I was meant to be somewhere else this weekend as a few people know. So that fact I wasn’t on a ferry with a couple of other SOTA activators meant that that wasn’t happening. I did have the day booked off so I was determined something should be done with. The WX forecast looked average for my Eastern side of Scotland but pretty good for the West. It was at this point I realised I’d never activated a WS summit. So we had the chance of good weather, a day off and a 1st time WS summit… better find something worthwhile to make the driving worthwhile.
A scan of the maps showed a likely looking hill of Meall a’Bhuiridh WS-017. This is the site of the Glencoe Ski Centre. Now ski centres in summer are awful places but there are plenty of places to park and the ski tows make for good navigation points. The views from the top are meant to be excellent and you can combine this with Creise WS-019 for not too much extra effort. Oh, and it’s worth 10points. Well if you haven’t done a WS summit before why not start with bang!
Despite trying to get away early, I’d forgotten to get petrol and so it was just 8.00am by the time I was heading for the M9. The WX was not nice, cool and the clouds almost touching the ground. M9 to Stirling and there was scant traffic and a few showers. I kept believing the mwis.org.uk and xcweather.co.uk WX forecasts as they were emphatic the WX would be good. I set off up the A84 to Callandar the cloud started to thin and there were so tiny specks of blue visible as Ben Ledi appeared even if his top was well lost. From here it’s Strathyre next and the sky was much better by here. The 30mph limit is enforced by plod and speed gun but not today. Next up and down to Lochearnhead. Another 30mph limit that plod likes to hammer home. There were 3 officers of the law in hi-vis jackets and at 8.45am they had 3 cars “being processed”. Next is Glen Ogle, we were now having more blue than cloud, things were starting to look up. As I dropped down to Lix Toll, Meall nan Tarmachan’s ridge was the visual treat it always is and the only cloud left was low level wisps above Loch Tay with Ben Lawers and friends poking through. Looks like the forecast was right.
As you drive along Glen Dochart towards Ben More and Ben More Farm, the view gets sillier and sillier. I now had a stonking morning with few clounds, bright blue sky and stunning colours on the ground. Crianlarich was busy as the A82 from Glasgow joins here. The road through from Stirling to Lix Toll can be very windy and difficult to overtake on, but from Lix Toll onwards the road widens and is much less twisty. There was little traffic and most was still business not tourist traffic so I cruised along trying to cope with the views as I drove through Dalrigh (Ben Lui etc.) Tyndrum (Beinn Odhar, Beinn Dorain, Beinn a’Chasteil), Bridge of Orchy (Beinn a’Dothaidh, Beinn a’Chaladair). From here it’s Rannoch Moor.
For the first time in 11 years of living in Scotland I drove across Rannoch Moor on a spectacular day. I checked out parking for Ghlass Bein (an easy 2pointer) and Meall Mor (1pt). These are often bagged by people crossing Rannoch Moor on the way to bigger things if they have plenty of time. I thought maybe on the way back. The sights are fantastic and then I could see my target… it didn’t half look big! I should have realised this from the OS map, most of the page was brown ink! And the buckle appeared.
The Big Shepard of Etive (Buachaille Etive Mor) is impressive… near vertical cliffs rising 750m from the ground, stands guard to both Glen Etive and Glen Coe. The other side to Glen Etive’s entrance stands Meall a’Bhuiridh/Creise/Creag Leathad grouping. Gulp. I pulled into the ski centre car park and looked at the vast empty space, 5 cars and the steepness of the looming walk. Gulp! Boots on and don’t look at the target.
I was just about ready when a chap wandered over and asked if I was walking up. I said I was doing Meall a’Bhuiridh and maybe, just maybe Creise. He asked if he could join me and I said of course. He’d know where to find my body if I expired on the steep bits! People who hill walk with a partner know it can be hard work talking and walking. On this hill it was going to be hard working breathing and walking. Boots already on, suncreme on, extra water; I was ready. We set off past the big chair lift and followed the obvious path under and around the gantries. It was… steep. And warm in the sun with hardly any breeze.
There are a few classic routes here. One is up Sron na Creise then Creise. True sad people then bag Creag Leathad. This was the Munro before someone got a tape measure out and decided Creise was 40cms higher or so. So you have do bag both just in case they swap the summit title back! Then you descend (steeply) to a high level bealach and the climb (steeply) onto Meall a’Bhuiridh. The descend into the ski centre. Or the other way round. Or up Meall a’Bhuiridh then over to Creise then back and down. But all involve the bealach which whilst not terribly exposed is a bit scrambly. This was nagging in the back of my mind. My multi Munro completist chum at work said it was not as bad as it looked. But the best way to bag Creise was from Glen Etive. You do Ben Mac Cheescake (Beinn Mhic Glascaig WS-140) and then Creise is a lovely, easy walk up Creise’s relatively gentle west ridge. Better walk by far he said.
45 minutes later we reached the top of the chair lift. It had started as we were walking and there were several people at the top. They were staggered we’d walked up. I think we chewed the fat for 10mins before moving off. This is the only flat bit! Across the plateau on the bulldozed road to the next ski tow. I think there is a proper path that runs up the north ridge but we could see there was an obvious path still around the gantries so we followed that.
Just more grinding steepness over essentially rocks. There’s not much earth on the slope. The advantage we had here was due to the steepness and being to the north there was no sun so it was much cooler. Grind, grind, grind. And grind! Not much to be said other than the only way is up. Then we were at the final set of tow stations. A drink and a breather with some photos then wander along to the final tow and again up the rocky path. This was not as steep or at least it seemed it. And you can see the transmitter tower which is at the top. A real target. More grinding in the sun now and then you there.
This is a classic kids mountain in that it seems to come to a point! The drops off the back of the ski lift and transmitter building are a bit severe. Not vertical but nearly! It’s another 3-5 mins to reach the true summit as I was still not in the AZ. Then there’s the cairn and a good place for the antenna. Oh, and the views to Glen Etive. A lot is blocked by the bulk of Creise but the mountain ridges just run off to as far as you can see. And there’s the view over Glen Coe, The Grey Corries, Rannoch Moor, Ben Alder, Drumochter, Ben Lawers ridge, Ben More/Stob Binnein, Ben Lui. And Schiehallion standing all on his own. Astounding.
The temp was in the high teens as I set up. You can’t have good WX at 1108m without problems. The sky was a bit broken! I worked Brian G4ZRP on 60m just. Paul G0HNW was colosal but he always is. Even when nobody else can be worked Paul will be 58! Self-spotting didn’t help so I dropped to 40m CW and spotted again. This worked. Nobody was strong but I worked G4SSH, G4OOE, MW0BBU, G4RQJ and M0COP without struggling. DL1FU was in the noise. I sent 519 but the QSB was wicked. I listend and VOLMET was loud on 60m, I could hear it on 11MHz too. Shannon VOLMET was louder and audible on 8MHz just. So big stations were there but I guess QRP wasn’t cutting the mustard with not brilliant ionosphere and a lot of summer absorbtion. A listen on 60m bagged Jim G0CQK/p on SB-004. He was with the EYPs, Tom and Jimmy. I didn’t get a 40m CW S2S with Tom. I could hear people working him but not Tom.
Back on 40m and G4WSX, G0NUP, M0BKV, PA0ALW and HB9AFI were worked. I switched to 10MHz and the antenna would not work. Bad SWR. It’s been used for a long time the only change being a new feeder. An experiment suggested resonance at 9.8MHz. Not sure what’s going on here but I’ll resolve this over the weekend. I didn’t think at the time of adding in a bit more feeder to see if it helped. I have a bit of RG58 to connect the EFHW tuner to the 817. 10MHz sounded better than 40m. I had a listen to 15m/12m/10m and they sounded lifeless apart from some PSK on 21.070. So I packed up and took photos.
My walking companion had moved on to Creise after a short break. I said I was going to be well over an hour. So we thanked each other for the company and he set off. We had actually talked a lot. Just that it came as blurted phrases between the gasping! I looked at Creise. I looked at the path. I looked at Creise. I looked at the path. I turned away. It’s probably easy and when I have completed walking over something exposed I’ve enjoyed the adrenalin rush. But unless someone is there to poke me in the chuff with a walking pole, I’ll chicken out everytime. So Creise will remain for another day with Ben Mac Cheesecake
It took 2hr20 elapsed to get up. Anquet said 1hr45 but that is based on climbing gently not going straight up! We did stop and yak at each ski station so I wasn’t too upset with the time. It took about 1hr40 to get down. Not difficult just steep and the rocks/scree on the path was slippy in many places. Back at the car the thermometer said 23C. It was a corking day. The best thing was the toilets had cold water and quick wash of hands,arms and face made me feel much better. AC on full to get the temp acceptable and I bimbled back home. I had to stop at the Green Welly in Tyndrum for a cup of rosy and a snadwich. And a coconut waffle ice cream. That undid all the day’s exercise but it was 23C still!
Back home the sky was nicer than on the west… this wasn’t predicted. Nor was the BBQ. Mrs. FMF decided it was so nice she’d pick up beer and creature flesh on her way home and it was cooking as I pulled in about 7.30pm. What could be better than to arrive home after blisteringly brilliant views, 10pts, a new region activated, another Munro and a cold beer. Just as well I didn’t do Creise there’d have been none left! Of course not everthing went smoothly, the washing machine died. It’s done an average of 10washes a week and needed nothing in the time we’ve had it. I think it’s only the belt but at 16 years old it owes me nothing and so I’ll order a new one today.
Total walked: 6.8km, total ascent: 795m, distance driven: 215miles.
Pictures on Flickr.