I’m at 488 uniques and the nearest ones are all getting further and further away. Well d’uh! So I looked for some candidates: 2 down in Galloway, 3 North of Blairgowrie/Kirriemuir/Forfar and a huge number in the West of Scotland above and beyond The Clyde. The SFI was 194 and the forecast was for sunny but cold WX with a strong NW wind and significant windchill. I realised yesterday that I’ve never been to Loch Lomond on a nice day. Every single time I’ve driven along its banks or up and over The Rest and Be Thankful, the WX has been miserable to terrible. So something around there will do and there are a number of reasonable straightforward 1pt summits. Not difficult nor trivial. Messrs. Conic Hill GM/SS-239 and Ben Bowie GM/SS-251 selected themselves. 65miles to Conic from my qth about 1hr to 1hr50 depending on morning rush hour traffic and about 25mins to Ben Bowie from Conic. Parking is easy for Ben Bowie, 6-7 car spaces at the start but Conic Hill is in a place of “outstanding beauty” at Balmaha and it gets busy. There’s a big car park where you have to pay but it fills up quickly. This meant I was up early to inject and eat and set off to allow for traffic.
Best laid plans etc… the DB access was down, queries about uploads failing, no logs showing. Grrr. I checked and SOTAwatch was working and I was tempted to leave it as that was all I needed working for a successful day but if one thing was not working, was there more about to go wrong. 30mins of digging and poking and I restarted the DB process. It probably wasn’t the culprit but Andrew’s DB-api processes elsewhere have some great abilities to recover themselves. A few commands and everything was working again. Luckily the Friday morning 8am traffic was very light and I arrived at Balmaha early. Car parking paid for (Ringo) and £3.60 bought me all day parking. I could have maybe saved a few pence but it’s not a lot really. Car park had about 10 cars parked out of probably 100 spaces.
Oh it was a wonderful day but cool 3C and blustery. The path to Conic Hill leaves the car park and has been much improved. It’s hardcore through the forest and the light, sounds and smells in the woods were delightful, it was just lovely. The climb didn’t seem much then you leave the trees to the beallach path. This is now a rock staircase rather than the old muddy ground. Easy to get up quickly. Now I’d looked on old views and there’s a path that bears off to the summit. Except it goes to the first of 3 summits and is stupid steep. Hrrmp! Then down, then up then down then up. Anyway job done and I was there. That’s where I met a lady in her 30s and her dog who left the car park behind me. She was a) impressed I did the steep stuff and b) amused she took the easier path and beat me. I spent some time chatting to her about the summits and it was my first time Loch Lomond on a nice day. She was painfully pretty and well into hill walking all hills not just Munros so I didn’t mind “wasting” time talking to her as she was easy on the eyes.
Onto the air, KX2, EFHW as a sloping inverted L and onto 10m where there was nothing. OK onto 15m and I worked 6 in 6mins. Then I was about to use 17m and CQ’d once but saw a spot for Paul as CT3/HB9DST/P on 20m which would be Africa and a complete. Sadly everyone in Western Europe was calling and I could not get through. I spent 20mins trying to chase him before just calling on 20m myself and working 10 more with R6AF being ODX.
It was cool and the wind had got very strong so I packed up, took photos and hightailed it back to the car. This is not a summit for tranquillity though the views are splendid. I counted 47 people on the way up as I returned. That’s on a cold Friday at the end on November. You can extrapolate those figures to Summer
I’d heard Loch Lomond was pretty but never had proof to my own eyes till yesterday.
First, Ben Lomond GM/SS-011 looking impressive. The small hill in front is the seldom activated Beinn Uird GM/SS-117
Southern end of Loch Lomond. On the far left is Ben Bowie GM/SS-251 and then all the Corbetts and Grahams around Luss.
Looking NW. Just about every summit is a SOTA summit here
Looking up towards the Arrochar Alps (The Cobbler, Beinn Narnain, Beinn Ime etc.)
Yup, it’s rather lovely. Computer said 1hr to the top I did in 45mins which was OK. I didn’t hang about apart from having some chocolate and water at the car. The car park now was 7/8th full! Then it was off around the South of the Loch through Alexandria and up the West bank towards Ben Bowie.
25mins after leaving Balmaha I was at the entrance to the forest track up Ben Bowie. There were 3 or 4 spaces here still and it was off up the track. Lovely woods, some being harvested and as I climbed the views back of Loch Lomond opened up. Now you used to be able to walk up a firebreak from the track which shortened the distance. But a big storm dropped lots of trees in the firebreak making it more challenging. Now it’s all be harvested and whilst I saw what may be a viable path, there was lots of brash and spoil. I thought it could be hellish walking and worse, I may be coming off when it was dusk so trying this in reverse with a headtorch seemed a bad idea. I took the longer path. You stay on the forest track till it stops climbing and you find the finger board sign. One way says Balloch, another says Helensburgh and the last says Helensburgh. What? Take the Helensburgh path that’s not the one you’ve been climbing! A couple of minutes brings you to the fence and the bog pathy from hell. Turn right and walk along the boggy path without sinking too much. It soon improves (200m?) as it climbs and soon you’re at the top. Views are fairly brilliant
Same setup as before and I started on 15m working 10, 5x EU and 5x USA. A change to 10m brought in 3 more USA stations. Finally 12m brought in 11 QSOs with 6x USA and the rest EU with R6YY being SE of Crimea. The wind came and went but 1455Z I’d be on the air for 1hr and was cold. In fact I’d put a big effort into getting up quickly and sitting in the cold after the exercise meant I got cramp 3 times. And every time I jumped up to stop the cramp I kicked the KX2
Packup and photos and just enjoying the view took 25mins. It was worth getting colder still to savour the sunny views.
Antenna setup with Conic Hill GM/SS-239 behind.
Ben Lomond GM/SS-011 from the other side of the loch.
The Clyde Estuary with the town of Helensburgh. The nearer right hand channel is Gare Loch which leads to Faslane where all the nuclear subs are based. The loch the other side of the peninsula is Loch Long which leads to Arrochar. It’s where they used to test torpedoes till the 80s.
Looking NE to Stirling. The far escarpment is the Gargunnock hills or Carleatheran G</SS-175 and Stronend GM/SS-163. The nearer hills are the Campsie Fells with Earl’s Seat GM/SS-126
The earlier summit of Conic Hill GM/SS239
Ben Lomond GM/SS-011 the 45km distant is Ben More GM/SS-001 and Stob Binnein GM/SS-002 finally Beinn Uird GM/SS-117
This was taken on the walk out after about 20mins. It was going damn cold out of the sun on this side of the hill. There was ice forming on the grass as I descended to the bog back at the top. I took a few photos and started walking briskly again. The island is Inchmurrin where my employers took us for a fun day (speed boats and drinking!), Conic Hill GM/SS-239 behind.
Back at the car it was 2C. I started it up and turned on the heated seat and steering wheel whilst I had a comfort break, can of diet Red Bull and change my footwear. It was nice to get out of the cold into a warm and welcoming seat. Then a slightly slower drive home via Stirling again to avoid the M8 Glasgow rush hour madness.
So what “they” say about Loch Lomond is true, it’s very pretty on a good day. Now I have lots of summits to bag over there… I’ll bet it will be back to normal driekness when I try the next summits. Plenty of US stations though 10m wasn’t as good as previous but 12/15m more than made up for that. Annoyed I missed the complete with Paul in Madeira but both of these were uniques and completes which takes the uniques count to 490.
Final arty shot…this is the Clyde Estuary. I’m always impressed at this digicam’s dynamic range but I couldn’t wait for the sun to drop more as I was too cold. Still not bad.