John’s hill? That’ll be Cairnharrow SS-191! John GM8OTI uses this as a regular haunt for UHF operations as it’s a stone throw from his Gatehouse Of Fleet QTH. He’d spoken often that it had a good take off for UHF and wasn’t too difficult to get to the top, important when you have lots of gear with you.
As it was IARU region 1 UHF contest, me and my contest mob were at our contest site which just happens to be outside of Gatehouse of Fleet. You can see where this is going… Setup contest gear, tents, kettle and catering supplies etc. then nip up a local SOTA summit, UHF fun then back to the site. Of course the best laid plans etc.
The WX has been very bad in that part of Scotland resulting in very waterlogged ground. Friday before the contest was torrential rain and most of us now being fairweather contesters set off early Saturday rather than arriving on Friday afternoon to setup (also known as bolt two or three aerials together then abort to the pub for the evening). 3 brave souls did arrive Friday, one in a tent and 2 in a camper van. On Saturday on arrival the site was like the Somme, a sea of mud, badly churned by the cattle who live in the field over Winter. Not nice. We did find somewhere less boggy to set up and by 13.30 we had all the equipment ready, 70cms(100W), 23cms(80W), 13cms(125W), 9cms(40W), 6cms(5W), 3cms(1W), 1.24cms(1W), plus our tents and operating/cooking/whisky drinking tent. This was my signal to set off for Cairnharrow which is visible 10km away to the West.
I couldn’t remember John’s route so I’d checked out parking spots on the roads around Cairnharrow and there’s space at NX544561 for 1 car. There is a gas pipeline valve here so don’t block the gate. There are other places along here, use Google Streetview to check them out. I crossed the gate and followed the path to the first forest clearing. A look on the aerial view on Bing maps showed lots of firebreaks in the forest but the one here looked a little overgrown. So I crossed the clearing and followed the other firebreak SW until it met the drystane dyke. I turned right followed this up the hill. I noticed there was a field of Scottish Pandas across the dyke. Well from a distance Belted Galloway cattle have the same colour scheme as Pandas. But unlike Pandas, Belted Galloways can be bothered to mate!
Follow the dyke up hill, through an opening in another dyke, past the chair on the ladder (like a tennis umpire’s chair) and as the forest recedes keep going up until the dyke meets a wire fence. There is a gap in the wall here and you are now on the ridge. Basically go West young man and go up and 1.5kms and 200m of climbing later there is the cairn and trig point. Except there was the slight WX issue. Back at the contest site it was bright and sunny-ish but very, very windy. By lunchtime it was overcast, no sun, even windier and a lot colder. Top temp was 10C. May and it was only 10C At the parking space it was warm, 14C which was a bit better. But 1hr15 later at the summit it was bitterly cold and blowing a hoolie. Hmrrrrph!
Now as there was much UHF activity today I had changed the bag contents. Out went the LF dipoles and guys and I had a 70cms 30W PA and preamp and 6 ele Yagi and a SLAB. For 23cms I had an Alinco DJ-G7 and a 3ele PCB Yagi plus the back half of a 23ele Tonna Yago for 23cms. This made the bag much heavier than normal. If it had been a nice day I was going to set up for 15m and UHF and work HF and UHF. Blowing a gale meant a short pole and UHF only.
On went the 6 ele, wired up to the PA and 817 and G0BWC/p (Bolton Wireless Club) on Winter Hill where in the log. Next was Colin M0XSD who was 59+++++ on FM who had seen my spot. I heard Bob G6ODU calling me but he didn’t hear me answer. I continued to tune about working contest stations on 70cms. ODX for 432MHz SSB was Ron GW4EVX near Mold at 203kms with easy 55 signals each way over a mainly sea path. I worked John as G8OTI/P from near Penrith on his drive North from Southport where he had 3cms contacts with Mike G4BLH and Mark G0VOF on Longridge Fell. He had a 3cms QSO with my contest mob from the Penrith site. On 70cms with 100W he was loud enough to overload the simple preamp in the PA.
I also managed a contact on FM with G0BWC/p at 180kms for my ODX on 23cms FM. I really needed the 14ele beam for that. Free space path loss on 23cms is 139.9dB compared to 120dB on 2m. So on 2m you could probably work handy to handy using rubber ducks. On 23cms you have to find that missing 20dB which came from using Yagis on both ends. It’s LOS apart from the Earth’s curvature so some tropo scattering is needed to overcome that. Still G0BWC/p were 51 with me on FM on a handy that really needs a preamp on 23cms. I was pleased with that.
In the end 6 QSOs on 70cms and 3 on 23cms. It would have been cool to have qualified the summit on both bands but I wasn’t going to hang about any long at the top as I was frozen and wind blown. The quickest station dis-assembly I can remember for a while and 50mins later I was back in the car on my way to the contest site. I arrived just after the group had made our 1st contest QSO ever on 9cms. So we downed tools and made for the pub to celebrate!
John is right, Cairnharrow is a lovely little hill with a great takeoff for VHF and above. The views are good too. Another of those magic 1pt summits.
Total walked: 5km, total ascent: 340m, total driven 21km.