OK, either someone has been circulating the rumour that Scottish hills are covered in gold or some fool has left the gate open at the border! That’s the only reason to explain the dramatic influx, nay, invasion of Sassenachs that happened today!
What a joy it was to return home and see the spots page covered in GM and MM callsigns. There’s not too many activators based in Scotland so to see 5 additional activators being spotted (MM0YHB, MM3WJZ, GM6WRW, MM3ZCB & MM1MAJ) was a real pleasure. Helen and Carolyn were on Orkney and are still heading North, Iain was staying (sort-of) in my neck of the woods and Caroline and Martyn had stopped off to bag Dumyat (pronound DUM-EYE-AT) on their way North.
So CS-032, Stucd an Lochain (Peak of the small loch) was my target for Sunday. Friday morning at work I had maxed out the 3 computers on my desk so I had a look at SOTAwatch. There was Iain MM3WJZ spotted on Cairn Gorm/Cairn Mairg and he had an alert for CS-032 on Saturday. No,no,no,no, NO! That’s mine for Sunday! (Ab)using the spots system I got Ken GM0AXY to get Iain’s phone number which he did. Later on I arranged to hook up with Iain and we’d do CS-032 together. The WX for the weekend was for drizzle and low cloud to clear by mid-morning with a not too bad day for later on. I had to get ready a day earlier so it was batteries on charge for the radio, camera and GPS etc.
Saturday dawned. I’ve been deserted this weekend as Sarah and the kids are away. That explained why 15 mins after the alarm clock went off I was still asleep. Gawk! High speed breakfast and throw stuff in the car. I’d made lunch the night before and grabbing a few CDs I was off. Except I needed petrol which during the hours of darkness had risen another 4.5/gallon With that and not finding some walking gear, remember the boss was away so I couldn’t ask her where she hidden stuff (known to all women as putting clean clothes away) I was late. This was made worse by damn tourists clogging up the roads and the return of the roadworks just outside Stirling at the new livestock market. The new livestock market roadworks have been causing problems for at least 9months now but a few weeks back they were completed. No more delays on the A84. Well that was until someone found out that the new roundabout was such that livestock lorries could not get in and out of the market. Arrrrrggggghhhh! I’ve only been engineering stuff for 26 years and I’m astounded that something like this can get through all the design reviews and sign-offs that take place! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/tayside_and_central/8077535.stm says “complex engineering matters” are to blame, I say penny-pinching incompetant retards in charge is more likely!
Anyway having fought my way to Ben Lawers visitor centre through more tourists who can’t drive a single track road, it was plain sailing to Bridge of Balgie and then up the Glen to Glen Diamh and the impressive Giorra Dam car park. Iain was waiting in the b-awful dreik. Yes, low cloud today meant about 400m and the drizzle was very lumpy. Which was a shame because the car park is at 412m! We sat in Iain’s car till 10.20 when the lumps got small enough to bear. Then it was a high speed kit on session and we were off. The start is easy, follow the tarmac road up to the top of the dam wall. From there it’s a couple of hundred metres along the hardcore track to the small cairn of white painted stones. Thus the start of the path was found. Now the cloud lifted to about 750m and the rain eased. Enough that my pants were getting dry from my warmth and the wind at the rate they were getting wet, no need for overtrousers, just a waterproof jacket on top. Iain said that he was leaving his overtrousers on and he knew if he removed them then the heavens would open!
The path is not bad, easy in fact as it climbs a little and then there is a long flatish section. This is the new path as the old path from the boathouse was badly eroded. Not long after the flat bit starts you reach the time to start climbing properly. The path goes straight up following a stream, or the path has become a stream, or both. Anyway with the rain recently and the number of boots, it’s messy. It’s not hard work though. Well it is but as you can see how quickly you’re climbing from the loch it feels like effort well rewarded. Iain set the pace, i.e. he dawdled along and I tried to keep up with him. Do you know he walked the whole ascent and descent with talking his hands out of his pockets. Me, being Billy McLardy behind him, was clattering about, splashing in mud pools, sliding on wet stones and flailing a pair of Leki poles about. I’m sure he had a pair of hoverboots as he was spotless at the summit and I looked like I’d been for a mudbath!
So you climb about 250m in 600m, go figure the grind factor on that. Then you hit the ridge and follow the trench to the summit. Easy peasy. Even in the thick cloud and drizzle it was not a navigation test. Near the summit of Sron Chona Chorien the drizzle got lumpy and it was time for over trousers. And that’s the climbing done. The last 2kms has a total gain of 80m, it’s up and down a bit but we nattered away in the now howling wind and rain and then we were at the top. The wind dropped and lowering a hood it felt mild in the cloud. I know what means when it gets warm… the cloud is lifting. 12.30 at the top, in 2hrs which is Anquet’s prediction and just like magic the cloud lifted off to give some good views out to Glen Coe and the area. Iain looked around and said it was truly fantastic in that there were decent mountains around all 360degrees of the view.
We set up, I used an old fencepost to support my pole, Iain pegged his out. I could hear on 2m already working as I started on 60m. Brian G4ZRP was waiting but it was a struggle. Then Steve GW7AAV was there and was gone and was there. I completed with Steve and got him to spot both of us. Frank G3RMD was struggling and so it was CW to the rescue. I worked Frank and then Mike was loud on SSB for an easish contact. After that it was back to the key. I put on a 25 minute light-entertainment comedy show with my awful Morse. G4JFS who is that I thought and after a “?” I got G4BLH which made more sense! Everyone was accommodating of my capabilities, especially as it was a long time since CS-032 was on the air. Thanks also to Jeff G4ELZ. I’m sure Jeff must teach Morse because he knows exactly what I mean when I send “?”, he puts nice gaps between the characters but sends the characters at a good speed for the rhythm.
All this was made harder by the QSB and some walkers who were having lunch and joking and I was laughing and trying to think. Result: brain fade. Back to SSB for G0RQL and G8ADD. Then to 40m SSB for another with Don G0RQL (much better than 60m). No other takers on SSB it was 7.032CW and amongst the melee I worked Jeff G4ELZ and Reg G3WPF. Reg is another operator who knows what us Morse beginners need, thanks Reg. Once again I have to say that using Morse and being able to have some QSOs has reinvigorated my interest in radio more than I can explain. I wasn’t about to give or anything but the feeling of achievement I now have after a handful of contacts at about 10-11wpm is great.
With both Iain and me content with contacts we packed up and headed off. The cloud was now up above 1100 so only the big stuff at Glen Coe was lost. The walk out was the reverse but it all seemed new as most of it was done in the cloud. I got a nice picture of the peak and the lochan which gives it its name. We were back at the car moderately quickly and set of to Bridge of Balgie for a nice cup of rosy. Once more the tea was excellent and the pair of us had an interesting chat to a gamekeeper/estate worker who used work up on the Assynt estate and was the man who built the radio shack on the summit of Ben Stack. Apparently you can get an Argo up to the summit as that’s how they got the cement up there!
An excellent days walking even if it was dreiky for half of it. Excellent company too. Walking can be intensely personal, I enjoy being isolated on my own on a walk and when voices I know appear on the radio the contrast is excellent. So thanks to Iain for letting me join him on his walk. I’m certain that if he hadn’t had Billy McLardy with him he’d have bagged Sron a Choire Chnapanich and/or one of the two Meall Buidhes on either side of the lock.
Total walked: 8.6km, total asecent: 774m, distance driven: 185miles.
For the maths pedants, if the summit is 960m and you start at 412m how can the ascent be 774m? Well there’s a fair bit up and down on the ridge which you climb twice!