Thursday 25th August 2022
Circumstances had conspired to keep me off the hills since the Trans-Atlantic S2S event in late April, but finally an opportunity arose to get a day up in Scotland. After a lay-off of 4 months I was not going to have any hill-fitness whatsoever. Local walks are fine, but hardly challenging down here in Northamptonshire. Well, it would be what it would be and I planned in a bit of extra time for the lack of fitness. What I didn’t appreciate was that other factors would prove to be more onerous on the day.
My day started early, the need to go for a call of nature getting me out of bed at 00.15z. I was breakfasted and on the road half an hour later. The journey north past Berwick, Edinburgh and Stirling went well and I arrived at the car park just off the A82 west of Crianlarich with 40 minutes in hand. It was still dark, so there was time for a 40 minute power nap. Before exiting the car I applied some Avon Skin So Soft to deter the midges. There was a breeze, but it was very much here one minute, gone the next and it was drizzling, so very much ideal midge weather. The slathering seemed to do its job.
Setting off at 05:20z, I used the route described on the Walk Highlands website which was a delight. That was until I met with the bogfest. The path is very much overwalked, probably on account of the route being publicised, in combination with the number of people holidaying in the UK rather than going abroad. The peat was all mashed up in large wet areas and my walking poles disappeared up to half way indicating a good half metre in places. I had allowed 3 hrs 20 min for the ascent, but this ground was most unwelcome and added an extra challenge.
Looking good so far from the bridge over the railway
Take a right here. The cloud are kissing Dubhchraig.
The bridge over the stream which the path follows up most of the ascent.
The delight continues… but wait, bogfest is just around the corner.
The detours off the path were so extensive that they added almost half a kilometre to my meandering ascent. I was pleased to take a break as I crossed a tributary to the main stream in order to try out my Sawyer water filter. The water was running fast and extremely clear and I might have risked it anyway, but using the filter gave me extra confidence. A definite thumbs up from me on this piece of kit. Much better than chemical treatment which makes me unwell.
Past the worst by this point, but there are still boggy sections ahead.
The constant detouring around the boggy ground was very wearing. I was very conscious of being on my own with no phone signal and so I took great care. There was still no phone signal even when I got out into the open area higher up. A slip could have twisted an ankle… I didn’t dwell on the thought. With the need to be careful and being unfit it took me 4 hours to get to the summit of Beinn Dubhchraig, so I was late on parade. I was also rather wet through as a heavy rain shower hit me just as I topped out on the ridge at about the 900m level. The wind was quite strong and swirling and it actually blew water upwards underneath my jacket.
The final section up Dubhchraig.
A quick look across to Ben Oss shows me the mist might be lifting… some hope!
Beinn Dubhchraig, GM/SS-009, NN307254 IO76PJ 978m asl
It had stopped raining when I reached the summit cairn at 09:20z and it was much calmer. The rocks at the summit were very slippery with the wet, so it was with some difficulty that I set up for 2m, wedging the pole between rocks next to the summit cairn. There was sufficient wind to make it challenging to keep the beam south. Don G0RQL down in Devon was quickly on frequency at 09:44z… he’d actually been calling on and off for 40 minutes. After Don, I worked Peter GM0VEK followed by Steve MM0XPZ on SSB, then had to change to FM to qualify the summit. Change mode, change weather… back to the rain. Anyway four more were added to the log - MM7SWM, MM0XME, GM4PPT and MM0CDW/P.
Beinn Dubhchraig unruly summit pile.
Just after the rain and 2m FM session.
A young lady had arrived while it was fine and it was that she had got soaked as well. She did not stay long and I think she did not bother with Ben Oss. Anyway, the rain persisted and being behind schedule I decided to abandon the HF part of the activation. Apologies to anyone waiting to work me, but doing this enabled me to leave the summit by 10:40z, only ten minutes behind schedule.
Ben Oss, GM/SS-005, NN287253 IO76OJ 1,029m asl
On the descent to the bealach, with Loch Lomond in the background and Loch Oss nearby.
Loch Oss from the bealach.
Ben Oss from the bealach… go right here up the north top rather than direct.
The pile on Ben Oss summit.
The weather was much drier en route to Ben Oss and I actually arrived on time and was up and running a minute early at 12:59z. I guyed the pole on this one, taking advantage of the fairly flat grassy top. Mike G4BLH, up at his local high spot, was sat on my usual 2m frequency waiting for me. Don G0RQL followed with signals for some reason slightly down on the previous summit. Peter GM8BJF was number three and Steve MM0XPZ number four. Qualification on 2m SSB! This time I worked 3 on FM – GM4PPT, MM7SWM and GM0AXY.
Visibility was now down to 200m, but it was dry, so I decided to operate HF on this one. I texted Paul G4MD to see if he was interested in trying on 60m, but I didn’t get a response so made a start on 30m. A run of 18 contacts around Europe ensued during which the rain started again. I had forgotten to pack my waterproof log sheets so my log started to disintegrate, ripped when I turned it over to continue logging and then tore when my pencil touched wet spots… soon it was completely wet. Fortunately the run came to an end as I ran out of dry areas to log on.
The HF antenna in the mire on Ben Oss, the 2m yagi awaiting disassembly.
Part way through the run on 30m a response came in from Paul. Unfortunately the rain was getting heavier when I had finished on 30, so while it would have been good to try 60m, I asked to be excused so I could get off back to the car. I was still wet from earlier and starting to get cold. Thankfully Paul agreed that I should call it a day.
I set off down the bealach between the two mountains at 14:40z, aware that my allowance of 2 hrs 45 min to get back to the car was woefully inadequate. In fact it took me 4 hrs 20 min and it was 19:00z when I reached the car. Upon further investigation, I found that the ascent figures in the Walk Highlands report were inaccurate. On the descent from Ben Oss there is a reascent of the north top and a 130m reascent of Beinn Dubhchraig to the 900m level where the path up reaches the ridge. The detours around the bogfest added distance as well. To say I was rather tired when I got back to the car would be an understatement…. Oh, and the midges were out, hungry and determined to ignore the Deet that I had applied half way down the descent.
I phoned my XYL and told her that I would sleep in the car and then set off about 4 a.m. in good time to get home for breakfast. What I had not thought about was that I was still soaked and the car was quite cold. After giving the matter some thought, I decided to set off at 8.30 p.m. and use the car heater to dry my clothes. I was actually down beyond Edinburgh before I felt dry enough to consider getting some sleep. After finding the rumble strip at the edge of the dual carriageway a couple of times due to tiredness, I decided to park up in the first free lay-by I could find. It did not take long to drop off to sleep… two hours later a noisy vehicle passed by and woke me. Rather than settle down again, I decided to drive to the border where there is a larger car park further back off the road. There I managed another three hours sleep to awaken at 5.50 a.m. I then sauntered home to arrive spot on 7 a.m. – time for breakfast.
Kit-wise, I took far far too much. 13kg is definitely over-egging it for a trip of this nature. I must take fewer batteries for a start and the use of linear amplifiers needs to be carefully considered. I also need to reduce weight elsewhere. The only pre-requisite is having suitable survival kit as I am on my own, so the bothy bag, first aid kit, water filter, foil blankets, etc., are all to remain.
Now to plan another outing…. and soon! I think with some accommodation included.
73, Gerald G4OIG