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Gm 2010

For the third year running, the Read family decided to take a summer holiday in Scotland. In 2008, we stayed in Fort William, and enjoyed the likes of Tobermorey, Mallaig, Ben Nevis GM/WS-001 and a couple of local one pointers. We didn’t much care for the hostile rules about children in pubs in the region though!

Much better was 2009, when we based in Lossiemouth. Here we had access to lots of lovely 1 point SOTA summits along the Moray Firth, including a couple of first activations for Jimmy M3EYP to bag for himself. We could also meet Barry GM4TOE for a Cairngorms hike, go in what pubs we wanted when we wanted (near enough) and even enjoy beach days in super weather. That holiday stretched into a second week down on the Rhinns Peninsular south of Stranraer, but the local area wasn’t as inspiring, and neither was the weather. Except that is for a wonderful day in great weather with first class company, as we gave Ailsa Craig (Paddy’s Milestone) GM/SS-246 its debut activation, en masse, in the Firth of Clyde.

So in 2010, all things considered, the choice was easy. Back up to the North East. We couldn’t get any accommodation in Lossiemouth, but we booked a lovely big cottage in Nairn. However, like before, we allowed an extra day to drive north, this time stopping over in a hotel in Glasgow City Centre. If you’re ever there, go and have a steak at Di Maggio’s - stunning.

This meant a relatively short and easy drive up to Nairn on the Saturday, and it was fun to be able to hear and work Robin GM7PKT/P on 2m FM as he activated GM/CS-009 during the journey.

SOTA would not be getting the flying start of 2009 this year for Jimmy and I though. We had cheekily penciled in GM/CS-096 for the Backpackers on the Sunday, assertively ruled out by She Who Must Be Obeyed. So we would have to wait until Monday, and the start of the early morning raids. There is now a memorandum of understanding for family holidays, that Jimmy and I are allowed out to do activations: (i) any early morning, so long as we are back at a reasonable time without eating into the day, and (ii) we get one full day pass out (and the car) at some point during the week for a more significant expedition.

So, onto the activation reports:

Tom M1EYP

Monday 23rd August 2010 - Knock of Braemoray GM/CS-115, 456m ASL

The first part of the plan worked - we were up at 5.15am, and on the road with a breakfast inside us by 6am. Jimmy directed me through Nairn town centre and out in a south-easterly direction on the A939. At the end of the road, we turned left and headed north on the A940, and started looking for the lay-by and access point identified in recent weeks using Google Streetview.

After a few false starts, Jimmy spotted a set of steps leading up to a gate in the fence, not far from a suitable lay-by. I don’t think it was the one we had pinpointed in our research though!

The steps were very rotten and rickety, as well as mostly blocked with strong and stubborn tree branches. Hence care was necessary, but we were soon into the field. This was now a punishing slog up a steep grassy and heathery slope. Eventually, the slope did round off - only to reveal itself as a big fat false summit, with another big hill to climb once across a 200m boggy plateau. This did not take long though, and soon we were at the trig point on a rather pleasing summit.

Aerials were erected, photos taken, and we were both QRV bang on 0700z. Jimmy MM3EYP/P was on 2m FM as usual, making use of the Inverness chat channel on 145.575MHz, as well as the standard 145.500MHz S20 calling frequency. He got his contacts without too much difficulty. I enjoyed my first 2010 activation as MM1EYP/P, making 30 QSOs on 7.032MHz CW.

It had been a straightforward outing with everything going to plan. We were back at the cottage in Nairn by 9.30am, just as Marianne and Liam were rising from bed and getting ready for the day. Perfection! So SOTA was finally underway despite the patient wait until the fourth day of the holiday. Bring on the next one…

Tom M1EYP

Tuesday 24th August 2010 - Mount Eagle GM/NS-151, 256m ASL

Another 5am get-up and another SOTA. It was damp and gloomy as we drove from Nairn, through Inverness and onto the Black Isle. Jimmy directed me to the access point at NH639578, where I parked the car at the edge of a very wide approach to a track. This would be a new SOTA region for Jimmy and I, having never ventured into GM/NS before.

But first, we sat in the car for rather a long time, listening to BBC Radio Scotland and watching the rain coming down on the windscreen. 8am came and went without improvement - the forecasters had assured me that the rain would move off by then. Fortunately, it did settle down sometime later, and we got walking up the virtually flat track.

We turned left onto another wide track at NH649580, and then right at NH647587 to walk around the right hand side of the transmitter compound to the edge of the forest, near the trig point. Unfortunately, we hadn’t given any thought to the rough track straight ahead of us at the point.

When we emerged from the forest behind the transmitter station, we were face with a trackless 100m hop across rough ground, vegetation, heather, fallen trees, gorse etc to attain the trig point. We would have easily have been already in the activation zone - but you have to get to the real summit don’t you? Why? Because you do!

I caught Jimmy up at the trig, took off my rucksack and went to get my digital camera from the side pocket. Disaster! The zip had broken on the side pocket of my pack, and was wide open. Fortunately, everything was still there - energy bars, feeder, tape, cable ties, pegs, headtorch. Everything that is except my digital camera. I was absolutely gutted. I think I was more horrified at the prospect of losing the photos from the previous day’s activation and that of not getting any photos from this one, than I was about needing to buy a new camera.

Time to start looking. Fortunately, I had got my camera out at the edge of the wooded area 100m away, before deciding to wait before taking a photo, and putting it away again. But I couldn’t remember which route I had picked across the featureless but tricky and vegetated rough ground in between. So that was a potential of 10,000 square metres to search then, and with lots of heather, bushes and long grass to check underneath…

I picked a way back across to the trees. No sign. And it was a slow process, with the abundance of vegetation to check under. I started to pick my way back across towards the trig point, with the positive thought that this way I was more likely to retrace my original steps. And within seconds, I found it! My despair turned to ecstacy in a moment. I punched the air and yelled a cheer of victory. I think a Greek chap wrote a similar story a while back. Jimmy looked across, somewhat bemused, as he continued setting up the 2m SOTA Beam.

From the trig, you could see a small path across to the other side of the transmitters from where we had come from. We made a note to return that way. Setting up the two legs of the 40m dipole was easy, using the path to lay them out, but erecting the mast and fixing the back guy was more challenging in the thick gorse that surrounded the area. Once up and running, I made 19 QSOs on 40m, 18 on CW and one on SSB. Jimmy did mainly 2m FM, but needed to come across to 40m SSB to get his 4th QSO.

The OS 1:25000 map showed a more direct path back via another transmitting station. We decided to try and head down this way. When this became completely blocked with fallen trees and thick gorse, Jimmy, sensibly, decided to retreat and follow the wide forest tracks back to the car. I was more stubborn, and tried to get around the obstacles and stick as closely as possible to the direct route on the map. What a mistake this was. I ended up truging through heather, bog, and finally knee deep water before I regained the forest track close to the parking spot. Jimmy, by this point, was already at the car, well ahead of me. So much for short cuts - you’d think I’d know better, wouldn’t you?

What with losing the camera, Jimmy struggling for a 4th contact and my pathetic “direct” descent, we were off the pace on our return. Fortunately however, our return to the cottage just before noon did not elicit an adverse reaction. Nonetheless, I was minded to get back earlier the next day and keep the goodwill going.

Tom M1EYP

Wednesday 25th August 2010 - Cnoc Mor GM/NS-150, 269m ASL

After yet another successful 5am get-up, we were on the A96 into Inverness, over the suspension bridge and heading towards Dingwall. Jimmy directed me into the country lanes and up a long cul-de-sac to park at the farmhouse at NH498577. From here, we continued to the same direction along a narrow public footpath which led to a double junction of routes at the edge of the wood.

Jimmy had planned to follow the main path as shown on the map, but another path had a big “Cnoc Mor” signpost on it, despite the route not being on the OS sheets. Nonetheless, we decided to follow the signed path, which was good going along the fence line until just before the summit when it presented us with a roller-coaster finished of very steep ups and downs.

Jimmy utilised the lack of cap on the trig point to set the SOTA Beam up quickly and easily, while I set up for 40m a few feet away, increasingly sheltering under my jacket from the midges. It was otherwise a beautiful hot and sunny morning. 16 QSOs ensued on 40m CW.

For the return, we opted for the mapped path which was much more level and graded, and offered fine views over Loch Ussie. On the down side, the narrow path was made narrower still by the omnipresence of gorse on both sides!

This was the last dawn raid, albeit not the last 5am get-up. It was mission accomplished as we returned to the holiday cottage at 9.30am.

Enjoying the best weather day of the week was now very much in order, so we drove down to Lossiemouth. We paired off, Jimmy and Marianne going mackerel fishing on the pier, while Liam and I went to the beach at the other end of town for a swim in the sea.

That evening, Jimmy and I were booked to deliver the SOTA presentation at the Inverness radio club. This is based in a remarkable two storey underground bunker, of which we had a tour before the talk. We had an enjoyable evening and a decent sized audience of 22. The ubiquitous Steve AAV and Helen AAU were there, having only seen them 24 hours earlier at Chanonry Point for the dolphin spotting! The talk meant that we had a much later night than that we would have preferred ahead of the big Cairngorms expedition the following day, especially with another 5am get-up in the plans.

Tom M1EYP

Thursday 26th August 2010 - Bynack More GM/ES-010, 1090m ASL

And finally we were at the Big Cairngorms Day Out with Barry GM4TOE and his black labrador Tommy. It was another 5am get up in Nairn, although I was wide awake with anticipation at 4.30am! We drove to Inverness, and then down the A9 to Aviemore, where we hunted for breakfast. It was disappointing to discover that such a famous base for walkers didn’t have anything opening for breakfast before 8am. We made do with chicken tikka and onion bhaji sandwiches from the petrol station - which were, in fact, delicious.

We drove all the way to Glenmore Lodge, parking at NH988095. Barry and Tommy arrived just a few minutes later, and soon after that the four of us were walking along the good track through Ryvdan Pass and around to the large footbridge at NJ021105. We paused here for a photograph, and were soon visited by midges. But sadly, this was neither the last nor most ferocious entounter with them on the day.

The path then climbed steadily to a fork at about 780m ASL. Barry pointed out that we would take the right fork, but would return later along the left one. The path then clung just to the right and just below the crest of the ridge as it ascended to Bynack More summit from the north.

On summit, we first dealt with the photo-shoot, and then with mine and Jimmy’s lunch of Baxters Chicken Broth - delicious. One or two other people passed over the lunar looking bouldery summit, but not many. We had lots of visitors though. The midges would make a real menace of themselves as we operated, as well as torment us for much of the walking that followed.

Barry set his multilink dipole with the plan to use 5MHz SSB and CW, Jimmy was on 2m FM, and I did 40m CW. No surprises there then! 15 QSOs ensued before the QRG was empty. I operated from the relative comfort of the inside of my bothy bag which thankfully kept most of the midges off. I couldn’t see, but from inside I could hear the repeated anguished cries of Barry who was struggling to maintain sanity under their prolonged attacks.

After packing away, Barry led us south to the Barns of Bynack (big rocks) and then 300m straight down an appallingly steep slope. It was uneven underfoot, with obstacles, sometimes hidden, of heather, rock and bog to contend with, and with more than enough points to make my legs wobble as I struggled to ensure I didn’t sprain an ankle or twist a knee!

Jimmy, Barry and Tommy has to wait a fair time at the footpath and river crossing down in the ‘Corrie of the Barns’ below. But it was a different story on the now imminent ascent of Creag Mhor GM/ES-017.

Tom M1EYP

Thursday 26th August 2010 - Creag Mhor GM/ES-017, 895m ASL

From the summit of Bynack More GM/ES-010, this hill appeared to be such a long way down below our feet, and looked little more than a pimple on the landscape. From the stream below and between the two, it looked more realistically as the 200m uphill plod it was.

And it was time to turn the tables. Keep up with Jimmy I could not. No-one can keep up with Jimmy. But he didn’t get too far away, and I did manage to show Barry and Tommy a clean pair of heels. The weather had held rather nicely all day - too nicely in fact. It was so warm as to be shirt sleeve order above 3000 feet - but the absence of wind and rain meant that full coats and fleece hats had to be worn to keep the size of the midge targets to a minimum.

But just as we arrived on summit, it started raining. It was only a 20 minute shower at the end of the day. A little wind would have made it easy for us to use the abundance of large vertical rock slabs as shelter from the rain - but there wasn’t any wind at all - so the rain just came straight verticaly down. Working conditions were 5MHz for Barry, 40m for me and 2m for Jimmy again.

Initially, Barry and I could not hear anything on our HF bands, so disruptive was the static rain. However it eased a little for Barry allowing him to qualify the summit, and on 40m it eased dramatically, allowing a run of easy contacts on CW. However, Jimmy had only managed a single contact on 2m FM, so he took over the 40m station with the added accessory of a microphone.

The QSB was appalling, and three strong stations responded to Jimmy’s QSOs, only to completely disappear on the next over. Don G0RQL made it into the log, but Jimmy judged that another crack at 2m would be optimal. Using a higher site for the beam, and with Barry in charge of beam headings, Jimmy now got the QSOs he needed. A 5th contact was with Steve GM7AAV/P - what a pity he wasn’t that previously elusive 2nd contact, as he could have rounded up Helen GM7AAU/P and Caroline 2M0YLO/P for the 3rd and 4th!

Packing up on the summit was appalling with increasing intensity of midge activity, and they were going to hound us for the next three hours of walking. At least the descent off Creag Mhor back to the path and river was nothing like as severe as the earlier summit, and I was able to get into my stride fairly well this time.

It seems a feature of Barry’s expeditions is an alarming amount of ascending to be done on the walk-outs! I’ll never forget a steep 420m of ascent AFTER Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 and Beinn Mheadhoin GM/ES-005 in 2009. This wasn’t as severe as that, but it still seemed we had two long and strenuous ascents after the second summit as our only escape on this occasion as well.

The midges finally went to bed after the sun set, ending three hours of sheer purgatory. At last we could remove our coats, hoods and hats, and walk in a little more comfort - apart from my feet which were by now rather sore! Tommy was clearly getting tired, but this did not prevent him from diving into the heather either side of the path every time his nose detected a snack - and he usually emerged happily munching on an apple core!

Unfortunately, I had run out of water too early before the end of this walk, and had to walk too far without any. I would pay for this later! When we did reach the cars, I had a few big swigs out of a bottle, but I should have taken on much more!

The three of us reconvened at the Spice of India in Aviemore. Tommy had already had his dinner at the parking spot, and was now asleep in the boot of Barry’s car. We enjoyed a delicious curry and bottle of lager - although neither of these helped with my rehydration process, and I couldn’t quite finish my meal, much to my embarrassment!

Back in the car, the diet went on to water and Red Bull, as I guided Jimmy, me and the car back to Nairn. Thanks to Barry and Tommy for their superb company.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

An excellent report Tom. CS-096 was a good one, took me just under an hour and half to get to the trig, but the next time it will be a bit quicker, spent too long looking at the map. Theres a good path all the way to the top. The last 100m ascent is relatively new and not so well packed. A view over to Farr windwarm with 40 turbines in it is bit of a view spoiler but they are everywhere nowadays. I went to SSB to listen for any of the backpackers but heard nothing and worked 2 locals in Inverness after calling CQ.

On a side note, you mentioned about Jimmy using a trig without a cap to place his beam pole into. Are they supposed to have caps? I havent came across one yet that has a cap. I used the one at Mount Eagle in the same way.

Glad you had a good night at our club on the wednesday, sorry we kept you so late. It really was a good turn out, i think possibly only one or two members missed it.

And hopefully we’ll see and hear you the next time your up this way

Adrian
2M0ETR

In reply to 2M0ETR:

Sorry not to have worked you, Tom, a couple of times you were strong enough to have made an SSB contact possible.

Midges, UGH! There is something about the midges north of the Highland line, their bites raise large bumps on me that itch for up to a fortnight, whereas further south I just get a few hours discomfort, so I never venture into the Highlands after the start of June and before mid September!

Have you considered a visit to the far northwest? There are some fine sandy beaches near Gairloch and plenty of summits, Stac Pollaidh would suit a dawn raid - not much in the way of fleshpots, though!

Nice reports, good reading between chases!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

I have one of these:

http://www.lifesystems.co.uk/psec/mosquito_nets/mosquito_headnet.htm

When I first put it on, everyone laughed; but after ten minutes they were all coming back asking where I got it :wink:

73

Richard
G3CWI

In reply to G3CWI:

LOL!

What I particularly hate is the way they can get inside your clothing and bite you in the most improbable places…I won’t enlarge on that!

73

Brian G8ADD

I dare say you wouldn’t.

I share your hatred Brian. Despite glorious weather, all three of us were virtually huddled inside full winter kit for large parts of the day, exposing only the tiniest parts of our faces to the midges. And yet even so, I now find myself covered in bites up to my elbow and all over my shins, which were all covered up!

All the same, it doesn’t spoil the memory of another stunning GM4TOE-led Cairngorms expedition though. Looking forward already to another next year - if I can recover in time! The walk was 4 days ago and I’m still exhausted from it!!

Tom M1EYP

In reply to G8ADD:

I have ordered one of these off e-bay to test:

http://tiny.cc/No-midges

73

Richard
G3CWI

In reply to G3CWI:

I did suspect something when I saw a tinycc URL and not the normal ebay nonsense!

It was far too windy this Sunday for any insects to fly!

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to M1EYP:

The walk was 4 days ago and I’m still exhausted from it!

Tee hee, it was only 25km and 1200m ascent! I did 20km and 888m last week and 15.5km and 725m yesterday and I’m fat and have a broken metabolism.

I’ll tell you what it is Tom, it’s excess consumption of animal fats. You need to cut out all those fried breakfasts and the like! Well if I have to keep a careful eye on fat intake I don’t see why you shouldn’t have to as well :wink:

Andy
MM0FMF

I think you are right Andy - that was the problem. Aviemore was shut at 7am, so we weren’t able to get a suitable supply of hot grease inside us at the start of the day.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Ah, an Atkins diet fan!

73

Brian G8ADD.

PS I’m on a sea-food diet. Er, that is, a see-food diet…

In reply to M1EYP:

Great reports Tom, particularly liked your Cairngorm day, I missed out on my annual dose of the northern Cairngorms this year, playing in Glen Tilt after a mate got waylaid by volcanic ash but reading your report reminds me of some of my previous trips around the Fords of Avon way.

But how did you get dehydrated?, you must have crossed at least four burns full of fresh highland spring water :slight_smile:

Good job, makes me keen to get back up there and the midges will be gone soon too.

Iain, M3WJZ

In reply to M3WJZ:

But how did you get dehydrated?, you must have crossed at least four
burns full of fresh highland spring water :slight_smile:

We only drink Buxton Spring Water (or beer) in Cheshire.

73

Richard
G3CWI

In reply to G3CWI:

We only drink Buxton Spring Water (or beer) in Cheshire.

That may be Richard, but what do you drink when you’re not in Cheshire?
:slight_smile:

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to G3CWI:

Personally I drink Buxton Natural Mineral Water.