Having spent the previous week playing on the hills round Tyndrum and the Northern Cairngorm, by the end of a week at work I was suffering from withdrawl from the hills. It wasn’t till Friday that I decided I would head up to Loch Earn and continue in my single handed attempt to wear out the M6 & M74.
Not being very organised in advance, in fact most of my kit from the previous week was still scattered all over the flat, meant that an early start on Saturday was in order allowing me to get my kit back together on Friday.
Ben Vorlich (SS-008) & Stuc a’Chroin (SS-010)
An 0400 wake up call it was then, funnily enough I found it quite easy to get up. Up the M6 and M74, the new bit of motorway across the cumberland gap certainly improves the stretch north of Carlisle. Remember to turn off the M74 for Stirling otherwise you end up lost in the middle of Glasgow, pass Stirling castle, turn off for Callander, in something over 4 hours I was pulling up on the south side of Loch Earn – unless you are there really early just look for where all the other cars are parked – at the east gate of Ardvorlich house.
First up was Ben Vorlich (SS-008). The sun was shining although the peaks were covered in a hazy cloud. You can’t really go wrong with regards to navigating up Ben Vorlich just follow the motorway like path. The path might tame the hill to a certain extent but it does prevent a wide scar developing across half the hillside. Up into the cloud and then all of a sudden the sun was burning off the cloud and the trig point appeared on the summit up above me, not far to go now then. 90 minutes after leaving the lochside I was sat eating an apple in the shelter of some rocks, it was a bit breezy on the top and the views were very hazy but the sun was doing its best and I wasn’t going to complain.
Not in any rush, I got set up and put out a call on 2m FM, answered by Steve GM7UAU and Brian MM1HMZ, I then found G0VMW/P on Great Mell Fell (LD-035)for an unexpected summit to summit. Another call and it was qualified with MM3VYY after a couple of further contacts I switched to SSB and amongst the contacts there were GM4GUF/P on Tinto (SS-064) and GM7GAX who I’d worked s2s on Hill of Stake (SS-155) a fortnight earlier. Interestingly I worked ssb both vertical and horizontal having realised the previous week that there were stations who’d work me on ssb whose antennas were vertically polarised.
Back on FM and Robin GM7PKT called in and informed me he was about 15 minutes from his summit, no worries says I, I’ll just have a bit of lunch and monitor S20. So one cinammon fruit loaf later I put out another call which Ken, GM0AXY responded to, leading to another 4 contacts and then tailending them, Robin who had reached the activation zone of WS-021 and thus made another s2s.
As I packed up I looked around and the sun was well and truly burning off the cloud although it remained very hazy. Back along the short summit ridge and I could see my next target, Stuc a Chroin (SS-010), it’s a straight forward drop down to the bealach an Dudh Choirein from where the rocky buttress looms above you (see Red Screes from Kirkstone but more dramatic).
I’d done these two summits back in 2005 and I remembered the ascent of Stuc a’Chroin to be a wee bit scrambly. That time I’d approached from the south and you do see a lot less people approaching from the south, in fact almost no-one till you reach the summits, however you do need to cross a river and the bridge (a large concrete landrover sized bridge at that) had been thrown about 200 yards downstream from where it should be.
Anyway, by following a thinning track off to the left below the main rocky butresses I found I was going to avoid any scrambling, a little disappointing but curiosity had the better of me and I wasn’t going back, this did leave me a STEEP pull up a large gully to the summit plateau. On the way up I passed a guy who asked “Did we see you on Braeriach last june?” ,surprised I replied that I had been there and if they saw a joker with a large pole it was probably me – small world! Just before I reached the top I met a lady coming down who’d seen me on Ben Vorlich and was curious as to what I was doing – cue SOTA-speel.
So, the summit of Stuc a’Chroin is a bit larger than that of Ben Vorlich which is rather narrow and rather handily has some old metal fence posts on it. One of these was put to good use as I bungied the fishing pole to it. It had taken me just less than an hour to get from Ben Vorlich to Stuc a’Chroin (better hope folks don’t think I’m still on Ben Vorlich and not respond to my calls I thought)
I needn’t have worried, Steve GM7UAU was again first out of the blocks on 2m FM and began an initial run of 9 stations, including Robin on WS-021 and ending with a “fox, mike, fox call”, I know that call I thought and had a nice chat with Andy, MM0FMF for a few minutes. Again a few folks came over to enquire as to what I was doing, I’m sure I’ll even be on someones facebook photo album. After 15 contacts I decided it was time to go, sure the weather was so nice I could have stayed up there a lot longer.
There is a path from the bealach around the side of Ben Vorlich joining up with the main Ben Vorlich motorway, saves you re-ascending Ben Vorlich – nice! On the way down I found one of those trekking pole baskets (which I was able to re-unite with its owner a bit further down) and a green sock (whose owner was never found and is probably still wandering round with one sock!)
Ben Chonzie (SS-015)
Sunday wasn’t quite so sunny, in fact it wasn’t sunny at all just very overcast with the tops up in the clouds. From Comrie it was a drive up the singletrack road up Glen Lednock to Invergeldie and a parking area. The initial approach was up the track from the car park and right around the cottages as signposted. The track then makes its way up alongside the burn before crossing infront of a small hydro scheme of some kind. The landrover track continued to make it’s way up the hillside (keep to the main track – there is a couple of tracks leading off). I couldn’t see very far having quickly entered the cloud but what I could see reminded me of the grouse moors of the north of England.
As the track eventually flattens out the landrover track gave way to a wide grassy track through the heather, leading to a fence line. Although apparently only errected in the 1980’s all that remains of the fence are the fence posts. Turn left at the fence line and you can follow this all the way to the summit – useful if the visibility is poor as it was with me. There were two arrows made out of fence post arranged on the ground marking the way, although I only noticed them on the way back down.
Following the fence line to the summit I was pleased to see a HUGE pile of stones which doubled as a shelter. It was pretty breezy on the top and the wind was blowing any light drizzle sideways.
Setting up, and putting a call out on 145.500, led to a quick 8 contacts ending with Robin, GM7PKT/P who’d just set up on CS-044 and who had equally uninspiring weather. Looking around I heard a certain G0OXV/P and hearing Keith call qrz I called back for a s2s. I hadn’t heard his summit reference prior to calling so you can imagine my surprise when it was LD-035, 2 s2s’s in two days with LD-035!
After a few more contacts I switched to ssb. Ken, GM0AXY called to say he’d spot me here, thanks Ken. Other than stations worked I did hear a GW4UA? Station calling CQ and GM4JR (59) and GW0DSP (51) working Rob G4RQJ/P on a summit, I even briefly thought I heard Rob but my 5W weren’t making the return trip to any of them, ah well, next time.
There wasn’t much visibility whilst I was on the summit but I did catch glimpses of a view. Descent was a reversal of the ascent. Follow the fence line, turn right, pick up the landrover track and follow it down. As soon as I started to decend via the landrover track I got below the clouds (they were definitely lifting albeit slowly) and the views were very welcome after spending all morning in a world 200m by 200m.
It was a fair drive back home but besides a short delay due to a truck of HM Army breaking down on the A80 and blocking one lane, fairly uneventful.
Many thanks to all the stations worked over the weekend and hope to work a few of you again on my next excursion to the GM hills.
I’ve recently purchased a couple of LiPo batteries, having seen those used by G4RQJ and felt the weight saving/increased power. Having had a chat with Rob about them at Norbreck I finally decided to give them a try and I’ve been very pleased with the results, having used them for all my recent GM activations, they’re definately the future for me - at least until I burn something down