Having set myself the target of completing all the GM/SS summits South of a line between Glasgow and Edinburgh when activatine Shalloch on Minnoch at the beginning of June it was time to continue the process. The WX had dampened any attempts to get out for much of June/July although I did manage to bag F/JU-078, DM/BW-008, DM/BW-009 and G/NP-029 on my trip to Friedrichshafen this year. Anyway, with the release of Pokemon Go, it would be good to see what was lurking on the hills.
I’ve said most of the remaining hills are remaining because they are an awkward drive than for any other reasons (Mullwharcher excepted) so this makes bagging more than 1 summit per trip rather desirable. I was looking for a decent walk and, shall we say, an easier second target. It seemed that Colt Hill GM/SS-116 and Wauk Hill GM/SS-241 would fit the bill. However, my ineptitude using Anquet to get an expected route time meant that Wauk Hill was a bigger walk than expected.
#Colt Hill GM/SS-116
This always looked awkward until the Forestry Commission decided that they needed some good reasons to get the public to enjoy the neglected countryside in the Cairnhead Forest. So they commissioned an artist to build some sculptures on the hills surrounding the glen and opened the road to the head of the glen to the public. They also built a new access track, partly to help with harvesting mature trees and partly for the public to use to see the sculptures. On my original Anquet 2006 vintage maps this track is missing so Colt Hill looked to involve driving up the 26km dead end road to Polskeoch Farm then walking 5km on The Southern Upland Way before the just under 1km walk to the summit. With the new access it’s a trivial 4.5km walk mainly on excellent forest tracks.
The route to Cairnhead is sign posted in the picturesque village of Moniaive saying “Striding Arches 7 miles”. Initially this is a fine, if narrow, single tracked road. But after a while it starts to feel really remote and once you get to the entrance to Corriedow Farm the tarmac ends. From here on it’s hardcore/chippings road surface with 3.5km to the car park. It’s not bad at first, but there are some serious potholes on this route. I was in my 4wd pickup which has ample ground clearance but some of the potholes did cause resounding clangs and bangs as I drove up the road. It’s doable in a car but do take care if you have alloys and low profile tyres as you will need to crawl over the potholes. What’s funny is after the bad potholes in the road to Cairnhead, the road after is the same surface material but remarkably good and flat. You could get an F1 car up the road to the turning for Colt Hill, you would just need to trailer it to Cairnhead!
The walk is trivial, park in the carpark (space for 5 or so cars) and follow the track. Keep on the track as you walk through very pleasant, mature (40years) Sitka until you get to the end of the forest. There’s a sign post pointing out Colt Hill & Benbrack Hill, both hills have arches on them. There has been lots of felling on the final approach to Colt Hill and more so on Benbrack and Meikle Dibbin Hill. I did some sizing up to see if an attempt on neighbouring Wether Hill SS-147 is possible from here rather than walking up the tedious wind farm access road. Maybe…
You don’t get to see the arch on Colt Hill till you get to the summit, then there it is in all its glory with the old weathered trig point behind. The trig dates from 1950 and the arch from 2005 I think. Anyway, I was lucky to catch a Pikachu sitting under the arch. I was hoping this would stand me in good stead for the radio.
It was fiercely windy so I setup in the lee of the remains of a wall. It had been very sunny at times on the walk but it was now grey and there were odd spots of rain for the entire activation. I started on 40m SSB and bagged 8 QSOs, ODX being an S2S with OE9TKH/p on OE/VB495 showing that 40m was running very long again. Another 8 QSOs snagged on 40m CW with more short than long skip contacts. 60m SSB brought in 4 more QSOs and I finished off on 30m CW with 5 more. ODX on 30m was Jan OK2PDT. No more callers so it was time to move on. Of course the sun came out at this point.
Time to see if there were more Pokemon about… First up a Zebstrika by the trig point.
Looking over to Benbrack, you could see the next of the 3 arches with an Octillery trying to escape.
Final view is to the biggest hill in this area, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn GM/SS-038, the dark lump in the distance. No Pokemon caught looking this way. The fence leads back down to the track back to Cairnhead and the car.
At the car I had a quick can of diet Red Bull to give me some wings for the next summit (it didn’t) then the drive back down the rotten road to Moniaive then to Wauk Hill.
#Wauk Hill GM/SS-241
This is a reasonably simple 1pt hill. It’s not done often for 2 reasons, there’s nowhere to park and none of the GM activators live near. Of the now 10 activations, 7 have been done by Sassenachs on cross-border SOTA raiding parties! I did a bit of reading and found some likely parking spots. I also drew some routes with Anquet and got the answer 28mins for the predicted ascent time. Hahahahaha! Next Andy remember to draw the route from the car to the summit not the reverse. 28mins was the descent time. I almost gave myself heart failure trying to get up the hill at that speed.
I parked just by a gate, without blocking it, at NX823905. I’d spotted the best route up was to follow the wall to the trig point from NX824911 except the field was full of cows and their calves. Best avoided if you can especially as they were right by where I’d be crossing into the field. I started from the gate and aimed for the left hand side of the trees higher up. That was on the way to the wall I wanted to follow. There was a pig of a fence to cross at the edge of the trees, just a bit high for a Shorty McShortlegs like me to cross and topped with two runs of barbed wire. Could by an eye-watering exercise. Crossing carefully I made to the wall. The ground was difficult, uneven and with all the cattle, filled with big hoof size holes to trip me up. I was trying to keep up with the 28mins time and was now breathing hard and my heart was banging away like Buddy Rich, it had also warmed up a lot and was quite humid. At the wall I crossed and continued up.
The far side of the wall has a good path/animal track and made it much easier to make progress. Up and up then a slight descent to a gate in another wall and finally the trig was visible. It looked to be about another 5km but was in fact 350m. By now still trying to make 28mins and failing badly, my heart was doing Buddy Rich x Gene Krupa (after both had had some speed) and finally I got to the top. I collapsed in a heap by the trig trying catch some breath. Of course the correct time is 46mins for my route. I did it in 40 which wasn’t bad considering I hadn’t been out for 6 weeks and I’d already walked 10kms with 350m ascent.
I spotted myself for 10mins ahead and set up. Bill G4WSB was waiting and he re-spotted me and I promptly lost the frequency to some European QRM. I tried calling on the WAB net but wasn’t heard. I moved to 60m, spotted and had a nice run of 9 chasers including an S2S with GI0AZA/GI0AZB on GI/SM-008. Switching to 40m again I worked aother 6 with ODX being Robert SP8RHP.
The view in the same direction as the last photo. Again Cairnsmore of Carsphairn in the very far distance. You can just make out the windfarm on Wether Hill. The wall leads back to the road and car. A Bulbasaur was lurking in the heather.
Looking SE, Criffel GM/SS-130 was very evident. Robin GM7PKT reported that the boggy bit is worse than ever at present. I think this one will wait till we have a massive drought or it’s frozen solid. I could just make out the English Lake District hills across the Solway Firth but it’s murkey in this photo.
Finally, having recovered some composure after the exertions, myself and a Squirtle at the trig point.
The best route back is to follow the wall, especially as I was on the far side to the cattle. Keeping the wall to the left I descended easily. There’s another wall to cross but there’s a gate in the middle of it. Then another barbed wire fence with a gate at the far right hand side. Finally it’s a walk to the gate in the wall and back to the road. From here it was 900m to the car where it was time to remove boots and let my feet steam for a few minutes.
The lessons I learnt from this are:
if you haven’t been out for 6 weeks it will be hard work when you start doing proper(ish) hills again.
make sure you draw routes the right direction so you don’t try to do the impossible
plenty of Pokemon to catch in Dumfrieshire
Only 39 GM/SS summits to do in the target list.