Winter, geo-storms and windchill
Thursday 4th November
I set off from home at 0500, arriving at the start of the walk at 0645. The car park is gained via a steep single track road from Blair Atholl. I set off at 0700, just as it was getting light. Today’s walk was to be a long one, with three summits, although most of the return route would be low level path, so not an issue if I ran out of daylight. There were also bale out options after each summit, something I thought I might use, given the strong northerly winds (35-40mph and-10°C wind chill).
Setting off in the gloom
A Land Rover track was followed up towards a shepherd’s hut, where I crossed a new deer fence and headed across a very wet moor to gain the path that led very directly to the summit of Carn Liath GM/CS-029.
Carn Liath GM/CS-029
The path up Carn Liath has been massively improved recently try and is now a quartz staircase. Slippy when iced!
Carn Liath GM/CS-029 summit
The wind hit me hard when I topped out at 0820. I found some shelter at the summit, put on my windproof and set out putting up the 7m pole and W3EDP. Now at this point I was blissfully unaware of any solar activity, having checked the solar data the previous evening. It was only when I went to put my spot on that I saw an alert from an Aurora Watch app that I use.
I tuned up on 40m and thankfully got great signal reports from @F4WBN @EA2DT @F5JKK and @0E6END. And that was it! Chris initially gave me 3/5. This was because the mast had fallen over! He came back with 5/9 once I had re-guyed it.
Taking the mast down proved problematic. It was already rimed with ice. I’d been wearing grippy gloves to assemble it too. Going forward, I would erect it with bare hands and use the grippy gloves to take it down. Problem solved. I was away from Carn Liath at 0905 and on towards my second Top.
There was quite a bit of descent and re-ascent required to gain Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain GM/CS-009, over the 2.4km distance. I found the ascent tricky due to slippery rocks underfoot and being exposed to the full force of the wind. However, I summited to slightly calmer conditions at 1004.
The way to Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain GM/CS-009
Looking back to Carn Liath
Resting and getting food before setting up station on GM/CS-009
I set up an identical station to the previous summit. This time I worked 6 stations, with DJ5AV, EA1DHB and DL3HXX joining previous Chasers F4WBN, EA2DT & F4JKK.
I was packed up and on my way by 1040, now convinced that I’d manage the three summits. I was running about 90 minutes ahead of schedule. This was a combination of short activation times and faster speed across the ground than anticipated.
The way to Carn nan Gabhar GM/CS-003
As I approached the broad ridge of Carn nan Gabhar the wind really strengthened, no doubt partly to the increased elevation. It was the kind of wind that tries to rip the rucksack from your back.
Strong winds whipping up spindrift. Goggle time.
Easier slopes up to Carn nan Gabhar GM/CS-003
The summit ridge was blocky rocks, snow covered and awkward to move over. Having passed a large false summit cairn followed by another large cairn with a trig point on it, I reached the true summit a few hundred metres further on. All three summits are in the AZ, so I retreated to the middle summit, it having better protection from the elements. Arrival time 1140.
This being the highest and best placed summit, I decided to try for a quick activation on 2m. I screwed the extendable whip on to the ft-3d and hunkered down below the massive slabs to the south east of the cairn. My CQs were answered instantly, with a couple of Edinburgh Chasers and then a further four stations, the farthest being Berwick-upon-Tweed, 150km. I didnt log manually, instead trusting the radio to record the entire episode on its SD card.
Job Done! 10 points, 24 for the day. I settled down for some lunch.
The only thing was - it felt like I had unfinished business. I’d neglected the Super Chasers that been the only reason I’d qualified the previous two summits. I owed them the ten points.
I had time on my hands and hypothermia hadn’t quite set in, so I got up and started to look around for a way to set up a mast. Due to the rough bouldery and frozen ground, an unguyed mast would be the only solution. I found a crack in the summit block and wedged the base of the mast in. I loosely strung out my inverted V and hoisted the mast up as far as I dared, probably 4.5m max. The ropes on each end of the wires were simply jammed in behind gaps in rocks. The wires were very close to the ground, however I was going with the theory that true ground was several metres below the jumble of boulders.
The antenna was still in the air by the time I got my spot away, so I figured it would last five minutes, which was two minutes more than was needed to get F4WBN, @G0RQL, EA2EVM and EA2DT in the log. The guys were glad to work me and sounded relieved that I’d come back on the air. I was really glad that I’d completed all three summits on hf and taken the same Chasers along the way.
the dodgy dipole
on 40m with the kx2 and dodgy dipole
I packed up and got going around 1300, the clouds parting briefly and the wind dropping to virtually nothing within about 5 minutes of my departure. Go figure!
It didn’t last long.
retracing my steps down to the col
Once re-established at the col, it was a simple but tedious matter of heading south down a valley, onwards and downwards around the east side of Beinn Bheag and ultimately along the east and then southern sides of my first Top, Carn Liath. It’s a long way back, 8.5km from the col, initially on awful boggy, soft, peaty, and wet ground masquerading as a path. Thankfully a new path has been constructed from NN951706.
long way to go
I’d been on my own all day, seen no one else and was getting highly bored with the walk, so decided to work my way through Queens Greatest Hits. I don’t carry music, so it was just me, singing accapelo, with the occasional drum roll from my walking sticks. I was just about to launch into the Operatic section of Bohemian Rhapsody when two walkers suddenly appeared from a path to the side!
Anyway, 2.5 hours after leaving the Top, I was back at the car park, arriving at 1530.
Time 8.5 hours
Moving time 5.0 hours
I got away with a base layer, thin fleece and a lightweight waterproof all day.
Woolen hat and thin woolen gloves (with grippy fingers,/palms) worn most of the day.
Ski goggles essential.
I wore Scarpa Manta boots as I expected frozen ground. I can get double socks on under these.
I carried a Rab down jacket, spare hat and gloves as well as my bothy bag.
Yaesu ft-3d with diamond rh-770
W3EDP and 9:1
Inverted V 40m/20m
7m spiderbeams pole
4800mAh LiFePO4 battery
Can’t help thinking I got away with it, considering the band conditions!