G4YSS: SUILVEN (GM/NS-060) Act Rprt, 20-May-08

Activation of SUILVEN GM/NS-060. (1st for SOTA.)

GM4YSS/P (used for database) & SSEG Club-call GS0OOO/P.
All times BST (UTC plus 1hr, UOS).

‘FUNGUS’-2008 (Fun Goin’ Up Scotland):
1st day of a 3-day GM/NS sortie.
See also reports for Arkle & An Teallach……

FT817ND-QRP and a 20-30-40-60-80 (160m loaded) link-dipole. 5m H/B CFC mast and 6-cell, 11.1V, 4.4 Ah Li-Po battery. Reserves (not used): VX150 2m-FM H/H. Eight 2.7Ah-AA, Ni-Mh cells to fit either rig.
10 kg pack including 2.1 ltr. water.

This was the first of my 2008 selected GM/NS ‘cherry-picks.’ It had nothing to do with amassing SOTA points, just pure indulgence and one ‘eminent’ summit per day! I have a fascination for the remoteness of Northern Scotland and its stand-alone mountains. (It appears this 3-day stint raised the eyebrows of some office workers too! I carry one spare pair of boots and some football shin-pads, in the back of my car!)

Last year the XYL & I stayed at Dornoch. This time I would be alone and the first thing to do was book the ‘hotel.’ The now crumbling (L-reg) Fiesta was converted to a one-berth motor-caravan, using the side of an old wardrobe, a lilo, some old curtains and buttons to hang them from. A box of pot-noodles and a few tins from Tesco completed the conversion, whilst body-filler and spray paint smartened things up a little. (The car; not me!)

Though Arkle was top priority for this year’s NS expedition, I had long been in awe of Suilven. It didn’t take a lot of research to uncover the fact that this one would not be particularly easy. The difficulty is not in the act of climbing this bizarrely shaped mountain but merely getting in close enough to do so.

Driving the 466 miles from Scarborough to Lochinver in Monday’s traffic took me 10 hours. (The Tyne Tunnel costs £1.20 but the 4th-Rd-Br. is now free!) The most ‘efficient’ start-point for Suilven is from the Lochinver to Glen Canisp Lodge road. There is parking for just six cars at the permissible limit of driving (NC 1073 2198) and this was where I spent a fitful night. If the pull-off is full, try the track at NC 1034 2229 which leads to a small flat area by a burn. Failing that a notice recommends starting in Lochinver.

The route:
A year ago, I’d considered taking my bike but heard that there was a ban on cycling along the stalker’s path which runs SE towards the mountain. I found no evidence of any such ban per se; apart from the fact that the signs call it a ‘footpath.’ This Landrover-track though rough and steep in places, would certainly lend its self to pedal power. I elected to walk the 10km (plus) in and back out again, setting off at 06:55 BST after absorbing 1.5 ltr. of drinks.

Here it is in detail: From NC 1073 2198, walk down the tarmac by the loch to the Lodge. A sign instructs walkers to pass to the north of the house, which has now been purchased from the Laird, by residents of Lochinver. (Assynt Trust: Tel: 01571-844100). Continue through gorse, ignoring the track to the jetty. The surface is OK and apart from some steep bits, a good pace can be maintained. There is a junction left at NC 1475 2096. This leads to the Suileag Bothy, late of Griff Rhys Jones’ spectacular ‘Mountain’ TV series. In the afternoon, I came across a walker who’d spent the previous night there. Though I know it to have been recently renovated, he told me that it was ‘quite good but not very draught-proof.’ I hid some water at NC 1533 2072 for use later.

After the wooden bridge at NC 1656 2025, the track curves south. Look out for a small cairn (NC 1675 1962) in a dip and at the right side of the track. Glencanisp Lodge to Ledmore Track -... © John Earnshaw :: Geograph Britain and Ireland and The Path to Suilven from the Glencanisp... © John Earnshaw :: Geograph Britain and Ireland

This is the start of a boggy (I’ve seen worse) access path to Suilven’s ‘waistline’ gully; Bealach Mor. It is quite well defined and goes via NC16701950, NC16511922, NC16301902 and NC16151881. Keep right to pass Loch-a-Choire-Dhuibh to its NW and climb the dusty gully path via NC15931848, NC15901825 and NC15861819, to the Bealach. Once there, turn right (WNW) and pass through a gap in a very substantial wall at NC15701817, following the path which skirts intermediate high-points to the summit cairn (GPS’d at NC 15323 18342). The domed top is large and grassy with plenty of room for any SOTA-sized dipole you care to erect. Though I would be alone there for some hours, I set up about 50m west of the cairn after ‘grabbing’ all the photos I possibly could. The day was a bit hazy, but the views of Canisp, StacPollaidh, Cul Mor and Quinag with Arkle beyond, were lovely. At first, Lewis was visible.

ACTIVATION: SUILVEN (Caisteal Liath) GM/NS-060, 731m, 4pts, 09:45 to 14:34 BST. 10 deg C, initially 10 mph wind, later zero. Sunny then 9/10 high cloud cover. WAB: NC11. Loc: IO78KC. (First activation for SOTA.)

40m CW: Immediately upon switch-on I could hear activity on 7.032. This turned out to be Lutz DJ3AX/P on the 717m Birkenheide, DM/TH-241. His CW was fast by my standards but it was encouraging that he came back to my first call. An S2S on the first QSO of the holiday is a good start indeed.

Moving to 7.032.7 soon produced more successes. First to find me was John G4WSX, followed by Mike EI2CL, who made the first spot. It wasn’t long before I realized that standing so far north was enabling coverage of Europe and G-land on a roughly 50 / 50 basis. It probably meant that 80m wouldn’t be too good later. Not the fastest of QSO rates because my QRP needed repeat reports in the QSB but I still had 33 chasers in the log after about an hour.

40m SSB: Next up, SSB was a bit disappointing with just 9 stations worked; exclusively G’s. Initial CQ’s on Top Band were unsuccessful but I did hear Phil G4OBK (in YSN) calling at 559.

2m FM: Amongst other things, 145.500 was somewhere to try and drum up some support for 1.8 MHz. Considering I still had the horizontal aerial for 160m plugged into the set, it was perhaps surprising that I managed to work Dave MM0BGQ on S20, on the Isle of Skye, with 59/56 reports! After connecting the half-wave vertical I tried all the 2m repeaters, finding I could open only GB3SS on the east side. Though not good for SOTA, a call on there produced Jim GM6JUU/P, Bill GM3KHH and John 2M0IBO. I learned that actually 145.575 FM was the centre of activity in their area. My 5W signal was evidently making it through the A837 valley.

160m CW: Following discussions on SS repeater, it was agreed that Bill GM3KHH (QTH Buckie) would try to make contact on 1.832 CW; this being a resounding success with 589/559 RST’s. A trip back to SS to thank Bill resulted in two additional simplex QSO’s; namely John 2M0IBO near Elgin and Art GM0RML/M at Nairn. Calls on 144.3 SSB went unanswered which was predictable using a vertical omni. Perhaps I should have reconnected the HF dipole for this!

80m CW/SSB: I’d had GM0AXY in mind when announcing 3.557 CW. Ken must have waited ages for his QSO but all credit to him; he was straight back to my first CQ. Christine GM4YMM duly followed on 3.724. Hope you didn’t miss any meals!

30m CW: Judging by the relative shortness of skip on 40m which had actually been an advantage from a QSO’s in the log viewpoint, I thought I had better try to log the more distant EU stations on 10.118. In fact, they weren’t that distant and I still got more G’s than Europeans! It was worth the effort and extra time however with 9 stations worked. There were no ‘Amp-Hour’ worries today. My first ever use of a Lithium battery took care of those concerns.

60m SSB (channel FE): This was the final port of call with another 6 G’s. Conditions weren’t that great. Like the other bands there was deep QSB; the enemy of QRP.

This photo looks SE from Suilven

Time was getting on and attention turned to that long walk out. The breeze had dropped but luckily the sun had faded too. Dirty clouds formed directly over Quinag during the afternoon and a few particles of ice had landed on Suilven. It didn’t take long to forget about climbing to Suilven’s eastern top. It had already been a long first day with WX that didn’t particularly suit me. Still, at least it didn’t rain.

With a now ‘solid GPS route, good viz and a path all the way, there was really no excuse for repeating my navigational error at the lochan. It took me nearly an hour just to get back to the track and close to 90 more minutes after that. The water ‘stash’ came in handy and I arrived at the car tired at 16:59, sporting some angry looking rucksack-strap (and other!) chafes. I’d done little but walk around the Scarborough area since Snowdon in March and now it was pay-back time. Oh how I dislike summer and sweat!

Some relief was afforded by having a bath in a cold, stony burn, then slapping sun-cream on the sore bits. Nonetheless, I have to confess to thoughts of going directly home but I was determined to at least have a look at Arkle the next day. The pot-noodles really didn’t attract, so before leaving Lochinver, nipping into the Calag Hotel provided me with a civilised evening meal served by friendly staff and a chance to relax. It set me up for the drive further north past Scourie, to sleep beside Ben Stack in readiness for Arkle. Ben Stack is the mountain upon which Robin Cook MP died in 2005.

QSO summary:
40m CW: 33
40m SSB: 9
2m FM: 3
2m SSB: 0
160m CW: 1
80m CW: 1
80m SSB: 1
30m CW: 9
60m SSB: 6
Total: 63 QSO’s.

Battery utilisation: 57% of 4.4 Ah Li-Po. (5W inc. FM)
21 km walked and approx 780m (2600ft) of ascent.

Thanks to all stations worked and to G3RMD, EI2CL, G4SSH/A, G4JZF, GM0AXY, G4OBK, G4ELZ for spotting support. It was good to be ‘in amongst it’ again. Suilven is a great summit and getting one and a half QSO’s on 160m from there was a bonus. I only saw half a dozen walkers today. Thankfully, none turned out to be hitmen! I saw one frog, one stag and no elephants.

73, John G(M)4YSS,
using SSEG GS0OOO/P.
(This summit entered under GM4YSS/P for SOTA purposes)

ARKLE – (GM/NS-042) and AN TEALLACH – (GM/NS-004) reports will follow in due course. (Now it’s me in the ‘office!’)

In reply to G4YSS:

Excellent report John. Some of us were very green seeing you being spotted. As you say there is something magical about the far NW of Scotland. The remoteness and the way the mountains stand alone is spectacular. We had a family holiday up in Ullapool a few years back with 28C temps and blue skies and the vistas were unreal. Sarah has Suilven on her must do list since seeing it when sat in a tea-room near Elphin. The walk in is one of the drawbacks and, of course, the fact it’s at least 6hrs drive from here and I’m 200+ miles nearer to it than you.

I have to congratulate you for putting on a good activation on this and the others you did. The length time spent on the summits and the number of bands and modes covered is fantastic. If you are going to go and activate somewhere spectacular then you need to do the job properly and I’m sure there’ll many on here who will congratulate for a job well done on all three summits.

For those of you who haven’t seen Suilven, Arkle and An Teallach and don’t understand why they are so magical here are some links to some photos that hopefully will explain why a fair number of SOTA activators were unhappy being stuck at work whilst John was out in the wilds.

NW end of a classic example of a mesa form of mountain.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suilven
NC3045 :: The curving quartzite ridge of Arkle, near to Arkle [hill or Mountain], Highland, Great Britain by Chris Wimbush
The mountain is Ben Arkle and it is reflecting in Loch Stack (not Loch More as I had indicated earlier). 

Thanks for the detective work by Donald Bain, Steve Partridge and David Hawgood this might now be in the right place!
An impressive overhang indeed! The figure which can be seen to the right of the summit gives some idea of the scale of things, although the figure is on the higher main crest of Corrag Buidhe and over twice the distance away from the camera, for...
Shows Sgurr Fiona
Shows the three main summits on this ridge; Corrag Bhuidhe on the right, followed by Stob Cadha Gobhlach and finally Sail Liath.


In reply to G4YSS:
Thank you for an interesting report, with lots of very useful facts,and a great activation. As Andy commented, you sure gave good value to the chasers. Was not aware you were staying in such luxuryious accomodation with en-suite bathing facilities. Well done, great effort!

In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John
Yes, very well done on the FB activations and most interesting report.
We all had great fun working you that day on 2m; come back soon and next time call in for a favourite beverage and something different than pot noodles!
Vy 73 de Cris

In reply to G4YSS:
Nice report John, I, too, was green with envy!

You were too far below the noise for me to work you, unfortunately!


Brian G8ADD

PS I notice from your report and a check on the list that SOTA uses the spelling “Arkle”, I’m a fussog, I reckon it should be “Arcuil”!

In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John
What a fantasic part of the country. I must say I had a sneaky look in the afernoon at the reflector and noticed you were in the North West Highlands and I was very envious.
I have attached a link to a clip of Suilven, which gives a feel of the mountain.


Great report, as ever.

Cheers Clive

In reply to M1YAM:
Thanks for the link Clive,
I’m already planning a visit!
Just need to get fit and loose the Vertigo :slight_smile:
Rob G4RQJ please don’t play this video !!!

Roger G4OWG



‘Sweaty Season’ has its advantages. One is that you can do wonderful ‘mess abouts’ like these. One summit, one day, loads of daylight and little pressure unless the WX turns ugly or you have the XYL waiting at the foot of your mountain! Winter is just the opposite. Do as much as you can in an 8-hour day because you had to drive up to 190 miles to just to get there.

The beat-up Fiesta hotel’s most important attribute is that it’s right at the bottom of any hill you care to choose. Other than that I can tell you; it hurts!

The report is detailed so that activators who might otherwise be reticent may go forward and consider it. I doubt this is the case with any of our GM friends, however. Their problem in the main seems to be that their bosses require them to turn up for work! A gross inconvenience!

Thanks for a lot of good ‘shepherding.’ It was greatly appreciated.


Thanks for a great welcome from you, Barry and the other GM SOTA team. Fabulous that you were able to help me out with 160 and thanks for inviting a guest too. Yes, the 2m came as a pleasant change. I don’t feel I can do loads of bands in winter. 2m FM is where I’ll be next week; we have a walking holiday in the LD district. I will be with a large group with routes organized by a non-amateur. Doubt if I’ll get you unless there’s a lift on! May be back next year. Hope so.

Brian G8ADD.

I did wonder where you were. Sorry to learn you couldn’t hear me. ‘City noise’ must be infuriatingly frustrating. This is when I wished I’d taken QRO but (as you know as well as any) it’s heavy for long walks-in. I didn’t know about that spelling. I was just going by the map names. Half of the GM names I can’t and don’t try to pronounce. Half of what’s left I get wrong! All part of the mystery and wonder that is Scotland! First class place though. The girl who served my evening meal at Lochinver told me that they still leave cars around with the keys in. I love to visit.


Yes, the scenery was lovely but I was lucky with the WX. It was sunny quite a bit but on the plus side apart from haze, sun made the photography much better. After you did those three nice NS’s in Feb & last year, you won’t need much persuading to go back.

Thanks for the link. I watched it through and could relive it. Wish I’d seen an Otter but it was very dry.

You were meant to be fusing metal together not looking at the reflector! What ‘bosses’ never cotton on to is that a quick peek is good for morale and good morale is good for the boss and the company! That was my excuse when they caught me doing it!


If you’re serious about vertigo and it’s not a medical cause of course, you’d be OK here. There is little if any cause for concern on any of the three routes described. A chap of your huge Marilyn experience would lap these up. Rob might be slightly phased by the narrow part of the Arkle top-ridge but I doubt even that. My personal experience indicates that thick fog is a good counter to vertigo-inducing terrain.

No doubt about it; Suilven is one of Scotlands top ten Classics,
Thanks to everyone.
73 / 72, John G4YSS.