Great Coum NP-011 and Great Knoutberry NP-015
Sunday 4th January 2009
Generally before a day of activation, I have worries of one kind or another. Living so far from most of the summits usually this relates to some operational aspect of the activation, but on this occasion seemingly it was more the task of tackling two distant summits unaccompanied that was on my mind. It was not as though this was to be a new venture for me – in October 2007 I activated two previously unactivated summits in Dumfries and Galloway followed by 3 NP summits the next day, so what was this all about? Perhaps it had been prompted by Paul G4MD having analysed the figures for 2008 which revealed that I had carried out just 30% of my 74 activations during the year on my own. The two summits that I had chosen to activate on this occasion were relatively easy 4 pointers, but they were still serious hills and it was winter. Something was bothering me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
As it turned out, whatever was bothering me, paled into insignificance as I went down with a head cold with accompanying headache together with a bout of toothache on the Saturday evening. I was determined to do the activation as I knew I would feel better out in the open air, but these issues were not at all conducive to sleeping. By midnight I was too restless to stay in bed and so went downstairs to try to get some rest on the settee. After a while I dropped off to sleep and managed about an hour before I was once again awake and restless. It was 02:10 - time to get underway.
Outside it was minus 2.5C and calm. I packed the car and was away without a hitch by 02:38, 52 minutes before the time that I had scheduled. I decided to take it easy and settled for listening to Pete Mitchell on Radio 2 rather than any of the CDs in the changer. By the time I was on the M6 the temperature was down to minus 4C and a further degree down by Stafford. Then the process started to reverse and by the time I was crossing the Thelwall bridge it was just zero outside. The rise continued and as I turned off at the Lancaster North turn it was a heady 2.5C. This worried me somewhat, since the approach to my first summit Great Coum NP-011 can be rather boggy in places. I need not have worried, once I was heading north-east in the direction of Ingleton the temperature dropped once more and as I approached Kingsdale it was down to minus 1.5C and lightly snowing. It did not seem very cold as I got out to open the first gate on the road, but the car was decidedly nice and warm when I got back into it. I was somewhat envious of the people who were sleeping overnight in a campervan a mile further on – presumably they were nice and cosy tucked up asleep. I certainly hoped so.
I arrived at the end of the bridleway which is the start of the “traditional” route to the hill at 06:00 to find two “Police Slow” notices had been placed across the road, but with enough room to pass. The road was heavily iced a little further along, just before the parking spot, but the car easily made light work of that. My scheduled arrival time was 07:00, so I decided to try to get some sleep and once settled in my seat with my head on my fleece, I managed to get 45 minutes or so before the alarm I had set woke me. It took a couple of minutes to get going. I kitted up in full wet weather gear, gaiters and all – not because of any wet, but to resist the cold. The snow had stopped falling. I selected two 3.3AH SLABs for power, strapped the pole and antenna to the side of my backpack and after a cereal bar and a drink of water, set off at 07:16 for my first hill of the day. On this occasion I was carrying a 14kg load as I had the Ascom SE550 with me. So much for my resolution to adhere to the KISS principle during the winter period.
As I walked up the track dawn was breaking, but with cloud cover I had to use my LED headlamp to be sure of the track surface which was turned out to be okay, but the streams crossing it were heavily iced. Working to the description of the route that I had in my mind from Tom M1EYP’s webpages, I located the small gated stile just past a sizeable stream (which was still flowing) and started to head upwards for the col to the south of the summit area. I saw that there were footprints in the lying snow and wondered whether any of them belonged to Simon M1AVV who had activated the summit two days previous. Once up the steep section and on to the top it was considerably easier to follow the track and the walk was reasonably graded and the ground firm. At an intersection of two stone walls, a pond was totally iced up and as I approached the summit area, the wind became keener. I therefore sought shelter behind a section of wall not far from the 687m spot height and set up the mast with the beam arranged for both 2m and 70cms, together with the slim jim for 4m.
I took my Standard C528 out of my pocket and set it on the wall to monitor the FM local traffic on 145.500MHz. I soon heard Lee M0LMP and gave him a call, but he went back to someone else, so I decided to put out a CQ out and was called by Barry 2E0ZCL/P on Rombalds Moor NP-028 for my first S2S of the day. Geoff G4CPA also on the summit with Barry provided contact number two, then Steve 2E0KPO/P on relatively nearby Birks Fell NP-031 called me. I left them on the frequency to work each other and moved swiftly down to 144.333MHz SSB to work my usual type of activation. I learnt later that I just missed Scott 2E0RCS/P just across the valley on Whernside NP-004 – pity Scott didn’t think of calling me on his FM rig, as I would have changed mode. Anyway, my working frequency was not being monitored, so I put out a couple of CQs out on 144.300MHz and Ian G7HRP in Leeds came back to me. We QSY’d up to .333 and he kindly spotted me. Next up was Mike G4BLH/P, specially out on a cold Pendle Hill SP-005. We moved to 1297.500MHz FM and signals were 59 both ways. It turns out that this was the first 23cms contact made from Great Coum. Mike said he would keep an ear out for me when I moved to 4m, but he had left the summit by the time I had finished my 2m SSB run. In all I worked 27 stations on SSB as far south as Robert G0PEB on the Isle of Wight and Don G0RQL in Devon before the frequency went quiet. I changed the SLAB part way through this session. Mindful that Mike might be around for 4m, I next put the Ascom on and managed to work John MW1FGQ and then exchange reports with Roy M3RDZ before the second SLAB died. That negated a move to 70cms SSB, but I still had the C528 for FM – well I did until I pressed the PTT and found that the rig wouldn’t transmit – a victim of the cold. It was only minus 0.9C on the summit, but the rig had been sitting out in the cold for most of the past hour. Ah well, I thought, I’ll use the C710 – no I won’t! This had also been out of my pocket since working Mike G4BLH monitoring 23cms for Myke G6DDQ who was due to be QRV from Cross Fell NP-001 - it had the same problem for the same reason. Something useful learnt!
Without a working rig, I closed down at 10:02 and started my descent at 10:16. I expected to meet Amanda 2E0MND and Jordan M3TMX somewhere not far from the car and they turned up right on cue. We had around 5 minutes of chat before we parted and I was back at the car by 11:11 which enabled me to have an early lunch before I set off for my second summit of the day Great Knoutberry NP-015. It was still minus 1.5C at the car, but I was warm enough standing outside to eat and as I did the local farmer passed on his quad bike with trailer attached. He cautiously disappeared over the brow of the road in the direction of Dent and I heard him select a lower gear to slow the bike down…… I wondered whether this route was going to be a problem for me. Fortunately only one section was significantly iced up and the car was firm on that, as indeed it was all the way up to the parking spot where I arrived at 11:48. By the time I had changed over the SLABs for a new 3.3AH and a 12AH one, I was on schedule. Slinging the 17kg load on my back, I set off up the track at 11:55.
The ascent of this summit was everything Tom M1EYP described it as being – false summits abound. However, forewarned is forearmed and I did not let this bother me. With a few shorts rests on the ascent, I made the summit by 12:40, well in time for the NP Fun Day event. Not having managed 70cms on my first summit, I decided to leave the 70cms elements off the beam and just set it up for vertical operation on 2m with the basic SB5. This session was likely to be more hectic and 70cms could be quickly added later if there was time. As most of the initial contacts would be local, the linear was switched off to conserve power and the coax plugged straight into the front of the FT-817. By now it was a very pleasant day, the sun was out and the temperature had risen to heady 3.8C. It was, however, to fall back and by the time I was ready to leave the summit, the thermometer was reading minus 0.9C again.
On switch on it was evident that the S2S part of the event was already underway, so called Jimmy M3EYP and Tom M1EYP on Wild Boar Fell NP-007 to start my tally. Contact was then made with Geoff G6MZX/P on Cracoe Fell NP-032. Calling on 145.575 brought in Steve G1INK/P on Great Whernside NP-008, Phil G4OBK/P on Hoove NP-024 and Mike G4BLH at his home closely followed by the activators on the more local summits. I eventually extricated myself to hunt down the remaining ones on the crib sheet I had by my side. Mike G0DSP/P on Rombalds Moor NP-028 proved to be elusive and we only eventually made contact when Mike was mobile ready to leave the summit. Another anomaly was working Thomas M3OOL/P on Great Shunner Fell NP-006, but the mic was not passed to Rick M0RCP. Was it something I said? As I flitted around the band, Mike G4BLH occasionally popped up to provide me with information as to who was calling where and as a result of this prompting I worked Timothy 2E0KEA/P on Sharp Haw NP-029 on 144.330MHz SSB.
While I was operating I was joined by Mike 2E0VMF with his good lady. Mike soon qualified the summit on his handheld while I was flitting around picking up the final few S2S contacts. We had a short conversation before they left and Mike called in a little later once he was well out of the activation zone to bag the chaser points.
Once Mike had left, I recommenced operations on 145.475MHz which resulted in a huge pile up headed by Roger G4OWG. In all I made 48 contacts on 2m. When the frequency went quiet, I asked Mike G4BLH whether he was on frequency – well, do ducks swim on water? I changed over to the Ascom and we worked on 70.425MHz. Contacts with John MW1FGQ, Iain M3LIU and Derek 2E0CSG followed and then Ron GW4EVX/P on Foel Fenlli NW-051 called me to give me my first ever S2S on the band. Harold G3LWK brought the total to six and then I moved to 1297.500MHz where I again worked Mike G4BLH followed my Mark G0DTI. It was now 15:10, I was starting to shiver and I had well over-run my allotted 90 minutes on the summit, so with considerable regret I had to abandon my intended session on 2m SSB.
My aim was to get to Settle to meet up with many of the other activators by no later than 16:30. The descent therefore had to be made quickly and I achieved this in just 22 minutes, arriving back at the car for 15:46. I changed into “civvies” and was on the road for 16:00 with the temperature hovering around minus 1.5C. A couple of slow vehicles en route to Settle kept me from achieving my target time, but not by much. I joined the throng in the car park opposite The Fisherman Fish Bar and after a quick round of introductions was given my Christmas present by Lee M0LMP - a jacket that he had kindly promised me on the SOTA Forum before Christmas. The fit was perfect, so Paul G4MD will definitely be handed the camera when we are out on a summit in the near future so that I can be seen in action wearing it.
The later arrivals, myself included, availed ourselves of fish and chips which we ate in the car park. This brought back many happy memories of my youth when we used to do this in Derbyshire at the end of a day’s walking. Several of us moved on to the Harts Head Hotel just down the road in Giggleswick to sample an excellent pint of ale before heading for home.
It was good to meet Mike GW0DSP and Mick M0PVA once again and to meet Steve G1INK, Geoff G4CPA, Lee M0LMP, Steve 2E0KPO, Tom M1EYP, Jimmy M3EYP, Rick M0RCP, Thomas M3OOL and Timothy 2E0KEA for the first time. There may have been others, but my brain was no longer logging 100% accurately in respect of new faces and names. As I was talking to Tom in the pub I glanced at my watch – 18:00, but it felt more like 23:00. This was my prompt to depart and besides my glass was nearly empty. So after a round of goodbyes, it was out to the car to phone Bev and I was then on the road for 18:20 and after a reasonable journey I got back home at 21:25, remarkably 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
Thanks to Chris 2E0FSR for conceiving and organising the event and to the other activators for making it such a successful and enjoyable day. Also to my spotters – Iain G7HRP, Mike G4BLH and Roger G4OWG. I very much look forward to a repeat of this event – I certainly will have to leave 2 NP summits available for that.
73, Gerald G4OIG
Great Coum NP-011
144MHz FM – 3… 20w, 5el horizontal
144MHz SSB – 27… 20w, 5el horizontal
70MHz FM – 2… 10w, slim jim
1297MHz FM – 1… 280mW, rubber duck
Total 33 contacts
Great Knoutberry NP-015
144MHz FM – 47… 5w, 5el vertical
144MHz SSB – 1… 5w, 5el vertical
70MHz FM – 6… 10w, slim jim
1297MHz FM – 2… 280mw, rubber duck
Total 56 contacts
For the day
14 activator points
59 chaser points