I haven’t done one of these for a while. So this one features a success, a failure and two examples of Homer Simpson dumbness.
It’s Edinburgh festival time and Mrs. FMF had booked tickets for Saturday night and Sunday night. This meant I got home late-ish on Saturday, didn’t get up as early as I wanted to and didn’t have much time to get out on Sunday. Well I had to be back in time to smarten up and go out again. Anyway, being in the mood for uniques I picked 3 nearby 1 pointers to mop up. As I woke a bit later than expected on Sunday, I scrapped my plans for 3 and decided on 2, Steeles Knowe and Dumyat.
Steele’s Knowe is an outlier to the Ochill Hills separated from the main group by Glen Eagles. This is a fairly wondrous pass through the hills running North South. This hill has only been activated once before despite being fairly close to the main population areas of Scotland. That should tell you something… Anyway, looking on the map it can be approached from the main road, should there be anywhere to park, although the hillsides are steep and grassy. Or you can drive all the way around to the back up the dead end road and attack from there where the slope is a little less. Anquet said 42mins to the top and I thought that’ll do nicely, a simple bagging task. I checked on Google Street View and there’s a huge area to park at the end of the road. Result!
Driving up on Sunday morning it was warm but very overcast with the tops of the lowish summits lost in cloud. I was expecting either showers or having the delights of being in the cloud on a 1 pt hill The drive in was uneventful and I even was given right of way by several BMW and Mercedes being driven from a posh hotel by people off to spoil a good walk at the nearby Gleneagles Golf Course. As I reached the end of 6kms of very narrow single track road I saw my parking spot. I also saw the big, clear sign saying no parking. So swallowing deeply I wondered how I could have missed the sign on Street View.
This was the first Homer moment! Well I was snookered, I won’t park where it says don’t and turned round drove back looking for somewhere on the narrow verges to dump the car. I saw a quad bike in a field with no rider, then I saw a farmer walking with a dog. I jumped out and stood at a gate and he wandered over. “I know what you’re looking for!” was his opening line. So we discussed the lack of parking and he suggested somewhere 3kms back. Then when I explained I was here to bag Steele’s Knowe and it was unlikely I’d ever be back he said I could park in one of his gates as long as I didn’t make a habit of it. Result, 300m from where I wanted to park and only 15mins behind schedule.
Having parked I realised that it was the lack of access that must have put others off this hill. Too much trouble for 1pt. I hightailed it up the slopes, not difficult, just grass with the odd fence to cross. As I climbed the WX improved a little and slowly I could see something in the distance. After a few more minutes I could see it was a stationary wind farm windmill. Some 45 minutes after leaving the car I was resting at the trig looking at the 18 large (93m from tip to ground) windmills and the even taller comms mast. I’d checked Geograph.co.uk for pictures of the area from where I was parking to the summit and there was no wind farm, just the trig point. I checked today and the squares I didn’t look at showed the windmills. And the access road. And the car park at the bottom of the access road. D’Oh! The other Homer moment! So having been troubled with parking I could have saved about 12kms of driving (plus driving back) had easy parking and wandered up the easy road. Pah!
Setup was easy using the trig and 60m provided enough contacts to qualify the hill but conditions weren’t brilliant. The beacons (GB3ORK and GB3WES) were both S8 but there were few takers. I pulled the links on the antenna for 30m and checked the SWR ready to call. It was poor. Looking up at the antenna I saw I’d pulled the 40m links. Rather than get up and change the antenna I tuned to 7.032 and called there. Skip was short as I worked Reg, G3WPF who was about 250 miles away followed by other G’s. As usual there were lots calling and my ability to handle a pileup (even pileup of 2 stations) is poor. I worked a few more and then realised why Roy G4SSH has what, at first glance, looks a poor call. Amazingly all those dots stand out and the SSH was so clear amongst the others calling. So success in that I finally managed a contact with Roy. I didn’t mind not spotting the easy route up after that. Time was pressing and those calling got fed up with my poor skills and gave up calling so I decided it was time to go. The sky had threatened rain and low cloud but luckily it had held off. With hardly any wind it was quite humid and warm at the top.
It was a case of photos, pack up and get down sharpish. From deciding to pull the plug to unlocking the car was just over 30mins. A quick snack, a healthy glug of water and I was off to Dumyat. As a treat for finally working the #1 chaser, the sun started to break through! The drive was straightforward, around Auchterader, past Gleneagles, complete with people spoling a good walk and onto the death trap that is the A9. Worse I had to cross this busy main road and turn right in roadworks. Took about 5mins waiting for a gap in the fast traffic
Not far down the A9 I turned off to cross the Sheriff Muir towards Stirling. There was a big battle here in 1715 that was at the end of the Jacobite rebellion. Anyway, the easy path to Dumyat starts where the pylons change sides of the road and the power cables cross, just a bit short of Bridge of Allan. (The cables run uninterrupted from the Breadalbane Hydro main switching centre by Loch Tummel to Denny nearby carrying all the free electricity!) I parked with 4 other cars. I expected there to be more as this is a very popular hill being just outside Stirling. Anyway there was a path heading to Dumyat so off I set. Although I didn’t enjoy walking under the 132kV lines which seemed awfully close overhead. Hmmm! Clearing them I could see the main car park 200m down the hill with about 20 cars in it. Oh dear, going to be busy at the top and HF may not be easy. Of course being higher up already meant less climbing!
The path climbs gently which was just as well as it was now quite warm and humid. After a while I could see walkers on the final summit and the main path so I went in a straight line across the rough grazing. Onto the path and I joined the throng making their way up and down. It reminded me of a Conga line at a party there were so many people! I felt a little overdressed with a large backpack compared to people out for a stroll. There again, they didn’t have radios and stuff to lug about. OK perhaps not that many people but it was busy.
At the top there were about 20people included an awfully posh pair of families with exceedingly noisy and pretentious kids aged around 7 who ran around screaming at each other whilst their parents ignored the racket. I wished I had headphones from the noisethey made. I set up at the far end of the summit and amazingly was not bothered by anyone. 60m was better and I qualified the hill and was ready to try for 30m this time when I had my equipment failure. No dashes on the PalmPaddle. Well I’d have almost been able to work Roy again using only dots! I found the cable break but holding the wire in place and sending was too hard. So an early packup was order of the day especially as I had to get back and cleaned up. I’ve since discovered that turning off the keyer on the 817 makes the dot paddle into a normal Morse key. Good to know in an emergency. I really should read the 817 manual one day.
I packed up and thought that as I could see Edinburgh and hadn’t worked Ken GM0AXY yet, I thought I’d give him a call on 2m. No luck calling Ken but I went on to work 5 chasers on 2m including 3 S2S contacts with Robin GM7PKT on Ben Dorain CS-008, Alastair MM0HAI on Allermuir Hill SS-171 and Jack GM4COX on Dungavel SS-165. Not bad work for what I expected to be a quick call to Ken. I talked to Jack who was waiting for USA activators on the 14000ft mountains to appear. We nattered until I dropped out of range, shielded by the ground as I descended. I was back at the car in about 35mins and quickly down into Sunday afternoon traffic heading for the M9 back home. Best bit of that was being followed by a 4 1/2L Bentley ( like the one Steed had on The Avengers). Wonderful stuff, the exhaust tone briefly replacing Junior Wells Hoodoo Man Blues as the audio entertainment!
Total walked: 9kms, total ascent: 554m, total driven: 115 miles.
This seemed quite a lot of effort for 2pts. Though the Bentley and finally working Roy made up for the Homer moments. I was home in time for smashing meal Mrs. FMF had prepared and then rounded off the evening with a spectacular show by Chicago legend Charlie Musselwhite. A good day all round.
And for those that don’t know, Dumyat is pronounced Dum-eye-at and not how you’d think! Don’t you just love Scottish place names.