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What a cracking day, Stuc a'Chroin GM/SS-010

This was a combined activation with Paul W6PNG/M0SNA. We’d looked at maybe Ben More but not by the tourist route from Ben More Farm and maybe adding in Stob Binnein but I wasn’t too sure I’m fit enough right now and the WX may have been far too hot. However, Ben Vorlich GM/SSS-008 and Stuc a’Chroin GM/SS-010 seemed a more likely duo. My car is not too well (repair waiting for garage summer holidays to finish) so Paul offered to pick me up. Another reason for the Ben Vorlich pair is there is 1h30 less driving for Paul.

I’d planned the pair 15 years back with Brian G4ZRP. Being 15 years younger the world is still your oyster but the pair of us realised how unfit we where when we both struggled to the top. I did Ben Vorlich 13 years ago when an attempt on Meall na Fearna GM/SS-035 was aborted when I couldn’t cross a stream and decided to bag the next summit. Both times I’d also been apprehensive of Stuc a’Chroin as the classic route involves a relatively simple but long and exposed scramble. I don’t do scrambles and before you say you love them, your not in my head listening to my demons, so I don’t care how easy this may be, I’m going around it. And there is a bypass path, it’s normally the descent off Stuc a Chroin back to the beallach with Ben Vorlich. But it was only recently I actually found a few GPX files of where that path is. I’ve no intention of climbing Ben Vorlich , descending to the beallach and then hunting for a path in say bad visibility. If I knew where it was I could find it with a GPS if it wasn’t obvious. Except when you get near it, it’s very obvious.

There was a fine breeze as we booted up in the parking by Ardvorlich House. Sadly there was very little breeze for the rest of the walk which was to be a real pain. It didn’t feel too warm but later on it was probably around 15-18C on the summit and with no breeze it was not too fresh. The path leads from Ardvorlich House and after about 1h15-1h30 (Andy walking speed) you meet where the return path from Stuc a’Chroin. We’d decided we see how we felt and how things were going when here and decide if we would do Stuc a’Chroin first or second. The classic route is the same distance either way round. Paul had done neither but as I had 2 activations of Ben Vorlich, I wanted Stuc a’Chroin most. We decided to do get to the split and do Stuc a’Chroin first and then see how we felt and pick up Ben Vorlich on the way back or just return the way we came. It turned out we both knew our limit and we only did Stuc a’Chroin. Sure we could have struggled up Ben Vorlich but it wouldn’t be fun and if it’s not fun then why do it?

The path around Ben Vorlich is well known for being a boggy horror but with the very long dry spell we’ve been having I thought it would be fine. No, it was still properly boggy in places and I found the thigh deep hole on the return path. I was just able to extract my leg with boot but it was a close thing to needing Paul’s assistance. Amazingly only the top of my sock was wet, the foot was dry in the boot!

After 10mins walking, there’s a splendid view of Ardvorlich House. I could suffer living there!

From here there’s a good 2hrs plus walking till you crest the ridge and see our target Stuc a’Chroin GM/SS-010. The scramble is up the far side of the rock prow. The bypass runs up the choire to the right.

Looking down the Allt a’Choire Fhuadaraich. The tiny hamlet of Balquhidder Station is the other side of the forested hill. The big cone shaped hills are Stob Binnein GM/SS-002 and Ben More GM/SS-001

A zoom on the bypass path. To be honest, it doesn’t look that much better than the scramble from here! Actually the path is not that bad. Steep and the surface is loose in many places but a steady plod gets you to the top. It’s a total of about 250m from the bottom of this path to the summit.

The view from the top of the steep climb. Left of centre in the middle distance is the path running up Glen Kendrum. Creag MacRanaich GM/SS-036 is at the far end of the path with Meall an t-Seallaidh GM/SS-026 on the left.

The higher of the two cairns (975m) at the summit with Ben Vorlich GM/SS-008 behind.

The lower cairn with a view of The Arrochar Alps behind it.

Paul started on 2m FM but was having no luck. I had skeds with Jack GM4COX and Mark GM4ISM on 13cms. Both were workable on 2m, Jack was LOS and 59+, Mark was a grazing diffraction path and about 54/55. Out came all the gear and I was concerned as there was no GB3CSB beacon. Then I remembered you have to fish about to find it from the memory called GB3CSB as that is not quite the correct frequency with transverter offsets. And again having found the beacon I forgot to update the memory. Grr! Anyway off the back of its panel antennas, GB3CSB was still 58 in SSB bandwidth when I was beaming due South from here. 2 easy 13cms QSOs later Paul came and played as well. His first time on 13cms and the highest frequency he’s been QRV on.

What a whopper! No, not my enormous stomach! Perspective distortion makes a clone 771 antenna look huge. Tom M1EYP and myself both bought one at Blackpool for only £2. Mine consistently gives 3db better reports than the stock VX-170 rubber duck, Tom’s is worse on transmit. So sometimes clones work OK. 13cms is ready to go and I was telling Jack to listen for me. On FM Jack was 59+60 and Mark was a 55. His path involves diffraction over an edge and he was an easy signal with about 50% smooth noise.

Another view of the full majesty of 13cms. The gold shiny thing is the sunshade for the 817 made from gold coloured aluminised polyester. Weighs less than a sheet of paper.

13cms antenna. It took a bash on the way up and the dust cover has moved. A repair job for the weekend.

After than it was time to try the “improved” trapped EFHW. There is a thread were I reported the match unit coil got quite hot on this. I have no other type 43 ferrites available, so I made a AA5TB match unit with a T68-6 / 196pf polyvaricon. The antenna was deployed as an Inverted L sloper about 4.5m vertical then the rest sloping down to about 1m AGL. Tune up on 40/30/20 was trivially simple with 1:1 found. I know it wont match on 60m, too short and not enough C in the match box. 17m was OK at about 1:1.5 and 21 was another 1:1 match.

A spot on 40m brought a fine pileup of mainly G stations. The toroid wasn’t hot and most stations were 59+ and I got mainly 58/59 reports. I can’t recall ever hearing 40m stations so loud on this antenna with the original wideband match. Also there was little background noise or static crashes. I’m assuming that’s because the parallel tuned circuit is quite narrowband. But a tick in the box for 40m.

There was no wind at the top most of the time and we were being devoured by midges. In the end we each had three applications of Smidge which normally keeps them away as well as killing them when they land on you. My arms looked like poppy seeded bread but the wee buggers were constantly in our mouths and ears. Not fun.

30m worked well. There was plenty of QSB but again I can’t remember hearing so many good signals using the original version of the antenna. Then on to 20m. Despite being picked up by RBN (ES2RR at 14db SNR) there were few takers. In an ideal world I’d have compared the two match units and tried more bands but both of us were well knackered and Paul was vanishing in front of me as the midges ate him up. So we did a rapid pack up and walk out. When you have HF and uWaves the packup does take some time.

Paul W6PNG / M0SNA looking surprisingly chipper for someone who was being stripped bare by midges!

Panoramas

Ben Vorlich GM/SS-008

Within minutes of leaving the top there were no midges… go figure. The descent was exciting. It was a killer on my front thighs but as long as you were careful there were no nasty surprises.

Paul takes the lead on the way down.

A zoomed out view showing the steepness of the ground. It wasn’t that bad, just keep on steady and slow in my case.

A view of Ben Vorlich and the quite bumpy beallach. The descent path to Stuc A’Chroin is visible.

Stuc a’Chroin GM/SS-010 is a good looking lump of a mountain especially now I know the bypass path is OK!

Paul admires how flat the Loch is looking to the North side of Loch Earn.

We were both completely worn out at the car. It took about 3hrs40 up and 2hr30 down. Those times are a bit slow and I think it was hot enough to slow us down. But we both had silly grins when we got back to Paul’s car.

I’ve since discovered the missing bridges have been rebuilt on the southern approach. This is on a good track from Braeleny to Arivurichardich. This was where the bridge was washed out in the 2004 deluge. It’s only recently been put back. Whilst you could ford the river when low, this was often a serious wade to cross. Now’s it’s trivial again! There’s a good path from Arivurichardich to the summit, check out Walkhighlands for more details. It looks to be a belter of a walk. Easier than this one but around the same amount of distance and climbing but easier ground.

GPS says 15 km round trip and 934 of ascent. A fair walk then. Certainly would have been easier when I was 13 years younger.

I knew Stuc a’Chroin was a unique for me but on checking it was a complete as well. I looked back because I don’t remember chasing it. Turns out I had an S2S with Jim MM0GLM 2 years ago. On 13cms, so this was a 13cms complete and they’re even better than normal completes :slight_smile:

Best of all was having Paul walking along and activating with me. That made a good walk better. And a 13cms complete. Happy days. Now I need something for my legs and shoulders which are complaining a lot today!

22 Likes

Sounds like a great day out!

Did you have a good reason for not taking the approach via the Glen Ample landrover track then up Coire Fhuadaraich directly to the by-pass path?

Nice report and piccies Andy and thanks for the contact, it was so loud and clear so your equipment was working a treat especially when I couldn’t hear other activators on other bands etc.
Best 73

Delighted to work you for the first time with a great signal standing out amongst more general unworkable stuff. Also great to hear some chat from a summit rather than the ubiquitous wham/bam 5/9 five-second reports during big pile-ups. Much enjoyed. Good work. 73 Mike

It’s not a well reported route for a start. It’s the same distance as the tourist route and when you look at the ground it looks horrendous!

Here’s an aerial view from Google. The track from Glen Ample stops at the yellow circle. The return path/bypass path is the dotted pink line. I’ve done enough walking to know that ground will be unpleasant to horrific from what it looks like!

I forgot to post the route.


©Crown copyright 2022 Ordnance Survey. Media 041/22

That “path” around the side of Ben Vorlich is never ending. Kudos for doing it both ways. Without a heavy pack, it’s probably no more difficult to cross over the top of Ben Vorlich!

My wife loves a short cut. Returning from Stuic a’Chroin, she fancied the look of the Land Rover track that @G8ADD mentioned, not realising it would deposit us in a different postal code! Then when we crossed the col and saw how the path contoured around for another 2km stretch, she wanted to head straight down the side of the burn in the Coire Buidhe. Thankfully I persuaded her to stick to the trail. For once!

The Glen Ample Farm track ends at the yellow circle, for the two summits from there you slope up left to the northwest ridge of Ben Vorlich and follow that to the summit, then follow the usual track or the easier alternative to Stuc a’Chroin. The descent seems easiest if you descend the northwest ridge of the Stuc and then leave it to descend roughly along the line of that thread of snow in the photo, back to the yellow circle. There are traces of a path both sides. Just to be clear, when I mentioned the Landy track above I should have said you leave it quickly and head for the farm, I hope the bridges at the farm are still there, bridges tend to vanish in the Highlands!

1 Like

:+1:

I don’t believe there is such a thing up here in GM… you just exchange something you don’t like for something else you don’t like :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Or to put it another way - “something you know you don’t like for something else you’ll discover you don’t like.”

Nice walk Andy. Scotland is beckoning!

2 Likes

Great report Andy and Paul, good that you had a cracking day. Terrific photos too. :+1:

Cheers to you both :beers: :beers: Well done.

Geoff vk3sq

Thanks Andy (@MM0FMF) for organizing what was a fun and arduous outing. 2,500 ft ascent and 9 miles round trip is a good work out especially when carrying extra gear to survive either a Scottish summer snowstorm or 90F weather.

Having mainly activated in the western USA, “post holing” into the ground below is a rarity but having done it once in Wales you become (or at least I did) quite conscious to not do it again and hence adopt a rather watchful eye over what was a lot of boggy trail below Vorlich. I felt for Andy when he did it on the return trip and what clued me in was a loud expletive wafting across the glen. I’m not sure what you do if your boot is lost in a cavern below….call mountain rescue?

There’s another thread on what motivates us to do SOTA and my add to that list in the fun of co-activating. Beyond having someone to chat with, I’ve learnt so much from other activators I’ve been out with. Operating practices, gear choice all the way to the creative use of surplus stuff to make SOTA easier/cheaper.

Today was no exception. Making my first ever 13cm contact is memorable and inspecting Andy’s curious “stacked” diamond antenna instructive as I might well have adopted a bulky yagi is going down the 13cm path. In the department of surplus stuff, Andy had a creative use for plastic bottle tops honed into rings that slot over the mast to attach guy lines. Clever.

Here’s one snap to add to Andy’s collection being a view of Vorlich (right side) and the false peak we scaled to get to Stuc a’Chroin (that’s open to a variety of good and bad corruptions).

Paul
Sometimes M0SNA and more often W6PNG

5 Likes

Thanks guys,
Very nice report!

Best, Ken