Mealna Letter GM/ES-043 and Monamenach GM/ES-028

"There and Back Again"

I had a half day free on Sunday and It looked like there would be a five hour weather window - rain free but still windy. These two hills are about a hours drive from home.

These two can be climbed individually or as a pair, although there is a drop of 262m between the two. I decided to do it as an “out and back” from NO153641, a large layby on the minor road linking the Glenshee road to Glen Isla.

Getting lost on the ascent of Mealna Letter is impossible, as the route follows a narrow and initially very wet corridor between a plantation and a deer fence, with a dry stone wall leading up to the summit. The going improved as height was gained At the top I initially missed the cairn, due to it being hidden behind the wall. 3.6km, 55 minutes walking.

the way up

Mealna Letter GM/ES-043

Now a sensible person might use the wall for shelter and perhaps lash their mast to the fence. I needed to orientate my W3EDP the same way as the wall and the wind was blowing along the wall, offering no shelter, so off to the cairn I went.

Mountain radio station on Mealna Letter

I was slightly ahead of the weather window, as the summit was still in moist cloud and this made it feel pretty cold in the wind, which I think was a steady 48kph/30mph. The mast erection was aided by the wind and I was soon spinning the dial on 20m.

All good on 20m ssb, with 12 contacts in 7 minutes

The activation was fast and furious which was great and allowed me to get packed up and on to the next one, having only spent 30 minutes on the summit in total. Onwards and northwards, still following the wall, the cloud clearing as soon as I dropped a few metres. I reckoned the next 4.3km would take around an hour.

looking over to Monamenach GM/ES-028, the top still shrouded in cloud

the steep descent, which steepened further and was boggy along the bottom

Crossing a boggy section along the bottom, I then climbed over the fence and skirted around the side of Craigenloch Hill, taking a rising traverse towards the summit slopes of Monamenach. The ground was rough with the occasional peathag and boggy section. This eventually gave way to firmer smoother terrain and short heather. I gained the summit and was disappointed to see only a tiny cairn - not much shelter from the wind. Again, there were fence posts, but not where I needed them! 4.3km, 1 hour 10 mins.

Monamenach GM/ES-028

By now the cloud had cleared a good bit and there were decent 360° views. Station set up was the same as before, with the W3EDP strung south to north. 20m ssb was the weapon of choice again.

There was QSB this time and I just managed to make 8 contacts before deep fading took hold. Many repeat stations, but the prize was @AC1Z, with a 3/3 report. I was only on the air for 5 minutes and on the summit for 30 minutes (lunch).

afternoon openings to NA more frequently on 20m these days

packed up and ready for the return leg

The return route did not fill me with joy. I wasn’t looking forward to the reascent of Mealna Letter. However, the weather was finally improving, with glimpses of blue skies, affording ever more delightful views. It took me 1 hour 45mins to walk the 7.9km back to the car, arriving with soaking wet boots and wet from the knees down.

Heading back over towards Mealna Letter

Mount Blair GM/ES-035 from Mealna Letter

Distance 15.8km 9.9 miles
Total ascent 976m 3202’
Total Time Taken 5 hours

I would have liked to stay on the summits for a bit longer to play radio, however shelter from the elements was sparse and there was more rain forecast at 1700z. As it happened, I’d only driven 2 miles from the car park when I encountered soaking wet roads, so I’d obviously been lucky to have missed a shower. Within 15 minutes of departure, the rain started and didn’t stop.

There are lots of smaller SOTA hills clustered around this part of Glen Isla, all short individual climbs, but one’s that could be linked into a longer expedition. They’re all unique and worth a look!

73, Fraser


I think the view from Monamenach up the River Isla into Caenlochan Glen and Canness Glen is one of the very underappreciated views in Scotland. I spent an age looking up into the glens when I did that summit.

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Yes, it is. It took me a while to work out what I was looking at. Even with low cloud, quite pleasing to the eye.

Thanks for the report and I’m impressed by your speed of operating!

I’ve noticed conditions to NA have improved recently. I was hearing NA activators faintly over the weekend from home but with my QRP rig they can’t hear me - I need to get up a hill!

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Yes, it surprised me too! The second summit was quicker as there were many repeat callers.

After I worked the small pile up I put out a couple of more CQ calls, with no response, but to be honest with the wx the way it was, I was glad to be able to turn off the radio.

On a better day and with more time I would have tuned around the bands. Still, 8 points gained, DX worked and apart from wet feet, a decent few hours on the hill.



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Many thanks for a most useful report Fraser. I was considering Mealna Letter as a precursor to Mount Blair in the Trans-Atlantic S2S event… now I’m not! Having wet feet during the event does not appeal. :hushed: I think I will leave that one for a summer visit. The weather may just keep me further south anyway.

73, Gerald

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don’t be too put off! There is parking and a forest track to the west which is more pleasant. It would have saved Fraser’s feet if I had uploaded it… I went by same route as Fraser on first activation, then this way with my son on the second.

73 Gavin


Hi Fraser, great descriptive report with photos. Thanks. :+1: :beers:

cheers: Geoff vk3sq

Now you tell me! :wink:
Looking back at my mapping I can see it’s shown on the 1:25,000 but not the 1:50,000 that I was using for this one.

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Thanks Gerald. Mount Blair would be a good one. The track is boggy for the first 200m but improves greatly. Grassy most of the way up and gravelly and slightly rutted near the top, but no rocks to stumble over in the dark.

It has a shelter, although this contains a fair amount of metal. And then there’s the large mast right on the summit directly to the south of the shelter, so not an issue if you’re aiming west.



Having seen the pics and descriptions of Fraser’s Mealna Letter route, I prefer my Glen Beanie route for the pair from Dalvenie Farm and up the (imaginary in parts) Glen Beanie track to the damp beallach. Then you climb Monamenach once and Mealna Letter once. It’s probably 2km further this way but you don’t climb Mealna Letter twice. But the forest path looks great if you’re just doing the one hill.

You’ll be after Badanun Hill soon enough. There were many more paths there than shown on the 1:25k OS maps I had. A good Google satellite viewing is needed. Also check out Bing Maps similar views. They have different aerial imagery than can shed a lot more light on what is going on.

Wow! That’s the first time you’ve posted a time in my performance range So I’ll put the speed reduction down to wet boots :slight_smile: My software adapted for my frame says 2hr3m for the route.


Ha! The climb back up to Mealna Letter was so steep in places that I was pulling myself up on the fence posts. With the ground being so wet, I really was watching my footing too. Didn’t want to turn an ankle on a tussock.

Either that or I’m getting old and slow.

That’s on the list for an after work activation, although with darker nights coming, my after work jaunts will soon be restricted to shorter and lower hikes with decent paths.

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Brilliant Gavin. Many thanks for the information. Not having to move the car would be a time bonus. It’s going to be tight to get on the summit for the S2S event and set up for 13:00z.

I’m thinking of a tarp shelter and using my 20m/17m vertical as usual, so I can site myself on the north-west face of the hill. Ease of descending in the dark is an essential element for these events as I tend to be QRV until 17:00z when it will be dark…

All we need now is good weather. :grinning:

73, Gerald

1 Like doesn’t have a detailed forecast for that bit of Scotland but is suggesting that for the Pentlands and particularly Scald Law it will be mainly sunny, but cold at 2C and with 30mph winds giving a windchill of -5C. Probably you want to wear your thermals. :slight_smile: