Here are the reports from my recent trip to the far North of Scotland.
Cnoc Corr Guinnie NS135
My original plan was to drive up from near Edinburgh on the Monday and actiavte a small hill when I was near my fist stay in the village of Tongue. But checking the WX showed Monday likely to have the best WX and it didn’t make sense to drive on a good WX day. So I found a cheap B&B in Alness and drove up on Sunday. This was a 3+hr drive not a 5+hr drive so I bagged this simple summit on the Sunday. It’s a few miles from Alness on the Struie road. The route follows forestry tracks to the summit and parking is easy at the start. Just make sure you follow the public not private tracks… lots of signs telling you if you are on the wrong track.
WX was mild with the odd spot of un-forecast drizzle. Bands were rubbish. I did 5/7/10MHz SSB and CW. I did use my satellite spotter. Due to some changes in the SSO server and how SOTAwatch3 works getting this satellite spotter working was a frantic late night affair the day before I left. Andrew VK3ARR spent some time when on vacation helping along with lots of input from Jon G4ZFZ.
Summit area. Theres a good track 95% of the way, it’s just a bit boggy for 100m. I tied the pole to the nearby tree on the far right.
Heavy drizzle on the walk out, I put the rucksack cover on but it didn’t seem to wet me. Or it did and was evaporating as fast. No Goretex needed. Back to the B&B for a shower then out for a meal and quite a pleasant evening back at the B&B where the hosts provided Champagne, Highland Park 12yrold Whisky and some Gin free and they weren’t mean with it. That and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast all for £29.
Ben Loyal NS-052
I filled up at Tain ASDA £1.257/L for diesel, wow cheap. I found a penny walking into the store as I need to buy a notepad having left the log book back home. My mother used to say “pick up a penny and all the day you will have good luck.” From Tain it’s about 1hr drive to Lettermore, an adbandonned cottage on the side of Loch Loyal. WX was wonderful. You used to be able to park here but the track is now chained off. Last time here there was always a camper van parked. Now we have the NC500: North Coast 500 tourist route around the top of Scotland. It’s been brilliant for the cafes, hotels, B&Bs etc. as it has drawn in massive numbers of tourists. With someone deciding it would be wise for the UK to make its currency worthless, there were stunning numbers of European mainland visitors here and traffic was “fun” at times. Especially as there were people driving in RHD cars for the 1st time or driving their LHD cars on the wrong side of the road. You just had to be more careful than normal!
Lettermore with Ben Loyal behind. What a cracking day. I parked here on the right. There’s not much parking so it’s a shame the track cannot be used anymore. The new estate owner is going to refurbish the cottage.
The walk in this way is over essentially featureless blanket bog. It was wet and squelchy all the way. Waterproof boots a godsend. The normal route from Ribigil Farm involves a river crossing which can be just wet rocks or over knee deep. With the rain of late I went for the boggy route.
40 mins walking and you can see Ben Loyal and its many tops on the left and Ben Hiel NS-107 on the right. The walking was simple but hard work due to the springy but squelchy ground.
Cnoc nan Culean NS-06. I did this one 5 years ago. I didn’t realise what a good looking mountain it is as it’s a grassy lump from the other side.
Ben Griam Beag NS-091, Ben Griam Mor NS-089, Scaraben NS-083, Morven NS-067 and Smean NS-113.
Looking up to Ben Loyal’s Northern most peaks, Sgor a Bhatain and Sgor Chaonasaid.
I was making hard work of the ascent and realised I was not going to have enough time to activate Ben Loyal properly and do Ben Hiel. So I decided that I would at least get a walk along the top of Ben Loyal. I went for the South end of the ridge and ascended these easy-ish grass slopes coming out just at the North of Carn an Tionail. You can see the WX changing. Grey but still warm.
Once onto the ridge proper, you get to see Ben Hope NS-020 for the 1st time. This is the most Northerly Munro in Scotland.
Here are Ben Stack NS-063 and Arkle NS-043
It was now clear out to the NE and the Orkney Island were visible, Hoy is the nearer island and The Old Man of Hoy is visible but as he is the same colour as Hoy cliffs, you cannot make him out. Orkney mainland is visible too.
Finally after what seems a lifetime, An Caisteal (The castle) is within reach, about 15mins walk in this shot. Not sure how to get up that to be honest.
Up close I could see no way a chubby FMF could get up the tor. If I did I wasn’t sure how to rig an antenna as I could see other walkers on their way over from Sgor Chaonsasaid. A bit of GPS surveying showed the foot of the tor is in the AZ. My GPS and phone GPS said 743 and 744m for a 764m summit.
I operated from here were I could squeeze a 60m inv-v dipole at 743m and not block tracks. RF propagation was rubbish again. In 1hr5mins I could work just 19 stations. If you think conditions are bad, try coming up to the end of Scotland where they are awful!
I has a chat with some nice ladies out walking. They told me the river at Ribigill was a good foot deep, so it was boots off to cross. They were determined to get the top of the tor and wandered off. 15mins later they came back and said it was easy once you’ve done it. Indeed it was. A few steps up some rocks in a gully and you come out on to a wide grassy area, space for HF antennas, then easy sloping rocks to the top. No excess adrenalin at all. I took a photo on my phone (posted in the other thread) and saw it was going to rain so went down and picked up my bag from the foot of the rocks. Job done.
Just got to get back to the car without getting too wet…
The walk out was easy but tiring and very squelchy. I did think of trying Ben Hiel but it would have added 1hr45 to my arrival time in Tongue. Then I’d to get booked into my B&B, have a good shower, shoot up some drugs and get a meal and it was pushing things close to when the hotel stops serving food. Ben Hiel another day then.
It showered a lot on the way out. On with the rucksack cover but it was never hard enough to bother me. I got damp and then the rain stopped and with 5 minutes I was dry. There was one period of proper rain and when that stopped it took 10minutes to dry out in the warm wind.
And there was a rainbow too…
Finally I got back to the car pleased with having summited to the top. This was when I realised I’d lost my phone which had the pictures of the summit. I happened to have my old phone with a PAYG SIM in it. The SIM was bought as insurance in case I couldn’t get the satellite spotter to work. It’s on the EE network and EE are meant to be providing the comms infrastructure (over 4g) for the UK emergency services. So EE coverage was rather splendid and my own (missing) phone’s coverage was spotty.
I had a good idea when I may have lost the phone and I checked I had the GPS data saved to the memory card so I could use the track the next day. Now it was shower and beer time.