I’ve had a stinking cold the last week and that meant cancelling last weekend’s planned operations. Even though I was still affected I decided I’d get out on Friday as it would be the last chance before Christmas and the weather breaking. Most of last week has been spent below 0 and in fog in Central Scotland, but the forecast for up around Loch Tay was that the tops of the mountains would be clear. The more and more I activate in Perthshire the better it gets. There are simply so many delightful summits to do ranging from tiddlers to big 'uns like Ben Lawers. Anyway, the two for today were Meall nan Caorach SS-104 and Meall Reamhar SS-105.
These two Grahams have there peaks only 1km apart and sit in their own glen that runs parallel to Sma’ Glen. There is an excellent track that runs through the glen from Amulree in the North to Glen Almond in the South. I’m lucky in that I work with some very keen hillwalkers and so I can fire of a summit name and immediately get all the info back from them about where to park and if they consider it beyond my skills for the time of year. The suggestion was to do these two from the South but spending a bit of time with Anquet suggested I wouldn’t have enough daylight to walk in and out and activate on the shortest day of the year. So I approached them from the North as the time required was much shorter. Observant readers should note that if the peaks are only 1km apart then the slopes between the two hills will be quite steep. They are!
I set off at 7.45am in freezing fog with the temp -1C and having sat in a motorway jam for Edinburgh last time, took a more devious route to get to the M9. Visibility was patchy with visibilty at worst about 50m and so the traffic got a fair old move on. Up the A9 past Dunblane and then off on the A822 to Crieff. The temperature started falling as soon as I hit the A9 and it was -6C in Crieff. As I got onto the Sma’ Glen road I punched out of the fog into brilliant blue skies. The views in the glen are astounding and I noticed it was getting cold in the car. Hmmm… -9C outside, that would explain it. When I parked in the village hall at Amulree at NN898362 it was showing -11C. Gordon Bennet it was cold when I got out. I’ve never got changed so quickly!
A quick walk back along the road gets you to the track at NN902356. Then you follow the track to the summits. It’s not quite that simple. At the farm at Girron NN905357 I took the wrong track. The obvious track is not what you want and the real track is overgrown. It took a few minutes until I could see the track I wanted. The sun was just climbing over the edge of Meal Reamhar and the difference between shade and sun was remarkable. Everywhere was frozen including the substantial burns in the area. During the mid-winter, this glen wont get to see direct sunlight for some weeks so it must stay frozen for a long time.
Somewhere near NN921342 I decide to strike up for the summit. This looked the easiest slope. My aim was to follow sheep tracks were possible and take the easiest gradients. The ground was my favourite tussock grass and heather but as it was frozen it wasn’t as hard as normal to cross. Still it’s much harder than walking on a good path. It seemed to take forever picking my way across animal tracks were possible. The view North got better and better as Schiehallion stood alone looking magnificent. The Glen Lyon and Lawers Ridges came into view too along with Ben Chonzie. Most of the snow from 10 days ago had melted now. Then suddenly here was the trig. Oh and some of the most stunning views I’ve had. Everything to the South was lost in a see of fog that I was looking down onto. Just a few peaks broke through. The Pentlands couldn’t be seen but East and West Lomond and Mount Blair rose majestically out of the mist.
There’s a wire fence which was used to support the antenna and 5MHz worked well with a good number of stations worked. It was just about freezing on the top and sitting in the sun was lovely. The views were great. I was able to hang about for a S2S with Pete M0COP/P on WB-001 before packing up and moving on. The fence runs right down Meall nan Caorach and up Meall Reamhar. That was the route I took. Straight down although it was rather steep through the heather. I couldn’t have done that without poles. Then up the other side. I had to zig zag a bit but it wasn’t long till I was at the cairn. Again the fence was used to support the antenna and mainly the same stations were worked again. I had a chat on 2mFM with Ken GM0AXY who was end stop on the 817’s rubber duck for his 10W.
All too soon it was time to go. I did intended to walk back along the ridge before dropping back to the track. However, my hips were aching. I wasn’t sure if this was through exertion, my cold, the cold weather or what. So rather that walking a couple of miles across rough ground I went straight back down to the track and came out the way I came in. By the time I got back to the car the sun had set below the hills and it was getting very cold again. Only -5C but the outsides of my gloves were white as the moisture in my sweat was freezing.
The wildlife here was execellent. There was a huge fat buzzard sat on the power cables just by the car park. Numerous mountain hares running on the summits. Their fur had turned white but the lack of snow made them stand out. Similarly I saw two stoats/weasels run across the path. Finally just as I approached the second summit I saw a female deer leap the fence. If you’ve ever seen a John Deere tractor and their logo then this deer was in the pose as it crossed the fence on the skyline. Fantastic!
Many chasers thanked me for all the activations I’ve put on in the last year. I thought that was thoughtful and a really nice touch. We have a symbiotic relationship, chasers need activators and vice versa. When I started I did the walking so I could play radio. Now it’s the other way round. Even if there was no SOTA I’d go out and do the walking. But the radio is the icing on the cake. So let me thank the legions of chasers who have spotted and worked me over the year. You’ve made carrying 12-14kg of gear worthwhile.
Distance walked:6.8miles, total ascent:539m/1768ft, distance driven:147miles
Pictures in the SOTA group and at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.