It was my works Christmas Party on Saturday 6th December and from experience I’m normally a little tired on Sunday for a SOTA activation The WX forecast wasn’t good, we had frequent but short snow showers, Sunday evening was very cold with a big frost. Monday was to start with snow but by 900Z should be a sunny day. We had much less snow than forecast and it was sunny or mainly sunny all day.
Scald Law is just down the road for me and so I went in the pickup (with all season all terrain tyres) instead of the car with the equivalent of ballerina’s shoes for tyres. I can see West Cairn Hill ex SS-138 & East Cairn Hill SS-282 from my QTH and they were covered in snow. I’ve been up Scald Law in snow many times and I know the path up can become polished ice. Since one very silly ascent and descent I always take crampons with me if there’s a chance of snow and freezing conditions. Yeah, crampons in The Pentland Hills… seems massive overkill till you try to get down the path after a few hundred people have compressed and polished the snow.
My computer suggests 55mins for the short ascent of about 2.4km and 285m. The first time I did this it took 1hr30 and I thought my heart would explode. This Monday past it took 45min including a comfort break and a chat to another walker. You’re never alone in The Pentlands as they abut the Edinburgh Ring Road, one side a capital city, the other side a handful of Marilyns. I was surprised to find myself the first person up the track from A702 side. Most people had not spent most of the morning in bed and had taken the nice route along several summits from The Flotterstone Inn. The path in has been improved much since I was last here, the huge bog across the wall has gone and there is a good path though it becomes boggy about 75m from the car park. It soon improves however.
The path was covered with just enough snow and ice to be white compared to the grass. For a change no cattle were in this field. I made good time across the essentially flat path and was soon climbing into the gully to the bealach between Scald Law and Carnethy Hill. It was in the shade and so was cooler to be out of the hazy sun, but it was out of the fierce South Westerly wind. It was about 2C at the car but the wind made it feel several degrees below 0. At he bealach the wind return and I climbed the zig-zag path as fast I as could. The summit was reached about 15min later where the wind was quite ferrocious. I made for the start of the slope about 100m from the trig point to get out of the wind.
Eeny-meeny-miny-moe… 40m was the band of choice as most of my activations have been on 20m or higher recently. First was on with another hat and my Down jacket. Up with the dipole and then try and find an SSB frequency and spot myself. I’ve bought a new phone and whilst it is Android based, everything is just different enough to be a chore when it’s cold and you have gloves on. Several times I was about to spot when I lost my frequency. Finally I spotted myself and kept the frequency. Lots of chasers on SSB, mainly G stations but I was surprised to be called by a few EA2 stations. I’ve met people who are keen on SOTA but they don’t compare to the guys in EA2, activating and chasing they’re always there. The only time recently I’ve not worked an EA2 chaser or S2S is when I’ve been on 2m FM! Must be something in the water.
I switched to CW and worked again mainly G stations with a few ON, DL stations. ODX was OM5DP. Finally the pileup diminished and I could pack up which was good because I was damn cold by now. With the windchill I reckon it was about -5C and 1hr sat in that temperature is enough. I got the station down quickly and tooks some photos and was off. In tru Pentland tradition there had been a constant run of walkers visiting the trig point. The result was what I expected, the snow had been compressed and was freezing nicely. It was just not quite bad enough for the crampons. You can guarantee they’d have been needed if I hadn’t taken them.
I met a German girl coming up walking on her own. She wanted to know when it got dark. No map, no local knowledge of sunset… rather you than me when it’s effectively subzero. I told her she should be able to get to the summit and back to the road by the reservoir in 45mins. The road is tarmac back to the Flotterstone where she had come from and easy to walk in the dark as sunset would be 30mins after that though down in the valley between Black Hill and Scald Law it would be dark early. I walked to the car back the way I came and was soon changed and inside enjoying a lovely oat and peanut bar. Two more youngish girls appeared looking cold and trying to find something. The something was a bus stop. I ended up ferrying them 5miles back down to the Ski Centre so they could get the bus into Edinburgh. These girls from Finland at least knew which bus numbers to get, had an OS map of the area and knew when it got dark. Still I’m quite impressed that visitors would just get a bus out into the countryside, walk in snow and freezing conditions and hope to find the bus back the otherside of the hills. Still I suppose a Scottish winter is a bit of a joke compared to Finland.
Anyway, that is now 5 sunny activations on the run. Such good luck cannot continue can it?
Summit of Scald Law, trig point and a walker (one of many).
Carnethy Hill in middle distance, Allermuir Hill SS-171 in the far distance. The snow line is about 350m here.
Thinsulate hat + Polar buff + buff + 2 fleeces + Down Jacket = acceptably warm!
Scald Law from the car.
Total driven: 40miles, total walked: 5km, total ascent: 285m