The weather was forecast to be glorious so an outing to a local summit was on the cards. ES-041 (Carn a’Ghille Chearr) is one of two summits on the Cromdale Hills and I have been there several times. This visit I decided to approach from a completely different direction and at the same time drive along a road I have never been along in the 30 or so years I have lived here.
The road end is off the A95 just beyond the Ballindalloch Castle Golf Course on the Grantown side; just follow this road to the start of the Wood of Shenval walk at NJ177307 where there is parking if you are careful and considerate. Go through the gate and follow the made track (ignore the forest extraction track that bears left just after starting your ascent) and this soon brings you to a gate in the deer fence – remember to close it or there will be tears before bedtime! When the track finishes (NJ168307) it is easy enough to locate a track to the first grouse butt and then follow this line to the ridge which should bring you to a small cairn. It is then a case of following the cairns until you can see a quad bike route across the moor and onto the secondary summit at NJ143298 (within the activation zone). The true summit and trig point are visible from here and just involves a short walk taking care to not fall into the numerous waterholes! If you are as lucky as I was then you will have company at this point as a large herd of reindeer share this ridge and they have a very unhealthy interest in your sandwiches – but do not like dogs!
Setting up at the summit is easy, plenty of space and easy pegging of guy lines. First heard was Carolyn GW6WRW on 5MHz, she was really strong so the chance of a summit to summit to start the day off was very attractive, Shame she only gave me 52 report, maybe the solar flair had left propagation a bit one-way as she was really loud with me, as were all her chasers. When I was able to put out a CQ results were really poor and reports to me bad with Ken GM0AXY struggling to hear me despite his 59 plus signal with me. It was only after working a few stations on 2m that the penny dropped – I had my dipole set with one leg for 5MHz and one leg for 7MHz, not exactly conducive to good VSWR, correcting this gave me really good reports after that. I had poor hopes for 40m with contest stations abounding, but a self spot brought the biggest pile-up I have had all year and, in absolutely perfect weather conditions (sorry guys, somebody had to have them!) I had a qso feast. Moving onto 18MHz brought the stations of 9A7W and US3LX before I finally moved back to 2m to mop-up MM0DHY and GM7PKT for two further summit to summit contacts. Mustn’t forget two contacts earlier with father and son first activations from nearby Ben Rinnes (MM6AON Adam and 2M0CFB Ian) - welcome to SOTA.
The descent was just the ascent route in reverse, however just before leaving the ridge I noticed an additional shadow on the ground beside me (makes you do a real double take) and this was my companion all the way to the gate in the deer fence and the reason for the rather strange title of this posting. I was accompanied, walking on one side of me, and keeping the dog in view, by a young male reindeer. I must admit this was one of the most pleasurable ends to a hill walk, reindeer are such pleasant and gentle animals and I was rather sorry to leave him at the fence. His ear tag number: PO UTSI 187.
My thanks to all the chasers for such a pleasant day on the air and to 187 for the company off the hill