The present spell of glorious weather put me in the mood to have a long day out; Braeriach is, for me, the most remote of the Cairngorm summits and one that took me three attempts to achieve the first activation. The route, using the Chalamain Gap, is straightforward but involves a great deal of re-ascent. I used the Sugarbowl Carpark at NH986074, this is on the inside of a sharp bend so road safety must be a priority. The track starts across the road and immediately involves a steep descent to a bridge over the river and an equally steep re-ascent on the other side. The pen you see contains some of the reindeer herd and from here you can see your first landmark as a steep gap in the ridge ahead below Lurcher’s Crag. The track is well made and good time can be made to the Chalamain Gap. Once in the gap progress is slowed by the need to boulder hop and scramble and this can be treacherous in wet weather. Once through the gap the path leads ahead and slightly left and then descends steeply into the Lairig Ghru where, on reaching the path, you have gained no height from the start point despite several hundred metres of climbing! Turn left towards Braemar and follow the track up hill until just before a large boulder a clear gravel track leads off to the right, this will take you all the way to the start of the steep and unrelenting ascent onto the main ridge. The ascent, sometimes very close to the edge of the Lairig Ghru, is quite honestly a slog and does not offer exactly spectacular views, however as this is the first time ever I had ascended this ridge in anything other than 100% clag I did have time for a look around – actually several looks around! Once on the plateau there is a distinct path that runs south and which you can follow all round however after about 500m you should see a faint track leading off right and this stays on top of the ridge cutting the corner too. A drop down to a bealach from this secondary top is also distinguished by some aircraft wreckage (I believe it was an Airspeed Oxford that crashed in October 1943 but I am willing to be corrected) and I had a good look around this on my descent as I wanted a close look at the radial engine that is lying on the hillside. The ascent to the summit was uneventful although the strangest effect was that the stiff breeze which had accompanied me all the way faded to a dead calm on the summit plateau – it was still strong close to the corrie but nothing on the summit.
The dipole was put up without any of the usual difficulties I seem to face with the wind blowing the pole over and the soil on the top is really amenable to pegging the guys – luxury! It took several calls before I received any response on 5MHz but eventually G8ADD gave me a call and despite difficulties at his end with severe qsb we managed to complete. It seems that everybody was suffering from either qsb or qrm (or both) while I lay in the sunshine getting armchair copy from everybody. A summit to summit with G0VWP/P on LD-007 took some time to complete, although shortly afterwards when he called to say he was decamping off the hill, due to a thunderstorm approaching, conditions between us were perfect. The best signal I received was G0RQL and the weakest G4JZF which showed a marked change in regular skip patterns. Once all had been satisfied on 5MHz I switched to 7MHz and the pile-up on 7.118 chasing DL6SBA. Despite calling Lutz several times he obviously couldn’t copy me and announced a qsy (which I missed) and disappeared – Murphy’s Law. I then called CQ on his frequency and yet all the UK chasers who had been 58 with me had also gone – Murphy’s Corollary. Time was a premium for me (the walk in took 4hours and the walk out would be much the same) so I decided to take down the dipole, put up the beam and try 2 metres. First call I had a chat with Robin GM7PKT in transit between hills and our qso was continually disturbed by a co-channel station. Robin decided to push on with his climb and the other station turned out to be 2E0WNT/P on LD-017. He was end stopping with me – several bars over S9 on the 817 – but I could not raise him. Eventually after much persistence – me calling, he swinging his beam (the OE in my callsign had him beaming east!) we managed to exchange for a quite satisfying 2m FM summit to summit. A quick chat with Lawrence MM0LOZ and I was called by MM0DHY who qualifies for the “Nutter of the Week” award. He was several hundred metres up Ardverikie Wall attempting for the summit of WS-239. Obviously belayed he was not within the activation zone so we didn’t make the oddest summit to summit I could think of although I did hear him call when I was on my way down but could not raise him. Finally I had a shot on 2m SSB but the furthest I worked was Edinburgh and I heard nothing else so packed up and headed down.
I had a short stop on the secondary top to feed the Ptarmigan (they are incredibly tame on the Cairngorm plateau as I found out some years ago) and then just slogged on to reach the boulder hopping in the Chalamain Gap before it got too dark. A really enjoyable day, some 21Km and 1300m of ascent, in perfect weather.
My thanks to all chasers and those who spotted me