Having packed Brian G4ZRP back off to England (I told him to close the gate when he got to the border) I was looking for something for the weekend. The WX reports were mixed initially suggesting snow up high and rain down low. I had a possible target and with the WX on Saturday suggesting good things I kept a dutiful eye on the reports. By Saturday afternoon the forecast was for it to be essentially dry, with a very cold North wind and some snow showers and 70% chance of cloud free Munros. That would do nicely for Meall an t-Seallaidh (pronounced Meal an Taylee). This is either a long walk from nowhere or you go up Creag MacRainaich and then down and up Meall an t-Seallaidh. Which is a 214m down and 257 up. And then 257 down and 214 up just to get back to where you go down again!
This is the nearest place to park is the church carpark at Craggan (outside of Lochearnhead) Well you might be able to park nearer to Edinchip but that means parking on a private road (with a big no parking sign) and walking through the farmyard. Or you can park in Lochearnhead and walk to Craggan which is another 800m. At 9:15am I parked in the church car park at Craggan which is just outside of Lochearnhead. There’s a sign which says the car park is for church use. I checked and there was no morning service. A lovely lady walking her dog suggested I’d be fine parked here as long as I was gone about 30mins before the evening service started at 6.00pm I suggested if my car was still here at 5.30pm she should call the mountain rescue
From here you walk up the road towards the entrance onto UK Cycle Route 7. Around here, this cycle route runs mainly on the old Glen Ogle railway tracks. This line beat Dr. Beeching by closing a few weeks before he was going to close them in 1966 after a major rockfall in Glen Ogle. At the entrance to the cycle route turn right and follow the excellent surfaced track up the hill as it zig zags. After 100m gain in height you come out onto the disused railway line proper. The nice thing about railway lines is that trains can’t go up hills, so any slopes are gentle. So gentle I didn’t notice I was going down hill. Anyway, when you get to the railway line turn left and almost immediateley go through the deer gate. There’s another two gates to go through before you approach another wonderful old railway bridge. There’s a finger board sign giving distances along the path and one pointing left to Glen Kendrum. So turn left, through the wooden gate and follow the signs as you walk under the low hanging 132kV line from the power station up near Killin on Loch Tay. This leads over the bridge onto a messy path where the forest has been harvested.
At first I thought the Edinchip estate might be anti-walker based on the no-parking signs. But here there where lots of signs for walkers. There were signs saying no unathorised people as there was forestry work in progress. But as I was authorised (by me) to go up Meall an t-Seallaidh, I ignored them and followed the track. The track is truly excellent. Not steep at all and reasonably surfaced. Not as good as the cycle route or disused railway lines but I was still able to make good time. In all there’s about 6km of track to follow and it does make getting into the country side easy.
The big worry I had was the ford that the track crosses. I’d put off this hill many times I was concerned crossing the ford would be hard. I’d been concerned on my drive up as the river in The Falls of Leny was almost up to the road, significanly in flood with lots of the islands under a few feet of water. As it was it was easy to cross the ford. It was about 4in deep at worst. There’s some good stepping stones and if it is in spate, continuing up the hill about 200m leads to places narrow enough to step across. After the ford however, the track steepened significantly.
As I huffed and puffed up the track I got my first view of the ground to cross. Diabolical. Virgin heather, morrains, peat hags etc. I’ve never seen such healthy looking heather and I knew it would be a pig to cross. Did I mention the snow? Well there was a good covering on everything above 750m. The access to Meall an t-Seallaidh is up some steepish slopes and crags. Not really a scramble even but not trivial. And they were all covered in snow. A friend suggested there’s an obvious landslip ramp that makes access easier but it was hard to see under the snow. What did look easiest was the route up the col between Cam Creag and Meall an Fhiodhain.
Now the WX had been blue skies when I set off but it was getting cloudier and darker all the time. As I set out from the track at NN545246 the snow started. The wind between Meall an t-Seallaidh and Creag MacRainaich was fierce too. Just what you want: uphill over diabolical ground with hags, bogs, up and down, thigh length heather and snow and -10C windchill. Magic stuff! I battled on and started up the steep bit. The rocks were moss covered and slippy or snow covered and slippy. But the surface was stepped enough that zig zagging across meant I felt resonably unexposed all the way up. Though I was warm and breathing hard by the time I crested the col at NN538243.
From here it should be cakewalk around the back of Cam Creag. Wrong. The ground is a huge boggy area. Luckily it was partially frozen. Don’t come here in the summer when it’s been wet. Icy conditions are best for this ground. I plodded on 25 minutes until I reached the summit. Anquet said 2h51 for a slightly shorter route, it took me 2h35 including a few rests. Not bad but I was well tired. First thing was to get out of the wind and then break out the down jacket. Certainly this was the best £80 spent for winter activations as within seconds of putting on, the sun came out!
For those interested, Cotswold Outdoors have the same winter offer as last year, a down jacket for only £90 (inflation!) that compresses to about the size of football. I certainly find it makes winter activations much, much easier than ever before. Also I was sporting my new “Steptoe” gloves. A pair of fingertip less gloves I’d picked up for £1.50. I didn’t expect much but thought I’d try them. They were fantastic. They worked 1000% more than I expected.
So the radio. 5MHz was good and I had no problem working 13 in a short time. Primed to the fact Allan MM1BJP was due on Ben Lomond SS-011 and LOS from here, I had the handy on. I handed over the frequency to Rob G4RQJ/p and moved to 30m. This band is rapidly becoming my favourite as I’m never sure what will pop up. I only wish my CW was upto handling the pileup of biblical proportions I managed to raise. I apologise now to all those calling but everyone was on the same QRG in my 300Hz filter passband giving rise to continuous tone! It’s hard work for us novices to get a couple of letters even. Anyway during this period of mayhem 2m FM burst into life. A quick QRX on 30m and I chased the 2m stations.
I’ve never worked 5 2m FM stations without effort in GM before. It was like shelling peas including 2x S2S (MM1BJP SS-011 2M0NCM SS-129) and 3 fixed contacts. Wah! Then back to 30m where the pack were still waiting. I continued as best I could working 9 countries from LA to 9A. I really like this band as every contact can be somewhere different to the previous and it’s much quieter than 40m. Seeing the time marching on I announced I had to go QRT. I’m sorry I’m not faster and could not work everyone. To those I missed, maybe next time.
It was so cold that my Mars Bar (approved by my dietician) and syrup laced oat bars were frozen. In the end I had to walk with them in my pockets for 25mins before they were soft enough to eat. I packed up, took lots of photos… this time I had kept the camera batteries in my pockets so they were warm and headed back by the same route. It seemed much further to the col than I remembered on the way up. Anyway half way down I had my Mars Bar and having crossed the awful ground and regained the track, had some Oat Bars and a few cups of tea (Earl Grey of course). After that it was a simple downhill tramp to the car. The WX improved with the clouds getting fewer and the sun stronger so it was lovely. The colours of Autumn were most delightful.
Back at the car for 4:40pm so I was well clear before the faithful arrived. Even the drive back was uneventful. No loonies on the roads, not much traffic, nice views, lovely colours and some good vibes from Messrs. Walter Trout and Mitch Laddie. I was back home for anothing cracking roast prepared by Mrs. FMF and having eaten and showered promptly fell asleep. Not bad at all.
Total walked: 16.9km, total ascent: 824m, total driven: 131 miles.
Thanks to the chasers and spotters. Pictures on Flickr.