Activation report: Creag Gharbh SS-099

The full report will follow. But for now some pictures are on the flickr group. The light was weird and the pictures are all a bit grey. There was lovely sun of course, but not when there was anything worth photographing!


In reply to MM0FMF:
Lovely atmospheric pics, Andy!


Brian G8ADD

Great photo’s Andy, a great days walking!

Thanks for the comments on the photos. A friend was up that area on Saturday and the sun was out, his photos were much nicer.

OK. Creag Gharbh was another unactivated hill on the South side of Loch Tay. I can only surmise that with the North side offering many 8 and 10 point hills, the lowly 2 and 4 pointers have been left for lardy lumps like me! Actually I had kept this one back as a “suitable for when there’s lots of snow”. I’m not experienced enough to go much higher and I don’t (yet) have crampons.

I missed the road driving in and as soon as things felt wrong I stopped where a bloke was standing at a Land Rover. As I drew up he turned round holding the biggest rifle I’ve ever seen! He was out for deer with his mate who was still in the forest. Having put me right for the Hydro road he said “Be careful if you go off the road, my mate’s still in there looking for the deer which I missed.” Yikes! It’s hard enough for me to lug my body up a hill without someone taking shots at me! Luckily I saw them drive past before I set off. Phew!

The route consists of walking up the excellent Hydro Board road to the Lochan Braecliach Dam and reservoir. Parking on the South Loch Tay road is at a premium but there’s space for one car at the gate to the Hydro road at NN584322. It was -5C according to the car, sunny(ish) and the air was wonderfully crisp as I stood in the heavily forested area. There was intermittent snow on the ground here at 150m but the Hydro road was completely white.

I set off at 10.20 up the fairly steep hill. This is through a pine forest (probably Sitka) and the road is a proper tarmac surface and very smooth. Well the bits visible through the snow. Within a few hundred metres the snow was 5cm deep and as I climbed it slowly got deeper and crisper. Most of it was sugar like in consistency and only were a tractor had been up the hill was it compressed into ice. There were lots of boots and cross country ski tracks so the road is obviously popular. Despite the low temperature and only were a long sleeved shirt and microfleece I was soon boiling up nicely due to the lack on any wind.

You emerge from the forest and the road seems to level out. It’s an illusion, there’s more up than down. I followed the road and saw a large female deer inside the deer fence designed to keep them out! Probably what the stalkers were after. The walk was relatively easy, I walked in the ski tracks as this was easier than crushing the 15-20cm deep snow. The road meanders along and you can see over the trees below to get a view of Ben Lawers and friends. Nice. But the sun went in so I didn’t get a shot with the snow golden. I walked passed the dam wall and then got my first view of the reservoir frozen over. The majority of the 1km x 0.5km surface was frozen. The road from here on is much rougher, I think it’s hardcore not surfaced. The snow was also deeper with large areas consolidated enough to support my bulk. As I continued past there was a huge cracking noise followed by an almighty rumble. I thought there was an avalanche occurring. Actually I watched a crack in the ice spread many hundreds of metres across the surface and as the ice sheets moved the rubbed against themselves and the dam the sound echoed around the hills. A very disconcerting noise the first time it happened. It happened regularly after that but it still made me jump.

After nearly 6km I left the road and went up the slope at NN631621. Creag Gharbh means “rough crags” and the odd crag could be seen sticking out of the snow. Mostly the hill was white with the tops of rough grass or heather poking through. On with the gaiters and off into the unknown. On average the soft snow was collapsing so I was sinking in to my knees. I only had about 130m to climb and 500m to travel. So that should take about 20mins tops. I doubled it for the snow! Then I struck it lucky. Some other fool had been up within 24hrs. There was a fine set off prints going up. Thank you very much. Progress was 3 times quicker in these steps. Then my trail breaker gave up and descended. Drat! I kept going up now having to break trail myself. There were many large areas of consolidated snow followed by soft knee deep stuff. I simply kept plodding but care a wary eye on the slope and where I could fall to. Whilst it’s quite steep in places I didn’t feel out of my depth using only walking poles. There was one bit which was steep and soft. If it had been hard it was too steep to scale without crampons. As it was it was thigh deep and hard work.

I got to about 50m from the trigpoint. The ground was now very solid and also very slippery unlike the consolidated stuff. Without spikey feet I decided this was as far as I was going. I was at 620m on a 637m summit. The ground rose up from me with no dips… yes, I was in the AZ and off came my bag. 2hr20 including many stops on the way for photos and a breather etc. Anquet says 2hr9 continuous walking, so this time will do me!

There wasn’t a breath of wind on the summit so the set up was easy. Radio conditions were good and most stations were good signals with not much noticeable QSB to me. A few people reported deep irregular QSB on my signal made worse by the lower power I was using but a healthy 21 contacts were made including M0HED for the 1st time. It was good to work Don G0RQL who was missing last week. Also conditions were good enough for a contact with Ken and Christine GM0AXY/GM4YMM in Edinburgh, definitely NVIS me thinks.

Now I’m going to ask for favour. A few times people I didn’t even know had been calling would appear giving me a report oblivious I was working someone else. This is very confusing for a fat tired Andy sitting in a big bank of snow! If you haven’t heard me call your call then I’m probably not working you. If I did call you and you missed then I’ll call you again. But don’t just assume that I working you because you can’t hear me working somebody else. There’s always at least one “big gun” QRV who will help marginal stations without passing on the vital info so you can be happy you had a genuine contact. I’m not going to identify anyone because I know it’s not malicious. The same people when they can hear have impeccable on-air manners. So if you are having real difficulty please ask for help because we’ll all work each other quicker that way. Anyway, I want more QSOs rather than fewer, especially after lugging the gear all the way up a hill so I’m happy to persevere with you as long as it’s just one difficult QSO at a time. Thanks.

I wasn’t happy to stay on the hill too long as the cloud was building all the time. I could see some of the hills 20+km away disappearing into the clag and I didn’t want it to happen to me. The forecast was for heavy snow that evening yet it looked like it was arriving early. Also with a 2hr walk out and the deep snow on the hill to get through I wanted out before the worse weather hit me. That meant no other bands. Sorry. I didn’t even eat or have a cup of tea up there I was so keen to get onto the road. So I packed up and descended about 4 times quicker than I came up. Off with gaiters and out with the lunch and flask of tea. I’m not into soup but tea on a summit is oh so civilised. 10 mins break and then the walk out was the reverse.

It took 1hr30 to walk the 5km back to the car from my lunch spot that did include some photo stops and comfort breaks and once away from the constant rumbling of the ice on the water, about 5 mins to have a humbug and enjoy the almost complete silence with no wind. Magic. Then like all good things it was off with the boots and a change of shirt and home. A good 1hr50 to get home with the traffic that had built up during the day. The last non-motorway section from Callendar to Stirling always drags as you end up behind people who my later father always called “Sunday drivers”. People who are happy at 40mph and make no effort to allow faster traffic to pass. I have a better word for them that rhymes with chartered! :wink: When the revolution comes my friends, those chartereds will be some of the first up against the wall! By the time I was home the snow was falling. Back just in time as it got heavy soon after and my justification for stopping after one band was correct.

Total walked: 12.5km, total ascent: 635m: distance driven: 152miles

Thanks to everyone who worked me and to John GW4BVE for the spot.


In reply to MM0FMF:

Weird… “Then I struck it lucky. Some other fool had been up within 24hrs. There was a fine set off prints going up. Thank you very much. Progress was 3 times quicker in these steps. The my trail breaker gave up and descended.”

Thanks for writing my report for Black Hill SP-002 Andy. Paul G4MD and myself had the same good fortune for the first kilometre of our ascent, then the trail just disappeared. We wondered whether alien abduction had occurred, but probably not. For us it was then 2.5 kilometres of up-to-a-metre deep snow and as you say, it halves your speed.

Good call on the WX front. Always better safe than sorry. Sounds like you enjoyed it anyway.

73, Gerald