You will note when reading this blog post, I mention that I prefer doing this hill when the ground underneath is frozen, this is not in any way a recommendation but more of my personal opinion, proper equipment must be worn depending on the weather and ground conditions.
30 kms from the centre of Glasgow yet so remote…
Last year, the Hill of Stake was on my winter activation list as this hill lends itself more to a winter walk.
I had planned the hill from about mid week as the weather forecast had looked good as below freezing temperatures were predicted but 24 hours before the forecast changed to fog and mist, not good for this one but I awoke to a clear crispy morning so everything was packed and off we set in my daughter’s Ka.
The roads had been treated and we soon reached the single track road which goes to the Muirsheil Ranger Centre, this is approx 5kms from the main road, the Centre was reached, goodbyes were said and off I toddled.
The walk from Muirshiel Ranger Centre is done along an excellent track as you can see regular vehicle use most likely ranger traffic. This track lasts for approx 4 kms and rises gradually from the time you cross the bridge over the River Calder and within minutes the remoteness of the area hits you as you walk along the almost featureless moorland track, once you start to gain height and to the North, the village of Kilmacolm nestles against a hillside and slightly west, higher Port Glasgow is seen. Approx halfway along the track, looking back eastwards you can see parts of the north side of Glasgow on a clear day. There are remnants of the grouse butts on the hillside occasionally to your left as at the turn of century, the big house (now demolished) in the (old) Muirsheil Estate area was used by those travelling North for the ‘Glorious Twelfth‘, grouse butt remains extend towards the mine area.
Once you reach the end of the track and arrive at the mine area, there is a ‘container’ which has a table and some chairs, ideal for a quick scran break, as I sat at the container door the rain started from the West, Roddy 2M0IOB had informed me by text that it was raining in Gourock to the NW of me. I waited until the shower passed. The thought of snow later was not wanted.
I then checked the SOTA alert page and saw Graeme 2M0GIL (his blog post here) was on the SOTA Alert page for activating Beinn a’Mhanaich at 10.45, I set up the 2m handie but nothing heard, I started to walk up the east side of the mine fence and stopped at the end of the fence, switched on the handie and heard Graeme calling, I had to claim the ‘chaser’ points in case Graeme was ‘off ‘his summit before I reached the Hill of Stake summit which I estimated was still 45 mins away.
This part of the walk is pathless and crosses many boggy areas, I had hoped the overnight frost would have left the ground slightly frozen, it had in certain places. There are the remains of grouse butts as you head to the summit so keeping to the east of them will keep you on slightly drier ground but the downside is the peat hag areas and shin deep heather with many drainage ditches which honestly hasn’t helped the general bogginess of the area.
Once you reach and can see the summit ahead, the general flat featureless area is a bog, I tend to work my way eastwards to try to avoid the worst of this. Once you reach the base of the hill, it is a slightly steep rise until you meet the fence and you walk along until you reach the trig point, there is a semi circular stone shelter but due to the elements it has collapsed in on itself.
I quickly set up my 2m handie and called Graeme and made the STS ( summit to summit), I could see a’Mhanaich which was bathing in sunshine. A quick exchange of information and it was on to 4m FM, my first call was answered by Duncan, AHL who was sitting in Auchenloch near Lenzie, I have spoken now to Duncan from a few hilltops. I left to go back to the calling frequency but failed to raise anyone. Time to put up the 2m JPole as I reckoned it would be too chilly to be fiddling about with my 5 ele beam, the ‘breeze’ was from the East and was bitter cold.
A trio of walkers appeared from the west and I enquired where they had come from and was informed ‘from the mine area’, I got given rough details of the route and was advised is was not as wet as the direct route, more on this later.
On to 2m and the regular chasers appeared, Ken AXY and Christine YMM called in from the East coast, many thanks to Ken for the spot on the SOTA ‘spot’ page. Next was Bob AWV/m in the Inverclyde area, Bob has activated this hill in 2010 but had unfortunately chosen a poor weather day to activate. ‘Hill of Hell’ I was informed by a member of the party who had walked in that day. I have been in the area during thick fog and it is a place to stay away from if the weather is like this, use of a compass is always necessary here. I had set mine up and pre noted all bearing info at home as I headed out.
Trevor WCT from the Aberfoyle area called in and we had a general chat about SOTA, it was time to get the station winding down as by now the temperature was falling. I called and Brian HMZ came booming through from Howwood, Roddy 2M0IOB then called me from the Rothesay Bay area, I think he is looking to activate Windy Hill on the Island of Bute soon. I had one more call and another regular, Alan XXP from Larkhall called in, as usual Alan was a strong signal, we did arrange for me to call him on 4m with only my handie and its flexiwhip as soon as I was off 2m.
Another walker appeared and I grabbed some scran and chatted with him about the various plane wreckages which can be seen in the area between this summit and the summit of Blaeloch Hill, this site gives you most of the details. I tried calling once again on 4m but no takers. Time to head home.
I had another look at my possible route to the West and noted some ‘markers’ to aim for, I headed down the fence line until I found where I should start head northwards, there were some soggy sections but in general the route was quite free of heather and tussock, I stopped at the top of small hill I was crossing and took bearings from there, the only ‘entire’ grouse butt left was my next heading point although I did meet some awkward sections but this was a better route and when I checked the tracking app I found it was slightly shorter with one or two more slight rises in height if going the opposite direction. I met a solitary walker in the middle of the way down and had a quick chat about the hill, I find you sometimes get good info this way or be able to impart something. I reached the top of the mine fence and met another two walkers heading out to the Stake.
I reached the container and munched on a biccy whilst calling home to arrange a pickup time before having a quick look around the mines area, the main areas are all fenced off and as the wood and metal fences have weathered slightly it doesn’t look as severe as it had the year before. A ‘Health and Safety’ overload.
I can remember the old mine buildings and as they were generally falling into disrepair, they demolished them. Photo of one of old mine buildings <HERE>.
Time now to head back along the track, I slowly toddled back and about 1km from the end of the track, I met the trio of walkers I had spoken to coming off the hillside, they had walked to Misty Law and were now heading back to the Ranger Centre. I walked along with them and learned some more about the general area.
I reached the car park where Katie was waiting, me ? a bit tired but satisfied another hill had been activated.
Will I be back ? who knows…..
I took a walk onto my local hilltop 24 hours later and the Hill of Stake and its sister tops were showing a good dusting of snow, guess I had chosen the right day to activate.
I listened to Tech News Today podcast from the TWiT Network
I have GPX files of the ascent and descent routes from the mine area if anyone needs them. Contact details in the ‘About’ section.
No panorama video this ascent, link to 2010 video
Must make another mention of this ‘panorama’ website
Previous activation Hill Of Stake blog posts
I also found this helpful site when looking for info <HERE>
Hill of Stake is 522m (1,722 ft) ASL
Meaning – self explanatory
Total Ascent (approx) 267 m (875 ft)
Length of round trip – 13.85 kms ( 8.61 ml)
Hill info <HERE>
Walk in from Mine(Ascent) <HERE> ( map)
Walk out (Descent) <HERE> ( map) ( a much drier route)
A brief history of the Muirshiel mine <HERE> , use ‘find’ on your browser on scroll down for ‘Muirshiel Mine’