I think I may have activated this hill more times than any other; it is close by (16 miles by road) and is not too challenging. I am not hill fit at the moment and this was the perfect hill to prove it!
Parking is in a small lay-by at NJ285360 and the ascent is via the obvious path through the gate. This track has been much improved recently to try to eliminate the erosion caused by so many boots on peaty ground. No problems but the wind in my face and the lack of fitness soon showed that this is not a hill to mess with. I had my younger Labrador with me and he was in his element lifting grouse into the air at the slightest excuse. I had the route to myself so it gave me a chance to admire the Arctic Hares in full winter coats, the Snow Buntings and near the top, much to my surprise as this hill is not really high enough, a flock of Ptarmigan. Actually, it gave me an excuse to stop walking and wheeze!
Reaching the summit the ground was frozen solid and the wind must have been gusting to 40/50mph but the lee of the summit outcrop gave some welcome shelter. The sky was blue with little cloud and so it remained all day. Putting the new pole up proved a real problem. The pegs just would not go into the ground, the slope of the hill was not conducive to a good layout and the base of the mast kept slipping when the wind caught it. Once up I managed to call CQ on 5MHz and there were two regulars G3RMD and G0HNW. Both had excellent signals with me but were obviously struggling with my signals and the qsb. Having exchanged reports Frank spotted me and was soon followed by Mike GW0DSP who managed to hear my flea power for a third contact. For a short while I thought I might struggle with a fourth contact but no problem and I soon had to handle a mini pile-up and was pleased with my first 60m qso with EI. I was having a chat with John GW4BVE when the mast collapsed demonstrating once again a real design weakness in all these roach poles – the collapsing sections blew the butt end of the pole out, the screw fixing is just too weak and flimsy and shatters. Out with the fibreglass repair kit this week and modify the base to withstand these sort of shocks in the future. I managed two more contacts on 60m before all went quiet. I then tried a qsy to the upper half of the 40m band – hopeless, the broadcast stations were in full flood and it was qrm wall to wall (how soon before they move away?). I tried calling around 7090 and 7060 but the skip was really long and the qrm incredible so no success. By now I was really cold, the ends of the dipole were not really high enough off the ground to try the 80m links so I packed up and tried 2m. A couple of local qso’s on the handheld was all I could manage so I decided to head along the ridge to the large outcrop at Scurran of Morinsh for shelter and lunch.
The descent was via Baby’s Hill at NJ246376 (quaint name!). On reaching the track, which has been bulldozed up the hill from where the building is shown on the OS map, I found some aircraft wreckage which may well have been bulldozed out of the peat. I have searched for some record of what plane this is but with no luck – any offers? The building is just the foundation so no shelter here in poor conditions.
The track back to the car contours round the hill, it was very boggy and icy in places but showed that it is possible to make this summit into a proper winter day hill walk. For the real ale aficionados I stopped at The Croft at Auchbreck NJ214294 for a pint of Cairngorm Stag before heading home.
My thanks to all the regular chasers for your efforts