A Postponed Holiday in Glencoe
Monday 28th February - The Clachaig Inn, Glencoe
We woke to rain, low cloud an generally “dreich” weather in the Glen. Plans to climb one of the Munros were cancelled and I had a scan on sotl.as for something that was a bit farther from the coast and not too high.
Glas Bheinn GM/WS-303 fitted the bill nicely. It sits in the middle of Rannoch Moor, is 501m high, 20 miles from the wet coast and only has 190m of ascent. Perfect for a short day out. No one had activated if for 8 years, I suspect because everyone drives past it and on to greater things. I’ve driven over Rannoch Moor many a time and never even noticed there’s a hill there…
There’s a layby at the bottom and with a bit of searching, we found a faint track that led through a gap in the fence and then joined a grassy and soggy ATV track. The ATV track led pretty much all the way up the slope to the ridge. From there we turned left and followed the ridge over a couple of rocky knolls to the summit. Good views, on a clear day I guess.
Mo on the upper slopes of the climb
Glas Bheinn GM/WS-303
Activating the Summit of Glas Bheinn GM/WS-303
I hoped for a busy and brief time! The drizzle came and went, the wind was cold and it was around 2 Celcius. There was just about enough turf to guy the 7m mast using pegs. The Inverted V (20/40) was unlinked and connected to the Elecraft KX2. 20m was selected.
After working @F4WBN, who instantly answered my CQ, the pile up ensued. I picked out @F5JKK and then another 18 stations, all great signals each way, with one summit to summit with @HB9LEK who was on DM/BW-461. 15 minutes later, it died down and I was glad to pack up! Mo was cold, so she left me to it…
We were back at the car in no time. We then drove up to Fort William for retail therapy and coffees, stopping off at the hotel to dump our damp gear and my damp radio kit. WARNING - retail therapy in Fort William can be (and was) expensive!
Tuesday March 1st 2022
Mo wanted a rest day. We’d go our separate ways and meet later to exchange stories. I wanted to climb Beinn Dorain GM/CS-008 and Beinn an Dothaidh GM/CS-025. Mainly because Ben Dorain was my first Munro, some 32 years ago and I didn’t get a view that time…
Ben Dorain GM/CS-008, with the railway running across it’s base
0935 and I was parked up at Bridge of Orchy Hotel. I passed under the West Highland Railway and commenced up the worn, eroded, muddy and increasingly rocky path that led up to the col in between the two mountains.
Climbing up to the col
Ben Dorain from the col
The terrain after the col was mainly of hard snow, so I donned the crampons and followed the ridge over various bumps, arriving at the summit at 1135, having taken 2 hours for the climb.
GM/CS-008 Summit area
I’d wanted to do this one on 2m, so had brought the handheld and beam. I dropped over to the southern edge of the summit and set up. There must have been some nets starting that morning, as I couldn’t even get a shout out on 145.500MHz, so I re-spotted for 145.425MHz and hoped for the best.
5 watts from the handheld
I worked a steady stream of stations (8 in all), ODX being @GI4OSF on GI/SM-005, 227km, 141 miles. I knew that Simon @GM4JXP was over on GM/ES-055. He messaged saying that he wasn’t hearing me. I swung the beam from south to east and we managed a QSO (102km, 64 miles) over a mountainous path that we didn’t think was viable.
Ten minutes later, I packed up and headed back to the col, checking in with Mo that it was OK to go for the second summit. The answer was Yes!
Limited views today
The climb to Beinn an Dothaidh was on much softer snow unfortunately. Crampons not needed. Snow shoes would have been handy to avoid post-holing.
Looking back to Ben Dorain
I arrived around 1310, it having taken 1hr 15 mins to make the crossing from Ben Dorain.
Beinn an Dothaidh has three tops, with the highest one being a simple dome. I set up around 100m down the southern side, aware that there were following parties.
Beinn an Dothaidh south east east top
Beinn an Dothaidh north west top
KX2, 7m mast, inverted V and I plumped for 40m. It had been a while since I’d been on 40m. It was great to work so many G/GI/GM/GW stations again. The band wasn’t too busy, so happy days! 22 in the log in under 20 mins, including another S2S with Simon, who was still on his hill.
Operating from Beinn an Dothaidh
The weather was improving and views were opening up, so I grabbed some more shots on the way back down.
Ben Dorain from Beinn an Dothaidh
Looking over towards The Black Mount
I was back at the car at 1535, having been on the hill for 6 hours. Back at the hotel for 1605 to find out that Mo’s rest day had involved wandering around the area, clocking up 10 miles, and that she had grand plans for tomorrow…
Wednesday March 2nd 2022
We have a tradition that Mo takes me somewhere for my birthday. Previously this has involved expeditions by bike or on foot, usually in horrendous weather, with not enough food, the risk of hypothermia or trench foot. Of course it was also the 20th SOTA birthday today, so we would be going up a hill.
Mo decided we’d climb the Pap of Glencoe GM/WS-200 and that we’d be walking from the hotel.
The Pap of Glencoe from Glencoe village (taken the following day)
Another hill that everyone drives past. It looks inconsequential, sitting on the shoulder of the higher Munro Sgor nam Fiannaidh GM/WS-074. No one had qualified it since 2016.
We stepped out of the hotel onto the road and into a stiff south-easterly wind, one that was due to strengthen as the day went on. After a couple of km, we turned through a farm gate marked with a wooden board “PAP” and headed up a track.
The start of the climb to The Pap
Initial views down Loch Leven
There’s lots of symmetry to be found in Glencoe
The path was rocky and rough, sometimes ascending directly, sometimes zig-zagging, but always ascending fairly steeply to the col between the Pap and the rough ridge leading up to neighbouring Sgor nam Fiannaidh.
The Pap of Glencoe
Approaching the summit area
The climb up the rocky summit knoll needed hands in places. As we approached the final 10 metres of the climb, the wind was ferocious. It blew us up to the top. Mo hunkered down in a hollow and I went searching for some proper shelter. Thankfully I found a 1m high rock wall that was a few metres away from a rock with a split in it. I called her over.
A bit of gardening and I had removed heather from the rocks, revealing a crack that was about the same width as the base of my mast, and around 20cm deep at the front edge. It would have to do. I rammed the mast in, filling the gaps either side with smaller and then larger rocks. I strung out and pegged the dipole, before finally hoisting the mast to its full 7m.
Radio station on the summit of GM/WS-200
There was just enough coax to reach the rock wall. This was going to be a quick one…
…and thankfully it was. 18 stations in 10 minutes on 40m SSB. The Chasers must have sensed my urgency! As soon as there was a one second gap, I called QRT and shut down the radio.
Great fun while it lasted though! Happy Birthday SOTA and Happy Birthday Me! Thank you for the many Birthday wishes I received from the Chasers.
The descent is never as bad as the ascent, well except for the first 50m of this one, with the gale stopping all progress at times. The rest of the descent was uneventful, except for the arrival of Rescue 151, the Coastgard chopper, at a nearby peak. It’s the third time this year we’ve witnessed a mountain rescue near us. On our return to the hotel, we heard that another climber went missing in Glencoe that day too.
March 3rd 2020
Our wedding anniversary, so we took the day off (even more dreich weather) and came home, having enjoyed a cracking few days in and around Glencoe.