The weather forecast for Saturday suggested that conditions would be better further west and, for once, this was absolutely correct. I wanted to have a walk up a hill I hadn’t previously activated (not easy round here) and realised that round Loch Garry there were actually three that met that test and also might now be included in the expanded National Park (still to check). Parking is a breeze at Dalnaspidal (just off the A9 north of the Drumochter dual carriageway) NN645733; you can either leave the car just beyond the railway house on the abandoned A9 or drive down and leave it next to the level crossing. This location provides a potential SOTAfest – CS-083, CS-064, CS098, CS-078, CS-028 and CS-022 can all be accessed from here.
My plan was to walk-in, activate CS-064 and, if time allowed go for CS-098 and potentially CS-083. My mind is stuck on 22 years, my body in its 60’s, no chance!! The sun was shining as I booted up but the wind was from the North and COLD; the only time I took my windproof off was to put my insulated jacket on on the summit; July in Scotland – pah! Access is via a gravel track along the lochside, just a gentle warm up walk with a brief stop to look at the power station at NN624701 until the track ends at NN623686. To this point it would be feasible, indeed advised (!) to use the devil’s own to shorten the time if the return were to be the same route. From here it is a boggy route to the river which provides a good handrail for a right turn to a substantial bridge at NN614675 – the track this carries is only shown on the 1:50000 heading south, in fact it comes from somewhere to the NW. Follow the track to the substantial but hidden bothy at NN618670 – three rooms and loft sleeping space – which would be a useful base for attacking the three hills; you can also see the substantial enclosure that is also omitted from the OS map but is clearly visible on Google Earth and on the ground.
The ascent starts from here, already two hours of walking and hardly a metre of height gain; there is no obvious track although if you hunt about you will find traces of a quad bike route up the hillside. Just take the obvious line up the ridge to the outcrop that is visible, it is quite good footing and the heather is short; from this first outcrop you can see the ridge ahead leading to the rather obvious summit cairn – it is enormous. There is a downside though (there always is), the summit ridge has several hidden descents and re-ascents which are not obvious on the map so the walk will talk quite a bit longer than seems to be reasonable. It took me 4 hours from car to summit including a break to explore the bothy. The summit itself is quite small but there is plenty of space in the activation zone to put up an HF dipole and to find shelter from the wind. Did I say it was cold?
A brief call on 5MHz brought Steve GW7AAV who was strong with me but he suffered from qsb on my signal. Steve spotted me and then followed a string of regulars to qualify the summit all of whom were strong with me but they all suffered from lots of qsb and local qrm. Working like this I was able to admire the view from my sheltered spot – Schiehallion, Ben Alder massive, Grey Corries, Nevis – hundreds of hills and cracking visibility, glorious. I then shifted to 40m, with a self spot, (no idea why Andy (MM0FMF) didn’t have a signal to spot himself as there are masts either side of the A9 covering all providers and I had end stopping signals on Vodaphone and O2). This attracted several more stations including some I worked on 60m; finally I self spotted on 17m to work Italy, Austria, Scotland and an unfinished JA (I even pulled the key out for that last one but didn’t receive the final R’s). By now I realised that I wasn’t going to make CS-098 in the time I had available to me and my body wasn’t going to make CS-083 so I started to pack up when I heard Robin GM7PKT calling CQ on 2m so had to bag a summit to summit and when we finished MM3WJZ tail ended for another summit to summit. By now it was heading for 1600hrs and I still had 3 ½ hours or so out plus the drive home and no food for the dog. The descent is easier once you realise which way to go to minimise all the re-ascent, unfortunately I put a foot in a hole on the way down, sending me headlong, so the rest of the walk out was rather uncomfortable if otherwise uneventful.
The best part of the day was that the weather to the east had been awful and I had enjoyed sunshine all day even if the temperature only reached the heady heights of 12C by the end of the day (and single figures on the summit). I didn’t see a soul all day until I got back to my car and I had really enjoyed the walk and the activation.
As always, my thanks to the chasers who made this activation possible