The office is being refurbished this week so I’ve been working from home (have laptop - can develop software). But working from home can be tedious as the laptop screen is a bit smaller than the 24in monitor that’s normally attached, so I decided I’d have some time off instead.
With the adrenalin still coursing through my veins from last weekend I fancied something different. The WX forecats for Thursday looked good for The Cairngorms and as it was a while since I’d been in that part of Scotland that was my target. Some of the hills here are a fairly long walk and coupled with the driving time and the fact I fancied getting high up limited the choices.
Sgor Gaoith ES-009 (pron. sg-orr goo-ee) is the 30th highest mountain in Scotland at 1118m. It’s also very accessible, there is a superb path leading almost to the summit from the excellent car park. The car park is on private ground and the owners have realised that many people are going to come here and provided a good place to park so that their own access wont be impeded. The path has had significant investment made in its construction and upkeep. That is needed as a lot of boots come this way. Yes, it’s a visible scar but unlike unkempt paths, it wont get any worse or more eroded, proper drainage is provided and someone had been working recently clearing drainage channels. The result is you fell welcome on the Feshie Estate.
I was up at 6.30 and injected, drugged, measured, fed and out by 7.00am. Access was a long drive up the A9 which was remarkably quiet for midweek. Turn off for Newtonmore, Kingussie and down the minor road to Feshiebridge. The clue is in the name Feshie-Bridge… a settlement built by a bridge over a river, the River Feshie in this case. So why I turned off when I hadn’t crossed any bridges up a road marked Glenfeshie I don’t know. Having reached the end all the way thinking the river was on the wrong side I realised I was wrong and I wanted the next road up the Glen. Doh! I met some cyclists who were trying to use the GPS on a Jobsphone without any cell overage. Despite telling the guy I had just come from the road he wanted he didn’t believe me and kept looking at the phone. Even showing him on the map where he was and admitting I’d taken the wrong road he still wanted to ride further into the glen. I told him it did eventually come out at a main road but he probably didn’t want to be in Braemar, about 40km away!
So back up the road, then Feshiebridge and a very obvious bridge and then the correct road. I knew I hadn’t passed the car park but I met a sign saying “Auchlean Private”. Auchlean is the farm at the end of the road. I pretending not to see the sign and drove on knowing I could bluff it out and turn round at the farm. A few hundred metres on was the public car park with 8 cars in it. Job done though stopping for petrol, finding the Ruthven Barracks road and taking the wrong Glenfeshie road added 40mins to my start time. Boots on and away. Apart from the fact it was cold. August 30th and it was 10C in the car park with a fairly sharp wind making it feel colder. An extra fleece went in the bag especially as I’d be high up.
The walk to plateau is trivial. To the farm and follow the sign. A path is simple to follow but was wet after the rain on Wednesday. Through the gate into the forest. Delightful is the only word. Natural native pine trees well spaced out with a carpet of lush heather at their feet. A fine mixture of green and purple. I thought get a photo of this and of course the damn camera starting playing up again. Again! I thought I’d sorted it after Beinn Mhic Chasgaig last week but no all the batteries were reported as flat and it wouldn’t work. It’s 4 years old, has taken just under 4000 photos, been out every weekend in all weathers. Â£108/4 = Â£27/year. I think I’ve had my money’s worth. Time for something new.
So I pushed on up the path. No thought needed. It’s made from orange crushed rock with large stone drainage channels every 20m or so. You can see it wind right up to the plateau. I pushed myself hard to make up the lost time and it was very, very easy walking. The route is about 900m ascent in 8km so it’s a trivial slope. The sun was in and out and when it was in it was very cold. But the physical effort kept me warm. Onto the plateau and you still can’t see any view. The path is not maintained on the plateau but is still easy to follow. I did expect there to be a trench to Carn Ban Mor, a 1052m summit you cross on the way but there wasn’t. Go up young man and I’d reached the wind shelter on the top. From here the view is rather good! Braeriach was mighty fine. It looks huge, well it is 1296m. Cairn Toul was good too. A lot of the view to the true Cairngorm plateau is blocked by Braeriach’s bulk. Looking south, Creag Meaggaidh group, Ben Alder group, Drumochter group. In the far distance Schiehallion, Ben Lawers and others were clear. Shame we didn’t have a camera.
From here it’s about 1.7km to Sgor Gaoith across featureless plateau. There isn’t a path for a lot of the way but you can’t miss the peak of Sgor Gaoith. This is one of the problems up here. The ground itself is featureless rolling terrain. Without the fine visibility today, in snow or mist, navigation is challenging. Having seen a buffoon unable to make sense of a GPS you can see (or maybe not) the problems of less experienced walkers in this terrain. I don’t count myself terribly experience. I can use my GPS and read a map and ue a compass. But I selected this summit just in case the mist came down as navigation is back is not too hard. I’m not sure having seen the cliffs and drops from the side of Sgor Gaoith how keen I’d be to walk to it in thick mist. They are the step out and drop a long way type of cliff.
It didn’t take long to get to the top and set up. A few minutes of checking the views into Loch Einich which is 600m below. Amazing colour and a huge amount of water was running off Braeriach and falling into the loch. Worth the walk. Anquet said 2hr58 for the route, my watch said 2hr20 elapsed. Woohoo, legs of steel! It was proper cold as I set up. Ah yes, the joys of SOTA. August, Scotland, perishing cold, rubbish propagation and snow. Yes, snow. There was a brief shower, 30secs or so of rain and I could see a few more coming. Not enough to bother putting on waterproofs. But when the drops turned to grapaul and hail I didn’t question my sanity. Radio conditions were poor. Nothing on 60m but VOLMET was loud. I called and called on 40m. Nothing. Tuning about showed activity. I had a listen on 20m on the 40m dipole. If I couldn’t spot would anyone be listening on 14.061+/-. I had a listen on 14.285-14.290 and was surprised to hear a VK2 calling. So I had 20m to fallback on.
Then I managed to work G4ZIB followed by G4SSH. I asked Roy to spot me. Silly because Roy always spots someone who isn’t spotted. Still no chasers. By now my phone had a signal and I spotted myself. Slowly stations appeared including 2O0OOO. Or 2E…2OE…2O0OOO as he sent, ha caught out by your own silly call I managed 10 or so G,EI,PA stations. I was surprised to complete with OK1CZ and also an S2S with DL2XL/p after that I wasn’t sure if the DL stations were calling me or someone else as I could hear reports being exchanged. I announced my QSY to 17m and started to take in the LF dipoles. It started snowing proper this time. It didn’t stick to the ground but it was sticking to me and the bag. I looked at the sky now devoid of any blue, the snow and decided with 2hrs to walk out and 3hrs drive and the fact I was cold that it was silly to stay. If I hadn’t mucked the navigation I could have given it a shot. So it was time to get the hell out of Dodge.
I did take a few photos on my phone, rubbish but they capture a little of the splendour of Loch Einich. Route back was the reverse. Including a leisurely 20mins stop in the shelter at Carn Ban Mor to chat to some walkers and to eat some energy bars it took me 2hrs5 to get back to the car. By which time the sky was 50% blue. Damn! I was in Kingussie for 5.20pm were I stopped for fish and chips at Cafe Volante on the main drag. Freshly fried and crisp and tasty. As it says on my packet of Polish biscuits “Legendarny Smak!” Another leisurely drive down the A9/M90 (with a brief stop in Perth for petrol) and I was home for 8.15pm.
Total walked: 16.4km, total ascent 889m, total driven: 275miles
I have to say these were the easiest 10pts I’ve ever had in Scotland. Pictures (a bit grotty) on Flickr.