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Galloway Hills - Activation report

Well, I have been saying (or should that be threatening) that I should write some more of my activations so at the risk of boring everyone to death here goes. If you don’t want to know the scores then you’d better stop reading now.

Like lots of folk I watch the weather forecast all week and try to decide where to go and play. This weekend the dart landed on Galloway.

Mullwharchar, GM/SS-073 was a hill I’d walked away from last time I had thought about climbing it. My brother and I had set off from Loch Trool and climbed Craignaw with the intention of climbing Mullwharchar as well but its hard walking round here and we ending up cutting short around the south side of loch Enoch. Corserine GM/SS-033 was the last of the 4 corbetts in this corner of Scotland I hadn’t climbed. Well, Galloway means I can pack a bag on Friday evening and get up nice and early on Saturday morning and that’s exactly what I did, arriving at the south end of Loch Doon just before 9am.

GM/SS-073

Leaving the parking area about a 1km south of loch Doon castle, my OS map suggests there is some kind of forest drive toll to be paid but there was nothing on the ground. A little over 4km along forestry tracks gave a nice easy start to warm the legs up. After that a bit of a tramp through the forest, over tussocky ground, along firebreaks, around the swampy bits. Eventually emerging from the forest in front of Hoodens Hill. More tussocky ground, did I mention the tussocks, they varied from ankle height to thigh height and they were covered in this thick Galloway grass so you couldn’t see them, giving a left, right, stumble, left, right, twist kind of walk. So heading south over the tussocks I eventually found a spot to boulder hop over the burn, the ground was no better on the other side though. I slowly climbed round and up to the col between Hoodens Hill and Mullwharchar then up to the summit. I reached the summit at bob on 1400, a little under 5 hours to do what I’d estimate at 12km, that’s real hard work for 12km.

The summit is marked by a pyramidal cairn of stones but there are plenty of outcrops roundabout to offer some shelter from the wind. Once set up I put out a call on 2m FM and was immediately answered by at least a couple of stations, QSY’ing from the calling channel I was amazed to hear G4BLH booming in, now I was definitely not expecting that. When I’d been up on Merrick a few months ago, which is the daddy hill round here I’d made contact with stations in the Barrow area on FM but no further. Today I was to reach Lancaster all the way down to Liverpool. Switching to 2m SSB the highlights were special events station GB0GWR at Cheltenham racecourse and G3ZVW in Axminster, Devon. I looked at the path for that last one later and it seems that most of Wales was in the way so I’m quite pleased with that. It was nice to get a few regular chasers in the log for this hill, given that the only previous activator logged as being foolish enough to venture up here was Jack, GM4COX, 3 years ago. Now I have logged all the contacts I am surprised to find I’d made 21 contacts, well beyond my expectations, conditions had certainly benefited me.

Activation over but I wasn’t heading back to the car(which I was actually quite pleased about), I was spending the night at Backhill of Bush bothy. So, south off the summit and aiming for the shallow col between Dungeon Hill and Craignairny. When I was almost at the col I came across a strip of aluminium, “that looks like a bit of an aircraft, I wonder if there is any more of it around?” So looking around I spotted a square panel glinting through the grass and as I wandered over to it I spotted some further bits of wreckage. Well I’m assuming it was an aircraft although I’ve no idea what type, I figure it would be a bit of a struggle for anything else to get up here. Should anyone ever decide to go looking for it, my Mk1 eyeballs put it at NX 455 850, there’s not a lot of it so pick a day with half decent visibility.

Anyway I dropped down to the bothy. Looking down the Silver Flowe the views are just stunning, it’s so reminiscent of the highlands. The views were stunning all day for that matter, well once I got out of the forest anyway but it is hard walking. In mountain bike route grade stylee, I’m giving it a black double diamond.
It’s a nice bothy at Backhill of Bush but I wish folks would take their rubbish home with them, I don’t know if they are expecting the council to pick it up in a weekly collection or what – rant over.

GM/SS-033

The next morning, after a bowl of porridge and a cappuccino (well that’s what it said on the packet), rucksack was packed up and Corserine beckoned. There has been quite a bit of felling in the area thus it would be possible to head east-north east from the bothy and head across the cleared land but having spent most of yesterday stumbling about off-piste I was quite happy to follow the roundabout route of the forest road for a few kms before it ran out and a path led up to the ridge south of the summit. As I reached the top of the tree line and also reached the cloud base which was down significantly on the previous day. I followed the rough atv track on and off almost to the summit. It was pretty windy at the top though and there isn’t much shelter, no wait there isn’t any shelter. It is a huge summit, I reckon you could play a game of football up there, okay I might be slightly exaggerating here but you get the idea. I headed of to the leeward side of the hill and found a slight depression in the ground and by positioning my rucksack as a shelter I was able to hunker down here.

Conditions weren’t so good today with 8 stations in the log, all GM. Although it was nice to get the summit quickly qualified with MM0DNX coming back to my initial calls and beginning what became a bit of a mini net allowing me to qualify the summit quickly. It’s always nice to get that 4th contact in the log. I had though that Corserine because of its greater height would have been an easier summit to get contacts on than Mullwharchar, although I guess I just got lucky with the conditions on the Saturday. My wee depression was actually quite sheltered and I stayed upon the top for longer than I thought I would, given how breezy it was but eventually it was time to go.

The route back to the car was north along the ridge, no more Marilyns but you do get a few Donalds if you’re collecting them. I initially returned to the trig point to take a bearing and headed off on this but soon picked up an atv track which led along the ridge. This was easy walking compared to yesterday, no tussocks, no swamps, short grass. At goat craigs I did meet a chap walking up the hill, the first one I’d seen since I’d left the car and on the only one I would see until I got back to the car as it turned out. So long undulating ridge and eventually dropping below the cloud base, with some nice views back at Mullwharchar, which also had its head in the cloud today.

Now the OS have a nice path marked along the shore of Loch Doon from about NX493 949 south to loch head. If anyone from the OS is reading this, there is NO path and if I ever walk along here again I’m going to remember to pack my cane knife. I’ve subsequently found a description of this as “vegetated and chaotic”, which at the moment is in my running for understatement of the year. Did I mention that I fell in a small pond, hidden by the long grass and tussocks, path? Humph!

Anyway, arrived back at the car just before half 5, I had originally figured on half 4 when I had been up on the ridge but that was before I knew how “good” the shoreline path was. Incidentally there must have been a path along the shore once upon a time as there were, along the way, 3 concrete bridge frame type structures, but it was a long time since they have been used.

Well if anyone is still reading and hasn’t fallen asleep, well done and thanks for persevering. Thanks too to all the stations worked and for the spots, they’re all appreciated.

73

Iain, M(M)3WJZ

In reply to M3WJZ:

that’s real hard work for 12km.

Don’t mention hard walking to me. I was astounded how hard it is in this area. Corserine and Merrick are easy as there are tourist paths on them but everything else is serious work. Craignaw took so much longer than planned when I did it that I had to give up on Mullwarcher. It’s the tussocks that make it so difficult to make progress. Best attacked in the winter when it’s all frozen I’m informed. The fact that Mullwarcher is so remote doesn’t help and that’s one of the reasons they wanted to hollow it out and store nuclear waste in it many years ago.

There are two crashed aircraft in the area. There’s an F1-11 site from 30 years back on Craignaw. When I was there last there were some small pieces of wreckage at the monument but most of the big pieces were removed. There’s till little bits on the ground though. I found a piece before I found the monument. I can’t remember what the other aircraft was. But I have read about it on the net.

As for OS paths, well they can be a bit optimistic in what they record in this area. You’ll know for next time what you’re up against!

Andy
MA0FMF

In reply to M3WJZ:

An excellent report Iain - a really good read and not boring at all. Like Andy, I was with you most of the way. The tussocky Galloway ground just has to be experienced to be believed. Having said that, it is beautiful countryside and I will definitely be back up there, most likely to attempt something along the lines of your trek, but probably somewhat less ambitious.

Well done on an excellent mini-expedition.

73, Gerald

In reply to G4OIG:

Having said that, it is beautiful countryside

Yes, it’s stunning, especially in Autumn. I simply adore the colours of the vegetation in my Craignaw photos. Like you I want to go back, I have a hitlist to activate in that area, Mullwarcher being one of them!

Andy
MA0FMF

In reply to MM0FMF:

Cairnsmore of Fleet GM/SS-065 also has a tourist path making for easy progress - and there’s an RAF monument on the top of this one as well. The path as shown on the 1:25000 OS map is pretty well OK.

73
John GM8OTI

In reply to M3WJZ:

Thanks for the excellent report Ian. You are putting me to shame, since I still haven’t
finished my report, or got my logs submitted for our recent Galloway trip, and we’ve
been back for over a week. My proto report also complains about the tussocky grass,
which has to be my least favourite walking surface. Our hardest ascent was the ascent of
Cairngarroch from Craigencallie on our way up Millfore, alternating shoulder-high
leg-grabbing bracken, boggy tussocky grass, with the odd patch of knee deep heather,
for a bit of variation: I’m not sure which was the worst. At least the summit of
Millfore was worth the effort.

Agreed with Andy and Gerald that it is good walking country and worth the effort (though
not good if you are after easy SOTA points!). It’s also incredibly quiet, in our week of
walking we saw one other walker on our Corserine circuit, and less than 10 walkers on the
more popular Cairnsmore of Fleet (which as John says does have a path all the way). The
lack of walkers is probably why there aren’t that many paths on the less popular hills.
You really can have the hill to yourself up there.

Caroline M3ZCB.

In reply:

I think you have a few more hills than me to write about Caroline, I’ll look forward to reading your report though. Often when I get back from Scotland it takes me a few days to recover, mainly from the driving it has to be said, so I was a bit surprised to have the enthusiasm to get the report written so quickly.

It certainly is stunning part of the country but not the place to go for a rapid acculmulation of SOTA points that’s for sure, I can think of easier 20 points than 2 you get for Mullwharchar. But the scenery is worth making the trip for and I was making plenty of stops to enjoy it, there’s plenty of hills to choose from too.

Cairnsmore of Fleet is a hill I’d like to do, my trouble is I have a list of stuff as long as my arm and I’m always adding at a faster rate than I seem to get things done, so when I get round to it I don’t know, still so long as I’m having fun :slight_smile:

Iain, M3WJZ