SOTA G/DC-001: High Willhays

A trip home to visit my parents in Devon gave me the opportunity for my first SOTA activation of 2018: High Willhays, the highest point on Dartmoor. It’s also the only SOTA summit on the moor, as most tors don’t have sufficient prominence to meet the P150 rule.

This is a nice easy way to get four points (plus three winter bonus points at this time of year). Before attempting the hill, however, it’s imperative to check the Dartmoor Firing Notice, since High Willhays is part of the Okehampton Firing Range, so you need to be sure that the army is not using the area for live firing.

For the easiest walk in, the following is my recommended route:

  1. In the centre of Okehampton, turn up Station Road, signposted ‘Camp’.
  2. Continue until you reach the barrier at the perimeter of the military camp at SX592932.
  3. Drive over the cattle grid and immediately turn right (don’t cross the brook), meaning that you end up following the stone wall on your right
  4. Follow the obvious tarmac track until the tarmac runs out and the road surface becomes rough at SX592913. This is as far as private vehicles are permitted.

    View of track

    Park where the tarmac runs out, by West Mill Tor (Looking North)

  5. Leaving the car here, you’ll have West Mill Tor to the south-west, with the path continuing due south. Walk along the path to where the path splits at SX592906.
  6. Bear right, heading south-west towards Yes Tor, with the obvious flag pole on top. (If there’s a red flag flying on the pole, turn back; it means there is live firing in the area.)

    Paths splitting

    Bear right where the path splits

  7. The path continues to the ridge half-way between Yes Tor (to the north) and High Willhays (to the south) at SX581899.
  8. Bear left and take the barely-visible track that heads straight towards High Willhays. Note that this path can be boggy.

    Path to High Willhays

    Take the path to reach High Willhays on the horizon

You will soon reach High Wilhays (SX580892), about 50 minutes after leaving the car. It’s a fairly unimpressive tor by general Dartmoor standards, and it’s quite flat, giving a sizeable activation zone, so plenty of room to set up HF dipoles.

My activation today was a very quick one, only getting 6 QSOs on 30m CW. There were some very squally showers of sleet, hail and snow grains that were accompanied by some strong gusts. With the bitterly cold winds, and the fact that my parents were with me getting cold, I was keen not to spend more time on the hill than necessary. Sorry to those I missed.

Ascent time: 50 minutes
Car park at 450m ASL, summit at 621m ASL.
Ascent = 171m in approx 2km
Terrain: Mainly easy-going stone path, then across slightly boggy moorland for last 500m to the summit.