G4YSS: GM/NS-069 No Access; GM/NS-014 Act'n,10-09-14

G4YSS: Activation of GM/NS-014 (Alt’v. Target) 10-09-14.
Report 4 of 7 in 2014 G4YSS GM/NS series. Draft-1

AM: BEN ARMINE - GM/NS-069 Cancelled due to Deer Stalking.
PM: BEN KLIBRECK - GM/NS-014 - 6 points.

GM4YSS/P and SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P.
HF QRO/ VHF QRP; 74 QSO’s on 160m; 40m; 30m and 2m-FM.
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as z).

Fourth SOTA in the series of GM/NS-114; NS-101; NS-074; NS-014; NS-111; NS-037 & NS-020 during 10 night stay in the Dornoch Hotel 5th to 15th September 2014. (See other reports).

GENERAL DATA for this series of activations:
7 SOTA’s each on 7 separate days including:
All-time new SOTA’s: 4
Munros: 2
Total Ascent: 4,560m (14,960ft).
Total Distance Walked: 82km (51 miles)
Total Activator Points: 24.
Total QSO’s: 512.

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver.
SainSonic MX-P50A, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier (designed for FT817).
Link dipole for 80m thru 20m on a 5m CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
Home-Brew tunable loading coils for 160m.
6 Ah Li-Po battery (no reserve).
Vertical J-Pole for 2m FM.
Reserve 2m-FM/ PMR rig: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHFM/ UHFM, 5oz H/H (Like UV-3R).
QRO pack: 9.9kg (21.8 pounds) including food, light pullover & 1.25 litre drinks.

This expedition was the fourth during a 10-night self-drive/ 7-SOTA holiday at the Dornoch Hotel from 5th to 15th of September 2014. The intended target was GM/NS-069 Ben Armine but it was not to be. SOTA`s worked in chronological order and separately reported were as follows: GM/NS-114 Meall Dheirgidh; NS-101 Carn Garbh; NS-074 Beinn Tharsuinn; NS-014 Ben Klibreck; NS-111 Maovally; NS-037 Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill & NS-020 Ben Hope.

Before Ben Klibreck is even mentioned I should explain why that particular Munro had to be crammed into an afternoon.

Ben Armine GM/NS-069 was the intended target for today. I have had my beady eye on it for a couple of years now but the distances involved - something like 40km round trip rather put me off. A glance at the 25k map-443 shows a long track which penetrates the area from the east and a bike seems to suggest itself. To cut a long story short, I went to great efforts to try to make this happen including an abortive attempt to mount my mountain bike on the XYL’s car roof which wasted 10 hours. I made the hardware to mount it onto the M6 threads which take a roof bar alright but realized that I could never single-handedly put it on or take it off without damaging the car. Furthermore, no boot lid rack is available for a 2012 Citreon C4 Picasso.

My answer to that was to buy a folding bike for £40 out of the small ads in the Scarborough News. This was in new condition and I was pretty pleased with my purchase. It was small wheeled and not ideal for tracks but it would be ten times better than walking 2 x 14km and it easily fitted in the boot of the car. What I should have done in addition was to check up on deer stalking.

I left the hotel for the Ben Armine start point as quickly after first breakfast as possible; getting away at 08:20 and arriving at NC 80140 33010 at around 09:35. The subject track looked to have an above average surface of compacted sand. A notice at its end stated that the road was private but did not add that vehicles could not proceed. Emboldened by this apparent omission, I set off to drive down the track to see what would happen but managed less than a mile, stopping at Loch Badanloch at NC 78803 32829 where some rowing boats were hauled up. Here there was an unambiguous notice expressing vehicular prohibition and preventing further progress, apart from authorised vehicles.

I parked the car and began preparations to leave for Ben Armine, including unfolding the bike, switching on the GPS and pre-hydrating. Presently two men arrived in a 4WD. They were anglers and we exchanged pleasantries and information about our respective intentions. Ten minutes later a second 4WD pulled up with more men in it. My newly found friends went over to this vehicle while I put the final touches to my preparations but I sensed that the conversation was about me. On returning from the track, they told me that the news was bad and it would be inadvisable for me to proceed owing to the fact that there was a deer stalk on today. They added that I could not be legally prevented if I was determined to go. They knew the estate manager and kindly phoned him for me, whilst pointing out his bungalow in the distance. I was advised to go to see him and discuss matters.

The Estate Manager - Brian:
After re-folding the bike and returning the rucksack to the car, I set off to meet Brian at his bungalow. After I explained about SOTA, he turned out to be friendly and approachable and suggesting that I return in May; it being a non-stalking month when the best WX could be expected. I asked about the track’s surface and he replied that the first mile was the worst and he was just now going to fill in potholes. Apparently the rest is good but after a few miles it enters the next estate.

Before I drove away, he ‘offered’ Ben Griam Mor as an alternative but I’d already done that one in 2013, going on to say that I fancied a crack at Ben Klibreck if I could fit it in. He gave me some tips on access and I drove away a little disappointed but nevertheless understanding about the outcome. After I noted down Brian’s details and a couple of phone numbers, we shook hands and parted friends. The drive around to Klibreck used up still more valuable time and by the time I’d got there all the slippage’s added up to about 2 hours. I wouldn’t normally have chosen to activate a mountain like Ben Klibreck, which after all is a Munro, in half a day but it was Hobson’s choice.

So that was the end of my Ben Armine aspirations for another year at least. I do not count it as an abandoned expedition because I never actually got started. Whether I will ever get it done is debatable. It is one of only two mountains remaining on the GM/NS unactivated list that I have ever heard of. After bagging some classic NS’s in the past I can’t complain but maybe there are not enough new ones left to attract me after almost ten years of holiday’s to the far north.

Ben Klibreck had been activated before but with only a few QSO’s against its name. These numbered around a dozen and were all on the 2m band. Roy reminded me of this fact on the phone and we reasoned that it should be a very popular chase.

I spoke to MM0FMF a few weeks ago and NS14 was mentioned; Andy warning me that it had a boggy approach. I already had a route for it but that was not based on path information, only what looked like a good option on the 25k Map-443. I investigated the start point comprising a pull-off and footbridge to the west of the mountain in 2013 but I would have to find the path if one existed and mark it on the ground as I went. This is not conducive to fast travel and after the Ben Armine failure, I was left with little time to walk a route which was 30% longer and entailed 50% more ascent than anything done in recent days. On the strength of that I really needed to drop down to a QRP operation but decided against it on the grounds that separating the linear from the 817 would waste more time than it saved.

Though unintended, this had become the fourth afternoon only activation in succession. It was 11:35 when I finally started for NS14 from NC 53686 28827, crossing the footbridge at NC 5373 2888 and soon passing a waterfall. A path runs linearly along the bank of the burn and it’s just about due east as far as NC 54722 28649 where you bear left for a burn crossing at NC 54766 28739. This is near where the water flows out of Loch Bad an Loch into Feith Bad an Loch burn and where there is a 234m spot height. I wouldn’t like to try it when the burn is in flood but both stream crossings were simple today.

After this the path continues east via NC 54983 28725; but becomes a little less well defined in places such as a bog at NC 55095 28688 where a boot-full is barely avoidable. Having crossed the bog unscathed I headed east again via NC 55283 28690 and NC 56365 28646 to a second burn crossing (Allt an Fhuarain Mhoir) at NC 55921 28607. Soon the path begins to tilt upwards via NC 56365 28646 then steepens further at NC 56671 28464; NC 56973 28150 and NC 57168 28075 up to a ‘T’ junction on a well defined path at NC 57215 28047 where a right angled left turn is made. The final path section leading up to the ‘T’ junction is difficult to see on the ground but the junction is marked by a small cairn.

This new, well trodden and easy to follow path takes you NE along the direction of the ridge at around 700m ASL but unfortunately it does drop down in altitude somewhat in the next few hundred metres. The 688m col is reached at approx. NC 57646 29167 and from there I walked up via NC 57625 29415; NC 57800 29740; NC 58019 29817 and NC 58257 29881 to the summit trig point which I attained at 13:52 and GPS marked at NC 58526 29904. The ascent had used up 2hrs-18 minutes just when I was hoping for better.

The NS14 top is a mixture of grass and rocks with a good but slightly ‘seen better days’ shelter surrounding the trig pillar which like a few in this area, has its screw top missing making it ideal for a mast if required. I noticed a ruined building a short distance down the SE facing slope but had no time to visit and investigate it. The station was set up about 10m SE of the trig with the dipole running roughly N-S and I had Ben Klibreck and its hazy views to myself for the duration.

BEN KLIBRECK - GM/NS-014, 961m, 6 pts, 13:52 to 16:25. Temp 14 deg C. Wind 5 mph. Hazy sunshine/ some overcast. No low-cloud. EE (Orange) Mobile phone coverage on upper parts of mountain. LOC: IO78TF, WAB: NC52.

7.033 CW - 23 QSO`s:
I had to reset my phone to get a signal but as before, following a phone call to G4SSH, I worked Roy 599 both ways. From there I continued to collect a good haul of stations in and outside the UK. Everybody seemed particularly keen to get into the log which always creates the feeling that it was well worth the effort. The pileup was well ordered and wasted no time, probably due to Roy’s appeal for quick QSO’s.

Today I only worked eight inter-G contacts on 40CW; this being the first time that 40m seemed to be favouring Europe. Countries worked were: G; GM; DL; OK; OE; OM and PA. I gave out a lot of 579’s but incoming reports were all readability 5 apart from a handful of R3’s and R4’s from DL stations and one ‘G.’ The session which, used 50 Watts throughout, took 30 minutes.

7.132 SSB - 27 QSO`s:
If I thought 40CW good, this was even better, taking both modes tally to 50 stations for this band. What a great start on SSB! An S2S with GM1INK/P on GM/WS-337 at 59 both ways. It was getting towards the end of Steve’s week in Gairloch. We had a brief chat but I don’t think we linked up again this holiday.

Mick M0MDA waited patiently for us to finish and we worked 59/ 57 after which a pileup developed. Many of the callers were chasing the WAB square so I tried to work these first so that they could get back to the WAB net on 7.160 without missing too many mobiles. 22 callsigns from the total worked were UK based with the remaining four as follows: DL7UCW; EI9GLB; ON5SWA; CT1HIX and EI2KD/M (Rod - WAB). Conditions were excellent which when added to a 50 Watt output, enabled these to be logged within 30 minutes with generally good or very good reports both ways. The exceptions were CT1HIX (51/ 31) and M0ONI in South Yorkshire (59/ 32).

Roy, using 2E0OOO called in near the end of the session to learn the next move and help with another spot. Conditions on 40m meant that this procedure was a feature on most days at this juncture, saving both time and a phone call.

10.118 CW – 20 QSO`s:
The offset dipole and 50W helped credit NS14 with a further 20 contacts on a well functioning 30m band. It also gave the Europeans another ‘bite at the cherry.’ Bert DF5WA was first in with 599 both ways. After Bert came following countries: DL; CT; OK; LA; OE; ON; HB9; SP; G; F and OH. I worked an S2S with F/HB9BQB/P Guido on F/AM-687. Trade was brisk at first then slowed a little; the session taking 30 minutes.

20m SSB or 160M?
I was now torn between 20m SSB or Top Band and perhaps the decision was rather selfish. That said, I had experienced mixed fortunes on 20m over the previous three days. Nonetheless, I didn’t expect to make more than one contact on 160 and that would have to be set up on 2m-FM. I couldn’t waste time thinking about it so the choice was quickly made. 2FM next then with any luck 160m.

145.575 FM - 2 QSO’s:
Mainly for convenience, the 130gm Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W, 2-70 H/H and duck was pushed into service again. A CQ on the above QRG brought in Lawrence MM0LOZ - QTH Beauly-by-Inverness, with a 54/ 55 exchange. After Bob, Ray GM3PIL called in from Nairn with a massive signal and we soon had a Top Band sked set up. The coils were already in place and we were ready to go.

1.843 SSB - 1 QSO:
If I remember correctly, finger trouble on my part prevented an immediate QSO but it was easy in the end. 59 plus signals were exchanged to and from Ray GM3PIL in Nairn, which is 80km from Ben Klibreck.

1.832 CW - 1 QSO:
Ray and I followed the SSB immediately on 160m CW then returned to phone for a brief chat before I had to go down. Signals were 599 both ways and Ray was somewhat better than that on my ‘S’ Meter. Power was 50 Watts for both 160m contacts. I listened briefly and called CQ but it wasn’t at all surprising that nobody heard.

Packing up frantically after looking at my watch, I made a start on the descent at 16:25 with the prospect of at best 90 minutes of walking ahead of me. On the plus side, I now had an almost perfect track in my GPS which I could follow down. I hadn’t at this stage linked all the recently gathered waypoints into a proper route. After plugging myself into the MP3 player for some music, I said a fond farewell to Ben Klibreck, not knowing if I’d ever be back. After slurping through the bog again, the car (a sight for sore eyes) was reached in 1hr-35min at precisely 18:00.

The start of evening meal at the hotel is 18:45 which is precisely the time I arrived there. My XYL prefers to be as early as possible so a quick change out of bog-water splashed trousers and socks allowed fairly close compliance. Between the soup and main course I busied myself with filling in the missing times in the log and feeling very satisfied with myself despite having had to drastically change my plans.

860m (2,821ft) ascent / 14.3 km ( 8.9 miles) walked.
Walking times: 2hr-18 min up / 1hr-35 min down. Total: 3hr-53min.

23 on 40m CW
27 on 40m SSB
20 on 30m CW
1 on 160m SSB
1 on 160m CW
2 on 2m FM
Total: 74

Battery utilisation: 5Ah estimated.

Ben Klibreck has been on my wish list since I saw it from Ben Hope on 10th February 2005. The research of start point and token route was completed in 2013 but I didn’t get the chance to bag it. Naturally, I had planned to devote a full day to this activation of a summit which is completely new to me. It wasn’t meant to happen like it did but when the Ben Armine plans hit the buffers it became an option. I remember saying to Denise that if I couldn’t have Ben Armine it might be Klibreck. In many ways, I am really glad it happened.

I like Munros and the higher UK mountains in general. Though it was a tad rushed, NS14 was one of the highlights of the holiday. The approach to the mountain was time consuming, a little tedious because of river crossings, boggy ground and in places ill defined paths but once onto the higher reaches, apart from the effort required it was a real joy. It did seem to have a sting in the tail in that the final summit cone got much ‘larger’ the closer it was approached.

I wondered how many more days that 40m and to a lesser degree 30m would behave itself so well. The chasers and I certainly benefited on this day but would our luck change? Good band conditions generally mean shorter activation times, unless you simply give up, that is.

Thanks to Ray GM3PIL, the successful Top Band activity was really pleasing and it may be quite a while before NS14 adds further 160m QSO’s to its history.

The Ben Armine disappointment was offset by Ben Klibreck and I was left wondering why I had left this wonderful mountain until 2014. I drove past it on the last day of the holiday. It was bathed in evening sunshine and I almost drove off the road staring at it.

ALL STATIONS worked. This was ‘almost’ a unique. Thanks to G4SSH for spots and liaison via phone and on the air.

73, John G4YSS
Using GM4YSS/P (database) & Scarborough Special Events Group Club call - GS0OOO/P.

Previous Reports: GM/NS-114; GM/NS-101; GM/NS-074.
Next Report: GM/NS-111 in due course.

Klibreck Photo No’s:
1-Start Point Bridge
20-On Ridge Path & Bird
58-Top Band
67-View NNW.

Apologies for the title. No matter what I do it changes it from upper to lower case.


" What a great start on SSB! An S2S with GM1INK/P on GM/WS-337 at 59 both ways. It was getting towards the end of Steve’s week in Gairloch. We had a brief chat but I don’t think we linked up again".

Hi John, thanks for the s2s contacts through the week. After this contact I had planned 2 more GM/NS for Thursday, then Ben Vrackie near Pitlochry during the drive South on Friday. As they say about the best laid plans, I started with a real bad cold on Wednesday night, by Thursday my throat was far too painful to shout into a microphone and I’d left the Palm paddle at home, so no more summits for me. I still suffer effects of that cold now, 2 weeks later! Really enjoyed Gairloch, scenery was stunning but gecaches were few & far between.

1 Like

Hi Steve,
Yes, we had a good week between us didn’t we? What luck with the WX!!! You must have great suntan lying out after your activation that day.

Sorry to hear you developed a nasty virus. I did wonder where you’d got to! You will be very fit which is evidence that it must have been a particularly virulent not to shake it off. I’m afraid this is my weakness - chronic bronchitis all my life but all that improved a great deal since SOTA. Still have to watch it though.

I didn’t know you worked CW. Would love a CW S2S contact with you. I have got so used to my little toggle switch, I wouldn’t be able to work a Palm Paddle anymore. At one time I could.

I thought you’d like the Gairloch area. It is a great region and handy for plenty of goodies. I have spent the last 40 years mesmerized by Beinn Eighe, its triple buttresses and its Lancaster Bomber. I was sorry when they took that painting out of the dining room at the Gairloch Hotel.

Bet your Mum & Sister enjoyed it too. Sounds like your Mum is a real sport.

Thank you too for the S2S’s. A bit lazy of me not to hunt you down so thanks for turning up on my QRG.

Very glad we still have GM. I was getting quite concerned!
Get well soon!
CUAGN S2S SN, 73, John.