Firstly apologies for the no-show on Cacra Hill SS-179 this afternoon. Several reasons, it took much longer than I calculated to climb and descend Ward Law and it’s my wedding anniversary today. Rather than rush up and do a smash and grab on Cacra, I decided I’d leave it for now and get home early. Cacra will there another day and it makes a trip out to Ettrickdale to do it and Law Kneiss more worthwhile. I doubt I’d go all that way just for a 1pt hill. Although now the GOML of Deephope is no more it’s safe to do Law Kneiss.
Funny weather today. I set off and it was a OK but within a few minutes I was in thick fog. Cruising down the A70, Tinto looked magnificent, a fresh cap of snow gleaming in the sun as it stood out of a sea of fog. Did I take a photo, of course not. Idiot. Anyway I chugged along sedately as the fog came and went but it had gone completely by the time I reached the Melbourne crossroads. I made good time to Peebles and then onto the Mountbenger road at Innerleithen. Just as I was driving out of Traquair (home of Minch Moor SS-133) I saw the biggest bird of prey feeding on a dead hedgehog in the middle of the road. It had to be a buzzard but it’s wingspan was enormous. It was slow to fly away. I thought it’s days were numbered unless it learned to get out of the way of cars quicker. And sadly on the way back there was a dead hedgehog with a dead buzzard by it. I know nature is cruel but it was such a beautiful creature so what a waste.
I hate the Mountbenger road, narrow, single track and lots of blind bends. No traffic at this time though, it wasn’t like that coming home. Across the A708 and down between The Wiss SS-122 and Turner Cleuch Law SS-140 and I was by the Tushielaw Inn in no time. I made a quick reccy up the B711 to NT318163. This was my start position for Cacra Hill later. There’s loads of space to park without blocking the track, the gate or the narrow road. Known for next time! A quick about turn and down to Ettrickhill and I parked by the side of Ettrick Kirk. There’s loads of space and I remembered seeing lots of cars last time I was here. I checked the Kirk notice board and services are at Etrrick Kirk every 3rd Sunday. So don’t expect to find space if you go then.
The track starts around the back of the church. It is marked but you wont realise that till you have walked into the cottage garden. Oops! The climb is steep to start with but levels off quickly. The path is quite good but it was a bit soft and squishy in places. The new FMF boots coped with ease and the water could be seen running off their newly waxed surface. Just follow your nose. My plan was to veer right and cross the Kirk Burn somewhere near NT251155. Unfortunately the ground said no, there’s a significant boggy bit there and the ravine is too steeply sided. So I kept going up along the track. That petered out and the whole area around the col is enormously wet and soft. It wasn’t even ankle deep but progress over the ground was very slow as I picked my way through the (oh no, not again) tussock grass. Gawd I hate that stuff. Near NT 249162 I saw the fence that runs to the summit and made for that and followed it up. There are a few ATV tracks which helped speed me up. But the detour had added probably 2km to the route and I had to figure out a way back down avoiding the bogs if possible.
At the summit there was little if no wind and it was warm in the sun when it popped out from the clouds. Definitely the start of summer! Skylarks singing, no wind, warm and the blasted sky was broken again. Well not as bad as last week but the skip was very long. However, a good number of stations were worked on 60m. More than I expected including near contacts to the CQ Mafia (Messrs AAV and DSP). I was surprised that they were workable but the QSB obliged for long enough. Anyway, I wasn’t too concerned as I had my new secret weapon, a new 80m antenna!
My old 80m antenna was a pair of extensions that worked when I tested it but was always rubbish on a summit with bad SWR. The problem is my garden is too small for a 60m dipole in inverted-V never mind 80m so I’ve been lax at fixing the issue. Well I did the other week, I remade parts of the 60/40m antenna and made some new extensions. I used Block and Quayle’s finest 16mm oval conduit for the insulators replacing the plastic egg ones. A piece about 6cm long is ideal, it’s lighter and lower in volume than a small black plastic egg insulator. I tested in the microwave oven and it stayed nice and cool. The new 60/40 with 80m extensions takes up the same space in the antenna box as the old 60/40 did one did. This means no more forgetting the extension etc. So convinced was I by the theory and the measurements made on the old antenna that I hadn’t even tested this one. I cut two bits of wire 5.99m long and added them to the 60m ends. A bit of connector coolness and you can connect up the extensions, clip the load bearing bits in, untie the rope holding the ends of the 60m wire and stretch out the 80m bit. All can be done wearing gloves too. So you should see more of me on 80m from now one.
A QSY to 3.723 and zap instant QSO with Cris GM4FAM who gave me a 57 report. After a spot on the cluster I worked a fair few stations including INKy for an S2S on NW-030. I got nice reports but most people sounded quiet on 80 compared to 60m. I wonder if it’s simply a case that it’s easier to geta 60m antenna into the typical garden compared to an 80m one. Of course there was no RF noise so I could hear people OK.
After that I packed up, enjoyed some hot tea from the flask and set off back down. I took a slightly more direct route as I could see the worst ground to avoid when looking down. Back to the car in quite warm sunshine. However, I was an 70mins behind schedule and as I said, rather than do a smash and grab I took an early bath and headed home. Mountbenger road… mad busy including a Range Rover towing a boat. I must have passed about 10 cars with boats on the roof or on trailers. The Range Rover went slighty off road and hit a huge mud pool and completely covered my car. Grrr! I only washed yesterday for the 1st time since before Christmas and it was filthy. So bad in fact I washed it again when I got home.
It’s nice down in Ettrickdale so I shall schedule a trip up Cacra and Law Kneiss for a nice day when Mrs. FMF can come and play too. Photos on the FLickr group.
Distance walked: 8km, total ascent: 370m, distance driven 135miles