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Monamenach ES-028 and Mealna Letter ES-043

The forecast WX was, once again, better the further North and East you went and so once more a foray towards the Cairngorms was on the cards. I had a scour of the maps and noticed there are 3x 4pt summits closely grouped. I didn’t have a big enough time window to tackle all 3 so I picked on Mealna Letter ES-043 and Monamenach ES-028. Badandun Hill ES-037 can wait for next time Mrs. FMF is free to come and play hillwalking with me.

There are several ways to tackle these hills, either from the A93 or the minor road that runs up Glen Isla. Having never been up Glen Isla before compared to many trips up the A93, Glen Isla won. Again there are several possible start points but a check on Google Streetview for likely parking places suggested there was one place that would be good to attack both summits from. Depending on the time and weather the walk could extended on the way back. So the start place was identified as by Dalvanie Farm.

I was away on time, it wasn’t too cold and it wasn’t raining. A nice steady progress up North and then just as the A93 gets narrow and twisty you turn off for Cray. This road runs past the most common starting point for Mount Blair ES-034. Or to give it the correct name, Tedium Gigantium, as Mount Blair is one boring hill. The minor road runs on and you take the even smaller road that runs to Forter. Onwards past the magnificently restored tower house castle and soon the track into Glen Beanie appears, just past Dalvanie Farm. There is a big deer fence and gate here and an obvious track running off. With some skill you can park about 5 cars here and not block the entrance.

Boots on and away. It was warm enough for just a T-shirt although there were some omnious dark clouds. Now there was quite good phone reception here and it would be brilliant from both summits as they are LOS to Tedium Gigantium where there is a substantial set of phone antennas. The OS map suggests a good track to NO172681 and looking at the start on Google Streetview I was expecting an easy yomp to almost the bealach of the 2 targets. Ha! The buldozed track stops near N0177671 and from then on there is path in the grass. It’s not too distinct and requires a bit of concentration to follow. It was generally dry under foot but I imagine it could be rather sticky after pronlonged rain. Down in the valley there wasn’t any wind to speak of. There were 3 gates to cross. The one at the road which was locked but the fence was easy to climb. The next two were not locked but could still be climbed easily. The river that drains Glen Beanie sounded substantial at the gate but by the time the bulldozed track had stopped it looked insignificant in the distance. It looked like you could almost step across it but certainly jump it. This was important as one of my return routes would involve crossing the burn.

As I reached the bealach it was time to confirm my route. If I went North to Monamenach direct I could return to the bealach via Craigenloch Hill, a steeper return. Then South to Mealna Letter and back the same way or along the SE ridge to Carn an Fhidleir (Carn Ealer in English) and out through Meikle Forter farm or SE but drop into then glen and back to the car. I decided to take what should have been an easy ramp up to Monamenach’s summit. It turned out to be harder than it should have been. The heather was just a bit too long for easy walking and there were ditches in the peat that looked to be too regular not to be manmade. They were just too wide to be an easy stepover.

The view down to Loch Beanie was good and would be impressive on a good day. The best view remained behind me right the way to summit. It seemed to take far too long to reach this especially as the slope steepened the nearer I got. Eventually the slopes leveled off and you are presented with lots of fence posts and a wee cairn. Fence posts on a summit are, of course, a SOTA activators dream as setting up the HF antennas becomes so easy. It was just cool enough to require a fleece on the top. The sky looked more fierce than ever but the rain held off. 60m worked OK but there was rapid QSB. Likewise on 40m CW, the QSB was very quick. I had to repeat with a few stations as their signal was moving from nothing to S9+ in a matter of seconds. I managed to work 15 stations in G, GM & DL.

The best view from here is NE into Caenlochan Glen and Cannes Glen. The photo on Flickr doesn’t do justice to this. It was a bit hazy and grey. On a crisp clear day I could see this as being a view so good that it’s worth climbing Monamenach for no other purpose. But today it was just “oo er, that’s nice!” I didn’t loiter but packed up and headed off along the ridge towards Craigenloch Hill. This was easy following the line of abandonned fence posts. It was easier walking than the slope up. The descent to the bealach is quite steep. Probably 1:2 at times. The map shows crags but really they are just big boulders left behind when the galcier melted. My route veered from the fence post line and made straigh to the bealach. Whilst it was steep, I reckon that it would be a better ascent route than up the more gentle heather slopes. There’s about 200m height gain in 500m but the grass is shorter, drier and firm. Yes, it would be a pull and your thighs would complain but once up that slope it’s a grand bimble to the summit proper.

It was wet here at the belaach. I was shocked. Who would have expected a wet bealach on a peaty Scottish summit! :slight_smile: Care was needed to keep dry but soon the ground started climbing quickly. There is the most wonderful dry stane dyke running from the bealach to the top of Mealna Letter and beyond. Truly superb and mainly intact. There’s a narrow strip of land between the dyke and a newish fence and I kept on the good ground between the two. Again it was really quite steep but I was at the point where I was onto my second wind. Having had a gentle walk in, a tedious climb up and a good walk down, I was suitably limbered up for this and without rushing just kept going with a nice steady rhythm.

It’s a simple matter of following your nose and the dyke to the summit. Again plenty of fence posts for the antenna pole and this time wire to aid NVIS take off. It wasn’t running an ideal way but it did the job. I thought operation from here would be so easy as John GW4BVE came back to my 1st call on 60m. I only worked one more on 60m and despite being LOS to Mount Blair, my phone would not send a spot SMS. Grr! Anyway, onto 40m CW and it was easy to work 6 stations. Again the QSB was severe. Propagation had lengthened since earlier when I worked quite a few G stations on 40m. This time I worked Jeff G4ELZ down in Devon. Almost as far away as you could get from me and still be in the UK. Otherwise it was only stations in F and DL/OE. But best DX for the day was OE6WIG, not strong we were 339 both ways but with the lack of QRM on the hill, quite workable. I doubt I’d have heard him at this QTH. Also I worked my first S2S in CW with DF3MC/P.

John GW4BVE had told me the rain radar looked bad with the rain due shortly for me. The wind was now strong and gusty and there had been the odd drop of rain. I decided it was time to go and packed up again. I must have got about 5 minutes walk and down a bit when I spotted my GPS was missing. I’d put my bag on without attaching the antenna pole and I suspect my GPS would be there on the floor where I’d taken the bag off. So 10 minutes and breathless later I was back at the top clipping the GPS to my belt. I set off again and decided on a shorter route back. Down the SE ridge and rather than veer SSE to Carn an Fhidleir it was down into Glen Beanie. Again quite steep amongst the crags but very easy to find a route. It almost seemed like the sun was breaking through! The view into the glen was very good. Some huge boulders here and lots of morraines.

At the valley bottom the ground was a bit icky but not too hard. I only considered this a feasible route as we have had such a dry 4 months past. The burn was probably jumpable, it was much wider than I thought it would be. But as it was well on the way to forming oxbow lakes, the burn bed was not level. The slow side was nicely silted up with about 2cm of water and a firm bed. The fast flowing side was thigh deep and it was about 2m wide where I crossed. However, it was shallow enough for most of the way across that it was trivial to cross with a bit of planning. It’s one of the few times I’ve been able to stand in the centre of a glacial valley looking up at the remain headwall as the burn had wandered over to one side.

From there it was a bimble to the car. By the time I was back the sky was mainly blue, the sun was shining and it was a lovely day. There are some photos on Flickr showing how the sky changed in 35mins. Typical! A leisurely Mars bar at the car and I set off back home only stopping for pictures of Forter Castle and fuel in Perth. (Why is it 2p/l cheaper 50miles from the refinery yet I live 10miles from Grangemouth and the fuel is more expensive having been shipped fewer miles?) It did start to rain heavily about 5miles from home though. So the rain John saw did arrive, just a little later than predicted. They say tunes help you breathe more easily! They certainly help the passage of time on the M90 and I shared the journey with Messrs. ZZ Top (29 years since I saw them last), Canned Heat (never seen them) and Matt Schofield (8 months since I last saw him play).

Total walked: 15.5km, total ascent: 860m, distance driven: 175 miles.

I can recommend this pair if you want solitude, good views when you’ve summited and a chance to do proper pathless, wild walking. They do go well together and takes me 2 uniques nearer to my next target of 250 uniques. Still some way to go on that target though.

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to MM0FMF:

Another excellent report Andy. Sounds like super country up there - maybe one day I’ll get to activate a few - when cars are fuelled on something cheap!

Didn’t think Canned Heat would be your thing. More like music for old fogies like me. Ah, those were the days… I’m on the road again… quite apt really.

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:

I’ve been a Heat man since university 30 years ago. I’ve now decided that my time is worth too much to me so rather than rip my vinyl to digital I’ll buy the CDs of the vinyl. Hence I purchased the CD reissue of Future Blues and double reissue on one CD of Canned Heat and Boogie with Canned Heat. 3 albums worth of music for under £8. My vinyl copies of Boogie with and Future Blues were bought second hand and were worn back in 1981 being 10+ years old then. Hearing how they were meant to sound was a revelation! :wink:

A stunning blues shuffle and for the 3rd live gig for the guitarist, why not play in front of 500,000 people! Judging by the performance on stage I don’t think Larry “The Mole” Taylor would have passed a drugs test!

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to MM0FMF:

Andy,

I’m sure none of the Heat would have passed a drugs test during most of their performances! All my albums are on vinyl bar Boogie With which I also have on CD and bizarrely, I too bought Future Blues secondhand. The Sunflower was one of my favourite blues guitarists in my youth. It was a sad day when Blind Owl passed on, of course followed a couple of weeks later by Jimi.

As Paul and I don’t really share a musical background, it is “live chat” to and from our joint activations. Even when I’m on my own, I tend not to have music on after activating as I enjoy the continuation of the quiet enjoyed on the summits. Maybe I should try some Heat to help pass the time on those long journeys. :slight_smile:

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to MM0FMF:
I was never a great fan, myself, although they laid down some pleasant tracks I found their music a little one-dimensional - only the mouth-organist (can’t remember his name!) ever pushed at the capability of his instrument IMHO. I’m more a Floyd or early Genesis man, myself, but in the hills its Vaughan Williams or Bax that tends to run through my head. Back when I used to gig I dreaded playing with people who thought drugs enhanced their playing or made for better improvising - the better they thought they were, the worse they actually were, by the end of the set it sometimes got embarrassing! Mind you, booze had much the same effect…

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

only the mouth-organist (can’t remember his name!) ever pushed at the capability of his instrument IMHO.

Yes, Al “Blind Owl” Wilson - very much a progressive blues man. A sad loss back in '70. Looking back I wouldn’t want to have been born in any other year than the one that I was - '52 - just right for seeing music progress through the 60’s until it lost its way in the late 70’s, as indeed did Genesis IMHO. :slight_smile:

Maybe it’s time to review the CDs in the car… ready for my next outing.

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:

Yes, Al “Blind Owl” Wilson - very much a progressive blues
man. A sad loss back in '70. Looking back I wouldn’t want to have been
born in any other year than the one that I was - '52 - just right for
seeing music progress through the 60’s until it lost its way in the
late 70’s, as indeed did Genesis IMHO. :slight_smile:

Ah, thanks for the reminder, it was a long time ago!

The Genesis that I admired died with the departure of Peter Gabriel, the finest actor that ever sung! Not that I was too struck by the fancy costumes… Oddly enough prog never really went away and is going through quite a revival at present.

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

Ah, thanks for the reminder, it was a long time ago!

Seems like yesterday …well, almost. I didn’t really enjoy much of the 80’s and 90’s in many ways outside of the family. Life was overshadowed by the struggle to better my career and I jumped ship mid-way by going self-employed which brought its own challenges. I didn’t even find amateur radio that enjoyable, particularly when Meteor Scatter started moving towards data modes. The boost provided by SOTA was long overdue - pity it took me 4 years to heed the words of Richard CWI. :slight_smile:

73, Gerald G4OIG

P.S. Never got into Floyd beyond DSOTM - my direction was more Fairport, Steeleye, Tull, Curved Air. There’s still good stuff to be heard, but it takes some burrowing to find it - that’s why I’m listening to Sandy Denny as I write this. :slight_smile:

In reply to G4OIG:

I saw Tull about 15months back up here in Perth. Excellent concert and excellent venue. Ian Anderson looks almost human nowadays. You know you’re getting old when you’re glad the concert is fully seated. There was an intermission with ice creams. All very civilised! I had a rip of Songs From the Wood from an early CD but finally bought a copy when it was remastered/mixed. It’s noticely superior to the original CD. All the tinkly bits stand out nicely. Always reminds me of my 2nd year Communications Systems coursework. I can remember sitting in a cold flat working out link budget and BER problems for the tutorials the next day whilst listening to it.

Never a big Curved Air fan. Which was a shame seeing what Sonja looked like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUnjMI81vAA :slight_smile:

Floyd: apart from a few early tracks it’s only Wish You Were Here, DSOTM and Animals I like. I don’t think I’ve heard anything after The Wall or any of ROger Waters solo albums. I was never a Genesis fan TBH so wasn’t bothered when Gabriel left. I could listen to the odd album and think “that was quite good.” but I never had the urge to listen and listen again. Though to be fair I thought Trick of The Tail was excellent.

But it all comes back to virtuoso blues blues/rock guitarists now. You’re quite right Brian that a lot of it is quite one dimensional but it’s all to do with guitar tone and playing. There aren’t that many different shuffles or slow blues you can play. So you need a signature guitar sound to stand out.

Andy
MM0FMF

In reply to MM0FMF:

Thanks for posting that, Andy, I had forgotten just how good a band CA was - although I admit that this time around the first thing I noticed was how well the opening riff would fit to “My Favourite Things” (sorry!)

As for Floyd, didn’t you like “Echoes”?

And for different slow blues - have you heard Leonard Feathers “Twelve Tone Blues”? :-)) Anyway I was into the sound of the horns, and played mostly tenor and soprano sax with a dash of clarinet, my blues were mostly 12 bar and a very different animal indeed!

73

Brian G8ADD