G4YSS:GM/CS-107 Drumcroy Hill 24-09-23

G4YSS: GM/CS-107 DRUMCROY HILL, 24-09-23
Iss-1 (pse rprt errors)

Activation of DRUMCROY HILL GM/CS-107-2
24th September 2023 using G(M)4YSS. Unaccompanied
HF - QRO on 40m & 20m CW-SSB & 80m SSB
QRP on 2m-FM (Nil QSO’s)
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)

This was the first activation opportunity in our nine-night break at Lochs and Glens Loch Tummel Hotel from 23rd September to 2nd October 2023. Surprisingly, this hill hasn’t been activated in the past five years so it was due a visit.

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier 80-10m with 160m capability
Link dipole for 80m thru’ 20m on a 5m CFC (carbon fibre composite)/ alloy mast
1m CFC end-sticks
5 Ah Li-Po battery
J-Pole for 2m FM (no QSO’s)

IC-E90, 4-band, 5W VHF H/H with extendable 2m set-top helical for 4m FM (not used)
QRO pack: 9.7kg (21.4 pounds) including umbrella, Primaloft jacket, 0.25 litre drinks.

This was my first outing of this Autumn’s trip to GM/CS. My XYL and I normally have a GM holiday in early September but due to a 70th Birthday party and several funerals we had to attend, it was put back to the end of the month.

All of the weather forecasts, Met Office, BBC or MWIS, made for depressing reading. The whole week looked like a disaster with not a rain-free day. Usually it’s rotten until the morning you have to drive home but not even that looked dry. Of course things can change but after a GM/SS heatwave and 10,000 feet of great SOTA in June, this was hard to take. Not that I like heat-waves either but at least they are reliable and can be dealt with.

I don’t usually activate the day after driving up from Scarborough but after a late breakfast I spotted an opportunity. There was a weather window of sorts for four or five hours in the middle of the day. After some dithering on my part my XYL supplied a little encouragement.

I found a useful report on the Walk Highlands website by ‘McMole.’ It is very comprehensive and shows the route via a series of photos as well as an accurate description. Written in early 2020 and topical, it features a photo of a covid-19 virus wedged in a gate hinge, which he came across on the way up.

From the description, a map that is contained in the report and the OS 25k map, I made a GPS route. Based on the information above and my visit today, the following is my experience. My start time from where the track leaves the road was 11:16.

Park beside the B847 at the southern boundary of Trinafour immediately opposite the phone kiosk and a house called Croftnagowan. There is a gravelled pull-off for four cars at NN 7239 6410 (264m ASL). Walk 160m uphill (south along the road) to NN 7232 6395. Turn left ESE here up the stony/ grassy track towards Drumcroy Hill to quickly meet a locked gate at NN 7238 6396. Go through the pedestrian gate to its left and carry on up the winding track as far as a second locked gate at NN 7337 6367. It’s easy to climb the slats in the fence to the left of this gate; the intention I think, to continue on a new grassy track which is not that well defined.

(An alternative is apparently to turn right just before the gate and follow the boundary fence up to NN 733631 to skirt the forest, turning left towards the summit after that. This is two sides of a triangle instead of the hypotenuse but I can’t vouch for it).

I could describe the route through the forest that I used or I could simply say, ‘Find your own way through the well-spaced forest up to the summit’ Either way there are no useful paths that I could find and quite a few fallen trees which have to be got over or around. Just for guidance I walked this upper section via the following waypoints: NN 7350 6364 – turned right (up) via NN 7347 6354; NN 7365 6342; NN 7377 6333; NN 7375 6322 and NN 7393 6312 to the summit. Being over steep, tussocky ground in (albeit well separated) trees, none of this is particularly easy but at least it’s not too far.

The summit proper is in a confused area of either fallen trees (north of a dilapidated wall) or felled tree stumps (south of the wall). I didn’t activate there but instead sat about 100m west by the wall at NN 7408 6298. Here there was/ is a convenient flat stone to use as a seat. Ascent is 248m and the route distance one-way is around 3km.

As I was leaving the car a couple turned up. Having just finished their walk with two dogs, they were heading into Croftnagowan so as well as making friends we had a chat about my SOTA intentions and amateur radio, which they seemed to know something about. They were also able to confirm some of the details of the route up the hill and supplied me with a few more. I assume that the ‘covid-19 virus’ which lives up the hill really belongs to this couple and their dogs. A dog toy.

I set off under an umbrella but after being on the summit a few minutes, the drizzle considerately stopped for the duration of the activation. I was surprised to find the ‘Covid-19 virus’ by the second gate on the way up. It was lying in the grass so I returned it to its former place in the gate hinge as per the McMole report.

DRUMCROY HILL - GM/CS-107: 512m, 2pts, 12:07 to 15:14. 12C. 10 to 15 mph southerly wind. Dull overcast with minor light drizzle at first then fine. Rained on the way up and on the descent. Very little low-cloud. Vodafone coverage 4G. LOC: IO76XR, WAB: NN76 – No Trig.

Setting Up:
I set up the dipole parallel with the wall and on its north side. For VHF later on, the intention was to move up to the top but when it came to it I didn’t bother.

There were no pre-alerts for this activation, instead I was gambling on phone coverage and self-spotting. A gamble that paid off in this instance. All QSY’s were thus pre-announced making the activation run smoothly.

7.032 CW - 9 QSO’s:
In the spot notes I claimed 30W to a dipole. After switching off the amp for a VSWR check, I forgot to switch it back on again! Therefore power throughout this session (only) was just 5W QRP. The following stations were worked:

ON7GO Phil - Marke; G3VXJ Bob - Worthing; G0EVV David - Morpeth; G4OOE fellow SARS member Nick in Scarborough; M0CQE Paul - Oldham; G4FGJ Gordon - Biggleswade; M7TSM Alan - Claverham; MW0OFA Frank in Pembrokeshire and HB9CBR/P Bruno S2S HB/BE-171.

Reports going out were all 599 apart from the S2S 339/ 449. Responses to my too late-discovered 5 Watts ranged from 559 to 599 with a 339 and a 449. The session lasted 13 minutes.

7.160 SSB (WAB frequency) - 12 QSO’s:
Another self-spot was noticed by the following stations: G0FEX Ken in Leicester; 2E0FEH Karl in Saltash; GM4WHA Geoff - Annan; M0ICR Carl - Three Rivers; G4IAR Dave - Loughborough; G8VNW Nick - Threshfield; 2E0XLG/P Chris – SD86/ IO84VB; M0HEM John in Dagenham; MM3PDM Peter in Peterhead; G0FVH David - Poole; G6TSJ Phill – Buckingham and GW3YQP Chris - Conway.

Outgoing reports were all 57 or 59. Responses to my 50 Watt signal ranged from 55 to 59 with two 33’s and 25 minutes passing.

14.059 CW - 5 QSO’s:
I was half expecting DX but none came. However this session was saved by the following:

DL2DXA Bernd in Dresden; EA2DT Manuel - Pamplona; IU1KGS Carlo – JN44KK; EA2WX/P Marcial S2S EA1/BU-016 and EW1CY/QRP Mihail – Minsk.

Just 11 minutes for this one. Power was 50W.

14.310 SSB - 13 QSO’s:
This session opened with an S2S and there were soon more of those in the log:

DM1DF/P Dan S2S DM/BM-161; DD0VE Ralf – Kurort Hartha; SP6KEP Mariusz - Opole; F/HB9EAJ/P Stephan S2S FL/VO-107; OH3GZ Jukka - Toivakka; DB7MM/P Mike S2S DM/BM-161; DP375WF/P Chris celebrating 375 years of Westphalia; OK1SDE Borek - Liberek; SP9AMH Mariusz – QRP in Tychy; S57ILF Franci - Jesenice; SA7BXW Willem - Gatan; DL8FQ Rolf – Homburg (‘not Hamburg’) and IZ0ARL Murizio in Rome.

20m SSB took half an hour with 50 Watts. Reports sent: Mostly 59 with a few at 55 to 57. Received: 55 to 59 with a 52 from Rome.

3.760 SSB (WAB frequency) - 2 QSO’s
When 20m dried up I had to think what to do next, if anything as the sky wasn’t looking much better. Why not try 80m? It’s not likely to be up to much at this time of day but I might get Ken and Christine in Edinburgh. I tried a CQ. Nothing but then a self-spot seemed to do the trick.

GM7EEY came booming in so I gave him 59. After suffering neck pain looking at the meter I realised he was barely moving it but the audio was loud and punchy. Well I couldn’t take back my RS. For one thing I was disappearing into the noise with him but he gave me 55 in the clear and promised to come back later if I came up in QSB. This he did but soon lost me again.

For the final QSO I logged an unexpected Michael EI3GYB in Co. Mayo, Western Ireland. The exchange was 55/ 52 but Michael, who reported ‘bucketing rain,’ appeared to hear every word so his noise floor must be very low – like I was enjoying on my summit.

Further CQ’s brought nothing so I announced to no one in particular a QSY to 2-FM in 10 minutes. With that the HF went into the rucksack and up went the J-Pole on a 4m mast.

145.500/ 145.400 FM: Nil:
A self-spot and CQ’s produced nil results and all other channels were dead also. With 5W to a vertical on this low summit this outcome might have been expected but I had to at least try.

Just after leaving it started to drizzle and by half way down it was light rain. I cared not. I couldn’t have got any wetter from the knees down due to all the long grass and my top half was being looked after by the brolly. I felt a bit lost going through the forest but the GPS track, gathered on ascent, helped me a good deal. Time at the car was 15:54, a descent time of 40 minutes. Just after arriving back at the hotel – a 13 minute drive of six miles, it started really tipping it down. A lucky escape!

Ascent 248m (814ft) / Distance 2 x 3 km (3.8 miles)
Start point at 264m ASL

Drive from/ to hotel: 13min (6 miles)
Walk started: 11:16
GM/CS-107: 12:07 to 15:14
Returned to Car: 15:54

Walking times:
Ascent: 51min
Summit time: 3hrs-21min
Descent: 40min
Time Car to Car: 4hrs-38min

9 on 7.032 CW
12 on 7.160 SSB
5 on 14.059 CW
13 on 14.310 SSB
2 on 3.760 SSB
0 on 145 FM

It was lucky that I had a route and all the prep for this one. It proved to be quite easy and the WX was not unkind, at least for the activation. It was near to the hotel too.

40m was the day’s winner with 21 QSO’s in the two modes. Apart from the G stations on 40m, 20m sounded much the same in that there was no DX. It just got me a bit further into Europe.

Like so many times in the past, the WAB frequencies of 7.160 and 3.760 SSB were employed to advantage though there wasn’t a WAB net running on either. I’m told that they tend to avoid weekends due to contests and GB stations etc.

There were several S2S contacts that I tried to give priority to. However one was very weak so I’m sorry he had to wait much longer than he deserved for a QSO. Sometimes when you think you’ve heard something, you have actually heard something but this sounded like a faraway QSO going on in the back of the box which I never heard well enough to ‘twig’ it was a summit. Amongst the strong stations calling it can be difficult.

My 5W of FM from 512m ASL did not add to the QSO tally. I was a few metres down below summit height which was to the east of me so I tried to compensate by using a 4m mast consisting of three sections of my HF mast plus an adaptor. The tip of the j-pole would be more than 5m AGL which can’t have been far off summit height.

To ALL STATIONS worked and for the SOTA phone spotting service. I hope there will be more activity but the WX is still looking uncooperative. Thanks to Walk Highlands and McMole for route guidance.

73, John G4YSS

Photos: 1-3-5-6-8-10-12-13-16-17-21-24-25-30-33-36-38-39

Above: Looking back to the parking place from the first gate on the track

Above: Notice on the first gate on the track

Above: Follow the track up

Above: The second gate on the track which leads into the forest

Above: Climbing the slats at the second gate

Above: The ‘Covid-19 virus’

Above: The track after the second gate is overgrown. It can only take you a short distance before you have to turn right to go up towards the summit

Above: Looking back after the right turn off the track

Above: Random obstacles further up

Above: Having reached the top wall where I would activate, this is the view towards the summit about 90m away.

Above: Dipole up and ready

Above: Activation of GM/CS-107 on 40-20-80m

Above: FT817ND & MX-P50M amplifier

Above: Looking SW to Dunalastair Reservoir

Above: Depressing sky and the same for my efforts on 2m-FM. Time to go!

Above: The descent. Back at gate-2 after some tricky nav in the forest

Above: Looking down towards the parking place

Above: Space for four cars


I hope you went and had a look at the seriously impressive Errochty Dam, you get some good views from the road up from Trinafour over the moors to Dalnacardoch Lodge on the A9.


Many thanks for another very detailed report and some excellent photos John. The summit looks better than I imagined it to be. This one is on my “return to business” list which covers those summits that I have earmarked for when Paul G4MD and myself get back up to Scotland as a team. Your route details will be most helpful.

73, Gerald

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