"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.
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!