I have unused vacation as we didn’t have a family overseas holiday this year (we’d have been away a few days after a proposed BREXIT date and it was just not worth the possible hassles) and I hope to use a few of them up doing mid-week activations when the WX forecast is good this year, hence this activation on a Friday. The forecast was for acceptable temperatures and wind and for lots of blue sky. Winter tyres are not mandatory in the UK and whilst I have a car with permanent 4WD it has big sporty summer tyres fitted so the road conditions are important as well. Well the sky was blue when I parked but the tops of the big peaks were in their own clouds and it did cloud over a lot during the day. The traffic wasn’t bad on the way up though I used about 30L of screen wash with the salt on the roads. I’ve done this enough in Scotland to know you take water to drink and loads extra and screen wash to wash windows and top up the washer bottle.
Beinn a’Chrulaiste sits the other side of the A82 at the entrance to Glencoe. It’s put to shame by Buachille Etive Mor and the other big hills so it’s a little forgotten. But for me, well I’ve not done too many bigger hills recently for many reasons and it’s easy, you have to try hard to fall off it in the Winter, it’s not too high etc. So it ticks many boxes and the views to the rest of the area are to die for. Also for me it’s a unique. 13cms is out really now the temperature has dropped unless there’s guaranteed QSOs and some where to shelter. SMA connectors and sub 0C temps don’t mix either.
The computer suggested 1hr40 for this ascent and considering the path wanders a lot, I’m less hill fit than I used to be, there was plenty of ice and snow to slow me down, reaching the summit in 2hr05 was OK. I was also slow rigging the antenna due to the wind-chill cause my brain to stop working! There were plans for an S2S with Andy G8CPZ so I thought I do 30m first to get the hill qualified etc. and allow him time to get active. We made a QSO on 60m which was easy with the lack of RF noise but would have struggled in a domestic environment. What surprised me was how many stations were on for a Friday lunchtime, 39 QSOs mid-week is a result in my book. 40m was playing too with plenty of inter-G contacts and surprisingly for the way the band was running, IK2LEY was an easy 51 SSB QSO.
I’m certainly getting soft in my old age, I could only stand the cold and wind for 1hr then I shut down. That was only time for 30m CW, 60m SSB and 40m SSB. I’ve been using a Hagloffs Belay jacket over fleeces for warm when activating, it’s good and warm for only 380gms and squashes to nothing. However, the shelter at the trig looks small so I packed a big Down jacket. This doesn’t compact so well and with instep crampons and an ice-axe adding to the load, I shed extra antennas for 80/20/17m. In fact I’d had a big clean out of the bag a few days before and must have removed 500gm of grass and soil out of it along with assorted “it only weighs a few grams” dross that never gets used. I did wonder about feeling over dressed taking the ice-axe. But I’d rather have one I don’t need than really need one I don’t have. I met just one walker on the hill, he had his axe too. Anyway, they’re useful for levering frozen rocks up to use as guy anchors when the ground is frozen. Seriously as I have commented to Brian, these are more serious hills than many I frequent in Winter so a bit of preparation may well be a life saver one day.
Parking at Altnafeadh (space for 40cars here, it’s the Buachille Etive Mor car park), route is along West Highland way to end of trees, left at the wooden electricity pylon and up the hill, follow fence until it levels out, cross fence and go up (and up and up) until you reach the trig point. There is a good track a little way up from the fence, it meanders a lot but does the job. Ground could be very boggy after rain but the bogs were frozen hard. FT817 used barefoot, 60/40/30m link dipole at 5m AGL, Palm Paddle, N0XAS keyer. Thanks to all who chased me. Now it’s photo time…
Fifteen minutes gets you here (electricity pylon visible near the road)
Buachille Etive Mor GM/WS-044
Bidean Nam Ban GM/WS-007 but the distinctive peak lost in the cloud.
Beinn a’Chrulaiste GM/WS-146, the top there is about 500m, another 357m to go after there.
Just about every peak is a SOTA summit, Lairig Gartain in the centre, Glencoe on the right.
Mamores 1 (nearly every peak is a SOTA summit)
Mamores 2 (nearly every peak is a SOTA summit)
Mamores 3 (nearly every peak is a SOTA summit)
MS0TA/p summit station inverted V for 60/40/30m, 5m pole
Trusty ice-axe, don’t leave home without one!
Blackwater Reservoir, built to provide hydro-electric power for an Aluminium smelter.
Interesting cloud formation The hill in the middle distance is Glas Bheinn GM/WS-177 which has not been activated for 6.5years now.
How to take photos of the Scottish Countryside. Note the car is parked on the entrance to a track and is off the roads, the photographer is standing off the road. You’d be surprised with the number of overseas visitors who just stop in the road (this is the A82 a main road to the West of Scotland) and get out, stand in the road and take photos whilst causing traffic mayhem about them. Nobody would do that really? About 5 miles from here I was driving home with much gusto and came across a hire car (hire company name in the rear window), stopped on a tighter and blind bend blocking the lane. But he had his hazard lights flashing so it’s OK With traffic in the other lane I had to stamp on the brakes and was able to confirm my ABS worked. I shouted a number of strong Anglo-Saxon words at him including questioning the status of his parents marriage. He smiled weakly and shrugged his shoulders. I should have got out and given him a Glasgow Kiss.
Despite the WX not being quite as promised and stupidly stopped cars, this was one of the most enjoyable activations I have had in a long, long time. It was only on the way down I realised the early stages are quite steep. I didn’t notice as I was fired up with anticipation and excitement. A summit I can heartily recommend.