Well after an enforced break it was time to get out again. I had a new toy to play with too! I’ve invested in an Asus eeePC701 micro-laptop for many reasons. Mainly because it’s a cute toy but it does make portable PSK possible and also to prove I don’t need a Windows machine as a prime PC (I’ve got 2 Linux PCs on in the shack now plus this WinXP machine!) So where to go? Well I’m trying to do uniques more now and also as the WX is better, looking for 4pt hills as the minimum. (That’s 700-900m for non-GM activators)
Southern Perthshire around Loch’s Tay, Earn and Voil has a silly number of hills and I’m slowly doing them all. Ben Each (pronounced yeekkkkk) looked a suitable candidate and it’s possible to continue on to Stuc a’Chroin. A potential 10 pts. The path to Stuc a’Chroin involves a steep descent to the Bealach na Cabar and then a climb of 385m to the summit. It didn’t sound unreal on paper although a description on a net site suggested the descent to the bealach was scary and exposed. Since my last walk the snow has had a big fright and so I swapped out a lot of the winter walking gear for summer stuff. Suncream, ‘midge-away’, more water, less fleecy stuff etc. Also since I lost my sunhat on my last walk in spiffing weather on Craignaw last October, I needed a new one and much to my beloved’s chagrin bought a bush hat in Asda. She claims I look like Benny Hill in it. Pah!
Parking is easy for this hill, there is a big layby on the A84 at Ardchullarie More NN582137 by the side of the lovely Loch Lubnaig. Space for 8 cars easily but there were 3 in it when I arrived at 9.30. The start is well signposted as you walk past the farmhouse and then you get an introduction to what the walk will be like. The path enters a forest at ascends at a very steep angle. Ideally a long walk in would allow you legs to warm up but by the time you get to the main track through the glen your legs will be nice and warm!
When I left home it was misty and cool. Visibility was poor and the cloudbase was low. It was like this all the way to Callandar when the mist thinned. It was to be murky all day but it was hot at the layby. Now the route continues along the main track through some more trees till you pop out into open countryside. Boy was it hot then. I can’t remember when it was this hot on a walk. My route was to go up the hill as soon as I cleared the trees but I’d read there was a path so I continued to the 1st big stream crossing the path at NN589150. An internet route suggests this is hard to cross when in spate. It was a mere trickle and didn’t look like it ever got that big. However, 4 years back there was tremendous flash flooding in this area including major landslips in Glen Ogle and the bridge at Edinample (the other end to Glen to Loch Lubnaig) was washed away. So take note if it has been wet for sometime.
As soon as you cross the stream you can see the path. The start is a bit boggy but only for 30m or so. Then it starts. The climb. The non-stop relentless ascent. It doesn’t look that steep. No more than many hills I’ve been up. But within minutes I was soaking wet and gasping. Now I’ve had 2 weekends off climbing but I now ride my bike to work so it’s not like I’ve been idle. But any onwards and upwards as the path climbs. I pressed on trying to keep a steady but constant rate. The path is very easy to follow as it is quite a scar in the landscape. Unlike many it doesn’t zig zag much which is bad for my legs and the ground. Still it’s hard to get lost. Around NN592151 I met two blokes coming down. They had enough with this one hill and were going to find a pub. In fact they christened it Ben B@st@rd! They pointed out the path is a bit exposed but they found a better one coming down. Noted, I pressed on.
Hey a flat bit. Not for long and then I found the exposed bit. From NN594152 to NN594194 the path runs VERY close to the edge. The drop looks to enough to be considered permanent should you stumble. So take care. I saw no sign of the other path even though I looked for it. It’s not steep here so it wasn’t hard work. I don’t like exposure or heights but I wasn’t too concerned though. Strong winds and/or ice would make this bit ‘interesting’! Then more climbing and then stupid time. At NN595156 the path turns right and goes straight up following the line of a long since vanished fence. Very, very, very steep with about 4 cms of rusty iron fence post remains sticking out of the ground. Half way up I admitted defeat and for the 1st time since Craignaw last year I had to stop and take the bag off for a rest. Probably 10mins later I set off again somewhat more refreshed.
When the sillyness stops there’s a short flat bit followed by the final pull. And you can see Stuc a’Chroin. His summit was clear of mist, the cloudbase looked to be much higher than 1000m, there’s a pic of this on Flickr with Stuc a’Chroin in the background. Ben Ledi at 890m was well obscured all the time with a local cloud stuck to just the top. About 15 minutes later I was at the top. I looked at the path onwards and knew that to do that was beyond my fitness. In fact on the way back I met another 6 walkers coming up who all admitted they’d tried to do both hills in the past and decided it was too much for them. So that’s twice that Stuc a’Chroin has been a hill too far. Still there’s always next time!
There’s enough fence posts at the top to support the fishing rod and half the dipole, a walking pole did service for the other side. So everything went up easily as it was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze. Praise to the highest… 60m was working good style. No problems working people but there was deep QSB. NVIS skip was available to GM0AXY and GM7PKT/P. Having worked everyone around on 60m it was time for PSK fun. Out came the eeePC and the cables. USB>serial dongle for PTT, homemade audio cable and we were in business. I called and 1st problem. No TX monitor. I’d monitored stuff in the shack on another HF set. Never mind, the noise came back when the TX finished. 2nd problem, I had difficulty seeing the screen in the sun. 3rd problem, nobody came back to the transmission. Ha! put the 817 into DIG mode and then we had some TX output! I was delighted to work 4 stations on 60m, Ken GM0AXY, Pete M0COP, Angus G3TXL and Cris GM4FAM. Is this the 1st summit that has been qualified on PSK? Anyway a qsy to 3.723 and Cris was a good signal. Andy MM0USU was colossal. Andy told me he had a nasty local noise on that frequency, so I think I’ll try 3.727 from now on. Nobody else worked on LSB and no more takers on PSK (did I have DIG selected?). I packed up and enjoyed a nice slow lunch in the sun with a few photos taken.
Then down the way I came up. It was as hard going down as coming up. I wouldn’t fancy it without poles to help. As any walker will tell you, you can see the path you missed on the way up when you come down and when I got to the very steep bit, the other path was obvious. So I followed that and then joined up the original path. A few steps on I turned around and I could not see a trace of where I had come down! I continued the walk out and now it was hotter than ever. Finally back at the car I was well knackered. The front of my legs were sore. It’s well over a year since they felt like this, more like when I first started hillwalking. I suppose the hill was steep and my bag was heavier than normal didn’t help. Time for some more rationalisation on the contents I think, as having weighed, it it’s crept up to 16.5kg!
Distance walked: 6.4km, total ascent: 680m, distance driven: 120miles.
Pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf/
Today (Monday) my legs ache something rotten. Ben Each is really quite a stunning little hill. It’ll be a while before I do it again! But if you get up this way it’s worth doing.