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

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2 responses to “A Trip To Visit An Old Friend….

  1. Good to work you on one of my favourite hills, the views as you say are excellent if the WX is clear. Looking forward to NW trip, SOTAEX13 isn’t far off.

  2. Another good report, mind you nearly history by the time I get a chance to read them but I do get there.
    It was good to get the S2S and your right I was ‘early’ for once, don’t know how that happened. Ben Chonzie is a good hill, easy route a bit steep in places.
    Now to go and try and get my blog and logs up to date 🙂

    73 Neil 2M0NCM

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