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.
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. http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1083951 and http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1083993
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.
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.
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!’)