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M3WJZ on tour

Well the observant amongst you may have noticed that once again I managed to avoid the usually vigilant border security and venture deep into GM-land.

I’ve also invested the princely sum of £20 in a new mobile phone which unlike my old one actually works with spotlite and not just facebook (I still don’t know why only facebook) hence the new phenomenom of a M3WJZ selfspot.

So you might think that driving all the way to Fort William to activate the couple of relative pimples (in comparison to a few of the near neighbours) in the area is a bit excessive given all the hills I’d driven past to get there. Well you have to play with what the weather is offering and I did have thoughts of activating something a wee bit bigger.

Fort William was prompted by a desire to have another “bash” around the Ring of Steall, having last been there on a damp, cloudy day in late October 2004. For those who are unfamiliar, the Ring of Steall is a 9 mile loop taking in 4 Munros, 3 of which are Marilyns, WS-069, WS-037 & WS-020. Friday offered the best weather, so on Thursday night I packed the bag with this intention in mind, however overnight I had doubts that I had the time to actually undertake the activations, so parked up at the Upper car park at Glen Nevis and getting kitted up I took all the radio kit bar the handheld out and left them in the car. I’m pleased I did and I make no apologies for not putting on the summits, it was a bit of a dayout, 10 hours on the hill, stunning views – I even completely forgot to even put a shout out on the handy. I didn’t even complete the round, getting to the high point of the Devils Ridge, Stob Choire a’Mhail before looking down on the crux of the ridge and considering the exposure, fatigue and the increasingly powdery snow decided that I was going to venture back to Sgorr an lubhair and make my way down the ajoining valley. It might be the Devils Ridge but I had no ambition to meet the chap just yet :slight_smile:

I would have loved to have put the summits on but now I’ve got an excuse to go back. A few more minutes of daylight and conditions which will allow the winter iron to be swapped for the radio and it’d be on. Incidently I had a look and the Ring of Steall is in only one log, MM0YLS :slight_smile:

Anyway I manged to remember to take a few photos on the way round, for those that like looking at nice pretty mountain pictures the best ones are here…

The trip also saw my first proper wee fumble with hf, thank you for all the calls, I might manage to be a bit slicker next time and have a bit more idea what I’m doing. I’d quite like to play on some more GM-summits later this year so I might yet be heard again.

Iain, M3WJZ

In reply to M3WJZ:

Well border control wont bother you as long as you continue to produce photos like those!

I’ve also invested the princely sum of £20 in a new mobile phone which unlike
my old one actually works with spotlite and not just facebook (I still don’t >know why only facebook) hence the new phenomenom of a M3WJZ selfspot.

So that’s both you and Wlat who’ve spent up on new mobile phones just as I get my SMS to spot gateway working!

I’m off up Durness/Tongue way next weekend and I’m not sure what I’ll find when it comes to snow. Reports are the snow has had a huge fright and only the highest tops are white. I’ll make sure I have big and small targets planned just in case.

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to M3WJZ:

Lovely photographs, Iain. Thank you very much for sharing them with us.
I hope on your future trips you may be able to do a bit of activation on HF, then we “southerners” will have a chance of picking up some new uniques!

Good luck!

73,
Walt (G3NYY)

In reply to MM0FMF:

I’m off up Durness/Tongue way next weekend and I’m not sure what I’ll
find when it comes to snow. Reports are the snow has had a huge fright
and only the highest tops are white. I’ll make sure I have big and
small targets planned just in case.

Andy
MM0FMF

Hi again Andy, i live in GM/NS and will confrim that the snow is melting fast, we have had daytime temperatures of +8 degrees C for a week now, i was on GM/NS-138 at the weekend and there was no snow at the summit although the ground was very soggy.

Hope to hear you on the air at the weekend. Maybe even a S2S if im lucky!!

Adrian
2M0ETR

In reply to MM6ADR:

Well I wouldn’t normally consider 2m from up that way but if there’s someone going to be listening it’s worth a bit more effort. Where about do you stay?

I was hoping to stay towards Tongue but couldn’t find a hotel so I’m based in Kinlochbervie. Possible big summits are Cranstackie, Beinn Spionnnaidh, Ben Loyal, Ben Hee, Ben Kilbreck. Might do some odd ball smaller summits. All depends on the WX of course! I don’t want to do too much driving mainly due to the eyewatering costs of fuel up there.

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to M3WJZ:

Excellent photos Iain - you are certainly a very brave man to be out in that terrain under those conditions. You must get the award for the most snow photographed this winter bonus period - certainly more than Paul and myself have seen. Despite the wintry conditions this year, we have managed to avoid the rain, snow and clag on more or less every outing and for me that’s 27 summits during the WB period… my reputation for wet weather activating is now in tatters!

73 and extremely well done,

Gerald

In reply to MM0FMF:
I stay in a wee place called Ardross, about 20miles north of Inverness off the B9176 (struie). Im not sure what i will try to activate this weekend but it wont be to far from home. Dont feel you have to carry extra weight for the 1 qso with me, as im sure you know Andy qso’s on 2 are rare(ish) round these parts. It’s likely to be too far for any HF groundwave propogation as well.

I will have my vhf gear anyway so there will be the chance for a qso.

I havent been up that way on the hills so cant give any advice on which to go for, but have fun and enjoy the day out.

Adrian
2M0ETR

In reply to MM6ADR:

Blimey, there is a weather warp!

Andy had better hurtle past the Cairngorms then 'cos the hills are still buried in white noxious stuff. Even the little pimples near the village have a fair covering.

Adrian, can you send some of that warmth south of the Moray Firth please!

73

Barry GM4TOE

I had the intention of a wander out on a hill on my way north on friday and decided to activate Bengairn, GM/SS-229. So attempting (and failing) to keep a short story short…

The overnight/early morning rain was a bit slower than forecast to clear, so I opted for a brew followed by a buttie and malteaser slice in Dalbeattie. By half 11 it looked like the rain was easing so I figured it was worth the drive along to where I’d decided to park, at the forestry car park (room for about 6-8 cars) at Screel Hill. Due to demand for wood, the forestry commision had a chunk of land to the south of Screel Hill signed as being non-accessible, just rude if you ask me. Still the marked area was on the edge of where I wanted to go, “We’ll have a little wander and have a look then”. So I had a walk over Screel Hill but down the hill at the other side the nice path was cordonned off.
On a different (insert a nice and sunny weekend here - forestry don’t seem to work weekends) I might have ignored the makeshift cordon but it wasn’t a particulaly inspiring day wx wise, to be fair and I had to pick up a van in Edinburgh later, so I just settled for a wander over Screel Hill and back.

Forestry Works were signed as being in place for another month or so, just in case anyone was planning on an approach of Bengairn from the Screel Hill side in the near future. There is another approach from the south east, if I remember correctly (but I didn’t pay to much attention to that at the time I was looking at routes) and that shouldn’t be affected by the forestry works as far as I could tell.

Iain, M3WJZ

PS: A fresh dusting of snow on the Highlands over the weekend with what looks like more to come. Winter hasn’t finished yet :slight_smile:

In reply to M3WJZ:

Snow is presently falling heavily west of Glasgow (450ft ASL), dustings of snow could be seen as low as roughly 800ft ASL this afternoon, Met Office has a severe weather warning in effect for part of the Central belt…

Bob

Hi Iain

Sorry to hear about the forestry restrictions. When I went up there I parked above Bengairn Loch at NX 790523 then walked past Foresthill. I remember it well because the farmer came up to us, very friendly. He wanted to see if we wanted to buy one of his sheepdog pups. I think it’s a longer walk that way though.

73 Phil

….in NW Scotland

Well I can understand why there have been so few activations of the GM/NS summits, nothing to see up there, plenty of much nicer summits further south. There’s no point in driving all the way up there, in fact there’s very little point in reading the rest of this report, I recommend you just go and make a cup of tea instead…nothing to see or read here…

What? You’re still reading, oh well…

Well that’s the second year running when the final week of the Edinburgh uni Easter break has had, well rather sunny weather in the west of Scotland, not that I’m suggesting there is anything scientific in that or making any suggestions for the future…

Cul Beag, GM/NS-047.
After a relaxed start to the day with a brew and a sausage bun in Ullapool, I decided to brave the busy Saturday morning traffic and made my way up to the minor road off the A835 at the east end of Loch Lurgainn. Chosen as a nice short ascent (relatively), the majority of the ascent is on grassy and pathless slopes. The final slopes looking impossibly steep until I got right up to it. Some nice views to the south over to Ben More Coigach during the ascent but suddenly emerging onto the summit, a 360 degree view of awesome mountain scenery just grabs you, dominated by an end of view of Stac Pollaidh, a side on view of Suilven, a sheer wall rising out of a patchwork of lochs and the cliffs of Cul Mor. Needless to say I spent a rather long time marvelling at the views and taking lots of photos.

Eventually I decided that since I’d carried the radio up I should have a little play. Set up for 40m ssb and a self spot via the ‘FMF txt a spot that I’d registered for a few days earlier, which brought 6 QSO’s headed up by Frank, G3RMD who was good enough to advise that my “txt a spot” had worked, a couple of stations were heard but not worked. 2m ssb brought 2 s2s’s with Adrian, 2M0ETR/P on NS-050 and Robin, GM7PKT/P on CS-012. Eventually after much gazing at views I packed up my kit and just as I was leaving met my only other sign of human life as another walker reached the summit, had a good chat with him – funny how the further away from civilization you are the more you chat with random folks on the hills. Anyway turns out he is in the process of moving to the area from Edinburgh to set up a b&b/bunkhouse just down the road. Finally made my descent via the minor top of Meall Dearg.

Suilven – Caisteal Liath, GM/NS-060.
With the MWIS forecast actually warning of the risk of sunburn and dehydration it seemed like the perfect day to play on this summit which dominates its landscape in a way many higher summits fail to.

My approach was the same as that described in detail by John, G4YSS in his report so I won’t bore you with the details. The huge dome of Caisteal Liath draws you towards it, again lots of photos taken. Reaching the grassy saddle of Bealach Mor the views south, until then hidden nearly blew me back down the slope, stunning. I was rather jealous of the two tents I spied on the shore of Fionn Loch. Once along the ridge at the summit I spent ages again taking in the view, taking lots of photos and wondering what view I fancied looking at once I set up the radio, north to Quinag, west over the sea to the Isle of Lewis or south over Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh. I eventually settled on the view south and 40m ssb, after a “txt a spot” brought about 7 QSOs, G1INK/P was heard on NP-009 but my flea power wasn’t making the return trip. 2m FM managed 1 QSO with 2M0IBO nr Elgin.

Whilst I was listening to G1INK I was approached by a chap who was very interested in my kit, turns out he was the occupant of one of the tents I’d seen and kayaks about the North West passage, he was interested in the apparent low weight of the kit as the radio he used in northern Canada is a lot heavier. He’d canoed down the loch Veyatie to set up camp, I like the sound of this canoeing lark, another chap and his daughter, also with canoes and tents on Fionn Loch, also came over for a chat.

On the descent, I made a quick trip to the summit of Meall Mheadhonach, the highest point at the other end of the ridge and a short scramble to reach the summit, although I did leave my accumulation of poles a little way along the path to be picked up on the way back. Return to Glencanisp lodge via the same route, but without the huge dome of Suilven drawing me on it seemed longer.

GM/NS-086, Stac Pollaidh.
Today the weather was forecast to be rather cloudy and overcast, it seemed like a good day to play on the small but rather dramatic looking mountain, better climb t now before it falls down. There is now a nice, partially lottery funded path around the mountain, reaching the summit ridge from the north, so next time you buy a lottery ticket at least you can be satisfied that some of your money is going to a good cause. The summit ridge just looks like a jumble of rocks and rock pinnacles all built together into a dramatic structure. A weathered sandstone structure on a base of Lewisian Gneiss, a mere 3000000000 years old (I think I’ve got the right number of 0’s in there). There was a bit of trial and error with regards to the route finding along the ridge. I didn’t quite reach the true summit at the west end of the ridge, stopping about 50m short, about 5m in vertical height, there is a small pinnacle with rather a lot of exposure on both sides, even if I had gone on to the true summit I wouldn’t have activated from there as I’d left the rucksack on the other side of the last pinnacle, it being easier to edge round without the bag. So I took some photos, had a look around, studied this pinnacle and went back to find the bag. Setting up the dipole was a bit of a challenge anyway, I ended up having one leg crossing a narrow gully, approx 10m vertically below the summit. Only 5 QSO’s on 40m ssb today, thanks again to Frank G3RMD for the assistance again. Although 2 other stations were heard calling. Not one for the purist with not reaching the true summit (but I’ve never actually reached to true summit of Snowdon, it always being surrounded by too many folk for me to be bothered fighting my way through), but great fun and I’m going back for sure, oh yes!

GM/NS-009, Ben More Assynt.
After the low cloud and poor visibility yesterday (admittedly it turned out nice in the evening for a stroll along the beach) the cloud was supposed to lift as today went on, after Suilven, Conival & Ben More Assynt were the other hills high on the list in this corner of the kingdom. In the car park at Inchnadamph I studied the pictures taken from Cul Beag of the snow on these summits and decided I’d pack the ice axe on the principle it’s better to take it and not need it than the other way round. The standard “munro” approach was used along a good riverside path up Gleann Dubh and then a badly eroded n places path to the bealach to the north of Conival. Ben More Assynt lies at the other end of a ridge with some large snow patches along its length, I did have the ice axe to hand, it being a long slope down in places but it was possible to walk along with care quite easily. The folks who reached the summit shortly after me even recognised my pole as being for a radio aerial, I hadn’t got the kit out at this point – still taking photos. I set up just below the summit, sheltered by the summit rock from the worst of the cool wind. Again 5 QSOs on 40m ssb, including Don G0RQL who’d dragged himself away from the Devon sunshine for a third QSO in 4 days. Descent was a reverse of the ascent route but the weather was improving so I was taking all my photos again with more sunshine in them this time.

Beinn an Eoin, GM/NS-084.
I used the same parking spot for this one as I had used for Cul Beag, it being a small spot where I was able to get the car off the road without blocking any passing places on the single-track road. Almost completely “off piste” other than the initial half a km or so when a faint path follows the fence past Feur-Loch. The summit of Cioch Beinn an Eoin looks impossible to climb but an approach via the steep and heathery slopes to its south provide a possible line of ascent. While approaching the Cioch I stumbled across a pile of 5 well weathered bags of sand, 100m away lay a few more bags, any offers as to what a pile of sand is doing in the middle of nowhere? Once past this steep section it was just a nice ridge walk around to the summit. Again lots of photos – I’ve over 200 photos so I’ll need to be very selective on Flickr. But I didn’t see anyone all day. Phil G4OBK found me after my “txt a spot” and after a slow start conditions seemed to improve resulting in 7 QSOs after a good chat with Phil during which it was obvious conditions were changing.

For too long I’ve listened to folk tell me I should visit the far north west highlands, now I can only wonder what took me so long. I won’t leave it so long to visit again, not that I’m advising anyone else should visit – nothing to see here, please move along now, admittedly slowly as at one point my average speed over 3 days was 23mph. I’ll put some photos up on Flickr to show how dull it is. I know many stations were listening for me during the 5 days, I don’t think conditions were that brilliant by all accounts, but thanks to those who took the time to listen for me.

Had a nice potter about Aviemore & Blair Atholl/Glen Tilt the rest of the week, came across the bus crash on the A9 south of Dalwhinnie minutes after it had happened, saw lots of dead deer, paddled in some rivers and took more photos but it’s not quite the north west, not quite.

The “txt a spot” worked well – thanks Andy. But it does present me with a dilemma, because I wasn’t operating nr 7.118, which I think is the general area most folks operate around – when I tried it I generally sooner or later got swamped by continental stations I imagine running slightly more power than my 5W. I’ve got a trip planned to Knoydart at the end of May, probably Inverie to Invergarry over 4 days, whether I take the radio is still up for grabs and is definitely weather dependant as the dates are fixed. I imagine that Orange mobile phone reception will be decidedly worse in Knoydart with its population of approx 75 I think it is, than it was round Lochinver. I wonder if without the ability to spot I might struggle and if I’m going to cart the radio kit around as well as camping kit I’d quite like it to be worthwhile even if only on one summit, so we’ll see. I might finally get my kit sorted out rather than being still scattered around the flat by then too.

Iain, M(M)3WJZ

In reply to M3WJZ:

You’re absolutely correct about NS land. Waste of time going there. Like you I must strongly advise anyone against it. :wink:

However, had I known where you were going I’d have sabotaged my own SMS server to supress your spots. As it was the WX was glorious whilst I was on Carn Liath and Meall Tairneachan with Mrs. FMF.

I’ve always found 40m-ssb a bit of struggle with just 5W. If conditions are OK and you get a bit of a pile-up running then all the loud chasers tend to keep the frequency for you. But calling CQ unspotted with 5W and a small antenna against the ferrocious wall of continental “monkey chatter” can be disheartening. One of the reasons I don’t venture on to 40m too often.

Knoydart? I think you’re asking for a good kicking in the shins! I hope there’s no phone coverage at all and your radios break :slight_smile: OK, you can do Ladhar Bheinn as long as you get some fabulous photos. And you might find that there is coverage when you’ve got a view to Skye. I’d expect some reception from the 4 SOTA summits at the far end of the peninsula.

If you drive in and park at Kinloch Hourn then the farmer charges for parking. In exchange you can tell him when you’re due back and he’ll alert the SAR people once you’re obviously overdue.

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to MM0FMF:

Well, I’ve managed to reduce 222 photos to a mere bakers dozen and they’re up now should you want to see more dull mountains :slight_smile:

Good point re the phone signal in Knoydart Andy, maybe if Mallaig is in range too. I’m not doing the organising on this one, just pitching up and hiking but the last plan was to get the boat over to Inverie from Mallaig and catch the bus from either Shiel Bridge or Invergarry back to Edinburgh but a useful point re Kinloch Hourn for future reference. It’ll be nice not to be driving for a change.

Iain, M3WJZ

In reply to M3WJZ:

Your pictures confirm what we always knew… absolutely no reason whatsoever to venture up to NS land! :slight_smile:

Andy
MM0FMF

“SOTA Uniques yet to be bagged”
“An excuse to go out”
“Amateur radio”
“Fresh air”
“A challenge”
“An adventure”

Loads of reasons to venture out on featureless boggy hills. I’ve done loads of them in SP, NP and particularly GI/AH, and enjoyed them all totally, even when the hill itself wasn’t too inspiring - because of the reasons above.

One day, I’ll go to GM/NS - and I will enjoy myself - just see if I don’t!

Nice reports Iain.

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Tom, you’ve not looked at the pictures.

Andy
MM0FMF

Hmmm, I see what you mean. The NS hills are more horrible and featureless than I dared imagine. What, indeed, would be the point?

Tom M1EYP

In reply to M1EYP:

Well, there are a couple of nice pubs with good food, after you’ve finished being food for the midges…what do they live on when they can’t get climbers?

Then there is that old sport - hunt the lobster claw on Stac Pollaidh! Not to mention keeping dry feet on the way to Suilven…the olympic 21 km tussock-hop!

73

Brian G8ADD

…on International Sota Weekend

I’ve been a little bit remise in getting around to writing up these activations, more motivation, come on…okay…

So my original and alerted plan was to head up Glen Tilt and over to the Tarf hotel on the Saturday before heading up the remote summits of An Sgarsoch and Carn an Fhidhleir. Well arriving at Blair Atholl and the showers that were supposed to be dying out in the afternoon were not. There was a big band of rain draped right across the middle of Scotland – who put that there? So after a bit of a debate with myself and a snooze I decided to opt for a plan b and start on Sunday instead.

Sunday morning and back at Bridge of Tilt, this being as far up Glen Tilt as is publicly accessible to a car. Glen Tilt is a huge and very, very long glen and it has a good landrover track running most of the way down it ideal for a ride on my mountain bike, otherwise it’s a long walk in.

So a couple of hours later I reached the last bridge over the river Tilt, half what it would have taken me to walk. Bike, tent and other assorted stuff were ditched here. After crossing a small footbridge over the Allt Fheannach I picked up a stalker track up heather covered slopes of Meall a’Mhuirich. I’m assuming it was a stalkers track as all of a sudden as the slope was gradually easing it just stopped, cue a bit of heather bashing before I picked up another track which led to the summit of Meall a’Mhuirich and then on to Carn nan Gabhar, CS-003 the highest point of the Beinn a’Ghlo group.

There were only a few patches of snow up here but looking north there was still a good load over the Cairngorms. There’s a few summits up here, well a moderate pile of stones, a trig point on a big pile of stones and a really big stone cairn on a big pile of stones, there’s also a lot of stones. I set up near the big stone cairn as all the stones offered a nice wee hollow to shelter out of the wind. I haven’t mentioned the wind, it was cold, some butterfly flying around the arctic no doubt. I decided to opt for 2m fm first so set up the sotabeam, my initial CQ calls were answered by Andy, MM0USU, the first of 17 contacts including 3 summit to summits, GM4COX/P on SS-164, MM0XFM/P on SS-011 and Robin, GM7PKT/P just arriving on CS-079. Even during the activation the summit kept getting peppered with snow flurries and it was quite chilly so I decided that hf would keep for another day.

So on to Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain, CS-009, apparently pronounced something like Bray Corie Kroon Vaalakan and abbreviated by me here to BCC-B in the interests of actually finishing this report. It’s a nice straight forward trip between the two summits, drop down to the bealach and up the grassy slope on the other side.

The summit of BCC-B has a lot less shelter than Carn nan Gabhar, the summit being marked by a pile of stones but I managed to hunker down and find a bit of shelter behind some small rocks on the leeward side of the summit as it was still cold and breezy with lots of snow flurries being seen peppering the surrounding hills. Robin GM7PKT/P immediately responded to my CQ call on 2m fm, still on CS-079 and was the first of 10 including GM4GUF/P on…you’ve guessed it Tinto.

It was after 4 by the time I’d packed up but I only needed to make my way down the north east slope of BCC-B back to my bike, tent and importantly, stove and a brew.

These two summits, CS-003 and CS-009 are more usually combined with Carn Liath, CS-029 from Loch Moraig but well just to be different, besides which having had a wander down Glen Tilt a few weeks previously I’d spied some nice wild camp sites. No need for the long trip back down the Glen, tent up, brew on, sit back and enjoy the view.

Because I’d changed plans Carn nan Gabhar and BCC-B were the summits I had actually planned for Monday so what to do on Monday instead. From the summit of BCC-B a summit across Glen Tilt by the name of Carn a’Chlamain, CS-031 was quite prominent so I’d decided that this would be my plan b for Monday.

It was just a nice ride back down Glen Tilt to forest lodge, ditch the bike and various bits of kit again and follow the stalkers track as it zig zags up the side of the glen to the vast moorland plateau, providing there is no snow you can’t really go wrong, the tracks on the hill are visible in a lake district-esque sort of way.

An even rockier summit than Carn nan Gabhar yesterday and a biting wind so shelter was sought and found on the steep leeward slope. Having used more of my available battery power yesterday I realised I’d have to be a bit sparing with the power today. No summits in the 6 contacts but I did have a chat with a station at “Scotlands secret bunker”. I always have a smile at this, I’ve never been but throughout Fife are signs directing you towards the “secret” bunker. Unless of course the signs are a cunning plan to keep you driving round in circles all day.

Due to having the bike, descent was back down the zig zags. But the ride back down the Glen was brilliant, that’s when the bike comes into its own and the setting helps somewhat, a few short sections requiring peddle power but generally a nice swooping run down the Glen and much, much faster than walking.

I even got home quicker than had I just gone to Snowdonia, apparently there was 4 hours worth of delays on the A55.

It was nice to get out and play on ISW and work some familiar stations and some new ones. It has edged me towards leaving the radio at home when I go to play in Knoydart, weight of the rucksack and all but I imagine the weather will have the final say, we’ll see.

Thanks to all the stations who called,

Iain, M3WJZ