Return to Mull - Beinn Fhada GM/SI-034

Beinn Fhada GM/SI-034

We have a few Mull fans on this reflector. I think this one is a cracker! A must do.

Mo and I have been on the island since Thursday 12th October. We were part of the safety team for the Mull Rally. A spectacular event that uses the (closed) roads around the island as stages. Think IOM TT but rally cars. After no sleep for a couple of nights and then a chilled afternoon watching the winners parade town the main street in Tobermory, thoughts turned to an expedition.

my favourite car of the rally and last on the road, but it did finish :grin:

I didn’t want to drive too far from our base near Salen, so settled on Beinn Fhada GM/SI-034, a 702m mountain that rises from Loch na Keal on Mulls rugged west coast. Ben More, GM/SI-003, Mulls only Munro, is its next-door neighbour. Oh, and Tuesday would be activation day – a day of decent weather sandwiched between five days of showers and the impending Storm Babet.

We grabbed some nice coffee and cakes from the excellent Coffee Pot in Salen and took a short drive over to the west side of the island. I parked up on the machair. Mo was sitting this one out – preferring to stitch up infinite numbers of felt gingerbread men for some Christmas decoration, I think.

1040h and the sun just appearing above the ridge

I had the walkhighlands route on my gps and also on memory-maps on my phone. The track initially follows the south bank of the Scarrisdale River, before heading almost south up the steep ridge on Beinn Fhada. I departed at 1045, after coffee and a flapjack. The initial boggy path soon dried out a bit and started to climb towards Coire nan Gabhar. I was drawn in by the beauty of the corrie and its ampitheatre of Beinn nan Gabhar, An Cruachan and Beinn Fhada. A SOTA, HEMA and a SOTA that would combine to make a grand day out.

I’d walked a bit too far into the glen, probably following a sheep track. I turned hard right and ascended steep slopes on short grippy heather with the odd boulder here and there. This eventually led to a buttress, then another and another and another. Intimidating from below, most had a way through the broken rocky walls and some were turned this way or that. Lung bursting, but eventually the angle eased, the buttresses became smaller and the sun appeared on the horizon. A sure sign I was reaching the ridge.

down to Loch na Keal with Gribun rocks distant

The next 1.5km was spent traversing an initially broad ridge, that narrowed and then descended to a col, with a fearsome dark steepening rising ahead. As with most things on mountains, it looked a bit easier from closer in. The steep prow was of shattered rock and had a rough path up the middle, with just a little scramble move here and there. It in turn eventually led to the summit buttress which also looked fierce, however a scree path climbed from the right, the ridge was gained and easily followed to the small grassy summit. The wind blowed hard and cold from the east. It was now 1220.

the way to the top

Initial plans to erect an EFHW were shelved. Instead, I placed my pole sleeve into the summit cairn and raised my 41’ random wire up the Carbon 6 pole. The dead end was weighed with rocks, the live end pegged and connected to my Elecraft KX2 via a 9:1. A 17’ counterpoise lay on the ground. VK Port-a-Log was initialised, a spot sent and I anxiously waited to see who would return my calls on a quiet sounding 40m band.
A few did. Seventeen to be exact, including a summit call from @M0JKS from G/NP-001 with heavy QSB. 20m next. A bit of a disappointment, with heavy fading, however another thirteen logged. 20m seemed short, with contacts to nearby Norway and England. Afterwards, Joe @KE9AJ messaged to say he could just about hear me Stateside. Funny old thing, radio, isn’t it? I thought 17m may be better. Often it is. Not today though. Thanks to @SQ9OZM for persevering.

summit view to the coast

summit view to Ben More

It was now 1310 and we had other things to do in the afternoon, so time to pack up and head back. A quick snack of Glasgow’s favourite biscuit and an apple and I was good to go.

they have a Tunnocks Tea Cake eating competition the night before the rally. I think the record is 34. Washed down with a can of Irn Bru.

I retraced my ascent route to the car, which wasn’t too bad despite having to re-ascend part of the ridge. Descending the buttressed nose wasn’t as bad as I had feared, although I lost the track many times and seemed to take a different route around every one. From above, a grassy shot cut path seemed to lead directly to the grassy base, so I took this. I think this was a sheep track, however it got me down quickly and I arrived back at the car at 1440, it having taken me 1 hour 20 minutes to descent. I’d been on the hill for four hours in all.

heading back along the undulating ridge

A cracking hike up a great mountain. Much less visited than its more famous neighbour. I saw no one on the hill and only had high altitude sheep for company. The numerous tracks left by the sheep did prove problematic at times. The best strategy is to keep to the centre of the ridge as much as possible and work out each steepening as it comes.

Bumped into a rally recovery friend who had also stayed on. He’d gone up Ben More today. Ben More is above his grey Land Rover with Beinn Fhada being the point at the faraway left

the three SOTA peaks seen from the far side of the loch. Beinn Fhada in the middle, summit at the rear. The ridge can clearly be seen

As for the weather, well it is getting colder. The high mountains of Lochaber were capped in snow today and it’s getting to that time of year where it is essential to carry some extra kit. Windchill was probably only a couple of degrees above zero on top. Fantastic though. Put me right in the mood for winter!

73, Fraser MM0EFI


Mull is certainly on the list of events to do. I have been to Mull once and got as far the distillery and harbour. Hope you had a good event with some cracking views.



Rally Imp on Minilite wheels :+1:
Tunnocks Caramel :+1: (but think of your Pancreas with the sugar content of Tunnocks products!!!)
Not doing the obvious Munro :+1:


Great to grab you on this one Fraser for a potential Complete. I’ve itineraries drafted for most of the remaining Mull summits, but they were prepared back in 2017 prior to my skirmish with the blood clot and I am also an age older. I will need to review the timings… judging by your performance, 3 hours ascent time seems about right for this one. :wink:

Paul G4MD and I had two further visits planned to finish the summits on Mull and its outliers, but it never came to fruition due to our combined health issues. However, it remains high on our bucket list. Whether the bucket will hold water, well only time will tell. So much to do, so little time, so little opportunity. :frowning_face:

73, Gerald


Great shots Fraser,

Brings back many memories. Had been involved with The Tour of Mull Rally since 1985 through to late ‘noughties’ with Raynet.

Here is a shot of one of my cross-band units (many used to loop the island) with Ben More (left) and the ‘Breasts’ (right - Cruachan Dearg & Corra-bheinn GM/SI-031) what the locals call them - appropriate - hi!

Would have been good to Chase you on SI-034 for a Complete but curling at Hamilton :roll_eyes:. Activated this one away back in Oct 2005.



PS: Part of the Technical Team - Kenny GM1MMK & John GM7GNK (Strathclyde Raynet)

1 Like

Hi Jack, I saw that you were the first activator and was surprised you didn’t appear yesterday!

My involvement in the Tour of Mull Rally (as it was called) started about six years before yours ended. I was a radio marshal for a few years, in the times when 81MHz safety frequency and Raynet co-existed. When the Mull Car Club took over the running of the rally, out went Raynet and comms were not so good, despite 81MHz repeaters. Now that the island finally has decent 4G and even 5G coverage, we’ve been using newtork radios with multi-network SIM’s as a management system, with 81 MHz still providing the same safety network. There are still a few dead spots, eg half way down Glen Aros, where no RF of any kind seems to reach! I trained for and attained a Recovery Licence in 2011 and have been doing that every year since then.

Kenny and John still attend as radio engineers, along with Crawford Ross. In fact I had to recover John Taylor last year after decided to drive to a high spot for a good view of the stage that actually runs along the foot of Ben More and Beinn Fhada. He got himself bogged…

The radio engineers do a fantastic job setting up comms on the island. They are here well before and leave long after the rally cars and I don’t think many realise the work that they put in - and all as a hobby!

One final point - there is no stage around Gribun Rocks these days. Motorsport UK insisted that a rescue boat with divers be put into place, such was the peril! I don’t think anyone ever went over, but a car did make it up onto the sea wall one year.

1 Like

I’m glad you appeared for a QSO Gerald. I have to say that of all the hills I have climbed on Mull over the years, this is my favourite. The views are better than from Ben More, well because Ben More forms part of the view! As a Mull regular you’ll well know that there aren’t many places nicer than Loch na Keal and Gribun rocks, looking out to the Wilderness and the outer islands. Thankfully, the stars lined up yesterday and I saw it all.


Great report and photos @MM0EFI Fraser - looks like yourself and Mo had a fantastic time all round! Rally cars… Summits… Landrovers… Caramel bars… that’s my kind of perfect trip :ok_hand: looking forward to your next outing!

73, Ben


Been up there three times Andy, and it was my MG activation this time last year. Now my mission is to complete Mull before @G4OIG Gerald does :wink:


You should have said… I would have sneaked a few anvils into his bag when we did Kirriereoch :wink:


Cheers Ben! Unlike you and Kevin, I just had the one Tunnocks Caramel wafer. You two would have had the whole box.


John, You need to get up with Hogg Rescue from the IOM. They had about 10 guys, some in a mini-bus! Joking aside, visit Mull in May. Pre-midge, post winter. Amazing time to see the island.


It’s all Kevin’s @MW0KXN fault Fraser! He makes me eat these lovely cakes :rofl:


What a great report Fraser. As Andy has already said, a Imp or Singer with Maglite wheels is a thing if beauty. Fantastic photographs and a Tunnocks. I’m not a fan of the tea cakes, but the biscuits are fantastic.


Fait accompli I would say. :grinning:

I thought you had… :joy:


My problem is I climbed a lot of Mull hills before I started doing SOTA, including the highest half dozen. I think your motivation is greater than mine Gerald. :grin:


Motivation is one thing… actual ability in terms of physical effort, time and expense are another matter entirely. I’ll just have to move up your way on a permanent basis… oh moving house, what a dreadful thought. :worried:

1 Like

Here’s my video of the experience. It was nice to reflect on a lovely day.