Carn na Drochaide ES-025

The forecast was for clear blue skies and bright sun for the Cairngorms and so that was the destination. Now clear skies overnight in November means icy roads and the road I was going to use rises to the highest mainland road in the UK at 655m. No surprises they built a ski resort where there’s a main road passing! Anyway I checked the WX and there were no predictions for icy roads/frosts. I had 2 choices, Conachraig from Spittal of Glenmuick or Carn na Drochaide from Linn of Quoich.

It was a murky when I got up but as I drove North the WX improved continually. The WX got brighter, the sky got clearer, the sun got brighter. The temperature got colder… Hey! That’s not in the script. My ice alert was lit on the car dashboard as the temperature dropped to 5C and lower. As I went North from Perth to Blairgowrie I switched from motorway to ordinary roads. Roads with bends. Wet roads with bends. On a cold morning after a clear-ish night. Hmmm. I’m lucky to have a car with magic 4wd with automatic torque distribution and stability control and traction control. It also had 4 tyres which were at their end of life, in fact they were due for replacement midweek. So we applied lots of clever traction stuff versus almost slick tyres (actually the tread remaining was 2.5mm on the fronts and 1.7mm on the rears) on a less than ideal road surface. Shall we say there were a few moments. Not enough for the light to flash which means deep magic is occurring but enough moments that it stopped being a leisurely drive and much more a matter of serious concentration.

It gets worse, the road climbs out of Blairgowrie and gets narrower, bumpier and generally a much less pleasant drive. It got colder, being 0C in Bridge of Cally. The temperature was up and down between 0C and 4C and the car was much more twitchy. This was with very gentle driving. There may be magic but once you are sliding on ice because you were going too fast, sliding towards a stone wall or trees and the magic has stopped working then there’s going to be trouble. Maybe injuries to your pride, injuries to your wallet and worse, injuries to your health!

I passed a car smashed up, off the road with all its airbags deployed. I could see Police Incident tape all around it so I knew it wasn’t a fresh crash or there was anyone in the car. I saw all this out of the corner of my eye whilst going round the bend with a touch of opposite lock applied to correct the gentle slide I was in, this at about 40mph. From Spittal of Glenshee the road is rubbish for a few miles and then much better. A lovely surface and had been gritted. It also climbs up high to the ski centre. I pulled off to the ski centre car park to consider the roads. There were tiny patches of snow visible on the slopes, nothing really and no ice in the puddles. I did think about stopping here and dong Carn a’Gheodhie or Glas Maol. But I thought I’d have a test of the road as it dropped to Braemar. It was going down so it should get warmer but being North there was no sunlight on the road. But within 1/2 a mile, the temperature was upto 3C :confused: The view North to big snow capped mountains was a bit good. It did make you want to keep going.

The WX was fabulous in Braemar and I didn’t fancy driving on to Ballater from Braemar and then the 8km drive down an ungritted narrow road. It wasl 3C as I drove the 14miles from Braemar to Linn of Dee, over the bridge and back to the other side of the river to Braemar at Linn of Quoich. The drive on the North side of the Dee through mature Scotts Pine, in the sunlight and with the blue sky visible through the tree cover is stupendous. That alone made the drive up worthwhile. There’s space for 15 cars at the carpark and there were 12 when I arrived at 10.05z. Boots on and gear ready whilst chatting to a dude who was in a Shogun. He’d found the road up through Glenshee interesting as well as the drive to Linn of Dee. We both agreed that the sensible plan would be out and back over Glenshee before dark!

From the car park it’s a few hundred metres along the track and over the bridge. The official route is along the track a few miles and up the SE ridge. Pah, official route! Look for a feint path in the trees before the first house. It runs past the side of the house and out behind the tree line onto the hill. There’s a really good path now for the next 1/3rd of the route. The hill is short heather and the views as you climb out of the Dee valley are brilliant on a bad day. On a day with amazing sky and sun then it’s fantastic. The path peters out. It’s now wildwalking through the heather and you simply go up. I noticed that my obvious route up looking at the ground followed a possible straight line route on the GPS. For about another 1/3rd you wild walk and then from nowhere another good path appears. With fresh boot prints! Follow this to the top and the large cairn. Computer says it should take 1hr30 and it took me 1hr20 elapsed including comfort breaks and adjusting the layers. It was warm enough and I was warm enough to setup with just a base layer on. I needed a fleece and windproof jacket in a few minutes though.

At the top to the East the summit turns to a big boulder field so I stayed near the path on the West. Getting tent pegs in the ground is hard work, there’s about 2in of grass,moss and soil and then it’s bouldery rocks. It needed much faffing to get the pegs in but once done the 20m antenna was up quickly. Great apart from the fact it wouldn’t tune up. I checked a few things but no joy. Onto 17m and the same. Sniff of power into the antenna and full SWR on the 817. This means a fault. Out came the wee multimeter (size of a pack of cigarettes). Carried on 370+ activations, used on 4 occasions now. Check counterpoise continuity, radiator continuity, loading coil… all fine. So it’s a feeder problem Check 2m RG58 section, OK. Plug shorter feeder to 817, SWR blob on. Add in other section, SWR terrible. Waggle connectors, 17m comes alive in the speaker, goes away, comes back. I waggled the connectors a lot and fixed the earth issue. Everything sorted, 10mins wasted.

17m was busy with some DXpedition at the CW end. I called near .087 and the RBN spotter got me and whilst I was working OH9XX the DXpedition who was working split landed on me. No chance to work with so many calling the DX so I sent QSY UP about 5 times and ended up around 092. RBN found me but not as quick as OH9XX who was calling me as I sent a few ? to check the frequency. Slick chasing I thought. From here it was quite easy to work the chasers. A total of 20 CW QSOs with ODX being RV9CPB about 250km North of Moscow. I could see the comms mast on Morrone CS-060 and at the Cairwell and I could see Braemar at the foot of the hill, so no problems getting a mobile signal. I spotted for SSB and worked 10 QSOs. ODX were N4EX and KI4SVM. After that I tried 12m which was busy with Europeans calling DX. I told Rich N4EX I was QSYing to 12m and he met me there, one of 3 SSB QSOs made.

The sun was dropping in the sky as was the temp. Time to get the hell out of Dodge. I packed away and walked out mostly the way I’d come in. Return was trivial, downhill and follow your own boot prints. Back at the car it was 7C and a couple were having a drink. They’d been camping up the higher up above the Quoich Water and had woken to find their tent frozen solid. So it had been well cold in the night. I could have sat at the car till it went dark the view was so good. But I wanted to be the far side of Glenshee before dark so it was time to leave. No problems at all on the way back, the temp was still 3c at the top of Glenshee but most of the time it was 7C.

Carn na Drochaide is an unremarkable and simple hill. It’s a long drive for me but worth all the cost of fuel and frayed nerves driving on rubbishy roads for the views during the ascent and from the top. If I thought I’d get another day like this one I’d do it again for no points simply to look at the summits with their snow caps. The views really are that good.

^^^^^ Summit Cairn looking East

^^^^^ Looking South to at least 4 SOTA summits (An Socach, Carn a’Gheodhie, Morrone, Glas Maol

^^^^^ Beinn a’Bhuiridh

Distance driven: 240miles, distance walked: 7.5km, distance climbed: 500m