Meall Ghaordaidh GM/CS-017 and Drumcroy Hill GM/CS-107

Activating GM/CS-017 and GM/CS-107

After my rather unfortunate outing in late February when my activating was curtailed, I was rather keen to get back on the hills to prove my capabilities. Tagging a day onto the planned Trans-Atlantic S2S event on Saturday 20th April outing seemed to make good sense in many ways, though thinking about it after the event, an issue on the Friday could have prevented me appearing in the S2S event.

As well as being concerned about a repeat of the problem, I had recently trapped a nerve in my back which was sending pains down both legs, so I planned for a careful and slow ascent (and descent). I planned for 3 hours up and 2 hours down for Meall Ghaordaidh GM/CS-017 on the Thursday which I hoped would be sufficient and alerted for 11:00z with 2m SSB and HF proposed. A decision on the summit for the Trans-Atlantic event would wait until the Thursday evening.

I drove up from Northampton to the secondary QTH in Northumberland on the afternoon of Thursday 18th and got everything prepared for an early start the following morning.

Thursday 19th April 2024

It was 03:46z when I got on the road with a 175 mile drive ahead of me to get to the parking spot for Meall Ghaordaidh GM/CS-017. The parking area is a widened section of road on a bend in Glen Lochay which takes 4 vehicles and there was just a VW Golf parked there when I arrived at 07:20z. A young lady in a red down jacket was getting prepared for an ascent. I did a 5 point turn in the road and parked up behind the Golf just as it started to rain. The young lady retired to her car to put her boots on.

Ignoring the wet, I got on with kitting up, the tailgate of the Q5 providing adequate cover. The weather soon cleared and after a brief “hello”, the young lady set off down the road at 07:35z. I set off 5 minutes later. The route is amply described on the Walkhighlands website and Caroline M3ZCB has written a piece for the summit page. It was easy to find the path running up the shoulder of the mountain as the cairn seems to have been added to. The path ascends quite steeply in parts and the going above the 500m level was rather boggy. I had to undertake many detours to avoid the worst of the mire. This was the situation right up to above 900m where the snow fields started, making the going arduous. To add to my slow progress, On the more exposed parts I was walking into a headwind. Part way up the mire, I received a phone call from my XYL about a technical issue which took some time. Then I started to run out of energy (well breakfast had been over 7 hours ago), so I sat down and had lunch before making the final part of the ascent. All this resulted in me being an hour late on the summit.

The path off left leading to the summit

Approach to the summit… further than it looks

Getting there!

The summit, but I was not stopping here!

Just before I sat down for lunch, the young lady passed me on her descent. She stopped for a brief chat to tell me that it was around zero degrees on the top and the wind gusts were around 50mph and she had almost been blown off her feet. She advised the summit shelter was pretty much useless in the conditions. This indeed proved to be the case when I arrived at the summit and I too was almost blown over. After taking a few photographs, I retreated back down the way I had come, but the wind did not decrease by much. I sought shelter by a rock and started to set up. It took quite a while to get the pole up and had to resort to deploying it at 3m. Even then it collapsed several times and I eventually gave up and lowered it to 2m.

Worth checking my precise position

I self-spotted for 2m SSB on my usual frequency and soon heard Don GW0PLP – cue another mast collapse, but I quickly got it up in the air again and at 12:25z we managed a half decent QSO. It was then the turn of the more local stations to call in fairly quick order – Brian MM1HMZ, Ray GM7NZI and Peter GM0VEK followed by Jack GM4COX. I put out several CQ calls, but 5 contacts was to be the total on 2m SSB. When I stood up to take down the 2m beam, I found the wind had increased somewhat making it pretty much impossible to put up an HF antenna, so I decided to swap the beam to vertical and put a call out on 2m FM.

Where there’s a rock, use it!

First use of the KX3 and internal 2m transverter for SOTA.

First up at 12:55z was Neil MM7DIR/P walking his dog in the company of Duncan MM0GOG who took a turn on Neil’s handheld. These two started a steady run of 19 contacts which took up a whole hour. I was particularly pleased to be called by Martyn MM1MAJ/M and Caroline MM3ZCB/M down near Biggar, having missed the S2S earlier. The farthest contacts on FM were with Lee M0LLC and Steve M0XUP on the Cumbrian coast.

Lovely views on the descent, with several prominent SOTA summits to be seen

It was 14:15z when I set off down the mountain and it took me 2 hours and 5 minutes to reach the car. I took it easy, as on my last outing my woes started as a result of a quick descent. No such problem this time thankfully. I set off for Perth at 16:44z and reached my accommodation at 18:00z. As I was rather tired and having some emails to sort out and the next activation to plan, I decided to forego the usual meal and pint at the local Harvester and just ate the sandwiches I’d so carefully taken up and down Meall Ghaordaidh. On the hill the salted caramel Trek bars had won the day.

Saturday 20th April 2024

I didn’t set an alarm, but was awake by 06:00z anyway. In planning the day, I’d determined a “latest departure” time of 07:45z, but I was on the road by 06:56z and so I reached the parking spot at Trinafour at 07:52z. My summit for the day was to be Drumcroy Hill GM/CS-107, a walk of just under 3km each way with an ascent of 250m.… absolutely ideal for a Trans-Atlantic S2S event.

It was 08:10z when I set off up the hill. The route is amply described by John G4YSS in his activation report, but I decided to skirt around the forest rather than meander through it as he had done. The first section along the forest boundary heading in a southerly direction was an old quad bike track and fairly easy going. Unfortunately at the corner of the forest there is a deer fence that needs to be climbed. The corner post is really strong and has horizontal support struts about 0.6m above the ground which provide a suitable means for stepping over the wire… okay for someone of my size, but anyone smaller it would probably be a problem.

Looking back down to Trinafour where I parked the car

Heading east along the felled section of forest towards the summit

The second section heads generally easterly along the edge of a felled section of the forest and after around 150m I decided to cross the wall as the ground was better. Having done this I then had to make numerous detours around fallen trees. I was rather surprised to hear a Capercaillie call close by as I made my way over the tussocky ground.

The summit is an impregnable jumble of trees, so got well within the AZ and decided on a position to set up by the wall. It was only 09:28z and I had plenty of time in hand, so I took a few photos of the summit area and of the views before assembling the station. As there was virtually no wind, I used bungie cords to attach my pole to the wall, deploying the Slidewinder vertical along with the 2m beam. Having done that there was ample time for a snack before getting on air at 10:25z.

The summit is in that lot somewhere

The take off towards the States

The antenna set up

The KX3 in use again

As I was much earlier than I had planned for the Trans-Atlantic event, I started on 40m SSB using my KX3 at 15 watts feeding the Slidewinder vertical which is hardly the best antenna for the band, but it worked to some degree. First up was an S2S with Tim GM5OLD/P on GM/NS-154 and I followed this with 3 more S2S with Chris MM7RVC/P, Dave GW0JKS/P and Allan G4VPX/P. A CQ call brought 9 more contacts including 3 S2S with John GW4TQE/P, Martyn M1MAJ/P and Caroline M3ZCB/P.

Next up was 2m SSB using the newly installed KX3 internal transverter and the usual 25w linear and 5 element. Sitting behind Schiehallion GM/CS-005 I did not expect much from this summit. I was pleased to scrape contacts with Stuart 2M0ROT and Stuart MM7SWM. Then Jack GM4COX/M called me on CW and we had a bit of a chat on the key. Further calls using both SSB and CW provided no more contacts on the band.

The northern side of Schiehallion GM/CS-005 which limits VHF from this summit

Moving to the higher HF bands, I lowered the power to 10 watts for the Trans-Atlantic event as I did not want to run out of battery power during my extended stay on the summit. Initially I found I could not hear anyone across the ocean that had been spotted, but I could copy Simon GM4JXP/P on 10m SSB, so I gave him a call. Then I saw Alan MM0VPM/P spotted on 17m CW and he was a good 599… not surprising really as he was just up the valley. Calling CQ on the band on CW provided 12 contacts including an S2S with Fabio IK2LEY/P. I also worked Bob AC1Z, but was only 229 with him… good ears!

Moving to 15m CW I got a Trans-Atlantic S2S contact with Eric VA2EO. 12m CW just netted one contact. Then I moved back to 17m to have an S2S with Pat WW4D. A further CQ brought in another 4 contacts on CW before I moved down to 20m. Wrong way I hear you shout… well another 10 contacts including 2 S2S with Bruno I/HB9CBR/P and Juan EA1AER/P. Back to 15m and SSB this time netted me 2 S2S with Scott K2CPT and Joe KC1SRI. I finished with another contact with Tim GM5OLD/P on his third summit of the day, GM/NS-121.

The total for the activation was 50 contacts including 3 W S2S, 1 VE S2S and 13 EU S2S. With 15m working okay I feel I went QRT too early at 15:55z, but with over 3 hours to get back to base, I probably made the right decision. I set off back to the car at 16:42z and reached it 42 minutes later. The drive back to Northumberland took 3 hours and 20 minutes which was a breeze – cruise control, don’t you just love it. Arrival time 20:45z.


Both summits served a very useful purpose. The first to test myself and the second to provide a convenient location for the S2S event. I had some pain during both days, but nowadays I don’t have any pain-free days, so it was of little consequence. The main thing was that I did not sustain any injury, in fact rather the reverse as my aches were fewer than usual… I also found my tinnitus very much reduced and the birdsong on Drumcroy Hill was a joy to be heard.

Many thanks to everyone that I worked over the two days and to those that looked for me, but did not hear me…. you know who you are! Also thanks to everyone that supported the Trans-Atlantic S2S event by going out activating or chasing.

Until the next time, 73,

Gerald G4OIG (GM4OIG/P)