OK, firstly sorry for getting the reference wrong. Very embarrassing for the Scottish AM not to know which mountain he was on. Normally I try and blame these events on Brian G4ZRP but he wasn’t here, so it was my fault. I wrote CS-060 on the back of Ben Gulabin’s map printout and… of course, CS-077 on Morrone’s printout. D’Oh!
The WX report promised the best weather ever, since man evolved from chimps, for mountain walking. I was not surprised when I got up to see a grey overcast day! I didn’t see the sunshine promised but there was light winds and no rain all day. So it was OK but not brilliant.
The A93 runs North from Perth to Braemar through the SE edge of the Cairgorms before it turns East and runs out to Aberdeen. Summits on the West side are in GM/CS and those on the East are GM/ES. It’s the highest main road in the UK with the top being about 2200ft at the Glenshee Ski Centre. It’s also a b-awful road. Narrow and twisty and replete with either day trippers marvelling at the mountains or skiers on their way North. Neither group seem to be able to use a rear view mirror and thus know when there’s faster moving traffic (me) wanting to overtake. Grrr!
Ben Gulabin is a fine and imposing looking hill at the turn off for Spittal of Glenshee just before the start of the big climb to the the ski centre. That means a trip up the A93. To keep my blood pressure under control I loaded up a collection of CDs and set off at 7.35am. Traffic was light and well behaved so I arrived at the first parking place around 9.20pm which I thought was a good time. There are probably lots of ways to climb this hill but the obvious way is to use the Landrover track in and then follow the relatively recent bulldozed track straight up to the top. The track starts at NO 114714 and there’s space for about 5 cars there.
It was grey and cool, about 1C with the tops above 800m lost in the cloud. The forecast said the base should be higher than it was but I was hopeful it might burn off giving a good day. What did surprise me was the amount of snow left on the hills. Now you don’t build a ski centre somewhere it doesn’t snow but I’d say the slopes had 30% coverage from 500-700m and getting on for 50% coverage above. Ben Gulabin was quite snow free from what I could see but seeing the amount of snow elsewhere I attached the ice axe and crampons to my bag and set off.
The track gains height quickly, in fact it’s a good way to warm because it’s steep. Easy walking though. It wasn’t long before I came across snow on the track. It was well consolidated stuff that had been through many freeze thaw cycles, it didn’t look fresh in any way. My OS map doesn’t show the newer track but it starts near the building shown on the maps. Except the building is just some ruins and is easy to miss. The track leading off and straight to the top is not invisible in any way. It’s a horrible scar that goes in a straight line to the top. And, it was covered in some substantial snow patches. I felt my bag to make sure I did have my crampons and set off.
The slope is very steep really, you climb just over 200m in about 700m forward, about 1 in 3. The snow was just soft on the top as I started and with the slope it was verging in needing crampons for safety. Being far too smart to stop and put them on I shuffled up and off the 1st patch and kept going. As you can see the top it was easy to keep going even though I built up a fair head of steam! The next patch was a little dodgy. A few places were hard and steep enough to need a detour to safely pass. It was like this right up to the top. The bulldozed path stops and there’s a traditional boot worn path on the flatter ground. Bish, bash, bosh and you’re at the top staring at the cairn. 1hr20 from locking the car including a comfort stop and a good peer into the gloom.
It was not at all windy at the top and there’s plenty of space. I didn’t think anyone would come this way so I whizzed the pole up where I stopped with the dipole across the path. Bad planning as 5 people wandered by whilst I was there. But they didn’t mind and wanted to know what was happening, but I must be more considerate in future, especially when there is space. Anyway I bashed on to 60m and worked a healthy number of chasers giving each one the wrong reference. D’Oh! It was Brian G8ADD who asked me if I was sure based on a spot by Andy MM0USU. So I started giving out the correct reference later on. Just as well this was before I switched to CW.
Conditions weren’t brilliant on 40m, nobody was very loud to start with. The opening calls were a mix of G’s and DL’s. Ken GM0AXY about 80miles South was very loud so perhaps I should have tried 40m SSB but I do like floundering about trying to work the modest CW pileups I can stir up. I’ve spent 20years talking to people on the radio and this CW lark has brightened up my interest no end. I was confused by my 1st GI on the key. It took a moment because I wanted to hear GM not GI anyway the madness faded I realised it was GI4SRQ. Then a few more DLs and the skip lengthened all of a sudden to give OK and S51. 30m was dead apart from LA1ENA. As things had gone quiet I decided to stop and get down as quick as I could so I could do another summit. The mist had lifted a lot with the odd blue patch visible. I thought if I could get down quick I’d have more time in better weather on the next one. It took about 40 mins to get back to the car. The snow had softened a lot and it was easy and safe to charge down across the snow patches. There’s good 3g coverage here, I think the cell site is on Mount Blair which has a commanding view of the area South of Glenshee. Anyway on the summit and at the car park I could get many mbps throughput. I checked the reference I had was correct for the next summit! After a drink and an energy bar or two I set off South.
Total walked: 5.4km, total ascent: 490m
I’d never noticed this one on the map before till Steve G1INK did it the other week. It’s a cheeky wee 2pt hill that is very close to the road with not much ascent. Ideal for a backup hill or second one if your 1st walk finished early. With the price of petrol I didn’t want to come this far for one 4pt hill and the next nearest 4pt would be a bit of a stretch, not in effort but in time available on the air. I did want to get back home for a reasonable time.
The start point is off the road to Blacklunans. This is signposted of the A93 just a short stretch after the B951. I’d already checked the SOTA activator online holy trinity: maps.bing.com, Google Streetview and geograph.co.uk. There was a path through the plantation by Drumore Loch, the far end came out onto the moor and there was somewhere to park. Result!
It was cold here as most of the surface of Drumore Loch was still covered with ice. The track is near NO173613. The deer gate is not locked. The path is excellent and I set off through the forest. Not too far in there is a path to the left. Actually it’s a firebreak, ignore this. At the next left take this path. This climbs a bit more than before and brings you to another gate that lets you out onto the moor. Turn right and there’s a track in the rough heather and this leads to the summit. Of course it stops just as it gets steep, really quite steep. It only takes a few minutes to climb this and then over the drystane dyke. The cairn is about 500m further on. The ground was essentially level but the problem was the snow. There was a lot of drifting either side of the wall that ran to the cairn. I took the East side and that’s a bad choice as there is a better path on the West. The drifts were on the good ground so it took longer than it should to get to the end.
Anyway at the cairn I decided the wind was far too cold not to hide behind the wall. It was just high enough to be awkward, not difficult, to cross and I avoided the electric fence wire! I set up by this and used the electric fence posts to support my pole. Anyway it wasn’t active as there was no interference. Just as well as it was really cold in the wind even though the sky was quite blue so I was glad of the shelter. There were some good views to the NE to Lochnagar area but the view is dominated by Mount Blair or a large wind farm to the South.
I fired up on 60m and either there was something good on the telly or propagation was not brilliant. (There was something good, the greatest football team in history knocking the pretenders to the throne all about the pitch and winning 3-1!) After a slow start I qualified the hill and worked 10QSOs. I was in too minds to do another band especially as it had taken 25mins to get to the top from the car. But it 15:10, ten mins to pack up, 5 mins for some photos and twenty to get to the car, another 10mins chilling out and it would be nearly 16:00. With 2hrs of drive I decided it was time to go. The walk out was easy and I enjoyed a drink and a surf back at the car. There is something seriously wonderful about being somewhere remote yet having a fast internet connection on a tiny computer that fits in your pocket. I’ve been interested in radio for 40 years and I work with the companies making mobile phones and mobile phone chipsets. 2 things still amaze me even though I know how the magic works… one is having a QRP CW contact with somebody some 1000’s of kms away and the other is sheer ubiquitous coverage of modern cellphones and how well the modems work. There has to be something wrong with anyone who isn’t spellbound by radio communication.
Total walked: 3.5km, total ascent: 183m
So chilled out, I drove back nice and sedately listening to an eclectic mix of tunes: Swedish doom metal merchants Grand Magus had powered the journey North so Atlanta axe-master Tinsley Ellis and king of the B3, Jimmy Smith accompanied me South.
Thanks to Steve GW7AAV for spotting me on both summits and to everyone else for chasing me. Pictures will be on Flickr soon if not there already.
Total walked: 8.9km, total ascent: 673m, total driven: 189miles.
So that’s 12 points for less effort than last week’s 5pt nightmare on Meal Gainmheach. Which was more enjoyable? Er… both as I got to play radio in the countryside!