As part of our (with M0JLA) SOTA tour of GM/SS last month (see long account elsewhere which is still being composed …) I wanted to go up Andrewhinney hill GM/SS-083 as it had eluded us on a previous stay in Moffat. We decided that it was best approached from the lovely lonely Ettrick Valley to the east and the good forecast for Sunday 20 September indicated this was the day for the drive (nearly an hour) from the Peebles area with vague thoughts of the famous Tushielaw Inn if at all possible. Unfortunately the drizzle and low cloud was not encouraging as we passed Traquair and Ettrickbridge but we paused beside the road just short of the Inn and decided that we’d try plan B and head for the small (and not very thrilling) Cacra Hill GM/SS-179 which apparently had a track most of the way up. Last activated 2 years ago with 13 activations in all,and contacts including 2m – 26, 70cm – 0, this did not look as if it would be easy to grab a 2m contact each and run but at least we could defer the slog through wet grass for another hour or so!
The new, very wide track (rather overdoing it for a forest road??) wound slowly up through thousands of small trees!
and the track soon came to the end.
After a short ascent up the spur we could see the top (no trig point this time) across a small valley but decided to stay put and assemble the 2m dipole quickly to see if we could avoid the time taken to set up HF in the wind and slight drizzle. To our amazement 3 s2s were swiftly in the bag (G/LD-018 and 035, GM/SS-127) followed by North Wales (Anglesey and Holywell) and G0UIG in Cromer, Norfolk. It didn’t seem necessary to erect HF (to M0JLA’s disappointment) so I tried 70cm and in came a bunch of locals who had become interested in my efforts (antics?) and decided to take their daily walk at the nearby Ettrickbridge. This gave 3 70cm contacts (the first ever from this little hill surrounded by larger ones) so I called hopefully for a 4th and within 2 mins James M0JCQ (and Christina M7CID) on G/LD-009 Grasmoor came to complete 70cm and to round off the activation.
Rather dazed by our success (talking to Cromer in Norfolk on 5w each way with signal reports 51/54??) we plodded back down the track to the car. It was now too late to attempt Andrewhinney Hill but, as several summits had cleared, we decided on Ward Law GM/SS-119, at 594m a slightly lower substitute, but approached from the same valley. We parked at the corrugated iron village hall and I surveyed some of the suggested routes which seemed to involve fences, stone walls or gardens none of which appealed (but I did enjoy watch a nuthatch attacking a nut!) but my attention was caught by a farmer on a quad who was travelling behind the houses – and eventually reached our road! Hence we set off 100 yards back along the road, through the gate and followed the track just above the houses (and fences, walls and gardens…) to the open hillside and the steep grassy ascent between the wooded Deep Syke and Roaring Syke. Then it was a lesser gradient avoiding the bracken and aiming for the higher sheepfold and up to a cairn on the ridge which looked interesting (it wasn’t!)
I then tried to hurry to the summit (still another 180m up) as I heard James M0JCQ on his next summit Grisedale Pike G/LD-015. Luckily he was inundated with callers (and fortunately couldn’t hear my puffing and gasping) until I got close enough to the impressive Jubilee cairn on Ward Law to call him
A s2s with him and Christina and then a further contact on 70cm just gave time (he was very patient) for M0JLA to arrive and get his s2s. This time Rod set up on HF and left me to fight my way through the next hour when I never found a clear frequency and just decided to share with whoever was already there.
The log indicates that my chasers were in various clusters and I need to find a tracking programme to see if there was any consistent pattern (help please#) but it seems my 5w signal from a dipole about 2m above the ground on GM/SS-119 in the Scottish Borders was travelling west of the Lake District (Whitehaven and Ulverston) to reach NW Wales (Bangor and Bala) and Aberporth GW4TQD (near Cardigan c360km on both 2m and 70cm 54/53!) To the east of the Lake District I contacted Yorkshire (Bradford, Leeds, Huddersfield), Peak District/Derbyshire (300km) and Grimsby on the east coast south of Hull (c290km). Once again G0UIQ, Bill from Cromer, Norfolk (c410km) was coming in strongly (especially on 145.500) and our 70cm contact was 52/52 on 40w and a very clear 41/52 on 5w both sides. A new record for me and not even from a s2s but he does have a 60ft tower!
What didn’t I get? I thought I heard EYP very briefly but he soon disappeared into the babble of voices. Also I didn’t manage a contact into Europe but, for a time, I thought I had! At about 1510 I gave up the struggle of trying to talk over whoever I was sharing with and tried listening instead, I wasn’t quick enough to get the call sign but Johann in JO10HU was talking to someone (I thought it was me until he thanked for the signal report and I hadn’t given one…) and he was telling his caller - I think it was G7UWA in Suffolk – that the only high ground between them would be high buildings in Dunkirk! This conversation eventually started to fade and I went back to calling but, later, a voice said ‘you are being heard in Holland’ but my efforts to raise anyone there were unsuccessful!! After over an hour on the summit (50min on the dipole) and 28 contacts (2m-19, 70cm – 9) it was time to descend
and I was too tired to think of visiting the Tushielaw Inn (next time!! along with GM/SS-083 and Law Kneiss GM/SS-168 (which had ‘only if desperate’ pencilled beside it some years ago!))
The next day the effects of the lift could still be felt on Windelstraw Law GM/SS-087 eventhough this was a rounded boggy summit with only a trig point and meeting of fences to indicate the top – not good for take-off. The route started off well but gradually narrowed (except in the very boggy bits!) and went on for a long way past numerous grouse butts (he’s some way ahead by now)
before disappearing shortly before a new microwave repeater. I hadn’t had the radio on as I walked up so I was unprepared for the large number of s2s that were immediately available:
M0JCQ and M7CID on G/LD-006 Pillar, MM0DHY Adrian on GM/CS-003 then
GX0OOO John on G/NP-011 and G4OOE, M0PYG Nick and Geoff on G/NP-006.
I then left their frequency and hunted for one of my own and had to QSY to 145.350 and in the process I must have lost GW4VPX Allan who was apparently calling me from Manod Mawr GW/NW-035 with a 51 report but I hadn’t heard him. That would have been another 260+km contact so showed the lift was still there. The other contacts were mostly local with Maryport (west Lake District) and then two final s2s - 2W0XYL Karen on GW/NW-011 (2m 310km a good one) and MM0VPM Alan on GM/SS-133 Minch Moor (10km!).
We finished the day on GM/SS-219 Cademuir Hill – a small lump above Peebles with local contacts only and I had to beg for a 4th 70cm and was rescued by MM7DBT/M in Kirkcaldy. The next day it was two tiddlers near Galashiels GM/SS-211 and 212 where I had to call in all favours to get a total of 10 2m contacts on the 2 summits and no 70cm at all! This was a bit more like what I had expected when planning – not the 324 contacts to type in with 207 on 2m, 117 on 70cm and 0 on HF.
How was the VHF/UHF 20th September lift for you? I will be very interested to hear other reports to see if I was particularly lucky in GM/SS or was it universal?
PS Can anyone help by suggesting an easy tracking programme as requested above and sorry this isn’t quite finished yet!