Cairn William GM/ES-072 - some sun at last and a 6 band chase

With a decent forecast at last (its only mid-June…) I went for Cairn William yesterday June 19th, a nice little 1 pointer 40m drive from home. I first activated this just before Covid lockdown. On my first visit I took the Walkhighlands route from the mountain-biking car park, but that is quite a long walk in, so this time I went for a shorter route, starting to the South. Fraser, MM0EFI, last went up from the North but as his parking spot looked a wee bit limited to me and there wasn’t too much difference in distance from my spot, I went with mine.

Route up © Ordnance Survey 2024

The first section is a bike trail (not used very much) that leads uphill through the trees and joins a wide logging track. Follow that to the right until a mountain-bike trail post appears, marking the Granite Top Trail (Red)


This wide trail leads uphill to the point where a number of bike trails meet. The Cairn William ascent is marked with a NoEntry post. Care needed in walking up this, as it is possible to meet a bike descending at high speed and there is often not much room to get out of the way. However, this was mid-week and there were only a few cars in the main car park which I had passed en route to my start point. Nevertheless, I stopped regularly to listen and scan the hillside for bikers, but I only saw one at the summit all day and 4 pushing their bikes up the wide trail as I went down at the end of the afternoon.

Activation

Equipment: KX3, Quansheng UV-K5, Sotabeams linked dipole 40/20, Spiderbeam 7m mast, homebrew 6m alu mast, homebrew 2el yagi for 6, 10 and 12m.
I set up close to the trig point and was qrv at 1245 utc

40m: Good inter-G signals heard and band quiet but very few chasers. Just 6 itl including Chris, MM7RVC from the Deeside group and only one outside the UK - F5PYI

20m: band very quiet. Just 7 itl, 6 regulars including MM7RVC again and Mike 2M0WNA also from the Deeside group, finishing with SQ6EO/P

10m: I could hear some French stations, so I knew the band was open to the South and F4WBN was quickly itl 59 both ways, followed by MM7RVC for his 3rd band chase, a French mobile F6GNP/M and then an unexpected S2S with 2M0TFF - he called me after getting a QSP from Steve MM0XPZ who could hear me but I couldn’t hear him - Steve had earlier worked me on 40m. last itl on 10m was Mike 2M0WNA again.

6m: I reconfigured the yagi for 6m, which took about 10 minutes but this was the first time I had done it on a hill. I2OLV was calling CQ, so I worked him and then spotted. The reliable locals called in - MM7RVC and 2M0WNA, but nobody else. The band was only just about open to the South and I worked CT7BIZ as last itl on 6

12m: reconfigured the yagi for 12, which took extra time as I put the reflector add-ons on the driven element and vice versa - KX3 ATU not amused. I need to change the colour coding on the tent poles :crazy_face: The band was very quiet but I could hear a few EU stations, but the only caller was MM7RVC, so I suggested to Chris that we needed to try 2m to get a 6 band chase

2m: while waiting for Chris to put his antenna up, I worked Fraser MM0EFI, to give him a Complete and then Chris came on for a 59 both ways. Great stuff.

Just the 25 itl for the day, but it was nice to be back on the hills in decent weather. 73 all.

Summit views

Looking NE, with Ben Rinnes GM/ES-021 and Tap O’Noth GM/ES-054 L-R

Looking North at Bennachie-Oxencraig GM/ES-061

Looking SW at Morven GM/ES-018

Looking down on village of Monymusk

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I was listening Simon… honest! The trouble is that I am getting more noise on 40m in recent weeks. Unfortunately you were in the noise, so I didn’t call. Maybe would have made it if you’d been using your 857. I also listened on 10m and heard Chris call you, but nothing heard from your end.

I’ll add your route to my ES information with a note to go up this one during the week and to keep an ear out for bikes.

73, Gerald

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Hi Gerald, having invested in a KX3, the 857 stays at home these days. Strange you could hear Chris and not me - the vagaries of propagation!

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Vagueries indeed… he was extremely loud!

We (with M0JLA) activated Cairn William in May and parked at the same place as you and went up the same narrow bike trail to join a wide road and turned right (as you did). However we were were following an hillbagging route which only went a short distance on the road and then followed a mountain bike track fairly steeply (puff puff) up to the left and up and up. For some reason i was expecting to reach another forest road (I never carry a detailed map or GPS and obviously forget what I had seen when I did look beforehand…) but we just seemed to keep on going up (you can see why when you look at the contours!!!) until we at last broke out through the top of the trees which meant we were getting somewhere (I had begun to wonder…) but still a lot of height to gain. Fairly soon the path forked with the bike track going less steeply to the left and, to the right, a much steeper and narrower walker’s path which we followed. We gained yet more height and found a few rocky slabs to cross where the path became more indistinct … and then it disappeared altogether leaving us still on a steep slope. After some discussion I continued on at much the same gradient but Rod (with map and GPS) decided to head less steeply to the right to look for the marked track which was obviously still quite some way away. I was assuming that the heather would get lower and thus easier to yomp through as I got higher but this didn’t seem to work on this pretty lowly hill (448m) but I eventually found a cross path obviously well used by bikes and turned right. A left fork soon led up to the summit and trig and I should have taken it but went into ‘headless chicken’ mode and thought it was the western summit so walked on (rather unhappy) until I met M0JLA coming toward me! A quick turn round and we were soon on the top. This was the busiest summit fo our trip but mostly mountain bikers obviously emjoying the good weather and apparently going off in different directions. I was well pleased with 8 2m and 4 70cm contacts including a ss with MM0SMD on Ben Aigan ES-069,
Discussions continued about how to get down as neither of us fancied our ascent route as Rod had apparenly ended up on a tedious set of hairpins whch never seemed to gain much height (I think your map omits a few!!) but I didn’t fancy trying to pck up our ascent path - and it would have been a very steep descent once in amongst the trees. With great reluctance, Rod agreed to repeat his contour path downhill this time but I soon became equally disenchanted with it as it really was endless (well almost…) and that was without evn considering that a bike might come flying down at any time (surely it is an ascent path??). I considered trying to cut off some corners and sliding down to the next layer but the hill is really rather steep and the vegetation was not encouraging. We eventually reached the bottom and then had further to go than expected, before we found the good wide road straight down the hill and back to the car by the same route as you. Despite the steepness of the bike track, Gerald, I would certainly recommend our ascent route unless your really have a very high boredom threshold (NOT one of my attributes :wink: !) or would be very unhappy when abandoned by the path. However I suspect that Fraser MM0EFI will come up with another route which is much easier than either of these! Thanks for the lovel photos Simon, I think our views were better than ours.
73 Viki

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Hi Viki,

I’ve looked at the Hill Bagging map and Google satellite and I think I can see the track you took up through the trees, which is the final section of a mountain bike track called Slippery Willie, as shown on a trail map. This track is almost identical to that shown on the Hill Bagging map.


However, the next part across the heather is not visible on the satellite image until it gets closer to the big track leading up from the west.There is another obvious track to the right, which goes all the way to the trig point but it disappears once it reaches the trees. This track is not shown on the trail map, but it might join up with the red track called CW Downhill, through the trees.


All look pretty steep to me. I agree that the zigzag bike trail (The Devil’s Staircase, which is definitely a descent route) is tiresome, as it is quite lengthy. However, I don’t like steep very much so prefer a longer but more gradual ascent/descent, even with biker risk. The Devil’s Staircase is for experienced riders and with the Tarland biking centre now being the main attraction in the area, its maybe not so busy these days. The main alternative seems to be the standard Walkhighlands route up from the West, starting at Pitfichie Trail car park, which is the way I went on my first activation. It is quite a bit longer though.

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Tx Simon for all your information. Most amused to hear that our steep way up is called Slipery Willie - and I can quite believe it would be in the wet. It was certainly steep enough in places for me to be reluctant to use it as a path down - always assuming we could have found it. So the Devil’s Staircase is a descent route - and jolly good luck to them and I very much hope I’m not in the way when it is used as such! As mentioned there were quite a few bikers around at the summit but I was too busy calling (or eating) to find which route they were using down but they were obviously enjoying themselves - which we weren’t on that endless staircase! Not a peak I would want to revisit but, no problem, as we don’t expect tho visit the area again although we have much enjoyed our 2 visits in 2023 and 2024…
73 Viki

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