G4YSS: GM/SS-018; Beinn na Lochain 06-09-20
Issue-1. Please report errors
Activation of BEINN na LOCHAIN - GM/SS-018
6th September 2020
G(M)4YSS using SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P
HF - QRO on 40m & 20m. QRP on 2m-FM
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)
This was the second of two SOTA activations in our 2020 break at the Ardgarten Hotel, Arrochar from the 4th to the 8th of September. The first was GM/SS-020 - The Cobbler AKA Ben Arthur on the 5th – see separate report at G4YSS:GM/SS-020;Cobbler,05-09-20
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier
Link dipole for 80m thru’ 20m on a 5m CFC/ alloy mast with 1m end-sticks
Home-brew tunable loading coils for 160m (not used)
One 5Ah Li-Po battery (no reserve)
J-Pole for 2m FM
IC-E90, 4-band, 5W VHF H/H (not used)
QRO pack: 9.9kg (21.8 pounds) inc. food, fleece with items & 0.75 litre drinks.
This was the second and final SOTA activation of this year’s trip to GM/SS. The 4-night, 3-full-day holiday was booked with Lochs & Glens at the Ardgarten Hotel (2012) which stands on the Loch Long shoreline in its own grounds. Cost was £50 pppn for half-board and the hotel is a 275 mile/ 6hr net drive from Scarborough via A66/M6/M74.
Covid-19 rules meant that masks and social distancing procedures were mandatory. Masks could only be removed in rooms and after sitting down in the lounge or for meals but staff wore them at all times. The maximum half-full hotel is not currently taking coach tours only self-drive and the sole choice is 4-nights. Each room, once used is not be occupied for a further nine days and is not cleaned until 2-days after guests leave.
SS20 was done on Saturday in overcast with a few light showers but Sunday dawned sunny with a gentle breeze. Monday was predicted to be a complete washout and so it transpired, leaving only the two weekend days for SOTA, Friday and Tuesday being traveling days.
According to two chaps I met up on descent, Beinn an Lochain used to be a Munro. That must have been a very long time ago indeed and with the deficit a massive 44 feet, it will surely never be again. One reason why I chose this mountain, besides its proximity to the hotel, was because it looked a relatively easy six-pointer. The approach is short and the A83 start point is at 235m ASL.
I noticed from the record that a few years ago Steve G1INK had tackled this one in February – not once but twice! That is to be admired; the lads I met mentioned that some faces of the mountain are prone to avalanche including some gullies on the northern aspect. I also noted that it had not been offered to chasers outside the UK very much at all and the plan was to put that to rights.
EXECUTION and ROUTE:
The route for this mountain, starting on the A83 at a layby one mile north of Rest and be Thankful, was prepared in 2017 but then I chose to climb Beinn Ime instead. That turned out to be difficult from the West due to steep ground and no path but this time I would be on a popular route with a good path.
My start point should have been a 10-minute drive from the hotel but there was the A83 closure to contend with. Vehicles were using the old military road with a one-way convoy system in operation and the delay could be up to 20 minutes. In the event I got straight through in the morning but was not so lucky on the return.
The layby was almost full and a few people were parking on the verge across the road. After the slightly disturbing discovery that I’d left both my map and phone at the hotel, I set off walking at 10:41 in sunshine but with a wet right boot. That was the legacy of the previous day and the result of stepping in a hidden bog on my way down The Cobbler.
The first thing to tackle, after the Armco barrier, was the crossing the burn which runs north out of Loch Restil. It was quite deep and the choices were some stepping stones or the narrow wall of a miniature dam. After seeing several people tackling the latter, I headed for this but slipped and put a boot in; the left one of course!
Judging by the number of parked cars, this was a late start and with the sun well up, I wished I’d come earlier. After walking through a waterlogged area the climbing proper appeared in front.
Park at the layby, 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 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 today 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.’ Looking down to the SE from there I could see another path which seemed to be curving round on the ground from south to east. Maybe this meets today’s ascent path lower down?
Incidentally, Jack GM4COX told implied later that there’s a way up from Rest and be Thankful. If so that would save some ascent but in theory it would be even steeper.
I thought I was doing quite well after overtaking a few people, but was caught-up by a young lady who turned out to be Polish; a nationality I have a lot of time for, considering that country’s history. She shouted ahead to ask about the rods, in total six, which I had strapped to my rucksack, ‘What were they all for?’ After explaining about radio and ‘short wave’ we walked together for a while talking about Poland mainly but her family too. She was brought up close to the German border. After witnessing the impressive rapidity of her climb, I assumed she’d spent a lot of her spare time in the Tatra mountains but she said that her fitness was mainly down to riding a bike to work every day.
It was evident that I was slowing her down and off she went, heading to the top at great speed. I met her again just short of the summit, which she had just vacated. At the time I was stopped, sweating and hyperventilating, she making the comment, ‘At last!’ I took another photo after which my new acquaintance departed downhill, again at a good rate of knots. By the time I’d got to the cairn it was 12:15.
There were half a dozen people there, some sitting and a young couple heading for the second summit, unsure which was the right one. I did the same but mainly to take photos. It was sunny with a light breeze; shirt sleeve weather, at least for the newly arrived.
It didn’t take long to spot the best QTH; a third high point 50m north of the top cairn and easily fulfilling the 25m vertical rule. Here was a grass slope just large enough to take a 40m long dipole. This was erected E-W on the edge of the steep northern aspect (called ‘Old Man’s Face’) with a few onlookers, some of whom were interested enough to ask its purpose.
Everyone was friendly, especially the family with the whippet called Max who being a shrunken version of Finn (see G/N-006 report), I took to immediately. Hill walkers are a friendly bunch but right now people do seem extra friendly. After being curtailed so long, I think they appreciate their freedom more than ever. I know I do.
BEINN na LOCHAIN - GM/SS-018: 901m (2,956ft), 6 pts, 12:15 to 15:43. 10C. 5 mph wind. Sunshine. EE Nil signal. Can’t vouch for Vodafone – forgot it. LOC: IO76OF, WAB: NN20 - No Trig.
7.160 SSB (WAB) & 7.175 SSB - 17 QSO’s:
Having left my phone at the hotel, I had no means of spotting. The emergency phone that is always in my rucksack (a very small old Nokia 3310) was announcing ‘No Network Coverage’ (EE) so I couldn’t phone someone for a spot. For that reason I needed to do SSB first and it had to be on a recognized frequency.
A familiar voice on 7.160. It was Bill signing GM4WSB/P and he seemed to be on a summit. Diving in a little too quickly and in so doing probably jumping the queue, someone explained what was happening. ‘Back-off’ I thought. A sin has been committed and Rule-1 broken. I didn’t listen long enough before calling Bill! But now he was calling me, probably eager to log my summit. What could I do but make the QSO? We swapped reports and summit refs; Bill’s being a rare one - GM/SI-196 on the island of Canna. Being relatively close for 40m skip, our exchange was 52 both ways. After completion of the S2S, Bill kindly offered me the frequency – not once but three times!
For all I knew there might have been further stations wanting to chase Bill’s desirable summit and WAB square, so I dived off to the side and found a clear spot at 7.175; going back very briefly to announce it. Fortunately someone heard me and I quickly had a few customers. However – Thanks Bill.
Once established on my own channel I logged the following stations: M0BKV Damien in Cornwall, who provided a spot - 57/ 58; G0FEX Ken in Leicester 59’s; G0GWY Geoff in Scunthorpe 57’s; 2W0FLW Derek in SS69, 56’s; MM0XPZ Steve in Greenock 59/ 57 and G4HPE – Steve in Royston 59/ 57 operating as G4WAB.
Continuing on: EA2CE Jose in Bilbao 55/ 44; 2E0FEH Karl in Cornwall 57/ 44 and another spot; EA2CKX Pedro 55/ 42; G0RQL Don in Devon 59/ 57; M0LZY Paul – New Forest SU11 - 57/ 33; EA2DT Manuel in Pamplona 55/ 33; G4NIF Dennis in SO60 59/ 33; G7AFM Phil in Hereford 57’s; G0FVH/P David 57/ 55 and finally Dave G0IAR 59/ 57 in Loughborough.
A lucrative session indeed and a great start! What with the WAB members ‘poached’ from Bill’s operation on 7.160 added to the SOTA chasers after I was spotted first by Damien then by Karl, the sight of the log was more than pleasing. Power was 50W and the session spanned 34 minutes. It also attracted the attention of a few more people on the summit.
7.033 CW - 8 QSO’s:
Knowing I couldn’t spot I announced on 7.175 that I was going to the CW frequency and I got a reply to the first CQ. Somebody was paying attention and that somebody was Mike G0HIO in Burton-on-Trent.
Just before this QSY, I was almost distracted by a summit calling on S20. My ‘pocket’ VHF handheld – a Baofeng UV-3R was propped-up on the grass. Had I responded, my 40m-CW session would have been in jeopardy due to a possible extended delay as you can’t be sure what might develop. It was a simple choice though a hard one but I decided I should do what I’d said I would.
After Mike and I exchanged at 579/ 559 he kindly spotted me and moreover sent a confirmation of that in Morse ‘SPOT ON.’ Without this assistance I might not have worked some of the following stations: DL2HWI Dietmar 559/ 449; G3VXJ Bob QTH Worthing 579/ 559; DL2BRN Hans 559/ 599; DL1FU Frid 589/ 579; G0BPU Mike – Ipswich 599/ 559 QSB; GM0HUU Steve in Paisley 599/ 539 with a second spot and PA0AKN 579/ 559. Power was 30W throughout this 18 minute session.
145.400/ 145.425 FM - 6 QSO’s:
By the time I got onto 2m, all but one of the summit ops were either on their way down or had QSY’d to HF. When I say ‘all’ there actually may only have been two. The day before, Jack GM4COX had asked me if I’d be on the air today. He was hoping for an S2S. Flicking through the channels I could hear a conversation but couldn’t be sure it was Jack.
A CQ on S20 brought in a couple of callers straight away with MM1BHO first in the log. Richard (home QTH D&G) was parked in a Mercedes Sprinter motor caravan at Inveraray so it was 59 both ways.
Next was Steve MM0XPZ, range about 30km in Greenock. Part of our conversation was centred around the two GM/SS ten-pointers, Ben More and its neighbour to the south, which Steve had done in a single day. I did Ben More on its own in 2017 so I could readily sympathize. Steve said it took three hours to get back to the road from the second one and an hour to walk between them. Not too bad I thought.
Further to our conversation the day before from The Cobbler, I logged GM0GMN in Largs again and Jim cleared up some confusion I’d suffered then.
A search round the channels revealed the conversation on .375 again. I was only copying one side of it but this sounded like it could have been GM4COX. After listening for 10 minutes or so I tried a break-in which worked first time. My hunch turned out to be correct and Jack moved briefly up to .400 to complete an S2S with me from GM/SS-059. In a brief conversation Jack told me that ‘completes’ was the result of a suggestion he made to the SOTA MT.
After the S2S I moved up to 145.425 to work another two stations in the form of MM0TMX – Tony in IO75WV (Glasgow) and GM0GOV Fred in Ayrshire.
All the 2m-FM reports were 59 both ways apart from Fred – 59/ 57-8 and Steve 59/ 57. Power was 5W throughout from the FT817ND to a J-Pole on a short mast and the easy-going session lasted 47 minutes.
14.061 CW - 14 QSO’s:
With the idea of increasing CW opportunities to overseas chasers; this summit didn’t have much of a record for that, I was hoping for some success on 20m. I usually use my ‘own’ QRG of 14.052.6 for this but with no spotting facility I might have called on there until the ‘cows came home’ or at least until the battery went flat.
In the back of my mind I remembered something Roy G4SSH once told me. Many of the stations he’d worked on 20m were on 14.061 and maybe I’d have a chance there with a ‘cold’ CQ. Expecting that this could take at least 10 minutes I was pleasantly surprised when my second or third ‘CQ SOTA’ followed by my callsign and the ref was picked up by F5JKK (579/ 559). Better still Eric spotted me straight away. Any thanks to him!
Now it became easy apart from sorting one caller from the many that called at once. Perhaps they were excited by the SOTA ref, which could easily have been a ‘new one’ for all of them.
Stations worked after Eric: EA2CAR Kike 579’s; EA2SG David in Madrid 579/ 599; OH3GZ Jukka 559/ 579; HB9AGH Ambrosi 579/ 529; AC1Z Robert in New Hampshire (my only DX) 579/ 229 and F6EPO/M Dominic with ‘5W from a K2’ and asking for my name – 559’s.
Continuing: OE5HIL Herman 589/ 339; OK1FB ? 599/ 579; F6FHO Philippe 599’s; EC5A Luis in Valencia 599/ 589; OM3MB Vilo 599’s; OK1XZS 579/ 579 and the final contact of the day and probably from GM/SS this year for me - SP3BLK Mietek 579/ 559. Power was 50W for the first few and 30W after that.
I left the now deserted summit at 15:43, just inside my self imposed deadline. I didn’t want to miss my hotel meal because of the A83 closure and convoy system. A mast section doubled as a stick; useful on the short but steep rocky sections. Progress was no more than steady back to the A83 where I arrived at 16:58 but I did spend a few minutes talking to two lads half way down. It was then that I was told about Beinn an Lochain once being a Munro. Hard to believe when it ends up 44 feet short.
It took 25 minutes for the return drive instead of around 10. I timed the convoy down the military road quite badly but there was enough time to sort the car out before waking up the XYL. Another fab day in the hills!
ASCENT & DISTANCE:
Ascent 690m (2,264ft) / Distance walked 5km (3.1 miles)
Walk started: 10:41 (A83 Layby)
GM/SS-018: 12:15 to 15:43
Returned to Car: 16:58
Summit time: 3hrs-28min
Time Car to Car: 6hrs-17min
17 on 40m SSB
8 on 40m CW
6 on 2m-FM
14 on 20m-CW
Though higher and very steep in places, I found this mountain slightly easier to climb than The Cobbler (SS20) the day before. 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 good path all the way, less ascent required due to a higher start point and a shorter walk. Furthermore the weather was more settled – sunny but with a cool breeze.
Without a means of self-spotting, the WAB net was the key to getting started on 40m. 25 contacts on here must mean that there was very little wrong with propagation, though some of the closer stations my not have agreed. The solution would have been 80m of course. It’s a band I love to use for SOTA but not that often from Scotland.
One good reason to work a few stations on 2m-FM is to prove you’re actually there. HF can come from anywhere in the general vicinity. Not that we need to prove anything; cheating can only hurt the person that cheats. As well as some friendly chats with local fixed stations, this band also provided the second S2S of the day. The log tells me that I spent a lot of time on this band but I think I had lunch and a wander round the summit in the middle of it.
What a thoroughly good choice 20m was with an unusual (for me) 14 QSO’s logged! North America was represented solely by Robert AC1Z. DX propagation can’t have been too great however, which is probably the reason why I didn’t work out of Europe the day before. Robert gave me just 229 but the QSO was good and quickly completed. Working a mobile on 20m was good, especially one using just five Watts. Nice to hear from Ambrosi HB9AGH who I haven’t worked for a while.
Despite the forgotten phone resulting in no self-spotting facility and a shorter summit stay, the QSO count was well up on the day before. I will take away an impression of this mountain as being a friendly one. That includes the people I met, the weather and the good path that was easy to follow. However if I’d been up there in February, the impression might easily have been different.
Our final full day – Monday 7th was a ‘non day.’ 12 hours of rain kept us in the hotel but all was not lost. The Cobbler report was produced. We drove home (275 miles) on the 8th calling at the Thorpe Farm Café on the A66 again. It had been a pleasant and successful break and I could use the word ‘precious’ because after canceling all our holidays early in lock-down, we won’t know how long it’ll be to the next one. It certainly makes you appreciate everything more.
Stats for the holiday:
Ascent & Distance Walked:
GM/SS-020: 784m (2,572ft) / 8.4 km (5.3 miles) (Extra due to A83 closed)
GM/SS-018: 690m (2,264ft) / 5km (3.1 miles)
TOTAL: 1,474m (4,836ft) / 13.4km (8.4 miles)
Distance Driven: 2 x 275 + 18 = 568 miles
SOTA Points: 10
After returning home we were sent a questionnaire from the hotel. It asked, ‘Did we feel safe throughout our stay.’ We ticked the ‘YES’ box.
To ALL STATIONS worked. Special thanks to spotters; essential after I forgot my phone: M0BKV; 2E0FEH; G0HIO; GM0HUU and F5JKK.
73, John G4YSS
Using Scarborough Special Events Group Club call GS0OOO/P.
Stay safe everyone!
Above: On the way. Ardgarten Hotel drive with view of The Cobbler GM/SS-020
Above: Driving down from Rest-and-be-Thankful and passing Loch Restil. Layby start-point 1km ahead
Above: GM/SS-018. Start of NE ridge as seen from A83 layby start point
Above: GM/SS-018. NE ridge as seen from A83 layby start point
Above: Tiny dam crossing point where I suffered a bootful. Parking place in background
Above: Crossing relatively flat and wet ground to the NE ridge path
Above: Looking back having attained the ridge path. 12 cars gives an indication of summit occupancy
Above: GM/SS-018 - NE ridge path. Looking ahead
Above: GM/SS-018 - NE ridge path. Looking back
Above: View up Glen Kinglas from SS18 NE ridge path
Above: Minor height loss before tackling this steep section. The path turns right before the major cleft - centre of photo, climbs steeply to right skyline then zigs back left behind high point.
Above: Going up the higher section shown on previous photo
Above: Looking down on Loch Restil and the A83 closed beyond Rest-and-be-Thankful. The military road diversion can be seen snaking down to the right of the closed A83
Above: GM/SS-018 - further up the NE ridge path. Looking back
Above: More steep ground to overcome. NE ridge path.
Above: Passing a tiny lochan. Closed A83 and military road below
Above: This high-speed girl from Poland, just leaving the summit as I arrived, left us all standing on the way up. Glen Kinglas & Loch Restil below
Above: Looking northeast from GM/SS-018 Beinn an Lochain summit cairn, 901m ASL
Above: Looking southwest from the true summit towards the nearby second summit
Above: Looking back at true summit from second summit with high point chosen for QTH on left
Above & previous photo: Max the whippet looking a little like a smaller version of Finn
Above: Just enough space for an 80m link dipole
Above: Activation of GM/SS-018. HF dipole on 5m mast
Above: Another four-legged friend at the summit - name and breed unknown
Above: Above: Activation of GM/SS-018 on 20m-CW. HF dipole on reduced 4m mast. Base section of mast now supporting 2m-FM vertical J-Pole
Above: Activation of GM/SS-018 on VHF & HF
Above: FT817ND & MX-P50M