Non-activation of Ben Cleuch SS-059

After two big storms, strong winds and terrible rains, the forecast for today looked good, sunny and not windy. This was optimistic. Or wrong depending how much Christmas cheer remains in you.

It’s still dark here at 830am and by 930 it did look like a good day. However, breakfast and playing with the dog took some time. The dog is a rescue home Staffie-Whippet cross we have on a dog-share basis. Both Mrs. FMF and my son (in his own home now) wanted a dog but not full time. So we have a dog-share where typically we have her at weekends and he has her during the week. Playing with the dog is a euphemism really, she bites and chews my hands and tries to pull them off instead of the toy I hold for her. It was 1030 by the time I left and 1045 by the time masts and walking poles where transferred into the car I was using.

So I received a late Christmas present about 10 miles en route… the DID (driver information display) decided to work. It first failed in June, serious turning off and on of the magic car computers fixed that then it failed just after I got back from Berlin in October. Off to the really good independent Audi garage and 30mins later back in business. It went off the next day. :frowning: There’s an intermittent connection. It’s annoying but I can live with it especially when you see how much it may cost to fix. Sure you can’t see the trip miles, outside temp, suggested best gear, MPG etc.but everything else is working. More annoying is all the Audi driver special numbers which you can’t check, like how many turns you’ve made without signalling, how many miles driven without checking any mirrors, how many people you’ve sliced up leaving the motorway at the absolutely last moment, how many times you’ve flashed your lights to get someone to move over on the motorway or how many miles you’ve tailgated on the motorway. There’s no point having German sports car and not knowing how much consternation and grief you are causing. Hell if I had to count this stuff by hand I’d have bought a BMW! I was wondering why everyone in Scotland was on the roads and why they were all doing 20mph when it lit up and all the info was there. BONA!

Also I got lost. It’s embarrassing needing a GPS and Orux maps to find your way to a summit about 35 miles from home. So at the car parking place, high speed kit up and away. 6C, no wind to speak of and a brilliant blue sky. I’ve done this route many times so it was autopilot to the decision point at the foot of Ben Ever (pronounced eeee-ff-er). It looked hellishly muddy so I took the long route along the track then up to Ben Buck thence Ben Cleuch. Adds a few km but you climb the next 350m much more gently. As I came out of the shelter of the glen I’d walked in the wind hit me. Holly Molly, where did that come from? Well it felt like it came from Siberia. Very strong, so strong you can’t even think as you walk and very cold. The ground was like blancmange with lots of very wet snow patches. Absolutely awful. I struggled in the wind and the clouds rolled in turning a bright day into [word that rhymes with bright] day :frowning: Also it came to dawn on me that I was far too late in starting this, by the time I got to the top I’d have 45mins tops for operating.

The WX at the summit was epic and not in a good way. A couple of cms of standing water, soft wet earth and lots of snow patches. Then there was the wind, I could hardly stand. I have a good idea what it must be like in an open top plan now. I sat down with the noisiest 4 person family I have ever come across. I had a Toffee Crisp whilst they fought over who had the wrong gloves on, why it was cold, and generally just made a dismal summit experience worse… They left and I decided I really could not be bothered it such awful WX (not like the forecast) to setup for 30mins. There is nowhere to hide from the wind here. I decided to call Ken GM0AXY who lives in Edinburgh and is LOS. 145.500 on and a few calls and someone came back. But it wasn’t Ken but Robin. OK so we had a nice S2S, Robin was having difficulties raising anyone. Me, well I had at least one QSO to log. But then Robin told me he was on Cairn Liath ES-020 up Braemar way. And that ladies and gentlemen was my second unexpected Christmas present as it let me complete ES-020. So what, a complete? Well ES-020 is for deletion but I wanted to activate it before I deleted it and I did that last September but I didn’t expect to get the complete though. Robin did say he may activate it around Christmas and there he was. So that summit was a complete for me and Robin with both us being the participants of both QSOs. BONA again as my friends Julian and Sandy would say! I had a quick QSO with Jason MM3HQC who couldn’t hear Robin and I was off.

The wind was worse on the way out and I’d forgotten how damned steep the descent to the col with Ben Ever is. Not fun when very wet and snowy in places. I ground my up to the top of Ben Ever and then down and back to the track. Of course by the time I’d dropped down 350m the cloud broke up, the sun came out and the wind dropped. Typical. But you know I don’t care I didn’t get any activator points. I had a much needed 11.3km walk with 725m ascent, important after Christmas eating and no exercise since Friday. And, yes and I completed ES-020 and Robin completed ES-020 and now I can delete it and put its neighbour on and do it all over again. And, the DID is still working. I nearly drove off the M9 playing with the features I’d been missing for 2 months.

Here’s the view on the way in… looks great after the WX of the last days.

And here’s what it was like just before dropping down to the town Alva where the car was parked.

And here is the fastest dog on earth, she runs so fast there is a sonic boom as she passes. Yes, she is wearing a “Shocking Pink” fleece for a dog, don’t ask why. Just keep your fingers away from the mouth!


Ben Cleuch is on my wanted list for an activation.
I climbed it once, 40 years ago, with my wife-to-be, though we didn’t know that at the time.
After scrambling up through Alva Glen, I found that she didn’t enjoy “steep” at all, and declared that in no circumstances were we going back the same way!
What started as a walk before lunch turned into an expedition. I had an OS map with me, water, and a packet of biscuits, but no compass. The weather was good however, and we eventually made it down to a road several miles away, and hitched a lift back to Alva in a farmer’s Landrover.
Plan A was to head for a Wireless mast as marked on the map, on the basis that there would be a track down. There wasn’t. I found later that it was an experimental installation built by Ferranti in the 1940’s, and long since abandoned.
Ben Cleuch has been a point of reference for bad planning (on my part) ever since :wink:

I might be doing it alone next time…


You really didn’t miss much, HF conditions were boggin’ and I couldn’t hear a single HF activation this afternoon, I have never heard 40m and 20m so quiet at this time of the year!!

Worked Robin though on 2m SSB for my complete of ES-020 - I wonder how rare a complete this is (6 Activations I think two of them me).

However, weather was fabulous, no wind, blue sky, temperature in double figures (until dusk!).

Hey ho, it’s very overcast today. Not much wind at 165m ASL where I live but it was blowing steadily on SS-254 Cairnpapple Hill. It’s 15mins drive from here, most of that due to traffic and 5mins walk to the trig from the car park. I was out to grab an S2S with Gerald G4OIG and to complete SS-128 Broughton Heights. Done on 2m SSB with a 31 year old FT-290 barefoot on its own whip. My first SOTA Vintage Electric Handbag QSO. I was going to take a TR-2300, bought for a fiver, as well but I don’t have a mike for that yet.

Dog has been returned till New Years Day… my fingers are safe for a few days.

…I decided to call Ken GM0AXY who lives in Edinburgh and is LOS. 145.500…

Sorry, but we (sorry it’s not a Royal We; but Christine and myself) were out of range at the time; Ben Cleuch to Caerphilly, south Wales (just 2 km from Craig Yr Allt) on 2 FM just wouldn’t cut it on the day, hi!
Just back home after a week with a couple of grandchildren!
Will be monitoring for more activity over the next few days.

Hi Ken, Christine,

Welcome back! Hope to catch you Thursday or Friday, Gerald would particularly appreciate a bit of 2m action if you’re about :wink:

73 and seasonal greetings from Paul G4MD

I’m looking for a suitable 2m perch for one or both of tomorrows summits. Being on top of a summit for 0945 is obscene you know, especially over the Christmas break!

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Hi Andy,

Just trying to maximise VFM on these short days :wink:

If it’s any consolation, we are unlikely to be early on GM/SS-119… considering exploring the route via the “new” forest track across the flank of Thirlestane Hill, though definitive information seems to be in very short supply…

73 de Paul G4MD

I’ve looked at that way. But the aerial photos and my own photos from Cacra Bank & Cacra Hill don’t show enough detail. Also I’m not too sure how much growth there has been since the aerial shots were taken. If I was doing that route then I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned into an adventure with the phrase “I wouldn’t do this route if I did it again” being true.

I remember I took the path from Ettrickhill Kirk. Except that path peters out quickly and the whole area some distance around the Kirk Burn was a soggy, boggy mess. Wetter than an otter’s pocket.

My 25k map shows a track to grouse butts from Thirlestane Tower. If the butts are still in use that might offer an apprroach.

Google earth seems to show a quad bike track but the image date is 2009 so the track may have become disused.

If the track to the grouse butts is still there that would take you a good way to SS-119

Here’s Google’s out of date view

And here is Bing’s modern view showing the new forest tracks.

Looks like quite a hike though to follow that forestry track

Here’s the route from the track to the massive summit cairn ringed in purple and I think it’s about a km or so.


Here’s the ground around the track bend, you can see it’s been prepared for planting and those furrow will be boggy and wet now:

And here’s a shot from last summer, Ward Law is in the distance and whilst not obvious in this shot it seemed to be coveredin saplings, probably about 1m high.

OT: That must have been the weekend I last washed the pickup judging by how clean it looks!

Hi Andy,

Many thanks for the additional info - I’d not come across the more recent Bing imagery, it fills out what we’d gleaned from walk reports etc. quite nicely.

We’ll let you know which route we took when we get to the top…

Hope to catch you later

73 de Paul G4MD

The S2S with you from ES-020 was an unexpected bonus for me Andy. In fact you were the only FM signal I heard all day so it was just as well that SSB conditions were so good. I eventually qualified the hill on 2m SSB including a contact with F6DBI in IN88IJ for another unexpected wee bonus! :grinning:

Obviously 2m FM is hard going from that part of the world so I’ll have to carefully pick the time when I go back to activate the new Carn Liath top and do its neighbour Culardoch (ES-015). At least the approach should be a bit easier the next time. It was a good decision not to try to take the bike this time as there were deep drifts of snow as soon as I left the car. In fact there was probably less snow on the summit as it had all be blown off in the storm on Boxing Day.

It was windy and cold on my summit but nothing compare to the day before when I tried to activate ES-085. Despite the shelter provided by the very substantial Tower of Johnston on the summit of Hill of Garvock, it was near impossible to operate properly. But what did I expect; there was a yellow warning in force at the time for the strength of the wind. I only managed 2 contacts despite hanging around for nearly 4 hours.:disappointed:

73, Robin

The path between ES-020 (left) and SS-059 (right) is this with the highest spot ringed in purple:

That just happens to be the summit of The Cairnwell at Glen Shee ski centre (easiest Munro to climb),

The panorama view for LOS paths from SS-059 includes this:

That clearly shows those summits at Glen Shee blocking the LOS path to you. We can assume that this was a troposcatter QSO and shows how easy a non-LOS 100km QSO can be worked on 2m FM. I was using a 5W handheld with its standard rubber duck and a 1/4wave earth extension (19in of wire hanging from the outer of the antenna socket) and you had the gain antenna, your 3 ele delta loop. You were 55 on the meter and would have been 59 had I used a decent antenna.

Beautiful countryside.

At least you’ve done 1 QSO, and a complete actually, well done.
I’ve already been to a summit and have 0 QSO to show for it :slight_smile: it was winter time as well.