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2 GM/SS Summit Activation reports

I enjoy reading the activation reports of other activators, so seeing as these summits haven’t had too many activations, I thought I’d write my story.

GM/SS-075 Ballencleuch Law

Now Andy MM0FMF has written a great report on this summit in the reflector, well worth reading if you are thinking of activating this summit. This is my two pennies worth.

Turning off the M74 at junction 14 in fog I headed down to the Dalveen pass and it was only upon reaching the pass that the fog lifted, bathing the hills in sunshine.

Starting at the village of Durisdeer (NS894036), (I’ve parked here a few time in the past and it’s always really quiet) I walked up the old coaching road (I think this was the old route to Edinburgh before the Dalveen pass was used), only a few minutes down the track and a buzzard took to the sky from the field to my left, quickly followed by its mate. This old coaching road is the continuation of the track used by Andy MM0FMF, just approaching from the opposite direction. Off to the left about half way to the top of the pass is the earthworks of a small Roman fort and there is a short path signposted to this. As I walked up the track I’d look back to the south to see much of the land shrouded in fog with only the hills protruding out of the top.

At the top of the pass I entered the fog myself and from here I took the same route as Andy to the summit of Ballencleuch Law. I was pleased the ground was frozen as there was plenty of potential for it to be rather boggy in places. So following the wall then fence up to Durisdeer Hill, Little Scaw’d Law, Scaw’d Law and finally Ballencleuch Law. It was sunshine all the way up so the views were fantastic particularly to the fog covered valleys to the south and it was interesting to see how the western slopes of the hills still hung on to a frost whilst the sun had quickly melted it on the eastern slopes.

No shelter at all on the summit just a fence running right down the middle of it and rather usefully a few fence posts stuck in the ground and held together loosely with some wire, making an ideal pole support. But not a summit I’d want to hang around on if the weather wasn’t being so kind. I wasn’t sure how I’d get on, on 2m here, there having been only one previous QSO in 4 activations but I was fortunate enough to qualify the summit with 5 QSOs.

Activation over I headed back the way I’d come to Scaw’d law, now you could either descend by the route used to ascend the summit or from Scaw’d law head south west over Blackgrain shoulder and down to the landrover track in the valley.

But for something a bit longer I headed over to Wedder Law and then down Tansley Rig, the track gradually getting better during the descent, a few years ago I rode the mountain bike down this but I was pleased I wasn’t on the bike this day as the combination of the steep slope lower down and the ice would have been rather interesting to say the least. Finally picking up the landrover track which runs all the way back to Durisdeer, passing a small bothy on the way. Just getting back to car in the last few minutes of daylight.

GM/SS-004 Cruach Ardrain
The snow was down at Crianlarich and the mountains were all covered in their white winter jackets.

One of the trickiest bits of the day was finding my way through the forest which covers much of the lower slopes of the mountain. Not made any easier by the snow covering the ground and covering any potential paths there might have been. Fortunately large sections of the forest had been cleared and not yet re-planted so I could see where I wanted to be and eventually opted for the direct cross country route straight across the cleared forest, it was only afterwards that I realised that the fire road appeared to offer a less direct and less rough alternative. Now there might be a path here but nothing was visible in the snow.

So above the tree line and onto Grey Height, the end of the ridge leading to Cruach Ardrain. The snow was about knee height and a fine powder which is about the hardest stuff to walk in, every step sinking down to your knees.

Fortunately for me I met what must be an alternative approach route from further down Glen Falloch, anyway a few folks must have used this route the previous day as they’d created a nice channel through the snow, so I opted to follow this rather than forge my own way through the snow. Rising all the time along the broad ridge to Meall Dhamh, the views were nothing short of amazing, seeing all the mountains in full winter conditions, sunshine and negligible wind, you see views like this on calendars and there was me leaving my camera in the car – doh!

Approaching from the north meant I was in the shade most of the way up but having also forgotten to pick up my sunnies out of the car this actually worked out quite well as I didn’t have to cope with the sun reflecting off the snow for much of the ascent.

At Meall Dhamh you have to drop down to the col and it was from here that the wind had blown away any traces of channel I had been following so it was back to making my own way through the snow up the steep slopes to the summit and it is a really steep slope particularly in the snow.

There are two peaks and it is the far one that is the true summit. Finally getting views to the south I could see that the whole of the central belt was in fog, again with many snow covered hills rising out of the fog it was one amazing view.

Sheltering behind a small crag, the snow drift there made an ideal support for my “fishing pole”. It was nice to get plenty of contacts from the summit, thanks and many thanks to Ken, GM0AXY for the spots. But by the time I was finished my toes were telling me it was time to get moving.

I had it in mind to continue on from here to Beinn Tulaichean the second Munro on the ridge, although not a SOTA summit. But the time spent “messing around” trying to find my way through the forest earlier and then sitting on the summit playing radio meant I was very aware of the limited amount of daylight left. Dropping of the peak I was in two minds, but decided that I’d leave it for another day as “bagging” this extra peak would have meant a good chunk of the descent in the dark. I was really pleased I’d made this choice as soon into the descent I looked to my right to see a Broken Spectre, absolutely stunning, something I’ve only read about, at this rate it’ll be another 10 years before I see another one!! Well worth missing the other Munro for.
That initial descent is steep so I was pleased to have the crampons with me,

I checked out the forest fire roads at the end of the descent and they are a much better option than my initial cross country option.

I’ll go back for Beinn Tulaichean, I might try an ascent from the south from Inverlochlarig, that way I can carry on to Cruach Ardrain and activate it again already having Beinn Tulaicheanin in the bag.

Iain, M(M)3WJZ

In reply to M3WJZ:

A super report Iain - thanks for writing it. You have put a name to what I saw on a summit last year. Searching the term I found this site - http://www.atoptics.co.uk/ - useful as a reference source for those almost out of world experiences.

Well done on the activations - sorry to have missed you this time round.

73, Gerald

In reply to M3WJZ:

So you did from the other end then. Congratulations on joining the select few who have activated this hill (me and Jack GM4COX). The photos of the area show some lovely countryside but it was dreik when I was there. Still Well Hill and Ballencleuch Law make a good pair. It must have been great with sun and hard frozen ground. I remember it being quite squidgy along the flatter parts following the wall. It sounds like the ground you had was the same as mine on Black Mount, frozen rock hard. I’d like to know what the ground is really like when it’s not frozen as the ground between Scaw’d Law and Wedder Law passes over Carshope Middens which drains off a huge area of these hills. I reckon it must be very nasty stuff after a wet spell.

If the snow doesn’t let up soon I reckon the ground here will be like Cruach Ardrain was for you. It’s been coming down hard for the last 3 hours and the real dump is due tomorrow… talk is of 20cms for these parts (about 160mASL).
I was hoping to do either An Casteal or Cruach Ardrain this November. I’d been trying to push my lardy figure this year by climbing at least 4point hills and having done a few Munros I had those two down for November. Then I went and gubbed my ankle. Hrmmmph! Still it held up fairly well on Black Mount. Though it’s not 100% yet and I wouldn’t like to try anything tricky, Black Mount is a gentle stroll to be honest. I’m sure I read that the Southern approach to Beinn Tulachian is quite hard going. Certainly it looked as steep and rough as the Southern end of Stob Binnein from across the glen. If you do drive to Inverlochlarig then allow 25-30mins for the section from Balquhidder, longer in bad weather.

Thanks for the excellent reports, we don’t get too many from GM and I really enjoying reading other peoples views on hills I’ve climbed and, of course, reading about hills I’ve still to climb.