GM/CS-043 Geal-charn 21st September 2019

The last full day of the holiday and the forecast was for a fine sunny day with danger of sunburn and dehydration but the gusty winds later. For various reasons we wanted a slightly easier day, so targeted the low Munro Geal-Charn GM/CS-043. We parked in the car park just off the A9 near Balsporran Cottages under cloudless blue skies. There were several cars in the car park so we guessed it might be busy on the summit. One group who set off just before off were soon far ahead of us, but we were only passed by one other group who we met again at the summit, and only saw a handful of other people pass by when we were at the summit.

River Truim & Balsporran Cottages near parking with Gael-charn on left

After carefully crossing the level crossing, we took the track by the side of the attractive stream Allt Coire Fhar, leaving it to take the second track on the right which is the main path up Geal Charn. The stony track continued along the north-east ridge before ending abruptly in a peaty boggy area. From there a rough path continued up along the ridge, sometimes boggy, sometimes fine, sometimes rocky and occasionally disappearing in the rockier sections. There were good views forward along Glen Garry and back along Glen Truim with the A9 and occasional train on the railway. For the first time since the previous Sunday Caroline heard activity on 2m FM, and we successfully chased Jim MM0GLM on Ben Lawers. We couldn’t hear most of the stations working him, but Caroline thought she faintly heard Dave G0EVV work Jim S2S from the Cheviot. A little while later and higher Dave was sufficiently audible for us to get the chase. Unfortunately although the summit plateau was in sight, we were still only at 850m ASL and around 600m from the summit. We pushed on in the hope he would still be there for an S2S by the time we were in the activation area but it wasn’t to be.

The summit is fairly flat and rocky with sparse vegetation; it has two cairns, with the further one is at the 917 spot height. We headed there and took in the stunning views that had opened up. The sun reflected brightly off Loch Ericht with views to the west of it of Ben Alder and friends, further west Ben Nevis was sticking it head above the closer hills. Further north the mass of the Monadhlaith Mountains were clear, with possibly Ben Wyvis sticking out above and beyond. As on the previous day the Cairngorms were clearly visible to the north east and to the south the distinctive shape of Schiehallion appeared between nearer hills.

Loch Ericht

Loch Pattack and Ben Alder Range

Distant Ben Nevis

Schiehallion in distance

The summit cairn has been shaped into a shelter, and we chatted to the group who were sitting in it about the views and what we were going to do with the radios. They were leaving and suggested we use the small section of shelter they had vacated: this would be Caroline’s base with good views down Loch Ericht. Caroline set up the VHF dipole propped in the cairn in the hope that she might actually make some VHF contacts, but this was yet again futile: the only response heard was from a weak Gavin GM0GAV and he was lost on the QSY.

We were using the backup HF dipole which has less bands available than the main one which had failed the previous day. Martyn set up HF a little way from the cairn: getting pegs into the ground was a bit of a challenge! He started off on 60m, qualifying the hill with 6 contacts. With half her lunch eaten Caroline then took over HF for a good run of 17 contacts on 40m so soon had the hill qualified. We had both tried to spot using the SMS gateway but it seemed not to be working. Phone signal was patchy at the summit, but by wandering around enough we managed to get enough 3G or 4G to use SOTAGoat to spot. When Caroline’s callers dried up, she went looking for S2S and we both managed two very difficult S2Ses taking several minutes to get references and reports exchanged!

Martyn then tried 20m while Caroline finished her lunch but without much success getting just 2 contacts: despite it being mid-afternoon a move to 80m was more productive with 6 contacts. Although the wind was getting up and bending the pole, it was still pleasantly warm and Caroline fancied more radio, but the only other band the back-up dipole had was 10m and that seemed dead. So Caroline went back to 40m and finding 7.160 free decided to try offering the square to WABers, but after a few minutes and a few stations worked suddenly found the frequency full of people calling who didn’t seem to be hearing, and it was unclear who was working who. Despite the now massive QRM a few more chasers were worked before we decided to leave the frequency to the ever increasing zoo of people calling over each other with nobody listening!

We had originally intended to descend by our ascent route (Munroists tend to do a circuit including A’Mharconaich which is a not-a-Marilyn Munro), but looking at the map and the ground Caroline spotted a more interesting looking route. We headed north off the summit over a spur by Coire Beul an Sporain, getting views of The Fara and Loch Ericht. As we descended towards an area with some small peat hags, we spotted a mountain hare, and then another and then another: all moving too fast for photos but many more than we had seen on the nearby Sow of Atholl. We then picked up a stony track which had a bit of re-ascent before dropping down to join the outbound track not far from the level crossing. While on the descent a young hare shot out of the undergrowth next to the path before sitting in the heather a little way away, giving us good views, but as Martyn got out his camera the noise disturbed it and it shot off up the hill.

descent route with views towards N end of Loch Ericht and Dalwhinnie

For our traditional last day of holiday fish and chips we drove to Kingussie, having already determined that Newtonmore didn’t have a chippie. We had worked out possible parking near to “Joe’s” at the cross roads on our visit to Kingussie earlier in the week, and found some parking in a side road. It was doing a good trade and we had to wait a while to be served, but 2 standard haddock and one large chips between us was both tasty and very filling!