G4YSS: Meall Dheirgidh GM/NS-114, 1st Act'n 07-09-14

G4YSS: Activation of ‘New SOTA’ - GM/NS-114, 07-09-14.
Report 1 of 7 in 2014 GM/NS series.

GM4YSS/P and SSEG Clubcall GS0OOO/P.
HF QRO/ VHF QRP; 77 QSO’s on 40m; 30m; 20m and 2m-FM.
All times: BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS as z).

First SOTA in the series of GM/NS-114; NS-101; NS-074; NS-014; NS-111; NS-037 & NS-020 during 10 night stay in the Dornoch Hotel 5th to 15th September 2014. (See other reports).

GENERAL DATA for this series of activations:
7 SOTA’s each on 7 separate days including:
All-time new SOTA’s: 4
Munros: 2
Total Ascent: 4,560m (14,960ft).
Total Distance Walked: 82km (51 miles)
Total Activator Points: 24.
Total QSO’s: 512.

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver.
SainSonic MX-P50A, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier (designed for FT817).
Link dipole for 80m thru 20m on a 5m CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
(Home-Brew tuneable loading coils for 160m - not taken on this summit).
6 Ah Li-Po battery with 2.2Ah in reserve (latter not used).
Vertical J-Pole for 2m FM.
Reserve 2m-FM/ PMR rig: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHFM/ UHFM, 5oz H/H (Like UV-3R).
QRO pack: 11.4kg (25 pounds) including 0.75 litre drinks, food, Primaloft jacket, flysheet & umbrella.

This expedition was the first during a 10-night self-drive/ 7-SOTA holiday at the Dornoch Hotel from 5th to 15th of September 2014. SOTA`s worked in chronological order and separately reported were as follows: GM/NS-114 Meall Dheirgidh; NS-101 Carn Garbh; NS-074 Beinn Tharsuinn; NS-014 Ben Klibreck; NS-111 Maovally; NS-037 Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill & NS-020 Ben Hope.

I have had a GPS route, copy map and logsheet for this hill since 2005 but never got around to doing it. Meall Dheirgidh is close to GM/NS-071 which I put on last year. It is fairly nondescript; just an ordinary hill really. The attraction was its unactivated status and the fact that it is fairly close to where we were staying, making it ‘afternoonable.’

Today was Sunday so after dropping my XYL off at Dornoch Cathedral, the drive via Bonar Bridge took just over half an hour. A warning text to Roy G4SSH enabled him to pre-announce my intentions. It was a breezy, mainly overcast day with a threat of rain but at least there were no midges. In fact, though I was to be troubled by flies later in the week, I saw none of the infamous Scottish beasts for the entire ten days.

The start point seemed obvious from the map except that access across a couple of hundred metres from the road to a marked path was unclear. Also the path appeared to peter out at Loch Meall Dheirgidh so how easy or difficult this one was going to be depended mainly on the state of the intervening ground between the loch and the summit.

I was underway by 12:09, initially walking the 150m or so from the passing place at NH 49372 92265, where I parked, before turning right off the road and through a gate at NH 49225 92257. The gate is just over the bridge immediately SW of the entrance track to Sgodachail, a dwelling which I dared not walk through. Animal paths take you the next 150m through a rough area of long grass and bracken, to cross the burn at NH 49158 92395. No wet feet today but that would not be the case in winter. After the stream and now north of Sgodachail, a poor sort of quad track can be followed up the hill via NH 49093 92670; thro’ a gate at NH 48993 92733 then crossing a tributary at NH 48891 92791. The track is wet and squidgy but quite easy to follow up thro’ NH 48690 92828; NH 48570 93000 and NH 48480 93500, where it is abandoned owing to the fact that it is no longer going in the right direction.

From here I gained height steadily via NH 47823 93913, keeping the loch on my right but there was no path that I could find. The going here is quite rough, tussocky and boggy, but eventually I was onto the hill proper where the ground steepened under patches of heather. Somewhere around NH 47411 94330, I met an east-west running deer fence (not marked on my 25k OS map) which I followed a short distance to the summit. That is to say as close as I could get to the summit. The small cairn was some 15m on the ‘wrong’ side with no means of access other than climbing over the wire. I declined on the grounds that I could do some damage to me or the fence. That was a pity as I like to GPS mark all summits that I visit. My estimate of the cairn’s position is approx NH 47297 94356.

The summit has extensive vegetation apart from an eroded strip by the fence where peat and pale coloured rocks; some of them quartz, lie exposed. The leisurely climb (of 69 minutes because it was my first in the series) was carefully waymarked and photographed.

The wind was blowing from the NE at around 30mph so I backed off slightly to set up at NH 47341 94317 on grass. At 9C, I was grateful for the Primaloft jacket I had with me. The umbrella did a good job of breaking the wind and fending off a couple of light showers too. As it had rained much of the previous day and wasn’t forecast to improve much just yet, I had brought with me a tent flysheet. This I thought too much of a pain to deploy, not to mention drying it later, so it remained tied to the rucksack and wasn’t taken again.

MEALL DHEIRGIDH - GM/NS-114, 507m, 2 pts, 13:18 to 17:00. Wind 30 mph. Temp 9 deg C. Overcast/ meagre sunshine/ showers at first. No low-cloud. No midges. Reliable EE (Orange) Mobile phone coverage from 2/3 of the way up. DAB coverage from 1/3 of the way up. LOC: IO77RV, WAB: NC49. No previous SOTA activations.

7.032 CW - 15 QSO`s:
Starting with G4SSH, entities worked on here were: G; GM; GI; DL; PA and F. Incoming reports of my 50 Watt signal ranged from 579 to 599 for the UK ops but Europe struggled in the QSB (339 to 569). The session took 20 minutes.

7.131.5 SSB - 19 QSO`s:
As is often the case, Roy picked out my ‘SSB; SSB’ call on CW and posted me on the new SSB QRG immediately. Mark G0VOF was first in the SSB log but of the 19 stations worked with 50 Watts, only one (Mike EI2CL in Dublin) was from outside the UK. The vast majority of reports both incoming and outgoing were 59.

I had the pleasure of an S2S QSO when Steve GM1INK/P called me from GM/NS-073 near Kinlochewe. That too was a new summit on the SOTA scene today. Steve, who was staying at the equivalent Shearings hotel in Gairloch, had been out on a GM/WS the day before, presumably in the rain which made me feel rather wimpish. We spent that day motoring around the soggy east coast and sampling scones in a cafe in Helmsdale. Steve went on to tell me that his Mum was sitting patiently down below in the car so he didn’t want to delay much longer.

I also worked Jack GM4COX who tipped me off, along with further on-air clarification from Roy, that Andy MM0FMF/P was on 18.168 MHz. Sadly by the time I had finished this session at 13:48z there was no sign of him. Later I realised that I’d had no antenna for 17m anyway!

What next?
I intended putting on 20m SSB but this was more or less an afternoon activation with time the essence. I did listen but it sounded a bit busy due to an NFD contest. With the hotel meal time in the back of my mind, I could not afford to hang around too long. I didn’t want to leave before trying 2m-FM however but 160m was left as something for the future. I did not have the coils with me today. Despite all these thoughts I decided to try 20m CW instead of SSB.

14.052 CW - 8 QSO’s:
Calling CQ with 50 Watts, I found three or four SOTA chasers on here but the rest I did not recognise. Roy spotted it for me so every opportunity was given. After spending 20 minutes, I decided that conditions were not conducive to chaser success so gave up. I logged: UR5; OE; I/OE; LZ; F; CT1 and DL. Also of interest but with a miniscule signal was F/VK2IO/P though, as far as I could ascertain, not a SOTA. This exchange (559/ 519) took some time but the QSO came good in the end.

10.118 CW – 33 QSO`s:
With the dipole configured as a half-wave for 30m with the coax feed 1/3 from one end (20m & 40m links pulled out accordingly) I worked a goodly selection of 33 stations in 43 minutes as follows: F; HB9; DL; G; HA; PA; IK; UA3; OE; OH; EI; EA; LA and OM. Reports were mostly 599 outgoing whilst receiving on average 579. Once again the all of the available 50 Watts were used. The reason for using 30m was because the European regulars had struggled to hear me on both 40m and 20m. 10MHz certainly put that right but it was never destined to be quite as good again.

145.475 FM - 2 QSO’s:
After finding a QSO in full swing on the local net frequency of 145.575, I tried a CQ on S20 getting back 2M0IBO, Jon in Elgin (54/ 42) and GM6JUU Jim in the same town (59 both ways). For this I used the FT817 with 5 Watts to my vertical half-wave J-Pole. This took us to 16:53 BST and time to pack away the gear.

Just about managing to remain upright on the ‘lumpy’ retrace, I was back to the car in 51 minutes arriving at 17:51. On the drive back to the hotel, where I arrived at 18:30 with 15 minutes to spare for evening meal, I worked M6HPL - Carl, who was calling ‘Flora & Fauna’ from FF106 on 7.160 SSB.

440m (1,443ft) ascent / 7 km ( 4.4miles) walked.

Walking times: 69 min up / 51 min down. Total: 2hr.
Summit time: 3hr-42 min.

15 on 40m CW
19 on 40m SSB
33 on 30m CW
8 on 20m CW
2 on 2m FM
Total: 77

Battery utilisation: 5Ah estimated.

This was not too difficult a summit to air. As well as it being a GM/NS SOTA (enough said) no doubt one reason it had to wait this long to get ‘attended to’ was perhaps a lack of real challenge or character coupled with the fact it is only a two pointer. Also, it is boggy and not the easiest of walking.

Having to thread my way through tall bracken twice in the day just invited trouble in the form of ticks which I didn’t notice until a few days later. My chest, shoulder and arm had one a piece which I managed to remove with tweezers. There may be a dead one in my leg as I write. I will have to wait and see what develops but I certainly don’t want the disease that they carry.

The weather was less than perfect for the first part of the activation and I was quite cold in the stiff wind, though a good coat and brolly improved things. I still regret not getting over the fence to the summit cairn tantalisingly just 15m away but the fence was quite a bit taller than me. It had somewhat ‘shaky’ supports and there was a strong gusty wind blowing diagonally across it. At least there was no low-cloud to spoil things but there was a damp haze at a distance.

As in the past, Roy’s spotting had a major influence on the QSO count. If the phone hadn’t worked he has the ability to guess my intentions with a fair degree of accuracy.

40m was working very well but only around ‘G Land.’ On SSB I logged SOTA chasers but almost no WAB enthusiasts. That would change on subsequent activations as they got to know the modus operandi and there are plenty of rare grid squares this far north. 30m CW brought better range and close to an equal number of QSO’s as were enjoyed on 40 CW and 40 SSB combined. Unfortunately I ended up with a poor balance of SSB versus CW. I could have got away with QRP today on 40m at least but a bit of power gets the log filled quicker and fatter.

It was nice to get contacts on 2FM this far north. Many of these hills and mountains overlook the area of Inverness and the north-facing coast where Nairn and Elgin are. Talking to the very friendly locals helps you to remember what country you are in. You wouldn’t have much clue from working 40 and 30 which within reason, can sound much the same wherever you are located in Britain. Not only that but 2m-FM is a place where 160m skeds can be arranged; something which has been a feature in previous years up here and would develop once again later in the week.

ALL STATIONS worked. Hope you got a fair chance to log the ‘new one.’ Sorry I didn’t get out further afield. Thanks also to G4SSH, G0UUU and G0VOF for spots. Once again, special thanks to Roy G4SSH for his invaluable telephone liaison/ spotting Service and Denise for the use of her posh car.

73, John G4YSS
Using GM4YSS/P (database) & Scarborough Special Events Group Club call - GS0OOO/P.

Next Report: GM/NS-101 in due course.
Still reeling after work on the logs!

NS-114 Photo No’s:
14-Fence & Summit Cairn

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Glad to see this one has been done. A summit too far when I did its neighbour 18months back, too late a start after the morning snow and too much snow laying on the hill anyway. I’m sure I’d read the best route was up the path to abandoned Whale Cottage further back down the glen. There’s a decent-ish path to the edge of the forest from the cottage. From there you’re wild walking again but the ground is probably better drained being steeper. Yes you waste 50m of ascent going over Meall nan Eun, but what’s 50m when you have an previously unactivated summit to bag!

I was in a 3 way chat with Jack GM4COX and Robin GM7PKT on 2m from Tinto summit when Jack told me you were on 40m. I tuned about but couldn’t hear you on my 17m antenna. By the time I’d got that down and a 40m dipole up you’d QSY’d. Never mind.

It’s a nice drive down the glen. I remember it being really sunny when I was leaving which is typical because it had been snowing hard when I set out!

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VK2IO Gerard, is a SOTA activator and a chaser, John.

You are in his F/VK2IO chaser log at 1420 on the 7th.


Hi Andy,

Sorry we missed one another but it wasn’t for want of trying. I will look up your Whale Cottage route when I get the chance but my ‘handy map’ photocopy of 2005 just shows the route I used. Possibly the shortest if you’re only doing one summit. It was certainly worth doing apart from the cold wind and the ticks.

Thanks for that info Roy. I had a struggle making anything of his callsign but OK in the end.

NS-101 rprt coming soon,
73, John