G4YSS:GM/SS-027 Ben Donich, 10-06-23
Issue-2: Sig rprts section added.
(Pse rprt errors)
Activation of BEN DONICH
VHF - QRO on 2m-FM only
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: 9kg (20 pounds) inc. 1.5 litre drinks (0.3 used)
This was the first SOTA opportunity of this year’s 9-night trip to GM/SS staying at the Lochs & Glens Ardgartan Hotel from 8th to 16rd of June with my XYL Denise. Cost was £64.89 pppn for half board.
After driving up the 286 miles from Scarborough followed by a rest day, the plan was to activate a new one – GM/SS-027 Ben Donich. The mountain forecast was optimistic if a little too warm for my liking but with no rain expected until evening.
EXECUTION and ROUTE:
The route for SS27 came from the Walk Highlands website with the start point just off the A828 about half a kilometre SW of Rest and be Thankful. As has been my experience in the past, the A83 had suffered yet another mudslide that had blocked the road. Highways Scotland were now dealing with the aftermath. However instead of total closure, a lengthy light-controlled section of road enabled access but you need to be patient at peak times.
Parking is available for a dozen cars or more a short diostance up a forest track off the A828 at NN 2281 0696 (294m ASL). After a good dosing with sun cream and midge repellent (the latter wasn’t needed), I set off walking at 10:06 in bright sunshine and a gentle breeze. The track is followed to NN 2271 0661 where a left turn onto a path is marked by a sign saying ‘access to Ben Donich.’ The path winds up via NN 2275 0645 through trees and via a gate at NN 2292 0646, leading to open fell a little further on.
The path is easily followed all the way via NN 2280 0593; NN 2264 0573; NN 2254 0516 to a minor down-scramble at NN 2246 0481. Care is needed but at 3 or 4 metres high, this is not to be feared. In fact I watched people carry two small dogs down it. Follow up to NN 2221 0453 and soon after that the summit trig (NN 2184 0430) becomes visible.
The first half of the route is efficient but after that successive sections of rise and fall become the norm. Walk Highlands doesn’t appear to take this into account in its figures but by my estimation these re-ascents add up to something like 25m or more which of course doubles to 50m by the time you’ve walked both ways.
During the course of the ascent, I was overtaken three times by young couples. Somehow they all found the energy to simultaneously talk to one another and climb with barely a pause. I have to choose ‘either or’ these days but to be fair they weren’t carrying much. It was all very friendly – everybody spoke.
BEN DONICH - GM/SS-027: 847m, 4 pts, 11:42 to 15:06. 14C rising to 20C by 3pm. 20 mph SE wind and sunshine. Vodafone 4G coverage. LOC: IO76NE, WAB: NN20, Trig TP1264.
The mast and vertical beam were positioned north of the trig. The soil is not very deep and because of the strength of the breeze, a single windward guy was needed. Even then the beam looked more moon-bounce than level but that didn’t seem to affect its performance. A change of guying azimuth later in the activation improved things.
Mounting a beam vertically seems like a compromise due to the mast and coax being in the antenna’s near field and parallel to the elements. A PVC top section sorts the former but the latter is a fact of life. There is the option to run the feeder off the reflector end of the boom but that requires a longer piece of coax whilst also upsetting the weight balance.
145.400/ 145.275/ 145.525 FM - 20 QSO’s:
A self-spot for 145.400 brought in M0JKF/P for the first QSO of the holiday. Dave was S2S on High Stile GM/LD-012 in the Lake District. What a great start! An S2S and the second most distant station of the day too.
Next in the log: MM7POL/P Paul in IO75OX nr Helensburgh; 2M0DKU Stevie – Gourock ‘nr the lighthouse’; GM0VEK Peter in Kirkintilloch (N of Glasgow); MM7SKL Mike – Wemyss Bay above Largs; MM3IBM Charles in IO75OW Greenock and 2M0IOT Stewart in IO75PW (and NS37) Port Glasgow.
As I remember it I called 2M0PVP/P Steve because I suspected he was on a SOTA. He also mentioned to another station that he was ‘looking for someone.’ It turned out that the ‘someone’ was me. So it transpired that I logged another S2S with GM/SS-059 Ben Cleuch. Nice one!
Back on my own frequency of .400, I worked MM0XPZ Steve in Greenock who I was expecting at some point. Steve mentioned that he’d been to the pool in the morning and thought he’d try some radio in the afternoon.
Next in was MR7DCD Doug in IO75SV Clydebank; GM0AXY Ken and GM4YMM Christine in Edinburgh who I have missed working for a long time; 2M0DIJ/M Duane mobile at Greenock; MM6WER James in Paisley.
‘My’ channel dried up just before my lunch, so I started the afternoon with a look round the band. Seeing a spot for 145.275 MHz I went down to work Andrii M0WTU/P S2S on Scafell Pike G/LD-001. As far as I know at 138 miles/ 221km (SE) that was the furthest I worked in the day. Reports were 55 both ways. I heard another summit calling CQ on 145.525 and worked MM7DKY/P Stu S2S on Tinto GM/SS-064.
GB2ESF answered my CQ just as the first battery began to give out. A short while into this QSO, the display was dimming so I hope I didn’t go below the minimum specified voltage per cell. I issued a quick warning and Steve carried on talking while I frantically tried to change the 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery for a fully charged one. In my haste I dropped the one I’d disconnected which landed on the full one. As they are both identical I ended up reconnecting the duff one and we were back in the same situation with the display dimming again and Steve coming back with more info. Panic! Are both these batteries empty or have I reconnected the wrong one? Is the activation now over? How rude it must have sounded with all these gaps in transmission.
With the right battery now running the rig I managed to get back and apologise but I fear I didn’t give Steve the attention he deserved; something I regret. Steve was running his station from Alderley summer fair but I thought I’d heard ‘Elderley,’ writing the latter in the log accordingly. It took quite a bit of research to correct that one! But is it correct? GB2ASF would make more sense but that seems to be tied to a church in Otley. A comedy of errors but that’s really the wrong adjective. For the time being at least – I’m giving up.
GM5BDX Barry called me from the waterfront at Largs, telling me that he’d activated a handful of summits around where I was. I think Beinn Ime, The Cobbler and Beinn Narnain were mentioned and another one which I hadn’t heard of.
Next to call was MM7BQP/M, Craig on a handheld coming in at a true 59 - fully quieting from a railway bridge near Cumnoch, Ayrshire. This was an interesting contact due to his simple equipment and the distance involved (56 miles/ 90km). There are a few candidates for this railway bridge; Cumnoch (12 miles east of Ayr) having at least three. There’s one at NS 5638 2115 that I’m guessing he was standing on? I have no basis for that assumption other than it seems to have a good northerly take-off but it could have been one further down the line.
Craig was using a Wouxun and if I heard it correctly, an ‘SRG77 whip.’ The microphone he’d only paid £3.50 for sounded great to me. Craig mentioned that power was around 8W – a powerful handie indeed. If my IC-E90, blown on Ingleborough NP5 and now at ML&S, can’t be repaired I might just think about a Wouxun 2m/ 4m handheld to replace it.
Now we come to the final station in the log. After several unsuccessful CQ’s on .500 and .400 I worked Chris MM7DVZ who was located in Paisley. I think he’d seen my signal on a waterfall display – a newfangled thing I have yet to experience.
Signal reports were mostly good. 19 of the 20 stations were coming in at 59 to me, the exception being the S2S with G/LD-001, which was 55 both ways. Reports on my signal ranged from 55 to 59 except Chris MM7DVZ who gave me a 45 from Paisley but I could have been turned away at that point? Many of the 59’s had a ‘plus’ to qualify them; one plus 10dB from Wemyss Bay, another plus 40dB from Port Glasgow and a plus 60dB from Helensburgh!
It seems that I was putting out plenty of RF so perhaps I should have got more of it down into England. The further south past the two big Scottish cities you go, the sparser the population and the fewer the chasers.
Lastly I tried CQ’s with the beam in all compass directions. Pointing NNE towards Inverness gave a call or two on their local chat channel of 145.575 but with lots of granite in the way it was surely never going to work. After announcing QRT I packed up and walked off at 15:06.
There were still one or two people over at the trig when I left but unlike in the morning, I saw nobody on the way down. I tried to estimate and add up all the uphill sections on the way and I think the result came to around 25m. Apart from the antenna poles catching on the rock face, climbing up the scramble was easier than the morning’s climb down. The sultry 67-minute descent got me to the car by 16:13. First job - air-con on! It’s only 10 minutes drive to the hotel from R.A.B.T if you’re lucky enough to arrive at the roadworks with the lights on green. Unexpected good luck this time.
ASCENT & DISTANCE (Start point at 294m ASL):
603m (1,978ft) / 7.4 km (4.6 miles)
Drive from Ardgartan Hotel: 10min
Walk Started (A828): 10:06
GM/SS-027: 11:42 to 15:06
Returned to Car: 16:13
Drive back to Ardgartan: 10min
Ascent: 1hr-36 min (90min net)
Activation of SS27: 3hr-24 min
Descent: 67 min
QSO’s on 2m-FM:
20 inc four S2S’s
SOTA points: 4
Battery Utilisation: 2.5Ah approx
Apart from the obvious – climbing steep hills in sunshine, I enjoyed my day out. Once up there and established I had no complaints other than the danger of sunburn; thankfully avoided owing to precautions taken. I didn’t take or need a mountain jacket either; packing extra water instead, most of which I came back with.
Everyone was very friendly from the man I stopped to have a chat with about the local mountains on the way up to the couple who came over to the station to see what it was all about. I learned from them that Ben Lomond is now served by an overspill car park just down from Rowardennan but they did caution me to ‘Get there well before 10am if you can.’ I know that particular mountain is a cliché and they described it as an overcrowded slog but I have been looking to tick it off for years now. Whilst on the subject of the ‘tick’ as far as I know and despite lying on the grass for 3 hours, I didn’t get any.
Having dismissed the heavy gear from my rucksack the night before in favour of five Watts, I panicked in the morning and put back the 25 Watt rig, the Pye filter and a beam. I need not have worried as I’m sure I could have logged at least half the stations with simpler gear. That’s especially true on a Saturday, though working down as far as the LD summits would have been doubtful. It was great to log two LD summits, no doubt helped by a special LD weekend activating effort. Of course the two GM/SS’s were a bonus too.
It was nice to meet old friends again and new ones too but my trouble is remembering new names and sadly also some old ones these days.
With no pressure from the weather for a change I was left to enjoy each QSO and give it full attention. The gear worked well, not least the Pye filter which kept out most of the rubbish before it got to the mediocre receiver. Despite a 25 Watt output and FM throughout, it only took a little more than one 2.2 Ah battery to do the job.
To ALL STATIONS worked and SOTA Spotter app.
73, John G4YSS
Above: Waiting at the A83 roadworks. Rest and be Thankful ahead. GM/SS-018 at centre
Above: The parking spot just off the A828 nr R.A.B.T. Start by walking up the track ahead.
Above: The path to SS27 leaves the track here. Note the disagreement in height. The sign adds 10 metres!
Above: Looking back to R.A.B.T and Loch Restil. SS18 is on the left.
Above: The second half of the climb ahead.
Above: Fissures beside the path; apparently (we are warned) a trap when covered by snow. No chance of that today.
Above: Getting lumpier
Above: Passing a natural shelter
Above and below: The minor scramble
Above: Walkers carrying small dogs down
Above: The path ahead
Above: The summit in sight
Above: Summit of GM/SS-027 Ben Donich
Above: Looking S down Loch Long
Above: Looking NW
Above: Activation of GM/SS-027 Ben Donich on 2m-FM
Above: The couple who came over for a chat.
Above: A sheep’s fleece wrapped around a rock a few metres down from my ‘QTH.’ Better off without it in this weather! SS18 in the background.
Above: One way to get a bit more height
Above: Part way down
Above: The gate which leads down to the track
Above: Through the trees to the forest track and parking place