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M1HAX on Tour - Tryfan to Ben Nevis (amateur MRT edition)

Hi all,

This weekend I’ll be doing some activations around Ogwen Valley in North Wales before heading to Fort William/Glencoe area in Scotland for next week.

Summit plans in Scotland will be quite dynamic based on weather and what my non-ham colleagues want to do, so posting to raise awareness of my trip amongst VHF chasers - holding off alerting for now.

Tomorrow my plan is to do GW/NW-006 and GW/NW-003. Possibly GW/NW-004 after. All on 2m/70cm FM. I’m targeting a new (to me) scrambling route on Tryfan so the alert timings are quite vague at this point. I’ll try and update them while underway and will also be on APRS.fi. Possible evening re-activation of Tryfan on the Sunday.

I will be active Tuesday through Friday around the general Fort William area. Prospective targets include:

Unsure if I will be taking my heavy HF setup as I’ll probably be carrying some climbing gear. Most likely will chance it with 50w 2m-FM.

This was originally supposed to be a winter mountaineering trip but I think all the snow will have melted! :disappointed_relieved:

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I may be out Tuesday 22nd afternoon and will very likely be on something pretty high on Wednesday 23rd morning, wx dependant.

There’s a proven 2m path from the hills I’m planning on to the west coast, so I’ll look out for your spots.

I tbink you’ll be alright with VHF only from the big west coast hills. There are usually enough folk around to pull it off.

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Ok thanks Fraser. I expect to be posting my alerts the evenings before each day. Chat soon with a little luck!

GW/NW-006 Tryfan & GW/NW-003 Glyder Fawr - 19th March

It took me two attempts to find the start of Little Gully (SG1) on the East Face of Tryfan, but I’m glad I went back and had another go. Linked with North Gully (SG1) I think this is my new favourite scrambling route to the summit. It is in some respects ‘just’ a climbers descent route but the scrambling was engaging and topping out behind Adam & Eve to the amazement of dozens of onlookers was good fun.

Travelling light I only had my Yaesu VX6E to activate the summit but as expected this wasn’t problematic in the slightest, with 5 contacts logged on 2m in about ten minutes. I had an amusing summit to summit with Mal MW0NLG on the neighbouring summit of GW/NW-003, my next destination. I’m sure if I had squinted harder I would have seen him waving (zoom in on the picture below and maybe he is there somewhere!).

I proceeded to descend the South Ridge (SG1) keeping left to avoid the path and keep hands on rock. The next objective was Bristly Ridge (SG2) as seen in the rear centre of the above photo. This is a popular scramble and on a sunny day like this there was a fair bit of traffic. I had brought climbing gear along with the intention of practicing abseiling down the Pinnacle Gap but decided it was too busy.

After completing the ridge and moving on to the Glyder Fawr summit via Castell y Gwynt, I activated with only the VX6 again, getting six contacts in ten minutes. As Malcolm had earlier warned me, it was exceptionally windy on the summit, gusting to 50-60mph, knocking me off balance a couple of times. Bruce GW4XXF and I tried and succeeded with a QSO on 70cms before I descended back towards the A5.

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GW/NW-076 Mynydd y Cwm & G/LD-052 Hutton Roof Crags - 21st March

After a brief interlude on the Sunday doing a Mountain Leader CPD workshop I proceeded to drive up to the Scottish Highlands. My climbing partner had already gone on ahead to ski in the Cairngorms so I thought I’d break up the trip by bagging a couple of small 1pt summits along the way.

Mynydd y Cwm is a small wooded hill easily accessed from the A55 road. Forestry operations were felling trees with heavy machinery around the summit. This meant taking an off-piste approach to the summit and trying not to raise the ire of the workers.

I quickly reached the summit and got four contacts in the log from some local early risers. I’d like to think Radio Officer Evans wouldn’t mind me using their cairn to operate from.

Sneaking through the trees towards the car, the workers appeared to have vanished - odd considering it was still early morning. I hit the road now setting my sights on the Lake District.

Hutton Roof Crags was my second unique summit of the day. I had been eyeing this one up for some time. This turned out to be a very pleasant hill with woods, small rocky crags (clue is in the name I suppose) and open grassland. With no pre-planning for this one I picked out a line to the summit with an OS 25k map while underway.

I readily made eight QSOs from this hill, including lots of familiar stations such as Andy @G8CPZ, David @G6LKB and Mark @M0NOM.

I cleared the pile up and then continued the drive to Scotland…

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Stob Ban GM/WS-058 - 22nd March

Stob Bàn is a 1000m summit in the Mamores, northwest of Kinlochleven. Our objective for the day was to complete South Gully (I), a pleasant snow gully that arrives near the summit.

The gully can just be made out in the centre of the photo below where it snakes left inside one of the buttresses. Even thought this is only a Winter Grade 1 gully we decided to bring climbing equipment as the snow condition was uncertain. I also had my Yaesu FTM-100D in tow, which was feeling just a little heavier than usual. Compensating for the heavy packs was truly sublime alpine like weather throughout the day. Contouring around the coire we picked up a line to the entrance of the gully.

The snow condition in the gully was acceptable, still being shaded from the morning sun, but not great. We alternated leading the route, seeking out the relative safe havens of neve and ice amongst the liquifying snow. This would likely be the last day it would be safe to climb the gully until the next cold snap.

We topped out of the gully a little after mid-day. Exiting the gully over loose choss and a wet snow bank was the most challenging part of the climb. Looking back at this photo I’m not sure why we didn’t walk straight out - probably because of the snow condition and not wanting to go on a great ride to the bottom.

Arriving at the summit of GM/WS-058, I broke out the radio. This was going to be the easy part, right? SOTA veterans @GM7PKT and @GM0GAV were quickly raised with GM0HBK following soon after. But, after what felt like nearly half an hour trying to get contacts on 2 metres FM I called it quits with only 3 in the log. The first unsuccessful activation of this summit (and my second). This wasn’t entirely unexpected given the location and in an ideal world I would have been travelling with my (imaginary) KX2 HF setup. I would have hung around longer but always feel a bit guilty when there are non-hams in tow.

The main objective for the day had always been South Gully so I was still pleased. We set off NW to bag the Munro of Mullach nan Coirean and also Meall a’ Chaorainn before completing a circuit down to the car park in Glen Nevis.

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Hi

I stay in Fort William.
GM/WS-001, GM/WS-003, GM/WS-072 are all “line of sight” and easy to wrk on 2M FM.
Once you finalise your plans let me know and we can set up a few skeds.

By the way if the WX turns too bad for high summits check out GM/WS-339, its just above Fort William. Only 20 minutes walk up an easy path from road parking at a pinic site.
Its a vy easy one for a bad day or even an evening.

73
Dave
GM4NFI

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That’s an impressive day out.

I activated GM/WS-339 last year. It has good views down Loch Linnhe and Ben Nevis if it’s clear. But I only managed 2 QSOs on 2m before switching to HF. It’s surrounded by higher hills so I think you are only likely to raise 2m operators locally - unless it is S2S from Ben Nevis. :slight_smile:

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Looks like you had a great week Richard!

When I was in Lochaber just before Christmas I managed just three QSOs on my 2m handie from a summit, and then had to dig out the hf kit. All was not lost, as I worked the States on 20m SSB!

I’m afraid you’ll need to sell a kidney to buy a kx2, sotabeams 6m carbon mast and a reel of wire.

73, Fraser

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GM/WS-042 Sgorr Dhearg & GM/WS-057 Sgorr Dhonuill - 23rd March

Wednesday’s objective was to activate the two SOTA summits of Beinn a’Bheithir. The original intention was to undertake the Twin Ridges (I) route, but there just wasn’t enough snow and ice left at lower altitude. The subsidiary peak of Sgorr Bhan can be seen from the start:

After a stiff climb up the ridge pictured above we moved across Schoolhouse Ridge (SG1), trying to pick the most interesting lines. Some other walkers tried to pick their way through using intermittent paths. It was clear bringing the climbing equipment today was just dead weight. We briefly discussed practicing some rope work before deciding the ridge was so short and easy it wouldn’t be worth the effort of gearing up.

After completing the ridge we had a fantastic view of the first target, GM/WS-042 Sgorr Dhearg:

We scooted along the second ridge which was sadly not in winter condition, arriving at the summit stopping to have a pleasant chat with two hill walkers about their father & son hiking endeavours. I set up the Yaesu FTM100D and managed to get four QSOs in about ten minutes on 2m-FM including with Stuart MM7SWM in Glasgow who would become a regular contact over the week.

We forged on to Sgorr Dhonuill (below), as I continued to lament the mistake of carrying crampons and ice axe. A gent who had travelled from Edinburgh by bus for the day told us of an alternative descent route from the col going south instead of through the forest to the north. This was to avoid difficult forestry terrain to the north. Armed with this tip-off, I consulted my map to replan the rest of the day while we climbed to the summit.

After an uneventful ascent with some easy scrambling at the very top, I set up the radio again. This was the most successful 2m-FM summit of the trip, with 7 QSOs in little more than ten minutes. I did however have to resort to standing on rocks and holding the mobile rig up in the air to get out well enough. I logged with a voice recorder instead of my usual pencil and paper.

We then returned to the bealach between the two summits and started to contour across uneven ground towards the forest. Eventually we picked up a path and made our way back to the Co-Op car park in Ballachulish. The man from Edinburgh was waiting (2 hours!) for his bus home so we had another chat about walking.

All told, a successful day, with some very fine weather. Just a shame we missed the snow on the ridges. The following day would be the main event, Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

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GM/WS-003 Carn Mor Dearg & GM/WS-001 Ben Nevis - 24th March

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland and the British Isles at 1345m. It is normally climbed by thousands of tourists each year via a gravel track to the west of the summit. A more interesting approach is via the CMD arete to the east. At this time of year it is little more than an airy winter walk in crampons but is still a classic winter grade I route (and one that has claimed lives).

We had superb views of the “venomous mountain” as we approached from the North Face car park.

It didn’t take long to reach the snow line and it was clear we were going to be in for a cracker of a walk. The pictures were basically taking themselves all morning.

We pushed up to the summit of GM/WS-003 in crampons following a local climber who had just soloed the nearby East Ridge route (this was our plan B and it seemed we had made a good choice with the Ben). I quickly set up the radio and logged seven QSOs on 2m-FM in ten minutes.

The weather was turning colder and a mist was descending on the mountain (as forecast). We dropped down on to the arete and began the journey on to Ben Nevis, which continued to magnificently impose on everything around it.

I led the final push to the summit plateau in deteriorating conditions. I was relieved that the snow covering the boulder field here was able to support our weight (otherwise this would have been arduous at best) and we plodded up to the steep incline to the top.

As we hit the plateau we passed a technical climbing duo descending probably towards the CIC hut.

Shortly after this things took an unexpected turn for the worse as another figure passed us in the mist. This guy also ignored our hello’s but it was obvious it wasn’t due to elitism this time - he was in a blind panic. We watched in horror as he slipped and fell on the steep slope we had just climbed. I shouted to him repeatedly and managed to get him to return to us.

The wet and cold lone tourist was wearing cotton trousers and trail running shoes - unbelievable. No map, no compass, no phone app for nav., not even any pre-planning for the walk. He was lost in the whiteout and thought he was following the other climbers back to the tourist trail. I led the party up to the trig point and sternly explained to him how he was moments from sliding to his death. I think he thought I was joking, he was completely oblivious to his predicament.

After a brief assessment and chat I decided he would be fine for a few minutes while I activated the summit (priorities…). He declined food and water despite having none and didn’t want to use the emergency shelter. If the wind hadn’t been calm this would have been even more serious.

Having been looking forward to making a fair few contacts from the highest point in the land, I had to rapidly make my required contacts and pack the radio away in a scant five minutes.

I grabbed my compass and started leading the group off in the correct direction. With the calmer but nevertheless exhausted tourist in tow we slowly descended about 300 metres vertically in whiteout conditions towards the snow line. I was incredulous as to how he had successfully reached the summit under these conditions in the first place.

When the tourist had been put well below the snow line and mist on the zig-zag path, with his agreement we decided to leave him to make his own way off the mountain. He knew where he was and other tourists on the track could be seen coming and going at this point. After telling him not to follow us as we were going another way, we split off right at Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe to drop down towards Coire Dubh.

About twenty minutes later a Leonardo AW189 Search & Rescue helicopter appeared overhead and flew straight to the zig-zag path. My heart sank. Had I made a terrible error of judgement leaving the tourist behind? Surely not, he was in good spirits and the weather was good at this altitude I thought. Thankfully the helicopter appeared to be on patrol or doing training, as it flitted about from summit to summit in the area. It would later come and interrogate us twice as we descended the pathless terrain back towards the Allt a’ Mhuilinn presumably to see if we were lost tourists. I signalled to the helicopter that we were OK and continued on, crossing the river using the old deer fence, heading back towards the car park.

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@GM4NFI - Thanks for the info. I’m back home now but will try and let you know for next time. I had looked at GM/WS-339 but decided it wouldn’t play out well on VHF.

@M0WIV - Thanks, and yes as above I agree with your assessment!

@MM0EFI - Yes it was a fantastic trip. Can’t wait to go again. I’ll keep saving the pennies in the KX2 jar rather than sell organs thank you :joy:

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You did the right thing taking him to a place of lesser danger. I know my limits Richard, I don’t think I’m competent to tackle the arete without more Winter experience and without experienced company. But even as a simple hill walker I am no longer amazed at the stupidity I see on the mountains up here almost weekly. No map, incorrect footwear, no wet weather gear, no warm clothes. I’m not sure what’s worse people trusting everything to an app or no app for navigating at all. There was a guy on Ben Ledi a few weeks back. It was a lovely day low down but cold at 880m with frozen ground and big snow fields. This was his first attempt to climb any mountain. I was on my descent, he was on the way up. He was in shorts and thin long sleeved top and fashionable trainers. I’m overweight and he was properly overweight. It had taken him 3 times longer than his app suggested to get about 1/2 way and it was 3.30pm with the sun now below the bulk of the hill. I said he didn’t have the right footwear for ground conditions higher up and there was no dishonour in turning back as it was his first attempt and it was starting to go dark and colder. He said he had no warm clothes or windproof gear with him. I strongly suggested he should turn back but he was adamant he wouldn’t be cold and would get up to the top. Full marks for determination but zero marks for preparation. I thought I’d met someone who was about to become a statistic. I couldn’t persuade him to turn round so had no alternative but walk off and leave him. I really was aghast at how unprepared he was for an almost Munro sized hill.

:+1: Nice pics so far.

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It’s just mind boggling isn’t it Andy. I think many of us have stories like these.
“Oh I’ve never done a mountain before, why don’t I try this snow capped Munro today” :man_facepalming:

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What a contrast you’ve had on this trip: from a gentle stroll up Hutton Roof Crag to a non-tourist route up Ben Nevis in winter weather.

Your story of the lost tourist was scary. I remember 40 years ago the leader of my firm’s hill walking club (when I worked in East Kilbride) telling us we had to abandon the final ascent of Ben Nevis by the tourist route due to deteriorating weather. As we turned back in driving sleet all wearing our winter clothes we passed a teenage couple going up without jackets, hats, or rucksacks and in town shoes.

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Hi Andy, nice to get you in the log last week. Yes, it was quite a contrast going from sunny rolling countryside to snow covered munros in 24hrs! I wonder what became of the teenage couple.

G/LD-046 Lambrigg Fell - 25th March

On the Friday my climbing partner left for the Alps and I was originally planning to check out the indoor ice climbing centre near Fort William. I decided it would be better to go another time with a partner so started preparing to make the long journey home instead. Lambrigg Fell in the Lake District was another summit I had previously identified as a good 1 point summit to quickly tick off on a Scotland trip so put this in to the satnav and hit the road.

Ample parking outside a quarry is just a couple of minutes from junction 37 of the M6 motorway, and I was underway to the summit in short order.

Attempting to navigate while simultaneously texting friends and taking photos, I wound a circuitous route to the summit arriving in about half an hour. The weather was really quite hot for March and a very different environment to the summit of Ben Nevis the previous day.

After checking the SOTA database and my map to identify the actual summit I set up the Yaesu FTM100D and made 5 QSOs on 2m-FM in about ten minutes. It was great to work G6AEK and @G6LKB who I had spoken to on my journey north earlier in the week. I made my way back past the wind turbines to the car and hit the road.

I have added a vareity of photos and 360 degree panoramas to the sotl.as website and will soon be uploading my GPX tracks to SOTA Mapping. Here are some final stats from my week of SOTA:

:trophy: 57 Points
:mountain: 10 Activations
:radio: 55 Contacts
:new: 6 Uniques
:earth_africa: 3 Countries
:straight_ruler: 80km Total Distance
:sunrise_over_mountains: 5,880m Total Ascent

Until next time…

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Those photos of the Scottish hills = sun & snow!!! Lovely. None of my photos ever turn out like that. I think I’ve missed my chance of that this year for the first time since we came back from Eire. Well I thought I had, but it looks like now we’re having now might have dumped another load.

Hills look stunning with a bit snow and sun. GM/WS-042 Sgorr Djearg & GM-057 Sgorr Dhonuill looked nothing like they do when I did them in August - last activation before you.

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I am fully jealous, nothing like this in Minnesota, I sure miss the mountains!
Thanks for sharing…

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@M6GYU - It was one of those ‘we didn’t realise it at the time but’ moments regarding the amazing weather!

@W0LMS - Thanks, I’m sure you still manage to have fun out there!

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