G4YSS: GM/SS-018; Beinn an Lochain 12-06-23

G4YSS: GM/SS-018; Beinn an Lochain 12-06-23

Issue-2. GM4ZMK: Correction of name to Rick & mystery ‘Alex’.
Please report further errors

Activation of BEINN an LOCHAIN - GM/SS-018 on Monday 12th June 2023
G4YSS using GM4YSS/P (GR4YSS/P - one QSO). QRO on 2m-FM
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)

Moonraker MT270M, 2m/70cm, 25W Mobile Transceiver
PYE Cambridge Antenna Filter Type AT29908/AB (adjustable 132-174Mcs, 0.6kg)
3-ele modified SOTAbeam
4m, 3-section mast (top section is plastic conduit)
Two Turnigy 11.1V, 2.2 Ah Li-Po batteries

Reserves (not used):
Baofeng UV-5R, 5W 2-band H/H
Baofeng UV-3R, 2W 2-band H/H (shirt pocket)
J-Pole for 2m FM
Pack Weight: 8.5kg (19 pounds) inc. 1 litre drinks (0.5 used)

This was the second SOTA activation of our 2023 break at the Ardgartan Hotel, Arrochar from the 8th to the 16th of June. The first was GM/SS-027 – Ben Donich on the 10th – see separate report. For various reasons another rest day was needed between activations.

To avoid insomnia I refuse to make any plans until after breakfast whence GM/SS-018 Beinn an Lochain (a once Munro apparently) was selected as the day’s target. For one thing I’m not very fit and for another I don’t like summer activating, particularly considering that Scotland is currently in the grip of a heatwave. Even the people at the hotel were complaining. Yes the staff do work ever so hard bless them but they weren’t climbing mountains.

Summing up the mountain forecast in a word – Warm! There was also talk of torrential thunder storms but it was noticeable that Arrochar was between two areas which featured yellow warnings but not actually in one. So I would risk it. Even so I had no choice but to face the heat. Grin and bear it.

The approach is short and the A83 start point is at 235m ASL so this would class as a relatively easy 6 pointer. It was also one I’d done before in 2020, so I knew what the mountain and path were like. In terms of distance walked it’s not far at under 3km one way but with 690m to ascend that makes it pretty steep and relentless. There are also at least three re-ascents. Last time I put it on HF and VHF. The HF was to address the fact that few overseas chasers had been offered this mountain at the time due to the bands used. Today I chose VHF partly for an easier carry but also to chat to the locals; something I’d enjoyed from SS27 two days prior.

The route for this mountain, starting on the A83 at a lay-by one mile north of Rest and be Thankful, was prepared in 2017 and walked in 2020. Being a Monday the lay-by only had one car in it. If it had been full, plan B was SS32. The man in the other car was getting ready to walk so we got into conversation and compared notes. I was still messing about preparing when he set off 20 minutes before me but I was following him by 10:11 in hazy sunshine, after taking aboard 0.75 litres of water.

After the Armco barrier the next thing to tackle, was crossing the burn which runs north out of Loch Restil. It was deep in 2020 whence I got a bootful but after 5 weeks of hardly any rain, the stepping stones easily did the business. If not there’s always the miniature dam to get you across. The next section across to the ridge is usually very wet but not today.

Route Waypoints and Description:
Park at the lay-by, grid ref NN 2341 0882 (235m ASL). Stride over the Armco barrier, walk a few metres north and ford the burn at around 230m ASL. Walk NW across the valley on a (usually) soggy path and start climbing onto the NE ridge after NN 2331 0904. A steep path at NN 2321 0912 goes roughly SW and winds up via NN 2293 0901 and NN 2260 0878. At NN 2225 0849 it turns abruptly NW to tackle a steep gully, turning SE at NN 2215 0851 to resume its former SW direction at NN 2218 0845. There follows more steep climbing via NN 2207 0826 and NN 2199 0807 with some minor re-ascent in places (e.g. at the 637m feature). The small summit cairn was GPS’d in 2020 at NN 21861 07960.

Apparently this is the true 901m summit but perhaps confusingly, there is another significant high point 90m to the SW at NN 2180 0789, reached over a shallow col. Visually it’s a toss-up which is higher but I was going by the SOTA ref. Most people seemed to be ‘bagging’ this secondary target ‘just in case.’ Back in 2020 and looking down to the SE, I spotted another path which seemed to be curving round on the ground from south to east. Maybe this meets today’s ascent path lower down? According to Jack GM4COX there’s a way up from Rest and be Thankful. If so it would save some ascent but in theory it would be even steeper.

Apart from stopping for brow mopping and to wring out the tissue used for the purpose onto the ground, the ascent though a trial in the heat, was uneventful. At least there was the semblance of a breeze. I find it’s best not to consult the navigation instruments or even the wrist watch until you can be pretty certain that the news will be good. In fact I didn’t look at all. Today my mind was suitably distracted by two doses of Ray Robinson’s ‘Radio Caroline Archive Hour’ on the way up and one on the way down. Something to listen to takes one’s mind off the discomfort which today was not inconsiderable.

Not far from the top, I met the man from the other car. He was on his way down by now so we stopped 5 minutes for a chat about mountains. He was making good use of his girlfriend’s car which he borrows on her day off every Monday for ‘Corbett Bagging.’ He also mentioned that he sometimes drives up from Glasgow on a summer’s evening to climb Ben Lomond, a mountain I’m interested in bagging. After surmounting the last of two ‘stings in the tail; I got to the cairn at 11:54.

BEINN an LOCHAIN - GM/SS-018: 901m (2,956ft), 6 pts, 11:54 to 15:14. 20C plus. 0 to 5 mph wind but no midges. Mainly sunny. Vodafone signal 4G. LOC: IO76OF, WAB: NN20 - No Trig.

Setting Up:
Not wanting to disturb other walkers, for setting up I walked the 50m SW to the secondary summit. There is a third highpoint which nicely takes an 80m link dipole along its flank but I had no HF today. The mast went into the ground reasonable easily on the 5th attempt with vertically orientated beam atop it. The breeze was light enough that no guy was needed, unlike on SS27 two days prior. I angled the rucksack as a sunshade for the equipment but I would have to put up with being gently roasted in full sun. Care was needed due to a steep drop-off less than a metre to my left.

145.400/ (145.500/ 145.450) FM - 21 QSO’s:
A self-spot for 145.400 and CQ on S20 brought in GM0GOV - Fred in a village with the memorable name of ‘Dunlop.’ I had to query that but sure enough when Fred spelt it out, it was true. Fred reckoned he was 40 miles south of me, so signals were big at ‘59 plus’ both ways.

Next in was MM7DCD Doug in Clydebank who I’d worked from SS27 on the Saturday, followed by MM7SWM Stuart in Glasgow. Tail-ending Stuart were GM0AXY Ken and GM4YMM Christine – Ken had to hold the mic for his XYL to save it getting contaminated as Christine was preparing a meal.

Following on was regular chaser Steve MM0XPZ in Greenock; MM0EMC Eoghann (pronounced Ewan) just north of Perth using 5W and MM6IQP Alan using an FT991 and Diamond collinear from Coatbridge – 10 miles N of Glasgow.

I think I had recourse to S20 to raise more support at this point but next contact was GM0VEK Peter in Kirkintilloch who also appears in the SS27 log and then GM4YWI Tom in East Lothian.

I got visitors. Two young ladies from Denmark. I didn’t really expect anyone to come over to the subsidiary summit but my limited experience of this mountain (two visits) now tells me that many do. They stopped to have a look at the station or so I thought. I explained everything, even telling them that they were from ‘OZ’ but they didn’t seem that impressed. After a short while they moved off to find a nice place for lunch which is probably what they were looking for in the first place?

I took callers and got three coming back. When that happens the most powerful signal wins but I heard the letters NL without ‘cottoning on’ at first. Could this be Victor GI4ONL? Yes indeed it was and I turned the beam a little to the west for him. Not much adjustment was needed but his report on my signal, at first 55, increased to 57 which made it an easy QSO and my first venture out of Scotland so far. In fact Victor had been trying to contact me via text message but I thought at the time that it was just my XYL making my pocket buzz for no good reason. Sorry Victor but it came good in the end!

A Mystery QSO:
After the excitement of working someone I’d actually met, at 12:33z I logged an operator who was ‘static mobile in Cumnock East Ayrshire.’ His name was Alex with reports 59 both ways. However because another station called at the same time there was a mix-up and his callsign doesn’t appear in my log - only the above details. Research on QRZ.com has failed to nail this one unless it was possibly MM7BDW (who is an ‘Alex in Ayreshire’) but the /M complicates matters and he doesn’t seem to by a SOTA op either. I’m slightly embarrassed about this. Can anybody help?

I then went on to log GM4ZMK Rick in Clydebank but things didn’t go particularly smoothly. In fact Rick couldn’t properly hear me on any frequency other than initially on S20. I thought the QSO was good but apparently Rick wasn’t happy. Some 40 minutes after the QSO which I thought we’d completed OK, Brian MM1HMZ (QTH Howwood who I also worked) QSP’d a message from Rick. ‘Could I go up and work him on S20. Sure I would! It took less than half a minute to log him on 145.500 thanks not least to Brian. It was the right thing to do as we must try our best to get things correct.

By now I was beginning to ramble a bit. The heat and accompanying fatigue were affecting my brain it would seem. I hadn’t drunk anything since leaving the car so a half litre of shandy helped me go on to work M0LLC Lee in Maryport (59/ 43) and probably a similar distance to the QSO with Victor in GI. Now battery-1 failed.

After a quick battery change I worked: MM7SKL Mike in Wemyss Bay, another callsign which features in the SS27 log. Mike gave me 59 plus 50dB! MM7BQP Craig in Cumnock was next to call. Craig had worked my SS27 activation with his handheld from a railway bridge at Cumnock two days prior. This time he was on an FT2980 mobile rig.

The final four worked on 145.400 were: MM7CEH Clarke using an FT991 in Bathgate (where our old Leyland camper van was built long ago); MM6WER James in Paisley, also worked from my last one - SS27; GR3VTB Victor RSGB newsreader and ex-school teacher from Bearsden, Glasgow (worked with GR4YSS/P) and 2M0VZX/M at ‘Scroggie Bank radio mast near Loch Thom, nr. Greenock.’

A third person turned up at the summit. She looked just like I felt after I’d walked up in the heat and said she was from London. Her husband and their Dog, a whippet cross called Lottie both of whom I met later, had turned back a short way up the path when the dog showed signs of overheating. She seemed mildly interested in the activation so I announced a QRX while I explained.

Isle of Skye:
There were no more takers on .400 or S20 so I announced QRT but then couldn’t resist a quick flick round the channels. I came across one side of a weak QSO on 145.450 and heard the phrase ‘roped up’ which got my attention. Turning the beam NW peaked this signal up nicely to around 55 to 57 and though I didn’t yet have a callsign, I was able to tail-end the QSO. This turned out to be 2M1GPR/P on Sgurr Sgumain in the Cuillins on Skye no less. I had the pleasure of a brief conversation with Graham who was on his ‘handheld with rubber duck’ nonetheless giving my signal a 58 report.

He apologised, saying the mountain he was on was ‘not quite a SOTA’ but that Sgurr Alisdair, where he’d be in due course, was. At this my display started dimming, forcing a final QRT as I was on my second and last battery. I wouldn’t have been able to wait another hour anyway; it was time to go but this was a great QSO to end with.

I left the now deserted summit at 15:14. A mast section doubled as a stick; useful on the short but steep rocky sections, one of which lower down is slightly tricky. Progress was slow in the sultry conditions but I was back to the A83 layby at 16:31 where I caught up with the couple from London and their now cooled down dog Lottie. I was given a sweet which revived me a little and Lottie got a good neck scratch in return. I love dogs!

It took 30 minutes to get back to Ardgartan via the A83 and R.A.B.T. instead of the Satan’s prediction of 10. A big queue had formed at the roadworks where a notice stated, ‘There will be a 15 Minute Delay due to a Temporary Obstruction.’ I was in no rush so got out to talk to the driver behind then filled the time by checking the log for errors and listening on 7.160 for wabers.

Eventually two very sweaty cyclists trundled up the hill on prone position machines but whether they were the ‘temporary obstruction’ mentioned I don’t know. Presently the lights went to green and the long convoy headed down past the many machines and workers who, it would seem annually try to shore up this luckless road against an unrelenting nature.

Ascent 690m (2,264ft) / Distance walked 5km (3.1 miles)

Walk started: 10:11 (A83 Lay-by)
GM/SS-018: 11:54 to 15:14
Returned to Car: 16:31

Walking times:
Ascent: 1hr-43min (1hr-38min net)
Descent: 1hr-17min
Total Walking: 3hrs
Summit time: 3hrs-20min
Time Car to Car: 6hrs-20min

21 on 2m-FM

This is a relatively easy six pointer but ‘relative’ is the key word. On the down side there are plenty of short sections that I would describe as ‘semi-scrambly’ for want of a better term. On the plus side there is a well defined path all the way, less ascent than you might think due to a higher start point, though re-ascents add 20 or more metres to the total.

There are at least two ‘disappointment points’ on the climb where you think there’s not far to go before being confronted by a further challenge. When the summit finally does appear it’s without warning. The temperature was too high for my liking. There was a slight breeze to moderate it but in fact the wind-speed on the summit was less than at the car both at the start and after finishing.

Best distances worked with 25W to the 3-ele vertically mounted vertically were a toss up between GI4ONL in Bushmells; M0LLC in Maryport and 2M1GPR/M on the Cuilin ridge on Skye. There were lots of nice chats in a no-rush activation spanning over two hours of air time. Self spotting was available on 4G.

After worrying that this was a Monday and not the weekend, VHF turned out to be a very good choice as I don’t think the HF bands are up to much right now. Admittedly, that’s only going by what I can pick up on a mobile whip on the XYL’s car. That said, I did do a WAB mobile run today (13th June) and it was a success into England. I even worked my son GM/M to GM/M when he was up near Gairloch so perhaps I should consider HF for the next one if I can carry it up in this heatwave! It’s daily 26C or more in the glens and not that much less at 3,000ft. As it is SOTA has to be one day on, one day off at most.

To ALL STATIONS worked and the SOTA spotting service.
73, John G4YSS

Photos: 3-10-15-23-25-28-31-38-41-48-56-59-62-71-86-87-92-96-99-102-104

Above: GM/SS-018 from the parking place (A83 layby)

Above: Looking back

Above: Path follows the fissure lower left to upper right

Above: Mountain man from Glasgow met at the layby. The final part of the path behind.

Above & below: Looking back down

Above: Summit of GM/SS-018. Secondry summit used for activation behind.

Above: Looking back from the secondry summit.

Above & below: Activation of GM/SS-018 on 2m-FM QRO

Above: Lady from London who climbed alone. Husband turned back near the start with overheating dog Lottie

Above: Equipment with A83 Rest and Be Thankful below

Above: Packed for the descent. No midges but a would be hitch hiker

Above: Starting the walk down

Above: A mast section as a stick for the tricky bits

Above: Common spotted orchids

Above: Almost down on the flat again

Above: The burn near the road

Above: Back at the layby. Lottie

Above & below: Cycling up to Rest & be Thankful. The roadworks queue.

Above: Back at the hotel. A glass of something cold as recommended for an overheated activator.


Well done John. That looks like a steep old climb to the summit.


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Well done on another excellent outing John and for tolerating the heat during such a long activation. I really must get my backside into gear and get across into this area. Much of the pre-planning has been done, but the execution phase seems as far away as ever. It must be the attraction of those GM/ES summits. Fraser MM0EFI, help me out here… :frowning_face:

73, Gerald

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