That’s another one down and it’s been a long time coming…
Back in May 2007 I was going to my contest club’s site near Gatehouse of Fleet. A map check showed summits could be bagged on the way down. Merrick GM/SS-028 was duly bagged. It was a bit of hike for someone in his mid 40s who had never done any exercise till recently but there are really good paths etc. so it’s not that hard, just a bit of a hike. (12.5km return and 750m ascent). The following October another contest so another hill. Being now “an expert” at hill walking I see Craignaw GM/SS-096 and Mullwharchar GM/SS-073 looked easy enough.
Hahahahahahahahahahaha! No not easy at all. I was introduced to Galloway ground where computer times are often optimistic by 100-200% i.e. it takes 2 to 4 times longer than you would expect because of heather, tussock grass, bogs, mud, hidden holes. I could go. Those who’ve been there know what I mean. Anyway, the lesson learnt on Craignaw is “avoid Galloway”. I never made it to Mullwharchar. And I did avoid it, like the plague. It’s only when I was started to try to complete areas that Galloway summits came back to the fore. Galloway ground did a good trick on me November 2019 when I nearly lost a boot in an iced over bog and had to turn back from Craiglee GM/SS-150. So since October 2007 I’ve been putting off activating Lamachan Hill. Now it’s one of 4 I need to complete the SS summits south of the Clyde and Forth.
Armed with Andrew G4VFL’s route, I did calculations and planned how to do it. Getting to the area from the near of Edinburgh is a real pain. The roads across this sparsely populated part of Scotland are pish, very twisty and narrow. When I had a Honda CRV I wore out my elbow, wrist and shoulder joints turning the steering wheel so much on its low-ratio box on these roads. Today in a car with magic electric steering and variable rates and weights it was still rubbish. The best way is to go down nearly to England then along the SW Scotland coast road (A75 death trap) and back up. It’s at best 2hrs and often nearer 3hrs and I couldn’t be fagged with that drive, a big Galloway hill and the same drive back. So I booked a couple of nights B&B in the area which meant I was at the Glen Trool upper car park booted an ready at 915
The WX was great for the 17th except I was doing it on the 18th which was variable. Well it should stay dry till 1400-1500 local and I was planning to be on the way back. Getting wet on the way home, not a problem TBH. I had missed the fact Storm Betty was coming. Oh was it windy on Thursday night. Nothing to Friday however. It was proper windy in the upper car park and there are lots of deciduous trees so there were lots of branches all over the roads. Hey ho, onwards we go.
The route is 2 parts, an easy walk along the hardcore tracks, 3.2km 135m ascent and descent, i.e. you gain nothing along the way. Then the real climb. It’s hard to describe how amazing Glen Trool is… an old wooded glen with plantations of fir trees but lots of old oaks as well. It’s wonderful walking along it and I’ve done it quite a few times and it’s never boring.
Gairland Burn (about 25% of Loch Trool is from this river). You can spend forever watching and listening to this.
Then all of a sudden you see the target and what you have to climb.
Yes, you climb up the side of the Shiel Burn Waterfall. 140m of ascent in 440m travelled which is a 1 in 3 slope. The forest at the start has been felled years back, so there are self seeded trees about 3m tall and lovely Galloway ground. Tussocks, heather, lush plants. There is a sort of path. Well I saw boot prints when I went up close to the waterfall. And there’s variable depth vegetation… is it 6in deep or 18in deep and is it full of water? The answer is yes. Bloody awful and steep. Luckily there was a huge wind blowing so no midges and it was quite warm. The gusts were strong enough to almost blow me over many times.
I met the fence at the top of the waterfall and followed that on the next section. Same type of ground but 175m of ascent in 750m forwards or 1 in 5 to 1in 4 slope. It just never ended. What surprised me was I was able to keep trudging on and didn’t think of giving up. Well I’d opened my wallet quite wide for 2 nights B&B, 250miles of diesel, and food and beer. I had to do it or I’d cry over the expense for a long time.
A herd of feral goats near the Nick of The Lochans
The Nick of The Lochans is just after the ridge in the centre. The camera dynamic range is too poor to show the amazing cloud formation, there were lots and lots of darker stripes all “in phase” it looked very strange.
The view East towards Loch Dee. Loverly ground as far as you can see.
From the coll at Nick of The Lochans, Lamachan’s NE ridge is next. There’s lots of crags known as The Scars of Carmine. I don’t know who makes up Galloway names but they’re odd. Hey, easy peasy, this bit is about 1 in 5 to 1 in 6. At one point I’d have seen the face to climb and been downhearted. But I was thinking of how much this was costing so I simply minced along putting one foot in front of the other and never stopping.
Did I say it was steep? This is half way up The Scars of Carmine. The ascent started at the patch of mature trees and thats 435m below and about 1.6km away. Ooooh, my thighs were warm by now.
Then all of a sudden the climbing is all but done and it’s the easy stuff. Except I was walking into 40mph gusts and that grass is about 6in thick. It’s a soft surface and a huge headwind. It seemed to take forever to get to the top, some rocks just visible right skyline.
2h40 to the top seemed OK considering I had photo stops, comfort stops, falling over stops and the terrible ground. Of course I wasn’t prepared for the wind. I had a flexible pole with me, not my strays-straight-in-a-gale post. Rigging the antenna took forever. I decided to play dipoles for a change as I’ve never tried them on my KX2 before.
Did I say it was windy?
Setup was 5m pole (bent) 60/40/30 dipole, KX2, Eremit battery. I had almost full scale 4G phone signal with EE. RBNhole worked and my 40m and 30m CW CQs were picked up and there were plenty of stations responding. I need headphones as I cannot hear the KX2 speaker well on a hill. I managed 40m S2S with Chris DL1CR and 30m S2S with Bruno HB9CBR. I was particularly pleased to pluck Iggy EA2BD out of the noise when the wind was louder than the KX2 and YO6CFB was even quieter. Lamachan is activated infrequently so I did some 40m SSB. I hoped to give the summit to more people but did work Ken G0FEX @G0FEX so I hope the WAB square is a new one for him. Of course you wait 2 years for the summit to come on and someone else was there 3hrs before me! I think Martin only did 2m FM.
I was active for just under the hour, not much after the time driving down and then climbing it but I was conscious of the predicted rain. Despite it brigtening up a lot with blue sky now visible, I wanted out of the rubbish ground before I was swathed in Goretex. And that constant wind, even in the lee of the wall and shelter at the summit was so tiring. Packup, chocolate and photos then walk out the way I came in
Curlywee Hill, a popular pairing with Lamachan if you are insane and like Galloway ground!
MM0FMF with gritted teeth determined to enjoy the success of climbing this damn hill.
Ailsa Craig GM/SS-246, 50km away with the Kintyre Peninsula behind it.
One of Scotland’s most awkward summits, The mighty Mullwharchar GM/SS-073. Loch Neldricken in the centre foreground.
Craiglee GM/SS-150… beaten me once, start point just a wee bit along from this one’s start.
L-R Mullwharchar GM/SS-073, Dungeon Hill and Craignaw GM/SS-096. Fabulous views from its top should you make it there. Sadly hit by an F1-11 44 years ago where both crew perished.
The Merrick GM/SS-028, the local “big boy”. Trivially simple walking as there are paths compared to everything else!
Rather than go back down by the waterfall, I thought I would follow the fence down as there is always a path by the fence made by animals etc. Bad move. It was worse ground than elsewhere and I then had to cross about 200m of old felling brash. It took 5 times longer than it should and I found all the weaken old branches when standing on them and falling through. Really bad move Andy.
Here’s the track, 12.6km walking, 848m ascent.
©Crown copyright 2022 Ordnance Survey. Media 041/22
£47 dinner and beer
So each point cost £49.75
Would I do it again? Not tomorrow! But maybe one day. I should have done this some years ago but I was pleased I could do a big walk after not that much real activity and Old Father Time doing his stuff on me.
It’s a shame you cannot buy the Eremit batteries in the UK. I think my 4Ahr has better legs than my Hobbyking units and is a better, more packable shape. Ask your German friends to buy one for you then figure out how to get it into the UK. Almost worth a trip to Germany on its own!