Beinn a’Chaorainn and The Fara
The Good Excuse for Going up some Hills
I had a couple of days leave to use, so decided to make the best of last weeks continued good spell. The “official” reason for going, was to try an aerial I’d bought off ebay (on a whim) last year. It was advertised as a “Military Aerial” and came in its own washbag, along with guys, pegs and basic instructions.
When it arrived, I could see it was a linked dipole, with a switched balun & some 75 ohm feeder. Fairly well made and far too heavy for SOTA. I made some measurements at the time and then put it away for the best part of a year.
Curiously, there was a QSL card in the bag. I’ve drawn a blank when looking him up. Was this his design, I wonder?
30m 1:2:1 balun 1:1
17m 1.1:1 balun 1:1
15m 1.0:1 balun 2.25:1
12m wouldn’t tune
10m 1.1:1 balun 1:1
Monday 19th July 2021 Beinn a’Chaorainn GM/ES-011
Video is around 18 mins
This Munro of 1082m is high enough to attract 8 points, but is somewhat reclusive, being situated at the top end of Glen Derry in the Cairngorms. It’s an 18 mile round trip and as such had only been activated 4 times.
Having walked much of it’s approach in reverse during my escape from my recent Cairngorms over-nighter, I knew that I could probably get my bike within 2 miles of the summit.
A reasonable leisurely start (0900z) from the Linn of Dee car park was followed by just under an hour of cycling. The terrain was 50/50 vehicle track/singletrack.
Heading up Glen Derry
I was on SOTABIKE2, with SOTABIKE1 still on the naughty step from Saturdays outing. It’s my full suspension Marin and was probably more suited to the terrain.
Ditching the bike just after the last strand of pines, I continued up the path, which also happens to be the Lairig an Laoigh (say Larig an Looey) The Pass of the Calves, one of the ancient drove routes through the Cairngorms.
At the head of the pass, I bore right over steep grassy slopes and gained the sub plateau, with the stony summit in sight.
The head of the Lairig an Laoigh, looking north
Looking north from the summit towards Bynack Mor GM/ES-010
I arrived at the top at 1130z, a little earlier than planned, so had some lunch and set up my standard 40m/20m linked inverted-V. I wanted to be certain to activate the summit and qualify for points before mucking about with unknown wire!
Aware that it was QSB o’clock, I called CQ on 40m and quickly worked Allen @2E0AGB and @G0FEX, Ken. Then nothing. I always try 40m though, as it gives the rest of British Isles lads and lasses a chance.
I then unlinked for 20m and proceeded to work 13 stations, with best DX being @EA7GV , 2200km to the south. QSB evident, but not so bad on 20m.
I should say at this point that I was using the KX2 and running 10 watts.
Time for the toilet bag to come out. Weighing 1.5kg, including the bag and winders, this really is a heavy duty piece of kit. I reckon you could jump start a car wit the wires! The combined weight of the elevated balun and wire was bending my spider pole a bit, but it was a still day, no no real risk of failure. I left the last link undone, setting the antenna for 17m. As a side note, I only noticed (thanks to bright sunlight) that the bag was penned with, “10/12/15/17/30 multiband dipole”. I must go back and see if I can get it to tune on 12m.
Decent 4G allowed me to re-spot for the third time and over a matter of 15 minutes, I worked F5JKK, SA4BLM/p on SM/DA-048, DL2MX, S57MS/p on S5/CP-019, IK2LEY and OE6GND. The audio sounded different on this band. It could have been QSB, but as I’m ashamedly a complete novice on 17m - it could just be the way the band works with E’s? Answers on a postcard please.
Summit time over and aware that I’d already consumed 3l of water, had none left and it was now baking hot, I made my retreat down the same route I ascended. Well almost.
Starting to descent. Ben Macdui GM/ES-001 in the distance
The problem with convex summits is locating the ascent route. I saw a marker cairn near the steeper section and followed this down. I ended up running scree for 200m, which wasn’t much fun. However, I was rewarded with a different view at the bottom of the screes.
The single track bike ride back to Derry lodge was exhilarating (see video) and I was back at the car park within 2 hours of leaving the top, somewhat sweaty, but having had a great day on the hill, an enjoyable activation and having ridden some of the best singletrack I’ve been on for some time.
Ascent time 2.5 hrs
Summit time 2.0 hrs
Descent time 2.0 hrs
Total Distance travelled 19 miles
Distance cycled 14 miles
Distance walked 5 miles
LifePo4 4800mah battery
linked inverted V (20/40m)
washbag antenna used on 17m
Tuesday 20th July 2021 The Fara GM/WS-106
This would be a shorter climb up a lower hill and although an extra 45 minutes drive each way (being the other side of the Cairngorms), it would allow me to try the washbag aerial again.
14 minute video
The route is simple.
- Park near Dalwhinnie railway station.
- Cross the railway level crossing and follow the track along the lochside.
- When you come to a grassy firebreak in the forest - ascend.
It was a warm but still cloudy morning as I walked along the side of Loch Ericht.
I soon found the ascent route.
All I will say about this is that it took me 1 hour to walk the 1.1 miles to the summit. In awful heat. With flies, clegs but thankfully no midges. Vertical grass, then peat hags followed by a bouldery finish. Nice.
The summit was a delightful place, with its own Tor and stunning views across a great deal of the Highlands. A perfect spot for a mountain radio station, with soft, springy turf and moss. I’d already forgotten about the climb.
Looking west along the Fara ridge to some remote SOTA peaks
I casually erected the 40m/20m and got going on 40 with the FT-857d running 25 watts, enjoying some decent conditions on the band which brought in 12 stations, including a summit to summit with I1IKN/IN3 on I/TN-142. I think conditions were better thanks to my earlier operating time - 0950-1001z
Swapping to the washbag WARC set for 17m, I got on the air at 1028 and worked OE6GND, CT1MH, F5JKK and HB9HEO over a period of 30 minutes.
The washbag WARC was double-guyed today
30m means digi-modes for me, so after unlinking the antenna, I got the Raspberry Pi up and running, only to realise I’d forgotten my Android tablet. (I wondered why the pack was so light!) I connect to the Pi using Virtual Network Coupling (VNC). The software to do this is also on my phone, but I wasn’t able to connect to the Pi. I suspected that I’d renamed the Pi at some point and that’s why the phone wasn’t connecting. After wandering over to the edge of the summit area to pick up 4G I was able to refresh the device list on the phone and thus get connected.
I wasn’t even sure that I’d be able to operate using the phone due to the small screen size and also the fact that my reading glasses were at my bedside. However, once WSJT-x is up and running and a frequency on the waterfall has been selected, it isn’t necessary to view the whole screen. Just the RX window/TX button and macros suffice.
Raspberry Pi for digi-modes
I worked a few stations to make sure that everything was fine and then proceeded to put my spot on for 30m ft-8. It’s only really possible to see who the Chasers are (except for regulars) when reviewing the log back home. Of the 16 stations worked on FT-8, 4 were chasers. Thanks Guys!
The time was approaching 1200z. I could have lazed around up there all the day, the weather was so nice. However, my mother was coming up to stay for a couple of days, later this afternoon and she hadn’t been up for 18 months, thanks to shielding and various lockdowns. I thought it prudent to retreat for a shower and shave before her arrival.
On the walk down, I had a better chance to note the incredibly varied flora and fauna of the grassy slopes, however I didn’t delay as I was constantly being bitten by clegs (horse flies). They remove a chunk of skin with every bite, leaving a mark that can last for weeks.
Round trip - 4 miles
Ascent - 600m in 1700m
Summit Temp 30 degrees celcius
No. of cleg bites 9
Ft-857d, with same LiFePo4 as previous day (no re-charge)
7m Spiderpole, Washbag WARC, 40m/20m inverted V, two sets of guys and 6 pegs
So, that’s it. Nice to get out west of the A9 for once. Wonderful summit, horrific climb. (Yes, I’m over-exaggerating because I’m a softy from the Cairngorms). Fun with WARC. I now need to re-make the antenna a hell of a lot lighter and perhaps dispense with the switched balun.
What’e everyone else using for WARC?
Thanks for sticking to the end!