GM / SS in the Arrochar Alps

Due to severe internet access constraints this week in our hotel at Loch Long Arrochar I am now able to edit this message which I prepared last Tuesday now I am back home…more to follow. This wonderful reflector retained my text for five days when I was prevented from sending it - I think that is rather good!

I am now able to add a few pictures

73 Phil G(M)4OBK

Hi All
Thanks for the approx 40 QSOs today from SS-218. Our ascent and descent was impeded by fallen trees but we got around them.

EDIT This self seeded Xmas tree just off the summit supported my fishing pole… Tulloch Hill SS-103 is in the background. We activated that the next day.

Tomorrow we will attempt SS-089 Bheinn Bhreac on 40m only. We wasted our time carrying and setting up a 2m 50 watt FM station today . Just one QSO resulted. There is a dearth of 2m FM operators in Scotland who are interested in SOTA…

If condx permit tomorrow we will go on to activate SS-103 maybe…we’ll see as we may be reliant on public transport to get back to the hotel if we return to the Loch Lomond Road so we need to watch the time.

Phil G4OBK Dave G3TQQ Geoff 2E0NON


Hi Phil

I remember those hills well - trees and all!

2M FM is a bit dodgy in GM at times but very surprised you only got one QSO but it also depends on how much time between the alert and your activation.

Did you see any sign of the large black cat on Tullich Hill? I managed a glimpse of it a few years back and we even crossed the same paths. Tullich Hill GM/SS-103 | 2M0NCM 'n' Cat's Oot n aboot Here is my short blog on it.

Hope you had a good time up them hills.

73 Neil

HI Neil,

So the trees have been falling over in that wood for years then! We saw lots of tracks in the snow, but no black cat on day two. We enjoyed watching a graceful deer though, loping slowly away from us, observing us as she departed just below the col on the Arrochar side on our way down.

Yes, we were lucky and enjoyed three good days walking for a minimal cost. The holiday was booked through the Scottish firm Lochs & Glens Coach Holidays. For around the cost of the fuel to get there in a 4X4 vehicle and travel around we were transported in luxury and had 4 nights half board in a hotel of a satisfactory standard… These winter Coach Holidays are so cheap for folk living up north. Lochs & Glens and Shearings make their money over the bar in the hotel, that must be why they do the holidays for such a cheap price…

Lochs & Glens own 7 hotels in Scotland and around 30 luxury coaches. Our party of mostly retired folk was picked up from six locations in North Yorkshire on Monday, and we returned home on Friday. We got on the coach in York and we have to thank Terry G0VWP for taking us to meet the coach with our bags. When we reached the hotel we found another two coachloads of folk were also spending a holiday there, the hotel was quite full.

I’ve already given a brief report of Day One when we activated SS-218 Cruach Tairbeirt, a small hill to the rear of the Loch Long Hotel where we were staying.

On Day Two of Three we were in need of transport to take us up Glen Douglas. This would allow us to complete a linear walk back to our hotel via two summits. There are no taxis in the area at all, so we found our man, who was called Ofer - he was the Entertainments Manager (He called the bingo numbers one night!) and we made Ofer an offer he couldn’t refuse. £20 to take us the 10 miles to Glen Douglas at 8.45am the next morning - and he obliged.

Very patchy snow on the ascent of SS-081 Beinn Bhreac:

We were walking from NS 309987 by 0915z and on the summit of Beinn Bhreac GM/SS-081 (681m) by 1100z. I don’t know about Geoff and Dave my pals, who were using my gear but I made 35 QSOs around Europe on 40m CW/SSB.

As we we were about to depart SS-081 a couple of walkers turned up and kindly took our photo. Nick G4OOE referred to us a “The Three Amigo’s” in an e-mail that night, and that made us laugh…

We headed downhill to a frozen depression and then ascended around 100m again to a col shown on the map as An t-Sreang NN 302015 (359m). From there we turned left and tracked our way around wind slab snow and softer drifts to make our way to the top of the 2nd summit which was SS-103 Tullich Hill (632m) and we just did it without needing to don our crampons…it was a close run thing.

Picture below shows recent Septuagenarian Geoff 2(M)0NON front and Dave G(M)3TQQ (who is not far off being one) behind, climbing to reach the top of Tulloch Hill SS-103. (No black cats visible Neil - but we followed plenty of tracks!)

This is a picture of the pointed north easterly flank of Tulloch Hill SS-103 which I captured from SS-218 the previous day:

We were cold and miserable sat on a drift out of the wind on Tulloch Hill, thankful for the 25m height rule but we didn’t want to linger for long. I was happy just to take 13 quick CW QSOs and 2 in SSB on 40m in 15 minutes before passing the mic to Dave and Geoff to finish until it dried up. and allow us to get back down before dark. We left the top at 1445z and were in Ben Arthur’s Bothy Bar in Arrochar for needed food and drink at 1730z. A satisfying day, which added up to an 8 mile walk with 3400 feet of ascent on difficult ground for 10 points apiece.

It became apparent during the activations that my FT-857 appears to need attention, on SSB it was reported the TX was drifting and apparently I was working split to some extent by hundreds of hertz with distorted audio… we thought it may have been low battery voltage but that was not the case… tests needed when we get home but it looks like the radio will have to go down to Yaesu for a refurb…they aren’t meant to take the abuse they suffer in a rucksack on the hills…they have a hard life,

Day 3 of 3 to follow…

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I did these two hills on separate outings and enjoyed both very much - not just for the SOTA aspect but for the hills themselves. Beinn Bhreac GM/SS-081 was a very interesting hill covered in fissures and displacements. Some of the fissures were a few inches wide some were several feet, depth varied from a few feet to the bowels of the earth - I shone a torch down one but never seen the bottom. Scary thing was the crack was wide enough to fall down but the vegetation was growing over the fissure so hard to see.
One other section I really enjoyed exploring was on the eastern side - a huge chunk of mountain many millions of tons I would say, it has visible signs of slippage (not recent) and looking like it has sunk in to the hillside on the downward slope. Thought to myself at the time "don’t fancy living down there"
The other thing that I found amazing was some of the burns (streams) would flow happily downhill minding their own business only to disappear down a hole to who knows where. Scoured around for a while trying to locate an exit point on one but gave up after a fruitless search.

I wonder often, how many people actually study the terrain they are walking on (not just SOTA) or is it just another tick in a box.

As for Loch and Glens - yes great deals, XYL and her mother holiday with them every year.

73 Neil

Hi Phil, hope you had better conditions on SS-218 than last time I did it. It was one of the h
bogiest ascents I can remember.
73 de Inky, sat in reception of Shearings hotel, Melrose, contemplating doing North Berwick Law.

Great stuff Steve - enjoy your trip. No actual bog problem on SS-218 (we thought) due to frozen ground… However I went down almost to my knee three times in holes disguised by ice and snow - luckily it was the same leg so I only swamped one foot, and Dave G3TQQ went right down once right up to the top of one knee, causing stiffness in the limb for the rest of the tour.

Look forward to working you later today then - as I prepare my gear for my next tour…I’m going down to the South East on Tuesday to SOTA Complete on HF the 14 SC/SE summits I need to finish of all 176 English Marilyns. Staying in a mix of YHA dorms, a hotel and a relatives QTH on the tour. I may just make this a CW trip (like some do), but I will try some SSB if time permits. Trying to do 14 SOTAs in 4 days, but the tour involves a lot of driving solo without a navigator, so I can’t afford to spend more than 30 mins operating time on any summit I visit.

73 to you and I hope the excellent HF Condx we had yesterday continue for you in Scotland,


73 Phil

Yes, you are right Neil - Tulloch Hill was a lot more interesting than most of the hills I’ve climbed in the UK before. Apart from a few pimples I activated in Fife around 2005 this was the furthest north I’ve climbed in Scotland. I still have plenty of uniques to go at in the Borders and in Galloway though, but I’m going back up to Argyll as soon as I can to climb The Cobbler and Ben Narnain for sure - when there is less ice around.

Day Three - SS-090 Beinn Dubh

Our driver “Don’t call me driver, my name is Michael” was taking our tour bus to a musuem and Glasgow City centre on day three, so I approached Michael to see if he could oblige us by dropping us off in Luss. He said he could, and not only tha,t he could collect us on the way back if we were waiting at around 4.30pm.

These coach tours are so regimented, almost like a military exercise in all respects, including meals times at the hotel, and the posting of notices on a board to clearly explain the day to day arrangements. It all runs like a well oiled machine…

Once on the coach there was much laughter from the other guests, when someone shouted “Have you got your crampons?” Here we are then in the coach…ready for the off.

From the car park in Luss village we crossed the main A82, (the road beside Loch Lomond) via the footbridge, to join the well used path (as it turned out) up to SS-090 Beinn Dubh (657m for 2+3 WB points and a Complete for me). My friend Iain MM3WJZ had given me some guidance on this summit - not to be caught out (thanks Iain). The summit marked on the map as Beinn Dubh is 642m high. The actual summit however is across a long plateau 2 Km to the north west. It is unmarked and is 657m high. In between there is a depression in the path which falls to 595m. In a straight line path from the marked summit to the actual top though the land falls to less than 500m. The website make it a little more understandable - they call the summit Mid Hill (Beinn Dubh). Mid Hill is the closest named high point to the actual top on the OS 25K map.

We had the most beautiful day for our walk, full sun most of the time and no wind. Here is Dave G3TQQ coming up, with Loch Lomond and all its Islands as a backdrop:

Dave started activating SOTA this winter and lives close to me in Pickering. He’s got the SOTA Fever now, and there is at least one other ham in the area where I live also who is becoming addicted…

There were plenty of folk about,even though it was mid week and not school holidays - it was very safe with just a few patches of snow to cross on our way to the top. The walkers we encountered were all local Scots, and friendly too, stopping for a chat as you can see in this picture:

I set up the station at the second of the two small cairns. Dave and Geoff went off with a handheld and quarter whip to qualify the summit, leaving me to do the business on HF in its entirety on 40m 30m and 20m with 72 QSOs worked in an hour “contest style” in very comfortable conditions, for a change. I was too busy operating to take any pictures, but if Dave or Geoff send me one I will come back and add it later…

After working another Activator / Chaser, who was USA station Bob AC1Z on 20m CW at 1330z I went QRT and ate my lunch before packing up.

We could have made this a circular walk by crossing Mid Hill and then meeting the road in Glen Luss to walk back to the village in the shade, but that would have been cold and without a view, so we decided to return the same way down in full sun, and it was most enjoyable.

Loch Lomond on the descent:

Back in Luss we called in for refreshments at the Village Rest Cafe and Bistro which stays open until 4.00pm in winter. One of us downed two pints of draught Guinness… the other two had a pot of tea and Caramel and Apple Pie with Cream each…delicious!

Luss - Village Rest & Bistro:

Lochs and Glens picked us up from the main car park at 4.40pm to round off what had been a most enjoyable three days walking in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

We were returned by coach in fine style to York on Friday afternoon, leaving Arrochar at 0745am with stops at Moffat, Leeming Bar, Ripon and Harrogate en-route. The whole tour, including transport, breakfast and dinner over 4 nights cost us just £140 each… amazing value for money, I don’t know how they do it at the price…

A final comment about the dodgy audio and instability coming out of my FT-857 - after running some tests today with Terry G0VWP the problem is down to battery voltage. The radio is around five years old now and only recently it has proved unstable when the battery voltage drops to less than 11v. So long as I can maintain 11.5v and up the radio is stable and the audio is good. A proper 12v - 14.4v 7.5 AH LiFEPo4 battery is therefore on order - a preferred cure I feel to sending the radio back to Yaesu UK for realignment, which may not cure my problem anyway.

73 Phil