These mountains are best kept for a drought or when well frozen
I always try to get up a hill on my last day off before Christmas. The wx forecast for Western Scotland looked to be the best, with the strong chance of an inversion. I decided on Beinn a’ Chaorainn 1049m GM/CS-012 and Beinn Teallach 915m GM/CS-044.
MONDAY 20TH DECEMBER
I left home at 0545z and had an ‘interesting’ drive across the Central Highlands, with frosted roads over the Lecht and 20km of black ice between Tomintoul and Granton-on-Spey. At least I now know that the Land Rover’s brakes are balanced - it skids in a straight line! (No ABS brakes.)
I set off on the hike at 0820, parking just a few hundred metres to the east of the Laggan dam. There’s room for a few cars at the trailhead, with a larger car park along the main road.
The first photo illustrates the wx. Very grey and sub-zero.
Through the forest, then clear fell for 1.5km
The Land Rover track gave way to an ATV track after 1.5km. It started to ascend the broad grassy ridge of Beinn a’ Chaorainn. The track then became an indistinct path. Now, here is why I picked today for this hike. The ground was frozen from low altitude. This made the frozen grass and mud straightforward to ascend. Once thawed it would be really heavy going and it probably would be like this for half of the ascent.
This would be an absolute bog trot when thawed
I was just starting to think if the cloud would continue all the way up when I spied some jet vapour trails in the sky above me, and a hint of blue through the fog.
Eventually I broke through, just in time for sunrise and a wonderful mountainscape of peaks floating like ships on the sea of cloud.
First glimpse of hope at 650m asl
The mountain starts to appear before me 700m asl
The moon and Beinn Teallach GM/CS-044
Looking south towards Stob Coire Easain GM/WS-015
Sunrise at 0930
Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag GM/WS-002 and Ben Nevis GM/WS-001 peeking out behind
The broad ridge leading to Beinn a’ Chaorainn GM/CS-012
The Aonachs and Ben Nevis again
I read that dangerous cornices can form on Beinn a’ Chaorainn
The direct ascent continued up towards the subsidiary top and then it was a simple march along the edge towards the summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn.
Beinn a’ Chaorainn summit cairn
I found a grassy spot away from the summit rocks, set up the inverted v (40/20m) on a 7m pole and called CQ on 40m ssb using the kx2.
Cue an almighty pile up. And an amazingly short skip, allowing me to work a handful of GM and GI stations as well as the usual G, GW, F, EA etc. @GM0GAV came on the mic. for his Complete.
I then popped onto the handheld, expecting a few locals to be looking for my 2m Spot. That brought @GM7PKT Robin, and local chaser Gordon GM4OAS.
I’d packed up and was just heading off the summit plateau when @2M0KZN Jonathan came crackling through. He was nearly at the top of Lochnagar. I was still in the AZ, so I decided to take an early lunch and wait. 20 minutes later a summit to summit over to GM-ES-008, using handhelds both ways, at around 86km.
That put me behind schedule. Shane @G6WBS had messaged me earlier in the week asking if I was out Monday. He was going up Ben Nevis GM/WS-001, arrival time 1300 and was looking for a summit to summit. I planned on being on Beinn Teallach at 1300 but it was now looking like 1330, so I got a march on, Descending rocky and then smoother grassy slopes towards the watershed, I dropped back into the freezing fog as I went. As I dropped, I heard Shane put out his CQ on 2m and I managed to work him for the chase. He was early!
Beinn Teallach, the next objective
I believe this is called a fogbow
back into the freezer
a glimpse of clearer skies
At the watershed I found mainly frozen bog and peat hags, followed by steep frozen grassy slopes that eventually led to a rocky maze of outcrops and knolls, which only eased at the summit cairn.
threading my way through outcrops and false summits
It was 1310 and I’d covered the ground in 30 mins less than planned. When I got my breath back, I spotted and called on 2m, working Robin again, Shane and surprisingly Jonathon, who was still on Lochnagar. Shane and I had a good yap and we both agreed that this was the best mountain day we’d had in ages and that we did not want to leave our respective summits!
I couldn’t make that elusive fourth contact on 2m. I’d brought the cables for my beam but neglected to pack the actual aerial!
I set up the W3EDP/kx2 combo. I then noticed that I’d been running just 5W on the last summit. Last time out, I was using it with a 40w amp…
40m was the usual afternoon QRM, so with 11 stations in the log I switched to 20m for a quieter experience, making a further 16 contacts, with AC1Z giving me 3/3 from across the pond. I worked a further 3 S2S (into Spain and Switzerland), making it 6 for the day.
Moutain radio on Beinn Teallach GM/CS-044
Beinn Teallach over to Ben Nevis, line of sight to GM6WBS
It was now 1415 and I really needed to get moving if I wanted to be down by dark. I was loathe to leave my summit, however the views on the way down kept my spirit high, until I hit the fog that is.
Floating mountains in the afternoon sun
Descending, the cloud rising like a wall in front of me
The broad grassy slope was mainly featureless and it was also endless. Despite GPS I kept drifting off to the right and was having to constantly correct. Eventually a new deer fence was reached and crossed (gate). Here I picked up a muddy ATV track that was thankfully frozen. This eventually became a grass track and I followed it to, and across shallows of the Allt a’Chaorainn. From here is was 20 minutes on the forest track, arriving back at the Landie around 1600.
Thankfully this was frozen
Celebrating an amazing day and 500 Activator points in 2021 with a wee tin of Scotlands other national drink
Ascent of Beinn a’Chaorainn 2 hours
Over to Beinn Teallach 1 hour 10 mins
Descent to car 1 hour 30 mins
Total distance 11.8 miles, 19km
I was carying full winter kit as I couldn’t be sure of the conditions. The ice axe and crampons were not needed. You’ll see from the pictures that there has been a thaw after early season snow. The winter boots and double socks certainly were needed on the frozen ground.
@GM0GAV asked me on another thread if it was “Manky” on the hill today. Well no mainly, but these would sure be manky hills in wet mild condition and any climber would end up manky having climbed them!
Finally, it’s all work, work, work from now until Hogmanay (31st December), so it was nice to finish on a high, with a memorable hike and two nice activations. Thanks Chasers and fellow Activators!
73, and Happy Christmas!