Wednesday 17th September 2014 GM/SS-168 Law Kneis 498m & GM/SS-179 Cacra Hill
The forecast wasn’t good, with fog and rain due to come from the east. So heading SW looked best so we headed through Selkirk to the B road down into Ettrick. We were somewhat delayed by road works in Selkirk
resulting in a 2 miles diversion though much of Selkirk with the diversion also having road works with traffic light controlled single line working: not good planning! Our plan was to do Law Kneis SS-168 followed by Ward Law SS-119.
The clouds were still hovering on the tops of the slightly higher hills including Ward Law as we parked in the car park at NT279631, but our first target was the slightly lower Law Kneis. At least it wasn’t raining. We headed over the millennium project bridge and along a forest road which ascended at a very gentle gradient through felled forest. It was heading north and the summit was east. We believed the track would eventually loop back closer to the summit, but it looked a long way, and we wanted a quicker way up. After a few hundred yards we found a rough overgrown track which looked as though it might zigzag up the hill, but it soon levelled out and disappeared into boggy felled forest. We decided to try going straight up between the remains of the felled trees – very hard work through tangled branches, and eventuallycame to another overgrown track which did head up the hill diagonally. It wasstill hard work with fallen branches and roots, but eventually we clambered through a final area of thicker vegetation onto a proper forest road. This gave easier but only gently ascending walking as we headed back roughly south on it, following it to a long right curve.
Three forest rides headed left off the curve and we wanted the middle one, which involved a steep and tricky (due to overhanging branches) clamber off the forest road. Then it was straight up the forest ride for a bit – easier said than done, as it was full of a mixture of long grass, some boggy bits, some tussocky bits and general awkwardness. Eventually the ground levelled out and started to descend slightly, but we weren’t in the activation area yet and were looking for a forest ride heading right. After a little descent, there it was, but it looked to more seriously blocked by fallen trees. We managed to find ways round or through them, but it was slow progress, and we were initially glad when we could see the edge of the trees. We were now in the activation area, but wanted to find the summit, despite the ground out of the trees being worse than the rides – deep tussocky grass with bits of heather and occasional small trees. We headed left and made our way to what appeared to be the indistinct highest point.
We were at least out of the clouds and it wasn’t raining, but the ground was very wet and sufficiently uneven to make setting up the station a challenge. There were the remains of a broken down fence, and Caroline used a post to support the VHF vertical dipole, while Martyn set up HF nearby – we were going to need HF, as Caroline once again failed to qualify on VHF, 20 minutes calling yielding 1 contact though Martyn only got 5 5MHz contacts in a similar time before they dried up. Caroline then went onto 7MHz for the best run of the week – 43 contacts in half an hour including a Swiss S2S also grabbed by Martyn. Martyn then went onto 14MHz which also seemed in good shape getting 21 contacts, during which time Caroline managed to rustle up one more VHF contact. That was an activation falling into the category “rubbish hill, good radio”.
With lunch eaten we needed to descend, and after a little trouble finding the end of the ascent ride we retraced our steps back to the curve on the forest road. We had intended to do Ward Law afterwards, and as we walked back along the slowly descending forest road we could now see the large cairn on its summit now the clouds had lifted a bit. However a quick mental calculation caused us to realise that we didn’t have time left to the relatively long walk in to it. We might have time to do the shorter walk onto Cacra Hill if we could get back to the car reasonably quickly, but the option was between the retracing the horrible ascent route through the felled area, or a much longer track walkout. As we got to the edge of the felled area, we realised that there might be a way down the edge of the trees. That was steep but OK until we got to the end of the standing trees. More fighting over felled trees until we came to the remains of a track – the better section of the one we had used on the way up – which we followed to its end. At that point we decided to just head through the felled trees heading the shortest possible way back to the forest road – hard work with a tricky descent down the embankment onto the road, but then an easy march back to the car.
We probably just had time to do Cacra Hill SS-179, so drove there as quickly as the winding narrow roads allowed, parking on the area of hard standing near the cattle grid at NT318163, being careful not to block the track. We followed the track uphill - it goes further then shown on the 1:25000 map but winds quite a bit, especially after passing through the fence onto the open hill. We followed it for a bit, but then decided it was going too far out of the way given the limited time, so cut up the rough ground – not easy going, but a lot easier than Law Kneis! Cacra has a long large activation area, and given our lack of time we decided to set up stations on the 466 spot height rather than going all the way to the 471 summit. We had reasonable but cloudy views of Ettrick, and could see better looking weather in the far west – going west had been the right thing to do, but we hadn’t really managed to go far enough west! Caroline failed to get any contacts at all on VHF, but had a good run of 28 QSOs on 7MHz after Martyn had got 15 on 5MHz. We had no time for 14MHz, and descended roughly the same way (finding slightly more track on descent), getting back to the car with a little daylight to spare.