G4YSS Activation Report, GM/NS-005, 06-05-19
Issue-2 - Spell Checked)
BEN WYVIS (Glas Leathad Mor) GM/NS-005
G(M)4YSS/P using SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P
HF QRO on 80m-40m & 2m-FM QRP
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr UOS)
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier (80 thru’ 10 with 160m capability)
Link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20m on a 5m CFC mast with 1m end-sticks
Loading coils for 160m (not used but accidentally left on the summit at NH 46322 68359)
One 11.1 V (nom), 5 Ah Li-Po battery discharged to 11.4V (no reserve)
J-Pole for 2m FM (not used)
UV-5R 2m/ 70cm 5W Handie (not used)
UV-3R 2m/ 70cm 2W Handie (carried in top pocket)
QRO pack: 10kg (22 pounds) including food, Primaloft jacket, emerg. bothy bag and 0.75 litre drinks
This activation was part of our May 2019 ten-day self-drive holiday based at Shearing’s Highland Hotel, Strathpeffer. Just like our 4-day break in G/LD during March, this holiday came after a sustained period of good and settled weather. In LD high wind-speeds were the problem. Here it’s just been cold. Struggling to get into double figures in degrees C.
I had a few summits in mind but they were all high ones. One was ‘just a dream’ and not likely to be activated by me especially at my current level of fitness, so with enthusiasm on the wain it was back to the familiar Munro behind the hotel, just 20 minutes drive away. I wouldn’t lose sleep over that one and it could be done between hotel meals. Ben Wyvis shouldn’t be underestimated however and I think I was perhaps guilty of doing just that today.
The mountain weather forecast was for a moderate wind, temperature close to zero and snow or hail showers. I knew there would be lying snow but there was no way of knowing how much and whether it would impede progress.
The drive to the Ben Wyvis car park (NH 4104 6713) on the A835 Ullapool road, took just 20 minutes to 09:00 and I was able to get walking at 09:14. Usually I’m there nearer to six am than to nine so there were several cars in the car park on this occasion, a fact that boosted my confidence regarding the weather.
From the start at NH 4104 6713 the path parallel’s the road NE for about 300m before passing over a footbridge and through a gated deer fence at NH 4123 6734. This is where the climbing begins as you pass through a forested area, crossing over a forest track at NH 4172 6720* then on via NH 4223 6696 and NH 4313 6652 beside a stream, at which point the trees are left behind.
((*Note: After the activation I discovered that it is possible to take a car up to this crossing point at 213m ASL. Doing that would save 133m of ascent and 2 x 1km of walking. Small but a positive saving if you’re in a hurry and I didn’t see any restriction notices. If you want to do this, leave the A835 at NH 4033 6609, drive up the forest track then fork left down the hill at NH 4159 6678 to park at NH 4172 6720. It’s OK in an ordinary car; not too steep or rough. Just an idea?))
From there it’s simple to follow up the west ridge of An Cabar on a steep but well surfaced zig-zag path via NH 4358 6670 and NH 4398 6665; finally arriving at the 946m minor summit.
The path splits at NH 4435 6651; where I opt for the left turn and the gradient finally eases at NH 4460 6655. I didn’t climb all of it today (see below) but after An Cabar it’s just a matter of walking along the undulating grassy ridge on a stony path to the 1,046m high point called Glas Leathad Mor, which was attained by 11:31. The trig point was GPS’d at NH 46299 68374 back in 2012 and a low shelter surrounds it. Ascent time was 2hr-17min - 9 minutes slower than last year but was that down to the snow conditions or a lack of fitness? I certainly didn’t feel that good physically or mentally.
If you want to skirt An Cabar and the 980m Carn a’ Chaptein minor summit like I did today, you can do so on a path that takes you past them on their western flanks. Bear left off the path 300m before An Cabar at NH 4483 6655. Walk generally NE via NH 4491 6662; NH 4504 6673 to NH 4515 6687. That gets you past An Cabar. If you want to skirt Carn a’ Chaptein too, continue via NH 4519 6708, NH 4534 6739 and meet the summit path at NH 4542 6742. After describing that I must say that it’s probably not worth the trouble over snow and I think it actually delayed me due to lack of grip, whereas much of the summit ridge had been swept clean by the wind.
BEN WYVIS, GM/NS-005, 1,046m (3,433ft) 8 pts, 11:31 to 14:44. Wind 15mph at start but dropping between snow a hail showers. 40m visibility in showers, otherwise clear. Temp 0 deg C on arrival. Occasional sunshine. Big snow cornice along the eastern edge. LOC: IO77RQ, WAB: NH46, Trig: TP-1312. Good Vodafone signal.
When I arrived fine hail was falling. Well not so much falling as being blown into me by the wind. First job was to get the primaloft jacket on. Discounting the wall surrounding the trig point in deference to other walkers, I looked over the east (lee) side hoping to find some shelter but there was just a deep snow cornice. I thought of trying to dig into it but discounted that idea because of the possible danger.
Going back in the direction of the trig point, I tried to guess where the deepest snow would be in the extensive drift. Digging with my mittened hands at NH 46322 68359, I managed to get down about 1 foot (30cm) to grass level. It wouldn’t afford much shelter but it would have to do. I had with me an umbrella, which would help but basically I would be sitting in the open and suffering a significant wind-chill. It’s been like this countless times in the past but you get to a certain age and you don’t want it anymore – bad mood. With plenty of snow to stick the supports into, at least getting the dipole up was easy – better mood. The 160m loading coils would not be needed today so I put then into a footprint in their bag along with a toffee crisp. That would be the last I saw of them.
3.760 SSB - 12 QSO’s:
This was the first alerted frequency but the alert was a late one. On switching on I heard a QSO, one side of which was Karl 2E0FEH. Someone was imploring him, ‘Please, my report?’ It was plain to see that band conditions were none too good but in the end Karl got the message after which a CQ was put out by GM8OEG/P. This was Andy on HEMA GM/HES-049/ WAB NO25 and trig TP-3861. We exchanged 57 reports but there was significant QSB. We have worked S2S twice before.
When it comes to activating in GM, which is known for its sometimes brutal weather, Andy knows the score and was sympathetic to my circumstances. The result was that he immediately gave me the frequency! In fact we kind of shared it for the next half hour or so, having brief chats between chaser QSO’s. He teased me by telling me how warm his summit was compared to mine but then he had to eat his words when the snow came. Because of Andy’s assistance and the fact that chasers had already been gathered, it was easier to log some QSO’s as follows:
GI0AZA Esther in Londonderry; 2E0FEH Karl in Saltash; G0VWP Terry in York; GM4EVS Dave near Perth (NO12); EI3GYB Michael in Co. Mayo; G4AFI Andy & M7AFI Nickie in Hants; GM3YTS Rob in Dunblane; MM0XPZ Steve in Greenock; MM3BCA Angus on South Uist and GM6ZAK Andy in Cupar (Fife).
Reports were non too sparkling and only two 59’s went out. The responses to my 50 Watts were mixed and ranged from 31 up to 57. Six were R3 or R4 so for these I counted up the reports. QSB was deep at times and Esther reported some QRM that I couldn’t hear. Andy came in to help with Karl’s QSO, telling him he’d got the report wrong but it was correct in the end (51).
Every so often the sky would go dark grey and I would get plastered with snow or hail. The hail caused severe static crackle but for some reason that never lasted more than a few seconds. We had a final chat at the end and Andy offered to provide me with another spot for 3.557-CW. It was readily accepted as I didn’t yet know if the phone signal was good enough but unfortunately Andy didn’t have a CW key with him.
3.557 CW - 1 QSO:
I was hoping that my friend Roy G4SSH in Scarborough might see this spot. No sign of Roy but I did get an immediate call from EI5HJ (Gary in Co. Thiobraid Árann) - the large number of dots in this callsign ‘throwing me’ at first. 519/ 529 was the exchange. Next I heard G0NES call but despite several attempts to bring Don in, no QSO ensued. After a few more CQ’s I gave up. I would have tried harder normally but I was not having a good day and my heart just wasn’t in it. Once or twice during this session the sun came out and at one point it almost felt warm.
145.575 FM – 1 QSO:
I meant to do this at the start or whilst walking along the summit ridge but it was snowing then. With just the two-Watt handheld, I called Ray GM3PIL at Piperhill near Nairn on the Inverness frequency and he came straight back. I got a 59 plus 60dB report for this line-of-sight contact but he might have had a pre-amp on. The intention was to erect the J-Pole and try further afield but that was just another thing that went out of the window, mainly because of the weather.
7.032.5 CW - 12 QSO’s:
A self spot helped this along but there was a short delay opening the dipole links and since the wind had dropped at this time, adding some tension. Judging by the squeaks and question marks, at least the chasers were there waiting when I got back.
First in was G3VXJ Bob from Worthing, followed by our Scarborough friend Nick G4OOE. After these two the following stations called in over the next 25 minutes: PA0SKP Sake; G0FVH David (Poole); ON4FI Karel; G0TDM John in Penrith; PA0INA Frans; IK2LEY Fabio; PA0B Rob; SM4CJM? Hans?; DL/SP8RHP Rob and what turned out to be the final QSO of the day, SM6CNX Dan.
Outgoing reports were, 599, 579 or 559 with similar coming back apart from Fabio 339. The session, completed in the 25 minutes coming up to 13:00z, used 50 Watts at first and 30 Watts later.
A big hail shower started towards the end of this and almost wiped me off the air. This was partly due to static but mostly it was the pounding of ice on the umbrella which didn’t allow me to hear my own sidetone with the AF gain fully up. I know I was sending rubbish as I was going almost exclusively on timing and memory. From what little I did hear, it was evident I couldn’t even send ‘Pse QRX – hail.’
Fortunately the chasers were mostly louder than my sidetone except for DL/ SP8RHP – Rob who was about the same level. I also had to hold onto the shaft of the brolly and other things as the wind increased. Quite soon the ‘polystyrene insulation’ was penetrating everything and covering other essential gear. I think this was when my 160m coils were hidden never to be retrieved. That was a sad loss.
7.170 SSB - Nil:
What a mix up this was. I tried to self spot the QSY during all the goings on with the hail storm. It wasn’t easy. Fold up the log and wedge it. Gloves and sunglasses off, reading specs on, find the phone etc. I find that when I send a spot, the mode is in danger of being incorrect so that it might say, ‘3.557-FM’ for instance. The mode gets changed unseen because I have to touch the screen to scroll up to check the top part of the spot. The irony of this now is that when I do check the spot before pressing send, the mode gets priority attention.
I was heading for 7.160 but someone was calling CQ there (non WAB). I went 10 up and checked it was clear. Strangely someone came right back and said, ‘Yes it’s clear, go ahead’ which I thought a bit odd. Anyway the frequency went out wrong as 7.070 instead of 7.170. My son Phil G0UUU saw this and knowing I would never use 7.070, spotted the correction as 7.170 within 4 minutes. I was there calling CQ until just after this when I decided I’d had about enough. The rig had cut out and I had no spare battery so I continued with lower power. The racket on the umbrella canopy was deafening and I had a headache. My feet were aching with cold, there was hail everywhere and the rig, perched on top of the rucksack, was taking some of it. In years gone by I would have got through this and continued either by calling on HF with 5 Watts or erecting the 2m-FM vertical but nowadays discomfort is less well tolerated. To cap it all, the last thing I heard before switching off was a net starting up. I think it was RNARS. I confess I packed up and went down having only stayed three hours, a shorter time than I’m used to. At least the precipitation receded just after that.
I thought I’d put the 160m coils into the rucksack after setting up but I now remember changing my mind and putting them in a footprint. Covered over with fresh snow and hail, I’m afraid that’s where they stayed so if anybody finds them in a bag at NH 46322 68359 they’ll know who’s they are.
Walking off I reached into my top pocket for the handheld to call Ray GM3PIL. It was in a top pocket alright but not the one I was wearing. I didn’t feel as if I had the energy to pause the descent, pull the mountain jacket out of the rucksack and retrieve the rig so I had to do without the company. Instead I switched on the MP3 player that had helped take my mind off the climb in the morning but I got one song followed by a flat battery. This really wasn’t my day.
There was no searching the rocks for Garnets on this occasion, they were mostly all under snow. I stopped to photograph some mica-bespeckled ones that were sticking up into sunshine and some nice looking cornices around NH 461 680, the same as last year. It was good to get moving again and after a mile or so, I got my feet back. I didn’t use all of the skirt-path which had delayed me on the way up, instead just doing the final section that cuts off An Cabar.
It was wise to take care on steeper ground after An Cabar and the snow cover relented lower down by the steps. After that it’s gravel paths and a pleasant walk alongside the burn. The last 75% of the walk down was in fine snowfall which turned to light drizzle below about 1000 feet. No coat was needed but it got heavier on the last section which parallels the road. It seemed that Ben Wyvis was determined to have the last word today.
The car park was regained at 16:29, a descent time of 1hr-45min. An early termination had produced some extra time so the drive back to Strathpeffer was delayed in favour of exploring the forest track detailed in the route section above. After driving up the track, I got back to the hotel at about 17:40.
12 on 80m-SSB
1 on 80m-CW
12 on 40m-CW
0 on 40m-SSB
1 on 2m-FM
SOTA Activator points: 8
Left Strathpeffer: 08:40
Arrived Ben Wyvis Car Park: 09:00
Walk started: 09:14
GM/NS-005: 11:31 to 14:44
Returned Ben Wyvis Car Park: 16:29
Explored forest track: 17:00
Back to Strathpeffer: 17:40
Ascent & Distance Walked: 935m (3,068ft) / 14.9km (9.3 miles)
Walking time: 4hr-2 min (2.3mph)
Summit time: 3hr-13 min
Gross time Car to Car: 7hr-15 min
I like Ben Wyvis but it didn’t especially like me today. I saw 20 people or more in the day but nobody stayed at the summit for long. In the worst of the weather, some were gone inside 2 minutes. As activations go I have seen worse, much worse but it would seem my enthusiasm has gradually receded over the years, along with my tolerance to discomfort.
I envy the average peak bagger who can touch the trig and start down if they so wish. Yes, we sweat and gasp all the way up but the hardest part of SOTA to varying degrees can be the summit stay. Great on a warm summer’s day of course. During one of 80m exchanges, Andy GM8OEG and I agreed that the worst thing about the weather is usually the wind which has the ability to carry away heat sometimes at an alarming rate.
Today, sitting in my hole in the snow, I was left feeling a bit miffed about the lack of three extra points but I don’t think my heart was in this from the beginning. That and the loss of my precious Top Band coils ‘put the tin hat on it’ as they say. The really sad thing is that I had no plans for 160m operation but nonetheless forgot to take the coils out of the rucksack at the hotel. Fortunately I have all the parts and info to knock up some replacements.
As expected, noon-time 80m band conditions were pretty poor with a lot of QSB and absorption but 50 Watts helps a little, even though it only adds about one and a half ‘S’ points at the chaser end when compared with the FT817’s five Watt output. Once again the WAB frequency made a good contribution to the log after Andy had warmed it up. The 80m CW turnout was a bit disappointing and I would have had two contacts on there if I’d been able to get through Don’s urban noise at G0NES.
40m CW was better than expected but I’m sorry about the duff SSB spot from me. Regrettably, I never did get onto 20m CW.
As for 2m-FM, Ray GM3PIL tells me that many of the 145.575 crowd have now gone DMR. However, I’m sure that if I’d made the effort I might have got one or two more in the VHF log, even if that had meant re-locating to the trig point to open up possibilities to the west.
To ALL STATIONS worked. Thanks also to: GM3PIL Ray for monitoring 145.575 for much of the day. To Andy GM8OEG for his spotting assistance and generosity with the frequency. To the other spotter Phil G0UUU, listening on a web receiver.
73, John G4YSS
Using Scarborough Special Events Group Club call GS0OOO/P
(Please report errors)
Above: Ben Wyvis car park
Above: Path exiting Ben Wyvis car park
Above: Walkers making for Little Wyvis (NS50)
Above: Steps and the start of the snow
Above: An Cabar summit 300m ahead. Turn left to skirt it.
Above: An Cabar skirt path
Above: An Cabar skirt path looking back
Above: View down the west flank
Above: Summit ridge path. Ben Wyvis ahead
Above: Two figures leaving the summit
Above: Ben Wyvis GM/NS-005 & trig TP-1312 at 11:31 on 6th May 2019
Above: GM/NS-005 activation (dipole)
Above: View NE
Above: View north
Above: Activation position
Above: Cowering from the weather NS5
Above: Shower of fine snow or hail
Above: Most things look better in sunshine
Above: Walking off. Eastern aspect of the mountain
Above: In for a shower?
Above: Descending An Cabar
Above: Overlooking Little Wyvis GM/NS-050 from An Cabar’s west ridge
Above: Large rock at NH 44188 66604 and the remainder of the way down