Following the blistering heat we experienced in the North on Friday (26 degrees in Tomintoul!!!) Saturday looked to be the ideal day for a walk in the Angus Glens – oh delusional activator. Temperatures on Saturday never reached double figures in the glens and it was perishing on the summits. I needed a couple of easier summits to make sure my “hitting the wall” on Ben Ledi was just a one-off so selected two that were reasonably close to each other, not over challenging and offered an easy escape if my energy gave out. Corwharn (ES-048) and Cat Law (ES-044) gave me the perfect pair with the added bonus that both had only been activated once before so would offer Chasers (and myself) a potential Unique.
Parking is relatively easy on the side of the road at NO285593 and the private road heading North West gives an easy warm-up approach. This road is tarmac as far as Longdrum and is then a clearly defined estate track after there. The route is fairly obvious but there has been a lot of extra track building which makes the map inaccurate. After crossing the burn at NO292639 it is easy to chose a route up the hill on one of the flailed tracks through the heather to lines of grouse butts (it meets a bulldozed track near the summit ridge) Just an aside, this is probably the best managed grouse moor I have been on, the heather is not rank and a skilled management of burning and flailing of tracks over many years has left walking on these hills a real pleasure even if you go “off piste”. Once you start the ascent you will see the “stone man” which marks the summit area, it is not actually on the summit but is certainly in the activation zone.
Once set-up (and wrapped-up, it was very cold in the breeze) a self spot on 18MHz brought calls from OE6WIG, DA7UG, OE8SPW, EA7HF and G4ELZ. This was a most pleasing outcome because I have tended to leave the higher bands until later in an activation. A self spot on 40m brought the mother of all pile-ups, which was most unexpected as the band had sounded very quiet when I first tuned across it. I think I worked most of the stations that called in, however at least two I did not work and you are not in my log, one UK and one DL. My normal practice is to repeat your callsign during the contact and if I don’t you are not in the log!
Because my xyl required the car in the evening I had to get a move-on if I was to reach Cat Law, activate the hill and get home in time, so after an hour on the summit it was time to pack away and get walking. Cat Law seems so very far away and involves a fairly steep descent and re-ascent, could I make it in 2 ½ hours? The descent is a retracing of the ascent, unless you are feeling really fit when you can cut straight down and up the steepest section of Tarapetmile, the hill directly across from the summit of Corwharn. I chose a more sloping route up the hill which meets this track at the summit. The walk from here is unchallenging, grass tracks around the peat hags, designed for a quad bike, meeting up with estate tracks leading to the mast erected at NO307629 to measure wind speeds – another of those useless wind farms in the planning?
Cat Law sports a trig point and some sort of stone shelter which I didn’t use as it would just have funnelled the wind. Having set-up I self spotted on 40m on what was now a very noisy band – nothing, not a sausage, zilch. 20 minutes of no result and I switched to 18MHz, again unusually noisy and despite a self spot nothing. So there I was, cold, facing a long walk back to the car and no result. Two possible routes – first try 5MHz then, if all else fails, use the key (a mode I am only comfortable with in the shack). I called CQ and was heard by Frank G3RMD. We failed to complete but Frank spotted me anyway and I managed to work, with difficulty, G6LKB and G0TDM; Frank called me again and after a few goes managed to confirm signal reports. 3 down but absolutely nothing heard for a fourth contact; then, out of the aether came the measured tones of Tom, M1EYP. He managed to confirm my report to him for that vital fourth contact - what a relief! My thanks to Frank for his perseverance and to the other three for having excellent ears, it really couldn’t have been easy on a less than optimal frequency.
The descent is again without challenge; a south westerly route from the summit picks up a clear track which takes you all the way back to the road and the final last surprise of the walk. Google Ballintore Castle; this Grade A listed house suddenly appears and is straight out of a fairy story (or Harry Potter!). Quite stunning if sorely abandoned, although apparently in the process of restoration.
My thanks, as always, to all the chasers and for their perseverance in making sure the hill was qualified for the points. Just a shame it was so cold and overcast otherwise it could have made a perfect, low challenge, walk.