G4YSS: GM/CS-015 MEALL nan TARMACHAN,19-06-24

G4YSS: GM/CS-015 MEALL nan TARMACHAN, 19-06-24
Issue-1 (pse rprt errors)

Activation of GM/CS-015-8 MEALL nan TARMACHAN
(Hill of the Ptarmigan)
19th June 2024 using G(M)4YSS
QRO on 2m-FM. Unaccompanied
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)

Moonraker MT270M, 2m/70cm, 25W miniature Mobile Transceiver
PYE Twin Cavity 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

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 was the third 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 on 15th June and the second GM/CS-005 Schiehallion on the 17th. See separate reports.

After putting up with Schiehallion’s low-cloud and cold rain showers two days prior, I was hoping for a better weather forecast for CS15 and one was forthcoming. There would be sufficient time to do this between hotel meals at 8am and 6pm so no need to put myself out. Yes, 90 minutes would be spent driving but if the forecast was right, I could still look forward to an unrushed activation. Just the way I like it in summer.

The start point is the Ben Lawers car park at NN 6085 3772 (430m ASL). It’s pay and display and costs £4 for the day. Divided into bays separated by trees and bushes, it’s extensive but unlike the Schiehallion car park, it doesn’t have toilets. It’s worth taking cash to pay for parking. Using a bank card results in a significant delay for the ticket to emerge due to the communication that the machine must make.

As I stood at the signposted exit of the car park, looking down the CS15 path, the warden who was doing a minor litter pick, saw me looking down. ‘Ah, you’re using a compass.’ ‘Very good; we don’t see many of those around here nowadays.’ I had to admit that it was a GPS. She seemed somewhat disappointed until I assured her that I had a compass with me and was also of the right age to know exactly how to use it.

She pointed out my declared target, mentioning that 5 minutes before I arrived there’d been a substantial cloud on top but it was now almost clear. ‘A good omen at the start of a SOTA day’ said I. She was quite interested when I explained what SOTA stood for, mentioning that she had a friend who was an amateur. ‘I’ll be asking him about that,’ she said before continuing with her clearing up.

I set off walking at 09:49. The path for CS15 leaves the bottom end of the car park at NN 6085 3768. Go S for a few metres then SW for around 50m before turning roughly NW at NN 6081 3763. It’s signposted. Follow the path over a wooden footbridge at NN 6042 3784 and up to a cross a track at NN 6028 3793 after which the path dips down slightly. Then it’s east via NN 5985 3771 and NN 5942 3774 to a sharp right turn NNW at NN 5906 3775 where the ridge is attained.

Follow the broad ridge on grass via NN 5898 3824 to climb the 923m high point ahead at NN 5893 3853. After that one is forced to loose some height in two stages, climbing a ladder stile at NN 5887 3862 before tackling further steep ground via NN 5866 3880. The path actually passes the summit to its north side. Turn left at the ‘T’ junction - NN 5853 3908 and the summit is less than 100m due south. The ascent had taken 1hr-24min and it was now sunny.

Path Repairs:
Just short of the 923m high point on the way up, I came across three men fixing the path. One was digging a deep hole to access a gravelly sub-soil for use as resurfacing. Further up two more were using steel bars and wedges to manhandle a large rock uphill. The helicopter had dropped it on a steep slope downhill from the path. When I asked, they estimated its weight at a couple of hundred kg or more but by the time I came down four hours later they’d got it positioned. They had NTS badges on so I gave them a goodly donation, thanking them for their efforts and continuing laboriously upward.

MEALL nan TARMACHAN - GM/CS-015: 1,044m, 8pts, 11:13 to 14:37. 8C, later 13C. 10mph West wind. Bright overcast with some sun and good views. Vodafone coverage 4G. LOC: IO76UM, WAB: NN53 – No Trig.

The J-Pole was set up on a 2.5m, 2-section mast pushed into the grass roughly 15m N of the summit. Just over the edge was a grassy step to sit on, nicely out of the wind, overlooking, Ben Lawers and Lochan na Lairige.

145.450/ 145.400 FM – 15 QSO’s:
It takes me a while to get myself ready but switching on and going through the channels I heard a QSO taking place on 145.450. It was one-sided but the station I could hear was obviously on a summit somewhere. When the QSO ended, I worked Peter G5AIB/P at 55 both ways. Peter was on a moderately hard-to-get-to summit in the middle of the Lake District that I’d activated a few times, in fact seven times, namely High Raise G/LD-019. I enquired as to his route and the reply was ‘via Sergeant Man from Langdale.’ That’s quite a slog for Peter but his efforts produced a great start for me and as later became apparent, my ‘DX’ of the day.

A self-spot and CQ on S20 brought in Victor GI4ONL, QTH Bushmells and last seen in the car park of Blackpool Rally 2023! We were pleasantly surprised to get reliable signals through both ways and exchanged at 55/ 52 which was good enough to support a brief conversation despite a little QSB.

Following on from Victor was MM7TIR Neil in Longridge using 500mW, 59 both ways; MM7STP Scott in Paisley 59/ 56 and MM0GOG Duncan in Fauldhouse, E. Lothian 59/ 54. At 11:00z GM0EZP Ernie, the second QSO with a station in Paisley, using 5W; 59/ 56.

Tobias 2M0TFF/P called me from Ben More to make it an S2S with GM/SS-001, 59 both ways. I didn’t know it at the time but Tobias was to reappear later from the neighbouring summit GM/SS-002. Quite a full day for him.

Another S2S was provided by Rob GM3YTS/P who I met a few years ago on GM/WS-002 Aonach Beag. We spent a few minutes going over that and Rob’s recommendations of local SOTA summits. Rob asked if I was planning to do the entire ridge. ‘Not likely!’

Steve MM0XPZ called in for the summit and a friendly chat. He had just returned from keep fit to give me ’59 +++ in Greenock.’ Needless to say, Steve was 59 too.

John MM7JMR at Bo’ness, West Lothian spelt out his town for me on request; so as I got the apostrophe in the right place. He mentioned a much longer name which people abbreviate for convenience. It’s close to Edinburgh airport.

Next to call was GM0VEK Peter in Kirkintilloch, a name I have trouble with but one that rolls off the tongue once you get the hang of it; 59/ 55.

Landscape gardener Jason MM3HQC/M was ‘between jobs’ 5 miles from his home in Paisley, IO75TU. A very popular place this Paisley! Jason gave his current QTH as Barrhead. The exchange was 59/ 59 with local QRN but we managed a good conversation nonetheless.

GM8JUY answered my CQ on 145.500 (S20) but when we QSY’d to .400 nothing was audible from me. As I mentioned in the CS5 report, this has happened to me a few times and you can either give up on the QSO or go back for the briefest of exchanges on the calling frequency. A certain degree of mind-reading is required for success but once we found each other back there, we managed a quick report swap of 59/ 41 and I got the name Bob in Dundonald near Troon. Job done and my thanks to Bob.

Ay up! Who’s is this familiar callsign? None other than my old friend Dennis G0ORO at Bolton Low Houses near Wigton, Cumbria. Dennis has supported my 2m-FM G/LD SOTA activations since 2003. Ex Workington, Dennis was running 20 Watts from a TS790A. The reports were 55/ 53 and there was QSB. I thought at the time that Dennis was my furthest contact but Peter G5AIB/P on LD19 was marginally further away.

Because of QSB, the above contact was fairly short but an extended and detailed QSO with GM0KUJ/A followed. This turned out to be Joe who was in N. Glasgow at a temporary location and using a 50W dual-bander to an indoor antenna mounted on an ironing board of all things. Reports were 57 from me; Joe giving me 54 with quite deep QSB.

Joe told me that he’d retired at age 54 and planned to amass the wherewithal for some SOTA activating using a newly acquired Xeigo X6100 coupled to what he described as a lithium phosphate battery of high capacity. I’ve heard of the rig but the battery is new to me. Joe asked questions about the type of battery I was using, aerials etc. When I mentioned 160m SOTA, my pet subject, he sounded incredulous, having never heard of any SOTA activity on that band and asking, ‘How can it be done from a mountain and on what frequencies?’

I gave him 1832 CW, 1846 SSB followed by a brief description of my inefficient 80m dipole loaded with two coils. I also mentioned that it goes a lot better in the dark. When he said he planned to listen on 1846 I had to let him down gently. ‘You might listen a year before you hear any SOTA on there.’ ‘Better to look for alerts and spots.’ This enjoyable QSO lasted 20 minutes, albeit with a few gaps for callers.

The final QSO of the day was with Tobias 2M0TFF/P, who was now QRV from GM/SS-002; the 1,165m high mountain called Stob Binnein, immediately south of Ben More SS-001. After logging 59 both ways I asked him about his route and got some detail back. As I long suspected there is a path that takes you down to valley level around the back of SS-001 without having to re-ascend the latter. When I climbed Ben More, I stuck on the one summit partly due to a lack of knowledge at the time about the return route. ‘Take care on the way down.’ That was it. A CQ on S20 brought nothing further and beside that, my time limit had arrived.

Descent Difficulties:
Descents are usually straightforward. Often you’re going down the same way you came up and so long as you know most of the accidents occur on descent, it’s just a matter of being careful and following the path. Thank goodness this wasn’t an accident as such, but I almost spread-eagled on an obstruction that when I looked behind wasn’t immediately evident. I couldn’t blame the planet or my inattention this time; the sole of my right boot had detached from front to instep and was folding back underneath.

With 95% of the journey ahead of me, this was a problem. I found that if I picked my foot up a lot higher than normal I could manage but the sole was flapping and something needed to be done. Luckily I had with me a couple of metres of nylon string that I used for storm guys on windy summit camps. A few turns of that solved the problem to a degree but three further stops on the way down were required when it came loose. I made it back to the car OK but at a slower pace than normal. That and a chat with the NTS path repair men, meant it was 15:55 before the car park was regained.

Ascent 710m (2,329ft) / Distance 2 x 4km (5 miles)
Start point at 430m ASL

Drive from/ to Loch Tummel Hotel: 43min (23 miles)
Walk started: 09:49
GM/CS-015: 11:13 to 14:37
Returned to Car: 15:55

Walking Times:
Ascent: 1hr-24min
Summit time: 3hrs-24min
Descent: 1hr-18min (boot failure)
Time Car to Car: 6hrs-6min

15 on 2m-FM
SOTA Points: 8

If you’re looking for an 8-point Munro that’s quicker and easier than most to climb, try this one.

Despite the Moonraker M270M mobile rig’s TX cutting out several times on a dull, cold, foggy and drizzly Schiehallion (CS5) two days before, it didn’t miss a beat on CS15 in clear and warm conditions.

My Scarpa Ranger GTX boots failed me on the way down CS15 but I admit I should share the blame. These were the fifth pair of Scarpa Rangers purchased in 2012 and commissioned for use in December 2017. (I still have one more new pair in the loft).

To be fair they failed on Great Shunner Fell (NP6) in snow in March this year, letting in a lot of freezing water. The rand had parted from the uppers in a few places. After drying them out, I pulled the soles off the front halves, glueing them back on with ‘Evil Stink.’ (my name for Evostick and quite appropriate due to the toluene solvent).

I should have taken the word of the man at Timpson’s who told me there was nothing he could do; the problem being all the Nikwax they’d had causing bonding issues. This Yorkshireman thought he knew better and today he was proved wrong!

These were the seventh pair of boots worn out in the pursuit of SOTA since 2002. Not too bad really considering the amount of use. Luckily I half anticipated this and stashed some cheap boots in the car just before driving up to GM. These I’ll try out tomorrow, maybe on GM/CS-080?

This was another good activation; this time with good weather. 15 VHF QSO’s isn’t too bad for around here and almost twice as many as last time. Again, traffic was slow but there was time to chat.

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

73, John G(M)4YSS

Photos: 5-6-9-11-19-21-25-31-34-35-39-46-57-59-63-66-72-80-81-83-86-88-89-97-100

Above: Parking at the Ben Lawers car park. £4 - cash is quicker

Above: Leave the car park at the south exit

Above: Right here (NW)

Above: Cross bridge at NN 6042 3784

Above: Looking across to Ben Lawers

Above: A rusty collapsed mast-like structure

Above: The grassy ridge and 923m high spot ahead

Above: NTS path repair men dealing moving a large rock uphill

Above: Looking ahead from the 923m intermediate hill

Above: The ladder stile and final push

Above: Looking back. Loch Tay

Above: Summit cairn on GM/CS-015

Above: Enjoying the view with no clue that my right boot has just hours to live!

Above: Looking down the ascent path. 923m hill at centre

Above: Activation of GM/CS-015 Meall nan TARMACHAN on 145 MHz-FM. J-Pole/ 25W

Above: A cost spot- out of the wind

Above: Stay still please and smile

Above: Interface failure

Above: Temporary fix

Above: Big rock tamed

Above: Why fly it up when you can get it from underground?

Above: Final few metres of the descent

Final view of GM/CS-015


Its a good job you didn’t decide to do the full Tarmachan ridge whilst you were there!


The normal cause of this is hydrolysis of the boot mid-sole. There’s an article here from Meindl about the problem, its causes etc. https://www.meindl.co.uk/sole-hydrolysis/

I’ve had it happen to my first pair of Meindls that were about 10 years old. They were worn regularly which is one of the ways of prolonging the mid-sole life. It’s happening to an incredibly comfortable pair of training shoes I wear on my (damned torturing) rowing machine. The soles have been reglued many times and if look carefully you can see the surface where the sole glues is failing, not the glue.


Ah, you were quicker than me John, even handicapped by your boot. My excuse (if I needed one) would be that I had a heavy pack on account of doing the Trans-Atlantic S2S event… multiple batteries, linear and other kit.

I really liked this summit and the route up is enjoyable despite the descent on the ascent. It was ideal for a long stay, though setting up away the top was a necessity due it being an extremely popular summit. All in all, even as a Uniques man, I would happily climb this one again.

Interesting to note the car park is now £4, a 33% hike in price. I suppose it has been some years since it was last increased. Makes no difference to me though as I’m a NT member and there’s a reciprocal agreement in place with the NTS. Worth remembering.

73, Gerald


Great report! Nice “dx” on 2m to boot.

I have a couple of metres of duck tape wrapped around my aluminum sigg bottle. Never had to use it, but I started doing this after walking with a stranger one day and then seeing him use some to fix the same problem you had.