I’d been looking an Auchnafree for some time. It’s not too big, nor too steep nor too anything. Just a nice 4pt in a lovely part of Perthshire. If you’re fit enough then you can do it and Ben Chonzie as part of the Loch Turret loop. Well I’m not fit enough and a lot of these loop walks don’t allow for an hour or so on each top to play radio. So I decided I do this one on it’s own. Ignoring the approach from Ben Chonzie side you can walk up from the Loch Turret dam and approach from the South. This means driving up to the dam and walking around the loch. Or you can approach from the North from Glen Almond. There’s track shown on the 1:50000 map that climbs the steepest part leaving just an expected heather and bog bash over a couple of kms of reasonably gentle slopes. The only problem is that this track is a good 5 miles from the nearest public road. Solution: get the bike out! WX was to be grey with easterly winds with cloud breaking later on. Best of all it was Bank Holiday Monday. Now that means with the awful WX in England there would be lots of SOTA chasers not at work stuck at home to boost the numbers of those who are available all the time.
Up nice and early and it was grey and cold and breezy. 3 miles North of home and it was wall to wall blue sky and sunshine. Hot in the sun but that Easterly wind was cold. North-ho! I parked at Newton Bridge on the A822 at NN889313. This is the road that runs through Sma’ Glen from Crieff to Aberfeldy. Having regained my composure after the gorgeous views of the glen, I started getting all the gear out of the car. Another car was doing likewise, unloading bikes and stuff. They were going my way but without a big bag of radio gear. Loaded up, I set off up the private track through Glen Almond. The road is private but there’s no problem with walkers and bikes. Of course Mon-Sat there could be shooting and the like but it’s out of season right now.
The track is reasonably smooth. Well compacted hardcore and gravel. It would be easy going apart from a few things. I normally ride with SPD shoes clipped to the pedals but not wanting to ride with my boots being carried and needing to find somewhere to leave my riding shoes I swapped to ordinary pedals. Combined with the thick boot sole, the saddle was just a bit low and that felt wrong. Secondly I ride in Lycra, yes I know that’s a horrific thought but riding in trousers feels horrible after stretchy freedom. Finally with 14+kg of bag on my back that road was anything but smooth! So further bike trips require the saddle moving and some panniers. OK noted for the future. But I did the 5 miles in about 30 minutes. There’s no real climbing involved and the wind was pushing me along. I tried John G4YSS trick on filling up with fluids before walking. About 5 mins after starting I need my first comfort break and equilibrium was achieved! So much for stocking up!
I locked my bike to some fence posts at NN813331 and set off up the track. It gets very steep and was a real slog in the scorching sun. You climb about 320m in 800m forward! The 1:50000 map shows the track finishing at NN817322 but in fact it continue right along the top. This made progress much quicker as the remaining slope is hardly noticeable. The wind was very noticeable. It wasn’t strong as in gale force but it was a firm and steady breeze that made anything have a mind of its own and flap about. It was cool enough to need a fleece top but when the wind dropped, the sun made the fleece too hot. The track comes close to a long abandoned fence. Only the posts and bits of wire remain. It’s the obvious place to operate from, about 200m from the summit cairn. Anquet said 1hr33 mins walking time. I did it 1hr25 elapsed, not bad as I had two stops to adjust bootlaces, several photo stops and another comfort break putting me in negative equity on the fluid stakes!
Setup was easy using a fence post for the mast support. I strung the dipole EW and use my walking poles to keep the ends up. On the air and I started off on 60m with an S2S with Robin GM7PKT/p. A quick QSY to FL and GW4BVE was already calling me. Auchnafree Hill was a unique for many although this was it’s 3rd time on air. Jack GM4COX did it last summer and Robin 4 years before. A total of 14 were worked on 60m, QSB was a problem for many. A few people struggled and were very thankful that I had patience with them. Well there’d be no point taking the radio gear if I didn’t make a serious attempt to work everyone. So I’m happy to bash on with people. There are normally enough fixed stations to confirm if contacts are good or not and this time Paul G0HNW was very helpful for me, thanks Paul. I’d had a surprising QSO yesterday on 40m from Lamington Hill summit with an MM3 in Peterhead on 40m and having studied the F2 plots from Chiltern I was hoping there’d be some 40m propagation again. I was lucky, I worked another 12 G stations on 7.115 till broadcast QRM started to fade up. Back to 60m for one more QSO and then 80m. No luck there, a few stations could be heard but 5W SSB at that time of day in Summer is not to be.
I enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the sun although there were some odd fluffy clouds appearing. To the South it looked more and more overcast. Time to go, everything packed away, photo time and another comfort break. I was trying out a new camera, a Canon Powershot A590 as my old trusty Nikon 4300 has expired. After Nikon’s customer care policy with cameras bought outwith the EU I’ll never be paying Nikon another penny! The results look good. 8M pixels superfine resolution produces images around 4Mb and that explained why they took a while to upload to Flickr. I downscale them to 1024x768 lo-res jpg before uploading now!
The route out is the reverse and I was at the bike in 57mins which is close to what Anquet says. My updated Naismiths seems to be not bad now on descents. I was going to try Beinn na Gainimh SS-057 but the flesh was weak. I could have got up it, it’s as hard as Auchnafree but I’d have got home about 8.30pm and I did want to have some time with my family. I’m impressed by the way Robin and Adrian can bash off so many hills in a day. Adrian did a 4,6 and 8 pointer the same. Respect! Anyway SS-057 remains for another time as I continue to try to activate mainly uniques and finish of the Breadalbane district. The bike ride out was tiring. It should be easy as it was essentially downhill but I had to ride into the now much stronger wind and that made the trip longer.
Back at the car I enjoyed a flask of coffee as I unwound at the picnic tables. A coach pulled in, unloaded a crowd of holiday makers who took photos of the bridge ignoring the fantastic view behind them and then they all rushed back on and it sped off. Closely followed by another coach. But it was like a Benny Hill sketch as I was chilled out and mellow and they all seemed to rush around so fast it was like they were speeded up! It was still a glorious day and I suppose they had a lot of Scotland to fit in before it became grey, cool and cloudy like today.
walked: 7.1km, total ascent: 515m
biked: 16.6km, total ascent: 66m, total riding time: 1hr 12mins
Pictures on the Flickr group and http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf