Sighty Crag SB-005 and Blackwood Hill SS-199

Sighty Crag SB-005 and Blackwood Hill SS-199
Thursday 5th April 2007

After activating The Cheviot on Tuesday 3rd April, Wednesday was a relatively restful day walking along the coast near Dunstanburgh and Craster. The following day started with indecision over what everyone was doing and progress on this front was not being made. Eventually Bev made some sandwiches and stuffed them in my hand and told me to go off to activate some summits. In the event, I was the only one to stray more than 5 miles from the cottage. Had it not been for Bev, I could easily have missed the opportunity to get up into the hills.

It was actually 0910 UTC when I got away from Hepple and the Satnav took me south towards the A68. As usual I enjoyed the double hump back south of Ridsdale - there was no-one with me in the car to squeal this time, but I enjoyed the ride anyway. The A69 was clear west bound and it was not until Haltwhistle that there looked like there might be a problem when I met with fog. Fortunately this was not thick enough to slow me down and I was parked up near The Flatt by 1045 UTC. This area really is quite charming country and perhaps somewhere worthy of investigation on another occasion.

I started up the forestry track at 1056 and made reasonable progress. A brief stop was made to note some frog spawn in a wheel rut and another containing tadpoles. I thought of Bev and her wish to have some at school and resolved to pick some up on my return journey. The forestry section of the ascent was pleasant enough, but once out of the forest the task of heather hopping / rivulet avoiding became clear. The weather was now quite warm and this did not help with the climb up the crag by the forest and once on the top I stripped a layer off which is unusual for me as I generally self-regulate temperature-wise. The trek to the summit was quite arduous and I was pleased to have the newly acquired Garmin eTrex with me to identify the waypoints and the summit. I hoped that Jim G0CQK, the author of the route, had chosen the optimum path as I was at the mercy of his calculations. In the event, the summit was made at my estimated time of 1256. This is a very pleasant summit and while the walk in is rather dire, the reward of sitting on top with pleasant views in the Spring sunshine was well worth the effort.

Switch on at 1310 resulted in an immediate QSO with Ian G0UWK who was calling CQ on 144.300. We chatted for a while and then tried 70cms. As I had rushed out from the cottage, I did not have the correct adaptors with me to enable me to use the 2m beam. I therefore tried the HF dipole and we made a reasonable contact, given that I was running 5 watts into a non gain antenna. Returning to 2m, I worked M0MDD/M and G4LAA, both fairly local to me. I then posted myself and this brought in Graham JZF, Mike DSP, Steve AAV, Nigel NHM and Dave LKB. A move to 60 metres at 1402 resulted in a further 6 QSOs including Don G0RQL, though conditions were not very good. After the short run on 60, Don and I tried 2m and successfully made the QSO there. As I had been let out for the day, I was minded to try to fit in a second summit. I therefore decided not to activate 40 metre CW and so packed up at 1425. Unfortunately I discovered that my camera had been damaged the day previous and the lens cover would not open, so I gave up with that and after a cereal bar and a drink, started off across the heather at 1445. I arrived back at the car at 1610 after collecting spawn and tadpoles. I wished the remainder all the best knowing they were most likely doomed since the forecast was for more sun and no rain.

I had the details for Blackwood Hill SS-199 with me, some 17 miles by road from Sighty Crag. I had selected this hill as a potential first activation and had set out an ascent route through the forest from the south-west. I started my ascent at 1705 UTC and all went well until I could not locate the firebreak between the trees for the final part of the ascent. A notice advised against straying off the main tracks as stalking takes place in the forest, but I thought that the risk of being shot was extremely low this late on a Thursday evening (presumably it being also out of season). Locating the firebreak delayed me a little and I was not at the summit until 1812.

The summit has a decent fence and some posts to support the mast. I set up south of the summit to get a slightly better take off past the forest and was QRV by 1820. I discovered that I did not have any mobile coverage on this hill and so could not self-spot. However, my second CQ call on 144.300 brought back Dave G8AXW who solicited the aid of Dave G4UKP to provide QSO number two. I was then called by Nick G0HIK, but we could not complete the QSO as I faded out with him. The situation was overheard by Jim EI3GE and he got Nick to spot me. Many thanks Nick, especially as we did not make the contact. I had intended running the 150 watt linear from this summit, but I had left the appropriate patch lead back at the cottage in my rush to get out. The spot brought in another 4 QSOs including Mike DSP and Steve AAV. I then moved to FM and made a quick QSO with Simon M1AVV and also had a chat with Dave G4XTA. I was somewhat disappointed to be informed that my activation of the hill was not the first - Derek G1ZJQ had beaten me to it just a few days earlier. C’est la vie!

I packed up at 1920 and started my descent at 1930. As the light was rapidly fading, I decided to walk around the forest edge and the descent was completed by starlight. I understand that Derek took this route up and down and while it is strenuous, it is really the easiest route and avoids the risk of being shot at. I was en route back to the cottage at 2015, arriving there an hour later. As you might expect, I slept well that night!

Gerald, G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:
Hi Gerald,
The route to Sighty Crag was pioneered by John G4YSS on its first activation in December 2004, at the cost of an exhaust pipe, as he drove up the forestry road. After I followed in his tracks, I just documented the route for anyone else who might want it. I think there could be a better route via Long Crag & Black Stantling as I found evidence of an old track not shown on any map, when I returned to the Flatt across the moor, but I need to explore that further.
jim g0cqk

In reply to G0CQK:

Hi Jim,

I did check out the map and considered a route around the forest, but decided against it as the difficulty of the upper section of the established route is well documented and I didn’t fancy more of the same. I suspect the only way of establishing a route via Long Crag and Black Stantling is to try it, maybe both up and down to double the chances of finding a decent route… on a mild, not too hot summer’s day when time is unimportant. It will certainly entail plotting accurate waypoints. I was certainly pleased I had my Garmin with me last week on the established route.

73, Gerald G4OIG

P.S. Next year’s task will be to do the TW’s, with TW-004 on the way home.

In reply to G1ZJQ:

Hi Derek,

I did consider walking in from the Keilder side. There are some good routes through the forest, but they seem to stop short of allowing one to escape the undergrowth. Maybe worth a look on a bike sometime so more ground can be covered.

I’m sure that 2 hours from The Flatt is quite conservative - I’m a slow up fast down man (no comments please!). The forest / heather yomping sections were roughly 50:50 in terms of time which is amazingly slow on the top section.

No need to apolgise about Blackwood - just great minds thinking alike! I have some ideas for the summer in SS land… They are just 400 miles from home, that’s the problem. I will try to get my call onto a page as the first activator - somehow!!!

73, Gerald G4OIG