…well some of them.
The second week of our holiday was mainly tasked with catching up with friends & relatives. However, we’d booked a couple of nights at the Village Inn, Arrochar, with a view to climbing some of the nice wee mountains down there.
Monday was mainly spent travelling and sight-seeing, and over dinner that evening we decided what Tuesday would look like.
Ben Narnain GM/SS-016 & Ben Ime GN/SS-016
It was a very short drive round the head of Loch Long. There’s a car park that’s Council run right at the foot of the mountain path, but that’s £1 an hour. We elected to use the free car park about 400m further from the path, but made a donation for the community run toilets that have been placed there.
The “new” footpath up through the forest is shared by the above two mountains as well as The Cobbler (Ben Arthur GM/SS-020). It probably added 1km to our walk, but was much more civilised than the direct route up the old trackway with its concrete blocks and wetness. It was so overgrown that I didin’t fancy it with a mast on my pack anyway.
Soon we were out on the open slopes and had to traverse right for a few hundred metres to pick up the Ben Narnairn footpath. It ascended the south east ridge, initially as a well paved, sometimes staircase type path. However, this deteriorated further up as we circumvented crags, outcrops and gullies. At a couple of places we needed to use out hands - once to climb a V-groove and again to climb a bouldery gully near the top. The ascent was unrelenting, with little vision of what was beyond. Ben Narnairn climbs to its 926m altitude over about 2.5km and the ascent begins at sea level.
The Cobbler and Ben Narnairn
Traversing right to pick up the ascent path
The ascent path
The final buttress?
We reached the top in 3 hours, arriving at 1200z. I knew the activation and qualification was already in the bag by the time I got there. I’d already worked (chased while mobile) Duncan MM0GOG, who was down near Moffat on GM/SS-142 Scaw’d Fell and I’d answered a couple of calls on the way up, asking stations to wait 10 minutes until I summited. I’d heard GW stations whilst ascending, and an MI too. Without a Spot, I knelt on my mat, took out the notebook, found 145.400MHz was free and put a call out on 145.500MHz.
Instant pile-up, although orderly! MM0XPZ Steve was first in the log,and then local op.Steven @MM0ZFG. who I’d been in touch with (on here) and was looking out for. I then had S2S with MI3UIW & GI4OSF who were on GI/SM-001 Sawel Mountain. A further 11 stations were worked, including @GM4COX Jack, who patiently waited until near the end so we could have a bit of a catch up (our last QSO was on Goatfell, Arran). I made all my contacts with my Yaesu ft-3d handheld connected via a length of RG-58 to my rucksac mounted half-wave (2m/70cm version).
Party over, we left the summit at 1255z and headed down steep bouldery and then grassy slopes to the bealach, with the long grassy ridge and snaking path of Ben Ime in full view.
Ben Ime from the summit of Ben Narnairn
There is a fair amount of descent and reascent between these two hills, with the bealach at 650m altitude, climbing to Ben Imes summit at 1011m over 1.5km, Ben Ime being the tallest mountain in the range.
Down to the bealach
We summited at 1405 and this time I did put a spot out. I worked 12 stations over 15 minutes, with some repeat calls making it into the log. All Scottish stations, the farthest being Edinburgh.
Unusual operating position (for me) on the top of Ben Ime
Descent involved following the path back to the bealach and then joining the descent path from The Cobbler, which led us down past the Narnairn boulders and onwards to our route through the woods on the “new” path.
As we descended, the Prestwick Coastguard helicopter flew overhead heading for The Cobbler. I re-tuned the handie to 156.000MHz and hit the scan button. OK, this wasn’t an exercise or training. Rescue 199 (R-199 callsign) was about to drop his winchman below the north peak to attend a casualty. There was occasional radio chatter between the pilot and the Arrochar MRT Leader on the ground. Over the next hour they worked away ferrying team members and the team doctor up to the peak. Incredible to see and hear the efficiency of the operation, and all this over terrain that would be inaccessible any other way, except on foot.
R-199 heading to The Cobbler north peak
We got back to the car at 1700z, making it an 9 hour day on the hill, 20km/12.5 miles of walking. Over pints at the hotel, I couldn’t get Mo to decide on tomorrows hike. It would either be Ben Vane or Ben Vorlich. We discounted the other Arrochar Alp Munro - Beinn Bhuidhe - on account of the longer walk in.
Ben Vane GM/SS-017
I decided for us. There’s not much to choose between those two. Same access point, similar height, similar terrain. I’d never climbed Ben Vane before, so that swung it.
We had a later start than normal. leaving the Loch Lomond-side parking at Inveruglas at around 0900z. After a short walk down the road, the route turns up the tarred access road used by the electricity companies as a means of access to the Loch Sloy Hydro scheme. We were in for a shock (not literally, as 132KV would have been bad news!)
The Loch Sloy road entrance
A pleasant chap greeted us at the gate, informing us that we were entering a construction site and asked us to follow basic safety rules. Basically this was the “Green Cross Code” (google it if you’re non-UK).
I asked the first worker I saw about the works. Unfortunately I picked an engineer who had just arrived there to repair an excavator! I eventually found a board that explained that 7.5km of overhead lines were being removed and replaced by 132KV underground cables. The works were split between this site and Glen Falloch. The reason was due to the scenic value of these areas and it was all funded by a grant from the regulator OFGEM.
There was some impressive engineering going on there, including directional drilling.
Anyway, we soon left the noise and upheaval behind us and unfortunately had to start climbing.
And what a climb it was!
Paved staircase, then level for a bit, then eroded path snaking up between crags until all options were exhausted and wee bits of scrambling were called for. I estimate 750m ascent in around 1300m horizontal distance. Ben Vane didn’t give in, not even on the final pull to the summit.
Watch out for the mountain path - some folk missed it
above a steep gully
Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond
Finally, we topped out at 1145z, Mo insisting I (we) had lunch before I started “faffing around”.
Tenth Munro for us in a 10 day period. Well done Mo
I’d brought the ft-857d, a short mast and my “100g yagi” - a 2m beam. I soon had this set up, got a spot away and called CQ on the 2m SSB calling channel.
2m SSB on Ben Vane
It wasn’t as easy as Goatfell had been on 2m SSB, but I qualified the summit, getting GM7NZI, MM0XPZ and GM0VEK in the log fairly rapidly and then MM0CEZ a few minutes later. Then no answer to my CQ’s for around 10 minutes, so I changed mode, re-aligned the beam for vertical and succeeded in making 11 QSOs on FM, including nice Summit-to-Summit QSOs with Andy GI6PJZ/P on GI/AH-005 and Dave MW0JKS/P on GW/NW-054. Poor Dave wasn’t having the nice warm weather we were enjoying. That was ODX of the day, at 350km, although Gavin @GM0GAV came a distant second, but still impressive over on the east coast near Dundee.
It was only when I was removing the final element from the beam that I noticed that I had assembled it with the reflector at the opposite end it should have been on and thus had built the entire beam back-to-front. The spacing would have all been off, but the SWR was flat and I had DX into Wales. Go figure!
I suspected Ben Vane would take as long to descend as it did to climb, but we made decent progress once over the major difficulties and eventually arrived back at the car at 1645z.
Descending. The longer mast was a pain around rocky overhangs at times
More descent fun
Descending - the Loch Sloy Hydro dam in the glen
Great but tough little mountains. Clustered quite close together. Easy reach of 80% of Scotlands population, so handy for 2m, handhelds and anyone wanting to carry a lighter pack.
We experienced brilliant weather, with summit temperatures of 25 degrees and very few midges. I could heartily recommend the Village Inn, Arrochar, athough there are probably cheaper offers nearby (but possibly not during this “Staycation year”.
Operating was great fun - I didn’t even remove my rucksac on the first day and the local guys are all keen for the chase or just a “yap”. Thank you Chasers - really a pleasure to QSO with each of you.
Now Mo is asking when we’re going back to climb the last two summits (Munros)!