Six NP summits
Our last 5 summit round of activations in the Lake District in October culminated in a Mountain Goat activation for Paul on the summit of Helvellyn. This could have been the signal for a well-earned rest, but as is usually the case, the discussion on our return journey turned to which summits were we going to activate next. We mentally ran through the LD and NP summits that we still had to activate and we both came to the conclusion that it would be a nice idea to polish off the NP’s by the end of the year. I had already prepared draft itineraries for a 4 summit round over 2 days based at the Scotch Corner (Skeeby) Travelodge. Paul came up with the brilliant idea of adding two of the remaining summits to this with two night’s stay at the Travelodge if we could get rooms at the £19 bargain rate. A few days after our return, Paul emailed me to say that he had booked two rooms for the nights of 14th and 15th November. The sortie was on – all I had to do was review and make one or two timing adjustments to the itineraries, prepare the kit and wait.
Day 1, Sunday 14th November, required a reasonably early start – 03:50 in fact. It was dry, calm and 6C when I left Northampton and it was about the same temperature when we departed Stourbridge at 05:30, though rather more damp. A good run up the M6 provided us with an early arrival at the parking spot for Nine Standards Rigg G/NP-018 on the B6270. It was 08:12 when we parked the car and we were already 18 minutes ahead of schedule – better that than being late. The temperature at the parking spot was just 1C and the forecast was for showers – delightful! We had driven through some heavy rain while on the M6 near Preston, but as it turned out, the only water to cause us any bother during the day had already fallen and was lying on the ground. In my winterised schedule I had allowed a lazy one hour and twenty minutes to get to the summit and we needed almost all of this, as the ground was extremely boggy. Seemingly innocent patches of grass and reed turned out to be vegetation that hid water, up to around half a metre deep in places. It wasn’t that long before the wet assault on our gaiters meant that we experienced a cold wet feeling as brown brackish water found its way over the tops of our boots. Once breached, the temperature inside our boots plummeted and with my poor circulation, I arrived at the trig already devoid of feeling in my feet and Paul was not that much more comfortable.
The light breeze at the parking spot at 510m had turned itself to a sharp cold wind at the 662m summit which was quite aggressive in the near freezing temperature. Visibility had also gone down to little more than 20 metres and the summit area was awash in several centimetres of water. Paul decided that he could utilise the trig to support his pole and this provided some shelter from the weather. I wandered off a short distance and found a suitable position behind a ruined stone wall which also turned out to be useful for supporting my pole. It took me 20 minutes to get set up and I was ready to go by 10:08. I checked the beacons and moved to 144.333MHz to call CQ – no response. Well, we were early, having alerted for 10:30. I called several times, but no one came back, so I slipped my headphones off to check whether Paul was in action on 60m. I knew his appearance would start the regulars looking for me on 2m. By this time he was making a steady run of contacts, so I returned to the rig and checked it over – no power out on transmit – arghh! The voltmeter on the 857 showed that the 12AH SLAB I was using was collapsing as soon as I pressed the PTT. I had only one option – 2m FM on the C710 handheld. I didn’t know whether it would be successful, so I self-spotted advising that I would be using 145.400MHz and Paul M6PEW soon found me and confirmed my presence with another spot. It wasn’t easy going with just 1 watt, but a short run of contacts with John G0TDM, David G6LKB and Marjorie M3ULV qualified the summit for me and I managed another contact by calling when a QSO finished on 145.475MHz. Several more calls solicited no response, so I decided to call it a day and pack up. As if failure of the SLAB was not enough, the pole telescoped just as I stopped calling and this split the bottom cap. Fortunately I had all the parts for an on-site repair, so I set about this task as Paul finished off his activation. I noted the temperature indicated on my thermometer had risen to a balmy 2C.
Paul found 60m in fair condition and was hopeful of a large number of contacts as it was a Sunday. First up was the ever-vigilant John G0TDM who kindly posted a spot for Paul. Contacts came at a steady pace with no more than a couple calling at once, but it was all done and dusted within half an hour with16 contacts in the log. Where were the weekend cavalry? A brief look at 80m showed it to be extremely noisy, so seeing that I had already dropped my mast and was in the process of packing away, Paul too decided that he needed to get moving. I did wonder whether I would ever feel my feet again, but the circulation slowly started to return once we started our descent. The bad conditions on the ground prevented us from making a rapid descent and it took us just over the hour to get back to the car by 12:10, including of course the mandatory inspection of the limestone pavement that the tracks runs through – a really good example.
After sorting out ourselves for the next summit, we discussed the merits of changing our socks. For some strange reason, neither of us had brought a spare pair of boots, so we decided that on balance it would be better to just leave our footwear as it was, wet socks and all. The itinerary allowed a rather generous 20 minutes for lunch which we shortened to 13 minutes and we were away from the parking spot by 12:28. It was 21 mile drive along the B6270 and minor roads to reach the parking spot for our next summit, Hoove G/NP-024.
We parked at NZ018067 near the County Durham / Teesdale sign at 13:12 to find the bitterly cold wind was still with us. At least we could see where we were headed, but progress over the ground was relatively slow and it took a 40 minute yomp across heather and bog before we reached the trig at 14:00. I had generously allowed an hour for the ascent knowing the reputation of this route. Fortunately the man-made drainage ditches running in straight lines across the hillside seemed to be working and apart from avoiding innumerable mantraps and sink holes, it was an easier ascent than I had imagined. I was pleased to find the trig top open and clear so that I could easily deploy my pole, but I had to take care as a pond about half a metre deep had formed on three sides of the trig. Paul found shelter and a suitable operating position in a depression close to the summit, which was fortunately reasonably dry. I noted that the temperature was still a cool 2C and dropping slowly – well, at least we had no rain.
Paul was first to make a contact on this summit, with John G0TDM waiting on 60m for him despite the fact that we were 45 minutes early. Again the run was again steady and 13 contacts were made on 60m in just over half and hour. Paul recorded his first S2S of the expedition on this summit working Kjell LA1KHA/P on Holtankollen LA/TM-049. After working Keith G7WCM at 14:49 the frequency went quiet, so Paul took a look at 80m. The band was still noisy and the skip seemed to be long with lots of European traffic, so after a while calling without success, he decided to call it a day.
My first contact on 2m SSB at 14:20 was with Roger G0TRB. Signals were not particularly strong and it took the full 50 watts from the FT-857 to get the report across to Mike G4BLH who followed on. A mix of power levels was then used to get the best out of my battery pack, knowing that, with the expiry of the SLAB, I would need some reserve for the final summit of the expedition. In all I worked just 7 stations on 2m and one on 70cms – Phil G4OBK, who was stronger on 70cms than on 2m. After a few more calls on both bands, I took the opportunity to take some photographs. Paul told me that Don G0RQL was looking for me, so I went back to my kit, turned the beam down to the south-west and gave it the full 50 watts and managed to make the QSO. After a few more calls on 2m, I went QRT at 15:08. The trek back to the car was only marginally quicker than the ascent, but then there is only 39m of ascent for this summit, the challenge being entirely down to the ground conditions.
The temperature when we reached the car had dropped to zero. We were both pleased to finally put on dry socks and footwear before leaving for our overnight accommodation. A short drive up to the A66 and across to Scotch Corner had us checking in at the Travelodge at 16:47 and after deploying our boots and washing the brackish water out of our socks, we convened in Paul’s room for scoff, which was excellent as usual. After this a hot shower and a spot of TV watching preceded a decent night’s sleep for us both.
For once our rooms were more or less opposite, so it was an easy thing to meet up the following morning at 05:45 before going out to the car. The receptionist told us it was chilly – well minus 2C chilly and ice to remove from the car windscreen, but nothing to bother us. It was a reasonably pleasant drive back down the winding B6270 to near Keld where we parked up in a rough lay-by at NY892006. The route up Kisdon G/NP-026 is easy to follow and initially goes along a track – here we met a local farmer walking his dog. Just past a farm cottage set back on the left, we cut left across to the OA land. Then it was a short stiff climb up to a gate and around the side of the hill, veering right past a corner in a stone wall and then over a lower section of the wall to the summit. It was initially fairly steep on the track, but this was just what we needed to get us going on this crisp sunny morning. It was minus 2C at the summit with sun and minimal cloud – more importantly, it was absolutely still and this made for extremely pleasant operating conditions. I went for the highest spot and Paul took advantage of the luxurious seating facilities offered by the beehive cairn nearby.
We were alerted for 08:30 and were just a little early when we got on air. My first call went unanswered, but the next call brought in Geoff G6MZX, shortly followed by Bob G6ODU. I was spotted by Bob and also by David G6LKB. John MW1FGQ called in for QSO number 3 and we tried on 70cms, but nothing was copied either way on that band. Back on 2m at 08:30, the run then started. After working David G6LKB, I raised the power to 40 watts to work Laurie G6XLL and David G2BOF and left it there until the frequency went quiet at 08:45. I had 11 in the bag with Don G0RQL providing the best DX. After a few unanswered calls on 70cms and a wander around to take some photographs and get my circulation going, I put a call out to the north on the 2m SSB calling frequency and Jack GM4MOX in Kirkcaldy came straight back. So much for Kisdon being an RF black hole!
Paul’s first contact on 60m was with Roger G4OWG who also spotted him. Conditions were again reasonable on the band producing a very pleasant run of 17 contacts from Don G0RQL in Devon up to Ken GM0AXY in Edinburgh to near match the geographical spread of my contacts. A little after 09:00, Paul moved to 80m where he found much quieter conditions than the previous day and worked Frank G3RMD followed by G8ADD, G3RDQ and G0RQL to qualify the summit on that band. By the time we had finished, the sun was warming the summit nicely and the frost was starting to disappear. All looked good for our next summit.
We started our descent at 09:38 and were back at the car by 10:06. I had allowed time for a snack at this point, but we decided to take a drink and “bun” up the next summit instead, so got on the road back to Gunnerside and our parking spot at SD941983. The track leading to the summit of Rogan’s Seat G/NP-014 was more or less opposite our parking spot on a wide grass verge – a 6.7km walk on a private vehicle track.
The walk to Rogan’s Seat was very pleasant indeed with some excellent views, a small waterfall, a slippery patch where the track was wet and in shadow, designer grouse butts and plenty to look at along almost its entire length. My winterised schedule allowed 2 hours and 40 minutes – we managed it in 1 hour and 48 minutes and that was taking it reasonably easy. The worst part was traversing from the track to the summit, which sits on a hag bank and is marked by a small pile of stones. We had several options – sit in the wet at the summit, try out an old grouse butt nearby or use the fence nearby for an easy set up. We decided on the latter. To get out of the cold wind, I used my plastic tarpaulin tie wrapped to the fence and once sat on my insulating pad, it was very pleasant indeed. Paul set up a short way down the fence. The first thing for both of us was lunch, eaten as we started to set up our stations – it’s amazing how good relatively simple food tastes when consumed out on a summit.
I was ready to go by 12:45, but we were a full hour earlier than we had alerted for and it was lunch time. Several CQs went unanswered and I did not have mobile phone coverage to self-spot, so I had to be patient and let the channelised magic of 60m do its work. First up for Paul at 12:52 was his namesake G0HNW – a renowned 60m operator, but not a SOTA chaser. Fortunately Brian G8ADD was second on parade and the spot was soon in place. Don G0RQL eventually kick-started my activation. Paul had a very steady run for around 50 minutes and made 21 contacts on 60m around G, GI, EI and GM. At 13:40 he moved to 80m and starting with Frank G3RMD who kindly provided a spot, another six contacts were made. Paul was then given the heads-up that Pavel OK1MCS was activating Ebene DM/BM-092 on 40m SSB, so a quick QSY was taken to pick up the S2S. Returning to 80m, Paul then worked Nick M6NJB and Pete M0COP provided Paul with his 30th contact on the summit.
As already noted, Don G0RQL was my first contact at 13:07 and the one to spot me. Just a short run ensued to put 6 in the log on 2m SSB before the frequency went quiet. I moved to 70cms and decided to start with CW knowing that Frank G3RMD would be looking for me. My first call was actually answered by Reg G3WPF and we had a pleasant chat on the key for a few minutes. Frank followed on to give me a second contact on the band. I tried a few more calls both on CW and SSB without result before moving back to 2m to pick up another run of 4 ending with David G8EQD.
We started to dismantle our stations at 14:18 and made our descent at 14:32. It took us a steady 1 hour and 25 minutes to get back to the car, an indication of how well we had progressed on our ascent. We changed our footwear for the drive back to the Travelodge and arrived there at 16:57. We decided to pay Richmond a visit during the evening and ended up in Wetherspoons for a bite to eat and some ale which made a pleasant change. Commencement of the pub quiz at 20:30 was the cue for our exit. The ale wasn’t particularly good anyway.
The itinerary on Tuesday 16th November required an earlier start than the previous day. The temperature was around minus 2C again, but this time there had been a rain shower during the night and so I had to chip thick ice off the windscreen before we could depart. It was 06:00 when we pulled out onto the A1 and thereafter we took the A66 across to Brough and down to Kirkby Stephen and on to Sedbergh. We drove through fairly thick fog for the last 10 miles or so, but as we climbed up to the parking spot for our first summit we ran out of it. It was clear when we arrived at Garsdale Foot, SD699915. The curtains were drawn and all was quiet at the nearby farmhouse, so we kept as quiet as we could while we readied ourselves for the ascent of Baugh Fell G/NP-012.
We could see the fog in the valley starting to break up as we set out at 07:17 in reasonably bright conditions with a temperature of around 2C. We had hoped for frozen ground on this summit, but with the higher temperature, the ascent alongside Ringing Keld Gutter was seriously boggy. It was tiring going with the water laden ground and vegetation sucking at our boots with more or less every footstep. We kept to the tracks wherever we could, but detours to avoid the worst areas were necessary. My winterised schedule allowed 2 hours for the ascent and with the difficult conditions we reached the trig at Knoutberry Haw in 1 hour 47 minutes. Scanning across the summit plateau, we decided not to progress further to Tarn Rigg as there was a good couple of centimetres of standing water on the ground and walking the additional kilometre for an increase in height of just 2 metres wasn’t worthwhile. We found a couple of slightly drier spots close to the trig against the wall, which at least afforded us some protection from the cold wind that was blowing.
My first task was to temporarily remove a couple of flat stones from the top of the wall to place my kit and myself on. Once set up, the radio part was easy. Roger G0TRB was waiting for me on 144.333MHz and a steady run followed to put 15 contacts in the log. It was a pleasure to hook up with Alan MM1MPB from this one. After a chat with Nick G0HIK, the frequency went quiet so I moved to 70cms and using CW worked Reg G3WPF and Frank G3RMD in succession. Paul was already packing up when I was on the key, so after a couple of unsuccessful calls on SSB, I started to pack away at 10:35.
Paul’s first contact on 60m was another one with Paul G0HNW and Roger G0TRB followed. It was actually Don G0RQL who provided the spots for both 60m and 2m. 60m was again good around G and GW with reasonable signal strengths and Paul managed 14 contacts before he moved to 80m at around 08:50. Conditions were also reasonable on 80m and 9 contacts were made including Ken GM0AXY. At 10:20 the run ended and after a few more calls Paul decided to go QRT, leaving me to finish off on 70cms.
We were ready for the descent at 10:48, the stones that I had used to keep dry duly replaced on the wall. A steady pace was kept up to get us back to the car at 11:43 where we had a snack before moving the car across the valley to the single parking spot at SD697911 adjacent to the start of the track to our next summit, Aye Gill Pike G/NP-023.
It was 12:05 when we started our ascent and we were some 30 minutes ahead of schedule. However, I wondered how my winterised time allowance of 1 hour and 40 minutes for the ascent would stand up. Initially the track was quite steep and therefore well drained. As we gained height and the track flattened out, the ground became very damp and wet and presented the same issues as our previous summit such that we did not arrive at the summit until 13:37. In a cold brisk wind and beneath a mixture of sun and cloud, we set up at the summit trig. Paul used the trig to support his pole and I chose a small section of wall to take advantage of the shelter it provided and to support my pole. I noted the day had warmed up - 4C indeed.
At 13:54, Paul was first to get going at on this summit to find the ever-vigilant Roger G0TRB ready waiting on 60m. The skip length had noticeably lengthened from the morning and Paul’s third contact was a new country for him on the band, courtesy of Henry OZ3FD. The locals still got a look in as John G0TDM and Geoff G6MZX followed, in fact the spot came from Geoff. In a little over 35 minutes Paul had 17 contacts logged before moving to 80m around 14:30, our alerted time. Brian G8ADD managed to be first up on the band for the second summit running. Nigel G0RXA was second in line with Don G0NES making an appearance on the band, having just got home. Paul obliged with a brief move back to 60m to work Don, before returning to 80m to pick a fourth and final contact with Roger G0TRB. It was 15:00 when Paul went QRT.
On 2m SSB, my first call brought back Laurie G6XLL, very much to my surprise, with Roger G0TRB hot on his heels. Geoff G6MZX spotted me, but had to wait awhile as I worked through several contacts. When I worked John G0TDM he told me that Phil G4OBK/P was on Lord’s Seat G/LD-033 on FM, so I fired up the C520 and whip. Unfortunately Phil couldn’t make out my call when I called him, so I returned to the main station and worked him straight away, even though we were cross-polarised. This was my only S2S of the expedition. I moved back to SSB after working Phil and had a chat with Nick G0HIK who found that I was strongest when he beamed away from me - signals peaked at strength 9. With 11 contacts made on SSB and the S2S on FM, I decided to use up what power remained in my batteries on 2m FM and managed to add another 6 contacts to the log. My activation concluded with a contact on 70cms SSB with Mike G4BLH, just before my last power pack became unusable.
I started to pack away at 15:08 and we were ready for the descent by 15:22. While traversing a particularly damp section on our descent, I felt cold water enter my left boot. After three days of damp conditions the waterproofing of the fabric beneath the laces had become saturated. At least there were no more hills to climb and dry socks and footwear awaited me at the car, which we reached at 16:14. Our celebratory snack was a leisurely affair and we polished off more or less everything that Paul had packed, including those naughty things like cheese and biscuits. So much for taking off weight this trip!
Our return journey was straightforward – a 16:58 departure resulted in a 19:32 arrival at Stourbridge. Soup spiced with chillies was ready waiting for us, which warmed us nicely and we sat chatting about the activations we had carried out. I set out for home at 20:16 and arrived there at 21:40 – precisely on schedule, by fluke rather than judgement.
So another 6 NP summits activated which leaves us with just Mickle Fell G/NP-002 to complete the region. Plans have been in place to activate that summit for some time and we are hoping for decent weather on 30th December 2010, the date arranged with the Defence Estates.
Thanks to everyone for the contacts that we made and for the support that you provided. Particular thanks to G0TDM, G4BLH, G4OBK, G6LKB, G6ODU, G4OWG, G3RMD, G8ADD, G0RQL, GW4BVE, G6MZX and G0NES for the spots – quite a list. Hopefully we will manage an outing in the Lakes in early December, so keep an eye on the alerts page of SOTAwatch.
73, Gerald G4OIG