New Year. New Challenges.

Sunday December 31st 2023 2pm

I was so tired coming home from work that I had to stop the car in a layby and take a 10 minute nap. When I got home, Mo could tell I was knackered and suggested that we could just chill out at home. I almost took her up on the offer. However, 45 minutes out in the fresh air preparing Dora for a few days away did me the world of good. By 4pm we were heading off into the dusk and over the Lecht pass towards Grantown-on-Spey.

When we got there, we found a place to camp in nearby woods. We ate, drank, played tunes and fell asleep at 10pm. We did see the bells (briefly) thanks to a midnight fireworks display nearby, which woke us up.

camping out on Hogmanay

Monday January 1st 2024 - Beinn Mhor 471m GM/CS-112
A nice lie in followed by croissants and bacon. Then a short drive across the town and out the other side, seeking the single track road up Glen Beg. We found it and proceeded cautiously up its’ iced surface, parking when the road ran out.

The track up towards Beinn Mhor was also heavily iced, so we donned our rubber pull-on ice stud things, which work really well on water ice. After a while the track steepened through some woods and eventually popped out onto open moor, with the summit visible to the west.

iced tracks and morning sun

There was no marked route, so we just threaded our way across frozen bog, heather and ever steepening slopes. Eventually it eased off and after a false summit or two we saw the trig.

approaching Beinn Mhor GM/CS-112

A fence line took a 90 degree turn close to the trig. The strainer post wires had enough space for my carbon 6 pole to easily slide in, so I used that and my 41’ wire to get things going. The KX2 on 10m yielded just one contact, but I had a good run on 40m and then 17m, with three summit to summits. Twenty seven QSO’s in all.

views into the main Cairngorm massif

We soaked up the excellent views, enjoying crystal clear skies before heading north along the broad ridge of the hill to its end and then plodded down the heather to pick up the ascent track.

Dora was in a good spot, well off the road so we decided to overnight exactly where she stood. Food, drink, dominos, which Mo won as usual, and another early night.

back at the Land Rover

Tuesday January 2nd 2024 - Carn Glas-choire 659m GM/CS-091
Another icy start. We were up earlier this time and had a breakfast of toasted hot cross buns. The drive round to the parking area for Carn Glas-choire wasn’t a long one, but we took our time on the icy roads. The track up to the hill doesn’t have any parking, however there is a forest entrance 250m to the south and we parked there.

I’d picked this one because it was a track all the way to the top and Mo is still trying to be sensible and build her fitness up. Almost backfired though. Sheet ice for the first km, then ok for a bit. However, further up the track was full of drifting snow, thankfully solid.

heading up Carn Glas-choire

The weather wasn’t so good today, and the top, which was visible from the road, was in cloud throughout. As we turned off the main track as it crested the ridge below the summit, we entered the cloud and it became significantly cooler. From the junction, a rough ATV track, barely discernible in the snow, led over the broad ridge and up to the summit bump, it barred by a short section of peat hags, thankfully frozen.

across the peat hags

approaching Carn Glas-choire GM/CS-091

The summit was almost de ja vu. A trig and a fence corner! It was cold and windy today however, and the collection of boulders around the trig provided little shelter. I took out the two person Bothy bag and chucked it over Mo, then I went to set up the mast. Exactly the same set up as yesterday. The short length of my antenna left me stranded in No Mans Land between the trig and strainer post, so I crouched down and got on with it, starting on 40m for a change.

Me and Mo (bagged)

In 247 activations I have never experienced a pile up like this one. It was a continuous wall of noise. I had to go for the chasers by voice recognition first of all to thin it out a bit, but it just kept coming, wave after wave. I worked 27 stations in 15 minutes! When I clearly heard @M0BKV, I told him he’d be the last one. After 73, I turned off the radio. My brain was fried, I was getting cold and that was enough. I packed up the kit, scooped up Mo and we set off, heading back the same way we had come up.

We were treated to clearing skies and glimpses of sunshine on the return, with excellent views stretching out in front of us.

the sun making an appearance

clearing skies and views

We had a quick committee meeting on the way down and decided to stay out a further night. This meant a trip to Aviemore for some supplies. Shopping done, we took the “old A9” road south from Aviemore and found a quiet camp spot in the trees. The plan was for a short drive and even shorter hike tomorrow morning, then head home in daylight. I won at cards tonight.

Wednesday January 3rd 2024 - Creag Bheag 487m GM/CS-111
Aberdeenshire Butteries for breakfast, followed by an 11 mile drive down to the town of Kingussie. We parked in the free car park and set off on a well signed trail up Creag Bheag, which would turn out to be the nicest wee hike we’d done for a while.

the initial trail up through the woods

We passed a few dog walkers and we felt slightly overdressed in full winter gear, with Scarpa Manta boots, but it was all we had with us. A wooded section gave way to open hillside, still on an excellent path and stone steps. The top had multiple summits, with two marked as the same height on the OS map. The northmost one had the biggest cairn, so we settled for that.

early morning sunlight on the Spey valley

There was a bit more room here, so I strung up the W3EDP, using the Carbon 6 simply jammed in some fractured rocks. 40m was thankfully quieter this time, with 12 logged. I immediately switched to 15m and logged a further 11 contacts, starting with EC8EDS in Gran Canaria. The fun was over too soon though and I packed up.

setting things up

It was still early enough, so we decided to complete the signed circular route by dropping off the north end of the hill and taking a loop round the golf course and some woods.

the steep descent to Loch Gynack

The north side was a lot steeper, a lot icier and a lot rougher! Still, we made it down ok and had a nice walk back into Kingussie, just in time for some hot soup and cakes at a local cafe. What a great wee hill though! Highly recommend this one to anyone passing on the A9 road.

We made it home by 3pm, got unpacked cleaned up and went to bed early! Back to work…

Three new uniques for me and another three Cairngorms National Park summits ticked off . That leaves 13, mainly strung down the A9 road between Aviemore and Blair Atholl. I suspect we’ll be having a few more Dora trips this winter and spring. I feel motivated.

Fraser MM0EFI

PS - Bonus Hill
I text Mo from work on Saturday. “Looks like sun tomorrow. Want to go to the hills?”
The answer was Yes, as long as it was nearby. That ruled out any more GM/CS uniques, so I plumped for Geallaig Hill GM/ES-036, just a 12 mile drive away and with a track to the top. A well documented route on here, so I won’t go into too much detail.

different day, different Land Rover

We enjoyed sun and iced tracks, with ever improving views of the greater mountains all round us.

climbing Geallaig Hill

The activation was simple. I was going to try and qualify the summit on 10m using the KX2 and 41’ wire. Well I managed more than that. First in the log was a South African, followed by a New Yorker! After a few more, I switched to 15m, enjoyed a brief pile up, including a further US station. 40m wasn’t good for me today, but WOW! what a way to finish the week.

activating Geallaig hill. DX with the random wire and 10w

Lochnagar view

73 this time!


Really nice report @MM0EFI the Highlands look in great nick, the pictures really want to make me get in the van and head north right now. Sadly I can’t.

I am very impressed with 10m to ZA and US on a random wire ! looks to have improved since yesterday.

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Another splendid report Fraser, I’m sorry I couldn’t get you on GM/CS-111 the other day but was glad to get you from Allermuir GM/SS-171 today. I’m glad 10m was working for you today, I couldn’t get it to work from my location.

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When the band is open, it’s open! I’m looking forward to using a resonant antenna on 10m when the weather improves.

My non-technical opinion is that the 41’ wire is that just over a full wavelength on 10m (1.2) and is just under on 15m (0.8). Compare that with a W3EDP, an EFHW or other longer wire, where there will be multiple lobes on the higher bands. I should really model this!


Well I did see this youtube video with DX to ZL/VK on a 20m resonant vertical for SOTA and thought, that would work well on 10…it does :wink: and it comes complete with build instructions…

Yes, faff factor increase to change antenna 40/20/etc. But its so simple and it almost weights nothing. Without a doubt my current favourite.

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Hi Fraser,

Thanks for the great report!

I heard you and the chasers on a summit in EA3 and thought “let’s wait until he’s moving to 20m”, since your signal on 40m was just above noise level.

Now I understand why you only worked this band :laughing:.

73 Stephan


Sorry I missed you Stephan, but I suspect you were enjoying considerably calmer and warmer weather than we were!

Next time…:slightly_smiling_face:

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Indeed, from Geallaig Hill you were just about audible with me, but not good enough for a QSO. I missed the earlier outing as I was down in Cornwall at my daughter’s. I had the KX3 and 40m EFHW with me, but heavy rain and then Storm Henk kept me indoors. That’s Cornwall for you… it always rains when I go down there… even in the height of summer! :unamused:


Gerald, You know my thoughts on your travels and associated bad wearher.

When are you coming back to GM/ES, so I can look out my snow shoes?

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What a great way to see in the New Year and spend the next few days in the outdoors.

I counted 5 men in shorts walking up Pen Y Fan the weekend and one wearing crocks & white socks.

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And you missed the pair of high heels on the summit. That was special.


It has taken me a while to think about this Fraser. I had only got as far as a few days from 17th January being a possibility and now look what is forecast. You will be pleased to know I’ve decided to leave it, so you’ll only get 15cm of snow rather than the 50cm I would conjour up. :joy:

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Apart from our intended joint activation of Mullwharchar Gerald, you’re welcome to come on my intended activation of Ben Macdui. I’ll be bringing 13cms (all modes) and 23cms FM. Andrew G4VFL has offered to climb The Cheviot at the same time with 13/23cms as that is a LOS path at 201km between the two. Just need to determine convenient dates for all and in Macdui’s case, wait for Summer snow melts.

I’m also looking for someone to climb Snowdon when I re-activate Merrick. Again for 13/23cms with this being the UK longest LOS path at 232km.


That certainly sounds like a plan. I wouldn’t mind dusting off the 23cms quadruple quad to try a contact with Andrew. It’s a long time since it has seen any action… most likely over a decade ago when I was activating the Lakes summits. :grinning:

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That was at once both sublime and tantalysing Fraser. It’s such a long way from here in the softee sarf. Unlimited thanks for letting me see vistas that are all too reminiscent of my Patterdale roamings. My Hanwag boots talk like that too!

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Thanks Steve. I lived in London for a while. Enjoyed the Downs, the lovely south coast, and all the time missed the big Scottish hills.

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