There was serious fog. So much fog I drove up behind another car and only saw his lights at 20m from him. “Put you fog lights on numbnuts” I said. Ah, they are his foglights, his normal rear lights wear barely visible
And the forecast was for it to get better near Kinbrace. The forecast was right but 4 hours late. By the time I got to Helmsdale the worst of the fog was gone. By Kinbrace there was lots of blue sky. Oh yes, could be good.
The drive from Helmsdale up Strath of Kildonan is sublime. 18miles of single track road but what a road. It follows the Helmsdale River, one of the best Salmon rivers in the world. All along the river there were posh Range Rovers parked up and the vehicles have special fittings so a fly fishing rod can be transported when set up. The views to the hills, covered in Gorse that is flowering were awesome. As were the old house you pass. For a single track road, I could go for long periods at the 35mph with taking any risks.
There’s parking for several cars near the the start of the track to Greamachary Farm. The walk starts with about 4.5km along a rough track to the now deserted farmhouse. It maybe used as a stalker’s refuge now though. The cloud was still low here, patches of blue but near the summit of the day the cloud reformed. And what a summit it was… Ben Griam Beg NS-091, so far unactivated. It’s trivial to do: walk 4.5km to Greamachary, cross the burn (old bridge is ok still) cross about 1km of blanket bog, climb a steep bank to the ridge, climb a damn silly steep summit cone. Ta Da! Maybe this is why it’s not been done before?
The bog was better than I expected. But it’s been quiet dry these last few weeks. After a wet spell this could be exceptionally wet, maybe dangerous. Heather, tussock grass, moss, bog, peat… lovely! The ground improves on the steeper parts butg it’s still dire. Of course it would be nice if I could see where I was going. Into the gloop and keep going up. Finally I reached the ridge. A massive herd of deer ran past. Onwards and upwards.
It gets silly now, the GPS said 841m horizontally to the summit and 150m to climb, steep but not bad. So having battled on I was saddened to see it say 380m to target and 120m to climb. Gordon Bennett was it steep. Being in the clag I couldn’t see how steep so I just kept swearing under my breath. Then bingo, trigpoint and a wind shelter. The shelter was no use, open to the wind. I dropped down behind the summit where it was quite sheltered.
First 40m CW then 40m SSB then 30m CW. All good stuff. I decided that I do this one summit properly as I was late leaving the B&B, later due to the fog, later still due to badly estimating the time to travel to Kinbrace and much later because I’m a flabby bloater who struggled to get up the steep bits over the rough ground! I got up to change the antenna for 20m and was almost blown over. The cloud had been coming and going and there had been sunny periods but I didn’t get a view. What I hadn’t noticed was the increase in wind speed. It was now manic. With ~2hr walk out and no idea if the WX would get worse I decided bail out. I realise there have been no opportunities for DX chasers, I shall try to remedy that.
It took 2hrs to get back to the car. By the time I was back to Greamachary Farm, Ben Giram Beg was clear of cloud. Damn! Well the cloud did come and go as I walked out. I got some photos but I think they will murky at best. I’ll push some up later.
Why Ben Griam Beg? Well this was my 250th unique and I though that deserved an unactivated summit. What better than one of the very remote NS summit? Morven, my primary target is about 8miles from where I am staying. It’s been foggy all day here and to do Morven in zero visibility seems a waste whne there are other summits. Maybe not as spectacular as Morven, but damn fine anyway.
Seeing a farmer on a quad bike with a newborn lamb in his arms and his dog with its paws on the handle bars escorting several hundred sheep. I had to wait 5min for them to pass and he stopped to thank me. Dude I’m on holiday and you’re working, of course I can wait!
Sitting on the lip of the boot (trunk) of the car looking at the summit eating a post walk orange. I was about 50m from the rail line and a train went past. The driver blew the train horn and waved at me. Where on earth does a train driver do that? Fantastic!
Actually doing 250 uniques!
I managed not to work Brian G4ZRP. He’s the man who got me into SOTA. I feel fairly bad for not getting him in the log.
The WX looks rubbish tomorrow till mid afternoon. So I’ll do tourist stuff (John O’Groats etc.) until the WX breaks.