Bad weather and other committments meant I’ve not been out for 2 weeks. It feels longer as the last walk was a quicky, up Culter Fell and back, again due to poor weather. The WX on Friday was stunning, wall to wall blue sky and 25C here. Of course that wasn’t going to last and MWIS forecasts for Sunday started off saying “Beware all ye sinners for Satan walks the hills with snow and rain and low cloud and about 2C at 900m” but by Saturday it was down to “might be a shower but cloudbase should be 1100m and not too warm but not windy”. Anyway the forecast looked better the further NE you went which meant Cairngorms for me.
An Socach CS-038 hadn’t been on for a long time and that was the obvious choice, several routes, good views, decent walk and climb to make up for the long drive. There’s a hill or two in that area and just recently I’ve started taking extra maps just in case there’s a problem with access or whatever and so I had maps for Carn a’Gheoidh, Glas Maol, Morrone etc. but they weren’t needed.
It took 3 attempts to get out the house getting no further than 200m before heading back for 1) phone, 2) drugs, 3) GPS. This all stems from not having been out and getting out of the rhythm of getting ready. At least I remembered to charge up batteries for the camera and GPS. The fresh batteries immediately failed in the camera, then the next set. Finally the 3rd pair worked. Hmmmm. With all of that I was 30 mins late leaving and did wonder if it was worthwhile as spaceweather.com was showing a big geomagnetic storm running.
Spirited driving meant I arrived at parking spot roughly when I thought I would. In this case by the track entrance to Baddock Farm at NO138831 where there is space for 5 cars. Other spaces can be found within a few minutes walk on the A93 if that is full. All the big hills were clear of cloud but it was very overcast and about 7C. No wind though which was good. Booted up and kitted out with extra spare batteries in case the AA’s died in the camera and GPS I was away walking by about 10 o’clock.
The start is along the track for about 2.5km before you hit the Allt Choire Fhearneasg crossing the track. This may be difficult to ford when it’s in spate. It looked deep enough to go over my boots. An regular occurance as there is a track which looks like an animal track leading upstream. I followed this for 100m or so and came to an obvious crossing point at about NO121811. There are more further up if this is no good. On the other side there again was a well worn track in the heather which is easy to follow. This is the first real climbing and is steep for 200m then eases off. It was trivial to follow the track and until I saw varied boot prints I still wasn’t sure it wasn’t an animal track.
Onwards and upwards. The slope eases off and it’s a case of follow your nose along the track over a few soft and boggy bits. In general, despite the rain of late, the ground was quite dry. The path winds up to a big needle shaped cairn at around NO112807. There’s a wee dip down and then you do the proper climb. It looks very steep and there are many eroded tracks. The peat isn’t very thick here and being a Munro, the relentless boots have worn the ground down to rock. It’s a case of pick a track and follow it. It doesn’t take long before again the slope levels off a little and you’re on to the horrible stony surface. There’s a shelter at the first summit at 938m but this is not in the AZ. So you have a 2km walk along the stoney top before you get to the real summit where there are several shelters/cairns.
Part way along I saw my first Ptarmigan. These birds, related to the grouse, seldom drop much below 800m. As I walked along something moved. The normal summer plummage matches the stoney surface so well that when it stopped moving it disappeared. It saw me, well it couldn’t miss a fat bloke with a tomato coloured face, and immediately went into the broken wing dance. To distract predators from any chicks, the females stick a wing as if it was broken and then run along in front of you. You, the predator see an easy meal and follow it and just when you are about to pounce it flutters out of reach. Repeat until predator away from chicks. Except I thought “Ooo! Ooo! A Ptarmigan!” and tried to take a photo. It came back and then ran away and I just kept on the path. Until I nearly trod on the chick which was sat, of course, on the path. It ran away screaming and the mother flew at me and I had to duck to avoid it. It continued to do the broken wing lark as I walked on. Fantastic when you see it, nature at work. Apparently, Ptarmigan taste good too, remarkably like Swan!
At the top shelter, the summit was too stoney to bother with tent pegs so I used rocks to hold the guys in place with the pole stuffed into the shelter. There was no wind so this was ideal. The temperature was just fine for sitting about and the views, though lacking sunshine were good. The Cairnwell group were just across the valley, Glas Maol still had a snow in the NE choire. Carn an Righ, Ben Iuthern Mhor, Glas Tulaichen were big and wonderful looking. In the far distance Beinn a’Ghlo stood proud. Lochnagar’s peak was resplendent as were the big boys, Breariach, Cairn Toul, Ben Macdui, Ben Mheadhoin. They seemed to be quite close but were a good 20km North. They are, quite big! Still lots of snow on them.
Onto the air and I was worried whether there would be any propagation. 60m was very noisy with lightning crashes but I could hear someone on FE. With some difficulty I worked Colin G8TMV using mixed modes CW/SSB. He was using 30w from a Clansman which was why he was a repesctable signal compared to my 4W or so. 1 down 3 to go. A spot for FK and Steve GW7AAV was easy to work. I heard Martyn M1MAJ call but the QSB got him. I worked a few more on SSB and then Phil G4OBK, Martin GW4CQZ and John G0TDM completed the callers on 60m. Onto 40m CW and I was sure M0YDH called me on the key but no responce when I replied to that call. I worked 7 more though but only in G, DL and PA. I did lose my frequency. There were lots of walkers wanting to know what was happening and after explaining to one couple I found my frequency was stolen by some calling CQ TEST and 200 billion WPM.
There were some breaks in the cloud which was nice as that warmed everything up and made up for the rising wind. So I packed up as nobody wanted to work me anymore and I was getting cool. The walk out was a reverse of the walk in. No more Ptarmigans but near the needle cairn a female grouse did the same broken wing trick. Mr. Grouse was in attendance and all of sudden the heather was alive with grouse chicks running in all directions. Apart from them the only wildlife I saw all day was a rabbit. Back at the car it was boots off and 10 minutes of endorphin enriched relaxation before setting off on a much more leisurely drive back home to the accompaniment of Bad Company, Duke Robilaird and The Nimmo Brothers.
Total walked: 16.6km, total ascent 733m, total driven: 195miles.
Nothing difficult about this, it’s a moderately easy 6 points. If you had 2 cars you could leave one at the Glen Shee car park and bag An Socach then drop down and cross the Baddock Burn, up the far slope and mosey on along to Carn a’Gheoidh for another 6 points then drop down to the car park.