G(M)4YSS:GM/SS-025 Beinn Luibhean, 20-05-22
Issue-2 (callsign error)
(Pse rprt errors)
Activation of BEINN LUIBHEAN
VHF - QRO on 2m-FM only
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)
Moonraker MT270M, 2m/70cm, 25W Mobile Transceiver
PYE Cambridge Tunable Antenna Filter Type AT29908/AB, range 132-174Mcs (0.6kg)
Turnigy 11.1V, 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery
J-Pole for 2m FM & 2-section mast
IC-E90, 4-band, 5W VHF H/H (not used)
Pack Weight: 8.6kg (19 pounds) inc. Primaloft Jacket & 0.5 litre drinks
This was the second SOTA day of this year’s trip to GM/SS staying at the Tarbet Hotel from 16th to 23rd of May, our second time of staying there. It was booked via Shearings but since they got into financial difficulties and sold all their hotels the price has more than doubled since 2017.
The first activations of the holiday were two days prior. GM/SS-016 and GM/SS-020 (Beinn Narnain and The Cobbler) on the 18th. See Reflector report 29171:
After two nice days in succession, one a rest day, the mountain forecast told of 15 to 30-mph winds and up to 35-mph in the morning with widespread showery rain developing from noon. Temps of 4 to 6C and 30% chance of cloud-free summits. Hail and lightning was mentioned for the higher summits so this had to be done in the morning or not at all.
The night before, I packed up the rucksack with HF-QRO gear plus a dipole and an over optimistic inclusion of my 160m loading coils. I tied on a tent flysheet too. Even if it did rain I could be comfortable and dry until the time came to descend but that’s all before I heard about the lightning. I’d be the first to admit that really does scare me. As an aircraft design signatory (ex) I know all about this stuff and the need to avoid 200,000 Amps even if it’s only for 6.4 micro seconds (a standard Culham Laboratories test stroke). I know the MWIS forecasts are necessarily pessimistic at times but it’s still a risk and I’ve had plenty of big blue sparks and shocks doing SOTA in the past from static, plus one zapped handheld.
So I knew the score but somehow thought the forecast might change for the better. Again over optimistic. After the earliest hotel breakfast available at 8am, the first job was to swap out the HF kit for the same VHF-QRO equipment used on the 18th. There would be no six-hour stint on all bands today putting this hill on HF (it hasn’t had much of that), just a ‘smash and grab’ with the help of those good people in Glasgow and the general area.
EXECUTION and ROUTE:
For guidance on SS25 I referred to the Internet. Walk Highlands is an excellent site and they were advising to walk up the south ridge, which is pathless. At least I recognized their start point having used it in 2020 to access The Cobbler from a parking spot on the A83 due west of that summit. That turned out to be quite a hard walk but this one promised to be shorter.
Following a short drive from Tarbet and parking at NN 2427 0598 (158m ASL) about a mile short of Rest and Be Thankful, I set off walking at 09:23 in overcast but at least dry conditions. There was very little cloud on the hilltops. So far so good. After climbing the gate out of the parking area you cross a well-made galvanized steel footbridge NN 2428 0603 which at first appears to go nowhere apart from into a steep grass bank. In fact a path goes sharp left then curves up and around to the right. Soon you are walking up with the fence on your right.
The path goes via NN 2441 0615 but about 300m past that I turned left off it, heading for the deer fence at NN 2455 0637, which I was forced to climb. It wasn’t that easy with a rucksack but I made it over OK apart from some snagging on the tensioning wire ends. This 8-foot fence looks brand new and in fact there are planks of wood lent up against nearby rocks that are either for incorporation or collection. The fence fades into the distance right up to the top of the valley, for all I know most or all of the way to Bealach a’ Mhaim, so I’m afraid there’s no getting around it if you want to climb SS25.
As I was climbing down the far side of the fence in ungainly fashion, looking back I spied movement. After a double-take from me a young lady made her way up to where I was standing. I assumed she was after doing Beinn Luibhean the same as me so my comment from my side of the fence was, ‘They don’t make it easy do they?’ In fact she was on her way to the Cobbler and had somehow got on the wrong side of the burn that runs in a ravine for some distance. Having done that route 2-years ago I was able to give her some advice and a warning that the WX was due to crack up; a fact she already knew. Off she went up the valley as I plodded north up the hill.
I’d been led to expect no path and as yet I hadn’t seen one but I came upon a wooden post with a pink painted top at NN 2457 0649. Was this some sort of guidance I wondered? Then there was another at NN 2456 0657 and a third one at NN 2455 0664. By now there was maybe the semblance of a path that I could see and a little further up it became slightly better defined. I tried my best to follow it but kept loosing it to left or right. Marking it again at NN 2451 0686, it continued up steeply via NN 2449 0698 and NN 2446 0707 to NN 2447 0720.
The path was generally increasing in definition as a function of altitude but then it seemed to suddenly ‘do a bunk’ and I would be temporarily lost. Here’s where I marked it higher up: NN 2446 0743; NN 2440 0759; NN 2434 0766 (take a sharp right here) to NN 2434 0770.
Continuing up: NN 2428 0780; NN 2429 0786 to the summit – a big rock - which I marked at NN 24297 07913 today. A long-winded description I’m sure but it might be useful to someone.
BEINN LUIBHEAN - GM/SS-025: 860m, 4 pts, 10:52 to 12:10. 8C. 25 mph SSW wind with sudden gusts. Clear but overcast. 5-seconds of sunshine, occasional wispy low-cloud. One heavy rain shower. Vodafone coverage. LOC: IO76NF, WAB: NN20, No Trig pt.
The J-pole on its short mast was forced into grass at the SE side of the rocks and I decided to sit down in a rock cleft with feet dangling over the edge facing the A83 below. The RG178 coax just reached over the summit rocks to the filter output. Fortunately I’d recently lengthened it to around 3 or 4 metres with comfort in mind. However, this setup was sub-optimal as I wasn’t fully out of the wind but at least I just about had a QTH that was tenable though not particularly safe due to the drop-off combined with a gusty wind. The important thing was not to allow the rucksack or anything else roll or it would have done so for hundreds of metres. Bad enough to leave it on a G/NP grass verge in March then drive home 80 miles (I did get it back eventually at great expense) but this would have topped that.
145.500/ 145.475 FM - 9 QSO’s:
Using the hotel WiFi, I made an advanced Sotawatch alert for 11am local on 2m & 4m FM. 4m was merely a possibility that didn’t materialise due to the weather. Now could I qualify with the gear I’d brought when this mountain didn’t quite overlook Glasgow as well as the two on the 18th? I had almost finished setting up when I heard activity on S20. A faraway voice which I replied to (see below) and also a call from Steve MM0XPZ, which was very reassuring!
I have to admit to deliberately conducting the first QSO on the calling frequency. This was GM4SQM – David and I was afraid of losing him, not knowing if he would be crucial to qualifying. As it turned out he wasn’t but we exchanged 52’s though 42 might have been more accurate. I had to disable the squelch for David who’s QTH was Kilmarnock; well south of Glasgow. Three more required.
The intention was to work Steve next as he was patiently waiting but somehow I was called by Gordon GM4OAS; this time on the working freq. of .475. If the last QSO had been slightly tricky, this one was still more difficult with 52/ 32 reports. I lost him in noise at the end but I reckon it was a good contact and over 100km away near Mallaig, with plenty of interposing high ground. Despite its questionable quality, the MT270M and 25W, filtered by the ancient PYE unit was delivering.
Overdue by now was Steve MM0XPZ in Greenock. Apologies! We exchanged with 59++ both ways but Steve was having continuing difficulties getting into Sotawatch. No matter. By now it looked like I was getting out well enough to qualify. One more needed.
At 10:25z MM7SWM provided the 4th QSO with 59 both ways. Stuart (Glasgow) had provided spots for me 2 days ago plus another today and also posted a reply on my SS16-SS20 report. Thanks again for that help Stuart and for the three QSO’s.
A CQ was answered by MM7DIR in Longridge, halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Neil is a new licensee and was audibly enthusiastic at picking up a SOTA station. Apparently I was his 3rd contact and we exchanged with 57/ 59. Neil was using 4 Watts to an external antenna. Welcome to amateur radio Neil and I hope you get as much out of it as I have over the years. If you like walking, my recommendation is SOTA activating (see sota.org.uk)
For the past 20 minutes I been talking on the radio while watching ‘Dinky Toy’ lorries and cars trundling along the A83 way down below and framed by my two boots. At this point, clag started to blow across the view and a few drops of rain wet the log. It wasn’t too long before the brolly was needed. The rain got quite heavy and the wind more blustery.
MM6SFF was next in the log. If I heard him correctly, this was Stephen in Shotts, North Lanarkshire and the exchange was 59 both ways.
Dick GM4PPT in Coylton, a place that I visited a decade ago, provided perhaps the longest QSO of the day. We had a really good chat and discovered we had a mutual friend in G(M)4ZNZ - Ross who now lives in Thirsk. Ross was an RSGB newsreader for Scarborough. Dick mentioned he’d attended a Scarborough Amateur Radio Society meeting as a guest way back in 1983. That was before I was a member.
He is also an avid VHF contester using both CW and SSB. My ears pricked up at this. ‘Have you ever worked my son Phil G0UUU/P?’ Dick replied in the affirmative. ‘Yes, his callsign is in my VHF logs numerous times as mine will be in his.’ Dick looked up the weather for me, probably on a real time radar AP? ‘Oh dear, it’s right on top of you at the moment but there’s a clear patch half an hour or an hour way.’ We exchanged WAB squares and book numbers before saying 73.
With wind and rain battering the umbrella to the point where two spokes parted company from the canopy, it was getting to the stage when I would have to call it a day. Steadying the above against the elements while holding the log, a pencil and the microphone plus trying to take photos at the same time was becoming difficult. However I couldn’t resist another call with the excuse that the current bad weather might temporarily pass through as was predicted.
The final two stations worked were GM4NFC Alex 59/ 56 and MM7FEM Jim (IO75QL) 57/ 57. Both these stations are located in Ayr, though these QSO’s were comparatively brief.
A short while after that Dick’s weather prediction turned out to be perfectly accurate. The rain decreased to a light drizzle and the low-cloud cleared. Good job too. I knew I’d be walking into the teeth of the strong wind on the way down so a lack of heavy rain was a bonus. I hate waterproofs and now they weren’t needed.
I set off for the car at 12:10 and arrived there by 13:06. Despite trying my best to follow the path discovered on the way up, I still managed to lose it once and it barely exists where the pink posts lead you down to the deer fence. That said, the path higher up is a significant help as well as a confidence booster. One stop was made to fix the brolly should any more rain arrive but it even the drizzle stopped.
The deer fence is a significant impediment and I’ve had to climb them before. It could do with a ladder stile but since this is not a right of way as we understand the term in England, it is unlikely to happen. As everyone knows, completely different rules apply between G and GM with GM the clear winner.
Once back at the car, I worked Karl 2E0FEH and Ken G0FEX on the 7.160 WAB freq. via my H/B 40m mobile whip. They collected NN20 square from me.
ASCENT & DISTANCE (Start point at 158m ASL):
Ascent 702m (2,303ft) / Distance walked 4.8 km (3 miles)
Drive from Tarbet Hotel: 15min
Walk Started: 09:23
GM/SS-025: 10:52 to 12:10
Returned to A83: 13:06
Drive back to Tarbet: 15min
Ascent: 1hr-29 min
SS25: 1hr-18 min
Descent: 56 min
QSO’s on 2m-FM: 9
Battery Utilisation: 1Ah (estimated)
After plenty of worry about the weather, it appears I got away with it. I was able to walk both ways in the dry and in shirt sleeves on the way up. Wind and rain are merely unpleasant but possible lightning in the forecast is entirely another thing. This is something I wrestle with every July for VHF-NFD on G/NP-008 and this has eaten into my psyche over the past 20 years.
I dearly wanted to put this mountain on HF because looking at its history I very much doubt whether anyone outside the UK has it in their log. It’s had 3 QSO’s on 60m and the rest on VHF. There have only been 11 activations since 2003 and nothing for the last 6 years. Pity the WX wasn’t quite up to it except perhaps with hindsight and a tent. I don’t think lightning ever materialized so it looks like I was being over cautious. However, the activation on 2m-FM went well and I enjoyed some extended conversations while making some new friends.
The route used is probably the best option but it suffers from the lack of a path (that I could find) on the lower reaches and a very high fence that must be climbed. The path from 1/3 of the way up is adequate but can still be lost if care is not taken.
The pink-topped posts (or sticks) lower down are a mystery as some don’t line up but I’d like to think that some kind person intended them as a guide to the path higher up. Alternatively they could be markers for tree planting as there is plenty of that going on the lower slopes of the mountain. The pink ones are the same spec as the plain ones at the lower side of the fence and the wood has the same look and lack of weathering as the wood used for the fence stays.
As I write, it would seem that the weather is forecast to be poor at the weekend but improves significantly on Monday for our drive back down to England. Such is life.
To ALL STATIONS worked and to Stuart MM7SWM for the spot.
73, John G4YSS
Above: A83 parking place at NN 2427 0598 a mile from Rest and Be Thankful
Above: Exit parking place via gate. Footbridge beyond and SS25 in the distance
Above: Cross the footbridge and initially turn left
Above: The path curves to the right then ascends by the fence. SS25’s south ridge in the background
Above: Leave the path (which continues up the valley towards Bealach a’ Mhaim) and approach the deer fence
Above: Looking back towards A83 after climbing the fence. Someone is approaching - the only person I saw
Above: A look of dismay. ‘I think I’m the wrong side of the burn to climb The Cobbler.’ (Subject mountain in the background)
Above: Early signs of a path up the south ridge
Above: A lot further up it gets steep. Looking back to the A83 start point at left of frame
Above: A light aircraft over Glen Croe
Above: Generally the path becomes better defined with altitude but there are still places where it’s hard to follow
Above: Looking back. Beinn Narnain GM/SS-016 (left) and The Cobbler GM/SS-020 (right) both activated two days prior
Above: Summit of Beinn Luibhean G/SS-025 - 860m/ 4-points
Above: The view east over Butterbridge. SS32 in background
Above: Looking east to Beinn an Lochain SS18 and Loch Restil
Above: Your activator for today before donning a fleece and a coat
Above: J-pole with coax draped over the rock
Above: G/SS-025 QTH - out of the worst of the wind
Above: Deteriorating weather but it went away for the descent
Above: On the way back down to the deer fence. A mysterious pink topped marker stick - one of a few
Above: Astride the 8-foot deer fence. Beware of 'Ripping Yarns
Above: Almost back to the road