Creag nan Gabhar ES-022
Crag of the Goat, it’s not been on for a while and was one of several uniques around the Glenshee Ski Centre. The value of that is they try hard to keep the road to Glenshee clear of snow. The downside is when there is snow at Glenshee there’s lots of traffic on the awful A93. Last time I was up at Glenshee for Glas Tulaichean I checked out some suitable parking spots. So I was fully prepared and only dependent on the weather.
The prediction was for a dry day, not much wind and cloud around 1100m. Possibly some drizzle or snow but nothing much. Excellent. I was away early, about 7.30am as it’s 2hrs drive or so up the b-awful A93. As to be expected, it was bad. It’s a nasty twisty road with scant place for overtaking. Couple that with drivers more interested with skiing and you get the picture. On the way up I missed out on checking for a suitable parking place to bag Hill of Persie, it’s on one of the few overtaking straights! Anyway, I was soon at the top of the glen in the queue of cars waiting to park. The dude controlling the traffic was surprised I wanted to continue on and not park with the hundreds already on site.
It’s another 10km to the car park at Auchallater Farm, NO155882. This is one of two starts for Creag nan Gabhar. The other is by the entrance to Baddock Farm NO139834. There’s a track that cross the the bealach of Creag nan Gabhar and Carn Dubh and you can nip up to the summit from there. Given there wasn’t enough light to stay on this one for a decent activation and do another summit, I chose the other path from Auchallater as it’s a longer walk. No point driving for 4+ hours if the walk isn’t worth it.
There’s now a Pay & Display meter in the car park. This is new and the sign suggests why you should buy a ticket. Cheapskates can find alternate parking if they don’t want to stump up £2.50. The Invercauld Estate is quite pro-walkers unlike some I could name around Glen Lyon so I had no problem with the cost. YMMV. There’s space for 20 cars as this is the start of the track that leads to Lochallater Lodge, Carn an Tuirc, Jock’s Road and onto Lochnagar. It’s probably busy in the summer. But today on a cool and grey January there was just me.
It was 3C but there was significant ice about. The hills were 50% snow covered. I followed the track for about 1.5km past the Callater Burn. This had significant amounts of ice on it but was flowing fast. The ground at this level, 370m, was frozen solid. After 1.5km there is a path on the right leading to grouse butts. Now the OS map shows a footpath but it was a bulldozed track. It shows this stopping at NO157873 but that’s nonsense, this very obvious track continues to NO157849, along most of the ridge. However, it’s just two tyre tracks not bulldozed. But, you’d think you were on a popular Munro from the scale of the trench!
There was the odd patch of very frozen snow on the way. Far too hard to walk on with out crampons. I had mine with me and the ice axe, but every patch could easily be avoided. The track thins out a bit but is still easy to follow as you climb up onto the summit dome and turn right. I’m not sure if this kind of long never ending ridge is more annoying to follow or a path which twists and snakes and you can only see the top when you arrive. But after just under 2hrs I was at the summit cairn.
The summit is quite rocky which was just as well. The ground was so hard that I couldn’t drive in any tent pegs even when using the ice-axe as a hammer. I resorted to using parts of the cairn to support the mast (I replaced them after) and stones to hold the dipole ends out. It was pleasant at the summit albeit grey. Views to the high Cairngorms were lost in the cloud which was around 1050m. Glas Maol was visible as were the comms towers on The Cairnwell. To the North, Morrone(Morven) was obvious but the grey sky and snowy ground caused the distant hills to merge to overall greyness.
60m was quite broken, and after a slack handful of contacts I went to 40m ssb. This was much more reliable and I was able to hoover up the regulars who were missing on 60m. After that I went to 40m CW were everyone was very well behaved. No exotic DX on 40m, just lots of nice easy to copy CW and the SSB ops were well behaved to. Thank you. You don’t know how much more enjoyable that makes an activation when send DL1? and only DL1 stations reply rather than everyone in Europe The WX was so mild for 834m in January that I stayed for 1hr30 on the summit.
The pack up was straight forward and I wandered out munching some energy bars. Return was the route in reverse and I arrived back at the car just as it started to rain quite hard. It didn’t feel any warmer than when I left but the ice was melting quite quickly. It was still hard packed on the track but had a good 5mm of water sat on top. There’s nothing hard to this summit. But in snow and poor visibility there’s nothing to guide you. But if you can see the track it’s trivial. On my way back I remembered to check the parking for Hill of Persie. A stunningly unimpressive 1pt hill but as I have passed by it a number of times and it’s about 30mins to the top, I must bag it when the days are longer.
Total walked: 12.6kms, total ascent: 570m, distance driven: 205miles.
White Coomb SS-030
Not unique but it’s been a while since I’ve been up this one. When I was up Broad Law last November, the hills the other side of the valley look inviting but I wasn’t sure if there was anything baggable up there. A look at the map showed a moderate climb onto a plateau then a lovely bimble to White Coomb via Molls Cleuch Dod, Firthybrig Head, Donald’s Cleuch Head and Firthope Rig. This is the wrong side approach as most people do White Coomb from somewhere near the Grey Mare’s Tail. That means crossing the Tail Burn, which can be tricky, or a longer, steeper ascent involving Lochcraig Head. I was intending to do this the week after Broad Law but some silly person ordered 5 years snow to be delivered all at once! As the snow has essentially gone around here this was back on the calendar.
So I was delighted to wake up yesterday and find 5mm of snow everywhere. Hmmm… could be more on the tricky minor road that runs to the my chosen stating point. As it was there was nothing to speak of. Only wet roads that throw up more salt onto my freshly washed car. After 40 miles it was a dirty as it was before I washed it. Hrmph!
There are not many parking places on the single track road that leads from Tweedsmuir up the side of the Talla Water when you get to the Marilyn bagging point. You can squeeze by the Megget Stone just, there’s a big passing place where you can get off the road and leave the passing place clear and down at Talla Linnfoots farm at the head of the reservoir there’s a fair amount of space. However, my last trip up here, I’d checked that you can park at the track at NT142200. You can pull of the farmer’s track by the side of the bridge. In fact you can get 3 cars here which is nice as it saves 103m of climbing. The road to here is a pig though. 1 in 5 gradient and no, absolutely no passing places for 1km and a dirty great drop off one side. Yes, I’ve had to reverse most of it twice and I didn’t enjoy it either time.
The WX was for cloud between 600-800m with sunny breaks and no precipitation expected. It was 0C and just drizzling but the cloud looked high. The wind was cold. You follow the track as far as it goes and then ford the stream in Molls Cleuch. There’s a faint ATV track to follow up the grassy slopes. Not very obvious but I knew from studying the map that it would run all the way to the summit. There’s a fence that runs down the ridge of Molls Cleuch Dod (Dod means rounded summit in these parts.) I thought I could follow that all the way to White Coomb.
The tops of the hills were white with fresh snow, but not much 1-2cms at most. I worked my way up the steepish ground to around 650m where it was simply too cold to continue as I was dressed. I had 2 baselayers on and a microfleece. The temp was just below 0C but the wind was biting. On with the Goretex and I was fine. I followed the fence till I came to an open gate and crossed over following the track. At about 700m I was into the mist. The drizzle, which had not been enough to wet me, turned to ice crystals. It was windy with ice falling for the next 3+ hrs.
The fence turned the wrong way near the summit of Molls Cleuch Dod. I knew I was near the summit as the slope eased up. But the fence wasn’t doing what was expected. I knew there was a fence and dyke all the way to the White Coombe but I couldn’t remember if there was a break here or not. I knew I could take a bearing of the col between Molls Cleuch Dod and Firthybrig Head (the next target) and following that would mean I would hit the fence. So sure I could navigate if the GPS broke, I looked at it and followed the arrow on the screen. About 1min later I came across the summit cairn and continuing in a straight line found the dyke. Here, the dyke had been demolished to make a cairn, obviously marking the place where you turn away to go back to Molls Cleuch Dod.
From here navigation is simple. But the wind was really horrible. I did spend a minute or so considering what I was doing. I was cold and the wind was strong, I had about 30m visibilty, there was snow on the ground and I had over 4km to go across an essentially flat plateau with no shelter. Having done the hard bit, the ascent, I felt turning back was no dishonour. But I thought, well try it for 10 mins and see how you feel. I adjusted all my clothes, the straps on the rucsack, positioned hats and hoods and continued with my head down to the wind.
It was like this for the next hour till I got to where I thought White Coomb’s top was. The wind on my face caused my nose to become very runny, which was not very nice. But that stopped when it froze on my moustache. Yeuch. I mean yeuch, frozen snot. It hurt to pull the icy yeuch from the hairs on my face. So when the next lump formed I left it there. The only time I’ve had my breath freeze was this Christmas when it was very still and -14C. So we can asssume there was significant windchill.
There’s an enormous AZ up here but I like to be as near to the summit as I can be. I set up using the fence which from memory is about 50m from the cairn. First thing was more layers though and I think I got set up in record time for a stiff breeze. I’d primed Brian G4ZRP and he was waiting on 60m to pounce like a crouching tiger. After that nothing. It was 5mins before I roused David G3RDQ. But both of them spotted me and business was soon brisk. The mist cleared and I could see the cairn. Almost dead were I expected it to be. I continued to work the chasers getting colder and colder and colder. After 60m dried up I though do I call on 40m SSB or not. I decided CW was not on as my fingers were stiff. I pulled the links and found my feet numb. Bad sign. Anyway a quick tune showed 7.115 +/- very busy but I did hear M0TDW/MM call CQ and I got him first call. We had a quick chat and both found some amusement in someone on top of a mountain working someone in a boat. After that I decided staying longer wasn’t sensible. I’d budgeted on having 90mins at least on the air but the wind was getting stronger and the ice falling was covering all my gear. So after 35mins on the air I pulled the plug. I’m sorry I didn’t get to work anyone in Europe but as there was at least an hour before I could start to descend it didn’t seem sensible to stay longer.
A new record was set for taking down a station. It took almost as long to change the GPS batteries as it did to take the antenna down. I placed a Mars bar and energy bars in my inside pocket to warm up and set off. Photos? Don’t be silly. I could barely feel the handles of the walking poles. We won’t mention my feet. I set off as fast as I could. Feeling returned to hands and feet after 20mins. I had the delight of sucking my Mars bar as it was too hard to bite. Still it was lovely.
After about another 20 mins the cloud lifted and the sun appeared for all of 5 minutes. The view would have been wonderful had it stayed like this. But the cloud dropped, the wind sped up and I could see my footprints were now filling with ice crystals. So I plodded back the way I’d come. Best was descending out of the wind. The energy bars had warmed up enough to be chewable and I ambled down to the car an hour 50 minutes after setting off.
7 hard earned points and a new respect for the wind on a cold day. I can safely say I have never been so cold as when I set off from the summit. I need to look at some baselayers for my legs and a better pair of gloves.
Total walked: 14.3km, total ascent: 580m, distance driven: 83 miles.