Islands on the Air, Bioda Mor activation - REPORT

Activation report from activating the following SOTA summits:

    • Uisgnaval Mor GM/SI-026
    • Conachair GM/SI-098
    • Bioda Mor GM/SI-212
    • Greabhal GM/SI-165

Activator: GW4BML (GM4BML/p)

Equipment used:

  • Elecraft KX2 with external mic
  • 40/20 EFHW antenna
  • 6m Carbon pole
  • 12v li-ion RS battery
  • 3m RG-174 patch lead
  • Palm pico paddle

After a flurry of emails were shared, I managed to find myself on the list to have a chance of climbing Bioda Mor GM/SI-212, and obviously activate the summit if I could, one of the last remaining un-activated SOTA summits in the UK. The two proposed dates were Friday 19th or Saturday 20th April 2024.

Once confirmation of the trip was received, I booked a few days holiday from work, a ferry from Uig to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris, and 3 nights at a camp site called West Harris camping. Wednesday evening 17th April, the BML campervan was on its way, look out GM!

We managed to pull up beside Loch Lomond and camp the evening, and on Thursday morning we continued our journey to Uig ferry port, which is north of Skye.

On my ferry across to Tarbert, I met a very interesting person called Jamie Andrews. Jamie unfortunately had a bad climbing accident back in the 90’s in the French Alps, but is still a keen climber / hiker, so we had plenty to talk about. Jamie was also joining the group to attempt the climb of Bioda Mor.

The ferry is only 1 hour 30 minutes, so in no time we had arrived at Tarbert in Harris. Soon after leaving the port, a message came through informing me that Saturday looks the best weather day, so that will be the confirmed date to attempt Bioda Mor.

In the meantime, Jamie had messaged saying he was planning to climb Uisgnaval Mor GM/SI-026 on Friday, now that we knew the St Kilda trip was taking place on Saturday. He asked if I’d like to join him, so I agreed and we made plans over text. I also informed him I was going to perform a SOTA activation on top, he was intrigued and looked forward to seeing what that was.

Driving to our campervan pitch was an eye opener, with fantastic views and the sun setting in the Harris mountains.

Friday morning arrived and Martha dropped me off in a small car park which also leads to a golden eagle feeding point, where I met Jamie. The sun was shining, a massive change in wx to Wales, NO RAIN :blush: the route we had chosen to Uisgnaval Mor followed the ridge right to the top. It was a good 4km hike all uphill from sea level, with spectacular views of all the west coast Scottish Islands.

We both reached the top in good time; I began to setup my radio station while Jamie sat beside the summit rocks having a bite to eat. It wasn’t long until I called out ‘CQ SOTA’ on the 7MHz SSB band managing to make 20 contacts rip rap – 3 were S2S’s, thanks @G5OLD Tim, @M1MAJ Martyn & @M3ZCB Caroline.

It was nice to see Jamie was intrigued in what I do, and many questions were asked. He seemed rather impressed, maybe another future SOTA amateur to be?? We made for our descent, and having climbing and hiking in common, it didn’t take us both long to reach the bottom chatting all the way down – a well-deserved coffee was awaiting that Martha and little Lyra had made us – thanks family.

It was then a family fun afternoon by the sea, the sun was shining so bight and the wind was blowing warm, warm enough for Martha to lie on the beach while me and Lyra played around making faces in the sand and building castles here and there – good times!

That evening, I received a message which I’d been waiting patiently for, confirming that the trip to St Kilda and attempt at Bioda Mor GM/SI-212 was going ahead – woohoo :blush: it was still a 50/50 chance on whether we’d land on the Island though. I fell asleep pretty quick that evening, having had a nice hike in the morning and playing with Lyra in the afternoon – I must be getting old!

At 6 o’clock the alarm clock went off. I had packed all my bags the night before and showered ready, so it was just a matter of putting my hiking clothes on, having breakfast, and making my way to Leverburgh port to meet the walking group and catch a boat. When I arrived, the group was there standing outside what looked like a rusty run-down bus, but to my surprise they were eating bacon butties…. I thought this can’t be right, but the bus was a small café that served coffee and bacon baps, GET IN :blush: so I treated Martha, Lyra and myself to a second breakfast before boarding the boat – FYI it tasted good for anyone who plans to visit this area!


Now for a 3-hour boat journey to the Island of St Kilda. Some people don’t like this way of transport, but I love it. I find standing outside on the boat with the fresh air is a great way of relaxing - while taking in the picturesque views! I saw many different birds and variety of wildlife on my journey, including an Orca Whale, seals, and plenty of puffins.

As we came closer to St Kilda the sea stacs and Boreray popped out of nowhere standing high in the sea – I was excited and had good feelings about the trip. The last time anyone landed on Dun, where Bioda Mor stands, was 5 years ago. The last 5 annual attempts failed due to high sea swell.

Soon enough, Angus the boat driver anchored down close to shore, and we all piled into small engine powered dinghies to land. Landing on St Kilda we first met Will, the General Manager of the Scottish National Trust who had joined for the day hoping to land on Dun. Then we met Craig who was the Bird warden and looked after all the rare birds on the island, like Petrels and Leaches. He was planning to join us too!

The plan was, to send both Will and Craig out in the dinghy to see what conditions were like and find a landing place. Two of the walking group members also accompanied, hoping for a landing. The rest of us just waited patiently to see if this was the day or not.

After about 45 minutes of the dinghy running up and down the side of Dun, it returned, but unfortunately with a full boat load. I didn’t speak out loud, but I said ‘O bugger’ to myself in disappointment, it just wasn’t meant to be. When the four arrived back on land, they explained the swell is far too dangerous and rough – there is no way we could land. But, on a positive note, they were going to try again at 14:00 when the tide had risen. I thought to myself, that was pretty fair of them. In the meantime, I had a SOTA summit to climb and activate, Conachair GM/SI-098 which stood really tall on the island of St Kilda. I took off my life vest, jacket around my waist, and off I went to climb the 430m peak, but from sea level.

The time now was 12:10, so I only had 1.50 hrs to get to the top, activate the summit, and run back down. I was on a mission, full boar ahead taking in so many amazing views of the ocean and surrounding islands.

I reached the top in good time, but my face was the same colour as a beetroot – bright RED! Out came my radio equipment, the EFHW was thrown over the 6m carbon pole, and I called CQ SOTA using the KX2 which worked a treat making 24 contacts on 7-SSB. Out of the 24 contacts, 8 were S2S stations, thanks go to G5OLD Tim, M0JIA Ian, @GW4VPX Allan, @M0JKS Dave, @G4OOE Nick, GW6OVD Mal, @2W0IWM Ian and @M0JLA Rod – it was great to work you all. I then put a final call out, no return, so packed up and run all the way back down.

Now for the good or bad news – we all had a bite to eat before the first 4 set off in the dinghy to try and land on Dun again. The remaining group all stood with their fingers and toes crossed waiting in suspense. A group member had some binoculars and passed them to me to see if I could see any progress. To my surprise, I saw one person get off the dinghy and land on Dun, 10 seconds later another person was ashore, followed by another and then the 4th – this really looked good news!

The dinghy came back and collected us, who were waiting patiently. On arrival we each had a 5 second gap to jump off the dinghy when the swell rose high, level with the rocks, to land on Dun and try not to slide into the ocean.

We all managed it with no issues – happy days! The ropes had to come out, and we climbed up the first part of the rocky mountain. The next step was to walk over all the rocks to hit the green long spongy grass. This took some time; the rocks were wet in places and very slippy!

Nevertheless, we all made it and continued our journey to Bioda Mor, there was no path, but being a steep rocky mountain, there was only one way to go – and that was up! Craig had to stop us on quite a few occasions to put a Petrel bird call out, making sure we weren’t disturbing any early Petrels that had nested on the Island. You may have noticed this from my tracker if you were tracking me, that will explain the long time it took from landing on Dun to getting to the top of Bioda Mor.

We all walked in single file to the top, I was just behind Craig at the front, hoping to have enough time to set my radio station up on top while everyone else gathered. This worked out well, as soon as the last up hill step was taken, and I was directly on top of the nasty looking rocky Mountain, I quickly threw one leg of my EFHW down the cliffs, having no room on top, and the other 33ft over the small peak to my KX2, found a free frequency and spotted using my Garmin Inreach, and began calling CQ SOTA at once, hoping for at least 4 contacts to qualify this un-activated summit.

It really was my lucky day, I managed 15 contacts in the log pretty quick, with one being a S2S with Tim – cheers buddy! I must apologise to everyone else trying to call into me, but the warden came over and said we had to leave, so I respected this and packed up. It was then a short scramble to the col, back across the slippy rocks to the landing place, and a drop down to the rocks to jump on the dinghy – job done, and what a feeling it was!

We all made it back to the main boat with huge smiles on our faces – it has taken some people years to achieve this and step foot on Bioda Mor! You can quite imagine the atmosphere in the boat on our return journey, let’s say it didn’t take too long, and the dram came out on multiple occasions :blush: I can tell you now, I slept very well that evening!

The next day was family time, we played on the beach, had brunch at a local café called The Temple, I did manage to squeeze one little summit in called Greabhal GM/SI-165 to stretch the legs, where I worked 16 stations on 7-SSB with 2 being S2S contacts and a further 7 in my log on 7-CW with 1 S2S with @GI0AZB Ian - cheers buddy :+1:

We then ended the evening with a meal at Harris Hotel, before our ferry back to mainland early Monday morning. What a time had on the Island of Harris once again!

As you will all know, @MM0EFI Fraser and I had one fair day on Tuesday where he has written a brilliant report already – I wanted to mention it in my report because I’m still buzzing from the experience and fantastic time I had – a big thank you again Fraser!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone from the SOTA community who called into my activations over the past week – the support was amazing!

I cannot wait to visit GM again, hopefully sooner rather than later :grinning: I’m pretty sure Fraser is already looking for routes :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::scotland:

Until next time, 73 all!



Superb Ben! Obviously we discussed this while hiking on Tuesday but your report and photos really bring it to life. Great achievement.

You are going to have to move up here. I have loads!


Many congrats Ben. Delighted to hear you made it (or rather them as you squeezed in 2 summits in the short time you were on land). How do you manage to carry such good weather (and strong legs!!) around with you?? The Welsh hills are going to look a bit fiddling and small (Craig y LLyn anyone??) after these high jinks - but they won’t cost you so much in diesel! I look forward to hearing of the next expedition.
73 Viki


Another great report Ben. I know how much organisation this took and am really glad that you managed to activate Bioda Mor. Well done.


Well done on another amazing adventure buddy, brilliant pictures of amazing places. Look forward to a catch up soon


Great report Ben, especially your Bioda Mor GM/SI-212 SOTA activation. Maybe your next big challenge should be to activate the 2 remaining un-activated GM SOTA summits which are the 2 sea stacks in the St Kilda Islands (Stac an Armin GM/SI-204 and Stac Lee GM/SI-214).

Jimmy M0HGY


Congratulations Ben. As you say, no one has made it onto Dun for quite a while, so even more fortunate that you got it 1st time.

Great pics and report.


Wow! What an adventure! Even by your lofty standards that looked epic! Well done Ben! :clap::clap::clap:


To the man that puts the A in Adventure… total respect!

What a super report and excellent photos Ben. I felt I was there with you. :grinning:

73, Gerald


Great report Ben, and very happy to be in your log on the isle of Dùn!


73, Kristof


Many. Many Congratulations Ben. A magnificent expedition. Thank You for the Activation Report and wonderful Photographs. You are a Fantastic Activator. Best Wishes to You and Your Family. 73 de Paul M0CQE.

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Brilliant report and photos of Another epic adventure Ben…I know how long this was in the planning stages. So good to get you s2s…perfect timing :grinning: My summit was a little easier :thinking:. Well done team BML. Thank you.

73 Allan


Thank you very much buddy - it’ll still take some hike to beat the day we had out on the high mountains of GM :grinning:

Don’t tempt me - maybe one day!

Thanks Viki - it was a great experience. Who knows what’s next, I’m always looking :grinning: hope you and Rod are keeping well, look forward to a catch up soon!

Thank you very much Kevin - it’s always a risk to take when you’re not sure of the outcome, but this was a positive one which I thoroughly enjoyed. Look forward to catching up soon!

73, Ben


Fantastic report @GW4BML. The photos really paint a picture, a trip of a lifetime. Nice one!

Was great to chase you while on cape wrath, on both summits, Bioda Mor was by complete luck - late in the day and I was also very late on too An Giranan GM/NS-121


Thanks buddy - I was really lucky with the wx too! It was good working you /p from the high mountains in GM :+1:

Thank you for the kind words Jimmy - activating Bioda Mor was a great experience, who knows what will be next :grinning:

Thanks Gerald - it was hit and miss at times, but everyone was so chuffed we made it to the top, especially after a very long day.

73, Ben


Great effort Ben. Seems the stars & weather all aligned for a successful trip & activation. :+1:

73, Robert

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Thanks Matthew - it certainly was an epic weekend! :slight_smile:

Thanks for the kind words Gerald - things actually went very near to plan. Activating Bioda Mor was great fun, but so was meeting new people and seeing the wildlife and views on the way. When’s your next trip up North?

Thanks Kristoff - was good to get you in my log :slight_smile:

Thank you very much Paul - always a pleasure to work you :slight_smile: Thanks for the support!

Thank you Allan - was great to get the S2S with you, perfect timing as you say :slight_smile: well, I’d agree that your summit was slightly easier, hi! Look forward to the next!

Thanks Tim - we managed to make a few S2S contacts over the long weekend. Timing worked out just right, that is never usually the case! Also well done on your two unique activations, the pictures you showed us looked very good!

Thanks Robert - I certainly had the wx for it. A great experience :+1:

Thank you very much all for the kind messages.

73, Ben


Not sure yet Ben. Planned, but without firm dates are the Mullwharchar trip with Andy and the Ben Macdui trip with Andy, Fraser and Paul. I’m keen to get an extended stay in sometime this year which may incorporate the Macdui outing, maybe not. What I do know is that I need to seriously improve on the amount of effort getting to / from the hills, something which you will know about travelling from Wales up to Harris. With me, VFM (value for money) recently seems to have gone out the window, not helped by a few “incidents”. :frowning:

73, Gerald