OK, activation report now posted.
In reply to MM0FMF:
After a wonderful Easter break in Sutherland it was back to work with a bump. Still the WX forecast for last weekend was not bad. As it was the WX was corking, wall to wall sunshine, a few fluffy clouds and hardly any wind.
I decided I should try an do something worth at least 6 points to keep the work ethic going and after a bit of studying the lists and maps, Cruach Ardrain at 8pts selected itself. This is a not too small 1046m lump above Crianlarich (or Crane-lurch as we once tried to convice an American work colleague!). On the map it looked reasonable, not as steep as Ben Hope although 100m higher. It turned out not quite as easy as it appeared.
Saturday was a bit miserable till late evening when it cleared up and went cold. I woke at 7.30 on Sunday to a winter wonderland, ice on the roofs, car and roads. I was away nice and sharpish as it’s a 2hr drive from here, but for once the roads were quiet. Still it was just about 0C according to the car. The WX was fabulous all the way. I’m starting to know the popular parking spots for famous hills now. Suffice to say everyone had the same idea and was up earlier than me. The two Ben More car parks had a total of about 35 cars in them when I passed by. I made sure I went through each 30mph limit at 29mph. Just as well, speed guns in Lochearnhead (always on Sundays if it’s sunny), a few plodwagons in Crianlarich. But they didn’t get me. It’s only a hope skip and a jump and you’re at the A82 layby which is the start for Cruach Ardrain and An Caisteal. Fit sods also bag one or more Munros from Beinn Tulaichean, Beinn Chabhair, Beinn a’Chroin and Stob Gharbh whilst up this way. Anyway the car park was nearly full. I pulled in with another car and a minibus. Busy, busy, busy.
The minibus unloaded a gaggle of noisey swines. About 12 or so but they were making more row than the Kop on a good day. Luckily An Caisteal was their target. I made sure I had both a walking beanie hat and my sun hat and some suncreme and I picked a secret weapon in Strathyre… a Mars bar. Just before I set off I had a banana for a carb boost. I’d also had a proper breakfast of cereals and grains too. I walked with this group for the first 2kms along the track by the River Falloch. Then I bid my noisy companions adieu and dropped down to the rickety bridge. I forgot to get a photo of it but shall we say it held my weight. Dawn French might be pushing it though
Now to here there’s no real climb, 60-80m, but from the bridge you climb a huge great grassy bank up to Grey Heights. By the bridge the ground is very boggy even after the dryish spell we’ve had. Proper boggy, over 6in deep boggy. The trick is to go wide either left or right of the obvious muddy path up the hill. After about 50m more of ascent the ground is much better and the path is damp in places but nothing to worry you. It’s boring but easy. The view up to An Caisteal is OK, but with the blue sky and cool air I knew the views higher up would be very good.
You keep climbing past the forest, parts of which have been felled so the 2006 OS map is not accurate anymore. The fence is an 8ft deer fence and you pass a big ladder style on the way up. Keep going up and up till you can see the second ladder style. Now being thick I veered toward the target and worked my way over the pathless ground. The trick is to go to the style where you find the proper trench, sorry path. This is a popular Munro close to Edinburgh/Glasgow, so it has a trench on it. You can switch your brain off now. I continued climbing as the path alternated between rocky dry bits and very boggy chucks. It’s not technical but seemed relentless. The sun was warm but the air temp was very cold. Still I had a spectacular sweat on. I started to meet people coming down, they must have been up early.
So by the time I got to Grey Height, NN393226, I was 678mASL with only 360m to climb. Not quite but close. I’d made good time and planned a pitstop here. Slug of water or two and half the Mars bar. On with the sun hat, still no suncreme because it was cold so I didn’t realise how strong the sun was. After the sugar I was like Billy Whizz for the next section. The steep bank and last pull to Grey Height was quite tiring, so the next section is easy as it’s quite flat. Except it isn’t. The climb to Meall Dhamh is again tiring as the path winds back and forth in the crags. Still at the top I had another breather and admired the view. Not a bad time for 640m of ascent.
This is when I realised just how far down I had to go to get the col. Except it wasn’t just down to the col then the final pull. No, no, and thrice no. It was down, then up, then down, then up, then down. Then up. No joke because the realisation was dawning that I had to do all the up and down again on the way down. Going down on the way up is bad enough. Going up on the way down is a low trick. So at the final coll I had a final adjustment of straps and gear and prepared myself for the assault on the last 306m of ascent in 890m of travelling. This last climb was more than I used to do in total when I started SOTA and now I was about to do what used to render me senseless after already doing at least twice that much already. And it was warming up. Did I put suncreme on? Nope!
The last bit is a real swine. You’d think I’d be used to these Munros being a stage more than local lumps but it just doesn’t gell. If you climb twice as high as I usually do in the same distance it’s going to be hard work. Perhaps in 50 or so more ascents I’ll understand. Anyway half way I stopped, finished off the Mars bar and had to mentally will myself to the top. I hadn’t almost got there to give up. I checked the GPS, 100m to go and I’m simply guestimated my height gain out loud. Slowly counting I checked again and we had 45m to go. Then all at once you pop out on the ridge between Beinn Tulaichean and Cruach Ardrain. I have no recollection of the final bit. I knew it wa just a few moments to the summit. Then I was there.
There’s two summits and not too much space for HF antennas. So I touched both cairns and setup out of the way. A total of 15 people came and went whilst I was there and not a single person was interested really. One or two comments about TV aerials, of course I’d not heard that before ;-).
After a slow drink and butty I was on the air. I knew exactly what to expect. Naff all. I knew I couldn’t have had views and weather like this and good propagation. 10mins of calling on 60m produced nothing. Even my awful CW attracted nobody. Open the gates to Dante’s Inferno, 7.032CW and call away. It didn’t take too much effort to get people calling me. Mental fatigue converted G0ANV into G0NAV. I think it took 4 attempts to get that right, then I recognised the call and sent the right call. Thanks for the spot, it brought a few more out calling me. After a struggle I even got DL5WW/M correct. He was very loud. After only a few sessions on the air that DL prefix is so obvious to hear in a call. I don’t think of it as ‘D’ ‘L’ but I hear it as just one sound and my brain switches into “get the number and 2 or more letters” mode. I’m starting to enjoy this learning and using Morse I worked 5 on 40m and then went back to 60m.
Now a while back I made a programmble SOTA beacon. You can program it on site with one button. I’ve taken it up about 60 summits and used it a handful of times. It took me 10 minutes to make it work. Embarrassing as I designed the hardware and software. Still it was up keying away whilst I had the rest of the butties and some fruit. After about 5mins of beaconing I went over to RX and there was Brian G4ZRP. Got him and a steady stream of chasers appeared. The beacon had done it for me. I worked 6 on 60m SSB and then knew it was time to move. It had taken me a lot longer to get up. I was slow working people and stayed longer than I intended. I went up to bathe in the view and get the photos.
There it was, standing proud and completely unmissable. Ben Nevis WS-001 was so obvious with a huge amount of snow on it compared to other summits. It’s taken 2.5 years of SOTA, 9 years of living in GM plus countless trips past and I’ve finally seen the summit on the big one. Ugly thing and I bet it was crawling in grockles! The visibility was amazing, Ben Nevis was 57km away and clear to the naked eye. Visibility must have extended over 60km with ease. You don’t get too many days like that and without realising it I spent 20minutes looking at the view and taking photos. I’ve also learnt how to make my camera take decent scenery shots. Don’t put it onto scenery mode but use Program mode, evaluative metering and the magic touch, manual focus set to infinity. Only I have to remember to refocus after zooming in or out, hence a few blurred shots.
There’s not much to say about the descent other than it never ended. I came back the way I came up. You can go down one of the corries but I couldn’t remember which one. Best not to spoil a good day by getting lost. It took a long time but I had the good weather and was in no rush. 2hr30 later I was at the car taking more photos in the evening sun as the hues improved. A quiet drive back considering the weather and I got back home 12hrs after leaving.
Total walked: 14.2km, total ascent: 1176m, distance driven: 165miles.
1176m!!! No wonder I was bushed. But what a way to wear myself out. Thanks to the spotters and everyone who worked me. Especially those who suffered me on CW. I didn’t get sunburnt but I was lucky. I was bright red when I got in the shower and now I look all bronzed. Just think of George Clooney with a nice tan and that’s me
Pictures on Flickr and the full 8MP set at http://www.moosedata.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=6041 Sometimes the moosedata machine is slow. Just stick with it if you want to see the hires pictures.
In reply to MM0FMF:
A great report, Andy, much enjoyed!
If you ever do it again, you can avoid returning the same way by following the north-east ridge which curves around to Stob Garbh then over Stob Coire Bhuidhe to descend Creag na h-Iolaire to your starting point, there is a slightly scrambly bit descending to a bealach before Stob Garbh, otherwise its easy walking and a satisfying horseshoe.