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 ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cnoc Coinnich means ‘ the mossy knoll’
Hill info HERE
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.