Wisp Hill SS-118 and Pikethaw Hill SS-136 are situated conveniently next to each other. In addition Ellson Fell SS-146 is only a couple of miles away if you feel fit/have enough daylight to try for all 3. I picked these two as Brian G(M)4ZRP had come to stay and I hadn’t done them, they didn’t look too hard and were situated so close it made up for the long drive from my QTH and they’d be a nice start that might lead to climbing something bigger.
We parked at the bridge over the Eweslees Burn on the A7. One side of the bridge has a strongly worded sign saying no parking, the other side doesn’t so we parked on that side. There’s a path up the valley that starts behind Eweslees Farm that runs to the col between the hills. Access appeared to involve walking seriously close to the farmhouse. There were quite a few signs that made walking across the farmyard a little intimidating and given we could see lights on in the farmhouse, we called to ask if it was OK. The farmer was delighted that someone had bothered to ask. He said most people just walked though his yard without a consideration. Having checked we hadn’t parked on the bridge by the no parking sign, he had no problem with us walking through and told us the dogs would bark but wouldn’t bite. He was right. So you can access the path from the farmyard, whether you want to ask first is up to you. I’d rather ask and be told no than annoy someone and so far, whenever I asked, people have been very friendly. Your mileage might vary!
Anyway, through the farmyard and the path is vague and follows the burn. After a while we lost the path but could see roughly were we wanted to be and followed our noses. The wx was awful, quite mild, a blustery breeze at this level and the mist started about 350m. As we crossed the fields we could a path/sheep track that led up the early slopes. We followed that and it led us neatly to the col at NY372986. We were in the mist on and off up to here and it got thicker higher up. Wisp Hill was first and there is again a sheep track and no obvious path. We followed that. Slowly as the ground climbs quite quickly from the col. There’s a fence that leads to the summit. Scant chance of getting lost here.
Brian had his new GPS with him and I had the 1:50000 printout from Anquet. We played “Where’s Waldo” in the mist. Brian checked our position with the GPS and I had to say where we were using my dead reckoning skills. On the 3 times we tried this up to the summit I was at most 1 digit out compared to the GPS. eg when we were at NY378990, my dead reckoning said NY377990 and so on. I was quite impressed by this. Could I do the same on the Cairngorm Plateau in a whiteout? Of course not. I was using experience of how long I’d been walking and the contour changes on the map. Take away the contour changes and I’d be stuck. Still not bad. I still can’t follow a compass bearing though
The ground is not brilliant, some tussock grass, heather or long grass with quite a few soft wet holes. Coupled with the strengthening wind and zero visibility it was a bit miserable. But we hit the summit in the target time window and got setup quickly. There are some convenient fences at the summit to support the antenna. Some brisk trade on 5MHz and a good collection was bagged. Mike GW0DSP asked if we could QSY to 80m. Not a problem with two of us to extend the aerial. On 80m we found Graham G4JZF and Barry M3PXW lurking. Nice to work Barry for the first time I think.
All down we packed up and headed back to the col the way we had come. Brian did his usual trick of checking if the holes were full of water by filling his boots up to the ankle. The grass was so wet that my gaitors were not doing there job well and I had wet socks by my ankles. I knew that that meant wet feet eventually and even my Goretex boots couldn’t cope and let the water escape. We had some coffee at the col. I’d picked up a stainless steel flask in ASDA the week before for £2.95. It did the job, we had hot coffee to go with the cool wet feet.
The climb to the summit of Pikethaw Hill is shorter and steeper but the mist lifted for about 15 minutes and we could see where we were going till it came down again. Up the track on the West side of the fence and plod upwards. The track just stops about 2/3rd to the summit. The ground is again tussock and heather and boggy bits but the summit was gained in a short time. Another fence made antenna support easy and again we worked a good number on 5MHz. No QSY requests and we headed down.
The walkout was uneventful and we got back to the car just as it was getting dark. The A7 is busy and the car was parked on the flatter part of the bend at the bottom of a hill. With the road being narrow it meant that sitting in the cargo area of my SUV with the tailgate open changing socks was quite exciting as 44ton juggernauts came thundering past.
Rather than drive back up the A7 which was quite a slow journey, we thought we go South to Langholm then cut across Lockerbie and up the M74. Apart from the short bit on B roads, the rest was on motorway and up A roads near Tinto Hill that I’ve driven thousands of times. I’m sure we went wrong at NY229834. The B7068 was a good road and we could fair whizz along it but it got very narrow after here. We saw a sign for Eskdalemuir and new we didn’t want that way. But I have a feeling that we went up the unmarked road to Corrie Common and then down to Lockerbie rather than the main B road. Suffice to say it wasn’t long before we were on a single track road in a pea-souper crossing cattle grids and doing about 15mph. We went past a construction site for a windfarm at one point. Then we were out of the mist and in Lockerbie. The drive from there was uneventful and we got home about 9.30pm, 12 hours after leaving.
Distance walked: 6.2miles, total ascent:688m/2191, total driven 175miles