Activation Report: Creag Uchdag SS-022

This summit was the last of the 3x 4pt summits that lay to the south east of Loch Tay that I had on my to do list. I’d activated Creagan na Beinnie SS-019 and Shee of Ardtalnaig SS-047 back in early 2008 but Creag Uchdag had escaped activation. In fact typical of this area it was still unactivated by anyone in mid-2010, 7 years after SOTA started simply because there are many bigger hills in the area with better access. Despite going unactivated for 7 years, Creag Uchdag was activated twice in 3 days, once by Jack GM4COX and once by me. Although I didn’t even spot Jack had been up there till my QSO with him from the trig point.

There are two obvious approaches to this quite remote summit, one is from the north from the village of Ardeonaig on Loch Tay and the other is from the south from Loch Lednock dam at the top of Glen Lednock. Either way there’s around 6km to walk to the summit. If you look on the map you’ll see just how remote this summit given that it’s only about 1hr30 drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Jack’s activation took in Creag Gharbh SS-099 aswell so he had an enormous walk! Given that driving to Loch Lednock is much less hassle than driving to Ardeonaig, I settled for the southern approach. Especially as I’d checked that you can drive right to the foot of the dam rather than stopping at the Ben Chonzie SS-015 parking place and walking 2km to the dam.

After a very hot week the WX was much cooler and the sky was a mix of blue, light grey clouds and some big black ones. There must have been some serious overnight rain as the roads were soaked as drove up the narrow road to the dam from Creiff. Still it was relatively mild even though the wind was veering to the north. As I continued up the gated road all the gates were open bar one right near the dam. I know that SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) tolerate vistors at the dam but I wasn’t sure if the gate was closed to stop visitors driving further or to keep livestock in. I value the access rights we have in Scotland as they are so free and not wanting to possibly enrage landowners by driving where I shouldn’t, I parked at the gate. There was space for 3 HGV vehicles to park by the gate and I walked the remaining 750m to the dam. Of course, there were 5 vehicles parked there but 750m is nothing even if it was up the steepest bit of the road. :wink:

My route followed the hydro road around the east side of the dam and then straight up steep banking. Like all the dams up here, there are maze of access roads from when they were built and to the various river interceptor facilities. The main flow to Loch Lednock is the River Lednock but water comes from many of the rivers caught and diverted into the loch. Also near the foot of Creag Gharbh SS-099 is Lochan Breachlaich, another manmade loch. There is a large tunnel that runs 11km from there to fill Loch Lednock. The pipe and gate control building is visible from the dam. Big pipe!

The track was easy walking apart from the gradient and in the morning intermittent sun and humidity I was really steaming when I reach the gate at the end of the track. This is deer country and I’d checked Geograph and other peoples descriptions in case there were any 12ft deer fences to cross however, there are only sheep fences to worry about. From the gate it’s wild walking across heather, peat and rough moorland grass. The sheep fence was a suitable navigation aid in that it could be followed right to another fence that ran to the col between Meall Dubh Mor (Big Black Hill) and Creag nan Eun. Follow one fence to the other, follow other fence to col, follow nose up Meall Dubh Mor onto Creag Uchdag. Easy peasy!

After about 300m I hit the Allt Mor. Here’s a hint to anyone using OS maps, if it looks a tiny stream on a 1:50000 check it’s a tiny stream on the 1:25000 scale. I did and it was. Here’s a hint to OS cartographers, don’t draw tiny streams on 1:25000 maps when they’re big enough, fast enough and deep enough to have cut a 40ft deep ravine and you need to find stepping stones and boulders to cross them! Task done but it took a few minutes to find somewhere trivial to cross.

From then it’s a flatish walk along the shoulder of the hills. Most of the climbing is done on the access tracks. As I walked along I spied an ATV track going my way. I decided to use that as it would significantly reduce the effort of heather bashing and even if it went a bit out of the way the extra distance to walk would be less effort than rough walking. As it was it bimbled along perfectly to where I needed to be, a little further up by my next fence. The next fence had long since succombed to the Perthshire weather. Again it’s shown on the 1:25000 map but all that remained were the iron and wood fence posts. I could see them in the distance but in poor visibility you could miss them. There’s another fast and deep stream to cross. It’s thigh deep and was flowing fast but was only about 9in wide! I followed this up into the col.

This was really the only icky bit of ground. Typical of peat covered moorland, the col was a bit wet with lots of peat hags. The fence posts were my guide still and it was here where I came across the 1st patches of snow. Looking rather grey on top there were some significant patches, especially as this was south-ish facing ground. The fence should have run straight to the trig on Creag Uchdag so I followed the posts. I did think this was a never ending walk but it’s simply that 2km of hags and rough ground requires a lot of concentration. I like to be sure there are lots of navigation hints when in places like this. Yes, I have a GPS but I don’t like relying on it solely.

Anyway after what seemed like a lifetime but was probably 25mins I touched the trig point. It was quite murky to the horizons but the view was good still. My favourite view to the Ben Lawers ridge was good, the Glen Lyon Munros and Scheihallion were resplendant and there was a neat view down to the dam which looked a lot further away than my legs suggested. I set up using the trig to support the pole and I wasn’t worried about meeting anyone else on this summit so I put the wires out running east-west across the faint path to the trig.

Conditions on 60m seemed fair and I made contacts on SSB and CW. A QSY to 40m brought a few SSB contacts and after that I added the 30m danglers to the link dipole (they flaten out the SWR after the wire shrank in the rain !) and worked a good handfull on stations there, HB9, DL, ON and a 9A for a new country on SOTA. I’d had a CW/SSB QSO with Jack GM4COX were he told me he activated this summit 3 days earlier and he tought it was strange that we’d both picked it after ignoring it for so long!

It had threatened to rain a few times and it was quite cool when the sun went in but the WX remained quite nice. The wind did get colder but I used the trig as a windbreak. After a pleasant period operating on this remote summit it was time to go. Due to the heat and humidity I’d packed extra water. I didn’t think I’d need it as it was pleasant after the initial climb but I did consume quite a lot sat at the trig so it was just as well I’d brought. For some reason it weighs less in the stomach than on my back.

The route back was the reverse. You could do a nice walk with two cars but a bit of pig to set it all up. It showered for 10mins down to the col but not enough to bother me to put on waterproofs. On the way back I pondered something which had bugged me on the way up. I followed an ATV track. But the gate was one side of the Allt Mor and the track was the other, so how did the ATV cross the ravine? It didn’t! Near to the gate I saw the ATV track run off down the hill to below the gate I’d used. That’s were I found another spur running off the track which I’d missed and a bridge across the water. The bridge had collapsed possibly under weight of snow this year but there was an easy ford to cross. Back down to the car and I finished off the water, had a banana and an apple and set off home. It must have been hot because I drank 3.75L of water on the day.

This is a really enjoyable walk. Do it after a dry spell or when everything is frozen as the damp bits could be nasty. Navigation is easy and you get a great feeling of remoteness and solitude. The Lednock Dam is a miracle of 50’s engineering too. It does seem strange this has not been activated before considering how nice it is.

Distance driven: 134miles, distance walked: 13km total, ascent: 740m