Three Ferries……….and Glen Masson

Have I been lazy?

No blog posts, radio or otherwise..

I’ve certainly been putting in the miles but I haven’t been venturing afar.

Midweek, I get a text ‘Three Ferries Sunday?’

Saturday, I get a text ‘Three Ferries tomorrow?’

Only one answer, ‘Yep!’

I’d preplanned this one by ‘borrowing’ a GPX route from Map My Ride..quickly loaded into the Etrex but folks, no geocaches this time..

Pannier bag packed with the usual paraphernalia, a quick check of all moving parts, me first, of course then the bike with tyres then inflated to correct pressure. Everything was ready, scran and liquid would be ready early the following morning…

An early rise with Katie preparing sandwiches, Camelbak and bidon filled.

The padded shorts etc all on, it was to be a longish ‘oot’ ..

Time to leave, GPS on and off downhill towards the train station..

The first train to Wemyss Bay and a few stops down the line, I could see the flou yellow jacket of my travelling companion, Roddy appearing in the next carriage.

With my flou orange jacket as well were going to be noticed but more on this later.

It was the usual rush to get a ticket and get on to the boat, two trips across this year and only 6 mins to rush and buy a ticket, why not be able to buy online?

Directed to the front of the car deck, it was to park our bikes and head up to the comfort of the lounge, Roddy dined on the breakfast fare available onboard. I looked at the menu but saw no sign of a brekkie, memories of how we had dined well on our Goat Fell trip by having an early morning breakfast on the ferry that day.

We sat and planned other days out (as you do) as the ferry sailed across a near ripple free Firth. The Cowal hills were under mist to low-level but the forecast said it would lift later in the morning.

the ferry at Colintraive

the ferry at Colintraive

Soon we were heading off the ferry into Rothesay and a right turn had us cycling towards Port Bannatyne which was built in the 19th century to rival nearby Rothesay where we followed the shore route, amid talk of the excellent ‘home fries’ available at the Ettrick Bay Tea Room (it wasn’t that far away!) but I resisted the temptation and started out towards the ferry terminal at Rhubodach. It wasn’t before long we were waiting on the ferry on what is a short sea journey across the Kyles of Bute. More than a few yachts were making their way down past the ferry terminal in the mid morning. The shortest ferry crossing in the UK apparently.

It was on and off within minutes…

We had to pay our fare as we left the boat…..

A quick resume of GPS devices of which my Endomondo unexpectedly stopped just after we headed out of Colintraive. The choice was to take the lower shore road along the banks of Loch Riddon (B866) before rejoining the main road to Glendaruel but our route today would take us over the rollercoaster B836  (Route 75 of cycle track network).

It was steady uphill from the turn, an average 5% rise in gradient, it doesn’t sound much but on a bike? it is, believe me.

Loch Riddon

Loch Riddon

A'Chruach

A’Chruach

Slowly but surely we made our way upwards and after meeting the odd motorist on the single track sections who kindly waited, one woman rolled down her window and laughingly said ‘Its good I’m patient’, I resisted the ‘I wasn’t stopping anyhoo, dear’, we soon reached the summit of the first climb and just off the road, we parked the bikes against a gate then Roddy produced the Jetboil and a cuppa that was most welcome. The sun had decided to fleetingly appear and the autumnal hues of the surrounding countryside stood out. The browns mixed with the greenery of odd forestry sections still left standing amidst the scarring of recent felling.

The next bit?

Downhill and fast…. not before long we swept round to the bridge over the Balliemoor Burn at top of Loch Striven and up past the power station at the bottom of the next long slow climb towards the west end of Loch Tarsan, everywhere in this area we could see pheasants and at one point, about 30 young birds crossed the road in front of us and scattered in all directions as we passed. Onwards and upwards on what was an excellent surface, tbh most of it has been recently relaid. A stop to take on some liquid then it was off downhill (again), there is a pattern here as it really is a rollercoaster road, sweeping downhill it took through Glen Lean then slipping past the hamlet of Clachaig, Roddy took the opportunity to head off and fill his water bottle whilst yer man kept heading on and soon we were at the top of the Holy Loch.

A discussion on ‘Where next?’ and Roddy suggested the Glen Masson road, ‘Has it any hills? I asked, I never got an answer so I fell for it….

River Massan

River Massan

The single track rises very slowly through the glen and the River Masson follows the road and although the water was low, I thought ‘Must be an excellent spate river’. We stopped to look at the ‘Golden Gates’ of the Younger Botanical Gardens, this looked totally out of character with the local countryside, there looks as if there is ongoing landscaping work and fence work at this entrance. The gates do look surreal in their locale. We cycled past the Arboretum looking at the various trees on the hillside.

Heading toward the end of the tarmac track, I met a short, steep ramp (it was steep to me) but not before long we reached the point where we would turn and head back down the Glen, it was my first time in this area and I enjoyed it especially the run back down. A just under 10 miles run.

Time to head to Dunoon and the ferry home riding past what was once the USN housing estate in the 70s, ‘Eagle Court’ then and now Sandhaven…

It was down the shore road to Ardnadam, can you see a pattern here?

Looking up the Holy Loch from Ardnadam

Looking up the Holy Loch from Ardnadam

A stop at Ardnadam Pier, the longest on the Clyde (a sign says so) before heading down past Hunter’s Quay and our intended ferry was approaching Dunoon Pier, a quick confab and a return to the Western Ferries terminal where we would catch the ‘Sound of Soay’ which would take us to McInroy Point in Gourock. This would add to my intended journey home but an hours wait in Dunoon? no, it was off up towards home using the shared pavement (Route 75) and with a short stretch of road then a quick walk through Gourock station, Roddy decided to head to the east end of Greenock Esplanade so I had company part of the way.

Sound of Soay

Sound of Soay

We said goodbye and I headed home, I reached the Victoria Harbour and it was an almost 500 ft climb to home vis the same Route 75 but gradual thankfully, the only blip is a 40% ramp out of Devol Glen but this meant I just over a mile from home.

I was just over 46 mile road work for the day, an excellent run with tough uphill sections but an enjoyable day…

My queries of ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘Are there any hills?’ funnily got no response…..

I’ve mentioned the nearby lochs Riddon and Striven which we passed enroute, these lochs were the scene of top secret naval testing during the Second World War, it was here that the midget submarines(X Craft)would train which would later take part in the sinking of the Tirpitz, more on these HERE

More HERE

Bouncing Bomb test(Dambusters) HERE

The Holy Loch?

A well kent US Navy base during the 60s until the early 90s more HERE

I’m sure there is much more info around the web.

First thing was to freshen up, I heard my son coming in the front door with Alison…

‘Were you on the Western Ferry not long ago? Did your pal have on a flou yellow jacket?’….remember my comment earlier on being ‘noticed’ ?.

They had been passing as we were leaving the ferry…they never stopped.

‘You would have only wanted a lift’…..my son said…

3 Ferries Elevation

3 Ferries Elevation

Thanks go to Roddy for bearing with me, my granny gear hill climbs, my rotten pun jokes and anything else.

Cal Mac and Western Ferries for not making me swim..

and Katie for the excellent scran.

Thanksgo to Wikipedia, Secret Scotland and the other websites I have linked to.

To embiggen an image, just click for full size.

Where next? watch this space, folks.

 

 

A Ferry Good Day Oot…………………..

The weather had been excellent, hot and breezy..

so it was time again to think about another day ‘out’ on the bike, the previous journey via the Haul Rd had been cycled on what was probably the warmest day in June. I had decided after that if I was going ‘abroad’ it would be done in much cooler times.

Work was busy and with the occasional jaunt along my now well-worn routes throughout mid Renfrewshire being done most weekends. It was time to head ‘abroad’ again.

I thought of another trip across to the Roseneath peninsula although this time I’d take in a forestry track diversion over the top of the lower peninsula starting from Kilcreggan.

I had recently bought the Ram Mount for my bike and the dedicated holder for my Etrex so I could log the geocache information and I would have it visible on the handlebar instead of my old method of listening for the beep which let me know I was in the immediate area of a cache. This proved a worthwhile buy as I had tested it out on a previous ‘out’.

15 caches preloaded and it was off to catch the Kilcreggan ferry from Gourock pier, I cycled the 7 miles from home to the pier but I did collect one cache en route as I had arrived early, a quick sign of the log and back to its hiding place and then I headed the last half mile to the pier.

The ferry this time was more busy as we sailed across a slight swell towards Kilcreggan Pier, I was getting used to this now.

Leaving Gourock

Leaving Gourock

In no time at all I was walking the bike up the pier where I took stock, loaded up the GPS and followed my route to the start point higher up in Kilcreggan, I had pre checked the forest track on Google Maps and further on Google Earth.

Rhu Narrows and entrance to Gareloch

Rhu Narrows and entrance to Gareloch

I started up the track and logged the first cache then slowly made my was up the ‘Timber Haul Rd’ pausing when I heard the beep informing me another cache. The rise was constant and the track was in better fettle than I thought although on a few sections downhill I dismounted as the track got rougher with water damage in places. I finally topped out and headed along the track to what looks like a radio relay station just south of Clach MacKenny summit trig point.

It was time to take on scran and water, I sat at the picnic bench and took in the views which were surprisingly excellent in all directions, Clach MacKenny’s summit sits at  662 ft ASL, I find it isn’t always the highest hills who have outstanding views but like others, Scroggy Bank and Lurg Moor trig both above Greenock, areas like this are worth finding.

I found that my camera SD card was full, typical eh? but I’d taken the images I wanted as the run would soon be back on previously travelled roads except this time I was heading down past Faslane and heading home via Helensburgh..

I headed back down to join the track and head north along what was a very well-kept forestry track, a bit undulating at this time but soon I could see my exit point on to the Peaton Rd where I would turn right and head quickly down to join the B833 towards Garelochhead. I’d bagged 13 caches en route so that had obviously taken more than a couple of hours of searching although I did miss out 2 as DNF(did not find), one was down a steep banking which I wasn’t taking the risk to fall down and the other, I was attacked by clegs so I high tailed it.

The downhill track covered in no time and soon I exited the side gate on to Peaton Rd. It was back to welcome tarmac as I whizzed down and soon headed north towards Garelochhead.

I soon turned the top of the loch and sat at my now usual spot at the old Pier site, a bench looking down the loch. I sat for 15 mins before it was down roads previous driven down passing Faslane base, it was a slow climb and I joined a cycle path until I entered Rhu, the promenade towards Helensburgh was busy with others enjoying the fine but breezy weather. The Met Office had said WNW winds but no I seemed to meet them at every turn into my face, it made life slightly slower.

I intended heading up through Helensburgh’s Sinclair St which would take me past Glen Fruin and familiar territory of Ben Bowie. I had cut out the bottom busy section as I had taken a slight detour through the upper part of the town but I would soon join the relentless slog up the A818, after what seemed like a never-ending rise I topped and crossed to join an excellent cycle track which takes you to join the Lomond Cycle track at Arden, I passed the summit and passed the entrance to Bannachra woods which is the start point to walk Ben Bowie but not today. One more rise brings you to the ‘Cross Key’ junction. I met a few cyclists heading my way but quiet for me as I quickly arrived at the Arden roundabout, if you have read my earlier runs up this way.

Ben Bowie

Ben Bowie

Looking up the Gareloch

Looking up the Gareloch

Duck Bay, Lomond Shores and into Balloch where I would head down the excellent path along the River Leven, a quick chat with a couple of anglers who were struggling in the low water and sunny conditions. I did see one fish moving through a submerged weir and with a quick swish of its tail and it moved quickly upstream, its destination? one of the many rivers which fill Loch Lomond if it can get past those angling for it..

I stopped at Bonhill Bridge for another liquid take on, I had my usual fizzy drink which even the pros have in their musettes, a cold Irn Bru…the sugar would give some energy, honest! I thought of the pros climbing towards the finish of the day’s stage in the Vuelta in temps approaching 40c. Phew!

The lower half of the path was now busy as it was past mid afternoon, I stooped as I approached Dumbarton for some more water and off up on to the main road briefly before taking the turn which would eventually take me to the cycle track, I must some day find the proper track but this gets me there. I was soon back on the dedicated cycle path passing whisky bonds, kennels at Milton and the last stretch before turning into Bowling Harbour. A track which is well worth visiting if only to do a return journey to eg Balloch.

The last stretch of track along the canal before heading into Old Kilpatrick, another shop stop for water, fizzy juice and my now go to cycling energy sweet, ‘Jelly Tots’ . Soon I was heading up the glen to the east side of the Erskine Bridge, my phone rang..It was Katie asking if I fancied Chinese for tea…’Eh, I’m the other side of Erskine, dear’..it looked like Chef Beko had my tea waiting…but for the first time, I could feel the wind at my back and as I dropped off the bridge, I headed west towards Bishopton along a familiar road and soon I was through Bishie and heading over to Houston, I was deciding whether to treat myself to a cold pint but I passed through Houston out toward Bridge of Weir and was soon back on Route 75, six and half mile to go….

The miles passed quickly even after the distance travelled and soon rode the last wee ramp before home.

61 mile and 13 geocaches logged, a good day out.

In retrospect?

I would have been more suited after ‘doing’ the forest track possibly dropping down left to Coulport and returning past Cove to Kilcreggan, ferry home then cycle home BUT as usual, I never listen to myself.

The next morning?

I felt good, really good and much better than I expected and when it was time to get going at work, no problem..

Dale Head, Great Mell Hell and Little Mell….

We had missed our annual Lakes visit in 2013 due to funds being tied up in some home renovation work.

I’d thought I’d again missed my yearly fell visit again but later than usual, we decided to head down for an extended weekend.  This time we were to base ourselves in Keswick in b&b accommodation and we soon realised we found a gem of a place.

The weather was sadly to play such a big part in this visit as the best laid plans thrown into the air or the ‘wet’ air….

I’d planned for any two or three out of four hills depending on how Bob’s legs would be feeling. I’d been working off a thigh problem since the Buachaille jaunt and was a bit unsure about my capabilities.

We’d left early Friday heading from home in what could be described as a cloudy but dry morning and as we sped southwards the nearer we reached Carlisle, the sky got darker and more ominous. The now obligatory A**A brekkie at Carlisle before we headed down to Penrith then across towards to Keswick but as we left Carlisle, drops of rain started falling and falling. I knew then that nothing would be done so we decided to check out car park drop off points for the main proposed hills. We later sat at the top of Kirkstone Pass listening to the constant drumbeat of monsoon like rain on the car roof.

It was time to go book in..

Settled in the b&b I’d noticed the weather forecast showed a weather window around teatime and after a quick discussion, I decided to head and activate, yes…Dale Head, a hill I have a date with in just over 9 years time…anyone who wants to buy a 70-year-old Bawb a pint that day is most welcome.

Everything was ready to head down Borrowdale where we had been earlier in the day visiting Stonethwaite, our base when we first spent time in the Lakes 35 year ago.

We arrived at the top of Honister Pass and I got ready to head up a misty hill..

Dale Head from Honister

Dale Head from Honister

Katie had brought a book and decided to wait on me coming back down. I headed up and soon became enveloped in the mist, the path is now a well trodden one by me and I soon had a quick break speaking with a party coming off the hill who had ascended up from Catbells. AW mentions this is one of the best ridge walks in the area.A quick drink and off upwards and not before long I saw the cairn..

Visibility was around 20 -30 meter at best but I quickly set up the 4m antenna and got ready to call out, Geoff GDP just north of Belfast answered my call before I got my only other 4m contact, John FGQ in North Wales, I had called more in hope as the time was now after 6pm and I thought I’d struggle to pick up four contacts although I would keep going until I got them but I got the 2m beam erected and changed band and when I’d finished, I’d 16 contacts in the log an excellent total at such an inconvenient time.

First on 2m FM was Colin NVJ in Liverpool, second was regular chaser Sue OHH in Lancaster, the hill was now activated and the pressure was off.

I carried on and Jim EER in Blackpool logged, next was Colin UXH just to the west of me in Milnthorpe, I chatted with Colin as I had last tried to contact him on Hindscarth, a WOTA summit only a mile away but I was unsuccessful that day. I think I’ve spoken with Colin or his XYL Heather on all my activations down in LD land. Rob HRT in Southport next answered my call and considering Dale Head has more than a few higher hills to the south and south-west, I was doing well that way. Next was another regular John TDM in Penrith, a quick chat with him and off to find Phil UHJ in Cleveleys. Contacts were no problem now and I next spoke with Peter ANX in Barrow, followed by Dave HAK who was sitting at Heysham Harbour.

I thought I’ll call until I run out of contacts as I didn’t want to upset the boss sitting waiting on me 1,400 ft below especially as we still had to go find our tea.

John JCN in Bangor, North Wales our Snowdonia base last September answered my next call,  a quick chat next with Geoff WHA across the border to the north who is another I contact regularly when I’m down this way. Sara NHA in Manchester was next logged followed by Steve IGG in Walney Island and finally the last contact was Mark GOF in Skelmersdale. One last call with no comeback so a quick dismantle and packing away of the gear and I moved down the hillside as fast as I could. Oh and the midge or their LD ilk  made an unwelcome appearance.

Sadly the fall away depths of Newland valley remained hidden and at one point I only saw a fleeting glimpse of what is one of the best views (IMHO) in the Lakes.

A quick superman like change of clothes and it was off to Cockermouth for a well deserved meal and a cold pint (or two). The roads were quiet and only the odd vehicle met on the narrow roads.

45 mins later, a big plate of Lamb Mint pie and a cold pint being enjoyed. Oh and yes, it was the Tithe Barn again.

It was a drive back to Keswick in the rain but I had checked the next day forecast and an amber alert for the area was in place, I’d have a fresh look early next morning more in hope than expectation.

An early rise, my mobile internet was non-existent most of the time but I saw a possible weather window just after 10am with rain coming back in after midday.

I planned I’d head to nearby Great Mell Fell, a 2pt SOTA/WOTA summit about 8 mile as the crow flies…

Great Mell Fell in the dry

Great Mell Fell in the dry

It was cloudy as we headed along the A66 before turning off at Troutbeck, the road was quiet as we took a left turn just after Matterdale and soon we were at the start point, today Katie was off shopping which I admit she does well. An arranged meetup time in case of any shenanigans with mobile signal.

I started up through a grassy path with high ferns on each side so care for clegs just in case but I soon found my full Cumbrian breakfast was a bad idea but hey! it was great at the time. I looked east and I saw Little Mell Fell disappearing in the rain, my enthusiasm soon disappeared.

I thought a handie only activation then quickly back down if the weather was coming in. I called and had three contacts in no time , John TDM in Penrith who stuck up a spot for me, next call brought Arthur AUG sitting comfortable in his caravan in nearby Troutbeck then regular chaser Geoff WHA mobile in Annan across the border. I called and called with nothing so as I needed another contact, I decided to throw up the beam but by now, the rain was horizontal as the wind had sprung up. Three further contacts were quickly logged Sue OHH in Lancaster, Colin UXH Milnthorpe and finally Derek MIX in Whitehaven. Three contacts kept short but I explained the situation but I still had to find the geocache, a quick look at the GPS and I walked on to it. Logged, I called Katie who was on her  way but I had another look at the orange/white warning(?) square which contained what looked like a piece of electrical equipment but I wasn’t for having a closer look as by now, I was soaked through to the skin..

Looking S from LMF descent

Looking S from LMF descent

The path down was becoming greasy with the occasional muddy bit it felt slippy underfoot so care had to be taken as I descend and soon I was on the rough track and I saw the car waiting..

My sensible wife had made good use of bin bags and towels so I could just jump into the car and the rain was now getting heavier by the minute. I would have been popular if the seat got damp. It was back to the B&B for a hot shower and fresh clothes. I was glad I had done the hill but I missed out on the views which I know are good on a clear day.

Sunday was spent watching the cycling in Glasgow and visiting some friends locally in Keswick.

Monday arrived and my regular early rise even on holiday.

I looked at my options…

I decided the easy option as I was returning to work the next day and after my wee ‘problem’ after Glencoe, Little Mell Fell was an easy ascent.

Another full Cumbrian breakfast with all the trimmings, we will certainly return to this B&B.

It was time to leave Keswick, the car packed and I was going to be dropped off and the boss was off shopping….AGAIN.

The parking place was quickly reached and off I headed with a light breeze and some sunshine and in no time at all, I was standing at the trig point. I decided to bag the geocache first and as the previous one I walked straight on to it and signed the log. The weather today was much improved and with a cooling breeze I threw up the 4m antenna but nothing this trip on 4m. I sat and had some scran whilst I put the 5 element yagi together, it was now 2m time and first call,  Geoff WHA called me from nearby Penrith and put a spot up on both SOTA and WOTA sites. Geoff seems to pop up on all my activations plus one day whilst on Minch Moor with fellow blogger Graeme HLQ we struggled for the fourth contacts and Geoff saved the day when he called us from Southwaite Services.

Ullswater from the descent

Ullswater from the descent

The jungle drums must have been beaten as John TDM who was mobile in the same area answered, a quick thanks to John for all the help he had given me on this trip. The next call brought Ron UQC in Keswick where Mrs Mhor was away having a last spending spree. Colin UXH popped in and we had a longer chat than we before had on the previous hill, a cheerio to Colin and I thought I’ll keep calling but moving the beam in various points of the compass when Simon TNT called in and I had a long qso on radio, cycling and Le Tour.

I thought one more call and Alan ZTG who was across the valley from me on Hallin Fell called me, I think we could have shouted the qso to each other, Alan was just starting his week and I was about to head back north. One last call and finally a Scottish station Ken MID in Lochmaben. I had spent over 100 minutes on the hill for 7 contacts but this time I had time to chat..

It was time to break down the station and meet Katie then head back home, another enjoyable break down in the Lakes with a keen bunch of friendly chasers when I got the chance to play radio. I look forward to my next visit and maybe the two hills I missed doing will get done.

Three hours later we were home.

My thanks go to Wikipedia and any other site I have linked.

All those who took the time to ‘chase’ me and those who have taken the time to read this longer than usual post.

 

 

 

 

 

36 Year Ago….

A lot of happy memories came flooding back as I sat writing the last blog post of my ascent of Buachaille Etive Mor, not only the ascent but passing places where I spent many happy weekends and indeed, longer periods of time.

I spent a lot of time in this east end of Glencoe over the ’77-’79 period.

Cold, icicles inside the tent, snow-covered, non-stop rain and even sunshine whether it was winter, spring, summer or autumn. Whole days stuck in a small two-man tent sheltering out of the constant pouring rain with damp sleeping bags and boots etc trying not to touch the sides of the tent. The walk to the pub of our choice at night, the Ferry at Ballachulish, the Glencoe Hotel, Clachaig Inn or our favourite, the Kingy (King’s House Hotel) public bar. These watering holes were reached by all means, walking, thumbing a lift or even by bus…..Getting back was sometimes memorable as we tended to thumb more in hope but many a night it was shanks pony back from whatever hostelry we ended up in. Most nights in an advanced stage of inebriation. It was fun.

Yer man on top of Stob Dearg

Yer man on top of Stob Dearg

I started heading up Glencoe in mid  ’77 with Robert a friend and workmate with whom I’d fished with, plans being hatched on cold winter nights cod fishing in the local dock areas. He had spent some time working in the area in the 60s and had made many contacts from which eventually we got permission to use one of the bothies in the east part of the glen. I unfortunately have no photos of this time but the ones I have scanned are from mid 1978..

We headed almost fortnightly from our work, literally racing to catch the train to Bishopton then catching the bus to Erskine then a quick over the bridge to drop into Old Kilpatrick where we would separate and thumb a lift, if you had boots and a rucksack you normally had no problem being whisked northwards. The other would follow and if we were late or on the odd occasion if we got no lift, we would catch the Fort William bus.

The first thing was to set camp at the side of the River Coupall just opposite Altnafeadh and fix up the tent and off to the pub. Priorities eh?

Later we would get back and everything was just ready to crash in to.

Food was the normal healthy fodder of any camper in the 70s. A fry up each morning, a tin of rice or custard with chocolate for lunch and tinned meat with ‘Smash’ for our tea obviously washed down with multiple mugs of tea or coffee. This is when I started drinking straight tea as I found I hated powdered milk. On one memorable occasion we treated(?) ourselves to a supermarket’s own label meat, Chopped Pork if I remember correctly. I’d boiled water then mixed in the ‘Smash’ instant potato then after opening the can of meat it was cut in two and dropped into each dixie. the meat then ‘melted’ into liquid, yeugh! Lesson learned as only branded tins of meat were purchased in the future. The cuisine in general was excellent and with imagination our dixies were filled with some strange nutritious mixtures. You haven’t dined al fresco until you have cubed corned beef, ‘Smash’ and peas all mixed.

Scran time for Mhor

Scran time for Mhor

We spent our days walking the surrounding area with many a haul up over the ‘Devils Staircase’ dropping down to Kinlochleven and a pint before heading back through the glen towards our camp. We explored Lairig Gartain, Lairig Eilde, Glen Etive, Loch Etive and Glen Coe areas. I later thought of my journeys over the ‘Devils Staircase when reading Patrick McGill’s ‘Children of the Dead End’ of the poor itinerant workers who lost their lives after leaving camp to head over to the hotels for drink and meeting their ends either losing their way or through poor weather conditions. Their bodies were found in the spring. There is a cemetery to those who perished at he construction of the Blackwater Dam on a nearby hillside.

The skiing attempt is best left alone…..

We fished out on the small lochans out towards the Rannoch Moor, Blackwater Reservoir and more than occasional trip down to Loch Ba. The odd trout was taken for the pot.

The photos of me on the summit were taken the week of the World Cup in 1978 and I could narrow it down to being either Monday the 5th or Tuesday the 6th as Robert had headed back to Tyndrum to head back as Stevie and myself had planned to stay until the end of weekend, we had left Greenock early Sunday morning after we had held back to watch Scotland’s disastrous defeat by Peru on the 3rd of June. After we dropped Robert off we headed to find somewhere to watch an even more disastrous game against Iran and into Oban we headed, a pint was called for and the first pub we came to I bumped into friends from Largs who had moved up to the area. We thought Fort William was a better bet and headed N and after sourcing some scran it was in a comfy lounge bar we settled to watch the game.

Look! a Morton tammy

Look! a Morton tammy

Glen Etive from the top of Lairig Gartain

Glen Etive from the top of Lairig Gartain

On one occasion I was taken up Curved Ridge and plans to tackle some more serious routes  the following summer but someone put paid to that idea…I guess I’m glad I listened to her (and still do?) but I wonder what might have been. Ces’t la vie!

I even introduced my future wife to the delights of Glencoe even trying to set her car on fire when priming the Primus stove, we dined out after that incident but our digs was the posh campsite in the Glen. No trowel and into peat hags at this place. The two-day old married Mrs Mhor was even taken up the Buachaille as part of her honeymoon but we gave up just below the 902m summit en route. The lass had previously conquered the Hill of Stake….

Engagement loomed and more time spent together meant visits were down to two/three times per year but after marriage other places explored, mainly the Lake District as we used to stay in Stonethwaite with friends.

The visit for my 60th birthday hill (albeit 9 month late) with Euan was a quick fleeting visit and I have promised myself that I will return a bit more often…

Well I’ll have plenty time on my hands soon..won’t I?

Patrick McGill‘s book ‘Children of the Dead End’ is a recommended read. It has local connections to Inverclyde as ‘he’ worked on the railway which is now Route 75 which I use…the book is available from the usual sources or as a downloadable ebook HERE

 

The Big Buachaille…………

As the regulars know, I passed a certain milestone 9 months ago, my 60th birthday.

I’d planned something special hill wise but due to the visit to North Wales and Snowdonia the following day plus other factors, the ascent of Buachaille Etive M(h)or had to wait.

I’d heard the access Coire still had snow in June so I thought to leave it to July and as Euan was up for it we decided to go at some point…

The big Buachaille and me?

The coire awaits

The coire awaits

We go back to the late 70s as I had spent many weekend and week-long breaks camped in its shadow across the road from Altnafeadh beside the River Coupall and I’d wandered all over the Glencoe/Rannoch Moor area (and spent many an evening parked in the public bar of the ‘Kingy‘). I first climbed the hill in ’78 but not the today’s prefered ascent route  but a route variant slightly up a ridge to the right of the Coire Na Tuilach which I remember as a long slog…I was now to ascend the tourist route to the top of this impressive mountain.

A quick text on Saturday afternoon and even quicker ‘Yes’ reply set the wheels in motion and the usual palaver of getting radios, maps, antennas and scran sorted out took care of Saturday evening. The ‘excitement’ of returning and hopefully completing the ascent was my excuse for some fermented apple juice later Sat evening. The rukkie packed, water bottles filled and scran all tucked away very early Sunday morning, it was time to set out on the latest adventure albeit to an old friend.

The miles north flew by as surprisingly the roads were very quiet and with no delays at the roadworks before Ardlui it was up a familiar road where we climbed up past Loch Tulla and as we topped the Rannoch Moor road summit, we could see our destination under cloud. The forecast had promised it would clear around midday and hopefully afford us the views from the summit of Stob Dearg, the highest top of the massif. It did not disappoint.

We reached Altnafeadh where we parked and got ourselves set up. Rukkie, boots on and off across the road to the path in a gentle introduction to the foot of Coire Na Tuilach, the grassy path was soon left as we headed up a rough sometimes broken path with high walls of rock rising steeply on both sides with cloud settling in the top of the Coire and we slowly tramped upwards, a scramble here and a slow steep rising broken path but I knew the serious stuff was yet to come. I’d never taken this route before but I had descended it and the memory had lived on.

We took a break for scran and water but never stopped long and as we rose the way got steeper and the going underfoot got crumblier until we met the loose scree. I felt sometimes I wanted or the scree wanted for me to slide back down and a decision to literally just hands and feet it up but just before the top I moved right to some broken rock and found this much easier  but with great care and hand holds were double checked.

The coire was soon exited and the obvious path through the rock field towards the summit. The cloud was still down but visibility and a good path meant good time to the summit. We had got there!. I’d alerted a time of 1 pm on the SOTA website but I’d surprised myself with ascending the hill in just 2 hr 20 mins, the scree section did take some time. It was now just the back of 11am.

A bit emotional ? yeah, I guess I was.

Father and son

Father and son

Euan had found a nook to have his lunch, me? radio time..

I first caught Iain WJZ on Ben More in the Crianlarich Hills area on my handie then it was time to throw up the mast and beam. ‘Is that to watch the World Cup?’, ‘Are you broadcasting something’ but one woman caught it correct’ VHF radio!’. The hill was busy and I explained to more than a few interested parties about SOTA and the benefits of carrying radio equipment to the summits especially on VHF. I’d known it would be a hard hill to activate on 2m but in 20 minutes, I had the four contacts needed logged. I eventually got 6, disappointing but the hills locale doesn’t really help much. I could hear stations from the Edinburgh , Northern Ireland and Glasgow areas but my puny 4 watts wouldn’t help. I did give out many CQ calls but nothing after my 6th contact….

After Iain WJZ, I caught and returned a STS with Robin PKT who was NE of me in the Dalwhinnie area on Geal-charn. A quick chat then it was off to work Mark LEW who was further E on East Lomond hill in Fife. One to find and Ken KCD in the Falkirk area answered my call, the hill activated (four contacts are the least necessary to activate the hill), 8 points for this hill were mine. Ken had spotted me on the SOTA website, thanks.

Looking to Altnafeadh

Looking to Altnafeadh

I continued to call and look through the bands when I got a call from Kenny XBK who had driven to a high point near Mauchline in Ayrshire to return my call, much appreciated. I chatted and left to find others but one more contact made, Jim GLM who was on Meall Nan Caorach, NE of Crieff I though this was a unique for me but I’d worked the hill before but contact with Jim made it four STS for the day. I’d chatted with Jim before going back and chasing more contacts…but no more logged.

The cloud now lifted and the views were exceptional in all directions although Bidean Nam Bian stayed under cloud all day, Ben Nevis did show briefly.

I had said to Euan I wouldn’t do my usual long radio stint and we discussed our options, we decided on the ridge walk to ‘bag’ Stob na Brioige, the other Munro top and descend down the path through Coire Altrium but before that we had the geocache to find just below the summit…a quick find, the log signed.

Had I bitten off more than i could do?

Stob Dearg

Stob Dearg

We followed a good path and ascended Stob na Doire, a 1101m Munro top (not a Munro) where I heard Iain WJZ on Stobinnein and got myself some more chaser points. I also heard fellow blogger Graeme HLQ who was out on Beinn an Lochain to the S of me, Graeme had replied to my text to say he was heading out to SS 016 but I received at 16.19 whilst heading down Coire Altrium, typical and more amazingly I got texts coming in on the least expected spots, all of them late. I finished speaking with Graeme when I realised this top was a HuMP so I’ll send a log to Summitbase . It was now down a steep hillside along a reasonable path and as I ascended the next little lump, I said to Euan just to head on and bag Stob na Broige as I was now feeling it. He set off making good time as i could see him moving upwards, I had only another 300 ft to ascend but sensibly I headed down through a large snow patch and a well maintained path towards the Lairig Gartain then out to the main road. This very steep path shows signs of recent improvements and although the odd rock slab area is to be carefully maneuvered, the path itself is good, my thought was that the large snow patch will at sometime head down the Coire so I hoped it wouldn’t be today. I kept looking back but no sign of my son. I took the usual breaks on the descent and finally I crossed the River Coupall and started down an excellent path and noted the path heading up to Buachaille Etive Beag‘s munro tops. Maybe.

Working HLQ

Working HLQ

The ridge awaits

The ridge awaits

I remember trudging up this way in the 70’s on a few occasions heading towards Glen Etive on what was a mucky, muddy sometimes disappearing path but now this was luxury. A big thanks must go the NTS staff and volunteers who improve these paths. I had said to Euan to prepare for a muddy out but was glad it wasn’t.

I toodled along and soon saw Euan on the grassy part out of the Coire and we soon bagged the last geocache of our day midway down the Lairig.

We soon reached the main road and walked back to the car…

Oh and another milestone, I bagged my 200th cache today and my first 5×5 cache..

The hill was bathed in sunshine as we headed back home.

Maybe the its wee sister the Beag next time?

Goodbye old friend

Goodbye old friend

The next morning?

Oh boy, achy thighs….

The future?

My 70th birthday hill is waiting on me…

My Google contact map HERE

Some Buachaille Etive Mor facts:

Meaning ‘Great Herdsman of Etive'(amongst others)

Has four peaks, Stob Dearg (red peak) 1,022m, Stob na Doire (Peak of the Grove) 1,011m , Stob Coire Altruim (Peak of the Corrie of rearing) 941m and Stob na Droige (Peak of the shoe) 956m.

Stob Dearg – Munro, Marilyn.

Stob na Doire – Munro top, HuMP.

Stob Coire Altruim – Munro top, Murdo.

Stob na Droige – Munro.

Most photographed mountain in Scotland (needs verification ?)

and my favourite mountain….

My thanks go to Wikipedia, Peakbagger and any other sites I have linked to…

 

 

Number Six Yomp……

Hill of Stake….

Sixth visit on SOTA business, so how can I manage to pull another blog post out of this, I’ve covered all the history of the area in previous posts (see links below) so this one is just a quick ramble on about my day out and please note, I’ve left the weather thing out. Total visits to this hill? I couldn’t say but I’m sure it will be well into double figures and believe it or not, it’s getting easier as I think I now have the best route heading out from the mine area in Muirsheil Country Park.

I had put the GPX track on to my GPS which helps me miss out a lot of the wet, boggy tramp out to the hill, I still have some horrible bits to tramp through but this visit is a summer activation but I prefer to ascend this hill after a few days heavy frost as you can then just bounce over the frozen ground.

I’d made another late decision on Friday evening to head out and get back in to SOTA activating mode. I have been inactive since the previous Sept on Anglesey’s Holyhead Mountain and as I’d set myself a goal in points total at the start of the year so it was now time to get cracking on achieving this.

I had originally chosen an Arrochar hill but a family commitment (only told to me very very late Fri evening) had made me choose my nearest Marilyn, Hill of Stake as I could have plenty time on the hill and still be home quickly.

I charged all the equipment overnight and packed the rucksack early in the morning and once in the Chevy it was off towards Kilmacolm then the B786 towards Lochwinnoch and the turn off for the Country Park. I’d cycled this single track on my last visit and it is much easier by car, trust me. We soon arrived at the car park at the Ranger Centre and after checking I had everything, I waved goodbye to expedition driver and nutritionist Katie.

I'll take the left fork

I’ll take the left fork

I never hung about as the dreaded midge were about but as I passed through the gate  on to the mine track, a fresh breeze would keep the blighters away. I made good time along what is a cracking track before reaching the old mine area which is now a health and safety overload with fences and signs everywhere but I guess today’s climate ‘I’m only doing it to make sure everyone is safe but I’ll take all the money you can give me’ demands this sort of protection. A quick word with someone at the container which serves as a bothy to have a quick seat and break before heading up along a now familiar east fence line before stopping at the very top of the fence to get my bearing, I switched the GPS on and followed the breadcrumb trail until I reached the first height where I could see my target hill. Its only a mile and a half but the going underfoot is heavy through heather and boggy areas some of the time, a pathless yomp. Occasionally signs of very old quad tracks will appear but these go off on tangents which aren’t helpful and sadly are not long.

I was soon heading across the last boggy area until I met the boundary fence just west of the summit where it is a short sharp rise to the summit and it’s trig point. I had made good time and would be on the air earlier than my alert time.

A quick drink and some scran and I built up the beam , bungeeing the mast on to a fence post then everything was ready to go.

I’d noted who was out and first in the log was Robin PKT who was on the ‘Ring of Steall’ munros and Stob Ban in particular, a quick chat then it was off to see who else was about. Whilst talking to Robin, I noticed a sign of a plastic bag in what is now as a cairn (originally a shelter) so it was off to bag the cache so I signed the log and snuck it back into its hiding place. I spoke next with Dave RTY just to the NE of me in Dumbarton before catching Martyn MAJ and Caroline ZCB who were heading through Glasgow, more on them later. I gave out a call and hooked up with Robert RBR in Dunfermilne followed by Alex OAW in nearby Bishopton.

Old ruined water structure

Old ruined water structure

I was occasionally going through the band looking for other SOTA stations but I heard a familiar voice in Richard JTD who was activating a WOTA fell, Bleaberry Fell just SE of Keswick, I’d heard him talking to a station on the Isle of Man but the station must have scampered as I later searched for him. John OIN in Ayr and then regular chaser Brian HMZ called me. I next worked Allan VPX on Helvellyn in the Lake District and was to later speak with Barry IML on the same hill. Delighted with these contacts, I scanned around and gave the odd call and when I asked Tommy OJE to head to s18, I called to ask if the frequency was clear as is the courtesy, I got told by a Welsh GW6 that it was in use. I returned to try work this station but he had gone.

Eric FSZ in Girvan was my next contact and after a good chat it was off again in search and after chatting with the afore-mentioned IML on Helvellyn , it was Craig PHT who was to the NE of me on Beinn Chabhair, next was Jack COX who was on Beinn Uamha and more STS (summit to summit) were to follow, Dave EEV on The Saddle in Glen Sheil, Caroline ZCB and Martyn MAJ who had a quick activation on Dungavel Hill on their journey back south. Robin PKT appeared on his second hill of the day Am Bodach and a little later, Iain WJZ appeared on Aonach air Chrith just to the east of Dave EEV. Good contacts on a day where more than a few were out on the tops. It was now 3 hours since I first called and next in the log was Kenny ZUN in Glasgow, Graham GON in Helensburgh and finally on 2m , Roddy IOB as he headed up the M73 towards Glasgow. The battery then died so it was quick cheerio to Roddy and a quick dismantle of the 2m beam and the 4m FM set up thrown up and one and only contact I got was Andy GDE in the East Kilbride area and after a long QSO, I left and called several times whilst I packed away the 2m equipment but no more replies. I was happy getting one especially as it was mid afternoon a known quiet time VHF wise.

I had chatted with some people who appeared on the summit but sadly it was time to leave as now the weather was warm and fair not like the change in weather conditions just after lunchtime when it cooled rapidly with the odd light shower moving across. I could still see showers moving West across the Clyde valley which one or more led to my later commitment being cancelled around mid afternoon.

Looking N from the mine fence

Looking N from the mine fence

I was more than happy with the day’s work, 25 contacts with 10 STS and a WOTA chase to boot.

28/06/14 GM/SS 155 contacts

28/06/14 GM/SS 155 contacts

I headed down the hill traceing my route on the GPS and not long after I was walking along the burn which flows down the east side of the mine workings before I dropped down to the mine track, a quick break then it was off the 2 1/2 ml track to the Ranger Centre and Katie who had just timed it nice. I’d jumped in the car and as we left the Park, I could hear my Endomondo woman telling me I’d covered the last mile in ???, I’d forgotten to switch the phone GPS and app off but a quick edit at home and I uploaded the amended file. 8 miles of mixed route.

Previous blog posts

2009 HERE

2010 HERE

2011 HERE

2012 HERE

2013 HERE

My thanks to all those sites I have linked to….

 

 

 

It’s Sunny…And Do You Know What?

I seem to start to start most of (okay, them all) posts by mentioning the weather but it seems the most talked aspect of our daily lives albeit with a World Cup taking place.

The weather had been warm, sunny yet very humid and I had finally got my bike back with replacement parts fitted and I headed out just after Sunday midday eastwards to check everything was tickety boo . 30 miles and 8 caches bagged it was back home for a welcome cold drink…It was almost time for another Mhor adventure.

Tuesday booked as a day off, I knew the forecasted weather would be hot, hot and humid but I couldn’t let this weather go by without getting something done.

Choice :

A- A trip across the water to do the Haul Rd (A 817).

B- Those 30 caches still not bagged in my local area to the S and E.

I’m sure whoever placed them must have looked at my heat map of routes.

They would wait for another day or more possible knocked off over a few outs.

It was a quick check over everything early on Tuesday morning with liquid, health bars packed in the Topeak..

Tut Tut rock

Tut Tut rock

It was off down to join Route 75 cycle track where I would head west to Gourock Pierhead to catch the Kilcreggan Ferry. I made good time and stopped en route to speak with some of the lads who work with me. I nipped along the Greenock waterfront before heading along a now busy Greenock Esplanade. Soon I was resting Polly against the railing whilst watching the ferry leave Kilcreggan. I chewed the fat with someone heading over to do a bit of walking and made a mental note of this for 12 months time.

The ferry set off and with flat calm conditions it was not long before we were berthing at Kilcreggan, about 1 mile out we passed the yacht ‘Drum’ which has a chequered history although with the lack of a strong breeze it was still tacking at a reasonable speed.

Polly and I disembarked and we stopped at the roadside to get all the electronic gadgets going. Endomondo on the phone, the Edge bike computer and as I was caching, I got the Etrex ready.

A steady run west brought me to the ‘Tut Tut rock’ on Kilcreggan shore, I hunted high and low but a DNF(did not find) which isn’t a good start to the day. I carried on and bagged caches in nearby Cove and Ardpeaton before I reached the end of the road at Coulport where there is lots of security, it must be an important place *eyes to sky*. I spent my 21st birthday fishing on Coulport beach in the pouring rain with a few beers and a wasted day with one undersized fish for my troubles. The following day the delayed party began.

I had reached the first serious climb of the day, it was a constant run with no relief stretches but I soon saw my exit road on the right BUT the hill still had a wee bit to go, I’m getting brave now and carried on the 500m to the summit where I crossed lanes and headed back down to join Peaton Rd where I’d turn left and rise slightly before enjoying a quick drop into Rahane. I had my best ever result in a sea-fishing competition, a Drumfork Open if I remember where I caught a large cod of 7lb 13oz and with other fish I got 7th overall, my prizes? a pool for the biggest fish which was almost a weeks wages and I got a ‘Party Seven’

Party Seven

Party Seven

for my placing. I had the mother of all hangovers and had to be dragged from my bed to go and I’m glad I did although the stony beach is no where to lie hung over. The other memory is of the time I tried to teach Katie how to fish, not a good idea. We agreed that it wasn’t a good idea.I could have stayed on the higher road and found my way to a roundabout I would eventually meet the Haul Rd start but I’d wanted to bag a couple of caches in Garelochhead and Faslane plus I’d put the village down as my first break for a liquid and scran intake where I chose a bench facing the Loch and sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I bagged the magnetic nano within an arm’s reach.

I headed to Faslane where I found what I was looking for then it was serious work time as I turned up the A814 and started to climb up to a roundabout where I would then take the Haul Rd, I had to stop 100m for the top, my eyes were stinging as I was perspiring heavily. The road is enclosed  by trees and with no moving air, it was hot. I carried on and was soon on the Haul Rd (A817) and it was steeper than I imagined but down into the granny gears and I slowly plodded my way up, I called over to a lay by and jokingly asked a motorcyclist for a tow up the hill, the reply? unprintable as was my reply to him.

Faslane from Peaton Rd

Faslane from Peaton Rd

I thought ‘I’m getting there’ when I saw ahead on the right a sign proclaiming ‘Low Gear’ this took the wind out of my sails and my heart fell and I just stopped. Right, ‘Mhor get moving again!’ and I did and found out it was a small ramp and then I was at the summit of the hill, cursing myself loudly. I soon stopped at the gate where you access the hill path (the Strone) to Beinn a’Mhanaich. I could have done it! I spotted a lone walker about to climb the gate so I had a quick chat before I headed quickly downhill (the advantage of ascending) before I saw my next exit the track to Auchengaich Loch, roughly 1km from the road where my last cache of the day was hidden. The track is in good condition with the collapsed bit now fixed, I had used this track before to start of one of my ascents of Beinn Chaorach…

Auchengaich Dam

Auchengaich Dam

I spoke with a couple of workmen putting signs in place and was sorely tempted to just empty my pockets and jump in but this is someone’s drinking water so I just filled my ‘Water To Go’ bottle (thanks Roddy) and headed to main road where it was off to my next watering/feeding point at Balloch still a good few miles away. It was like riding a rollercoaster then finally a steady climb before once again dropping down rapidly to meet the A82 just south of Luss. I joined the West Lomond Cycle Track and soon was passing Duck Bay and the normal crowds who frequent this area on sunny days.

I was in Balloch and got more supplies which I intended to enjoy next to the Barrage on the River Leven. My chain started to act funny, I’d picked up some string and it had wrapped itself among the cassette but it only took a minute to remove and the string was flung into a bin. I sat and enjoyed watching boats moving out of their moorings then heading N to the Loch. It looked like those heading out to troll for salmon and sea trout in the early evening.

If you haven’t travelled along this path, I would recommended as the sights and sounds are excellent, the path ? in excellent condition the way to Dumbarton where you have a bit of road work until you are back on to Route 7 which takes you to Bowling along the Forth & Clyde canal where I headed towards the Erskine Bridge at the old Ferry rd, to think of the high volumes of traffic that now use the bridge, I remember taking the ferry in the 60s where queues of up to 60 mins were commonplace on the rattly old red ferry of which others placed at sites eastwards along the river towards Glasgow ..The bridge ? built  on an excellent site with an estimated 35,000 vehicles crossing daily.

I did stop for 10 minutes to watch the weed cutting boat keeping this stretch of the canal from being weeded up, an ongoing job on all stretches.

Weed cutting at Bowling

Weed cutting at Bowling

Leaving the bridge I decided it was to be home via the Georgetown straight, the road was now busy with peak-time traffic but I managed to get through the Erskine roundabouts safely before taking a right towards Houston where it was another stop for some goodies at the local supermarket. I was thirsty and with no real delay I was heading out through Crosslee where I took the Lochar Rd to the cycle track and 8 mile later I was home.

66 miles logged, over 3,000 ft ascent en route, eight geocaches bagged and the next day, a badly burnt forehead.

If I do this run again, a cooler day with preferably a west wind at my back.

I’m glad I headed.

If interested You Tube video of the old Erskine Ferry HERE.

 

 

The Islands Tour Continues…

Our team at work..three of us.

One is whooping it up in Spain, one was doing family related stuff, me? I asked for a day off…

and what do I tend to do now with my days off? cycle……

It was not hard to choose my destination…the Isle of Bute.

I’d been promising myself a Giro of the island so a wee look at some You Tube videos and a long look at the OS map and the route memorised. I’d made sure the pannier had all the essentials, water bottle charged and an all over check of the bike. A good nights sleep and I’d be refreshed early morning.

I woke to blue skies, a light breeze and a quick breakfast then the usual double-check.

Toward Light

Toward Light

I headed down to the local railway station where I headed to Wemyss Bay, the ferry terminal for the boat journey to the island. CalMac ferries HERE

I thought I’d read the timetables correct but urged to quickly go get my ticket as the boat was ready to sail, the lads had held the boat until I walked down the slipway. It’s bad practice to cycle down plus if the tide is out, it is clear why they call it a ‘slipway’.

Once ‘Polly’ was settled in the bike rack, I headed up to comfy part of the boat and enjoyed a calm sail across the Firth and had a last-minute look at the OS map…

Ascog Bay

Ascog Bay

The call came for vehicle drivers and off down the car deck to get ready for today’s adventure.

I decided to head down the south side of the island so a left turn at the pier-head junction then along past the Victorian flatted buildings and soon I found the first geocache I had intended to bag…and it wasn’t there in the said hidey hole, I checked every ‘hole’ in the wall, nothing. Sod it, I’ll come back another day and just geocache ( any excuse)…

The breeze was a bit stronger as I pedaled toward Ascog and I was soon approaching what would be the biggest ascent I would meet on the island, a comforting thought to find everything else much easier (but I’d forgotten the last climb of the day).  The hill I was ascending took me past the entrance to Mount Stuart House which I would recommend a visit. I reached the top and found that it was time to remove the lightweight jacket, it was sunny and hot, very hot.

I saw the War Memorial at Mount Stuart and remembered, a geocache.

I quickly found this one hidden in an ingenious spot and after all that checking, I’d forgotten a pencil so a quick photo of the said box…

Back on to the road and as I started to drop down, the view before me was simply amazing. I could see the Arran mountains, Holy Isle, Great Cumbrae, Wee Cumbrae and hilly area at Garroch Head.  I continued down until I turned left at the junction which would lead me down to Kilchattan Bay. I spotted in Kingarth another geocache location and soon I was having another photo as proof. The telephone box is a well hunted cache but soon I was heading along the main street of the hamlet before reaching the end of this road. The tide was out and the red sand stretched out for a distance but on I headed back up to join the A844, turning right and as I passed a cemetery it was a quick left turn down the single track Plan Rd. I soon passed Bute Airfield, more later and a sharp climb later it was down towards the visit the ruins of St Blane‘s Church and Monastery.

I just wheeled the bike up the whin path and had a walk around the ruins which are interesting and I can see why this spot was chosen. The site has information boards and plaques around the ruins, I stopped to chat with a couple who told me that the island was such a wonderful place to have visited and only by chance they decided to reroute on their way back down south. I sat and spent some time in deep thought whilst enjoying the solitude. I now see what an intriguing island this is once you leave the urban area of Rothesay where I spent many a Fair holiday day visiting. I can remember getting my first tooth out in Rothesay and the dentist giving my mum money to buy me an ice-cream. The time spent out on rowing boats sharing the rowing duties with my dad, I sat and remembered what fun we had then…..

St Blanes Church

St Blanes Church

It was back along the road I’d come down and as I was approaching the airfield, I could hear the hum of a low flying aircraft swooping high above the treetops and sweeping down the length of the grass field but it carried on and I prepared the camera for its return but it headed N towards the Mull of Kintyre. Was it just having a quick look? Pity.

Arran from St Blanes

Arran from St Blanes

I carried on as I was starting to feel peckish and I knew the tea room at Ettrick Bay was not just around the corner so it was back on to the A844 again and still with the hills of Arran on my left hand side I passed along taking in the sights and sounds of the island, I looked quickly at the golf course which is laid out on the shore at Stravanann Bay, it would have been a good day out swinging the clubs..I passed some workers repairing electricity poles, what a workplace.

I soon headed back inland and carried on past Scalpsie Bay after seeing a lone angler fly fishing in Loch Quien, the road was up and down here but with no great ascents I was sure that my destination was not that far away but soon I reached the junction where I would head left towards Ettrick Bay, I soon reached the bay but the road headed inland before I turned left again down towards the tea room.

Polly was safely stored at the bike rack and off to get some scran.

I choose a burger with home fries and a cold drink and fully sated I headed back along the road I had come down but carried on to Kames Bay for my next choice, Rhubodach or Port Bannatyne..

In the interests of future planning, Rhubodach was next just to check where the ferry terminal was. I cycled out the 5 mile to the terminal where I stopped to watch the ferry take its short journey, 5 mins I think. A quick drink of water and back along the 9 miles to the pier-head at Rothesay. I made good time and reaching Port Bannatyne I took the shore road and continued along to Rothesay and as I was still a couple of mile from the pier-head, I decided to see if I could beat the ferry to the pier-head, I won, of course.

I cycled down and got told to wait in the bike rack area, the ferry unloaded and told ‘cyclist first’ so onboard and parked Polly in her rack and upstairs to enjoy the sun and the view from the observation deck at the stern of the ship.

Rhubodach ferry

Rhubodach ferry

A fine end to such an enjoyable day….

I hurried off the boat to find I had time to wait on the train, today the trains have areas for bikes but as this line is normally quiet, there are no problems..

I mentioned earlier no more steepish ascents….

there was the 430 ft rise to home in just over a mile.

Legs of lead as I started up the main hill but two stops before I finally made home without any more breaks.

A quick wash down of Polly as I’d passed through some areas with some coo poo.

Dried off she was put to rest after a 48 mile day.

Would i do it again? Yes….

Where next? I know..

 

 

 

Off Again……

Holiday Monday, May Day..

but I was to spend the earlier weekend up in NE adding a new job to my expanding resume..

Stripper !!!!

If you know Mhor then you know it isn’t the obvious..

I was helping strip wallpaper off a room in an old Victorian villa. It had high walls and as was the norm in those days, a large room. Interesting part was that we ‘found’ pencil drawings beneath the paper which by the style was possibly drawn the first time the wall had been wallpapered as we knew that when we removed the layers of paper to the original plaster. The style of drawing would place this well over 100 plus years as the villa was built over 120 year ago.

Old pencil sketch

Old pencil sketch

It was an early start to head the approx 100 mile to our destination. A quick stop at Dunblane then off to Tayside and to prepare and finish the job hopefully that day. We did finally finish after breaks for juice, tea and cake…and sat afterwards with a litre of cold cider as a reward. (two litre bottles actually)

I then found out that the next day was to prepare the ceiling..but it was quickly sorted and late Sunday afternoon it was back down the road and to see what the holiday Monday would bring weather wise. You will notice I make great mention of the weather in these blog posts but having worked outside the whole of my working life that it plays a great part. My hobbies seem to take account of it as well.

I woke up to grey skies but little wind so as I had risen at the usual time of just before 6, I had a quick cup of coffee before getting everything ready for the off.

Question even until I left home was, Where ?

I’d mentally pencilled in a return trip to Largs which was my home in the early to mid 70s and is a regular destination, once before by bike see HERE. This time I chose a different route which would be more a circular. I set off feeling slightly under the weather and decided to see how I felt as I headed.

It was ‘dodge the potholes’ until I headed up a short, sharp hill before joining route 75, the dog walkers were out and about even this early as I this time I wandered slowly down the track passing through Kilmacolm, Bridge of Weir then skirting Brookfield and Linwood.

Barr Castle

Barr Castle

I stopped at the junction with route 7 and headed west towards Kilbarchan, I have written more than a few times about this area so I’ll go a bit more in detail of the trip after I reach Lochwinnoch. I passed through Castle Semple country park and followed the signs to keep me on route 7 as this was now virgin ground for me but the track followed the same pattern as I had cycled down.

As I left Lochwinnoch, I saw to my right the old remains of Barr Castle, I stopped and the crow on the remaining top part of the tower sounded as if it was laughing at me…I could see to the left of me a few flocks of geese on the fields on the banks of the Barr Loch but then the track now headed through cuttings with occasional glimpses of the A760.

It was not before long I came across an old abandoned  wooden water viaduct, interesting as I’m guessing this was its use. Water for the trains ? and as I looked at the opposite bank from it I saw no possible continuation point. Anyone?

I soon saw signs through the trees that I was now in Kilbirnie and saw a left access point which led me on to the A760.

A quick left and soon I swung around a roundabout following A760 Largs signs and outside the local police station I took a quick water break as I knew what lay ahead.

I know this road well by car/motorbike but never by bike. I knew that 600 ft of ascent lay in front of me. I set off in the low gears and soon was passing the golf course which marks the start of open countryside.

I had mentally noted the Hourat Toll junction as the area where it would level out to a gentler climb, the road was very quiet for a holiday Monday as I made my way slowly towards the high spot. One of the lycra mob on a road bike called a brisk ‘Good Morning’ as he passed me, half my weight plus a lighter bike gave him a big advantage ( I’m believing this ). Soon I was passing Muirhead and Camphill reservoirs but I had looked at the hills to the north of me looking for access to visit some old plane wrecks which are in these hills. I have already visited the one on Blaeloch see HERE. I made a mental note of a possible parking spot to head up a track which goes part of the way but that is for another day. The road surface varied  from a rough slightly broken in places to a smooth perfect surface.

Old wooden viaduct

Old wooden viaduct

Soon the new access track for the wind farm which now occupies the Blaeloch Hill area appeared, if you read the previous linked post on Blaeloch you will see how much of a difference this track makes access to this hill.

I was now at the highest part of the road and had now a long steep descent into Largs via the Haylie Brae. I was wary of the road surface as I descended as to hit a pothole or any other road furniture would not be advisable at speed so caution was the order of the day.

I remember working for the roads dept being on call in the 70s to head out and throw sand and salt on this very road in adverse weather when there was no gritting lorries like today’s specialised machines. We stood on the back of a lorry and shoveled a sand and salt mix into a hopper/spreader towed by the lorry, it was fun…not and in all weathers.

There are points on the west side of this road where you can take in the fabulous views to the west and north west, if you have time then find a parking space and enjoy. The Cumbraes, Hunterston, Arran , Bute and the Mull of Kintyre await you.

I soon swept round the sharp bend which has been now made safer and down I headed until I arrived at the junction at which I headed right along Largs main street. The chippy was closed, I’d arrived too early.

I’d a quick break at the lifeboat station for water and now was to brave the A78 as I headed back to Greenock. I made sure that both back and front lights were working and along with my flou orange jacket, I hoped I would be visible as I moved along the coast road. I know someone who commutes from Largs to Greenock but prefers the alternative back road journey, I can see why. It can be a bit hairy at times.

I stopped not far out of Largs at one of my old fishing haunts (NS 191628) where a natural pool in the sandstone rock forms at high tide, many a midnight swim took place here whilst doing ‘all nighter’ fishing, it was alternate Saturday night/ Sunday morning between here and Portencross Pier. A place where I picnicked on a few occasions with my Katie….did I say good memories ? Yeah, it was.

Natural pool

Natural pool

Pedalling briskly I soon reached and passed through Skelmorlie, Wemyss Bay where a short sharp rise tested the legs before a long sweeping downhill passing Inverkip where I soon joined a path alongside  the road, I had felt  Cornalees would not be my road home today and as I had pedalled towards Greenock, I thought about which route to take…Local knowledge would help me avoid sharp steep hills. A quick right turn and oops, my intended route is now one way so it was up a steep hill which after 40 mile I could have done without but not long until I was heading downhill before a quick exit into the Wellington Park which led me through another housing area. 10 minutes later, Lady Octavia Park and route 75 was reached.

One little blip was to soon appear, the 40% short hill up from the burn floor in the Devol Glen but I kicked down the gears and got there….out of breath, its a wee killer.

It was now along a quiet track and almost home but I saw the milometer showed I would fall slightly of the 50 ml I estimated.  A quick couple of laps around the local factories and just slightly over 5 hours I arrived back home again with no geocaches chased, another day for them.

The weather could have been better but with 50 miles and over 2,000 ft ascent in the bag I was more than delighted.

Largs seafront

Largs seafront

A route I’ll certainly use again and with so many return possibilities too, via Cornalees, Gourock, the Old Largs Road amongst a few more.

A Lesson Learned…..

Some background to this first…

I’ve a big date in my life coming up in just under a years time.

I intend to go and visit places I’ve always wanted to see.

I have a bike, I’m improving my fitness and slowly gathering the equipment to help me make these goals.

I will have to test and try things so when that day arrives, I will be ready to go.

 

I haven’t spent the night under canvas for a long, long time, if my memory serves me well possibly the mid ’80s and then only in campsites with all the facilities. ‘Wild’ camping ? the late 70s.

I’d been mulling this over for months plus it was getting near the summer months when I could get organised to ‘do’ a trial run or two….

Our only long weekend off work, the Easter break was coming up and the long-range weather forecast was looking good and I’d have decided on doing something on each day but mostly on the cycling side.

I’d thought long and hard about where a good camping venue would be, Corlic?, Dunrod Hill? but I thought short and sweet, Hill of Stake plus I could do a SOTA activation in at the same time, sorted.

The holiday Friday arrived and off I headed on the bike, my intention was to head out through Langbank, Bishopton, Georgetown then back but as I headed down the local Clune Brae, I just carried on to the bottom of the hill and turned back up. I dropped down the gears to the ‘granny gears’ and once the first steep section started to slightly flatten I steadily but slowly rose to the top roundabout, another Cat 4 hill conquered.

I headed back downhill and took my original planned route,as I pedaled along my mind was mulling over this ‘wild camp’, what would I take? radio equipment? tent etc.I knew it would be a heavy load but as I reached the top of the Port on my return, I looked across and thought ‘that is the hill for me’, Beinn a’Mhanaich.

I’ve been a regular on this hill over the last five years plus it has a faint quad track almost its entire length. The Hill of Stake is a pathless boggy mess after a mine track. No contest.

I decided that I’d go check everything out and look at the logistics.

I had to organise my radio stuff and charge batteries etc. I had to look out my one man tent and organise a sleeping bag, food etc.

Saturday spent packing and unpacking the rukkie and finally around lunchtime, everything packed.

I decided to take all I thought I needed so I could decide after the trip what I needed and what could be left next out.  Lightweight this rucksack wasn’t but future trips would be much lighter once I’d figured out what was essential.

We left about 4’ish to find the traffic was pretty heavy heading towards Loch Lomond but soon we were on the Haul Rd towards my drop off point at the bottom of the Strone, a ridge that heads to the summit of a’Mhanaich.

I said my cheerios to Katie and slowly climbed over the gate and started the first slog, a mile of unrelenting uphill. I’d put my Baofeng on scan and heard Gerald WML on Green Lowther so a quick ‘hello, cheerio’ and 4 points were in the bag. In my usual fashion on this part of the ascent, I stopped and caught my breath but slowly made the top of this section where it starts to level slightly as you meet the rising ridge walk . Soon I could see the destination cairn but I still had one big lump to ascend until I took the last short rise to the summit.

Looking W on the ascent

Looking W on the ascent

I took off the rucksack and laid it down and stopped my GPS, it had taken 1 hr 51 mins now I was amazed as I had expected much longer due to the weight of the rukkie with the kitchen sink etc in it…

I first erected my sleeping quarters in a slight depression near the summit cairn then threw up the mast and beam and positioned it so I could work inside the tent. I must say that once I’m in the tent there isn’t much room.

I next threw down the under mat and when I brought out the sleeping bag from its bag. OH NO OH NO!!!!!!! bad bad bad idea…now this is the part where the lesson learned kicks in.

I’d chosen this one as it was slightly lighter than the ‘mummy bag’ and had not taken it out to check it first, serious bad move Mhor.

I fitted everything together and settled in for the night, it was still light around 7.45 and I listened and gave a few calls but only a short QSO with Barrie KZX who was just to the SE of me let me know everything was working. I would activate in the early morning.

I started reading White Fang by Jack London, bad move as the first few pages are not the best reading material when out on a hillside alone for miles although my next door ‘neighbour’ was Faslane Naval Base.

I tried to get comfy but with a chill strong breeze racing up from the glen floor, I was soon regretting my choice of sleeping bag…

I’d packed extra warm clothing in case so on it went but not soon after the poor heat retaining qualities of the bag showed, I was cold plus I knew this could fall to 0c…

I thought…go home now or rough it out?

I called home and after a minute debate, I’d break down and camp and head off whilst there was still some light left..

I quickly broke the camp down and with everything packed away ‘loosely’ into the rukkie, I started the phone GPS and headed down in what was now quickly failing light…

Bob's camp

Bob’s camp

I thought if I could reach the Strone that even in the dark I could find my way off safely, my wind up torch in my pocket if necessary. I moved quickly as I could as I descended the initial steep bits and soon I was heading down the Strone, I took note of ‘lights’ as I headed for when it fell total dark. I came to the top of the last steep descent and soon saw the odd car headlights as by now the light had gone.

I could still see the quad track which at this bit gets a bit muddy so I was taking  extra care in sections as I didn’t fancy twisting an ankle. I reached the first gate and climbed over, I knew not long to go….

I had to slow down as the track was getting slippier so it was on to the grass side when I saw headlights passing, turning then heading back…Katie?

I saw the headlights disappear  east as I reached the roadside. I looked at my phone, no signal then but my oldest lass called to ask where I was as they had asked my youngest to check Endomondo and she said ‘Dad is at the roadside’.

5 mins later, I was in the car heading back to a shower and a warm soft comfy bed..

Disappointed? hell yes but glad I took the option to head off. I could have roughed it out but as one of my kids said the next day, ‘Dad you must remember you are now 60 not 30′.

I found out and learned a lesson the hard way…..always check everything.

Oh and a new sleeping bag is being looked at.

The rucksack when weighed was in excess of 14kg…plus the beam and mast…it will be much lighter in future.

**Please note that I mentioned my phone GPS and Endomondo, I only use this for personal back up and that I carry an OS paper map and compass as well as a dedicated GPS unit with spare batteries**

 

 

Port To Port, a day oot in Cumaradh Mor…….

The weather had shown a turn for the better, a day or two of sunshine had removed the winter gloom from the constant wind and rain which seemed nonstop over the winter months. I thought it was be a plan to get out for one of those days to enjoy. I decided sod it and I booked a holiday for the next day. An impulse or was it I was just waiting for any opportunity? I’ll be honest and say it was the latter.

The last few winters spent pouring over maps looking at routes up hills for radio work but more time spent looking at ‘days oot’ for the bike. I have pigeonholed a few ‘localish’ ones to share a day out with fellow blogee Roddy. I have GPX routes stored everywhere on my ‘puter and up in the cloud, just in case !

Tuesday I was musing what run to ‘do’, I was going through the blog and came across my ‘Fish Supper’ post HERE. It set off a light and off to the map.

Main road, back road, cycle track start or rough track?

I decided on over the Green Rd, left up Auchentiber Rd through to Garshangan forestry track, the Old Largs Road and obviously on to Largs, Great Cumbrae, why not?. A good mix of road, track and a sail across the briny.

The return journey? Haylie Brae, A8 to home, reverse the same route? I’d decide when it is time to head back.

I got everything packed into my saddle bag as I’d decided that I’d try to bag the roadside caches on Cumbrae if I ventured over. All ready to go after the forecast frost started to disappear.

I had woke up to a moderate frost, first, a cuppa and breakfast.

It was time to go..

I headed up to the Green Rd, stopping to have a talk with the golf course lads before carefully heading up an icy lower track. I soon reached the high point and the views N were stunning, Cruachan, Ime and Lomond among others showing with a good covering of snow. I had to take care on the descent as work is going on a wind turbine installation.

Largs awaits

Largs awaits

I headed W towards Garshangan Rd and steadily rising I dropped to take the rough forestry track which has been ‘improved’ lately and was before long back on tarmac heading on the single track Old Largs Rd towards its high point where I would gratefully drop quickly downhill into the lush pastures of Brisbane Glen. I met some brave souls cycling up this steep climb, someday I’ll attempt it.

I was soon approaching Largs which seems to have crept up the Glen over the years since I lived in the area. I took a diversion to have a nostalgic look at the area of Largs in which I stayed, it hadn’t changed much in almost 40 years. I thought I better head down and catch the ferry. I had turned into the street would take me to the prom when a female decided on trying to walk across a moving bike. I applied the brakes and I’m sure she never knew I was there.

I soon crossed on to the prom when I saw leaving the ferry leaving the slip as I cycled along the promenade. A haphazard cycle track is laid out so you have to be alert as no one seems to take notice.

Time to take on some water and scran, I bought my ticket for the journey and soon I boarded the ferry, the Loch Shira takes no time at all to cross to the Tattie Pier (now a slip). The obvious reason for the same as it was here the local farmers would ‘export’ potatoes to the mainland. The mainland bit reminded of the story of a local Millport minister, James Adam who would pray ‘for the Great and Little Cumbraes and the adjacent islands of Britain and Ireland’.

I remember swimming across to the slip in the 70s, a bet made whilst under the influence but I won the bet. Funnily it had actually cost me more to win such a small sum.

I was the only cyclist and after the cars drove off, I got waved forward. I stopped at the roadside and wondered, right or left…right won and I got my GPS set up and it was off geocaching as I headed around the island. I’d 15 loaded in but I knew some had DNF’s (did not find) but I’d look in the off chance. Not before long, the first was in the bag and as I cycled around the island I stopped at the sandstone memorial at Tomont End, this obelisk built to commemorate two lost seamen from HMS Shearwater which sank off this point in 1844.

Wee Cumbrae

Wee Cumbrae

Bute from Fintry Bay

Bute from Fintry Bay

I carried on stopping at various points on geocaching business but made a stop at White Bay to ‘rub’ the ball at the marker of which there are five placed around the island, more on this HERE.

I carried on passed what used to a WW2 listening post locally named ‘Hush Hush’, Eerie Point Info HERE.

The sun by now was high in the sky with a pleasant heat in the air as I slowly took in the sights and sounds as I pedalled past Fintry Bay but no coffee as the cafe was closed. Just over 4 mile from the town centre of Millport. I stopped at the well-kept ‘ Memorial to the Missing‘ with the Isles of Arran and Bute as a backdrop. I stopped to take on some water. A peaceful place.

Not long before I soon saw the island of Wee Cumbrae, I could see the ruins of the lighthouse high above the sea where now a fixed light does the duty. More info HERE. Wee or Little Cumbrae dominates the views as you ride from one end of Millport to the other. I had decided that I’d wait until back at Largs before I took a scran break, guess what I’d promised myself? Yep soul food.

Millport stretches along the shorefront from near Portachur Point to the far side of Kames Bay. Imposing buildings are the Cathedral of the Isles, the Garrison House and many fine Victorian villas.

I stopped and did a tourist thing and bought a fridge magnet, a generous soul me. A quick look for a couple of geocaches and it was around Kames Bay with its grand villas whilst I looked for the start of the path which would take me down Farland Point. I bagged an unusual cache at a seating area before arriving at the point where in the early 70’s, I spent many a day and night fishing for conger eels among other species. I fished this part of the island at marks extending back to Clashfarland point. Memories indeed plus I’ll not bother you with stories like the four days I spent marooned on the island, winter drinking sessions among many others.

Garrison House

Garrison House

I stopped to take an image of Keppel Pier and spoke to a couple of locals who were taking a walk to my next destination Lion Rock, an impressive rock structure, more HERE.

I now had only a couple of stops to make before I would make a dash for the ferry to take me back across to Largs. Cache logged then it was off to the Tattie Pier.

I boarded the ferry with a few cyclists including one tandem. It was not before long we arrived in Largs where it was time to get the scran I promised….

I headed to buy myself a fish supper…..healthy food? but delicious but I was on a day out and you treat yourself, right? my choice.

It was hungrily eaten on the promenade and washed down by Scotland’s other national drink, Irn Bru. The sugar would be added fuel for the return journey (A good excuse!) and after not much deliberation, it was a journey along the A78 towards the outskirts of Greenock passing through Skelmorlie, Wemyss Bay, Inverkip and up the Homeston brae where I was to veer right and take the road up to Cornalees and I stopped for a quick cup of coffee at the fishery before a trip around Loch Thom before heading back along the Garshangan forestry track as the light started to fail.

Yer Man

Yer Man

I soon reached Auchentiber Rd where I stepped up a gear or two and before long I was back on Route 75 before I broke off to head back to home the long way.

I’d arrived in near darkness and 5o miles on the clock.

I felt the climb back up to Cornalees with a few occasional breathers but everything else managed, 10 geocaches bagged.

A day out to remember.

If you haven’t been to Great Cumbrae, get yourself across plus as the ‘Isle of a 1,000 Bikes’, there are shops willing to hire you a bike for the 10 mile round trip, you will not regret your visit.

My thanks again to Wikipedia and others that I have linked to.

(Dec) Radio Days and a wee review of 2013….

2013 disappeared in a whimper, radio wise I’m afraid.

Was it the rotten wet weather, the constant wind or was it apathy ?

I think it may have been the combination of all three.

I’d spent December with tunnel vision of achieving a certain amount of miles cycled. I had put what was my strongest month of the year, November with just over 300 miles tallied, mostly cycling the back roads and Route 75 . I had intended to do a total of 2,000 mile over the 12 month period, this was to include my walking, hills or local plus all cycling.

XVII Legion

XVII Legion

I’d hit a blip mid month with poor weather among other hiccups but finally pedaled past the 2,000 whilst passing the Lost Legion XVII on Route 75 early one morning. Not bad for a 60-year-old, clinically obese (but trying to cut) born again cyclist. Onwards and very slowly upwards, did I say I’m not a fan of hills?

Radio wise ?

The month SOTAwise was saved by working Robin PKT on his summit of Meall Gainmheich with three days of the month to go. I was active most days on HF working the bands from 80 to 10m depending on the time of day. No new modes tried as I concentrated solely on JT65. I’m trying to up my WAS and would love to make DXCC by the end of 2014.

Let’s just have a quick look back at 2013…

Straight out of the traps, Tinto along with Roddy 2MØIOB on a cold frosty January day was an enjoyable start to the activation trail. My yearly trip to Beinn a’Mhanaich was next, a hill I love returning to making some cracking contacts as it has excellent take off to the south.

Tinto summit cairn

Tinto summit cairn

The Hill of Stake was next as I took a holiday from work for this one, conditions were ideal for the ascent due to the cold weather firming up the usually soggy underfoot bogs, a pathless slog at times but recommended on a frosty day. I’ll remember how cold the constant east wind was that day. Beinn Chaorach in the clag was next hill in the log, my original first four pointer done in glorious sunshine but this day was murky. I next asked Katie for a quick run over to Duncolm on what was another cold snow on the ground day, a few steps through drifting snow but a good hill with a long walk in and out for a single point. I read a recent alert saying that the station would be on air in 30 mins..this including the walk-in down in GW land.

I picked a cold sunny day for next hill, the iconic Cobbler and had to maneuver through some snow nearing the top as I ascended the N face. A busy hill but an enjoyable day out. I like the access to these hills, a lovely coire to walk in and out after a slog through a lower forest section. The view as you head on to the open hillside is one to relish.

I had by this time taken up Geocaching with a vengeance and Ben Bowie was a six cache hill and another day spent in claggy conditions but caches logged. I was in full swing as soon after I returned to Beinn Dubh for another cache bash, seven in total but the weather was stunning that day and I enjoyed walking the horseshoe home although a bad blister curtailed the descent and Katie had driven up to the Beinn Eich drop off point in Glen Luss to pick me up.

I had looked across to Cnoc Coinnich that day as I rounded Mid Hill and mentally made a note, ‘Next warm sunny day’ and I did walking in from Ardgarten up along forest tracks before open hill then up a pathless but enjoyable ascent. I enjoyed this one….mind you I enjoy all the hills (even Cruach Ardrain).

Ben Donich from the summit of Cnoc Coinnich

Ben Donich from the summit of Cnoc Coinnich

I got lax and it took until August to head out again and Ben Donich was more a test of my knee as in the blog post, I said I had to find out if my knee had healed properly as the Welsh trip was nearing and I thought short, sharp Donich would be  more than a test for it, I was okay for Wales. I was recently sent a link to a YouTube video on Donich and enjoyed it so much I think I’ll head back this year.

The Cobbler North peak

The Cobbler North peak

It was off to Wales, Snowdonia and Bangor…

The weather that we activated Tal y Fan was horrendous and with a quick kneel behind a wall, a handheld activation it had to be, we were assured it had fantastic views but I’ll need to return some day.

We decided that Snowdon would have to be done ASAP and off we set on a drizzly windy day but we soon met gale force conditions on the summit but a cracking day and another summit bagged.

A ‘tourist’ visit to Holyhead on our last full day and a quick dash up the impressively named Holyhead Mountain finished the trip and the activation year for me, I got lazy or more to the point I got mile crazy on my bike. The hills, Mhor the hills.

A good year SOTAwise and milestones reached were 250 points and chasing I passed the 3,000 point mark (all on VHF).

Other stuff..

No doubt if you have read the occasional post you will have noticed my now passion for geocaching, I initially pooh poohed this but an offer (free) of a geocaching kit along with the Etrex GPS I bought and it led to my testing the GPS with a nearby cache just off the Green Rd, was it the fact I walked right on to the hidden cache ? or it was another way of getting out and about ? a bit of both. I remember taking part in youth club treasure hunts in which I was pretty nifty at solving the clues plus I had been a keen orienteer in my teenage years, wags please note we had compasses in those days. I soon racked up the caches in my local area and made trips on the bike to distant parts of the county to find and log these. Snowdon had me bag two, one just below the summit and the other was to take readings standing over the trig point, a ‘virtual’ cache. A first for me.

I achieved just over 100 found at the turn of the year, the problem now? I have to go further. I have however started placing caches along Route 75 between Port Glasgow and Linwood and have four in place and another two to place out soon. It’s just another excuse to head out.

Glaslyn

Glaslyn

No long rambling resumes this year as decided against the idea so hopefully 2014 will be just an interesting and more active year.

Book wise…

I finished two good ‘local’ books, the first Keith McGinn’s autobiography about his time working on the Clyde puffers, Last of the Puffermen. Most enjoyable reading, funny with an excellent insight to the hard life these people led in the delivery of literally everything to the outer isles. A real life Para Handy.

The second? a book in similar style, Duncan Graham writes about his time spent working in the heyday of the Clyde steamers, he writes a story which has all the japes and the fun but once again, the hard work behind the scenes on the Clyde’s once favourite outing, a day doon the watter. It took me back to the late 50s and 60s when Greenock Fair was not complete without heading out from Gourock to all parts of the Firth. It took me back to many happy days spent mostly in rain as Fair Saturdays tended.

Cowal calling…….

I haven’t posted for a while, folks. Time to get back on track.

I was to do my yearly review but I think it will now take the place of my regular ‘Radio Days’ post as nothing has really happened in the radio field. Back to the ‘day oot’.

I had been out over the previous two days racking up 42 windy miles and with the best weather forecast of the holiday period beckoning. It was where and how.

Roddy IOB had mailed me midweek about a line of pylons which cross Loch Long from the Cowal side just N of Ardentinny and it was put into the back of the mind I would go check this out. Was it one of the usual tracks but a light bulb popped up and it was Ardentinny. I thought pylons or over Glen Finart. I’d decide when I arrive at the pier or on the road.

This all took place at 6am (possibly earlier), I sat monitoring the HF bands while I worked what I was to do. Sod it, got all I needed ready, fresh water, a couple of cereal bars (Lidl’s Crowni bars recommended) and a quick check of all backup in case of punctures etc.

I had by this time missed the early train to Gourock so I put the extra time to good use and soon I was slaloming downhill (potholes) to the local station. The train had a cycle area so a seat this time. I reached Gourock and time was tight to catch the ferry.

Looking NW up the Holy Loch

Looking NW up the Holy Loch

The lad on the ferry helpfully placed my bike in a safe area and I headed inside to enjoy a calm crossing. 25 minutes later, I was wheeling Polly off the boat and up to the main road. I headed right along the promenade towards Hunters Quay where I would stop at the Ardnadam war memorial to seek a cache. I saw the nano as I arrived. Logged. The morning was brisk with just a light breeze.

I looked out on the loch which had been an American Navy base during the cold war and was silent now. The odd evidence of that heyday still show. Further up the loch, post war America’s Cup challengers were built at Robertson’s boatyard. Today timber is shipped from the pier at Sandbank whilst a marina development is ongoing.

It was off to meet the A815 to the top of the Holy Loch, the road was quiet as I rounded the top of the loch where I stopped and had a look at the big Eachaig which was in fine flowing fettle and soon I turned down the opposite side of the loch (A880) passing through Kilmun where I remember fishing for sea-trout just down the loch from the church. Autumn days, a campfire and sizzling fry up. I could still smell the bacon.

Talking about smells, I could wiff wood smoke at every turn and you get to discern the different woods being used, I found the further round the corner as I neared Ardentinny it was more a ‘piney’ wiff. Obviously as the hill slopes are covered in pine. Lovely.

Strone Pier

Strone Pier

At Strone, I knew there was a cache just on the lochside but after shredding my calves on brambles (I must wear longer breeks) I never found anything, a DNF. I tried to muffle the ‘aaaghs’ later as I applied antiseptic cream.

Passing through Strone, there are many fine large houses that have cracking views. I did read up on one recently Dunselma House but no time today to go explore as winter daylight is short and I didn’t fancy hurtling (aye right!) down the loch side in the dark.

It is sad to see all the piers not being used and in various states of condition. The heyday of the Clyde pleasure steamers is a subject that I have read about over the years and stories of ‘races’ between piers to pick up passengers. I remember standing on many an occasion on Gourock Pier to head ‘doon the watter’ with many steamers heading off to their varying destinations full. Sad now to see only the Waverley plying her trade during the summer months.

Heading into Blairmore, it was time for a regular scran and water stop, the road soon becomes a single track but I was only meeting the odd car and as I entered Ardentinny I thought ‘Ach up this wee hill’….Glen Finart it was. I have fished the spate river (Finnart) in this area in the 80s on a few occasions. Catches ? one wee sprachle of a trout on a fly half its size.

Wee hill ?

I saw the 20% sign and my legs groaned..

Looking to Cruach Bhuidhe

Looking to Cruach Bhuidhe

I started off in low gear and finally as it got steeper it was the ‘granny’ gear but not for long. I peched up what in parts was a bit more than 20%, I think it is the average over the stretch but finally I managed to do some sections but my legs were wabbit. A rest to get more than my breath back at the top before hurtling down to Whistlefield. Glen Finart left behind with disturbing but enjoyable memories. The big shiny ‘5p’ promised would stay in the IOB pocket.

I turned left and I was on my way back to Dunoon passing a very quiet Loch Eck which in the summer months would be heaving with anglers, boaters and day trippers. The hills across the loch were showing a dusting of snow on their tops and being honest it was a chilly run down the lochside. I passed Benmore Botanic Gardens which I intend to return at some point to visit. Not before long I soon reached the Holy Loch where I just reversed the route I had taken back to the pier at Dunoon.

The last couple of miles heading into what could be described as more than a strong breeze plus I saw the ferry leave with only one mile to travel, I would have to wait almost an hour, damn.

I parked the bike at the terminal and nipped across to look at the prominent statue of Highland Mary, I headed up the stairs and enjoyed the views from above the statue. I’ll let Wikipedia tell the story of Mary HERE

Loch Eck beckons

Loch Eck beckons

Dunoon was an old stamping ground in the mid ’70s when I worked at Ardyne Point, oh the memories of the Monday and Friday ‘pass out’ to go sample the local brew but there was a cracking music shop in the town where I could pick up American import music. How often did I miss that last ferry.

A bemused Katie when I called her asking for a rescue mission, ‘Where are you?’ ‘Dunoon Pier’ You are nuts but it doesn’t surprise me’ she said. Waiting for me as I came out of the station, Polly placed (gently) in the back and it was off to hot water and more antiseptic cream…oooooooooooooooh!

I wonder where next although there are one or two places I’d like to visit in the same area.

One is an old workplace of mine Ardyne Point oil yard, I’ll bore you about it if I make that nostalgic trip.

A big ta! to Roddy for putting this in my mind.

(Nov) Radio and Other Days….

Radio first this month….

No activations to report as I seem to have ‘stopped’ since the Welsh trip, I have lazily got out of the habit of ‘Friday’ charging of everything.

Chasing..

First contact of the month was Iain WJZ who kept us VHF chasers active during the month. Iain appeared on the first weekend on Beinn Each, followed the next weekend with a visit to Arrochar and the Cobbler. I’m sure he had better views that day than I had on my October cycle trip which took me via Arrochar HERE. I later caught Adrain DHY by chance on Beinn Dorain that day.

Two weeks later, Jack COX was first in the log on his summit of Torlum, I was surprised to work him as I had struggled to work a non-SOTA station from the same hill before whilst using the beam in my front garden but still welcome points. Iain WJZ had alerted for Stobinnein later but I had decided on a whim to head out for a cycle with Euan and took my handie hoping to catch him before I headed SE. I stopped at the highest point of the cycle track in Port Glasgow and voila, Iain was on air, a quick ‘hello and cheerio’ and I was on my way.

The last weekend, I caught Iain WJZ on the ‘forgotten’ hill of the Arrochar Alps, the Corbett Beinn Luibhean. A quick information trawl from Iain as to his route as I still have to bag this one.  2014 now I think. Final logged contact was Jack COX on Beinn Dearg, SW of Callander.

A quiet chasing month but expected at this time of year. I checked my yearly total and surprised it was over 700 pts which I’m more than pleased with considering I’d spent more time in the last quarter of ’13 doing other things.

Twilight

Twilight

HF

Spent a lot of time monitoring the data sections of the bands with contacts in my quest for WAS but still many European stations logged. The bands of 12m and 10m were the main destination and most days as the early evening greyline approached, some good DX spotted but luck wasn’t with me.

Other…

Where do I start?

Geocaching first I think, I hid my first caches either side of Kilmacolm as the start of a series between Port Glasgow and Brookfield, I used an unusual cache holder, a plastic ice cream cone at Netherwood and a magnetic nano at 18, a cycle track sculpture just E of Kilmacolm. Good to say they have both been logged into double figures. Two more are ready to place.

I passed the magic century mark with a visit to Clyde Muirshiel Country Park of which was part of a day-off work cycle ride, the day had started as a run on the cycle track coming off at Netherwood (Strava‘s fault) before heading south along the B786 to just outside Lochwinnoch and took the single track road out to Clyde Muirshiel Park which I had underestimated the constant 3 mile climb to the Ranger Centre. One to remember.

Craig of Todhole summit

Craig of Todhole summit

I logged five that day but it had been a coldish ride out, I had originally planned to freewheel back down to Lochwinnoch and grab a bar lunch then lazily take the cycle track home but no, the Hardridge track was too much of a temptation. I have headed out the Mines track on more than a few occasions but this was my first trip over the moors to meet the track heading west from Hardridge farm.

I had one cache to catch at the summit of Craig of Todhole and a quick dash up through heather, locating the cache then back to Polly (my bike). I looked towards the west as I came off the summit and five minutes later, a hailstorm was upon me. I thought ‘ Shorts not a good idea, Bob’ but it quickly passed , the first part of this track is a steady rough uphill climb BUT by the time I was on the last third, I thought that this was a route to take in the drier summer months. I waded through knee-deep water filled track and crossed a couple of fast-moving streams. I had just gave up trying to find detours and just splashed my way through.

The worst was yet to come as there was a herd of highland cows which graze in this area and they were all standing between me and the gate where I would join the track which would take me off the hill. I stopped, they looked, they got back to grazing, I thought ‘I ain’t going back’ so a wee slow movement towards the gate and slowly they one by one moved away. It was all done in slow motion. Those horns are not to be messed with. I later read this HERE.

I opened the gate and was on the other side and cattle free zone, phew! I cycled up the short distance to where the old grouse track railway passes over the Blacketty Burn and it was scran and water time. For further reading on this area HERE.

It was all downhill from here literally, I still had some wading to do and finally through the last gate and on to what is a mixture of tarmac and potholes. I soon took the Gateside road heading towards Pomillan where I cut across towards Quarriers and a quick dash home on the cycle track.My trainers were still squishing as I headed up the path to my back garden. A hot Radox bath was in order.

 Dumbarton Rock in the early mist


Dumbarton Rock in the early mist

Later in the month, Roddy IOB had extended an invitation to head across the river to Bowling and a trip along the cycle path. We decided to head to Balloch, you could see our breath in the cold air as we set off from Bowling Harbour (minus 2 c at Glasgow Airport) towards Dumbarton where we headed down to take a look at the Rock. It was a gentle ride along the path which follows the River Leven to its meeting with Loch Lomond, we stopped and had a quick look at the PS Maid of the Loch before deciding to keep going north and as we stopped for a water break at Fruin Bridge which had a connection with General Wade, we decided to head up to Luss about 5 miles away.

The track is a mixture of A82 roadside and occasionally heading down along the old lochside road until we reached Luss. A quick Coffee and sausage roll break before a return the same route. The track was quiet for midday Sunday but I’m guessing the cold temperatures would keep numbers down.

We were soon heading along the Leven which was in fine fettle as we sped south towards Dumbarton. The track after Dumbarton was getting busy and to round-up our mile total we took a run along to under the Erskine Bridge. We spent some time down at the harbour itself before hitching the bikes on the rack and heading home. 41 miles enjoyed. I would recommend this run…

Other planned routes are saved away for future trips…

Oh and the temperature had risen to plus 2….

Other snippets..

We’d been sent to a local farm to get a load of well-rotted manure and as we headed along Auchentiber Rd we chanced upon what I took to be the local Hunt, the dogs were being called by the hunting horn before passing us by. It was the first time I’d seen them up this end. I would have followed if I had been on my bike, oh well. It was off to shovel **** instead (and the roses are doing well).

Hunt

Hunt

I reread an old Sport Illustrated article on the contesting side of amateur radio from 1958..go have a shuffty HERE. An interesting read, folks.

A varied month with weekday holidays being used up on days that were hoped to be good cycling weather.

More than a few to take this month before Xmas time.

My thanks to Wikipedia and any other site I may have linked to.

Wishes for the holiday period to all those regulars and to anyone who chances on this post.

(Sept/Oct) Radio Days….

Boy am I well behind with this so I’ve done a double batch of delight (or not)

Sept..

A busier month than most….

Activations..

Four in all.

Three to report from Wales and an earlier one on Ben Donich.

Donich was more of a testing of a recurring knee problem I’d been carrying for weeks and with the Welsh trip nearing, it was time to see if it would hold up as I thought better to know then than half way up a hill down south.

We headed south mid Sept on the now annual DXpedition to North Wales where we based ourselves on the edge of the Snowdonia region. Our main aim was of course, Snowdon. Five days away but three hills activated, the aforementioned Snowdon, Tal Y Fan and Holyhead Mountain on the Isle of Anglesey.

The weather wasn’t as kind on the first two hills as we had hoped with high winds and rain but we finished on Holyhead Mountain in glorious sunshine. It was an enjoyable five days in mid Sept.

Reports on each activation are

Ben Donich HERE  Tal Y Fan HERE    Snowdon HERE     Holyhead Mountain HERE.

Ben Donich from Beinn an Lochain © Neil 2MØNCM

Ben Donich from Beinn an Lochain © Neil 2MØNCM

I had intended to activate a summit special to me as soon as I passed the milestone birthday age of 60 but the Welsh Trip took preference, I’ll make the hill one day….

Chasing..

A normal monthly chasing wise for me with chases for SOTA, WOTA and the Summitsbase HuMP programmes.

First in the log for Sept was fellow blogger Neil 2MØNCM who travelled NE to activate Ben Chonzie on what was a busy day on the GM hills as next bagged was Jack COX on Dungavel Hill.  Robert GUF was on his regular hill, Tinto followed by Bob AWV who was on Black Combe in the SW lakes area. The last contact was on SSB, Paul PJD who was taking part in if I remember correct a RSGB contest that afternoon. I spent some time trawling the SSB part of the band after that but nothing. Paul was on Culter Fell to the S of me. Five STS’s in all so a good trip out and a good start to Sept.

Neil was next out on Fiarach, NE of Crianlarich which brought me closer to my achieving 3,000 chaser points. The following day this was achieved when I caught Robin PKT on the first of his three hills that day Carn Liath, Iain WJZ who activated The Brack, a hill in my plans but not this year and next was Rob YTS who turned up on Stobinnean. Robin PKT finished off the day secondly on Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain then finally on Beinn a’Ghlo – Carn nan Gabhar, these activations moved him past 6,000 pts, an incredible amount considering I have 250…I’ll never catch up though.

To finish off Sept, Rob YTS appeared on Ben Chonzie and last one in the log was PKT on Garbh Bheinn whom I caught whilst out ‘caching’ on Greenock Cut.

A good month pointwise.

The WOTA contacts all with Richard JTD on the Wainwright fells of first Bowfell, this one was from Snowdon and Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark and Thunacar Knott on the return journey home.

Glaslyn

Glaslyn

The HuMP contact was whilst on Snowdon where I worked Sean PZO on nearby Moel Tryfan.

Oct…

A quiet month possibly more to the weather than my apathy.

Only three contacts and first was Neil 2MØNCM on both Ben Vorlich then on the neighbouring hill of Stuc a’Chroin and later that day Graeme MMØHLQ appeared on Ben Venue. Graeme got the views that day which escaped me on my 2011 visit.

Mention is made of October’s weather which had been very wet but still relatively mild. The first snow seen from the home QTH had been late Oct in 2012 but for 2013, it was at the beginning of Nov when Ben Lomond was topped but as I write the snow level on Chaorach and a’Mhanaich is roughly 1,600 FT ASL but is quickly creeping higher as the temperature rises.(it has just disappeared quickly as daytime temperatures rose)

HF..

The higher bands have sprung into life especially mid October onwards with contacts being made regularly into North America as I try to add the states I am missing for WAS. I’m slowly getting there. The grey line shows some interesting listening on 10m. I’ve concentrated on 10m after work but it is a short window timescale.

I still have a look through the bands from 80m upwards.

Cycling…

Still pounding the highways and byways of Renfrewshire and one trip across to Argyllshire, post HERE. The weather has been variable and I try to catch dry weather where possible but have suffered more than my share of pedalling heavy downpours. I don’t mind the rain but combined with anything above a stiff breeze isn’t much fun.

Conic Hill

Conic Hill

Odds and sods…

I’ve read another of Mike Parker’s ‘the Wild Rover’ which I found funny and worth recommending. The book HERE. I’ve also just re-read ‘In search of Robert Millar‘ by Richard Moore, a complex biography about the rise of Scotland ‘s own King of the Mountains, Robert took the ‘KoM’ jersey in the Le Tour in 1984 an incredible achievement. I read most of my books now on a Kindle or on my phone and find it a bit OTT for VAT being paid on digital books, another tax on enjoyment. I still buy ‘real’ books and have a pile sitting behind me still waiting to be read but feet up in the works van at lunch break and its kindle time LOL.

It will soon be another year over and plans being made for next year but radio may be playing a smaller part in these.

I have used Amazon to link for the books I recommend but there are other suppliers.

Along Long And Doon The Other Side….

With many geocaches along (groan) the way….

Sitting with work holidays to be taken, I thought that I’d use them if the weather was looking like cycling weather.

Two days earlier I’d a dental appointment early afternoon so it wasn’t being wasted as I then headed afterwards eastwards towards Bishopton where I had a wee go at improving my time for heading up Hatton Brae, I later found out I’d dropped the time to below 7 mins, very happy with that. I did the usual route to the Red Smiddy roundabout then the return journey via Houston, cycle track to home. A good leg stretch.

As I spend my life working outside, I keep an eagle eye on the weather forecast and Thursday was looking good so a holiday booked.

Wednesday evening was busy between printing off maps, note taking of geocaches along the route BUT I’d extended the original route as I’d planned a run up to Garelochhead then along the Glen Fruin Haul Road where I got dropped off over the last five years to climb up ‘Beinns a’Mhanaich and Chaorach. It just appealed to me.

The original route would see me heading downhill to catch a train to Gourock then the ferry to Kilcreggan but now to my new destination Arrochar.

I’d rose early as I normally do and checked everything (again) then sat and played radio, conditions were just improving as not long before I left I worked JA. Dang !

Polly visits Kilcreggan Pier

Polly visits Kilcreggan Pier

First thing that morning was giving my bike a check over, I topped up the back tyre.

All packed, I set off a bit earlier and this was to prove a good idea as the trains were running late. It was my first time on the train with a bike so it was a case of just standing along the shortish journey. It was then off at Gourock and a quick cycle to the Kilcreggan ferry landing. The ferry was arriving and it was on and the lad used a rope to secure my bike for the journey. I forgot a bungee…Doh!

A short trip across the river brought some happy memories of my first ever holiday, my dad had bought a tent and off we’d headed to the beach between Kilcreggan and Portkil Bay where we spent a glorious fortnight eating spuds and various canned meats, heaven.. I fished and picked shellfish each low tide and we feasted on mussels, whelks and the odd ‘clabbydoo’. Who needs foreign holidays…back to today, it was not long before the boat tied up and I headed off KIlcreggan Pier to find the first geocache.

I know these roads well so the first mile is an uphill stretch, I did debate turning towards Cove and heading out then over the Peaton road with a quick visit to Coulport beach where I spent my 21st birthday fishing in the pouring rain, one lousy undersized cod for my troubles but instead of a big party, we had taken a boot load of drink with us, split between four, sorry three (John the driver that day had no luck). This area holds some good memories.

I dropped down the other side into Roseneath and yes, another geocache, I apologize to the female I startled as I appeared from under a bridge in Clachan Glen, the words ‘I’m geocaching’ probably meant nothing, earlier I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up walking along the beach. The cache was at the last part of the bridge I looked.

Out to the main road, I headed to Garelochhead and I kept getting sprayed from traffic as there was plenty water on the road. My next ‘visit’ was to the ‘Isabella Campbell Memorial’ on the outskirts of the village. It was well signposted as I turned up a rough drive and chained my bike to a gate and I walked up to a small gate and there is a stone inscribed ‘Here Isabella Campbell was wont to pray’. Further reading on this HERE. I sat on the nearby bench and took in the surroundings after I found the cache. A quiet place to contemplate. I can see why she chose this place.

a'Mhanaich, Chaorach with Faslane

a’Mhanaich, Chaorach with Faslane

It was now into the village and I took the B872 to Whistlefield and soon I saw the road sign , 15% hill….not for me so I cycled up so far and I walked the rest up to the viewpoint where a select felling of trees would certainly help the views but yes, you’ve guessed I had an ulterior motive, a scramble through the ferns and brambles and a sodden cache was found and replaced.

I had found as I researched this area a website extolling the Three Lochs Way…HERE.

This certainly appeals more than the cycle trip I was to take riding above the steep banks along Loch Long. I think it will be visited soon than later as it can be done section by section and not over the recommended 3 or 4 days.

I joined the road again and straight through the roundabout at where I originally planned to head along the Haul Rd and soon I was heading swiftly down the brae past the Finnart refinery, a sweet smell of oil pervading the air as I started heading towards the Glen Mallon MOD jetty along what I’d describe as a rollercoaster of a road. The road towards the lochside is an almost blanket of trees with only the occasional glimpse of the high points of the Cowal hills.

It was the thought of some scran at Arrochar which kept the wheels rolling at the normal 12mph, I soon arrived and not long after I was sitting in the drizzle looking across the loch hoping that the Cobbler would show in its glory but not today. A slice roll and coffee which was most excellent was soon downed (it should be as it cost enough).

It was on the road again to follow the route in which the Vikings once took as they headed to Loch Lomond to pillage and whatever else they did. They moved their boats across the two miles to Tarbet I would imagine rolling the boats on logs (my theory), I had two stops on the way looking suspicious once again as I cached. Two caches soon bagged, I took the main road as the pavement path looked as if it had been recently pruned in places, this is not a good idea to cycle through if hawthorn is present.

The obligatory image of the 'Ben'

The obligatory image of the ‘Ben’

I soon was cycling through Tarbet, one of the many Tarbets throughout Scotland and if you see that Arrochar’s gaelic name is ‘An Tairbeart Iar‘, walkers among us also know of ‘Cruach Tairbeirt’, a hill that is dwarfed by the higher hills in the Arrochar area. Tarbet at Loch Lomond is Tairbeart Loch Laomainn’ , soon I took what is the ‘West Side Lomond Cycle Path’ and this is an excellent alternative to the main A82.  I knew of a cycle path but never knew it started as far up the loch as this but soon I was moving S and picking up geocaches on the way, the path follows a line sometimes running down the lochside and then reverts to the roadside on occasions.

Passing the Rubra’s Ban, Dubh and Mor and in between a ride round the oddly named Firkin Point where I met three dog walkers who stubbornly stood their ground as I approached now I realise I have to give way to pedestrians at times but this threesome and accompanying mutts looked at me with blank expressions, I know I’m eccentric but I wished them a cheery ‘Good afternoon, Ladies’ as I slowly passed, I wonder what the only male among them would have thought. Yer a rascal Bob.

The journey S took a break at Rubra Mor for some water and a quick look at the loch, the path is in excellent condition although on the leaf strewn path areas I took care. I soon passed through Inverbeg still bagging the odd cache, eleven in total for the journey. I met one cyclist just outside Luss at Culag on what was now a mild sunny afternoon although the Ben wasn’t showing its face at this moment. There are one or two points on the path where you have to slow for vehicular traffic and sod’s law, I met a car at one who threw me a dirty look as I gave way as she entered her lochside home, I guess not a liker of cyclists…

I dropped down into the village of Luss once famous as Glendarroch in the STV soap opera ‘Take the High Road‘, I half expected to bump into Inverdarroch, Isabel, Morag or the infamous Mrs Mack….LOL. Even worse I remember the forerunner to it ‘Garnock Way’, enough said.

The next cache was ‘The Boy in the Loch’ placed near a statue of ‘Wee Peter’ as you expect at Ardochly just south of Luss, more on ‘Wee Peter’ HERE, other theories abound but I’ll use this one.

Idyllic

Idyllic

Soon it was off to pick up the last cache whilst passing the Loch Lomond Golf course at Intavannach View. It was getting on timewise so I thought no more and head straight home which was still a long way off. I swept past Duck Bay Marina before heading into Balloch where I joined a familiar track along the River Leven which was busy and met some eejit who harangued me for having my dog off its lead..red rag to a Bob, my reply ? not printable after I explained the dog was not mine…aye you meet them.

I was soon turning off at Dalreogh Station, choo choo home? nah, carry on.

Cutting through the back streets of Dumbarton I was soon on the cycle path taking me towards Bowling and the Erskine Bridge. I took a quick water break before I headed over the bridge and I put on my lights as it was now twilight. I came off the bridge and took the Bishopton road but I rode the path on the N side of the road. It was out of Bishopton and on to a regular stretch to Houston then on to Bridge of Weir and the cycle track. It was dark now and as I cycled along the track I knew I will have upgrade my lights as the headlight although useful in an urban lit area is lacking on an unlit track.

I was halfway between BoW and Kilmacolm , I saw figures ahead and slowed, two women with prams….oh well, ‘Evening ladies’ and off again. I passed through the village and soon was in the dark confines of the track still turning 6 min miles which after a long journey wasn’t too bad. I swooped down the last hill and had only 3/4 mile to go. I took the usual last short rises with aplomb and arrived at my back door with Katie waiting to carry me in. My youngest had followed me on Endomondo and my tea was ready in the oven. Ideal timing…

A good soak, a bottle of chilled cider…..an excellent end to a fantastic if wearying day.

PS I was glad I had on my padded cycle shorts *wink*

I’ve included this 360Cities of Firkin Point HERE

My thanks as usual to Wikipedia and other sites I have linked to.

Ynys Mon, A Day Visit…Part 3

Ynys Mon, otherwise know as Anglesey to us non Welsh-speaking oiks.

I had a look into the meaning of this isle’s name and I came across a few explanations, Try HERE and it will be clearer.

Once called ‘Mam Cymru‘, the breadbasket of Wales.

Snowdon conquered, another fine meal and cider enjoyed, we had no firm plans for the Thursday as the forecast was not promising especially the wind speed.

We woke to high winds and more rain and the nearest hill well under cloud.

‘Tourist time’ we agreed, I’d always wanted to see the Menai Suspension Bridge built by a fellow Scot, Thomas Telford and as it wasn’t that far away. It was the start of a plan which involved breakfast then off across to Anglesey.

We left Bangor town centre and headed across the Menai Straits but the bridge we crossed was the Pont Britannia, more info HERE  . We headed north and stopped at a vantage point in which we saw both the suspension bridge and Ynys Gored Goch, an intriguing island out in the Swellies, more info HERE. I made a mental note to find out more about and found it has quite an illustrious history. We carried on and headed towards Holyhead on the separate Holy (Holyhead?) Island and as we passed through the town of Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll a sudden realisation hit me where we were, the town with the longest railway station name world-wide…the wonderfully named Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. If I’ve spelt it wrong, just refer to the image in this post and the explanation. It was seemingly conjured up as a tourist attraction and by the number of folk talking photographs when we visited, it has worked.

We soon left the station behind and the day was turning into blue sky and sunshine although it was very breezy. A training jet then seen flying at low-level across farmland from the nearby RAF base.

The explanation

The explanation

We headed towards the port town of Holyhead, in the early 1800’s the government laid down a plan to connect London to Dublin with a direct road (later the A5) and responsibility for completing the project was given to earlier mentioned engineer Thomas Telford. The history of the A5 is HERE . I’ll let Wikipedia relate the history..

We soon crossed the causeway into Ynys Gybi (Holy or Holyhead Island), we drove along the waterfront following signs to the Breakwater Country Park which Holyhead Mountain looms over. The ruins of a large quarry on its north side and the associated quarry buildings which supplied the stone for the local breakwater.

As we got out of the car to stretch our legs, the conversation started ‘Much charge left in the VX7 ?’, ‘Dunno maybe’, ‘its a Marilyn’, ‘It’s not far away’,  ‘We wouldn’t have that much height to make’, ‘It wouldn’t take long’. Patsy said ‘Go for it’ so we did heading up one of a myriad of paths taking the line towards the highest ground and just below the summit, a light scramble up some loose scree but a more than leisurely stroll on other paths.

As we reached the top, two large ferries were heading into the Irish Sea including the ‘MS Ulysses‘, This ferry stands 12 decks high, a tall ship indeed.

In our hurry to set off, we never checked for a notebook or pen but Roddy had his Swiss Army do everything knife with a small pen and his OS map was our log. I searched high and low for the summit geocache which escaped me but I have since read that the hill was also activated two days later and someone found it during the activation. Another one escaped me, at least I looked this time, on Tal Y Fan my gps had shown I was 23ft away and in the murky weather etc, I forgot it DOH!

Yer man GW7GAX

Yer man GW7GAX

We shared contacts again and first in the log was Sean PZO for the second time and Sean was to activate the hill two days later. It was a local station Bob RZL somewhere just below us in the nearby town before we gave Patsy 2WØUPG a call down below in the car park. I called and called and nobody but soon we got a call from Gwyn XAS on the mainland in Conwy. The sky around us was a deep shade of blue and sitting in the ‘shelter’ out of the strong breeze it was pleasantly warm.

Two more contacts to finish the activation, Paddy PAD in nearby Trearddur Bay and last name in the log was John ZPL near our base in Bangor. Unfortunately due to the battery situation we had to cut the activation short although we did try some calls after John but no takers. It was satisfying to bag another hill and make some more contacts. I could sit at the summit on this hill and play radio regularly. I mean look at the colour of that sky !

We packed everything away and decided on an alternative way down, heading east we ended up skirting the edge of Holyhead before finally speaking with a dog walker who pointed us through a path which led us back to the car park. It was a cracking day for a stroll and a first activation whilst dressed for sightseeing.

It was another quick stroll around the old quarry buildings reading about their use in the past.

It was time to head back to Bangor via the Suspension Bridge, we stopped to take some more photos and finally we left Anglesey by the bridge I had wanted to see.

It was a shower and change of clothes for our last night at Pentir.

We had ordered and were eating when we got asked to ‘join’ in on what is the regular Quiz Night in the Vaynol. We threw a quid each in and were given our question papers. We set about trying to kick the grey matter into gear and we completed the first quiz paper, a written exercise. To our surprise, we came in the top half…

Ynys Gored Goch

Ynys Gored Goch

It was time to settle down for the main event and phew! these questions were hard and I mean obscure into the bargain but we knuckled down and the two young ‘uns with me came through and we handed our quiz sheet in with a ‘ Looks good’ comment.

The drums rolled, the top three in reverse and guess what ? we finished second, one  point behind the winners but delighted at going in cold…Silver for the lads. More cider to celebrate.

Please never mention Zig’n’Zag to me again please…..

Early next morning it was packing time which doesn’t take us men long and off yes, you’ve guessed where and for what.

We left Bangor behind and it was to head home and a six-hour journey, leaving Wales behind we headed north up the motorway where we monitored 2m FM and soon I was working Richard JTD on three separate WOTA summits, Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark and Thunacar Knott. Three WOTA points was a bonus.

A quick stop in Wigan for water, loo and scran before a non stop return home.

It was good to have been away but also good to return home.

An excellent five days spent with both Roddy and Patsy, three hills climbed with Snowdon our intended done…

Thanks to Roddy for the company on the way up and down the hills, the craic etc. To Patsy for his driving all those miles and for our punning competitions….

It was the weekend to rest then back to the daily grind…..

Didn’t We Have A Lovely Time…..Pt 2

A dismal but enjoyable activation of Tal Y Fan was out the way and having seen the views we missed, oh well maybe another time ?

It was out again to Pentir for scran and a discussion,  the topic ? was it what draught cider tonight ? nope it was the next day’s activation and more to the point, would it be Snowdon ?

The Met Office forecast showed fog for most of Wednesday’s daylight hours and lets just say high winds with Thursday even windier if that seemed possible but one problem could be in the way.

The Tour of Britain cycle race..

which I had hoped to see. Llanberis was the finish of Stage 4 which would start from Stoke-on-Trent and the town would be in near shutdown mode late morning to late afternoon. This reminded me of the fishing trip I’d gone to Ireland just as the foot and mouth epidemic had started here in the UK and unbelievably we found out the evening before we headed across, a total ban on fishing….I can say the black stuff took a terrible pounding that week but we got to see more pubs than normal. I must go back some day with radio in mind.

Mountain Steam Train at depot

Mountain Steam Train at depot

We decided that Wednesday was the best option with an alternative route up the Llanberis track if needed. We already had a recce to the train station and the start of the track in Llanberis so we could just turn up and go. Business out of the road it was more excellent food washed down with draught cider, heaven…

It was back to base to double-check everything and prepare for the next day.

I did a bit of ‘surfing’ and came up with a recent story of a 4×4 which ‘appeared’ on the summit driverless. Click on link to read the article HERE. You must read the update at the very foot of the article, I almost sprayed my keyboard, coffee this time when I read what had happened to the vehicle whilst they decided its fate…only at 3,500ft. I also came across this old footage of an earlier successful attempt circa 1920 click HERE. Enthusiasm at its best.

An early rise and after some frenetic phone calls it was a quick dash to the train station at Llanberis to book Patsy on the uphill choo choo. No phone bookings today, the woman had said. She had also said there had been the odd snow flurry at the summit in the last 24 hours, oops. All booked it was time to have a quick look at what was now a hive of activity with barriers being set up for the Tour finishing line just down from the railway station, the town was busy even at 9am.

We stopped and asked about the road closure and good news, the Pen Y Pass would only be closed on a rolling roadblock as the cyclists powered their way through. Excellent news so it was off to grab our gear and to that supermarket for another excellent brekkie. It seems all we do is eat on these trips. I stocked up with such essentials as dolly mixtures, gummies and choc buttons (sugar for energy boost, honest).

We set off the 10 mile trip from Bangor to the top of Pen Y Pass where we arrive to find the car park already full with lycra clad cyclists milling about hours before the peloton would flash by in seconds.

Final checks © Patsy 2MØUPG

Final checks © Patsy 2MØUPG

As Patsy drove off we started out a gentle incline along an excellent track and almost right away, it started to lightly rain but it cleared soon after as we took in the sights and sounds as we ascended via the Miners Track, there are many tracks which lead to Snowdon’s summit and this one was well worn plus we met early birds were heading back down. After not too long we turned into what be described as an magnificent amphitheatre with high rock walls on three sides. This was impressive although we knew the serious ascent would come soon.

As we walked across the causeway at Lyn Llydaw, the path headed left and soon we were passing the old mine buildings. It must have a hard life to work here all year round. Read this link about this track which mentions how the copper ore was first taken off the mountain HERE. The track we were heading along was built later to service the mine. My camera decided to play funny boggers at this point so after a quick check, I just packed it away.

Once we reached Glaslyn, the serious stuff of 2000 ft ascent in just under a mile, it was a pleasant hike up with the results of my recent cycling and walking regime paying dividends. I stopped occasionally to take in the dramatic surroundings looking for the pillar which signalled the last summit push, I had a quick break to take on water and ‘dolly mixtures’ which I shared with another two lads before who had laughed but admitted a great way to take on sugar. I now pushed on to the pillar which marks junction with the Llanberis path. I stopped and I knew by the sound in the distance, a train was heading my way, was it Patsy ?

I stopped and checked the time, it would be the 1.30 choo choo and waved at the Patsy fella as the train headed the last stretch to the top. We headed up what is a well trodden path and there in the scuttling cloud was the summit station, visitors viewing area and summit cairn. We made it !

Glaslyn

Glaslyn

A quick walk up the steps to touch the summit cairn but the wind at this point was blowing hard and one fellow in front of us looked as if he nearly lost his balance. Photographs taken quickly due to the wind and surprisingly mid-week in mid Sept the summit was busy. Im ny photo, I was hanging on for dear life, it was that windy (and exposed to the rear of me)

We snuck in to a nook just below the summit cairn and as we were getting ourselves organised, a party of (I’m assuming) primary school kids gathered below us and proceeded to sing out ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau‘. Song HERE. This was worth the climb to the top alone and as they sang an interested audience gathered round and as they finished, they got the accolade they deserved. Fantastic ! I think someone must know something as 12 months earlier we had topped Scafell Pike a RAF jet had did a circle of the summit then flew off. Top that !

It was now time to get going with the purpose of our climb, one call and it was Sean PZO who was on nearby HuMP Moel Tryfan, I’ve worked Sean before but this time it was in his back yard. As the previous day we shared contacts as the weather wasn’t suitable for a long activation as well as high winds a chilling edge to it brought slowly cooling fingers. The next call brought Karen XYL from the Wirral who had spoken with us the previous day. We found Richard JTD portable on Bowfell in the Lake District, this is not a Marilyn but a WOTA summit so I was glad to catch a chasing point. A good handheld contact of approx 165 km.

Pressing on John ZPL from nearby Bangor was in our log then we soon wrote Mike BLH in Lancashire in the log, I’ve now spoken with Mike on more than a few occasions. Mike compiles the excellent news on Summitsbase with articles from more than a few contributors.

Looking back on our ascent © Roddy 2MØIOB

Looking back on our ascent © Roddy 2MØIOB

Occasionally glimpses of the surrounding countryside would show but we carried on with Paul PMA in the Wirral, Allan VPX in Pencader then John CBB called us from across the Irish Sea, an EI station in the log as I’d hoped, John was approx 165 km but a LOS contact. We called on .500 but no takers and with the cold now taking effect, I took out the 4m FM handie and first call was Bob RHD in Pwllheli and I had a quick chat before I left to try one more call and Alun CYM replied to my call, I’d worked Alun on 4m before from one of my Beinn a’Mhanaich activations whilst he was ascending Moel Eilio, It was good to have a chat but sadly I was keeping contacts short for reasons already given. I spotted a couple with handies looking at us whilst we were operating and Roddy had nipped down to have a quick word, it was two G stations on a visit but not doing SOTA.

It was a quick pack away of the radio equipment, short activation but 8 contacts on 2m and 2 on 4m in the log. Oh how I would have loved to set up the 5 element yagi.

The summit viewing station was the next stop and I thought I’d better get a postcard sent from the summit with its special postage frank. I must say it was difficult writing with cold hands but I duly paid got stamps then posted. A quick loo visit and it was time to start heading down our chosen path, the Llanberis track.

GAX at summit cairn © Roddy 2MØIOB

GAX at summit cairn © Roddy 2MØIOB

We passed someone with totally useless footwear but I’ll not comment any further, just a shake of the head…but wedges ?

The track down is excellent and more gradual till its meeting with a single track road on the outskirts of Llanberis. We toddled down taking in the views as the mist and cloud cleared as we fell in height.

We soon reached the Halfway House but no soup or sandwich today as it was closing. A cuppa would have been welcome.

Just over halfway down, my right knee started to feel the strain of the days ascending then descending but no need to strap it up as I slowed slightly and took all opportunities to walk on the softer grass at the side of the path. Roddy chatted with Patsy who had parked at the bottom of the steep tarmac track that would finish the descent for us. I passed through the signposted gate on to a steep single track road then minutes later I was sitting in the car, my knee was glad I think.

Snowdon was ticked off and I had finally completed the Three Peaks Challenge in just under 45 years (not intentional).

Oh and two caches were logged, both at the summit.

It was through Llanberis where they were busily dismantling everything after the cycle race. I’d set the box at home to record all the days of the Tour I would miss. It would have been an exciting finish to have watched, ces’t la vie.

The activation © Patsy 2MØUPG

The activation © Patsy 2MØUPG

It was not before long we were back at our base and feet up….before our trip to Pentir. Our theory is to find somewhere where the food and drink is excellent and stick with it, Tripadvisor helped us this time round. Our breakfast venue ? consistently good.

Just as an aside, if Snowdon were to be in the Scottish Munro’s List it would be in 57th place of the 283 listed..

The Summit Viewing area is not the highest in the UK as that honour goes to the Ptarmigan Restaurant on Cairn Gorm at 1,097m ASL.

Information on the Snowdon Mountain Railway HERE.

Snowdonia National Park HERE

Vaynol Arms, Pentir HERE

The report ot the Tour stage 4  HERE

Geocaches – Where is Snowdon Summit  HERE

Summit or submit HERE

My thanks to all those sites I have linked to and especially Wikipedia..

(Aug) Radio Days……

Too much inactivity in the Mhor life just now, I guess it is time to get back out on the hill tops or pedalling to some interesting places. I can put down some of it to a knee injury suffered whilst not at play. The weather has turned autumnal towards the end of the month, this is more my ‘liked’ weather conditions. 

I’ll start as usual with the SOTA chasing as no activations to report but with a bit of luck, I’ll have a few soon. Watch this space.

Chasing….

The usual suspects have been busy out and about.

First logged in August was Robin PKT who took in two of the Lawer range but I only caught him on Meall Garbh.  Four days later I caught him on Meall Ghaordaidh, this contact was like the previous one on SSB I was too late to catch him on FM.

A new activator (to me) Rob YTS whom I worked on Meall nan Tarmachan, I had a quick chat with him before he left to work HF. Good to see another station taking the time to work VHF as well as his main HF. Later that day I worked Jack COX on the adjacent summits of Ben More and Stobinnean in the Crianlarich Alps. Hills I see most days and still to attempt one of them although the later interests me most. Blaming Graeme HLQ for that.

Rob YTS was to pop up a few days later on Ben Vorlich ( the Loch Earn one) before he made his way to Stuc a’Chroin. More points bagged towards the 3,000 mark.  The following day Craig PHT appeared on Conic Hill and I followed Craig on his ascent using Endomondo so whilst poor Craig was climbing I got the coffee and cake to Bob’s desk and waited.  I think Conic is now my top ‘chase’.

Iain WJZ appeared on Beinn Mhor which LOS isn’t too far from the home QTH and as expected full signal, it was my first chase of Iain in Aug who followed this up the next day with an activation on the Mull of Kintyre but as I was at home ‘resting’ I missed him.

Aug 2013 chases

Aug 2013 chases

The next day, I worked Robin PKT on his ‘local’ hill Ben Nevis and other chases that day were fellow bloggers Neil 2MØNCM on Beinn Chabhair to the N of Lomond and Craig PHT on Beinn Narnain….

A quieter month but still plenty of points accrued and thanks once again to those who ventured out.

HF…..

Spending too much time either monitoring or giving a call out on various bands mostly from 30m to 15m on the data sections. JT65 has been the mode of choice with just an occasional visit to JT9 but I spent more time monitoring this mode. PSK being tried on the odd occasion just to keep my hand in and hopefully work some new stations.

I mentioned in last month’s Radio days that I was about to experiment with another data mode, Sim31. I duly downloaded and set it up and off to 20m and gave a few calls over a couple of hours. I tried and tried….nothing but decided that I’d put some time aside to both watch and call CQ over the next few days, I did this and nothing. I kept popping in and seeing if any activity, nothing. Beginners no luck I think. I’ll try again in the near future.

I downloaded and re-installed Log4OM as with the new ADIF 3.04 appearing it might be time to update my electronic logging program from the HRD logging I presently use. HRD is now a paid program and the version I have will not be updated so time to possibly move to another program. I’m still finding my way around. Daniele IW3HMH’s program is HERE. Worth a look if you need an electronic log. Techy stuff on the new ADIF HERE. Oh and SOTA is now included in the new ADIF

MY_SOTA_REF the logging station’s International SOTA Reference.

SOTA_REF the contacted station’s International SOTA Reference.

Nice.

Odds and sods….

The days are now ticking down to the mid September 2013 DX-Expedition to North Wales, regular readers will have read about our (Roddy 2MØIOB and Patsy 2MØUPG) 2011 trip to the Isle of Mull HERE and the 2012 trip to the Lake District HERE. Hills being at and maps about to be printed off, GPX files loaded into the GPS and get all the other palaver organised. Looking forward to it.

I was logging my chase of Craig PHT’s activation of the Hill of Stake when an excerpt of Jonny Muir’s’ Height of Madness ‘ that  I recommended recently came to mind. Access to this hill  is not most people’s favourite due to the featureless and pathless slog through bog and heather. Jonny had made mention so I quote from his book ‘I’d spent two hours trudging up and down the loneliest  countryside I had ever come across, gurgling morasses and gorse, to stand on the Hill of Stake’ Where have I heard descriptions like that before ? It’s really a no bad hill. I’ll be back early next year, I hope !!

I have recently read Mark Horrell’s ‘In Footsteps of Mallory’ which I thoroughly enjoyed, I have a couple more of his ebooks to read. His blog is worth bookmarking. In between I re-read a Bill Bryson book ‘I’m a stranger here myself. I’d recommend any of Mr Bryson’s books.

I’m sure those among us who are of a certain age will remember the ‘Number Stations’ when listening around HF , there has been many internet articles written on the subject, I guess you could say it has a cult following.

‘The Kernel’ which describes itself as an online ‘Tech, media and politics for the enquiring minds’ recently ran an article and update on the British part of the Numbers game..I’ll leave it to you to read…

Track near Cunston AFTER

Track near Cunston AFTER

First article HERE and an update link at the bottom of the article !!! Intriguing and high-tech, my erse. I spy,a phone line and TBH the follow-up text..hilarious. In these days of GCHQ and the NSA being exposed for their ‘intelligence gathering’, this has ‘Keystone Cops’ written all over it. They troll the corridors of so-called élite education establishments to come up with that.  Very ‘Get Smart‘ I think, anyone remember that programme ? One episode HERE

You know of my regular trips using Route 75 cycle track on my countryside cycle jaunts but recently I got involved with a tidy up of the overgrown edges between higher Port Glasgow and the W side of Kilmacolm. The track from Greenock to Quarriers village has now been maintained in this way. A metre cut down either side does make a difference, now the overhanging branches need done. I’m slowly getting near the 1,000 ml mark which is an achievement for an oldie like me.

My thanks as usual to Wikipedia, Peakbagger and other sites I have linked to.

To embiggen any image, just click to get the full sized image.

Didn’t We Have A Lovely Time ? pt 1

‘The day we went to Bangor’……

Croeso !

It was that time…

the 2013 SOTA EX(pedition) to North Wales.

After a couple of possible ‘blips’ it was time to head south to North Wales for five days to play radio and activate some hills with obviously the priority hill Y Wyddfa or Snowdon as it is known outside of Wales. The intention was to travel down on the Monday, settle in and plan our attack for three days then travel back on the Friday.

It was a dreary day as we left slightly later than planned but soon we were travelling down through the Border region where as usual we made a stop at a well known supermarket just outside Carlisle, can I mention Asda ?

Final shopping as well as a good lunch, loo break then it was to be non stop to Bangor situated on the Welsh mainland opposite the Isle of Anglesey. We had the FT817 monitoring as we headed south just in the off chance any SOTA or WOTA stations were active but only localised calling was heard. The weather turned to sunshine as we headed along the A55 towards our base for the next five days. A false dawn I’m afraid.

Exciting ? of course it was as Snowdon would be another country top bagged. I would finally complete the Three Peaks Challenge in slightly under 45 years haha. Did I mention I turned the ripe old age of 60 the previous day and the trip south has delayed the celebrations until I return.

Vaynol Arms

Vaynol Arms

Excellent route planning saw us arriving in good time and Roddy had been giving us a running commentary of all the local landmarks along our route. Things were on a high.

We settled into the Travelodge and it was quickly approaching time to make that decision, where do we eat?

The internet was our friend and with glowing online reports it was off to nearby Pentir and the Vaynol Arms. It was a decision not to be regretted as we made that our evening eating (and drinking) base for the next four nights, food to remember. A very friendly pub in which we were made most welcome.

The weather forecast was not playing ball with us and constant monitoring of the Met Office forecast had us looking more in hope.

The day that looked best suited for Snowdon was on the Wednesday but there could have been problems as the fourth stage of the Tour of Britain cycle race was racing over the Pen-Y-Pass and finishing in Llanberis so access to the Pen Y Pass car park may have meant we had to ascend via the Llanberis track. More on this later.

Tuesday morning arrived and it was wet and windy, not on and off but constant. It was agreed to head to the local branch of the previous named supermarket for one of the excellent breakfasts whilst deciding what could be done. Fed and watered, it was decided to give Tal Y Fan a crack. It has a high starting point with just slightly over a mile to the summit. Interestingly enough this mountain or should I say, still a mountain. Explanation video HERE. In the video are the views that we ‘missed’ plus the BBC report and video is HERE

2WØIOB on Tal Y Fan

2WØIOB on Tal Y Fan

We headed through Llanberis ascending up over the Pen-Y-Pass marvelling at the rugged scenery whilst noting our drop off point if we took our proposed route to Snowdon, the Miners Track to the Snowdon summit.

Today was Tal Y Fan and we dropped down the pass before heading past Capel Curig with Betws-Y-Coed where we would head north along the banks of the Afon Conwy looking first for Llanwrst then a left turn at Tal-Y-Cafn where we travelled along country roads until we cut through the village of Rowen. We the started to head up in height on what was a very narrow single track road with not much clearance either side on some corners.

I opened a gate which led us on to a T junction, we turned right and within a kilometer drive Patsy dropped us off at a roadside stile at SH 731714. The rain was now a steady drizzle being blown into our faces as we headed up a defined well signposted path before a final scramble up through a rocky area.

The wind and rain now was full into our faces and after a customary photo at the trig point, it was to stand behind a high piece of dry stane dyke.

GW7GAX Tal Y Fan

GW7GAX Tal Y Fan

Roddy had first call and Karen XYL from the Wirral was first in the log and told us we were missing a grand view point, ach well. I called next and Bob ODU from the same area was logged. We shared contacts as we did only a handheld activation in which the VX 7 showed its waterproof capabilities. I next called and quickly logged Chris YKK in nearby Rhyl.

Bridge on road to Rowen

Bridge on road to Rowen

The drizzle started to get slightly heavier but we carried on and Mark PIE in Preston was next followed by BLV in Ellesmere Port. We decided that we wouldn’t hang about so next contact was Rob HRT in Southport, Patsy our expedition driver down in Rowen and finally Allan NPJ in the Wirral was logged. We did try more calls but to be honest, we didn’t want to stay long so it was the reverse route and as it would have it the cloud started to clear as we headed down the last field to the stile where Patsy was waiting. Typical but the hill was activated.

We headed back down the single track road but took another option just to see where it led but soon we were heading back down the A405 to join the A5 at Betws-Y-Coed where we then followed the next days cycle tour route. We stopped here to have a quick look around.

We were intrigued on the outward journey when we passed  a sign ‘Ugly House’ so on our return over the pass we stopped to see if it but on first look, we half expected a troll to appear. As you will see in the image it is ‘interesting’.

the 'Ugly House'

the ‘Ugly House’

We arrived but with only our rain jackets still slightly damp but my flou yellow Morton tammy was beat as it wouldn’t dry out missing the next days ‘big’ activation.

It was a quick shower and off to eat.

The big one ? Coming soon…..

I’ll possibly add to this so pop back…..

A Trip To Visit An Old Friend….

Ben Donich.

Was it really 18 month since my last visit ?

It isn’t the biggest of the Arrochar area hills, it isn’t the prettiest but it has a magic of its own, why ? I don’t know perhaps it was the first hill I ‘activated’ in the area or is it the cracking views ? It’s just one of those hills.

I’ve been affected by a niggling knee injury which has bothered me for almost six weeks and with the yearly trip quickly nearing. I thought midweek that it was time to ‘test’ the said knee so with not much thought, where ? Donich. Why ? just over 1,800ft ascent in just over two miles and with some steepish sections it would surely let me know if walking in North Wales was a goer. It would also be a last check of equipment before heading south.

The usual preparations and the rukkie packed by the evening before. I had only water and food to prepare early Sunday morning. I’d known of Neil 2MØMCN’s trip NE to Ben Chonzie and noticed the blue LED on my phone flashing so I knew he was heading N. I’d fired off a mail just after six letting him know the present conditions to the N but he was already heading up the M77.

Ben Donich from the summit of Cnoc Coinnich

Ben Donich from the summit of Cnoc Coinnich

As we headed up the Rest I saw the upgrades done to the old road which hopes to keep traffic moving if any future landslides block the Rest. A good steep finish at the top though.

I arrived to find the upper part of the hill shrouded in cloud as the forecast had predicted. I waved Katie off and got the Endo going as I had alerted the usual crew to my heading out. I did later get a text from Roddy IOB with his usual concern when the track stopped uploading after 43 mins.

An easy start along a forestry track until the marker on your left says ‘Hill Access’ and it is straight up a track which is now taking on a more natural look compared as the blatant man-made path in 2010.

I passed through the gate on to the serious start to the ascent, I made a mental note to take a short break after one hour of climbing, the path was wet most of the ascent and as I walked over the first Coire I stopped and had a chat with a couple who were heading back south after their descent. A good hill to finish their holiday on.

I headed up and soon I disappeared into the cloud and the visibility was at best 50m, I decided this was a good time to use the GPS which I had preloaded with my GPX file of my last trip. I had tested it on local walks but this was the first time used in cloud.  GPS is just an extra aid to navigation but I still carry the compass and OS map as electronics can take strange notions.

I slogged upwards and found myself at the Scramble, a drop of 15 ft plus. I had a good look at the footholds and saw some of the lower ones were wet so I gingerly descended. I picked up my pole and mast and made my way through the rock slippage not like the time I headed across a wet slab and slipped and drew blood. A lesson learned that day, stick to the path and no shortcuts.

Loch Restil and the top of The Rest

Loch Restil and the top of The Rest

Visibility never seemed to improve so it was up the last rises and as I made my way up the path as it levels out I could see two figures coming out of the mist.  A cheery hello and I knew one of the lads so I spent some time chatting before I headed the short distance to the trig point, faded white by the way.

I paused Endo and pleased to see it had been less that two hours ascent (109 mins actually). Nice one, Mhor.

It was quite breezy on the summit so it was down the side of some ‘slippage’ rocks for shelter. I tried to call home, send texts then post a ‘spot’ but nothing. I would have to rely on an early contact.

I thought 4m FM first as it is my intention to use this on my NW trip as I’ll be dual activating with Roddy IOB, as back up I’ll try 70cm as well. I’ve had success on 4m here before as Donich was the first hill that I fully activated on that band but today, nothing zilch no matter how many CQ calls I put out.

I’d made up the 5 element 2m Yagi between calls so it was on to 2m and as I’d left my 2m handie on whilst I called on 4. I’d heard Neil 2MØNCM on Ben Chonzie so it was off to find and work him STS, he was early. I called in and after 5 mins Jack COX also broke in from his local hill, Dungavel. I said my goodbyes to both and left to hook up with Roddy IOB who had put a spot up for me as I had not alerted for this activation, I did have reasons for this. Latest possible STS info was given so I left to try find the stations but nothing.

The hill was busy and I got visited on a few occasions with walkers asking what I was up to, I was to later find out that someone had said to a walker ascending that some eccentric person on the summit was doing something with a radio. Me ?

Ben Donich trig point

Ben Donich trig point

I took a short break but still the cloud was down. I called again and worked Brian HMZ at his home QTH of Howwood before logging Eric FSZ from Girvan who had looked for Neil. A quick chat and I got called by Rob YTS in Dunblane with whom I had been ‘chasing’ recently from home. An odd glimpse of Lochgoilhead below gave me hope I could finally see the views which are excellent from this hill. If you do go, make sure it is on a crisp clear day as you’ll be rewarded.  For my previous visits see links below.

Next in the log was a unique for me, I logged Robin PKT from his home QTH near Fort William, I was beaming due S at this point and as I tried to beam him in I found S was the strongest, it is amazing how signals will bend and bounce on VHF. One to remember.

Next in the log was Geoff GRZ who parked on Agnew’s Hill near Larne in NI. I pointed him to the SOTA website for further information. He was followed by Duncan AHL who called me from S of Campbeltown, a quick chat and it was Robert GUF who called me from his usual perch on Tinto, he told me Paul PJD would soon be on SSB from Culter Fell. Noted.

Another call and David DTE called me from Bangor in NI.  I then had a scan through in case there may have been the odd WOTA station below .400 and I was to hear a local ( to home) station Bob AWV down activating Black Combe in the SW Lake District. I called STS and duly acknowledged and after a quick exchange and a 237 km contact was logged. It was off to work Alex OAW who was mobile to the S of my home qth and told me it was raining at home and almost immediately the cloud lifted completely and I got rewarded with views to the SW.

Regular chaser John OIN from Ayr called and after this I flipped the beam to horizontal and called a few times but no response but I headed to the frequency Robert had told me PJD would be near and I duly worked Paul on Culter Fell just to the S of Tinto.

I tried on 70cm on a few occasions during the odd lull but no takers today.

Ben Donich contacts

Ben Donich contacts

It was time to head off the hill. The rukkie packed, a quick bite of scran and some water. I stood at the trig point and took some more photos then it was what would be a good test of my knee, the steep descent. I took it gingerly and as I approached the scramble I could see figures looking and gesturing to each other. I passed my poles to the lad whilst I climbed up and got asked if this was the only way. I said if you want to take your time , yes and the easiest. I left them loudly debating whether to head back or climb down. I could still hear them as I dropped over Coire Culach. I soon passed through the gate and minutes later I was at the car.

The knee ? aye it was achy as expected with some stiffness the following morning. I’d expected that. I found out later I should still be doing some hill work as a touch of DOMS set in. A good excuse, eh ?

It’s soon off to North Wales for five days of walking and radio, no doubt I’ll hopefully (?) do a blog post or two.

I’m sorry for the images which were hurriedly taken during the brief time after finishing operating and heading back down the hill. The normal views were missing today but some crisp sunny day in ’14 ? Who knows…

Thanks as usual go to those sites I have linked to….

Previous Ben Donich visits 2010   2011

Ben Donich route

Ben Donich route

(July) Radio Days…….

I’m early this month due to there being a lack of content being posted, folks.

The weather or more to the point, the HOT HUMID SUNNY (we do not say this very often) days have been constant throughout the month and these are not been my favourite days for heading out on the hills. A few hardy souls have ventured out and the following is my ‘chasing’ report for the month..

First out the blocks this month was Robin PKT on a visit to the Arrochar area with a midweek activation of The Cobbler. Robin’s evening contrasted weather wise with my earlier in the year activation, I was glad of a N breeze but on his the wind was strong and biting. My blog post HERE.

the Cobbler

the Cobbler

The following weekend saw me heading to the local golf course trig point as fellow blogger Neil had informed me that I COULD work his intended hill Gathersnow . I had not long come back from a trip with Lance and had grabbed the rukkie and intended to head to Lurg Moor but my legs told me the golfie trig point. I quickly set up and heard a few English stations throughout 2m FM, a lift was on! Soon after I heard some Welsh SOTA activators, read on.

My first contact of the day was Robin PKT on the line of sight Ben Cruachan then it was off to work Gerald WML, a Welsh station on Moel Eilio with no problems. I searched around the band and booming in was a station on Wales‘s highest point, Snowdon but he was pretty busy. I tried a few times to break in but no joy. Neil 2MØNCM was duly worked and entered in the log and as I spoke with Neil, my battery ran out of juice. I quickly finished by handie and then headed home. I knew another station had declared for the Isle of Skye and quickly threw up the beam at home and duly worked both Heather and Colin, UXH (both with different prefixs), I make contact with both each time I’m down in the Lakes so it was good to catch them both on Meall na Suiramach.  The lift was still on as I heard another station based near Portree. To finish the day, I spoke with PARC member Craig PHT just to the S of me on the Hill of Stake.

The next weekend was the PKT show as I next worked him on Sgurr Choinnich Mor and on the following day, on both Beinn Udlamain and Sgairneach Mhor.

The following weekend I caught Robin on the Mamore of Am Bodach and his second the Grey Corrie Stob Ban. Jack COX split these two by activating Meall na Fearna, this gave me another GM/SS top 50 and now have only 8 to ‘chase’. It’s another goal to make although this one is in the activators hands.The following day I caught Iain WJZ on his summit of Bidean a’Chabair situated to the NE of Loch Morar, an excellent contact considering the amount of higher hills between us, I suspect a slight lift was on as has been a regular occurrence this month. Soon after this I worked PKT on the summit of Aonach Beag just to the E of Ben Nevis.

Finally the end of what was another busy chasing month, I caught Robin on Stob Ghabhar, one of the Black Mount hills near Bridge of Orchy and last chase was Iain WJZ on Beinn Bheula on the Cowal Peninsula.

Arthurs Seat

Arthurs Seat

A busy and points rewarded month, I’m quickly closing in on 3,000 pts all on VHF.

Whilst I’m on the subject of SOTA, take a look at the excellent Mapping Project HERE and now with the extra of being able to add and download GPX files, this is an excellent resource and kudos go out to all those who contribute to this. I’ll certainly make good use of this. There are many good mapping and other tools available on-line, a couple recently mailed to me are ‘Generate a Panorama’ HERE and UK Grid Reference Finder HERE. If you can pass on any others please feel free to post link in the Comments section, the more the merrier.

HF…

I probably spent less time than I normally do going by my eQSL tally for the month but continued to call most mornings and early evenings. I see the same stations on the same bands each visit I must try another mode or just try differing times but its good to work each other on different bands, I have one Dutch station down as worked on seven bands, I’ve capabilities on working him on only one more HF band or possibly VHF ? who knows….

I spend most of the time just monitoring but I really must use WSPR at these times.

Other…

The bike has taken over I think as I head on to the cycle track most weekend mornings (early) and use it to head off to varying roads in the Renfrewshire area. I enjoy being out and about before the country roads get busy and I have now to sit and decide what route to take although I do this as a whim when out, my old philosophy of deciding right or left at junctions which as regulars have read I do often. I don’t avoid hills now which is a bonus, my trip across the river to ‘visit’ Loch Lomond was my longest by far trip yet, blog post HERE.  I have cracked the Dougliehill road climb so nothing fazes me now although one kind woman enquired to my well-being as I rested at the top but laughed when I told her I’d just cycled up the  short, very steep climb. One small step etc. I’ll get used to it……eventually.

Came across this

Came across this

Radio wise ?

Making plans for the mid-Sept visit to North Wales on which is now an annual SOTA expedition, the hills are chosen so it is just a case of getting there and the weather to play ball.

I’m playing about with the theory of another portable antenna and hope to maybe do a piece on this in the near future but as you know nothing gets done with speed here at the Mhor QTH…

I’m looking at and testing another JT65 decoding program which unfortunately doesn’t sync with JTAlert but with a little extra work does well. I still prefer JTAlert checking the decodes and telling me who has been worked or about to be hopefully worked. Of course, I’m also running on occasion the new version of WSJT-X which decodes both JT65 and JT9. Variety is the spice of life eh ?

Images aren’t exciting this month so my oops!

My thanks go to Wikipedia, Peakbagger among others

The Bonnie Banks….

I’d paid a quick visit to the Erskine Bridge on the earlier Sunday and thought it could be doable, I’d been looking at various ideas for heading out for a day trip on the Voodoo and the Balloch one was one of the options I had looked at.

I studied then printed off all the map etc info I needed and planned the route I would take. These cycle path networks are a boon as the roads going to Lomondside  are prone to mucho heavy traffic. The rukkie was pre packed and stowed next to the Voodoo. It was off for a good kip…

I filled the water bottles first thing and sat down with my usual pre cycle coffee. I guessed the main early traffic would have cleared and off I headed downhill, a great way to start. I took the lane/pavement which runs E to Langbank along the busy A8. I cycled through Langbank before joining the pavement/track which would take me to the bottom of the Hatton Brae where starts a long drawn out climb to just before Bishopton. The road was quiet but there were a few other cyclists out and about heading downhill. I took the road N from Bishopton, aptly named Ferry Road. I remember taking the old ferry at Erskine on more than a few occasions but the bridge which opened in 1971 now takes a constant flow of traffic N and S. I headed up the cycle track carefully avoiding all sorts of rubbish before stopping at the apex of the bridge for a quick drink and photo.

Dumbarton from Hatton Brae

Dumbarton from Hatton Brae

It was good to head downhill and I reached the bridge off point where I took the path to Old Kilpatrick at which I would cut across to the Forth&Clyde canal ironically at the opposite side Ferry Rd.

I turned west along a tarmac track which runs along the canal before I stopped to have a closer look at one of the many locks. I picked up a steady pace nodding to dog walkers and fellow cyclists. This canal stretch runs parallel to housing on the N bank, it was busy as I was overtaken by more than a few groups heading I guess to Balloch and beyond. I stopped in at Bowling Harbour and took a side track which took me to the Millenium Link seating area next to the blocked off canal entrance to the river. A quick look up and down river before setting off to cross another section of track. I soon passed by Milton skirting the main road past the whisky bonds, I asked if there were any free samples to a lad loading barrels on to a lorry, I’d rather not print the reply. The dedicated track soon ended but now is signposted through Dumbarton‘s lanes and back streets and as normal, Mhor must have missed a turn off so it on the main road over the River Leven before dropping down past Dalreoch station joining the cycle path which would take me northwards running along the river most of the way.

Wee Spark

Wee Spark

A cool breeze was in my face as I headed quickly through fields where I got nonchalantly ‘moo’ed’ at until the path took the old walkway along the Leven, the smell of freshly washed clothes soon hung in the air as I passed the new housing areas which have sprung up along the banks. Handy if you fished ! In the open areas, the willow-herb was starting to flower and occasional clumps of the pest Japanese Knotweed were taking control.

I stopped at one spot on the river I used to fish and remembered a sultry July night spent up to my chest with fish moving up the river, splashing and boiling not too far from me, did I catch? one wee ‘finnock’ (a sea-trout of approx 1lb) which got quickly slipped back in. I spent three years fishing this river and everybody else caught, me ?…nil but still a cracking river to fish the fly.

I stopped just above Bonhill Bridge and spoke with an angler casting out a long line with a quick strip to tighten the line then allowing the fly to work itself back to the near bank by the current. With each cast, he worked himself down the river covering more water and hopefully entice a waiting grilse. I asked the usual silly question and nope, no joy.

Working down the river

Working down the river

I knew I wasn’t far from the barrage which controls the flow on the river which in periods of drought keeps water flowing down to the sea, this keeps water levels steady. If I remember correctly, the biggest fish taken on this river was taken at the old pool under the bridge at Bonhill.

I carried on and soon reached the Barrage before exiting the marina area making my way to my target, the Maid of the Loch pier. I overtaken by three keen Segway users before I arrived at the wooden pier and the Maid herself.

The Ben seemed to have a cloud attached to its summit but the Maid is worth a visit. I took some photos and headed the reverse route.

I passed by where the river cruises leave and with the car park full of tour buses I swung south returning the same route. I soon reached Dumbarton and followed my wheel tracks and did a Mhor, again. I soon found out where I had gone wrong before meeting the dedicated cycle track again. I had promised myself a longer break at Bowling Harbour.

The seating area was busy but I soon sat down next to some carved animals whilst enjoying some water. I hadn’t eaten by this time but had promised I would stop somewhere before home.

The Maid Of The Loch

The Maid Of The Loch

I was soon heading up the path from Old KIlpatrick towards the bridge, a quick ascent and descent found me taking the road towards Georgetown passing Erskine. I had been along this road the previous weekend so it was a quick right and towards Bishopton. Bob’s tummy was crying out for food so it was the local hotel I headed into for a plate of tasty fish and chips washed down by a cold pint of cider. Excellently priced I may add and noted for the future.

It was off over the Formakin road where I stopped to look at the weather station which is the Met Office Glasgow Bishopton station then it was time to stretch my legs again to Houston then via Bridge of Weir, the cycle track then home…

Just slightly under 55 miles covered. It was by far my longest ride….I was still feeling good and still turning in the odd 5 min mile as I neared home.

Where next ?

Wot a weekend that wos…

The weekend started with our car still in the garage with an electrical problem, it is allied to the now electrical accelerator bits of the car. If our car had been much older then it would be simple, a bit of cable but no they have to go and put all sort of add-on electrical bits. Not just one bit but bits here and there. I’m not mechanically minded but this is surely ripping the pee out of motorists. A cable cost pounds to replace but now it is hundreds of pounds. Unbelievable !

I finished lunchtime Friday and thought ‘Where today?’.

The world or should I say Renfrewshire is my oyster so it was into the saddle and off I headed. A mile or so from the house, I joined the cycle track which I expected to be busier with school holidays upon us. The track drops almost 300ft between high Port Glasgow and Linwood but is barely noticeable, I came off and cycled along through Kilmacolm and rejoined at the old station building which now a pub diner along a narrow straight cutting where at its east end there is a sign warning of falling rocks which funnily enough appears nowhere else there is a cutting on the track. I’m not getting political over this..

Soon I was giving a salute to the XVII Lost Legion as I passed heading towards Bridge of Weir where I was to suffer some grief the next day. I swung off the track on to the main road and headed towards the junction where I would turn right and head to Houston (Renfrewshire not Texas). The road was surprisingly quiet as I dropped into Crosslee and headed to the Barochan Rd where I would rejoin the cycle track to home. Just under 20 ml logged.

Cruachan

Cruachan

Waking up at my usual ungodly hour, it was a quick infusion of caffeine , a quick look at emails and a call or two on HF and it was off. I’d been looking at trying a run along what we call locally the’ middle road’ which would take me past Gleddoch House after a sharp rise which tested me after a couple of breathers en route oop the bogger then to almost freewheel until the road junction where I would carry on past the entrance to the Formakin Estate and steadily rise to Houston.

This is where the fun(?) began….

I dropped down through the village and came across a roundabout of which I knew three routes off. I’ll take this one to the left I thought and dropped downhill SE, I cycled on and on along a flat road looking and trying to remember if there was a turnoff to Linwood. A sign for the Moss Rd appeared on my right but it said  ‘No Through Road’, I carried on and thought ‘Mmmm where am I?’.

I arrived at a junction and soon realised I was way further than I wanted, I turned right and was soon cycling along Glasgow Airport‘s west perimeter fence. Please make there be a side road I thought but no I would have to go over all dem fly-overs and negotiate traffic lights to head down the A737, hell it was not for the faint hearted but soon I reached where I would nip into Linwood and safety. Asda was five minutes away and I had brought no money, yep, you guessed my favourite breakfast stop.

Up to the roundabout before Brookfield and a quick ride along the Barochan Rd and onto the cycle track to home. Am I finished ? no.

As I passed Brookfield I decided a water break at the bridge over the Gryfe at Bridge of Weir…okay? I stopped had a chat with a dog walker then I took off…agh! a flat tyre. I thought ‘When did I last repair a puncture ?’. Off with the wheel and got it all done with just replacing the inner tube THEN back wheel chain on. I was pondering how to get it all together again. I was kindly assisted and soon I was heading back home.

Makeshift workbench

Makeshift workbench

No stations were out on the hills so I caught up and finished a blog post, dotting the ‘t’s’ etc (and planning the next days jaunt).

I knew Neil 2MØNCM was heading out along with Cat MM6CNC (activate a hill please, YL!) to the East and I received confirmation via email which I read and replied to at the back of 1 am followed by another from him at 6 am. I am not the only one who keeps strange hours.

Time to get some early morning caffeine then to quietly get out on to the back of the house, set the GPS and go. I felt the slight hill at the completion of the first mile and soon I was on the track passing through the same route as Friday except I headed the opposite way to Saturdays and as I left Houston, it was left to head up the Kilallan Rd towards my destination, Lawfield Trout Fishery which in the 90’s was my ‘go to’ fly fishing venue.

It was a relentless climb, I did have a couple of breathers but soon I was dropping down the track to the fishery, it looked inviting with fish moving even at this early hour. I sat and had a coffee waiting on an old pal appearing. We chewed the fat and as I still have all my fly fishing gear I must get back up soon…plenty of fish were moving and the urge has come back.

I left the fishery after a couple of hours and headed down the road through Kilmacolm and the cycle track home.

Lawfield

Lawfield

Roddy had been in touch and kept me up to date with who was out on the hills. Oh ****, nothing was charged…but I had the 7ah battery which still showed some power so a quick three weetabix and off I intended to head to Lurg Moor but as I got to the Golf Course, I thought ‘the trig point’ so a quick up and across the course which was busy and into the field and got set up. I used the trig point to set my mast as I had forgot the guying kit but I had a bungee with me.

I switched on the 817 and connected the beam, a quick scan of 2m FM and more than a few English voices so a lift was on.. I quickly sent off a couple of texts to let those ascending know that a lift was on. First in the log was Robin PKT on line of sight Ben Cruachan and had a quick word as Robin was busy. I knew Neil 2MØNCM was ready to go but I kept scanning and seeing who was on, I called Gerald WML who came back first time to me, Gerald was on Moel Eilio in Snowdonia, a hill on our list for the 2013 Dxpedition. A contact with no problem, a Welsh chase nice one! I said that he should move up frequency for PKT and I heard him catch Robin with no problem.

I heard a strong station operating from Snowdon but the QSB brought him very strong at times but I never lost him but I never made the contact..damn.

See you Novak !

See you Novak !

I finally caught up with Neil on his chosen hill of Gathersnow Hill, a winter hill going by its name…THEN ‘click’ the battery had flattened, I grabbed my handie and finished the QSO (chat) and it was time to head home as I’d swatted more than a few clegs (horseflies) as well.

A lesson learned, I MUST go back to the old regime of charging the batteries every Friday evening…a silly auld Mhor.

I returned home and put up the beam as I heard a station was heading up Ben Nevis but possibly taking part in the RSGB backpackers but I’d just set everything up and settled down to listen when I heard Heather UXH calling from Meall na Suiramach on Skye. I also worked Colin UXH I had a quick chat with Colin who asked if I would be down in the Lakes this summer but home improvements are taking priority…sadly.

I also worked Craig PHT on the nearby Hill of Stake before I switched everything off to watch the rest of the tennis. Lora was in Paris and had to be kept up to date, honest !

I did 67 ml over my three outings and with my rambling on saturday I did my first 30ml jaunt. Pretty chuffed.

The weekend wasn’t finished and leading on to a finale which will take much beating, Scotland’s own Andy Murray took the Wimbledon tennis championship. Well done, big fella.

Oh and the car has just arrived back with the management’s purse much lighter

I will of course remove the image of Groundskeeper Willie if requested but it suited the occasion, I couldn’t resist.

My thanks to all those sites I have linked to.

(June) Radio Days

Aren’t the summer months passing quickly ?

or is it a certain milestone in my life approaching far too quick ? I’m really hoping they will slow down…

I’m almost early for this monthly post but as I haven’t been out recently on the hills, I’ve put in some miles along with Lance. The benefits are starting to show dividends as I have now lost 10% of my January body weight. I’d like to think that more will get lost in the coming months.

I’m going away from the subject in hand…

Activations…

An eventful month with two activations to report, the first Sunday of the month saw me return to Beinn Dubh on the west bank of Loch Lomond and as a difference I continued after the activation to take the return journey along what is known as the Glen Striddle Horseshoe. A walk which in the clear conditions of the day was cracking with views in 360 degrees. I stayed on the hill playing radio until my battery pegged out but on what was a glorious day weather wise, I could have stayed longer. Blog post HERE.

Looking for contacts

Looking for contacts

The second activation of Cnoc Coinnich was another I had promised myself away back in 2009 after Neil 2MØNCM had activated the same hill in icy, cold conditions. It is another hill I can see from my shack window with both Coinnich and Ben Donich merging into each other. I’d ascended from the Ardgarten side on what was a hot, hot day and as I left the Cowal Way path I headed up a pathless but easy-going underfoot steepish hillside.

I was rewarded once again with views in all directions and the hill to myself until I had just set the GPS to head off the hill. A good day radio wise (another flattened battery !) which I will mention the STS contacts in my chasing section of the post. Blog post HERE.

Two activations, I was spoiling myself.

Chasing…

First name in my log for June was a surprise one, I had sat with the radio on in the background just in the off-chance. It was regular chaser Brian MM1HMZ who sent me a text warning me of his impending activation of Meikle Bin. I’d missed the others who had been out that day but welcome points from the big fella.

The next day was spent on Beinn Dubh, I’d spoken with Iain WJZ on my ascent and I caught him on White Coomb to the S of me, a good start to the day. Immediately after, Roddy 2MØIOB was in the log, Roddy was out on Ellson Fell next to the border with England approx 145 km away, a good contact and excellent signal strength between our two hill tops.

Next to call in was blog regular Robin PKT to the N of me on Stob a’Choire Odhair, today was one of the busiest days on 2m SOTA so far in ’13. Bob AWV popped in next from Corse Hill to the S of Glasgow before I heard fellow blogger Graeme 2MØGIL who was on his first hill of Beinn a’Mhanaich, one of my regular hills not too far away from me.  A busy day which wasn’t finished as Jim GLM appeared on Innerdouny Hill to the E of me, it was good to see Jim out and about again.

Looking West from Cnoc Coinnich © Neil 2MØNCM

Looking West from Cnoc Coinnich © Neil 2MØNCM

I worked Liz EPW on the summit of Mellbreak in the Lake District, I heard another WOTA station just to the S of her but as much as I tried I couldn’t get their attention, ces’t la vie.

Finally just after my battery pegged out (again), I caught Graeme GIL on his second hill of Beinn Chaorach on my handie, I could see slight movement near the trig on Chaorach and I reckoned it must have been Graeme. A day to remember with 8 STS ( summit to summit). Graeme’s blog post of his day HERE

I caught Robin PKT on a midweek evening activation of Carn Mor Dearg, I had stuck my beam out as I knew this would not be possible with the colinear. A 10pt hill evening activation no less.

The next chase was from the top of Cnoc Coinnich and I started the day with a contact into the Lake District, I’d been trying to break in and Bob XJV had heard a STS but I was to find out it was Roddy IOB and not  me. Roddy had heard me call and had alerted Bob who called me first and contact made to the summit of Grasmoor, a hill I’d sat and looked at on my visits to the area. Of course, Roddy 2MØIOB was next in the log from his summit of Roan Fell just to the N of his earlier weeks hill. It was good to make the contact but conditions were down on the previous week but as you know a slight shift in site can make a big difference. I left Roddy to find Robin PKT on his second summit of the day, Sgurr Dearg, one of the twin peaks of Beinn a’Bheithir to the W of Glencoe. I’d missed his first hill due to my being surrounded by higher ground on my ascent, pity.

I knew who was out and the last STS was with Iain WJZ who was on the Isle of Arran, Iain was on Caisteal Abhail. A good day once again and it was good to see so much activity on 2m. SOTA does liven up 2m at weekends.

Brodick Bay from Goat Fell

Brodick Bay from Goat Fell

The following day proved another busy day, I’d been out early on the bike and returned to find out the band would be busy around lunchtime. I packed the rukkie and it was off to Lurg Moor but only after I caught Robin on Stob Coire Raineach, one of the two munro summits of Buachaille Etive Beag.

I had just arrived and set up when I worked Iain on the iconic Arran summit Goat Fell, a hill on which I’d visited in 2011. Good memories. Next on a busy day was Colwyn YCJ to the NE of me on Meall Ghaordaidh quickly followed with fellow blogger Neil 2MØNCM who had made the long, long slog into Mullwharchar in the Galloway Hills which on such a hot day would have been a long day but in a text exchange, he had said I could manage to work him if I was oot’n’aboot and he kinda implied I should get out. He knows I need no persuading to head out to chase.

Andy FMF was next logged from his summit Beinn Eunaich to the N of me. Two more were to follow him into the log, Robin had appeared on the other summit of Etive Beag, SD and after a chat it was off to wait on Graeme 2MØGIL who was to appear on the Hill of Stake, Graeme was last in my log for the day. I have since suffered friendly abuse from South Ayrshire because I left the hillside too early but the breeze had died and the scourge appeared.

Phew, halfway through the month and more logged, the next weekend saw Graeme GIL out on both Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh in the Lawers range, a busy June for him. In between those contacts, I worked Robin PKT on Beinn Lora, have i said before that my eldest daughter is called Lora ? I probably have hihi. We have promised we will head to the hill in question in the future.

Iain WJZ was also out on Ben Vane, a busy month for him as well. Ta for the points!

To finish the month, Robin PKT was oot’n’aboot midweek and I worked him on the summits of  Ben Lawers, Meall a’Bhuiridh and finally on Chno Dearg.

My thanks to all who ventured out for the points accrued. A busy month.

HF..

A quiet month for me according to my stats at eQSL. Most time spent on JT65 as JT9 quieted to me slightly. I still occasionally throw a CQ call on PSK31 just to stay in the loop but as seen in the chasing part of this post, 2m is where I spent most of my time. Conditions fell away slightly towards the end of the year but some interesting stuff coming in early evening  on 15m to Asia and South America.

Other..

Firstly,

most of you will know by now that my youngest daughter Ailsa gained her Duke of Edinburgh Gold award and just a few days ago, Ailsa, her Mum and I attended the presentation at Holyrood Palace. I have in a ‘proud father way’ put up a snap of the award winner and her dad. An award that took much effort, well done Ailsa. ( yeah, I know..a dodgy tie)

Ailsa and her Dad

Ailsa and her Dad

Another book recommendation.

I have just finished reading  ‘Cairngorm John, A Life in Mountain Rescue’.

I quote Amazon.co.uk “For over thirty years John Allen was an active member of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team and for most of them acted as Team Leader. In ‘Cairngorm John’ (his call sign when in contact with Search and Rescue helicopters he recalls the challenges of mountain rescue and the many changes he has seen and been a party to. A book filled with exciting accounts of life rescues, discussions of mountain rescue topics such as hypothermia, first aid, and the use of helicopters and search and rescue dogs. Peopled with interesting characters his accounts are always humane and the book laced with humour.”

I cannot add much more to that but a book I found hard to put down and that I enjoyed immensely plus I now have a better understanding of mountain rescue and its dedicated volunteers.

The book is available from Amazon HERE and all good bookstores.

That’s all folks. A busy month.

My thanks to Neil for letting me use his winter W view from Cnoc Coinnich (© Neil 2MØNCM)

To embiggen any of the images, just click on them and they should open in a seperate window.

Thanks go to Wikipedia, Peakbagger, walkhighlands, Amazon.co.uk and any others I have missed.

(May) Radio Days….

May flew by for me and before long we were into June.

On the activation front, I revisited Ben Bowie on a miserable cloudy day. I managed 8 STS (summit to summit) and over 20 contacts. On the day, I managed to do 7 geocaches en route to the summit and back. This helps me have an extra wee break on the ascent, a good idea, no?.

Ben Bowie from Gourock ferry terminal

Ben Bowie from Gourock ferry terminal

My blog post HERE

Chasing…

This month was quiet for me as I just kept missing everyone, I spent one weekend away oop NE and radio banned but my location wouldn’t have been good so ‘nil point’.

To start the month, first logged was Robin PKT on a Tues evening activation of Na Maoilean just the NE of  Connel Bridge, a good line through the hills mean that contact on this hill is no problem as sometimes if I feel it might be a struggle I will quickly throw up the 5 ele yagi in the front ‘postage stamp’ as this makes a notable difference.

Meall nan Tarmachan © Neil 2MØNCM

Meall nan Tarmachan © Neil 2MØNCM

Next worked was again Robin on the summit of Meall an Fhithich, a Marilyn just to the S of Ben Cruachan, this hill was activated in what turned out to an awfy windy day, I thought I had missed Robin but managed the contact in the end. I was to work him again the next day from my summit of Ben Bowie, one of the 8 STS I mentioned earlier but first in the log that day was Colwyn YCJ on North Berwick Law, followed by Iain WJZ on Beinn Narnain, Robin on Beinn Odhar, Neil 2MØNCM and his son Alan NLA on Meall Nan Tarmachan, Graeme 2MØGIL on Cruach Tairbeirt, Iain (again) on Beinn Ime and in between that lot I was scanning the band and heard Gerald WML on his activation of Snowdon, a hill I hope to activate in Sept. As luck would have it, he heard my call and we exchanged all info with no problem, a cracking contact from ‘wee’ Ben Bowie. I also heard a YL station activating Red Screes at the top of the Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District but she never heard my ‘break’ calls so I’ll happily take the Snowdon points.

Beinn Ime

Beinn Ime

Finally only one more contact, it was the PKT show this month as I caught him on Ben Challum just to the N of Crianlarich.

A quiet month by my standards but still enough to keep the chasing total moving slowly upwards to 3,000.

Other..

I’m still wasting my time on the data section of the HF bands anywhere from 30m to 10m and still logging contacts Europe wide with the occasional one to other far-flung places. I spent a lot of time using JT9 but mixing it with my normal use of JT65. These modes are now my choice but a wee rest from the others means I can attack them with fresh vigour in the autumn months. SDR is in abeyance as I have promised myself to make it my winter project but there is so much happening in the RTLSDR world that it will take me awhile to get back up to speed on it. Dark nights now booked.

Seeing as this month’s radio work is short and pretty dry this month, I have picked some of the photos from my caching exploits and put them into a gallery, I have visited some areas I haven’t been in years and finding out some other memorable spots which are hidden gems such as the ‘stone’ bridge in the Locherwood woodland area.

I know some of you are avid readers and I have just finished Jonny Muir’s excellent book of his journey around the UK’s 92 historic County Tops, the title is ‘Heights of Madness’, a worthwhile read, too much cycling for me ! I wonder if he had a gel saddle ?. Lance recommends them.

My thanks go to Wikipedia, Peakbagger and other site I have linked to. Once again I’ll point you in the direction of the excellent Viewfinders Panorama website where panoramas of many Scottish peaks is listed, click HERE

To embiggen any image, just click on and see them in full size and my thanks to Neil 2MØNCM for his kind use of his Meall Nan Tarmachan image.

Gallery infos..

Locherwood Community Woodland bridge

Situated in the aforementioned wooded area, entrance and car parking at NS 325640 on the B786 between Kilmacolm and Lochwinnoch.

The Knapps from high.

Situated just E of Kilmacolm at the junction of the A761 and B788, two parking areas, NS362684 and NS 362681, this path is well used by dog walkers and the expected mess around the start so watch thy boots. A recommended short walk.

Guarding the cache.

This is a cycle track sculpture midway between Kilmacolm and Bridge of Weir, I would recommend parking in either village but will leave the choice to you as it is a good lazy walk either way but parking at either the Pullman pub, Kilmacolm or the car park outside the Ristorante Amaretto, Bridge of Weir is handy for food and a drink either before or after or you can be like Lance and use the track which is accessible from Glasgow and its environs through the cycle track network.

Big Soo (Grouse Railway).

I did a blog post on this last year of a visit made by Roddy 2MØIOB and myself. This will give you more info and you may want visit the nearby ruins of Duchal Castle, more in the blog post HERE

Barnbeth walkway.

This pleasant short walk is just outside Ranfurly and I parked at approx NS 367643.

Pool on the Rotten Burn also Fall on Rotten Burn (Black Linn).

Situated just off the Old Largs Road, you carry on (from Greenock) past Loch Thom where the road now turns into a narrow single track and find the parking space at approx. NS 251643 or carry on until the Rotten Burn bridge where better parking is at NS 249689.

Lochar Bridge Falls.

The falls are seen from the Locher bridge just E of Bridge of Weir on the A761 at NS 400647.

The Bedrock Bike.

Situated on the cycle track near Howwood ( no jokes about being Brian’s bike).

Ring of Stones.

Situated in the Johnstone area just off the cycle track. see this blog post for further details on both HERE

Far From The Madding Crowd…

Shamelessly borrowing the title of Thomas Hardy’s famous novel, I thought of a hill where I thought I could activate yet be far away from it all.

Those who know me know of my passion for my local football team, the ‘Ton..a lifetime of (wasted?) devotion and of my liking for La Liga’s ‘Los Meringues’ and my other team the Reds of Cliftonville in Norn Iron so where is this leading me you ask.

Cliftonville’s ground has the classy title ‘Solitude’ and that was what I expecting on this jaunt.

I knew Roddy 2MØIOB was preferring a Saturday activation so I studied the maps for a hill and Cnoc Coinnich fitted the bill as I had it in my mind to pay it a visit at some point and to look at the Brack from its southern ridge.

Cnoc Coinnich is joint top of the Grahams list just failing to be a Corbett by a single metre and the last activation was by Neil 2MØNCM in 2009 and I remember it was so cold that day that Neil found the ground frozen solid. Today ? no chance of that as blue sky with nary a cloud to start the morning. Activating heaven.

The usual getting everything ready and I thought extra water as it was forecast a scorcher and I wasn’t disappointed in that respect. I had said before that I do prefer the cooler months for hill walking but why waste a chance ? Two weeks in a row, I’m spoiling myself.

A 17 mile round trip to the back of Greenock on the bike on Friday afternoon loosened the legs for this one and speaking later with Roddy he mentioned he had seen my GPS track on Endomondo and had wondered if I got caught short as I got so far and headed off road but you’ve guessed it another cache.

Back to Saturday morning, another early rise saw me busying about, last packed was food and water. Doesn’t water weigh a lot ?

Follow Blue and your adventure begins

Follow Blue and your adventure begins

Off the usual route which was busier than normal and as we headed through Tarbet, we met the obligatory police speed trap and yes, it was there as we headed back. Be careful !

Into Arrochar which was buzzing with walkers, I wondered ‘Will I get a busy hill ?’, we carried on past the Succoth car park which looked as if very few spaces were left. Groups were crossing the road as we sped past and why not, the Arrochar Alps are a worthwhile visit. I have one return hill there pencilled in for this year.

We reached the entrance to Ardgarten Wood and followed the signs to Coilessan where we headed upwards to the car park grandly named ‘Coilessan Events car park‘.

Katie drove home and off I started through the barrier on my quest for solitude. I quickly met up and passed a group of youngsters out on a Duke of Edinburgh training walk to Lochgoilhead, the initial walk is a slow gradual uphill walk on good wide forest track and not before long I was glad of a cooling breeze coming down from the hills.

I took the Lochgoilhead marker and started up a steep path before going through a gate onto open countryside. I had a water break and spoke with two DofE leaders who were waiting on the kids I passed. I could see my target hill on my left but the N ridge was my planned ascent route (GPX file courtesy of Neil 2MØNCM).

Off I started and followed the white posts until I met a couple who had walked over from Lochgoilhead, we spoke for a bit about the wonderful views all around.

I said my goodbyes and noted a starting point just as the track started to drop. I didn’t expect a path so I picked my route as I ascended. I reached a point when a few texts arrived at once so a quick look and reply then it was off upwards.

The Brack

The Brack

I looked at the map and thought ‘the summit is just beyond that pointy bit’ laugh but the pointy bit is obvious. I slowly made my way up a pathless but easy-going underfoot. Soon I reached the pointy bit and there was the summit ahead, a small lochan looked inviting and I promised myself a dip if I got too warm before I would leave. I was glad of a cooling breeze on the ascent.

I’d arrived and took in the views and a walk around what was a flattish summit area.

The obvious spot for doing my radio work was next to a flat rock. I quickly assembled the mast and antenna and it was off to scan the band, I heard a station on Grasmoor in the Lake District, I waited and called in STS (summit to summit) but I didn’t realize Roddy had called in at the same time but the good lad that he is he said to Bob XJV I was calling so I got called first. First contact of the day logged.

First call brought Craig PHT from the Greenock Cut, Craig was out for a walk on what is an excellent area for catching SOTA as it has a great take off towards the N and towards Norn Iron. I spoke with Craig then I heard Roddy calling me from Roan Fell in the Borders area, it was good to catch him over a distance of 160 kms plus there were some higher hills between us. We had the usual rambling discussion before it was off to find the others who had alerted today. We arranged to hook up later.

Next in the log was fellow blogger Neil 2MØNCM from just S of Ayr on his handie so it was good to return some chase points plus give him a ‘Complete’, this is when you activate and chase the summit. I left Neil to next work Steve UAU in Greenock, I could see the whole of Inverclyde spread out and could even make out the factory area below my QTH, this hill is another one I can see as I write this with Ben Donich snuck in directly behind it. Oh and thanks again for the spot, Steve.

Is that smoke signals ?

Is that smoke signals ?

Regular chaser Brian HMZ was next in the log from Howwood and after a quick word Bob AWV from Gourock popped in I think I could have used the handie to activate this hill.  Robert GUF from Biggar called in next so we had a chat about Tinto which is his regular haunt before I worked John IAB at Newark Castle before he headed out on his boat to head to just beneath me on Loch Long.

Robin PKT called me as he was summitting his second hill of the day, I’d missed his first one due my being stuck behind higher ground but a strong signal from his summit  of Beinn a’Bheithir Sgurr Dearg meant a STS and 8 points were in the bag. I spoke with Robin and left him to set up his station. I’d just left PKT and sat on the calling frequency when Iain WJZ called out for the Isle of Arran from his summit of Caisteal Abhail, it was once again good to give lads like Robin and Iain STS as they are out most weekends. Envious? hell yes I am. I left Iain and decided to drop the beam and go horizontal to try SSB, I called and got immediately called back by another Ian, IMC in Irvine and after a quick chat, I called again but to no avail so it was back to FM.

Next station was Paul UTH in the centre of Glasgow and quickly followed by Julian KGB in Irvine. I next spoke with Jim FVM who was just S of Aberfoyle, my last contact with Jim was from the summit of King’s Seat W of Dundee on 4m but we spoke of how quiet 4m was in GM land. I left Jim and next worked Sandy TXR in Laurieston,a quick chat then I thought battery as I had been yapping on and on but this 59 , 59 exchange isn’t really my thing but in SOTA it is the best as the WX conditions may not be wanting for a long activation plus there will be many others waiting for the contact, short and sweet although it may be worthwhile having a longer chat if it has gone quiet.

Billy ETB called me from Coleraine in NI and got called next by Victor JST a regular SOTA activator from Bushmills, it was once again to return the chaser points.  Regular chaser Andy USU from near Falkirk was next in the log and I left him to find the others still oot’n’aboot.

Three lochs and a firth

Three lochs and a firth

More water and a stroll and another take in of the scenery, the earlier haze had disappeared and the views had improved. I could almost see my home QTH above the factory units just 500m N of me.

I decided a last call and first station back was John GCF who was on Ayr beach taking in the rays, he was surprised to work me on his handie and I left him to call a last time, Andy GDE who was mobile replied to my call and I spoke with him to almost Bellshill when I left him to break down the station.

I had looked SW and below me I could see two large birds soaring heading towards Reithe and the wingspan of these birds was massive and most certainly not buzzards. I could hear them calling. I regret not learning how to use zoom on my camera which I did on my trip to Lurg Moor the next day. It was a brief but a memorable sight.

Everything was packed and I headed the short distance to the cairn when I saw someone coming up from the lochan, I had the solitude I expected shattered LOL. I spoke with the walker before setting my GPS and heading back down the hillside. This week I took my time and had small breaks occasionally and soon I spotted the white marker posts and made my way to one. I had come off the hill further to the west looking for any semblance of a path or quad track, nothing.

I joined the Cowal Way and made my way to the forest section which has a steep drop as you go through the gate, my earlier ‘injury’ came into play and I found that I should have rested it a bit more. I also thought ‘Oh no’ as I knew the reputation of the Ardgarten area for the dreaded ‘beastie’, I thought if I arrived early that I would keep on walking as these creatures would make a meal of me. I passed through the barrier and past the car park and about 1 mile down the track I met Katie.

The summit cairn

The summit cairn

Off we sped past Succoth where the car park was still packed, through Arrochar and yes, they were still at Tarbet but packing up.

21 contacts, 20 on FM and 1 on SSB…4 STS’s a cracking day all round and a hill I will certainly return to. Just for the solitude, of course.

Information Overload…

Cnoc Coinnich means ‘ the mossy knoll’

Hill info  HERE

761m ASL

Joint top on the ‘Grahams’ list as well as being a ‘Marilyn’

Peakbagger info HERE

Thanks as usual to Wikipedia, Peakbagger, walkhighlands and others I have linked to.

Cnoc Coinnich route

Cnoc Coinnich route

Beinn Dubh and the Horseshoe…

I remember doing this hill in 2009 and thinking it an arduous uphill slog with false summits but being compensated by the fine views over Luss and the south basin of Loch Lomond. I had pencilled it in a few activations ago but with snow conditions and low cloud I opted for Duncolm instead.

Roddy 2MØIOB has told me of his intention to activate a Borders fell so rather than having a look at possible local hills to catch him, I’d head out and activate myself. I choose Dubh as it had a good path to Roddy’s intended fell. Roddy’s blog post HERE

The weather forecast was predicting cloudy so I loaded a track into the GPS just as insurance if I had to find my way of the hill but this is a well trodden path from near Luss to Beinn Dubh and as I found later on back via Glen Striddle to the top of the single track road in Glen Luss.

A field of blue

A field of blue

I had everything ready to go but waited until I woke up early Sunday morning, just after 4am to be exact and as the hills across the river were cloud free. I sneaked another hour before having an early breakfast and to pack the rukkie.

We set off in bright sunshine heading in what is now a well driven route for us and arrived just short of an hour at the turn off for Glen Luss at approx NS 356930, the parking or drop off point in this case is just as you leave the main road. A quick check of everything and I waved Katie off as I headed along to start my upward journey.

I had loaded the GPS with details of five geocaches spread along the route and headed through the lower hillside covered in bluebells to the first cache, soon I was heading upwards and just after half way I turned on the handie to hear Iain WJZ on the summit of White Coomb to the south of me. I spoke briefly with Iain and hoped I would make the summit before he broke his station down. I had already picked off the three caches this side of the summit of Beinn Dubh.

I hurried faster than my usual snail pace and was feeling my previous days exertion on my bike, I tried to beat my best 10 mile time but failed miserably by some 40 seconds, next time eh ? This ascent is a tale of false summits but soon the welcoming sight of  the fence along the hillside meant it wasn’t far to go.

I arrived at the cairn and headed straight to the fence line and picked a post to attach my mast on to. I switched on the handie and heard Iain. I first caught Robert GUF in Biggar as I erected the antenna and when I was ready to go, I said my goodbyes and it was off to find Iain.

The first STS (summit to summit) was in the bag and I left Iain knowing that more than a few activators would be out later. next in the log was Brian HMZ who had been out the previous day on Meikle Bin so an exchange of chaser points.

Conic Hill

Conic Hill

As expected local signals were at a maximum as I had an excellent take of in all directions, much higher hills to the N,W and NE but clear all the way south.

I was next called by fellow blogger Graeme 2MØGIL who was driving along the Haul Road in Glen Fruin as he was heading to Beinn a’Mhanaich just 7 km away from my perch. Graeme’s blog post HERE. Steve UAU from Greenock was next, thanks for the ‘spot’ ! quickly followed by another fellow blogger Neil 2MØNCM who was on Saugh Hill near Girvan just before he was to ‘do’ his race marshal. Oh and whilst I remember congratulations to Neil on reaching his half-century and slowly catching up on me.I spoke with Neil before Andy USU called in from near Falkirk and from the same area Ken KCD popped in.

It was shortly after this I made the first contact with Roddy on his perch on Ellson Fell in the Borders roughly about 140 kms away but it was no problem and signals were strong. We made arrangements to hook up later and to go see what else was doing about the bands. I did my usual scan from .250 to .575 looking for other outward stations and returned to work Robin PKT to the N of me on Stob a’Choire Odhair above Loch Tulla. Conditions were excellent and I remembered my last visit when I worked stations in North Wales and further down to Gloucester.

The obligatory Ben Lomond photo

The obligatory Ben Lomond photo

It was now contacts coming thick and fast, next in the log was a quick chat with Paul DDQ who was mobile just south of Balloch then I got a report from a station in Paisley who wondered what my station set up was. Craig PHT was next and I had asked how he had got on in his previous day activation of Dumyat. Bob AWV called in next from the summit of Corse Hill and this was the first of two STS in a row. Next was Graeme 2MØGIL on the summit of a’Mhanaich to the SW of me, its summit  hidden behind nearby Beinn Eich. I left Graeme to look for the other activators whilst I next made contact with Andy GDE in East Kilbride.

I had a scran break before my next contact Kevin DHA who was above Largs on Girtley Hill, I thought of the nearby ‘Cats Eye’ a deep pool at Greeto Bridge that we used on hot summer days in the early ’70s, a dip there would be welcome today.

I got called next by Jim GLM on Innerdouny Hill near Kinross who I found out I had missed the previous week but no chasing was allowed as I was busy doing some garden work. Jim is now active again and after a quick discussion about bikes it was off to find other contacts and next was Brian YUP in Clydebank, a regular contact this year. Chris GPL in Shandon was the next in the log before I made contact with Liz EPW who was on Mellbreak, a fell in the Lake District so a STS and a WOTA chasing point for me.

A familiar view

A familiar view

I said goodbye to Liz and decided to go to SSB and got called by Bill PMB in Ayr, Roddy IOB called in so a chat with Roddy before it was back to FM to finish off the day, I’d been speaking with Stuart PAZ in Ayr when my battery gave up. I quickly said goodbye as that was the day almost finished. I stuck on my handie as I knew Graeme GIL was heading to Chaorach and he was near the top and as I chatted with some lads at the cairn I heard Steve UAU calling me to say Graeme was setting up. I sat and waited and worked my last STS and contact of the day.

I’d 25 contacts in the log, 8 STS all on 2m but I had tried 4m FM and made more than a few calls on 70cm FM and SSB but to no avail.

I had two caches still to find and it was off along a well-trodden path towards the summit of Mid Hill, the views along this path were superb and as I neared the summit of Mid Hill the view towards Arrochar Alps were fantastic. I stopped for a water break before following the path towards the steep descent into Glen Luss.

I knew by the contours on the OS map that it was to be steep but this WAS steep, I slowly moved down and about halfway I felt what I thought was the start of a blister on the sole of my foot. I gingerly made my way down until my phone rang and it was Expedition driver (and nutritionist) Katie. I told her about my foot and without asking she headed up the glen to pick me up, good lass.

The road as it reached Duck Bay was its usual Sunday afternoon tail to tail traffic but soon we got clear and sped home where I found not a blister but a bruised foot near the heel, I guess a piece of grit or something had worked its way to the insole of the boot which I now have to replace. Oh and I got sunburnt ‘hoops’ so it was a day of pain but an excellent day nonetheless.

The bottom of Glen Striddle

The bottom of Glen Striddle

A fantastic day of just lazing in the sun whilst playing radio, what more could you ask for ? I take back what I have previously said about Beinn Dubh and will certainly return with another visit in the following winter months, Mid Hill ? yes but I think the reverse route back to Dubh next time.

PS. 50 caches now logged..

My thanks as usual goes to Wikipedia, Peakbagger, westhighlands and any other website I have linked to and to you for taking the time to read the sometimes inane, insane ramblings of Mhor.

My previous blog post of Beinn Dubh HERE

Information Overload..

Beinn Dubh 642m (2,106 ft) ASL(OS)

there are some variance on the height as Peakbagger gives 657m, Mid Hill is 657m..confusing.

is a Marilyn, a Graham..

Dubh means ‘Black’ in the gaelic…

walkhighlands detailed walk info HERE (recommended site!)

 

Across The Watter…the official version

I’d been out on the bike over the earlier three days and clocked about 50 ml in the process. Not much but the legs had felt it as I’d done some off cycle track work but I’ve still got to pedal the distance.

I’d debated after I had arrived back home on the Saturday lunchtime what Sunday was to hold. I’d passed the previous Sunday on a cycle ‘cache hunt’ in the area to the south of Ranfurly and Bridge of Weir and had thought the same for the Greenock Cut which I have promised myself for months now. I’d left it until early Sunday where the weather would decide what I was to do.

I rose very early and the first view across the water wasn’t promising with low cloud cover keeping my eventual hill hidden. I had a look about HF working a lone German station on JT65 whilst feeding my caffeine addiction and finally deciding it was Bowie a little after 8.30.

But before I start, news has just come in of this being seen at the weekend so who is responsible for accessing their summit of choice by ‘SOTAboyz’ pickup

SOTAboyz..who ?

SOTAboyz..who ?

now this is taking things too far but it’s your call…..admissions only in the comments..

Everything was charged although I did give the SLAb a little boost from earlier in case I did venture out to play radio.

The radio gear packed first then food, water and XYL organised and it was off out the door to find a smirr starting. I hummed and hawed and finally said ‘Let’s Go!’ and the further along the road we got it seemed heavier and Katie had said’ turn back if you are not sure’ but I laid faith on the Met Office forecast that it was to clear up mid afternoon onwards.

Looking down the main track

Looking down the main track

A turn left at the Arden roundabout on Lomondside and off along the Helensburgh road towards the Bannachra Woods where the excellent track runs to near the summit of Ben Bowie. I had loaded my GPS with the locations of 10 geocaches but would only do 7 of these, 5 on the ascent and two on the way back to the car. The 7 I found were a series in which a clue to the location of another cache with a clue in each one but as I ‘missed’ a couple on the ascent, I never got to find the main one plus I missed the other two as time was pressing on, I’ll look them up maybe on my next visit.

Back to the ascent, the track is a cracking forest track but today with the stillness made the ascent a very hot and humid one, the humidity was damp to say the least. I was glad to get on to the open hillside where a refreshing E breeze was most welcome.

You leave the track at NS 344827 and head along a very wet and muddy path and at the large gate you had to once climb over is a new gate which opens on to a cracking new path which heads towards Helensburgh. You previously had to stumble along an old dry stake dyke to reach the gate. I could see bike tracks, an idea for next year?

I headed W along the fence line following a quad track which takes you to the point where you have to jump the fence before the last final push to your choice of three summits of this hill, all summits are the exact height and funnily the hill to the E, Killotter has the same.

Looking for contacts

Looking for contacts

I was early than the time I alerted for so I got the mast and beam built up and on my first call, I worked Davy LGR who was to the S of me near Straiton, Davy was setting up a portable HF station. The next call would have been a line of sight call if the mist/cloud would lift but it occasionally only let me glimpse the Clyde and Craigendoran but nothing else. Brian HMV had called in from Dunoon. Next in the log was John OIN in Ayr, John usually has a booming signal but this time he was low but he told me he was sitting in one of the rooms in his house using just the handheld, a surprise to him that I could hear him.

The next call was from John who was sitting in his boat just off Newark Castle in Port Glasgow a quick exchange then I got called by Brian YUP in Clydebank.

I’d let the usual suspects know I was heading by text and Graeme 2MØGIL was heading to Cruach Tairbeirt but stopped on Lomondside to give me a quick call, I bade him farewell with the words ‘Move yerself”.  Next to call in for the other side of the country was Colwyn YCJ who was on North Berwick Law so the first STS (summit to summit) of the day logged, a mere pimple as Colwyn frequents higher summits. My side kick and someone who must get rid of his hill rustiness before our 2013  SOTA Expedition to North Wales (did I make that too obvious ? ) Roddy 2MØIOB called in and we had a quick chat about the usual stuff before Iain WJZ called in from the nearby Arrochar Alp Munro Beinn Narnain and the second STS was in the bag, Iain was heading to Beinn Ime so I hoped I could catch him later.

Jack COX called in and we talked battery packs etc for use. I use the FT 817 with a 2 ah SLAb plus I have the internal backup battery pack which isn’t the most efficient. I was about to have some water and scran when Bob AWV called me from across the river in Gourock, Steve UAU from Greenock made his customary appearance and we had a chit chat about this and that. I had a break until I heard Robin PKT who was to the N of me on Beinn Odhar near Tyndrum and as expected full signal both ways. I had a chat with Robin regarding his activation the day before just S side of the Pass of Brander. The weather conditions had been much different 24 hours previous compared to the stillness of today. I left Robin to search around the 2m FM band and called on .500 when I heard a MW3 replying to my call. I asked Sean to move to another frequency and even with some QRM we exchanged calls and signal reports so a contact to Moel Tryfan, a HuMP (GW/HNW-053) near Caernarfon in North Wales was  good..

Daffodils on summit

Daffodils on summit

Paul PJD returned my call and I spoke with him as he travelled through Glasgow heading home, I left Paul to head down the M74 when I heard a 2EØ station on Red Screes in the Lake District ‘drift’ in and out but only weakly, I tried on a few occasion to try and break in but with no success. I left and headed back to the calling frequency and was called by Gerald WML who was on the summit of Snowdon, a hill I hope to activate mid Sept. It was a good clean contact with no problem both ways, I’ll take the points and STS for this one.

I’d known that blog friend Neil 2MØNCM was heading N to the Lawers area along with his son Alan NLA but hadn’t heard how they were getting on and as I spoke with Gerald WML I got a text from Neil saying not long until the summit. I waited and worked Neil on his chosen hill Meall Nan Tarmachan, I left Neil to let him head to HF. I made contact next with Graeme 2MØGIL who had arrived on the summit of Cruach Tairbeirt, conditions were much the same on his hill as it was everywhere else but a few stations had made it a STS fest. I left Graeme and had my usual scan and next worked a station in the Yorkshire area, G4FZN was out working a portable contest, I gave him my details and postcode area and left him to work other G stations of which I heard a few.

I nipped back to look for Alan NLA and for a quick chat whilst Neil was on HF working and I left him talking to Graeme GIL whilst I looked and found Iain WJZ on his second hill Beinn Ime, I did his hills in two visits plus Iain had taken the direct route passed the Spearhead on his ascent of Narnain, me ? I’d taken the tourist route up the Coire. I left Iain to have a quick look around and got called on .500 by Rick CIN in Ayrshire so a QSY and a quick chat before I finally spoke with Bill DXT in Aspartria in Cumbria and his signal was showing classic signs of QSB, he was 52 then would rise to  58 then fall slowly to 52, I could hear the other station in Cockermouth at time but he wasn’t hearing me, oh well.

Finally I spoke with Andy GDE in East Kilbride when my battery(s) gave up and I finished the QSO with my handie. I then had a quick word with Roddy as he headed along the seafront towards the Cloch lighthouse. I was now being bothered with the midge, the first bites of the season being recorded.

Track to Helensburgh

Track to Helensburgh

It was time to head down and I managed to bag the caches I had ‘missed’ on the way up.

I was soon at the pickup point and back to civilization. I had spent just over 3 hours playing radio so a good day was had. The weather although miserable at first never really brightened up but a cooling breeze kept the beasties down until later. I wouldn’t argue with doing the same again.

The path I mentioned earlier is a continuation of the Balloch to Helensburgh path, I now wish I’d known about this and possibly had taken the bike over, who knows *wink*… the path link HERE

I must apologise for the images but as I had been here previous plus the clag which prevailed all day never allowed me any photo opportunities, I guess a good day radio and sunshine might have been an ask to far.  24 hours later ? boiling hot with temperatures in the 70s, it can only happen here in Scotland. Thanks goes to Roddy for the original video in which I spotted the ‘SOTAboyz’ thing and I’m sure HDBroadcaster.net won’t mind my use of their image. Thanks as normal to Wikipedia and Peakbagger.

Previous Blog posts on this hill 2009 2010

(March/April) Radio Days….

Wowser…

Two for the price of one! you are getting spoiled aren’t you ?

GOGOF….but sadly no Clubcard or Nectar points, sorry.

Sitting here looking out on a not so nice May afternoon staring at heavy rain, high wind and what isn’t too low a temperature. Thinking of better days to come…warm, light breezes and days to just sit and play portable radio. Three days later after writing this, snow lying on the hills and the levels at 6.00 am was approx 1800ft asl. It’s a true Scottish saying  ‘Never cast a cloot ’till May’s oot’, eh ?

Let’s march on (groan)..

Activations…

March..

Two to report this month and both return visits..

Earlier in the month, a misty ascent and activation of Beinn Chaorach in the Luss Hills area which brought seven STS ( summit to summit) although three lads were on one hill, Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales. The other ‘chases’ were Colwyn YCJ on White Coomb to the south of me. Andy FMF on Dumglow, Robin PKT on Cruach Mhor just to the NW of Inveraray, Liz EPW with whom I made the contact on her handie on the summit of Dent in the Lake District and finally Terry VWP, Phil OBK and Nick OOE on the aforementioned Whernside. A good haul on a miserable day which suddenly broke into sunshine as I descended Beinn Tharsuinn heading towards Glen Fruin.

On the last day of the month, it was the quick journey to the other side of the Erskine Bridge being dropped off at the bottom of the Kilpatrick Braes. This is one of my favourite starts to any hill as the views as you head up the Braes are fantastic. As you pass the old quarry it is almost time to head out into open countryside. I made 4 STS on this trip, Robin PKT on Beinn na Cille, Robert GUF and Paul PJD on Tinto and finally Gerald GDA on Glas Bheinn to the NE of Kinlochleven on the edge of the Mamore Forest. I was almost three hours playing radio which longer than normal. A hill worth visiting.

Tinto summit cairn

Tinto summit cairn

April.

Only one..

I waited until the last Saturday of the month before doing my 50th SOTA activation on the well kent much-loved iconic hill the Cobbler. I’d bagged Ime and Narnain, the Arrochar Alp Munros the previous year and never got round to this hill although I spent a couple of mins going ‘Ime? Cobbler ? Ime ? Cobbler ?’ and Ime won.

On what was a perfect day for hill walking, I made 22 contacts of which nine were STS (summit to summit). This time I’ll mention then in the Chasing part of this blog post. Over two hours playing radio in such a wonderful place. A good one for my 50th.

Chasing…

March.

I started with the contacts I made on Beinn Chaorach (see above), the following Saturday found Bob AWV on the summit of Luss hill Beinn Eich, the next day I caught Robin PKT on Sidhean na Raplaich in the Morvern area. The next weekend was another trip to Morvern for Robin and this time I caught him on Beinn Chlaonleud.

The final weekend was the holiday weekend and on Good Friday, I spoke with Iain WJZ on his trip to both summits of Beinn a’Bheithir and Robin PKT on Beinn Mheadhoin. The weekend was a busy one with both Ian and Robin active on the Sunday, Iain was on the summit of Binnean Mor and Robin this time was on both Beinn a’Chaisil and later An Sleaghach this was the first activation of this hill.

The month finished off by my chases whilst on the summit of Duncolm, see Activations.

A good but busy month.

April.

On April Fool’s Day, I caught firstly Robin PKT far to the N on Beinn Teallach, I had just heard him with some QSB on 2m FM but I waited to catch him on 2m SSB to bag the points. Bob AWV popped up on Conic Hill above Loch Lomond later that afternoon, a good start to the month.

One week later, Robin was first in the log as this time he was on the summit of Beinn Ghlas N of Inveraray (not the more famous Lawers range Munro), Neil 2MØNCM made a welcome return to the log by first activating Doune Hill then nipping over Beinn Lochain to activate Cruach an-t-Sidhein, both hills are in the Luss area,. It was good to see Neil shake off the cobwebs although I knew he was doing some long distance walking work at weekends. Iain WJZ, another regular popped up on Conic Hill, a quick activation as Iain was out on DoE expedition business and took the opportunity to nip up off the WHW path which passes just below the various summits of this hill.

Loch Lomond from Conic Hill path

Loch Lomond from Conic Hill path

A week later and another visitor to Conic, Jack COX had appeared late afternoon and I first worked him on 2m FM but I had told Jack I’d came up from 20m so it was off for a quick check on 20m SSB. Yes folks, I can actually use voice on HF not often or more really never.

Two days later, Iain WJZ appeared on the Luss Beinn Chaorach which is line of sight from here and a hill I’d activated earlier this year ( see March activations or HERE), the last time I spoke with Iain when he was on Chaorach was our 2010 Expedition to Mull that day I was on Ben More, a hill to remember. Mull expedition posts HERE and HERE.

Ben More from near Penyghael

Ben More from near Penyghael

The following day, three hardy members of the Paisley Amateur radio club activated Ben Bowie just across the river from me, the day had started with high winds interspersed with rain but conditions had improved to let the lads complete the activation, I had spoken with first Craig PHT on both 2 m and 70 cm FM and finally with Graeme 2MØGIL on 2m FM, Brian HMZ was busy down on 40m. Well done to the lads on what was a day I’d have stayed at home.

Kenny ZUN appeared later in the week on the Hill of Stake which is my nearest Marilyn, a hill I now pay an annual visit. The following day a new activator appeared on Corse Hill, Alan NLA. I caught him and was his second contact and he qualified the hill with no problem, Alan’s blog post is HERE. Alan is the son of blog pal Neil 2MØNCM.

Craig PHT appeared the following day on the Loch Earn Ben Vorlich on what was not a great day weather wise but Craig got the hill activated.

The month ended with my chases whilst on the summit of the Cobbler, first in the log were BWA and JLA who were on Torlum SW of Crieff. Robin PKT was next from the summit of Beinn Udlaidh near Tyndrum, I later caught Robin on Beinn Bhreac-liath just before I broke the station down. I next caught Jack COX on White Coomb, the highest of the Moffat hills, the excellent weather had brought out much activity on the hilltops. On my ascent I’d listened for Iain WJZ on his first hill but the bulk of Narnain had taken care of that but I worked him on his second summit of Sron a’Choire Chnapanich or  “Sron a Corie Nae Panic” as he later posted in a comment to my Cobbler blog post…The STS’s kept on coming and next was Ron on High Stile in the Lake District, an excellent contact and I had briefly heard one of his STS contacts with a 2W0 Welsh station but I did scan the bands but nothing else was heard from Wales. Robert GUF was on his regular hill Tinto before I got Robin PKT see the earlier mention.

The Cobbler

The Cobbler

Finally I was to catch Andy FMF on Penvalla deep in the Peebleshire hills. The second STS with him in ’13.

Another good month with a spectacular end to the month.

Other Radio….

March..

Still plodding away on what was a patchy month for me, I seemed to be away from the radio when any exotic DX was around. Contacts into NA, Euro land and Asia on both JT65 and JT9-1 with an occasional visit to try PSK 31..

I did a lot of listening around mostly 17 and 15m plus monitoring 6m. Like I said earlier I was wrong time at the wrong place but intend to try more WSPR on selected bands…whilst I do any computer work..

April..

As above for March, I followed the same pattern Data wise with maybe more time spent on the JT9 part of the bands. Laurie VK3AMA has built a version of his excellent JT Alert programme to be used with Joe Taylor’s WJST-X set of data modes and this is an excellent addition for JT9 regulars. Joe’s call is K1JT.

I was listening around various parts of bands one Sunday morning and had noticed some activity on 17m JT65 so I tuned in and gave a call and first shout, I was called by a ZL3 and soon New Zealand was in the log. It has taken a few years but finally I have it in the log. a few contacts state-side and the regular Euros to report.

Thought..

You may remember my mentioning my first observations of JT9 working and the QRP being worked in this mode and how little signal lower took place when power was reduced.

I came across this calculator for JT65 the other day again and looked at how I could reduce my outgoing power even lower and still remain in the ballpark so to speak. I used one of my most recent JT65 QSO with a EA7 station in which I was given the report of -10, this was the signal received when I first called and it will vary over the length of the QSO. I used the calculator HERE where I inputted my output power of 10w and my RX signal of 10db and received the results you see on the image shown.  The 30m band was quiet at the time of this QSO logged at 6.18 UTC and according to JTAlert only 5 stations were being reported worldwide. You can see I could drop my power as low as .25w and still be readable depending on the noise levels at the EA7 location. JT9 also has many low power users and I have seen contacts being made between Euro and US stations of milliwatts !

JT65 signal calculator

JT65 signal calculator

Lance’s Bit….

Nothing except the odd jaunt along the cycle track, I had a ‘wobble’ on my back wheel but soon found out the cause. A spoke ( is this the name today?) was not set up correctly and threw everything out of tilt and having a wobble makes you feel let’s say a bit unsure on what’s happening when travelling at speed, well at the speeds I move at.

The road surfaces I have been on are pretty random with more than enough pot holes to avoid but this is expected on the single track back roads I normally walk. Traffic is rare on some but some are used like ‘rat runs’ at certain times of the day.

Trips to near Howwood which if you told me 12 month ago I’d be cycling 26 mile in a day I would have laughed at you.

I’ll be out more when the rain stops (if ever).

Once again my thanks for linking to Wikipedia, Peakbagger and others.

A Day Oot

Lance here, folks !

It’s time for another rambling article of my oot’n’aboot adventures, this blog post is a bit of this a bit of that so here we go.

Having had a jaunt to Paisley on the Saturday then a wander around the back roads to the SW of Kilmacolm the next day.

I pondered early Monday on what to do…

A walk to Corlic ?, a walk over the Syde hills ? or just go bag some geocaches ? Nope, a trip to Corlic on the bike *shock*..

Lances Voodoo on top of Corlic

Lances Voodoo on top of Corlic

The morning started with a text ask for a weather forecast from a pal who was somewhere on the East bank of Loch Lomond as two of them head northwards towards Fort William on the West Highland Way. The forecast was optimistic if not promising so I packed my rukkie with the cycle accoutrements plus a handie as a station had alerted for Ben Bowie above Cardross.

I set off down the avenue turning left then 200m later I was pedalling furiously up the start of the Dougliehill Rd and as the day before, I got off and pushed the bike up the steep bit. Someday this will get cracked.

Heading upwards along a single track road avoiding the lumps, bumps and potholes I exited on to the B788  and headed south soon reaching the highest point of this road on my journey. I whizzed downhill until where I would head west along another lumpy bumpy holey single track road and at Mansfield Bridge I started to slowly climb towards Garshangan where I slowly made my way downhill to the area at the dam wall of the top reservoir. Note the word ‘slowly’, road condition demands this.

Reaching the Higher Gryffe reservoir,I lifted the bike over the gate and climbed the stile and pedaled along a muddy dam wall track carrying on until another stile then I peddled until I then walked the bike up to the ruins of Glenbrae farm. I pottered about having a closer look at the area than I normally do as I pass this ruin on a regular occasion. It is sad to see the ruins and old rusting machinery of a disused farmstead, a large tree had blown down during the storms of 2012 and is lying over the ruined main building.

Glenbrae - ruins

Glenbrae – ruins

I nodded to a walker who was heading down the hill as I cycled along the track which took me to my next stop, the ruins of Burnhead cottage. I remember walking this area in the ’80s and speaking on occasion with the person who stayed here. It was a popular stop in the mid 20th century as a tea room was open here at weekends. Another building in ruins as a few are in the locale.

I had another prowl round the ruins before heading up the now green track to the Corlic hill track where I proceeded to walk the bike up to the summit of Corlic. It was very windy and after a short scran break, I headed back down the wet and slippy track, lifted the bike over the fence and started to cycle out towards the Old Largs Road. The rough track gives way to a cracking tarmac path when I stopped and took a walk up to the WW2 decoy station on top of Whitelees Moor, a building still in reasonable condition for being at least 70-year-old mind you it did smell like its age inside. Back to the bike and I enjoyed a downhill run until the junction where I turned left and headed towards the Dowries road end of the Higher Gryffe track.

Burnhead - side window

Burnhead – side window

Leaving the road and on to a ‘pock’ marked track, I cycled back to where I had left the track to head to Corlic, a stop for a water break before pedalling up towards Garshangan and dropping down toward the Gryfe Nursery road end. Drainage work is being undertaken at some points on the forest track and spoils being dumped to one side… roughly…

Whitelees Moor WW2 decoy station

Whitelees Moor WW2 decoy station

It was a short cycle to then turn right taking me down a better surfaced single track towards Kilmacolm plus apart from a couple of short rises it was downhill all the way until the junction at Penny’s Arch (Pennytersal- nearby farm) railway bridge where I joined the cycle track and I knew I was only two-mile from home. The track is an excellent surface and with the windy, damp conditions there were still many folk out walking. I stopped at the mile marker and had a quick chat with someone I knew.

10 mins later I was home with a muddy bike. 20 mins after arriving, the Voodoo was much cleaner, the gleam and oiling will take place another day.

Oh and saw my first swallow of ’13 today at Higher Gryffe.

—————————————————————

The Image in the Gallery with the ‘Torbelle’ cover..

I found reference to a catalogue parts list for a Torbelle Cooker and Water Heater which was I presumed manufactured in Larbert by Jones & Campbell, Torwood Foundry, Larbert. The link to the document HERE . The work these community trusts and others do in archiving old information is invaluable.

Further Reading …

More on the Decoy station HERE and HERE.

An interesting article by Steve Jennings on the Lurg Moor and Corlic area HERE

Interesting snippet about the 1865 proposed Gryffe Dams and other local water related info HERE

My thanks to Canmore, Secret Scotland, Endomondo and Google Maps.

A Day Oot

A Day Oot