I really didn’t know whether to trust the WX forecast or not this weekend. In the end the WX was much better than forecast. I also wasn’t sure whether to go for max points or just have a nice day out and play radio. As nice day out and play radio has been how I’ve selected many summits in the last years that was the way I decided to play things. So a unique was needed with bonus that would be at least 5 points with the chance of maybe another 5 pts or a 1 pt unique on the way back.
I’d spotted Deuchary Hill CS-108 was not too far, unique and the chance for a moderate walk. It’s just up the A9 a bit from Perth, just North of Dunkeld. Dunkeld is awfully posh, like Esher but with kilts. There’s no tartan tat shops like The Royal Mile here in Edinburgh either. There’s nae scum in Dunkeld! Anquet suggested 4.5km and 400m ascent, 1hr45 walking. Sounded OK to me and I could spend more time up there if the WX was OK and there were 2 uniques, Birnam Hill-King’s Seat and Newtyle Hill as possible bonuses on the way home. They’d be smash and grabs and to be honest, if I carry a bag of radios up a hill, I’d rather work more than fewer contacts, so I don’t like smash & grabs.
Duechary Hill is not far from some big stuff, Beinn a’Ghlo group, Beinn Vuirich, Schiehallion, Meall Tairneachan and Farragon Hill etc. So a 2pt hill that’s a bit of a walk is bound to be passed by when there’s big points on offer for not much more effort. It had only been on twice before, a joint activation by Steve and Helen GW7AAV/GW7AAU and INKy G1INK. Worth a shot I thought. A check on the intarwebs and tubes suggested a right bonny walk would be from the Guar road just off the A9 and that’s were I started from.
You take the road signposted for Guay off the A9 (take care if you turn right across the A9, I wouldn’t do that in the week, far too dangerous a road) and follow the narrow road to N0006495 where there is space for 4 cars to park. Up the track. Straight across at the junction and through the gate. Up to the next junction where you turn right onto a much wider estate track. Follow this to the next junction, sharp right, over the bridge and left at the gate through the deer fence. Follow the very overgrown track through the trees. Straight across the next track and follow the track / path right to the summit trig point. You cannot go wrong.
So back to the start, it was heavy drizzle and fog back home. I now know that the WX North of Perth is not always the WX South of Perth and the forecast was for no rain. So off I set in the fog. Fog to Perth. Thick fog after Perth and then suddenly blue sky. I was the 2nd car into the parking space and another arrived as I was booting up. No wind, quite sunny and not cold, about 2C. There was quite a lot of ice patches but the ground was ice free, although only the surface wasn’t frozen. Following the above route the walking is not really hard at all. The paths are good and not really steep. It’s easy walking.
Of course nobody told me just how stunning the countryside is here. Oh, I’ve driven past here so many times and never considered what lay off the A9. Well it’s a magic kingdom. Natural trees, Rowan, Scots Pine, Larch etc. No regimented rows of Sitka Spruce. Rough moorland with amazing crags. If it wasn’t for the number of trees you’d swear you were up North of Ullapool from the colours and the style of land. As I walked in it just got better and better. I find it hard to believe such an amazingly pretty place was so close yet unknown to me. What’s more, this is on the Atholl Estate, so you are welcome here. There are lots of signposts for the walks around this part of the estate. Walkers, dog walkers, mountain bikers all welcome.
I stopped at the bridge of the Dowally Burn to take the view. With a bit of sun and no real wind it was a joy to be out. Especially as every other walk so far this year has been in mist/ice/fog/wind and been very, very cold. There was lots of fog blowing about but it didn’t quite get out of the A9 valley to where I was. The path through the woods is sublime. Quite overgrown but not hard to follow. At the final junction on the map before the path climbs the most, I met a mountain biker about my age and we had a chat. He lived locally and said that 40 years of walking and riding around the tracks had failed to become boring or humdrum. It was truly beautiful. Onwards and upwards through the natural, ancient woodland. I like walking in forests, even Sitka, but this was special. Very special.
Then I stopped for a breather and looked behind me. A stunning vista of big snow capped mountains was now visible. Mainly the Beinn a’Ghlo group and out towards the Angus Glens and Glenshee. Wonderful. I could have sat here all day looking at them. More onwards and upwards and path emerges through a narrow cutting onto Lochan na Beinne. This was frozen solid. I didn’t think it was that cold but there was no sunlight falling onto the water so once frozen it probably required a long warm spell to thaw. And the fog caught up with me. I was about to scream if my 6th hill of the year was also my 6th summit in the mist. But it was wispy and tenous stuff that blew away.
Finally I was sure of which peak was the summit. 3 Roe deer were feeding and surprised to see me. They scarpered into the trees and then stood watching me before running away. This was really the only boggy bit of the walk. Easily avoided and then the final pull. This was fairly steep. At first I wasn’t sure how the path would go to get to the top. But up close it wasn’t so steep and the route was easy and obvious. Lots of places to shelter from the now stronger and really cold wind. The view from the trig was wonderous. All of the Glenshee summits were white and I could see from Drumochter round to the Angus glens. Glas Tulaichen was obvious and if Iain MM3WJZ and myself can coordinate ourselves a bit better, I’d have known he was going there (I almost did!) and was line of sight and I’d have turned the handheld on to bag a summit to summit. I’d have snaffled Colwyn and his shiny new full callsign too! Amazing. South, Perthshire was hidden under the fog. Loch Ordie was frozen solid too.
First band was 60m. Conditions were average. I worked 10, including a few on the key. I don’t think David G3RDQ would have worked on SSB, Mike G0BPU was much stronger and maybe would have been OK on SSB. Trivial in CW! With not much traffic I QSY’d to 40m CW. It was hard finding somewhere clear around 7.032. There was lots of CW and RTTY on the band. When I found a frequency and started working chasers it was a bit busy. Busy? No, BUSY! Not much from Europe but lots and lots of G callers. Lots of familiar calls and many new ones. It did seem hectic and I noted Phil G4OBK’s comments when spotting me that there were people calling me when I was TXing. You wont get in the log that way
I can’t remember whether it was on 40m or 20m but I had to stop with simultaeneous cramp in my hips and fingers. I had a nice perch behind a rock out of the wind and had been sat motionless for sometime working the pileup when it hit. Just a quick walk about and I was fine. As 40m dried up I took the link dipole down and put the Buddistick clone up. This Heath Robinson contraption fascinates me that it can possibly function. But it does. 20m was a little slow to get going but when it did, oh boy. Serious fun. As I have already written, the 20m chasers get my deep appreciation for actually listening to me when I asked for only DX callers and for them all to standby. They all did, no cheeky quick calls, they waited and let me work Rich N4EX. He wouldn’t have got through without their help. Thank you.
Eventually the callers dried up and it was time to pack up. From the log, I was on the air from 1106Z to 1330Z, 2h24, my longest ever activation. That should suggest it was mild but actually there was frost on the ground still on the way back. In the end I worked 10 on 60m SSB/CW, 32 on 40m CW and 26 on 20m CW. The antenna for 20m can be a bit fiddly to erect and I’ve already built something the same yet easier to erect for next time. 20m does seem quite good fun!
The walk out was the reverse. It’s possible to descend the actual summit lump to the South East and pick a track to Riemond Lodge then follow the track around Loch Ordie and back to my approach route. But I was blissed out and went the way I came munching some energy bars and soaking up as much view as possible. I met 3 people at the summit and 4 more dog walkers on the way back. Back at the car I was early enough to smash & grab a quick summit but decided not to. I’d had a wonderful day so far, one of the best SOTA days for a long time and I was happy with my lot. I checked out the parking for Newtyle Hill on the way back, just to be sure. I think I’ll do it with pleasure of Mrs. FMF for company and we can have a nice lunch in Dunkeld.
Total walked: 9.6km, total ascent: 430m, total driven: 140miles.
This is one of those hills that will become a regular activation haunt. Some pictures are on Flickr. This is far too nice a summit to ignore now I’ve activated it and I can heartily recommend it to anyone who ever gets the chance.