So, how did Jimmy M3EYP and I manage to complete the G/SB SOTA region, with Liam in tow? The fact that we did seems to come as something of a surprise to some fellow activators. Well, it did to us as well. Liam has done many different SOTA expeditions with us over the years, but has tended to be omitted from the expedition team for the more serious and strenuous stuff. There have been exceptions, such as Snowdon GW/NW-001 (up Pyg Track, down Miners Track) and Waun Fach GW/SW-002, as well as participation in last summer’s camping holiday where we activated 22 summits in G/DC, G/SC and G/CE.
Jimmy and I had only activate one G/SB summit, this being The Cheviot G/SB-001 on the final day of our Pennine Way walk of 2006. Uswayford to Kirk Yetholm
So we had seven left to do, from G/SB-004 through G/SB-010. (Hedgehope Law G/SB-002 and Cushat Law G/SB-003 were culled from the SOTA programme after only five days due to suffering a similar fate in the definitive Relative Hills of Britain list of P150 summits).
Research informed me that only one of the summits - Ros Hill G/SB-009 - was a trivial short walk. All the rest were either lengthy, or steep, or both. Hence why the long term planning for this trip had been for Jimmy and myself only. However Marianne’s work schedule meant that we could not leave Liam behind, so I decided to cancel the trip. Upon learning of this decision, Marianne informed me that we darned well were going, as planned, and taking Liam with us. And what a brilliant insistence that turned out to be!
Sighty Crag G/SB-005, 520m ASL, 5.9km each way
We set off, a little later than intended, around 9am on Wednesday 27th July 2011, after picking up Jimmy’s mate Craig from Bollington, who was keen to join us again for a SOTA camping trip. Decent progress was made up the M6, as far as Southwaite services, where Jimmy reckoned there would be a map shop from where we could get the OS Explorer 1:25000 sheets we needed. He said we did so from there when we activated Cold Fell G/NP-020 some considerable time ago!
Of course, he was right. This service area has a large Tourist Information Centre, and offers many services including a comprehensive selection of OS maps for sale. Sadly, the route for Sighty Crag needed three new maps as the long walk-in was not fully contained within one or even two sheets. So having parted with a considerable sum of money for six new Explorer sheets and some Scottish tablet, we were on our way again.
We exited the M6 at J43 and drove into Brampton where we partook in haggis and chips for lunch. Craig suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to pack a towel, so I dived in a gear shop and got him a hiking towel for £1.99! Jimmy then directed me on the minor raods from Brampton to The Flatt, and then down a track to the parking spot at NY561784 near The Loan, as recommended by the excellent SOTA SB region website - http://www.sb-sota.org.uk
Although they tend to be long walks, at least those summits with an initial approach via forest rides allow you to get well into your stride before any greater challenge or gradient. This particular meandering looping forest road took us a great distance to the sharp bend in the track at NY587808, near Twolads Crag.
We now veered right over much rougher ground under under trees to the edge of the forest, where it was necessary to stride over the unbarbed section of fence and scramble steeply up Long Bar Ridge to the right. It was a hot day and this was a rather sheltered spot, so Liam and I got attacked mercilessly by waves of midges as we struggled to catch up with Craig and Jimmy!
We met a party of walkers shortly after, and they would be the only people we would meet all day on this fell. After negotiating our way across the stream and marshy area either side of it, we then faced an energy-sapping trudge up tussocky moorland. The gradient was trivial, but the going was slow. After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the two trig points - a good one, and a broken one beside it on the floor.
Liam perched himself on a rock and announced that he had earned 10 Nintendo Playcoins on his 3DS console. It turned out that his new 3DS - his main birthday present from June - has a pedometer built in, which rewards in playcoins which may be exchanged for items from the Nintendo shop. Liam spent his on ‘heroes’ which in could deploy in the various games he was playing to boost his chances of success. It became clearer how he had completed a long ascent without groaning or slowing down!
Jimmy worked on 2m FM, making 6 contacts, while I logged 15 QSOs on 40m CW. Jimmy’s included two S2S, these being Bobby G7GAX/P on Skiddaw G/LD-004 and 2E0JOH/P on Pillar G/LD-006. There was no need to be hanging around playing radio, for we were being attacked again by the midges, and still had a long walk and long drive ahead of us, not to mention a campsite to secure. We got on with it.
After the two hour descent, we were back on the road and following Jimmy’s directions along country lanes to Bonchester Bridge. My car was nearly out of diesel, so a garage became the priority. Nothing at Bonchester Bridge, so it was fingers crossed that the fumes would power us to Jedburgh. They did, and that was something of a relief.
Then there was a revisit to Town Yetholm, first time since the end of the Pennine Way Road Trip in 2010, and then onto Wooler. Despite arriving at 9.30pm at Highburn House campsite, we managed to get a pitch and got the tent up in good time. We were down in Wooler looking for food at 10.40pm, and after being initially refused, some careful persuasion got us a table for four in the Indian restaurant. The lamb tikka biryanis and Kingfisher beers went down very well indeed, before we headed back to the tent for some much needed sleep.
Thanks to everyone who called us on the activation.