Well the most important thing is I have to apologise for giving the wrong summit ref. to John GW4BVE, who spotted me, and to many chasers. The correct reference for Capel Fell is GM/SS-082 not GM/SS-084. OK, well that’s my fault for not writing it on the log sheet before leaving home. So please check your logs and make sure you have the corrected summit ref.
I was originally going to do Scaw’d Fell and Croft Head but a close check of the map showed the track appearing to run through a farm. We have very liberal access laws up here but not that liberal. I’ve since checked with a keen walker/munroist who tells me the track runs by the farm and there is no access problems. So those two remain on the to do list for me and Mrs. FMF to bag this Autumn. However, at the late hour on Saturday when I noticed the potential issue I switched to their neighbours, Ettrick Pen and Capel Fell.
The simplest and easiest route was to drive down as far as possible and then walk along the Southern Upland Way (SUW). The route from my QTH (near Edinburgh) involved good fast A-roads to Penicuik, Peebles and Innerleithen and then a lengthy 19 mile run on almost single carriageway B-roads, Innerleithen, Traquair, Mountbenger and Ettrick. Followed by 7 miles on narrow, true single track lanes with passing places from Ettrick to the parking area/turning area near Potburn, NT188092. There’s space for 3 or 4 cars here, more if you are creative!
The walk is along the excellent foresty roads passed the disused farmhouse at Potburn NT182087, then down to the bothy at Over Phawhope NT18181. The 1:25000 map shows a ford here but there is a footbridge aswell. There’s an obvious track through a gap in the plantation that runs along side the Entrona Burn. You do have to cross this one yourself, no bridge but no problem with the water level when I was there. Take care after heavy rain. The track begins a noticeable climb, much more so than anything so far.
I followed this to somewhere near NT189079 and struck up the grassy slopes basically keeping to the ridge upto NT195078. From here the slope levels off and it’s simply a case of avoiding the boggier bits up to the large cairn at the summit. There’s plenty of fence to choose from and so erecting the dipole was nice and easy. The weather so far had been sunny with a gentle breeze, sunny enough that I put suncream on. At the summit the wind was a strong breeze and cool. Cetainly the increasing cloud made the temperature just below comfortable for just a T-shirt, but the sunny breaks were nice.
Band conditions were OK with good medium to distant coverage but no local skip. The big problem was the noise which sounded like a serious set of storms approaching but this noise was absent from 80m and 40m, strange. Two S2S contacts were had with Terry G0VWP/P on NP-008 and Steve G1INK/P on NP-018. Also, I worked Andy G0FTD who was on the beach at Whistable using his “Trolley Mobile” setup. http://www.southgatearc.org/articles/g0ftd/shopping_trolley_wally.htm Andy takes the record for the loudest signal I’ve ever heard on 60m knocking several S-points of the benchmark signals of Paul G0HNW and Alistair GW0VMZ. Unbelievable what operating a simple vertical on a salt water groundplane can do! Sadly I couldn’t work Christine GM4YMM, I heard the odd word from her but really there was no propagation to speak off.
I left the frequency to INKy and packed up and had my sandwiches. After some photos I set off back down to the SUW for Capel Fell. Now I have borrowed a pair of posh Leki poles from a work colleague. I have to say that they made a very impressive difference to both the speed I got up Etrrick Pen and back down. It looks like I’ll be investing in some poles in the not too distant future. Looking at the map it looks reasonably easy to follow the county boundary fence to Hopetoun Crag and then Wind Fell before dropping down to the SUW and straight up the other side to Capel Fell. Maybe next time.
Capel Fell lies further along the SUW. It was cloudy at the summit of Ettrick Pen but by the time I had reached the border at NT171064 it was sunny again. Of course the cloud came back when I got to the summit. Nothing new there then! There’s some significant fencing around the SUW and at least one style to cross. Just before the style which takes you into The Scottish Borders there is a quadbike track running up Capel Fell. Follow this right to the summit. The flies were out in force on this hill at the bottom but not at the top. Probably too cold and windy. Anyway, the climb is easy, especially with the poles. Again there’s no shortage of fences to pick from to support the antenna. The summit is marked with short stout pole in the ground, no cairns here.
The view was good. You can see Andrew Whinney Hill GM/SS-083, White Coomb GM/SS-030, Hart Fell GM/SS-037, Green Lowther GM/SS-056. For once Tinto Hill was hidden behind the bulk of White Coomb and friends! The noise was much better than before but still present. However, I mucked the alert time (GMT to BST) and so was an hour early. Luckily I worked Brian G4ZRP and John GW4BVE and John spotted me but it took another 10 minutes before the frequency warmed up. Don G0RQL and Cris GM4FAM persuaded me to QSY to 80m. I only worked Cris who twisted my arm to have a CW QSO with him. We exchanged bare minimum details but I copied Cris OK even though he craftily changed my report to make sure I copied what he sent on the key not on SSB before. I finished off with an S2S with Robin GM7PKT/P on CS-009. Robin must get through a pair of boots per month at the rate he’s knocking off 8 and 10 point hills! Some more photos and then back the way I came. Again it looks like you can bimble along the tops following the drystane wall at the county boundary from Capel Fell to Graham’s Law, White Shank and the either drop down through the gap in the plantations to Potburn Farm or continue on to the Bodesbeck path and then down to Potburn. I’ll consult Jack GM4COX, I’m sure he took the scenic route along the tops before I come this way again.
There’s some good views to be had here. It was quite hazy so the photos aren’t brilliant. But the valley and countryside around here is really lovely. There’s some quite extreme gorges where the water has cut through the soft rock but after the more extreme scenes around Loch Tay, it was a pleasant change. I reckon that just a bit of ice and snow to the very peaks around here with a good blue sky would make a fantastic Winter walk. They’re justuploading to my photostream now, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mm0fmf
After that it was a nice gentle stroll back to the car. Of course it was nice and sunny again which was what I expected. I’d guessed the traffic on the way down to be heavy but it was really quiet, not a car on the Peebles road which is normally congested with cars and their mountain bikes heading to the fantastic tracks at Glentress and 7 Stanes. The roads were busy on the way back but with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on nice and loud and lots of redline revs in 3rd gear I was home in time for tea!
Distance walked 8.6miles, total ascent 768m/2519ft, distance driven 130miles.
I can’t believe that I was only the second person to activate Ettrick Pen, it really is so nice here and it wasn’t strenuous at all. I can heartily reccomend visiting these parts.