The weather in Scotland was beautiful on Saturday (it still is on Monday!!). I had often walked and driven past this pair of summits above Loch Laggan (WS-198/WS-239 and thought they might offer a challenge. I was not wrong!
There is ample parking in a lay-by at NN432831 and the track follows across the bridge and along the land rover track towards Loch na H-earba; I chose a suitable point to leave this track at about NN448812 and headed up the ridge on surprisingly dry ground towards the beallach which is at the obvious gap in the skyline ridge. My biorhythms must have been all wrong because I actually found that I was not really enjoying this walk on what was a perfect day for hillwalking. Once the beallach is reached at NN463824 the hard work starts. Be warned, this is not a hill to play around on in poor visibility; the 1:50000 map is useless and the 1:25000 map is equally so. There are so many crags that the mapping is, at best, unhelpful. I had to try to find a route to the summit which did not involve scrambling (not a good plan when you are on your own) and eventually did find the route up to the top. The summit is probably large enough for an HF dipole but it does end in rather steep drops especially above Loch Laggan. I found a small corrie just off the summit out of the breeze and set-up the antenna without any difficulty.
My intention was to have a listen on 80m for Tom M1EYP and his son to try for a summit to summit with what is my home hill (Leith Hill) but 80m was, to all intents and purposes, closed. So I took the links out of the antenna and called on 60m to receive a response from John GW4BVE. He was a reasonable signal but commented that I was weaker than usual and so it seemed to be with all my contacts. Was it the orientation of the antenna (NW-SE) or absorption by the extensions for 80m – I suspect the latter as last week was the first outing for the extended antenna and I received poor reports then as well. No matter, I managed a list of the usual suspects – with one or two notable exceptions – but all complained of weak signals and deep qsb although I managed to receive all stations at good strength and readability. I was called by MM1BJP/P for a summit to summit to the Isle of Jura to finish of my run of 60m qso’s. I was just about to qsy to 40m when I heard Robin GM7PKT calling CQ on 145.575 and, as he was very definitely line-of-sight, we had a chinwag. The conversation should have raised my suspicions as Robin told me he had activated this hill before but did not know the route to the next hill as only Jon GM4ZFZ (“a bit of a mountaineer”) had activated it before. No matter, I would find the route! 40m was as dead as 80m as far as SOTA was concerned – I called for 10 minutes on 7095 without any response so decided to head off for summit number two.
The 1:25000 map shows that there should be a way down from the summit to the NE via one or other of the gullies between the crags (which I guess are old lava flows). Well I tried three possible gullies and none of them would I say was negotiable without rope protection and certainly not on my own. By the time I had dropped as far as I dared and then climbed back up to try for the next one and so on I was bushed. I made a decision to climb back up to the beallach where I had first ascended and have lunch and wait for Robin on his next hill. I had a chat with Robin during his ascent and he was kind enough to spot that I had abandoned hill number 2 when he spotted his hill.
I guess it is over to Jon to let us into the secret of the descent to WS-239 as the re-ascent onto that hill would be fairly simple. I did have a look at the various options when I was walking out but I am still not sure if the route I spotted would actually work. Never mind it will still be there for another outing and is readily accessed by bypassing Binnein Shuas. Even after I descended I was still in evil humour until the fourth pint of Trade Winds!!
Thanks to the chasers and for the spots – much appreciated