….in NW Scotland
Well I can understand why there have been so few activations of the GM/NS summits, nothing to see up there, plenty of much nicer summits further south. There’s no point in driving all the way up there, in fact there’s very little point in reading the rest of this report, I recommend you just go and make a cup of tea instead…nothing to see or read here…
What? You’re still reading, oh well…
Well that’s the second year running when the final week of the Edinburgh uni Easter break has had, well rather sunny weather in the west of Scotland, not that I’m suggesting there is anything scientific in that or making any suggestions for the future…
Cul Beag, GM/NS-047.
After a relaxed start to the day with a brew and a sausage bun in Ullapool, I decided to brave the busy Saturday morning traffic and made my way up to the minor road off the A835 at the east end of Loch Lurgainn. Chosen as a nice short ascent (relatively), the majority of the ascent is on grassy and pathless slopes. The final slopes looking impossibly steep until I got right up to it. Some nice views to the south over to Ben More Coigach during the ascent but suddenly emerging onto the summit, a 360 degree view of awesome mountain scenery just grabs you, dominated by an end of view of Stac Pollaidh, a side on view of Suilven, a sheer wall rising out of a patchwork of lochs and the cliffs of Cul Mor. Needless to say I spent a rather long time marvelling at the views and taking lots of photos.
Eventually I decided that since I’d carried the radio up I should have a little play. Set up for 40m ssb and a self spot via the ‘FMF txt a spot that I’d registered for a few days earlier, which brought 6 QSO’s headed up by Frank, G3RMD who was good enough to advise that my “txt a spot” had worked, a couple of stations were heard but not worked. 2m ssb brought 2 s2s’s with Adrian, 2M0ETR/P on NS-050 and Robin, GM7PKT/P on CS-012. Eventually after much gazing at views I packed up my kit and just as I was leaving met my only other sign of human life as another walker reached the summit, had a good chat with him – funny how the further away from civilization you are the more you chat with random folks on the hills. Anyway turns out he is in the process of moving to the area from Edinburgh to set up a b&b/bunkhouse just down the road. Finally made my descent via the minor top of Meall Dearg.
Suilven – Caisteal Liath, GM/NS-060.
With the MWIS forecast actually warning of the risk of sunburn and dehydration it seemed like the perfect day to play on this summit which dominates its landscape in a way many higher summits fail to.
My approach was the same as that described in detail by John, G4YSS in his report so I won’t bore you with the details. The huge dome of Caisteal Liath draws you towards it, again lots of photos taken. Reaching the grassy saddle of Bealach Mor the views south, until then hidden nearly blew me back down the slope, stunning. I was rather jealous of the two tents I spied on the shore of Fionn Loch. Once along the ridge at the summit I spent ages again taking in the view, taking lots of photos and wondering what view I fancied looking at once I set up the radio, north to Quinag, west over the sea to the Isle of Lewis or south over Cul Mor, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh. I eventually settled on the view south and 40m ssb, after a “txt a spot” brought about 7 QSOs, G1INK/P was heard on NP-009 but my flea power wasn’t making the return trip. 2m FM managed 1 QSO with 2M0IBO nr Elgin.
Whilst I was listening to G1INK I was approached by a chap who was very interested in my kit, turns out he was the occupant of one of the tents I’d seen and kayaks about the North West passage, he was interested in the apparent low weight of the kit as the radio he used in northern Canada is a lot heavier. He’d canoed down the loch Veyatie to set up camp, I like the sound of this canoeing lark, another chap and his daughter, also with canoes and tents on Fionn Loch, also came over for a chat.
On the descent, I made a quick trip to the summit of Meall Mheadhonach, the highest point at the other end of the ridge and a short scramble to reach the summit, although I did leave my accumulation of poles a little way along the path to be picked up on the way back. Return to Glencanisp lodge via the same route, but without the huge dome of Suilven drawing me on it seemed longer.
GM/NS-086, Stac Pollaidh.
Today the weather was forecast to be rather cloudy and overcast, it seemed like a good day to play on the small but rather dramatic looking mountain, better climb t now before it falls down. There is now a nice, partially lottery funded path around the mountain, reaching the summit ridge from the north, so next time you buy a lottery ticket at least you can be satisfied that some of your money is going to a good cause. The summit ridge just looks like a jumble of rocks and rock pinnacles all built together into a dramatic structure. A weathered sandstone structure on a base of Lewisian Gneiss, a mere 3000000000 years old (I think I’ve got the right number of 0’s in there). There was a bit of trial and error with regards to the route finding along the ridge. I didn’t quite reach the true summit at the west end of the ridge, stopping about 50m short, about 5m in vertical height, there is a small pinnacle with rather a lot of exposure on both sides, even if I had gone on to the true summit I wouldn’t have activated from there as I’d left the rucksack on the other side of the last pinnacle, it being easier to edge round without the bag. So I took some photos, had a look around, studied this pinnacle and went back to find the bag. Setting up the dipole was a bit of a challenge anyway, I ended up having one leg crossing a narrow gully, approx 10m vertically below the summit. Only 5 QSO’s on 40m ssb today, thanks again to Frank G3RMD for the assistance again. Although 2 other stations were heard calling. Not one for the purist with not reaching the true summit (but I’ve never actually reached to true summit of Snowdon, it always being surrounded by too many folk for me to be bothered fighting my way through), but great fun and I’m going back for sure, oh yes!
GM/NS-009, Ben More Assynt.
After the low cloud and poor visibility yesterday (admittedly it turned out nice in the evening for a stroll along the beach) the cloud was supposed to lift as today went on, after Suilven, Conival & Ben More Assynt were the other hills high on the list in this corner of the kingdom. In the car park at Inchnadamph I studied the pictures taken from Cul Beag of the snow on these summits and decided I’d pack the ice axe on the principle it’s better to take it and not need it than the other way round. The standard “munro” approach was used along a good riverside path up Gleann Dubh and then a badly eroded n places path to the bealach to the north of Conival. Ben More Assynt lies at the other end of a ridge with some large snow patches along its length, I did have the ice axe to hand, it being a long slope down in places but it was possible to walk along with care quite easily. The folks who reached the summit shortly after me even recognised my pole as being for a radio aerial, I hadn’t got the kit out at this point – still taking photos. I set up just below the summit, sheltered by the summit rock from the worst of the cool wind. Again 5 QSOs on 40m ssb, including Don G0RQL who’d dragged himself away from the Devon sunshine for a third QSO in 4 days. Descent was a reverse of the ascent route but the weather was improving so I was taking all my photos again with more sunshine in them this time.
Beinn an Eoin, GM/NS-084.
I used the same parking spot for this one as I had used for Cul Beag, it being a small spot where I was able to get the car off the road without blocking any passing places on the single-track road. Almost completely “off piste” other than the initial half a km or so when a faint path follows the fence past Feur-Loch. The summit of Cioch Beinn an Eoin looks impossible to climb but an approach via the steep and heathery slopes to its south provide a possible line of ascent. While approaching the Cioch I stumbled across a pile of 5 well weathered bags of sand, 100m away lay a few more bags, any offers as to what a pile of sand is doing in the middle of nowhere? Once past this steep section it was just a nice ridge walk around to the summit. Again lots of photos – I’ve over 200 photos so I’ll need to be very selective on Flickr. But I didn’t see anyone all day. Phil G4OBK found me after my “txt a spot” and after a slow start conditions seemed to improve resulting in 7 QSOs after a good chat with Phil during which it was obvious conditions were changing.
For too long I’ve listened to folk tell me I should visit the far north west highlands, now I can only wonder what took me so long. I won’t leave it so long to visit again, not that I’m advising anyone else should visit – nothing to see here, please move along now, admittedly slowly as at one point my average speed over 3 days was 23mph. I’ll put some photos up on Flickr to show how dull it is. I know many stations were listening for me during the 5 days, I don’t think conditions were that brilliant by all accounts, but thanks to those who took the time to listen for me.
Had a nice potter about Aviemore & Blair Atholl/Glen Tilt the rest of the week, came across the bus crash on the A9 south of Dalwhinnie minutes after it had happened, saw lots of dead deer, paddled in some rivers and took more photos but it’s not quite the north west, not quite.
The “txt a spot” worked well – thanks Andy. But it does present me with a dilemma, because I wasn’t operating nr 7.118, which I think is the general area most folks operate around – when I tried it I generally sooner or later got swamped by continental stations I imagine running slightly more power than my 5W. I’ve got a trip planned to Knoydart at the end of May, probably Inverie to Invergarry over 4 days, whether I take the radio is still up for grabs and is definitely weather dependant as the dates are fixed. I imagine that Orange mobile phone reception will be decidedly worse in Knoydart with its population of approx 75 I think it is, than it was round Lochinver. I wonder if without the ability to spot I might struggle and if I’m going to cart the radio kit around as well as camping kit I’d quite like it to be worthwhile even if only on one summit, so we’ll see. I might finally get my kit sorted out rather than being still scattered around the flat by then too.