Ben Lui GM/SS-003 and Beinn a’ Chleibh GM/HSS-022
Friday 30th July 2021
After activating a couple of Munros on 19th July without any after-effects despite not being hill-fit, I was keen to get back out again to climb something sizeable. As it turned out, we were back in Northumberland at the /A QTH to spend a few enjoyable days with our daughter and grandsons who came up from Cornwall. Once they returned to the other end of the country, we decided to spend a few more days up north and my XYL suggested that I undertake another outing.
Friday 30th July was the first opportunity to get out, so I set about preparing an itinerary and after some deliberation I decided to climb Ben Lui GM/SS-003. The walk described on the Walkhighlands website suggested adding Beinn a’ Chleibh to the outing and looking at this it turned out to be a HEMA summit with a prominence of 141m down to the bealach between the two Munros. Both also happen to be on the edge of the Ben Lui National Nature Reserve, which though demoted in 2018, is still listed on the WWFF site as being active. The two summits would provide me with activations for SOTA, HEMA and WWFF and looking at the information on the web it very much looked like being a 2m only activation on Ben Lui and both 2m and HF on Beinn a’ Chleibh.
My internal clock was only 10 minutes early this time and I set out on my journey at 02:00z as planned. The satnav suggested a distance of 190 miles and 4 hours to get to the parking spot off the Tyndrum – Oban road. As it turned out, I aced that and arrived at 05:32z and that without speeding anywhere en route. It was a pleasant 12C at the parking spot with little breeze, so the first thing was on with the Skin So Soft to stop the midges having a snack. I put plenty on after the experience on Ben More. It was 05:55z when I set out from the car.
Ben Lui from the car park
The walk description on Walkhighlands provided the route and I was pleased to see that the River Lochy was quite low despite there having been some recent rain. Getting underneath the railway was no problem and I soon got into my stride and found the route up to the forestry road at the 300 metre level quite easy. The next section though was not so pleasant. There was little breeze in amongst the trees to provide any respite from the high humidity level and although it was still early and rather cloudy, it soon became evident that the sun was somewhere the other side of the cloud. The temperature seemed to go up in leaps and bounds and I was soon perspiring quite profusely.
The path up through the woods
It would appear that everyone ascending Ben Lui now uses this route as it was extremely boggy and I had to keep taking regular detours to keep out the worst areas, not easy with a pole on your pack. At the top of this section before the path exited the trees the ground was just a massive patch of sphagnum moss with some timber posts laid across it. I was using trekking poles, but these were useless with almost half a metre of vegetation beneath me… and yes, one foot did slip off at one point. Thankfully I was wearing gaiters and I extracted my leg with little more than a hint of dampness.
Once out of the trees, I followed the path eastwards as suggested in the walk description. It would appear that a fair proportion of people follow this route as in some sections it was rather boggy and eroded and the uneven nature of the ground made the ascent slow going. I had left plenty of time for the ascent and had set off early, but all this came to nought when I arrived at the ridge. The path up to the northern top of Ben Lui goes over, or around several outcrops and at a couple of places I found myself above quite a drop with minimal hand holds, very much aware that I had 12kg on my back. Taking great care expended more time and as Mike G4BLH was going out to his local high spot specifically to work me on 2m SSB, I had to stop to give him an update.
Looking up… surely it’s not far from here
Looking down from higher up. At least this provided some reward for the effort expended
The final approach section from the north
The higher southern top seen from the northern top
Ben Lui 1,130m asl GM/SS-003 NN266262 IO76OJ GMFF-0007
The highest point of the mountain is apparently the southern top and with most contacts likely to come from the south I opted to set up amongst the large boulders that cover the summit. It was 10:05z when I reached the summit cairn and another 25 minutes before I was in business. Thankfully I managed to find a spot where I could lay the kit out without much risk of losing things down the gaps between the boulders. My first call brought both Mike and Don G0RQL back and Mike ended up first into the log. Don was worked next with a good Q5 signal over the 615km path, though he did have have to make a little more effect to copy me. I hadn’t expected anyone else to call, but when I signed with Don I was delighted to receive a call from Ray GM7NZI. John GI4OSF then followed and John GM4SLY made it 5 on SSB. Moving to FM at 1054z Andrew GM4VFL/P en route between his two summits headed a brilliant run of 14 contacts over the next hour on the mode… and all with the beam horizontally polarised.
Set up amongst the boulders
When there were no more callers I carefully packed up and then sent Mike a text suggesting that he delay his next visit to the high spot to 30 minutes later than originally planned. I set off down to the bealach between the two summits at 12:10z. There were quite a number of people ascending this route, many of whom had some greeting or comment. From the bealach the 141m of ascent to the summit of Beinn a’ Chleibh was quite swift with the track winding back and forth to reduce the angle of ascent. Knowing Andrew GM4VFL/P would be on his second summit, I kept my handheld handy and as expected he came on when I was about half way up. Other callers were stronger than I was, so I had managed to get into the AZ before he answered me, so facilitating the HEMA to SOTA S2S.
Beinn a’ Chleibh 916m asl GM/HSS-022 NN250256 IO76NJ GMFF-0007
I reached the summit cairn at 13:20z where two people were just putting on their waterproofs as it had started to rain. They didn’t look particularly pleased and I added to their mood by announcing what a lovely summit it was… flattish, grassy with rocky outcrops, a light breeze and a little rain. I think they thought I was mad, but at the time it was all I needed. I set up by an outcrop and as I did so, the rain stopped. Mike was waiting for my call on 144.333MHz at 13:35z, quickly followed by Don. This time that was the lot for 2m SSB, so I moved to FM where contacts were made with David GM6BIG/M, Paul MM7WAB, Peter GM0VEK and Ray GM7NZI.
The set up on Beinn a’ Chleibh
It was 14:04z when I signed with Ray and with no more calls, I dropped the pole and changed to the HF link dipole. I had alerted for WWFF and it wasn’t long before the RBN found my 10MHz CW signal. Conditions were a bit hit and miss and I had to call CQ quite a few times, but the band provided me with 21 contacts in 26 minutes. At 14:44 the frequency went quiet, so I totted up the number of different calls worked and it totalled 43 for the two activations. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was QSOs or callsigns worked that completes a WWFF activation, so I grabbed a chat with Andy DK3AZ/P on 40m CW to make it 44 callsigns before closing down at 15:00z. As I switched the rig off I noticed that it was still set to 2.5 watts, the level required to drive the 2m linear.
The view - blink and you’ll miss it
Looking down to the bealach with the route down off on the left
An improving view further down
There were no real views to be had due to the low cloud, but I managed to get a few photos after the activation and some more on the descent. It was 15:22z when I set off back to the bealach to pick up the route down to the woods at the point where I had exited on my ascent. Once in the woods, I safely negotiated the sphagnum quagmire and made reasonable progress to reach the car at 17:10z, once again all hot and perspiring as the sun had now penetrated the cloud. After stowing the kit, phoning my XYL and having a snack, I set off back south at 17:35z, the journey taking just 3 minutes longer than it had done on the way up.
I really enjoyed this outing, with the varied landscape and summit operations. My ascent of Ben Lui was rather slow due to my medication, in that taking a beta blocker does tend to limit my pulse rate and I have to pace myself. The weight of my pack needs to come down if I am to tackle the SS-005/SS-009 and SS-008/SS-010 combinations and I am working on that.
Many thanks to everyone that came on to work me and for the spots posted. Particular thanks to Mike G4BLH for going out portable to work me on both summits and to Don G0RQL for having good ears so we could make the 615km distance on 2m SSB. It is still my preferred band and mode.