I’d been keeping an eye on snow levels all week and had decided to head out somewhere at the weekend.
The hills across the river had snow down to 1,500 ft at one point but had been slowly creeping up daily. Beinn Dubh is just over 2,000 ft so after a bit of thought early on Sunday morning, Duncolm was my intended.
Duncolm is just to the E of me tucked in behind Doughnot Hill as I look from the house.
I’ve activated the hill in both ’09 and ’12 and as I assumed it would have no snow, it was off a little later than normal but still expecting to activate the hill at 12.00 local. Sunday was the first day of BST which always throws me out.
It didn’t take long for Katie to drop me off and this was to my advantage as I can get dropped off a little further up the road nearer the start of the steep rise upwards. The only parking area is at NS 470731.
I checked everything before waving Katie off and on what was a pleasant but slightly breezy morning, I started up the excellent resurfaced track towards Loch Humphrey which would then lead me on to what is initially a damp grassy path. I walked up the Braes taking in the view which extends from Glasgow to Greenock and south to the Ayrshire hills. If you haven’t been here, take a trip up on a clear day.
The old quarry is soon passed and I next looked for the path which would later take me across the Slacks as I wanted to ‘bag’ the trig point plus on my ascent I wanted to bag a ‘cache’ which is to the west of the track beside Loch Humphrey. The path which heads to The Slacks was noted and now off upwards towards where I would head west. I stopped and got the GPS out and off along the banks of the loch. Roughly 300m from the main track I walked on to the cache with no problem. I duly signed the log and now back to my goal. The path soon turns NW at the end of the stony track and with the ground frozen it meant no diversions to avoid the usual damp muddy parts. I rose to find some snow but it had well tramped so a little care until I met the main track up the hill itself which was just a sharp short snowy rise. I reached the trig and found a chilly breeze coming from the east. I found a spot just yards from the trig and proceeded to set up the station whilst listening on the handie. I had switched it on as I headed out the grass track and found not much activity on the bands.
I spoke with a party of walkers who showed some interest in what I was doing, I explained the SOTA concept to them.
Time to get going, I had set the beam to NW as I knew of two activators being out in that area. I called and immediately worked Paul PJD who was on his way to the foot of Tinto with Robert GUF so after a quick chat I then spoke with Andy GDE from East Kilbride. A quick break to scan around 70cms but back to 2m and Ken KCD in Falkirk was next in the log, today was good as I had more of a chat with everyone and not the occasional short pile ups you get.
Bob AWV called me next from near the Cloch Lighthouse in Gourock and next in the log was Steve UAU in Greenock, I noticed later Steve had spotted me, thanks ! Jack COX in Lanarkshire was next contact and we rattled on for a while, I’d missed Jack the previous day but I’d explained that Ben Starav area is like the Bermuda Triangle radiowise for me.
Barrie KZX from Dumbarton called in as normal then across the river to Port Glasgow to have a word or two with Derek RTD visiting the local supermarket. I took the chance to once again scan 70cm but it was back to 2m where Colin UOU in Dunlop called me and could I manage the last three letters of his call ? It took a couple of attempts but I got there.
Next contact was in the west Lothian area, Geoff AHO who had given a talk last year at the Paisley club so we had a chinwag about the subject which had led me to buy the book he had recommended.
Robin PKT was next, the first STS (summit to summit) of the day, a good signal considering the beam had been swung south, we knew Gerald GDA was activating Glas Bheinn, a Corbett just E of Kinlochleven so hopefully it was one for later.
I next spoke with Ken AXY in Edinburgh and the directivity of the beam showed here, I was pointing SW in the hope of catching Neil NCM in his trek in the hills the back of the Girvan area, Ken was 51 then a swing of the beam E and almost full scale. A quick word with Ken then oor Roddy 2MØIOB called in from Gourock regaling me with talk of fine food and probably wine whilst yer man lies prone keeping out the now freshening breeze. I noticed this the last time on this hill, the wind got up just after lunchtime, coincidence ? I mentally wished indigestion on him…
I had a scran break plus a quick chat with Neil 2MØNCM who was out walking in the South Ayrshire area but I had pointed the beam in that direction but nothing before calling again and next speaking with Jason HQC in Paisley before I got a surprise Vinny MVM called me from Port Glasgow. Vinny used to do the hilltop 11m stuff with me in the ’80 and had left a comment on one of my earlier ‘Radio Days’ post, it was good to catch up so I’ll no doubt speak more often now he is on the bands.
Paul PJD called me from Tinto so another STS for the day and passed the handie to Robert GUF so with a quick word then I switched to 70cm FM where I was called by Steve UAU. I thought as I now use the FT817 on activations then a call or two on 70cm won’t hurt. I left Steve then Niall SXV returned to me and after a quick natter I decided to swing the beam to horizontal and give 2m ssb a go, I heard Robin PKT calling a G6 station and after my first call, Charlie CFH in Glasgow offered to ‘spot’ me on SOTA, thanks !. Bob AWV called me from Gourock, Bob was getting his equipment ready for an activation the next day so a longer QSO with him than earlier then I tried some more calls with no takers.
I had just switched back to vertical polarisation and heard Gerald DGA calling CQ, we moved down frequency and had given him his report and the battery pepped out but a quick switch on and I had enough power to finish the report exchange. It was time to close down. I was on air for over three hours which is much longer than I am usually so an enjoyable day with longer QSO’s.
I broke down the station and had one last look around, the wind had got up some strength and was biting. I set the GPS and off the summit towards the return path to the lochside.
I headed downwards after the loch and took the path which led me E across The Slacks, possibly the plural of the Gaelic ‘Sloc’ which means a pit or Scots ‘Slack’ meaning ‘ a hollow’ © HERE. I was taken aback at the fantastic view over a million folk to the E and NE and a visit on a starry night would be worth it. I continued to the Slacks trig point, a quick swig of now chilled water and did the reverse until I reached the track down to the Kilpatrick Braes. I soon passed the 5 mile mark and was soon accosted by a lady in a silver car who wanted to take me home.
I’ve got to say more about the views from the walk up the Kilpatrick Braes, the views from the summit of Duncolm from W to E taking in Loch Lomond’s South basin and to the walk along the Slacks are pretty worthwhile a trip.
9 mile of walking , 20 odd contacts, a geocache and two trig points bagged, what more can a man ask for ?
These have other information on the hill.