G4YSS Activation Report, GM/NS-050, 12-05-19
LITTLE WYVIS GM/NS-050
G(M)4YSS/P using SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P
QRO on 80m-40m-20m. QRP on 6m & 2m
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr) UOS as ‘z’ for radio operations
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Multi-mode 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 (Accidentally left on NS5 in snow at NH 46322 68359 on 06-05-19)
11.1 V (nom), 5 Ah Li-Po 100% discharged
11.1 V (nom), 2.2 Ah Li-Po 60% discharged
J-Pole for 2m FM
IC-E90 6-4-2-70, 5W-FM Handie used for 4m-FM
UV-3R 2m/ 70cm 2W Handie (carried in top pocket)
QRO pack: 10kg (22 pounds) including food, Primaloft jacket and 0.75 litre drinks
This activation was the third and final one of our May 2019 ten-day self-drive holiday based at Shearing’s Highland Hotel, Strathpeffer. Ben Wyvis GM/NS-005 & Meall Doire Faid GM/NS-061 were activated on 6th and 9th of May respectively; both in wintry conditions. These activations are covered by separate reports.
ROUTE NS50: (As Recommended by Barry GM4TOE)
Following a tip from Barry GM4TOE, I decided to try the bulldozed tracks which zig-zag up the west side of the hill.
The drive from Strathpeffer to Barry’s start point (NH 4045 6380) off the A835 Ullapool road, took just 20 minutes to 09:40. I took the right turn at a sign saying ‘Silverbridge Lodge B&B.’ It’s worth clarifying that this is not the Ben Wyvis car park but I did in fact call there first to put a note on the sign regarding my lost Top Band coils in case anyone should find them. Fingers crossed but it’s a long-shot.
Stopping the car near the entrance to Silverbridge Lodge, I came across the tall gate in the deer fence mentioned by Barry. On the gate was a notice with the land owner’s telephone number. ‘Why not?’ I thought. With nothing to lose I phoned the number and asked for permission to drive part way up the track. This was granted but subject to certain stipulations. There are sheep, lambs, deer, horses and a donkey on the land, all of which had to be safeguarded. Andrew Allan, saying that the track was in need of repair, asked that I drive with one wheel on the crown and the other at the side of the track to minimize damage which might encourage erosion. Also not to go so far up the track where wheels might spin, causing damage as the gradient increases. I thanked him, promising to be careful.
Driving the Track:
I was in my XYL’s almost new Peugeot 3008 (2WD) but decided to give it a go. Whether you chose to seek permission and drive part way up like I did or walk all of it, the route is the same. Start at NH 4045 6380 near the entrance to Silverbridge B&B but drive through the adjacent deer gate to the left (open today but permission required). There’s a hairpin right at NH 40397 64116 and a shaky cattle grid. Go SW round to NH 40569 63906. The track curves left (NE) going up to NH 41038 64290; NH 41205 64201 and NH 41225 64289 with a gate to open on the way. The track, still with a good surface apart from transverse drainage gullies, curves gently left at NH 41556 63989, continuing up to a very heavy gate at NH 41831 63980 (377m ASL), about 2.5km and 14 minutes from the start. This is where I deemed it prudent to park on the verge just before the gate and proceed on foot.
Walking the Remainder:
Booting up here, I put the usual destination note in the car, adding that I had permission to be there. Be aware that the steel box-section gate is not only very heavy, it opens with the force of gravity and would certainly take no prisoners if it hit anybody!
I set off on foot at 10:31 satisfied in the knowledge that the vehicle had given me quite a saving in terms of sweat, effort and time. Turning left at the ‘T’ junction just after the gate, I walked to a galvanized steel tubing gate, not quite as heavy, at NH 42028 64239. None of these gates were locked today but this had a fiddly catch so I climbed it. Now comes the steep bit and a hairpin right at NH 42043 64578. After that my decision to park the XYL’s car was confirmed as a good one; I don’t think I would have got the car over the rut at NH 42146 64524 without possibly grounding it. Besides, I’m sure the landowner would not have approved.
The track, steeper now, continues in short zig-zags from arriving at NH 42773 64242 which is just below the summit. It’s now just a matter of following it NE via NH 42863 64369 and NH 42931 64359 to the summit cairn. Yes, it goes all the way! Holding the GPS over the cairn today, the resulting position fix was NH 42963 64468.
Not far from the top, I noticed a roller bearing which had presumably come from a vehicle which had come to grief on the rough and rocky penultimate section.
Alternatively if you don’t like tracks, NS50 can be accessed using the ‘normal’ route from the Ben Wyvis car park. Walk up the path which goes to Ben Wyvis (NS5) via An Cabar but don’t go that far. Where it leaves the trees, turn right and ford the burn. Walk to NS50 initially up the side of a forest plantation (on the right). Having come this way in 2012 when doing NS5 and NS50 in one day, I know that it’s not that good underfoot on the higher reaches.
LITTLE WYVIS, GM/NS-050, 763m, 4 pts, 11:15 to 16:53. 10C, later 13C, overcast then sunny, 2 mph wind increasing to 8mph. LOC: IO77QP. WAB: NH46. No Trig. Good Vodafone signal.
Finding a comfortable position on springy moss with a stone backrest just SE of the cairn at NH 42984 64448, I set up the dipole and 2m vertical.
145.575 FM - 3 QSO’s:
Starting on the local Inverness net frequency and using 500mW, I called Ray GM3PIL to tell him I’d arrived. We were both well over 59 to one another. Ray asked for the planned frequencies and I made a mental note to work him on 40m CW when the time came. Nowadays that’s the lowest band his antennas will cover.
After 10 minutes and raising the power to the maximum of 5W, in came Stewart GM0GTU in the Nairn area about 4 miles north of Ray at Piperhill. It was two for the price of one today as Stewart had a guest in the shack in the form of Arthur. Arthur, who lives close by, worked me on Stewart’s rig as GM0RML/A. Promising to call back here later, a QSY was made to 80m.
3.760 SSB - 11 QSO’s:
With the dipole already erected there was no delay getting onto HF. Stations worked were: GM4WHA Geoff; MM3PDM Peter; GM6ZAK Andy in Cupar; M0BKV Damien; EI2KD Rod; 2E0FEH Karl; MM0XPZ Steve; MS0TA/P op Andy MM0FMF; G4IPB Paul – finally getting a QSO with NS50 having hearing nothing from NS5 or NS61; GB5WAB op Graham G7LMF and EI3GYB Michael in Co. Mayo.
Power was 50 Watts, the session lasted 20 minutes and reports were mostly around the 55 to 57 mark. R4’s came in from Geoff and Paul with an R3 from Graham. I was helped by a timely spot courtesy of G0UUU.
3.557 CW - 4 QSO’s:
This QSY was announced on 3.760 and supported by a self-spot. In the log, over a period of 15 minutes: GM0AXY Ken; EI5HJ Gary (that call sounds really snazzy in CW!); G3XYF John near Driffield and G4OBK Phil in Pickering.
Power was 50 Watts and reports sent out were all 569 to 579 apart from a 529 for Gary. Coming back I got 519 to 559 with one 449. As per 80m-SSB, conditions were not too good due to absorption and QSB affected both sessions to a significant degree.
7.033 CW - 14 QSO’s:
After going on 2m-FM to warn Ray, I called him in first. The log reads: GM3PIL Ray; G0TDM John; F5PLR Didier ; G4OOE Nick in Scarborough; EI7CC Pete in Dublin; DL3HAH Kai; G4WSB Bill; DL4FDM Fritz (AKA HB9CSA); EI2CL Mike; DL8KUD Dieter; GW4VPX Allan - Pencader; M0BKV Damien in Cornwall; ON5XX Joel and SM3EXO Uno.
There was still QSB but due to better propagation than on 80m, power was dropped to 30 Watts. Apart from Ray, just across the firth (2 x 599), outgoing reports were all in the range 559 or 579. As is often the case, I got lower reports back; anything from 419 to 559 but with one 579 from Fritz.
Fritz was a ‘long-time-no-hear’ contact and though my memory seems mostly ‘shot’ these days, I got his name and surprisingly his Swiss callsign immediately in my head without conscious effort. If Fritz was rare, Mike EI2CL has not been logged by me for some time either. It was great to work old friends.
7.160/ 7.180 SSB - 19 QSO’s:
On switching over, I heard Karl 2E0FEH calling ‘CQ contest.’ I was prepared for this. My son Phil had text me to tell me that there was a WAB contest on 40m-SSB between 11am and 3pm local. Karl and I exchanged with 55’s. Karl gave me serial number 31 so he was obviously doing pretty well. Going off to find a spare frequency, I came back to announce it but unfortunately doubled with someone. There was no time to try again as I’d already self spotted so off I went to try my luck on 7.180.
Meeting me on the new frequency were: M0MDA Mick in Leeds; G0HRT Rob (Souhport); G0FVH/P David in SU00; G3FYQ Colin in SE42; G3XYF John in TA06; G0FEX Ken the WAB mag editor for a while longer; GM7VEC/P Stewart in NF97; G0UUU/M Phil with Bev and Roxy near Throxenby Mere, Scarborough; G0RQL Don in Devon; G6NHW Pete near Morecambe Bay.
‘Was that a portable?’ Yes - F/ON4UP/P Peter S2S on FL/NO-080 followed by EA2CKK Elena; G4WSB Bill; GB4ABG op Dave G4IAR; EA2DT Manuel; G0TDM John; GM0TNF/P Michael who was at the Glen Brittle campsite at the foot of the Black Cuillin preparing for the Inn Pin the following day. Michael was using 20 Watts from a Clansman PRC-320 linked to an Arduino push button. I have experience of the Clansman but the other bit of kit is not familiar. Last to call in was MM3PDM Peter in Peterhead.
Outgoing numbers were mostly 55 to 57 with a four 59’s and a 52. I was getting between 57 and 59 much of the time but there were slight difficulties with my 50 Watt signal, namely in Spain and France. It was surprising to see that short skip had returned to 40m and we were later to see it on 20m too.
50.150 SSB – 1 QSO:
This sked was arranged during an unrushed chat on 2m-FM with Ray. On a frequency which just happened to be in the FT817’s memory, I logged GM3PIL at 59 both ways. My power was 500mW into the link dipole configured for the 20m band. I didn’t look at the VSWR but wish I had. It would have been advantageous to know if I’d got a three-lambda-by-two match. Neither of us was capable of 160m so 6m had to substitute. Another band to add to the tally but I now had to swap the fully discharged 5Ah battery for the 2.2Ah reserve.
14.061 CW - 5 QSO’s:
My ‘own’ frequency of 14.052.6 was busy so I had to find an alternative. I have seen 14.061 used in the spots a time or two so after another self spot there followed: HB9BHW Hans; OK2PDT Jan; SA4BLM Lars; OH3GZ Jukka (worked from OV00 in April) and SP9AMH QRP op Mariusz.
Power was meant to be 50 Watts but after working these stations, I noticed that the amp was switched off. That meant I was outputting just 5W. Nevertheless, the chasers didn’t seem to be having too much trouble and reports were 549; 579; 529; 599 and 559 respectively. I sent out 559 to 579 in return.
14.285/ 14.255 SSB - 6 QSO’s:
With the amp switched back on to obtain the full 50 Watt output and remembering to select the correct LPF, I started on 14.285 with a very difficult QSO, namely MW7ABS/P Colin S2S on GW/MW-011, Foel Cwmcerwyn. It’s quick and easy to write the last sentence into my report right now but this QSO was ongoing for between five and ten minutes.
Suspecting that the station was QRP, I was only getting a little further forward with each over. Determined to complete the QSO, more for Colin’s sake than my own, we soldiered on. Just getting his suffix took 90% of the QSO and all I could get out of the ref. was an ‘MW’ followed eventually by an ‘eleven.’ That gave it away of course. I thought I had ‘ABS’ for the suffix so asked for a Roger which I got. So this was a good QSO with GS0OOO/P in the end. Looking at Colin’s log, I’m sad to say that he only managed three QSO’s (all UK) and didn’t get spotted. It also looks like it was his first SOTA activation. I hope he won’t be discouraged and manages to learn Morse, as his QRZ page suggests. It might significantly benefit him going forward. If you read this Colin, thanks for your patience.
After a QSY to 14.255, I went on to log: 2E0ESY Mike; SV1RVJ Kyriakos who reported QRM from another Scottish station who I couldn’t hear at all. Next in was ON5SWA Frans and finally GB2IWM op Dave G3PRI at Duxford Air Museum.
Referring back to an activation last month, Dave and I had a chat whence he told me that he had waited 30 years to work OV00. I was also invited to the radio shack at Duxford and it just so happens that my XYL has bought me a holiday there for my 70th birthday in July. I’m very much looking forward to my visit.
145.575 - 5 QSO’s (14:05z and 15:00z):
Using 500 milliwatts to the vertical J-Pole from the FT817ND, I worked MM0TQH/P at 14:05z, before the 20m-CW session. Rich gave his QTH as ‘South of the Moray Firth’ and I think he was walking near Elgin using a handheld with a rubber duck. Nonetheless, the reports were both 59.
With the power up to 5W I worked four more stations between 15:00z and 15:20z after the 20m session. First to come back to a CQ on S20 (145.500) was MM0RTT/P Rob 5m north of Dundee. I had to ask for a repeat when he gave the name of the village (no more than a hamlet really) as ‘Carrot’ but indeed there is such a place roughly half way between Dundee and Forfar. Carrot is 160km (100 miles) SE of Little Wyvis, not a bad contact with a simple vertical, no doubt helped by Rob’s aerial and the fact that he lives at 170m ASL on a NW facing slope.
Next in was GM7FPN Alistair at Elgin 59+/ 55 and soon after GM3JIJ Jon at Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis who gave my signal via his colinear a surprising 59 report. Jon is a real character and started out by giving me my report in German. I have worked him from three GM/NS summits in the past but not since Foinaven (GM/NS-023) in 2007. It really doesn’t seem that long ago. We talked about our mutual friend Les G4JNW, a Scarborough ambulance driver who moved to Port of Ness on Lewis to pedal a Harris Tweed loom for a few years, then moved back.
Jon told me about Les’ friend on the island - GM7PBB and also mentioned the keeper of the Butt of Lewis lighthouse, WAB and IOTA chaser Don GM0KCY, who I had shown me and my son round his northerly outpost way back in June 1996, even giving me a gallon of Tepol he had spare. He was in his final year before retiring and the light went auto in 1998. Jon reworked me using the callsign GS3JFG “Jolly Fine Gentleman” in honour of Canon Ian McHardy GM3JFG (SK). Anyway, I digress.
Ray G3PIL came in at the end to help ‘tie the ribbons.’ However, prior to going QRT there was just one thing I wanted to try but first I packed up the HF and 2m-FM equipment and got it into the rucksack.
70.450FM - ‘CQ’ 15:30z to 15:35z - Nil:
Using 3 Watts from the IC-E90 to a 2m rubber duck extended for 4m, I called CQ from the summit cairn after self spotting. I wasn’t expecting replies and after 5 minutes when none came, I gave up. It was too short a notice anyway. Ray didn’t have the capability and a band as obscure as 4m this far north would have needed better advertising. Having said that it’s not as rare as you might think now that IC7300’s have it on and all modes too.
After collecting a sparkly rock, I set off down in sunshine. The car was regained at 17:23, a descent time of just 30 min albeit the car was half way up the mountainside of course. I was back at the hotel at 18:00.
2m-FM - 8 (3 sessions)
80m SSB - 11
80m CW - 4
40m CW - 14
40m SSB - 19
6m SSB - 1
20m CW - 5
20m SSB - 6
SOTA Activator points: 4
Left Strathpeffer on A834: 09:20
Arr. Planned Start Point (125m ASL): 09:40
Drove car up Track: 09:51 to 10:05 (NH 4181 6397/ 376m ASL)
Walk started from 376m ASL: 10:31
GM/NS-050: 11:15 to 16:53
Returned to Car: 17:23
Rtn’d Strathpeffer: 17:58
NS50 Ascent/ Distance Walked: 388m (1,273ft)/ 5.5km (3.4 mls)
Walking times: 44min up/ 30min down. Tot: 1hr- 14min (2.8 mph)
Summit time: 5hr- 38min
Gross time Car to Car: 5hr- 52min
(Note-1: If walking the full distance: 639m/ 10.2km)
(Note-2: Ascent & Distance saved by driving part way up: 251m/ 4.7km)
NS50 is the nearest 4-pointer to Strathpeffer. That advantage was further enhanced after gaining permission from the landowner Mr. Andrew Allan, to drive part-way up the track from Silverbridge Lodge B&B. It saved 251m ascent and 4.7km, equating to over an hour of walking time. The track isn’t too rough or steep to where I parked my 2WD but ground-hugging sporty models might have trouble.
After being snowed on, hailed on, rained on and made to suffer electric shocks on Ben Wyvis and Meall Doire Faid (GM/NS-005 & GM/NS-061) earlier in the week, this activation was pure pleasure. The mossy top was a joy to sit on especially with the added facility of a stone back rest and I saw not a soul all day. The weather was quite warm, it being mainly sunny with a light breeze and the views were excellent. Looking over at Ben Wyvis I could still see plenty of snow, under which would be lying my lonely loading coils. It was no use crying over spilt milk on that score so I concentrated on enjoying this the last of three activations of this 10-day break.
As before, midday conditions on 80m were mediocre with a lot of QSB and absorption but the WAB frequency saved the day for the third time this holiday. 80m CW added just four to the tally so we need more CW ops in the UK. If I could have mustered the enthusiasm to get up early and pester the night porter for breakfast at 6am, I might have done better on 80m.
40m was pretty good again with short inter-G skip but QSB was quite deep. Between the two modes 40m brought in thirty three chasers which easily made it the top scorer. Spain was the furthest I worked but they were much weaker than the UK.
Yes I was on 6m, rare for me but it was merely a token line-of-sight contact with Ray GM3PIL using low power.
20m enabled 11 contacts all told, out as far as SV but it was unusual that I could talk to the UK quite easily. Looking at the log it’s clear that skip was short and as if to prove it, there was not a single chaser from North America, though the time was right. With one or two exceptions, the band behaved much like 40m does in sunspot high.
After making more of an effort on 2m-FM than on the previous two activations, I was rewarded with 8 QSO’s and there was enough time for a leisurely chat in most cases. Best distance achieved was MM0RTT/P Rob 5-miles north of Dundee at 160km range with Jon GM3JIJ coming in second at 120km.
GM3PIL? What else can I say but to thank Ray for his support, for keeping me company on all three activations and while driving around. I hope Ray didn’t neglect the shed he’s building too much. I wish him all the best for his up coming heart investigations. It was good to chat to Andy GM0UDL and his XYL Brenda MM3UDL along with all the other stations I worked on 2m throughout the 10 days.
This is about the fifth time we have stayed at the Highland Hotel, Strathpeffer. It’s cheap and very cheerful. The staff are friendly, the cooking’s good, though the evening meals are not large. Normally there’s a ‘sea of grey’ in the dining room but I actually saw some people under 40 this time and a baby of all things. Shearings are gradually selling off their northerly hotels. Dornoch was the first to go with Gairloch not far behind and you wonder if Strathpeffer will be next. We took a ride up to the Dornoch Hotel to enquire and I was recognized at reception. All I can say is that charges have risen significantly.
I started the week lacking enthusiasm and suffering the weather but it ended on a high note.
08:40 Strathpeffer-A834-A835-A9-M9-A720-A68-A697-A1231-A19-A174-A171-Scarborough 17:15. 379 miles. 7hr-40min net; 8hr-35min inc stop.
To ALL STATIONS worked including the WAB chasers on 3.760 and 7.160. Thanks also to: GM3PIL Ray for monitoring 145.575 for much of the day again and for our sked on 6m. To Phil G0UUU/M for spots and QSO. Thanks to Barry GM4TOE for the route suggestion; it was excellent! Finally thanks to the landowner Andrew Allan for allowing vehicular access at short notice.
73, John G4YSS
Using Scarborough Special Events Group Club call GS0OOO/P
(Please report errors)
Above: Turn off the A853 here
Above: Access gate a short distance from the A835 next to the Lodge entrance. Notice with details of the landowner. No permission needed if on foot.
Above: The shaky cattle grid. No problems
Above: Car parked 2.5km up track at NH 41808 63966. Little Wyvis GM/NS-050 in background. Walking from here
Above: Looking back at the heavy gate at NH 4183 6398 from the ‘T’ junction at the start of the forest
Above: Rutted and steep track at NH 42146 64524
Above: Further up the track
Above: Summit cairn on Little Wyvis GM/NS-050 with Ben Wyvis GM/NS-005 in the background
Above: Activation of Little Wyvis GM/NS-050 on HF & VHF looking west
Above: Activation of Little Wyvis GM/NS-050 on HF & VHF looking NE
Above: Little Wyvis flora. Pleasant to sit on
Above: Heading down. Just off the summit
Above: Gate at NH 4203 6424 with difficult catch
Above: The lower reaches of the track. Mind the animals
Above: Tame horses…
…and a deer
Above: Almost back to the road