The Buck of Cabrach 721 m - GM/ES-039
I was working all of the Easter weekend - Friday right through Monday. A busy time in food retail. Friends and fellow activators were posting excellent GM reports on here - @GM0GAV , @MM0FMF , @GM4JXP , @MM0VPM to name a few. I was suffering badly from FoMo*.
Sunday 9th April 2023
Into work early with the aim of an early finish. Westhill was dark and grey all morning. Mike @MM7MWL was activating Fourman Hill GM/ES-083 and posted pictures of low cloud on our WhatsApp. I almost managed to chase him from work using the handie, some 50 km to the south east of him over improbable terrain. I could hear him 3/1 when I placed the FT-60 on the steel roof of my car but sadly he didn’t hear me, so no complete. Westhill gets its name for a reason and unfortunately I was on the wrong side of it.
Fourman Hill to Westhill
Anyway, I escaped from work at 1245 BST and headed west towards Alford, then north to Lumsden, the weather brightening as I drove. In less than an hour I was turning onto the wild Cabrach road - one to watch in winter. It isn’t ploughed and can hold snow late into the year. Along with such challenges comes a high starting altitude and I was soon parked on the dirt layby that sits around 435 m ASL. NJ420 254. I stepped out of the car in to a cool, strong southerly wind.
I always say that The Buck should be kept for a crisp winters day or a baking hot summer. Unfortunately my two previous ascents have been on soft snow and on wet ground. Today would be the latter.
The route backtracks along the road and climbs the wooden gate on the right. Follow a rutted vehicle track looking out for a path through the heather off to the left (shown on the OS 1:25000). Follow this as it weaves towards a broken fence line. Then the fun begins. Walking through and following the fence traverses flat spongy and wet ground. Even when the track rises, it is still wet until it passes a spring near the upper reaches of the hill. It’s a direct ascent, “Route 1” if you like. There’s no way to get lost. On the return, it is easy to miss the fence crossing point due to the difficulty in spotting the return path.
Map courtesy of OS. © Crown copyright, Ordnance Survey 2023
It’s only 1.4 miles or 2.25 km to the top and this took me just over 30 minutes. The Buck is a bit of a heathery lump, but has a pleasing summit, with jumbled granite and a trig perched on top.
the initial ascent
The Buck of Cabrach GM/ES-039
The breeze was strong, blowing patches of mist over the summit slopes. I put on my RAB down and got to work setting up the station. I set about looking for the clump of blade shaped rocks that had a gap just big enough for my pole. That done, I stretched my W3EDP back towards the summit rocks, thankful that its great length took the feedpoint into the shelter of some boulders and a dry stone wall.
That done, I took out my Yaesu FT-60 handheld, attached the RH-770 whip and decided to brave the exposed trig for a try on 2 m. It was 1444 BST. I knew Mike MM7MWL would be listening. He quickly responded to my spot/CQ and reported no wind noise on the mic., so my cupping of the radio with my other hand with my back to the wind was doing the job.
I kept calling. Five minutes would pass before I had another QSO. GM4JOJ, to the east near Peterhead. Then another seven minutes. I was getting rather cold, exposed to the full brunt of the cold Easter wind. I worked GM0HLV - 59 from Helmsdale in the far north. then a flurry of contacts - GM0VGI, not too far away in Inverurie and then BOOM! - MM7UPP from the island of Orkney 59 both ways! He was 120 miles / 190 km to the north. A good path over the sea. Every now and again I’d cast a glance over my shoulder to see if the mast and wire was still up. Yup, the carbon 6 and rock jam was doing just fine.
I bagged a couple more, with a nice handheld to handheld QSO with Garry @MM0XET who was on high ground near Kinnoull Hill at Perth, some 100 km to the south. Nice! With seven logged on 2m and me having stood for 35 minutes on the exposed summit, I decided to retreat to the shelter of the rocks and my HF set up.
Yay! Happy me, having Bucked the trend, with a flurry of 2 m contacts
I really couldn’t be bothered with Sunday 40 m shenanigans at this point, but I did spot that Ritchie and Robert @2W0LWF and @M0RWX were out on Welsh summits and were only 3 KHz apart on the 40 m band. I nabbed them both for a summit to summit, somewhat surprising Rithie, who had his finger hovering over the “OFF” button on his radio as I called in!
uncomfortable position, but out of the worst of the wind
That done, I quickly packed up and trotted/slithered back down to the car. I was home 35 minutes later. Bath then dinner. It was mince, neep and tatties followed by rhubarb crumble. Then a bottle of red wine and a movie. FoMo* put to rest and great delight in having sneaked in a fun activation with the limited time I had during a busy weekend at work.
*Fear of missing out (FoMO) is a unique term introduced in 2004 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites. FoMO includes two processes; firstly, perception of missing out, followed up with a compulsive behavior to maintain these social connections.