Last chance for a weekend off work before Christmas
Saturday 4th December 2021
We set off from home at 1000z. The plan was to head into Perthshire and climb Beinn a’Chuallaich GM/CS-053. There were snow showers forecast for the morning and we’d planned arrive there when the weather cleared, leaving enough time for the climb before darkness. We’d then camp up somewhere and maybe do something in the same area on Sunday.
However, we spent time rescuing stranded motorists on the high part of Glenshee Road. This and the slower driving conditions meant that we’d need a plan B…
Dora having a wee rest at the top of the Glenshee road, having spent time towing lesser-prepared SUV’s to the top
Looking at sotl.as, I saw we would be passing near to Blath Bhalg GM/CS-094, 641m. That would do, and Beinn a’Chuallaich could wait until tomorrow.
We parked up at NO 00158 63103 on the Moulin Moors Road and set off up a steep grassy track, which led up to a hut. It was breezy, but at least the snow had stopped.
Up the grassy track
After a km, the track ran out and we started following ATV marks up through grass and heather. The tracks soon faded. The last 1.5km to the summit was pretty grim. Boggy grass, knee deep heather with increasing amounts of snow. The heather usually gets shorter with altitude. This didn’t. Indeed, it continued all the way to the summit. Even the summit had long, snow covered heather!
Mo, heather bashing
The northerly wind really was blowing across the top. We found some respite to the south side, in a shallow dip, setting up station by sitting on the bivi bag, with foam mats for insulation.
GM/CS-094 Summit area
There was a line of old fence posts heading south. That would have to do. Three lengths of velcro saw the mast supported. It was a little close to our operating position and a bit lower than us, meaning the first few metres of the W3EDP were lying on top of the snow and heather.
The mast set up
I’d been told not to waste time! When I turned on the kx2, it was set to a 60m SSB frequency, so I thought, “Why not?”.
Oh and I’d forgotten my logbook. Time to learn how to work VK Porta-log, with frozen fingers.
Well I made four contacts. I was hearing stations 5/9, they were hearing me around 3/3 with QSB. I really should have been on 40m, but didn’t have the patience to try and find a free frequency on a Saturday afternoon.
VK Porta-log worked well, except that I had to input the operating frequency for every QSO. I was terrified I’d lose the info, so screen-shotted it to be safe. I must read the manual…
We packed up and headed back over the summit and into the teeth of a strengthening gale. Mo was less than happy at this point! She’d forgotten her goggles and her big “deputy dawg” hat, so I lent her mine…
Smiling, but not for long…
We linked in together and headed into the spindrift. Descending through the heather was infinitely easier than climbing and we were soon out of the worst of the weather.
We arrived back at the Land Rover around 1620, having left at 1300 and spending around 20 mins on top.
Back at Dora
The plan was to head over past Pitlochry and find a camp spot. We had food to heat for dinner, but ended up stopping at the Chippy in Pitlochry. The white pudding suppers (plus Irn Bru) were amazing and just what we needed after a cold couple of hours on the hill.
White Pudding Supper from “The Plaice to be”.
We drove on and eventually camped up down the side of the lovely Loch Tummel. Over a glass of wine, we had a look at options for Sunday. I was politely informed that there would be no “heather bashing” on tomorrow’s hike , so that put Beinn a’Chuallaich off the agenda again. The WX was set to be fine. To me, that meant we must avoid popular mountains such as Ben Vrackie and Schiehallion, which would no doubt be crowded.
We decided on Meall na Leitreach GM/CS-083, as it had a track and a reasonable high start point in the Drumochter pass of the A9 road.
Sunday 5th December 2021
There was a good forecast, however the wind wasn’t due to drop until 1200. We had a leisurely start and didn’t get moving until 1000. We took lovely roads that cut northwards to join the A9 at the Dalnacardoch snow gates.
Schiehallion GM/CS-005 from Loch Tummel
on The Old Military Road (which isn’t ploughed in winter)
After a short trip up the A9, we parked at the end of the short public road that leads down to the level crossing beside Dalnaspidal Lodge. Lesser vehicles were parked at the top, just off the A9.
Parking for Meall na Leitreach GM/CS-083
We set off at 1100. The ascent was fairly straight-forward, initially following a Land Rover track across the flat valley floor, crossing some sluices and then a rough ATV track towards the summit plateau. The track was hard to follow due to the snow cover, but at least the heather was short!
Sunrise at noon
The wind eased as expected and by the time we gained the summit it had dropped to a light breeze, but still a cold one.
Meall na Leitreach
The mast and aerial guys were easily pegged into the firm ground. I stuck with the W3EDP, stringing it roughly east to west. After a coffee and a bite to eat, I called cq on 20m SSB at 1300, again using VK porta-log.
Different results today! A major pileup ensued. I’m guessing because activations are tailing off in many parts of Europe at this time of year.
I can see from the log that I’m going to have to change the time of the last contact. It was a summit to summit and I hadn’t worked out to add his summit until I was half way down the hill. The log has been time stamped from my last modification.
Working the pileup
We had a quick and pleasant walk back down our ascent route, getting back to Dora at around 1500.
By the time we were back enjoying a meal and a couple of drinks in our Local, the misery of Saturday had been forgotten, with Mo saying, “that was a great wee trip, we should do that more often”.
As for Porta-log. It’s a clever app and actually easier to use than paper/pencil with cold fingers. However, phone touchscreens aren’t reliable in wet conditions, so the Jury is out. Uploading the log to the database was an absolute breeze though.