We needed something less strenuous after the exertions of GM/SW-042, and the weather forecast was for the wettest day of our week based in Ballachulish. We woke to heavy rain outside with clouds covering the surrounding hill, but looking at the forecast in more detail, heading south and west should avoid the worst weather. Given our base there wasn’t much west, but there are some one point hills heading south towards Oban, and with luck they should be below cloud level.
By the time we were ready to leave the rain had eased, and by the time we arrived at the Forestry parking in Benderloch at NM905381 it has stopped. Not trusting the weather, we put on waterproof over trousers, and were soon over heating as we headed up the forestry walk: apart from an occasional sprinkling it remained mostly dry for the rest of the time we were out. There are a number of walks through the forested area, though many of the trees have been felled giving cloudy views to the coast and to Mull and the smaller closer islands. We started off by taking the left path which ascended slowly to a viewpoint area where one path descended to the start and another headed on upwards. We didn’t bother with a “there and back” signed viewpoint, on the grounds that we were going to the summit anyway and continued round a lochan which had almost disappeared in vegetation. At the forest edge the constructed path ended at a viewpoint, but a rough path descended briefly and then climbed up to the summit with a fine “Vanessa” trig point.
Beinn Lora with Oban Airport just visible in bay below
There were views all round, though the higher hills were cloud topped. Caroline lashed the 2m antenna to the trig point, but managed just one 2m FM contact, so had to resort to 40m having a good run of 19 contacts after Martyn had qualified with 8 on 60m. We had hoped for an S2S with Colwyn MM0YCJ who was on Eriskay but couldn’t hear him on 2m (Ardnamurchan peninsula probably in the way) or 40m (probably too close). With lunch eaten we descended taking the alternative route down to the start which gave better coastal views.
Our second target was Airds Hill. This had a reputation for being a forested nightmare but having passed it on our way to Beinn Lora we observed it had been felled. Felled forest can be worse than standing forest. We parked at the wide entrance to a forestry track at NM94163 and headed up the zigzag track. Following a pre-felling route suggested by Robin GM7PKT where the track entered the main forest, we left the track to head up along the forest edge: passing through an open woodland area with boggy sections which looked to have been trampled by animals. At the high point of the fence we crossed it to the remains of what had been a forest ride, now rather rough with a lots of felling remains and brash, it was hard going over a slight rise, then down to a boggy dip and then up to the mass of tree stumps and brash at the true summit: it would have been hard to find when covered in trees. Having found the summit we didn’t bother to find the trig point which is 4m lower and about 200m away: we couldn’t see it, and it may not have survived the felling.
Caroline attached the 2m antenna to a convenient tree stump, while Martyn needed Caroline’s assistance to get the HF antenna up without it tangling in brash. Once again there was just the one 2m contact: Steve MM0XPZ who worked Caroline on all except the final summit of the week. So after Martyn had qualified with 7 60m contacts, Caroline had another reasonable run on 40m with 14 contacts, but a move to 80m produced just 2 more.
On the way down we found a better route, following what we guess was a track used to haul out the felled trees: rough and boggy in places but still easier. As on the felled areas on Beinn Lora, foxgloves were taking over, adding a splash of colour and the track gave good views of the bay including the small island with little Castle Stalker on it. The haul track took us almost down to the main forestry track near the gate where we had left it: but there was then a bit of a clamber down to the track. It would be a better way up provided you can find it from the bottom!
We got back to the car in the dry, and back to the cottage in the dry, but it started raining soon after we got in. Good timing!