G4YSS: GM/CS-005 SCHIEHALLION, 28-09-23
Issue-2. Corrected Ray GM4PXM to GM4CXM (Tnx Andy MM0FMF)
(pse rprt errors)
Activation of SCHIEHALLION GM/CS-005-8
28th September 2023 using G(M)4YSS. Unaccompanied
QRO on 2m-FM only
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)
This was the third activation during our nine-night break at Lochs and Glens Loch Tummel Hotel from 23rd September to 2nd October 2023. The first two were half-day activations of small hills because of the weather. Finally a decent weather forecast came along albeit not quite a full day’s worth.
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
3-section mast (2-sections required)
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.
Almost a full day without rain at last! I decided on what I deem to be the main attraction. One reason we booked the Loch Tummel Hotel was with nearby Schiehallion in mind. I’ve been attracted to this mountain for a long time, initially just because of its snazzy name. A few years ago I got around to finding out where it was on a map and the rest is history.
It looks good on paper but when I went to suss out the parking place two days prior, a man who’d just come down, told me about the rock field. He’d had a bad experience up there, hurting his knee. He mentioned that it had taken him 4.5 hours round-trip mostly in fog and later in drizzle. I was hoping for a better time of it and for starters my weather looked better than his. Fingers crossed.
EXECUTION and ROUTE:
There is not much I can add to the information on the Walk Highlands website. Weather aside, their description and a well waymarked path, is everything needed to get up this mountain efficiently.
I set off walking at 09:28 from the twelve-car park at NN 7531 5566 (330m ASL/ £3 per day). There was one other car parked opposite the toilets. Should it be nneded, the overspill car park but is 0.3 miles back along the road and up a hill. The pace was slow at first due to marking initial waypoints and taking photos. Go straight out of the car park SE but you must turn right at NN 7537 5558 then left at NN 7534 5554, then you’re on your way. After a few minutes, ignore the left fork but all the aforementioned points are marked with signposts so you can’t go wrong.
The newly refurbished and in some parts re-directed path is pretty well perfect. It has bridges and 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 - through the rock-field, to avoid erosion.
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. Unfortunately someone saw fit to put the summit at the extreme west end of the ridge. Since the approach is from the east there’s no alternative but to take on the entire 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 but today I was succoured too far right due to a strong cold wind coming from my left and almost passed the summit; having to climb to it directly up the north side. There were three people already there looking down from above. ‘Is that the top?’ I enquired and coming back was a welcome ‘Yes.’ On arrival I GPS’d the highest point – not a cairn or trig point but just the highest natural rocks, at NN 76252 53643.
The ascent had taken 1hr-57min including over half an hour to negotiate the rock-field. On arrival at the summit I noticed two photos weighted down with rocks. Later I saw what looked like scattered ashes nearby. Someone somewhere is suffering a bereavement, the subject of which was a young lady. Very sad and makes you think.
SCHIEHALLION - GM/CS-005: 1,083m, 8pts, 11:25 to 14:08. 6C, later 10C. 25mph SW wind which dropped to 5mph for most of the activation. Dull then bright overcast. Improving views with decreasing haze. Low-cloud for 5 minutes only. Vodafone coverage 4G. LOC: IO76WQ, WAB: NN75 – No Trig.
There is plenty of scope for getting out of the wind on this mountaintop so I settled down just below the summit, about 20m to the NW. If the weather cooperated, this would be a comfortable activation out of the wind with a good view, a rock to use as a seat and even a backrest. There was just sufficient vegetation between the rocks up on a shelf to make the mast stand up without a guy rope. I used two of the three sections I’d brought after trying with all three but the coax wasn’t long enough.
145.400 FM – 12 QSO’s:
A self spot seemed to get the session underway or was it just the CQ’s I put out on S20? Stations worked:
MM7DIR Neil – Longridge 59’s; MM0TSS Toby – Newton Mains 59’s; M0LLC Lee in Maryport (best distance of ‘141 miles’) 55/ 31; GM0VEK Peter – Kirkintilloch 59/ 56; GM4CXM Ray – worked on S20 (he had no copy on .400) 57/ 55.
Back to 145.400 after another CQ on S20: MM0XPZ Steve – Greenock 59/ 55; GM4YMM and GM0AXY Ken and Christine in Edinburgh 59’s. Ken was deep in computer troubles. Next GM4TNP Jim in Glenrothes 59/ 55; MM7CJS/M Craig in Fife 44/ 54-33. Ken, Christine and Jim had all been up Schiehallion and all without prompting mentioned the rock field.
Jim used to lead parties of school children up there. He mentioned the seven false summits and the downhearted kids. He used to tell them, ‘If you don’t get a move on, the summit café will be closed by the time we get there!’ I could imagine how those children felt but doing this is character building.
After this all went quiet despite another self spot and several CQ’s on 145.500. I even tried on the Inverness chat channel of 145.575 but there’s a lot of rock between there and the top of CS5.
A young couple from Glasgow arrived. They had made it in an hour and 50 minutes despite the threat to their ankles along the top. We chatted as they ate their lunch but after they left, with nothing else to do it was time for my lunch. Sarnies from the Coop in Aberfeldy combined with my home grown tomatoes brought up in a rigid container.
As well as CQ’ing, I kept checking all channels as the activation progressed but there was nothing until I heard two stations chatting on 145.425. The aim had been to get to double figures which was already achieved but the temptation to try for another 2 QSO’s was compelling. I don’t like interrupting people but… ‘Break.’
Stewart MM7SWC and Jack 2M0OGM welcomed me in and far from showing the annoyance that I feared, they seemed rather pleased to work Schiehallion. In fact Jack had climbed it ten years ago plus his son had done it more recently which is how he knew about the new path. He was the forth person to mention the infamous rock-field. Jack was using 50W to a Diamond antenna at Bridge of Earn and the exchange was 59/ 55.
Stewart hadn’t been up CS5 but the QSO seemed to inspire him to try it in the future. However he did mention that he was more likely to ride up hills on a motorbike than walk up them. The exchange was 57/ 51 to 53 and QTH was Tulloch in Perth. At low level location he was struggling a bit.
The activation lasted from 11:00z to 12:30z in two sessions for a dozen QSO’s. Occupancy was low and the band took some coaxing!
It was now the brightest it had been all day and a shame I had to leave. I spoke to another couple then headed off the summit, picking my way down the rocks and cairns with more success than in the morning. A mast section doubled as a steady. Back on the new path the sky went dull and a light rain started to fall. I didn’t bother with a coat.
One hour into the journey I came across three people on their way up with two dogs and binoculars. They were unsure whether to continue and in fact they arrived back at the car park a short while after me (15:43). ‘Better luck next time.’ By now the rain was increasing and two people talking in the car park scattered urgently back to their respective vehicles.
ASCENT & DISTANCE:
Ascent 765m (2,510ft) / Distance 2 x 5km (6.3 miles)
Start point at 330m ASL
Drive from/ to hotel: 13min (6 miles)
Walk started: 09:28
GM/CS-005: 11:25 to 14:08
Returned to Car: 15:43
Summit time: 2hrs-43min
Time Car to Car: 6hrs-15min
12 on 2m-FM
SOTA Points: 8
The decision was made for a VHF only activation based on the height of the mountain, the less than reliable weather this week and it being my first time on this summit. However I did manage to carry up 25 Watts and combined with the filter it isn’t that light. When I saw the nature of the summit, whilst I could have done it and have in the past on this type of terrain, erecting a 40m long HF dipole would not have been straightforward.
2m-FM did the trick instead but considering that this mountain overlooks highly populated areas to the south, the band seemed rather quiet. One or two ops, who’s callsigns can be found in my GM/SS logs from back in June, returned to work me today. Every QSO had some form of interest and nothing needed to be rushed. If there was any noise the ancient Pye filter kept it out but the rig did switch off abruptly once when the mic was keyed. I keep forgetting not to talk too loudly into this rig so apologies if I was deviating outside receiver filters.
I remember working Lee M0LLC in Maryport in June but then I was closer and using a beam. The fact that we made it vertical to vertical today was a surprise and Lee, who’s power was 100 W to my 25, gave me the distance as 141 miles, probably based on the LOC I gave him.
The mountain wasn’t especially hard to climb apart from the tedious travel along the summit ridge and it does help that the start point is at 330m or nearly 1,100 feet ASL. They’ve done a great job with the path so £3 to park with the cash going towards its maintenance was well worth it. The car park is in a confined area and necessarily limited in capacity. If you don’t want the trouble of walking the extra distance from the overspill, it would pay to get there early.
Jack 2M0OGM told me about an event on Saturday 30th September from 13:00 to 15:00 BST called ‘145 Alive’ and my son confirmed it, supplying details in a text. It would be interesting to take part from a summit. We hope for good weather.
To ALL STATIONS worked and for the SOTA phone spotting service.
73, John G4YSS
Above: Schiehallion from the approach road
Above: Pay & Display car park for about a dozen cars £3/day
Above: John Muir Trust notice board
Above: Lower part of the path. Straight ahead. Ignore the left fork here
Above: Looking back
Above: The path as it climbs
Above: Coming up to the rock-field
Above: A path-side shelter
Above: Rock-field on summit ridge
Above: Looking back (East) from the summit
Above: In memoriam. Photos at the summit
Above: Scattered ashes possibly?
Above: A cosy corner
Above: Mast and J-Pole for 2m-FM
Above: Fit young couple from Glasgow. An hour and fifty minutes!
Above: QRX for lunch
Above: Brighter later
Above: Back in that pesky rock-field again
Above: Looking back uphill from the large cairn which marks the eastern end of the rock-field
Above: Rock-field notice
Above: An information board, not too far from the car park