The Road Trip

A variety of hills, whilst trying to dodge the weather

The Plan
A week long trip to Arrochar near Loch Lomond, in Scotland’s West Highlands. Camping in Dora the V8 Explorer, with a couple of hotel nights in the middle. It didn’t turn out like that.

Sunday 22nd May - Meall a’Bhuachaille 810m GM-ES-027
West coast weather was filthy, so we decided to stay east and slowly work our way across. With wind and rain forecast even in the Eastern Highlands in the morning, we had a leisurely start but still managed to leave late at 1030.

We parked at Glenmore lodge and decided to do the walkhighlands route in reverse. Meall a' Bhuachaille circuit, Glenmore (Walkhighlands)
This would keep us roughly on (alert) time. It was a good choice because it is a great track up past Glenmore Lodge through the woods and onto the hillside and it only took us an hour.

Mo ascending GM/ES-027

It was very busy on top and still pretty windy, so I set off so find some space and shelter. I found space but shelter was lacking.

Summit selfie #1

You can just see me in this picture. This is where I set up. Ben Rinnes in the background

I stopped at some rocks and later used these to jam the mast in, going guyless and using a 41’ random wire with the KX2. Before that however, I had an appointment on 2m with Simon @GM4JXP who was over on Ladylea Hill GM/ES-049 back in Aberdeenshire. We had a successful S2S, but despite my spot, no more 2m action. I don’t think anyone chases in Inverness these days.

On to 40m and it was a bit of a struggle, with a lower SFI and a higher K index. All G,GW,PA,DL,EI. Then a gust took the mast down part way through a QSO @G4OOE . Sorry Nick! I took that as a signal to pack up, as it really was rather unpleasant.

We continued the walkhighlands route on steep but good paths, enjoying great views of the larger mountains on our way back. On reaching Ryvoan bothy, a sharp right took us on to a Land Rover track, onwards to The Green Lochan and back to Glenmore Lodge at around 1600. A nice afternoon out, although not such a great activation. 4 points.

Bynack More, Cairngorm, Ben Macdui, Braeraich etc (L-R) & the Green Lochan below

After popping into Aviemore supplies we found a nice spot up the ski road and settled down for the night (with no internet).

Camp 1

Monday 23rd May Geal-charn Mor 824m GM/CS-070
The last forecast we’d seen showed poor conditions to the west but a morning window of fair weather in the east, before the western showers moved over and set in. We decided to stay local and climb a hill just to the west of Aviemore - Geal-charn Mor.

Again we used a walkhighlands route Geal-charn Mòr , from Lynwilg (Walkhighlands)
We set of at 0830, following a paved road and then a Land Rover track up through woods and out onto moorland. Eventually, at a high col, a large cairn marked a stony track, which was followed over a broad ridge for the last couple of km to the summit.

looking back down the track to yesterdays views

Pretty straightforward and it only took us around 90 minutes. Then the rain came on. Two hours early. I set up the mast, having to guy it this time and hooked up the KX2, leaving the perspex cover on the radio when possible. The comment in my spot said something like, “hurry it’s raining!”. Conditions on 40m weren’t great again, but I got six in the log in five minutes, calling it a day after Chris @F4WBN gave me 3/3!

summit selfie #2

Activating Geal-Charn-Mor

The walk down was atmospheric. We didn’t expect to see anyone, however we passed a couple of groups of mountain bikers pedalling up. Another fun half day adventure. 4 points.


Back to Aviemore for a lunchtime coffee and a committee meeting. We decided to head further west, but not all of the way. The weather was looking OK for the Central Highlands, so we’d do something there tomorrow.

It was still drizzling when we set off down the A9 Inverness to Perth road. About an hour later we were parked up at one of my favourite camping spots, high on the moor beside the first road junction south of the Drumochter pass. This is the un-named Old Military Road to Dalchalloch. It has great views over to the Blair Atholl hills.
Google Maps

Camp 3

somehow a tin of Tennents lager appeared in Dora’s fridge. I know not from where it came. However, it went down well

Mo hammered me at dominoes. I blame the lager

Tuesday 24th May - Meall nan Tarmachan 1044m GM/CS-015
We set off cross-country over some pretty nice roads - Tummel Bridge, Kenmore, Loch Tay and then steeply up to the National Trust for Scotland car park near Ben Lawers. Weather-wise there was a chance of a few showers, but overall if looked pretty good.

There’s a decent path up Meall nan Tarmachan and it’s only a 3.5km walk to the top.

views from the path across to Ben Lawers GM/CS-001

the final part of the ascent

We were taking our time. Mo is still recovering from spinal surgery in February and this was rougher and tougher than anything she’d done so far. Still, we were up in under two hours.

Meall nan Tarmachan - views down to Loch Tay

summit selfie #3

The summit is quite small, however there is plenty of room to the south to set up. I actually sat on a bank just to the south of the summit, as today was 2m day and I wanted to be as close to the top as possible. The station went together in minutes - my rucksack wedged bewteen my legs, the mast still attached to the side and a Spectrum Communications 2m G-pole strung out along side me. I hoisted the pole until the antenna was well clear of the ground and hooked the co-ax up to my FT-3d handheld.

on 2m FM

I had a decent run of nine stations and was pleasantly surprised by the spread - from Monikie near Dundee in the east, to Ayrshire in the south. Oh, and last call was Simon GM4JXP over on Mona Gowan GM/ES-034. He was ODX at 100km. 8 points gained.

Patiently waiting and enjoying the views

We retraced our steps down and were on the road towards Arrochar by 2pm. Two nights in a hotel beckoned.

Wednesday 25th May
Really rubbish weather. Strong winds and constant showers, so we went nuclear submarine hunting at Faslane, nuclear warhead hunting at Coulport, had a nice lunch and I messed about with the FT-857 and the ATAS-120A which sits on Dora’s roof while Mo drank tea.

Playing radio on 15m at the Clyde / Gare Loch

Thursday 26th/Friday 27th May
We abandoned Dora at Arrochar & Tarbet railway station and took the train to Glasgow. This was the ‘civilised’ part of the trip. An Emeli Sande piano concert on the Thursday and Top Gun Maverick on the Friday. Both Five Star events.
Heading back north on the West Highland Railway, we agreed we had the energy for another walk, but would like to get some miles on the road home first, as it’s a 3.5 hour drive home from Arrochar. On reaching our destination, we drove north and stopped for the night at the foot of our chosen climb.

Camp 4

Saturday 28th May - An Caisteal 996m GM/SS-007
This one rises to the south of Crainlarich. We ascended in 2hrs 15 mins, using a Land Rover track, boggy grassy slopes and then even narrowing grassy ridge with some entertaining rocky sections. The weather was fine, so I took my Nikon DSLR out for the first time that week.

the approach track

looking back down the “twistin hills” section of the ridge

towards the summit area, although the summit is hidden behind the rocky outcrop

scrambling up the gash in the ridge

approaching An Caisteal

There was a stiff northerly wind howling across the summit, a cold one at that. T-shirts were quickly supplemented with fleeces and windproof shells. Oh and winter hats! Mo took cover behind a rocky outcrop to the south of the summit whilst I found a smaller one further up. Today was a 2m day and I needed all the height I could get.

same set up as for Meall nan Tarmachan

I could only spot via text. I think SOTAwatch was down and my internet was sketchy anyhow. I needn’t have worried. It was a Saturday and chasers soon found me down at 145.400 MHz. I got fourteen in the log, with @GM0GAV and @GM7OIN around about equal ODX at 100km. I was delighted to work two amateurs who had just passed their foundation exams that week. They came across me by accident, so I took a bit of time to explain what I was doing.

summit view west

Mo contemplating Ben More GM/SS-002

A walker approaching our summit, having surmounted the rocky outcrop

Descent was as ascent, however very slippy and I fell over three times, much to Mo’s delight. I had to get changed outside Dora when we got back as I was covered in slimy bog and wet peat. 6 points.

Three hours later we were back home. We parked up the Land Rover and completed our final walk of the week - the 200m down to our local for some food and a final pint or two.

A classic Scottish holiday where you have to make it up as you go along to avoid the worst of the weather, which we almost succeeded in doing.
Radio-wise, I was delighted to qualify some more summits on 2m, just using the handheld and a the G-pole. HF was poor and I discovered later that the bands were closed for a time on Saturday, so I guess I’m lucky to have qualified that final summit, especially since SOTAWatch was down for a bit too!

Dora behaved impeccably and even returned 15mpg on Super Unleaded, which isn’t bad for a 34 year old 3 tonne box on wheels. Still, at £1.82/litre, it hurt the wallet a fair bit…

73, Fraser


Ah, good it’s not changed since I was there though there’s some proper blue to that sky. The WX is always like that when I’m near Tarmachan and Lawers but not climbing them!

Did not like. :scream: :mountain: :woozy_face:


Nice photos Fraser and a couple of summits to add to my “To be Completed” list. Thanks for the activations!



Nice views Fraser. :slight_smile:
How do you find the ATAS with the FT857 ?

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You know John, it is ancient. It’s sat in my shed so long that mice have nibbled the rubber around the bottom. It still tunes up ok usong the ft-857d.

On the Dora Tour I had it running wspr one night on 10m and it reached the Canaries, despite the band not really being open. That was 250 mW from a dedicated wspr transmitter.
The next day I did some 15m ft8 usimg the ft-857d and worked about 12 EU DXCC.

The next test will be voice on 20m…


Cheers Fraser. I have been pondering one for the Landy instead of swapping out HF whips for each band.


Hi Fraser,

Many thanks for so nice report.
Could you please tell a bit more about your SOTA car ?
Is it convenient enough for overnight ?

73, Jarek



Looks like a very fun trip and I always love the snaps of your Land Rover.

I’ve continued to evolve my Jeep as an operating location and was out in a very windy Mojave Desert this last weekend to “shakedown” new awnings, a table (home brew) for my K3/P3 and a workable 80m antenna. Success on all fronts.

…and to Jarek’s (@SP9MA) question to you, I sleep inside my Jeep and it only works because I’m not too tall.



Jarek, It’s fine for sleeping in for a few nights. We have a cooker, fridge, sink and heating. The walls are insulated, so good fun in the winter.

1988 Land Rover 127 built for the Police as a mobile command unit. 3.5 litre V8 petrol engine. Weight 3100 kg. Heavy duty susoension with air bags inside the rear springs to belp with handling.

Here are a couple of photos from 1988.


Thanks for a great activation report and wonderful photographs. Liz and I were just saying that it had been a while since your last YouTube release, and wondered if you were on holiday.

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Did it come with the extendable mast from the police photo?

That’s a nice jeep and an impressive portable set up Paul. The last couple of times we’ve been to the States we’ve hired a decent SUV and headed off piste. We viewed the full eclipse in 2017 from 6000’ up a mountain in Oregon. Miles from anywhere or anyone!

I don’t think I’ll be using Dora this weekend - Mo has hijacked her mast to display her Jubilee flag.


Yes, it’s a Clarke pneumatic mast. It’s powered by a V-twin electrically powered pump under the rear seats. It also has a 2.8 KVA 240 V generator which is powered via the engine and a P.T.O.

The seals on the mast aren’t air tight any longer, but each section can be clamped using a Hex key. It’s been up four days now.

Of course, I’ll have to make sure I run the pump before undoing any of the clamps…


Can you stll buy the seals from Clarke?

Probably John, but I’m scared to see how much they cost and I’d probably need a crane to take it apart!

Just re-read your excellent report which includes some useful information for when I get up north to do these hills. Many thanks for that. I too use super-unleaded at the currently ridiculously high cost, but at least I get 38 or so on a run if I keep off the turbo. :grinning:


I’m up Blair tomorrow Gerald, for your Complete?

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Ah, many thanks for the heads up! Alert for 12:15z… knowing the speed you get up hills, that will be 11:00z then. I’ll get the 430S warmed up ready and pray for decent propagation. :grinning:


I’m dropping Mo of at work 1100z and plan on keeping to the speed limit on the run over Glenshee! I’ll be trying 2m SSB first :slight_smile: