings back memories especially of the rock field. It was a while ago but if memory serves correct we managed to work Don in Devon on 2m ssb.

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Many thanks for the superbly detailed report John, especially for the excellent photos. I was wondering about the rockfield and now having seen it, it doesn’t look as daunting as I had imagined it to be. Can’t say I really like rock staircases, but they are what they are. The other parts looks manageable. I will be doing 2m SSB when I eventually get myself up there with the usual 817 + MM 25 watt linear and 5el yagi.

73, Gerald

2 Likes

In my view Moel Siabod’s rockfield is much worse / less pleasant than Schiehallion. I was expect it to be much worse than it was.

2 Likes

Great report and great pictures. I remember climbing the same summit in 2006 facing similar weather conditions but being on top was a great experience I recommend to everyone being in this area.
73 de Alexander, DL1AIW.

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Yes, Siabod was pretty bad requiring a four-handed crab-like maneouvre in parts. The claggy wet didn’t help. Having seen the way up Schiehallion, it has moved up my to-do list, but I think I’ll still reserve it for a daylight hours ascent and descent… not one for the next Trans-Atlantic S2S event in November.

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You can get a view of the rock field from my report pictures if you zoom them. I had a dry day but there were wet patches and ice patches when I did it. But there are enough obvious tracks in the rocks to show you the routes most people take.

2 Likes

Indeed, when I first read your report it confirmed my thought that it would be a VHF activation on Schiehallion rather than an HF one. I guess there are times when HF wouldn’t be a problem… maybe a 03:00 start from the car park next week would be okay to get up there while the majority are still in bed Or perhaps, alternatively a ground mounted dipole would work across the rocks. When there’s a will there’s a way.

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You can probably wedge a pole in the rocks, string up a vertical and droop the radials on the rocks and it will be cushty on 20m and above. 30m (your favourite) will need a bigger pole. Or some VHF.

3 Likes

No one will be awake when you’re activating on 2m with that start time! It is a relatively short and simple walk for a Munro. Good path and then follow a line through the rocks. I wouldn’t say the top part is anything to be concerned about.

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I was suggesting that start time for HF as no-one would be up there at that time and you could string up your end fed or big vertical and work those that would be awake outside the UK… plus the UK insomniacs. :grinning:

2 Likes

Got you!
Strangely you do find that hill walkers take on those really popular peaks (Schiehallion, Ben Nevis, Ben Macdui, The Inn.Pinn. etc) at all times of day and night, with some going up for sun rise, sunset or staying the night. GL :+1:

2 Likes

Another fine report John.

Didn’t know you had links with fishing - and in Whitby. I remember the ‘Friendship’. Nice to hear someone using the correct term for all that water that most people call, ‘The Sea’. (‘Ogin,’ for the nautically versed. :wink:)

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