G4YSS: GM/SS-218 Cruach Tairbeirt, 22-05-22
Iss-1 (pse rprt errors)
Activation of CRUACH TAIRBEIRT GM/SS-218-1
22nd May 2022 using G(M)4YSS. Unaccompanied
HF - QRO on 20m CW-SSB, 40m SSB, 80m SSB
160m CW-SSB (Nil QSO’s)
QRP on 2m-FM (Nil QSO’s)
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as ‘z’)
This was the final of three SOTA activation days in our seven-night break at The Tarbet Hotel, Loch Lomond from 16th to 23rd May-22. There are separate reports for SS16-SS20 on 18-05-22 (reflector report 29171) & SS25 on 20-05-22 (reflector report 29181)
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier 80-10m with 160m capability
Link dipole for 80m thru’ 20m on a 5m CFC (carbon fibre composite)/ alloy mast.
1m CFC end-sticks
Home-brew tunable loading coils for 160m (no QSO’s)
5 Ah Li-Po battery
J-Pole for 2m FM
IC-E90, 4-band, 5W VHF H/H with extendable 2m set-top helical for 4m FM (not used)
5 Ah Li-Po battery
QRO pack: 9.7kg (21.4 pounds) including umbrella, Thermoball jacket, 0.5 litre drinks.
This was my final chance for a SOTA activation of this Spring’s trip to GM/SS. On the strength of the MWIS weather forecast, the planned boat trip across Loch Lomond to climb and activate Ben Lomond was canceled. For several years now I have wanted to bag the most southerly Munro to add the the most northerly one which I have climbed twice.
Wind, rain, low-cloud and a negative windchill were features of the forecast, as was possible lightning. MWIS is almost always pessimistic so it was a hard decision, made only half-an-hour before the boat sailing time of 08:45. Had Cruise Loch Lomond been operating the Tarbet to Rowardenan service seven days a week instead of just at weekends until summertime, it would have been typing a different report.
The substitution was a little one-pointer in the form of GM/SS-218 Cruach Tairbeirt, a short walk from the Tarbet Hotel should one wish. The plan was to use HF because simple VHFM would be unlikely to deliver 4 contacts from 415m ASL. Half a day would be sufficient for this so there was enough time for my wife and I to attend the 10am service at Arrochar Church where we were made very welcome.
EXECUTION and ROUTE:
GM/SS-218 wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. The route had been in my GPS for a while as a reserve option. Almost all reports for this summit mention difficult navigation and detours because of tree felling. There were no routes on the internet that I could find, at least ones with sufficient detail, so where should I look for information? The answer G4OBK. I found Phil’s tracks for this summit on the SOTA mapping website. I don’t often go on there but I managed to navigate around until a way was found to download the track as a GPX. A set of waypoints were derived from this and put together into a route. I even found Phil’s description somewhere and I think he walked from a hotel in or near Arrochar.
A little information was gleaned when I mentioned this hill to Layla, one of the waitresses at the Tarbet Hotel. She lives at its foot, about 300m north of the hotel and has her own way up from her back garden, that she uses often for exercise. ‘It takes me about an hour but I couldn’t describe the route as it’s too complicated and only I use it.’ Just how she manages to get across the railway line is unclear.
I intended to go from Arrochar & Tarbet railway station so Phil’s route was modified to suit. I checked out the railway station start point in 2017 but for some reason didn’t activate the hill. I recall talking to a lady who was resident there but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what she’d told me. I was able to brush up on this today when I went there to park the car and we met again. She told me that the parking area was really meant for railway users, nevertheless adding that it would be OK for a short time. However, I intended to be away from the car for 4 or 5 hours.
She mentioned extensive tree felling and forest track building all of which had affected the path through the forest. She suggested I drive down the A83 towards Arrochar and stop at a new forest track ‘300 yds past the railway bridge.’ The track is not marked on the map. This I did after thanking her and I’m grateful as my task was made easier by starting there.
While at the station a large group of people set off through the tunnel under the railway after taking a group photo. A short time later they returned to ask the resident if she could put two push chairs in a safe place because ‘The path is no good for push chairs.’ Quite by chance, I was to meet this group later.
There are dire warnings about going up this track or parking in front of the gate so I just shuffled the car onto a graveled area off to the left and well out of the way. They wouldn’t be working anyway as this was a Sunday. A strong temptation to rebel and drive up the track was resisted and I was walking from this new starting place (NN 3046 0423) by 12:11.
Shortly after getting underway I saw the aforementioned group coming towards me. I asked for a photo and was granted permission whence they asked me where the forest track went. ‘Only down to the A83’, I replied. Disappointed and seeking a quieter and more scenic walk, they realized that they would have to turn back. This friendly group of at least 40 people of Indian origin, were up from Glasgow for the weekend
Walking along the track with them I mentioned that I was very partial to their country’s cuisine. For a few hundred metres, until they turned left up a steep path, I received good advice on how to cook Indian meals. ‘Cook from the heart, not from a list of ingredients and instructions.’ ‘The meal will taste different according to what mood the chef is in that day.’ They also went on to tell me that ‘curry’ is too general a term and an anglicised one at that. You live and learn.
Back to the route:
At 2.2 km ENE from the parking place I came to a point at NN 3115 0471, where the path up from the railway station crosses the newly made forest track at right angles. Here you turn left (N) and from now on I was following Phil’s route. Looking right before starting up, I could see that the path down to the station was strewn with fallen trees and looked difficult if not impassable. I have the nice lady’s advice to thank for not coming up that way.
Now it should be straightforward provided there had been no additional felling since Phil passed this way. It seemed there hadn’t and an easy passage ensued apart from in the forest where, described in Phil’s report, there are two very big tree trunks to get over. However that’s jumping ahead. First there is a minor burn to ford at NN 3108 0483 and you enter tall conifers at NN 3110 0492. Here some kind person has put a sign on a tree which says, ‘Up The Hill’ with an arrow pointing to the right.
The exit from trees to the open fell is at NN 3120 0509 after which the path curves left on boggy ground, going up via NN 3126 0530 (zig left); NN 3118 0540 (zag right); NN 3123 0547 (zig left again) and NN 3122 0563. On this section you’re on steeper ground but if anything it’s even wetter.
I GPS’d the trig point at NN 31263 05868 today but I don’t know how accurate that is. The GPS was announcing ‘weak signals’ around that time and it certainly didn’t like being in those tall trees lower down either. As for the living trees, by the look of the carnage in that area, they could soon be just stumps like so many of their companions. No doubt after that, the forest will be replanted and I trust that the path will be respected should that happen?
The ascent took 61 minutes and it’s not one you can rush. In fact, apart from the boggy bits and the two fallen trees, it’s a pleasant enough walk at this time of year as you pass through areas of bluebells. When getting over the two fallen trees, care is needed not to rip your clothes. They have several tiny side branches that are not immediately seen until you’ve snagged your trousers on them. Pity it was a fairly dull day but later, on the way down, a bit of sunshine worked wonders.
CRUACH TAIRBEIRT - GM/SS-218: 415m, 1 pt, 13:12 to 16:10. 12C. 15 mph southerly wind. Overcast with minor light drizzle later. No low-cloud. Two short periods of sunshine. Vodafone coverage. LOC: IO76PF, WAB: NN30 – Trig: TP2652
I set up the dipole in parallel with the trig point ridge and on the west side of it. For VHF later on, the intention was to move up to the trig which was in a windier place.
I didn’t bother to pre-alert for this activation, I was hoping for phone coverage and self-spotting. The SMS service had failed me up to now but I remembered what my son had told me. When a tiny ‘4G’ icon appears beside the phone’s signal meter, by selecting ‘Internet Connection’ spots are likely to appear without delay. Thus I made my first successful self-spots of the week!
14.061 CW - 13 QSO’s:
A small but urgent sounding pileup developed within a minute of launching the spot. With power set to 30W most of the time but initially 50W, I worked the following stations:
OH3GZ Jukka; F4WBN Christian; OE6GND Gerhard; F8DGF Nic and OK8MA/P Jarek S2S on OK/MO-014.
Even at this early stage, it was obvious to me that my CW skills, not practiced for a long time, were letting me down. I was having to ask for callsign repeats which was embarrassing amongst all these experienced ops anxious to move on to their next chase after securing a 1-point QSO with me.
At this juncture and mixed in with others, an M0 called in. I later found out that this was our friend Damian M0BKV in Cornwall but I was unable to get back to him until later when he was logged on 40m-SSB. Continuing with a gradual improvement in Morse reading, I logged:
OK2PDT Jan in Velka Bites; HB9AFI/P Kurt S2S on HB/VD-035; OM1AX Vlado; HB9CDH/P Bruno S2S on HB/LU-022; DL8NGC/ QRP Grigorij; EA2DT Manuel; DL2HWI Dietmar and S57NJM Mitja in Slovenia.
I was able to give out 599’s to nine of the above and I got seven of the same coming back, including the S2S with OK8MA/P. 559 reports were exchanged with the other two summits but I had a rather difficult time with DL8NGC – 339 both ways. There was QSB on the band and he was fading to nothing.
7.160 SSB (WAB frequency) - 6 QSO’s:
Another self-spot was noticed by the following stations:
G4IPB Paul at Middleton-in-Teasdale; G4OOE Nick in Scarborough; 2E0AGB Alan - Dewsbury; M7ENV Mark – West Midlands; M0BKV Damian in Cornwall (worked successful this time after a failure on 20m) and G0RQL Don in Holdsworth, Devon. Don’s comment, after only seeing spots for 2m-FM from me this year was, ‘It’s so long since I worked you, I thought you’d sold all your HF gear.’
Power was 30W.and reports were 57 to 59 outgoing with 55 to 58 coming back. The exception was Nick, who suffers with a lot of noise and gave me 44.
3.760 SSB (WAB frequency) - 1 QSO:
The reason for using 80m was in case the Scottish stations were too close to hear me on 40m. This has happened in the past with for example Ken GM0AXY. Ken wasn’t around today but I did get an unexpected call from EI3GYB Michael in County Mayo (55/ 41 to 52 QSB). We were able to have a brief conversation too. Michael’s is a familiar callsign from when I was on IOM, working him on Top Band.
1.832 CW/ 1.846 SSB: Nil
Talking of Top Band, it was worth inserting the 160m coils into the 80m dipole and tuning them on the off chance of 160m contacts but no miracle came to pass. I tried for about 20 minutes in all, alternating between the CW and SSB frequencies after self-spotting both. During this time the sun made a showing so I nipped up to the trig for a photo or two. While thus engaged I heard a callsign ending with ‘victor’ loud and clear on 1.846-SSB. I got back to the rig ASAP but several pleading calls left me with nothing.
While I continued fruitless CQ’ing, two lads arrived with a pair of Labradors. They asked if I knew a direct way to Arrochar from here but I couldn’t help much apart from mentioning the forest track I’d come up. We agreed that there was too much tussock to take bee-lines over this sort of ground. Their walk had ended too soon despite them mentioning that they’d fought their was up the tree strewn path from the railway station.
14.280 SSB - 13 QSO’s:
I’ve had disappointments on 20m SSB in the past; once or twice getting zero QSO’s but I thought it was worth a try again today. I was more than pleased to equal the QSO count in CW.
The log: HB9BHW/P Hans; DJ5AV Mike; EA2CCG Joaquin; HB9EAJ/P Stephan S2S on HB/NW-022; S57ILF Franci; EA1DHB Ricardo; HA7WA Viktor; OH3GZ Jukka; IU4FLP/4 Andrea; F6FTB Christian; SM/HB9GVW/P Hans in Sweden; F4IOQ Thomas and finally OH4EBD Juha using an end-fed.
Power was 50W and outgoing reports ranged from 57 to 59 with one 55. Coming back: 54 to 59 with one 48 but there was deep QSB. I was given 33 to 57 by one station and 47 to 58 came from another.
145.500/ 145.475 FM: Nil:
After packing away the HF station, the J-pole was erected on the HF mast base section near the trig. Since it was raining slightly at the time, I sat behind the umbrella. A self-spot and CQ’s on both frequencies produced nil QSO’s and all other channels were dead also. With 5W to a vertical on this low summit this outcome might have been expected but I had to at least try. Those Glasgow lads had done me proud all week so they needed their chance again.
This was probably the best part of the day weather wise. The drizzle had given way to brighter conditions and occasional sunshine. I stopped a few times to take photos of the bluebells with the Loch below and sent one to the family via WhatsApp. Apart from avoiding some very wet ground and negotiating the tree barriers again, the journey down was straightforward. Time at the car was 16:57, a descent time of 47 minutes without rushing.
ASCENT & DISTANCE:
Ascent 367m (1,204ft) / Distance 4.8 km (3 miles)
Start point at 48m ASL
Drive from hotel: 5min
Walk started: 12:11
GM/SS-218: 13:12 to 16:10
Returned to Car: 16:57
Summit time: 2hrs-58min
Time Car to Car: 4hrs-46min
13 on 14.061 CW
6 on 7.160 SSB
1 on 3.760 SSB
13 on 14.280 SSB
0 on 160m CW-SSB
0 on 145 FM
After becoming a somewhat demonic in my mind, mainly due to the possibility of getting lost in or failing to penetrate its 360 degree tree defenses, his hill proved easy enough to climb. That was in the main due to the route derived from Phil G4OBK, helped by on-the-spot advice from the lady who’s house is on the left near the station tunnel and who happened to be tending her pot plants at the time I drive up. The path is certainly very wet and boggy higher up and as Phil found, there are still the two lying tree trucks to be got over. Otherwise the route was easy to follow and is quite efficient with negligible re-ascent.
20m was the easy winner today with 26 QSO’s in two modes but propagation did not extend outside Europe – well not that I noticed anyway. It’s a while since I met up with these chasers so I wasn’t confident about using their names. Others I haven’t come across before so it seems that SOTA is still growing.
The WAB frequencies (of 7.160 and 3.760 SSB) were employed to advantage for the umpteenth time. As well as SOTA there’s always a WAB square to offer and in this case a trig point ref to give out as well. There didn’t seem to be a WAB net as such running on 40m and the same for 80m as would be expected except perhaps in the evenings, though I did work one station on 80.
The advantage is that these frequencies often have people monitoring and awaiting the next mobile or fixed station to offer a grid square. If there’s a net running a visit there can be well worthwhile and if it’s not too busy, you can be run down it in a jiffy. Most old hands know all this of course so the above is written for the newcomers.
160m was worth a try but I’d have been astonished if anybody had come back to my CQ’s. Much the same applied to 2m-FM but not to the same degree. I thought I might get one or two on there but unlike earlier in the week when I was running 25W from hills twice the size and getting success, my 5W from 415m ASL didn’t cut it.
To ALL STATIONS worked and for the SOTA phone spotting service. Thanks to Phil G4OBK for route guidance.
The Return Home:
This was not a normal journey back to Scarborough. After traveling up to GM via Middleton-in-Teesdale a week earlier we chose to stick to the standard Pennine crossing via the A66, after stopping at Moffat. Unfortunately there was a very bad accident between Appleby and Brough which closed the A66 road ahead of us. We came to a halt in a long queue of vehicles about twenty minutes after it had happened. Due to a cable barrier on the central reservation and a lack of turn-offs, there was no way to divert or turn around. Four or five police vehicles, some unmarked, came through plus two vans marked ‘forensic.’
After an hour and a half with almost no progress, the police directed us all through a gap and onto the westbound carriageway. We made our way around via Appleby and the villages of Soulby, Kirkby Stephen, Kaber and Barras. Apart from the A685 southbound out of Brough, (the official diversion being via Tebay and M6) these roads were quiet.
The A66 was closed until that evening when it was announced that there had been a fatality, a man from Appleby. Apparently an HGV and two cars had collided on a single carriageway section of the A66. Shocking events. A further stop was made at Thorpe Farm Centre on the A66 so having set off at 09:05, it was 17:20 when we arrived home.
On a brighter note, while passing Carlisle I had a QSO on 2m-FM with G4WHA/M. Geoff had heard my call on S20 and had nipped out of work to reply from his car. Though necessarily brief, we had a good conversation, mentioning John G0TDM who is off the air for the time being. I gave Geoff a heads-up on our forthcoming Lakes walking week in June. Geoff mentioned that in addition to 2m, he is now also QRV from his car on 40m thru’ (I think) 17m HF. He also has an 80m whip which he said was quite large.
This was one of two G4YSS/M QSO’s for the week excluding the WAB one on 40m. G4OOE/P was worked on our way up to Tarbet on 16th May. Nick was on Cross Fell in dreadful weather, accompanied by his son Dominic who is not a radio op. They were making available the 8-point SOTA on 2m-FM which was qualified before they were chased off by the weather. Dominic had a knee problem which added to their troubles. Nick also told me about new notices at the bottom gate on the Great Dunn Fell radar road which further discourage driving up from Knock. I found all this out on 26th May when I saw Nick and his wife at Irton Garden Centre in Scarborough.
Well, that’s it. Another holiday in Scotland to add to countless others since 1962. As often is the case, we had mixed weather with four SOTA’s activated but perhaps the best bit - no midges!
All being well and weather permitting, I hope to be putting on some G/LD’s in June. This is with a walking group which may mean 2m-FM only but we’ll see.
Tarbet 2022 Summary:
18-05-22: GM/SS-016-6 & GM/SS-020-4 Beinn Narnain & The Cobbler (VHF)
20-05-22: GM/SS-025-4 Beinn Luibhean (VHF)
22-05-22: GM/SS-218-1 Cruach Tairbeirt (HF)
15 Activator points; 2,357m (7,733ft) ascent/ 22.6km (14.1 miles) walked; 653 miles driven.
73, John G4YSS
Above: A83/ forest track junction. Parking out of the way but mind the ditch!
Above: Some of the signs forbidding access. Whether vehicular or on foot is unclear.
Above: The large group of happy people about to turn around
Above: NN 31153 04708. This is where you turn left (N) off the track onto the path from the railway station
Above: Looking south from the same point. The path from the railway station is blocked by debris
Above: Ford a small stream a little further up
Above: The path winds itself up through tree stumps to the standing trees
Above: Enter the trees at NN 3110 0492. These trees may soon be gone? Looking back down the path
Above: Turn right at the makeshift sign. Hill Path >
Above: Climb over this barrier. Don’t rip your clothes
Above: Exit the trees at NN 3120 0509
Above: The path is easy to follow but tends to be wet
Above: GM/SS-218 Trig Point TP2652, overlooking Loch Long
Above: Visitors to the trig
Above: Trying Top Band - 160m
Above: The dam above Succouth (Telephoto)
Above: Going down the steepest part
Above: The bluebell lined path and Loch Lomond
Above: Path re-entering the trees
Above: A marker