Gosh, it’s a while since I’ve done one of these so here goes…
I don’t seem to have done a decent walk for some time. I did get nearly to the top of Meall a’Bhuiridh before the snow caused me to abort. (Caroline M3ZCB has now posted links to the webcam for this summit on the summit info pages.) Previously, I activated Meall na Leitreach but it’s a very easy summit for 4pts. All of this explains why my legs are a little stiff today.
I’ve done Beinn Chaorach CS-071 before. I was going to do Cam Chreag CS-055 at the same time but the spirit was willing but the flesh was not. I was more determined this time. The WX forecast was for low-cloud to lift by lunch time with many Munros clear of cloud by mid-afternoon. This time the report was 100% accurate. Up at 0625Z and away by 0715, I must be mad! Well Mrs. FMF said so! The forecast didn’t predict the showers which were falling as I booted up but they stopped a few minutes after setting off.
The start is at Auchtertyre Farm which is 3/4 of the way along the A85 from Crianlarich to Tyndrum. There’s a sign advertising heated Wig-Wams and a campsite. I asked at the shop if it was OK to park and was directed to the walkers car park. As you drive up the access road from the A85 you pass a huge barn on the right and just after there is a hard-core covered clearing and an information sign before you turn right and cross the bridge, park here. Boots on, bagged packed, a selection of sun hats and warm hats (hey it’s summer in Scotland you never know) and I was off following the signs to the West Highland Way. Just before the bridge turn left and follow the other track.
Soon you pass under the cast iron Victorian railway bridge and you ascend a delightful glen. After 3km or so cross the foot bridge around the bend and then the track climbs sharply zig-zaging. You pass through several gates but once the track levels out slightly you turn off about 100m after a gate and just before an obvious grass parking area off the right side of the track at NN361310. There’s a tiny cairn of about 10 stones the size of half-bricks and quite an obvious ATV track on the left. Climb up the ATV track which is feint at times till you get to the gate. Through the gate and then the handle which takes you to the summit of Beinn Chaorach and almost to the summit of Cam Chreag appears.
The midget electric fence posts occur in pairs and are about 40cm high. There’s lots of old rusty wire to trip over but most of the plastic insulators are in perfect “as-new” condition. Simply follow the line of posts to the summit. Simples! Except it’s a constant climb with no relief, you climb 385m in 1850m so it’s an average 1 in 5 slope. Except it’s much steeper in places It was a good 20C and very humid. Due to the mist I didn’t get much of a view on the way but I was breathing hard so it didn’t matter.
It was windy and cold at the summit and there’s no real shelter and I was in the clag. Fleece and warm hat on and we were off onto the nightmare of 20m with a big contest running flat out. Tuning about found a clearish spot and I hit the memory keyer button. I worked 10 stations in 12 minutes before the contest QRM got too much. Time for a new band. I had a listen on 17m but it was very quiet so I thought I try my new antenna for 30m. My Buddistick clone works well enough that I have continued using it since November 2011 with minor tweaks to ease setup. I don’t know whether it performs as good as an equivalent sized dipole, but it’s an omni that covers 20m/17/15m by adjusting the counterpoise length and inserting a loading coil. It fits a 5m pole nicely. My 30m antenna is part of the inverted-V dipole I use on 60m/40m/30m and it is noticeably directional unlike the low slung 40m inverted-V. I have extended the loading coil for the Buddistick clone so that I can now resonate the aerial on 30/20/17 & 15m. Garden tests last week showed I was spotted by RBN so it was radiating.
How well does it work? I worked HB9, DL, G, SM, PA, OK, EA1 and an EA1 S2S. Nothing exotic or stunning. But when using the inverted-V I’ve don’t recall hearing HB9 and EA and SM at the same time, so it was certainly omnidirectional. I intend to give 30m more attention than I have in the past so I’ll have to see how well this compromise antenna really works. Gut feeling suggests it most certainly would benefit from a longer radiating section, but that means a longer and heavier pole. I have a 6m pole to try, with that I could raise the feedpoint a metre which may also improve things. We shall see.
After about 1hr on the summit I moved on to Cam Chreag. The cloud had lifted a lot and there were some good views to be had. The route to Cam Chreag is easy, continue following the short electric fence posts. The route is steepish in places but obvious. The beallach is a bit wet with obvious peat hags but it didn’t take long to drop down 175m. In the middle of the beallach is the remains of the electric fence controller. There’s a guyed mast with fence electronics in a box that has rusted through, a heatsink with a pair of rusty power transistors and 4 or 5 substantial car/leisure batteries lying on the ground. All the batteries have suffered frost damage and split to leak their acid electrolyte out. I don’t know what’s worse, walkers dropping banana skins that take 2+ years to degrade or this pile of rusty and toxic junk. From here follow the fence posts up. The climb is much less steep than Beinn Chaorach but does steepen towards the summit. The last 300m is basically just go up as the posts don’t make it to the top.
I’d been listening for Iain MM3WJZ who was doing Ben More SS-001 which is LOS 10km to the southeast on 2m but missed him. I had the handy on 145.500 whilst climbing and about 10mins from the top heard Graeme MM0HLQ (ex-2M0GIL) calling CQ. He was on Beinn an Lochan SS-018. I had to ask him to wait till I was at the top as I couldn’t climb and talk as I’m still far too lardy. We had a good natter when I got to the top and I heard him working Iain just as I started the setup. Iain was now on Stob Binnein SS-002 so I got 10 of the 20 S2S points on offer from him. After that I went on 30m this time working DL, F, PA, HB9, G, CT & SP. The contest was over on 20m and it was quiet again. I only managed EA, F, OK, OH & HA here, not many callers. After that and having managed to get a mobile signal I spotted for 17m SSB and worked EA, OM, OK, SV and finally EF6. EF6 is a special event station for the coronation of Felipe VI of Spain. I used my inline audio compressor. Nobody complained about the audio and I could see from the ALC I was driving rig harder. I’ll assume it was working but it needs more on-air testing.
By now the views were really good. I could have spent a long time just looking. Creag Mhor CS-015 looks fabulous. It’s a very remote summit, a long walk in or a bike ride which explains why a marvelous looking mountain has only been activated 3 times in 11 years. Also the craggy back side of Ben Challum CS-021 is a sight to behold. It’s possible to drop down from Cam Chreag and climb the NW ridge to the summit. A work colleague has done it this way and said it was a joyous route. It’s a bit craggy in places but they can be easily bypassed for the less adventurous. I’m not fit enough to get to Cam Chreag and then climb Ben Challum too. Maybe an overnight bivvy is in order.
The only problem left was the route out. The track I followed from Auchtertyre has been extended, the 2013 OS map (which I have on the PC) shows the extension and marks the area as forest. It has been planted but there’s no forest yet. The printed map is from 2006 and shows the old track. I was hoping I’d be able to see how far the new track came up the glen from Cam Chreag but I couldn’t. The ground drains a huge rain catchment area and is probably a bogtastic nightmare. If it was only for a km and down hill I’d go out that way and pick up the track. But I couldn’t see anything so it was going to be 3km of hell. The alternative was back up Beinn Chaorach and that’s what I did.
The views kept me going and I was one tired little bear by the time I got to the top again. The route down was just as bad. I do some rowing 5 mornings a week on a rowing machine now and that keeps my going-up leg muscles in trim so ascending wasn’t too hard. It does little for the going-down leg muscles and I knew about that when I reached the track again. I walked out very slow savouring a beautiful sunny afternoon in spectacular countryside. My feet were steaming when I got back to the car as were the front of my thighs. 2 cans of Red Bull later I was refreshed enough to drive home which was long and slow due to the number of cars and holiday-makers out and about.
A great day out. New antenna seems to work, speech processor seems to work. I got some proper exercise and the views were splendid. A damn fine day indeed. I’m hoping the WX stays good so I can do something similar in effort next weekend.
Distance walked: 15.8km, height ascended: 1110m, distance driven: 165miles.