Creag Bhalg GM/ES-046

Compared to last weekend’s scramble up and down Creag Ghiubhais, Creag Bhalg was a doddle and it is a hill to which I will certainly return. Nice views on the way up and great 360 at the top. Weather forecast was sunny for the morning with a few snow showers in the afternoon, with light winds. The morning bit was correct, although with stronger wind which caused me to take ages setting up. The afternoon though brought very frequent snow squalls with strong gusts of wind and I was very glad I took my tent.
I took my starting point from the OS map (see photo) and Google street view, the latter showing a roadside gate to a track a mile or so past the Linn of Dee carpark, with room for parking. The gate is no longer there, being replaced by a couple of logs and Mar Lodge Estate have evidently abandoned use of the track as it is overgrown with knee-high heather. That was easily pushed through though and the track soon meets a much bigger one with waymark posts. A left turn at a crossroads takes you uphill and then the narrow track to the summit appears on the right, just past a lone fence post and wends its way past a large dead tree. Higher up there is a 2 panel solar array close to the track, but what it was supplying power to I’m not sure. There is a small cairn at the top of the track and the summit cairn is off to the right.
I set up on the south side to try and get a bit out of the strong NW wind. This wind caused much delay due to my WARC fan dipole getting all twisted up - next time I know to get it guyed down and then raise the mast in stages rather than all in one go. The ground surface is short heather but quite stoney underneath, requiring much prodding around to get guy pegs in.
Checking my phone (O2), I found I had almost no signal - just enough to spot but loading the Sotawatch page took at least 5 minutes and sometimes didn’t load at all. I finally got on the air at 1141 UTC and found the bands in poor shape. EA2DT, Manuel, was my first QSO on 40m but I had fewer chasers compared to other activations. Switching to 20m gave me a better run, with a S2S with HB9CQB/P and best DX of the day SV3IEG. I went back to 40m for a quick S2S with LB1DH/P and then had a look on 17m. I found strong signals from the East and had a nice non-SOTA QSO with Leo UR3IF in Ukraine. However, after a self-spot and lots of CQs no chasers appeared so I went to 30m CW. By this time the weather had changed and very squally snow showers started barrelling through, causing a lot of tent flapping noise which made copying hard at times even with phones. I managed 22 QSOs including a S2S with HB9CDH/P, a new country in OZ6ABZ (SOTA doesn’t seem very popular in Denmark, or am I wrong?) and several contacts with others who I also contacted during the day on SSB. Towards the end of the CW session a particularly strong squall took the mast of my endfed wire down and snapped my 20m delta loop. The WARC fan dipole stayed up though. I got the endfed back up - no damage, and went back briefly to 40 and 20m SSB before calling it a day, taking advantage of a break in the squalls to pack up the station. I then sat in my tent for 15 minutes watching the snow from yet another squall and eating the remains of my sandwich lunch, waiting for another break to pack up the tent and start home. It started snowing again as I started to walk off the hill and kept snowing most of the way down.
In summary, 54 QSOs for the day and 3 S2S. Thanks to all, especially chasers on both SSB & CW.

Map of route

View on the way up, looking south across the Dee valley

The track to the summit, featuring dead tree

Small cairn at top of track, with view North

View North east

Operating position, with fallen endfed mast, broken 20m delta loop and WARC dipoles


It’s a cracking wee hill with great views of the bigger boys around it. Barry @gm4toe needs to post his stag photo again.

Ah - but that was on ES-020 which is due to be moved to completely muck-up my GM/ES completion!

Bah! That explains why I couldn’t find the photo, looking in the wrong place. I’m planning end of September for a load of GM updates including the end of that one and the start of its replacement a km NE. Damn that means I’ve got the never ending trek up that path again to get to it.

Its a funny thing, but 30-40 years ago I often stayed at Muir Cottage with a grand view of Creag Bhaig, but such was the call of the higher summits that I never set foot on it. It would be the first summit climbed if I was to stay there now, SOTA takes us up summits that once would have gone unregarded.

Nice pictures, I can see one of your snow flurries in the last one!

Andy, thank you for reminding me of a handy expressive interjection from my comic-reading youth. I must use it more often in conversation.
Beano cartoon


Hi Simon,
Thanks for the nice report and our QSO on 20m SSB.
I wonder how long is your fishing rod. By the picture you’ve posted, it looks very long. I’d guess its nearly 10m long, isn’t it?
Thank you.


Hi Guru, yes, its a 10m DX Commander mast, but I don’t attach anything right at the top,

73 Simon

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Yes, that was the one which did the damage,

73 Simon

Great report and brave use of a tent on a Scottish summit!
Manuel EA2DT seems to hear us well in Aberdeenshire! Manuel was in my log Sunday and today, which is a great effort on his part.

If you’re out this Sunday, give me a shout.

Hi Fraser, my plan is to be out on Saturday up GM/ES-049, Ladylea Hill, so maybe next time,

Cheers, Simon

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