Activation Report for G/NP-005, G/NP-010 & G/NP-017 on 20-02-09.
INGLEBOROUGH, PEN-Y-GHENT & FOUNTAINS FELL on LF (inc. 160m) & 4m FM.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P. All times UTC on 20-02-09.
IC706-2G, adjustable dipole, 5m mast, 160m coils.
One 8.8 Ah Li-Po for NP5 & NP10.
One 8.8 Ah Li-Po for NP17.
IC E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with 2m set-top helical extended for 4m and 7.4V, 1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery.
QRO pack: 11kg (24 pound).
(Note: This report is almost a carbon copy of the 15-02-07 & 28-01-08 reports, so if you have a good memory, you don’t have to read it! That will leave more time for SOTA!)
By late February with the much improved day-length I would in past years have been thinking about graduating to the LD big rounds after having done sufficient NP’s, conducive to leaving a few for December. Sadly, that’s not the case this year and it’s all too easy and human nature to let things slide and to become unfit; the ‘excuses’ being sore throats, heel pain and to some extent ‘inconvenient’ WX when I was ready to go. Two LD’s last week helped a lot in that some enthusiasm had returned.
Despite not being a ‘round’ these three ‘radials’ are worth considering as a ‘one day job’ so long as activation times are kept within limits. Ingleborough has quite a long walk-in with the greatest ascent of the three (see foot of report) but routes for the other pair are short, sharp and have a high, common access road. Perhaps most importantly for me, the road distance to NP-land is well below the 300 miles demanded by many of the LD sorties and inter-summit driving is only about 15 miles.
Left Scarborough at 03:58, driving via York, Harrogate, Skipton and arriving at Newby Cote Farm cross-roads (SD 7319 7053, 216m ASL). This is on the ‘C’ road which emanates from Clapham and I parked on the grass verge at 06:05. Here a wooden sign reads ‘Ingleborough 2.5 miles.’ Booted up & set off walking in the dark at 06:23. I didn’t bother with the headlamp, managing for once to sneak past the farm-dogs undetected. I can’t say the same for a cockerel but though the kitchen light was on at the farm, no one saw me go by.
For the third year running I managed to lose the path in the dark but luckily there’s very little ‘bad ground’ on NP5’s grassy southern flank. It seemed to be daylight by around 06:50. For the most part, the path is evenly graded and passes over grass initially and later rock. It’s a fairly painless way to ascend the required 500m or so but it is a fair distance. Little Ingleborough’s shelter is at SD 7429 7352. The marker cairn for the path off the summit plateau (important in cloud) is at SD 7438 7453.
INGLEBROUGH HILL, G/NP-005, 724m, 6 pts. 07:34 to 09:41. 0 Deg.C. 10 mph wind. Low-cloud followed a promising sunrise. Sat in the ‘crossed walls’ shelter. A lone walker arrived as I left. No lying snow on the summit plateau; remnants near the top of the ascent path. (LOC: IO84TD – WAB: SD77)
There was a small patch of grass at the end of one of the summit shelter walls into which a mast could be inserted. One of the end sticks also found grass and unlike last week, the ground wasn’t frozen. The other end stick was wedged into the large cairn or was it the ruined hill fort? The aerial held up well when the 160m loading coils were added. Confidence was restored after the nightmare of Grisedale Pike.
Once again Roy G4SSH showed he can get up early and I phoned him, mainly to get an update on the progress of G4OBK Phil’s first ever 160m activation, before reaching the top. I grabbed a few photos. Good job too; above about 450m much of the remaining hours were spent in low-cloud.
160m CW (S2S)
First things first. Phil G4OBK would have to be found and worked and if that could be accomplished on 160m, so much the better. Roy had told me he might be working on 1.843 SSB but I was instantly dismayed upon switching on. The rig was stuck on transmit; dots and dashes were spewing forth all over the place. After a good soaking from blown snow on Grisedale Pike last week, the 706 had been dried out and tested. It’s all too easy to think the worst in these situations; maybe corrosion had formed a bridge across some circuitry. After trying a few things, it was beginning to look like a VHF only activation with the IC-E90 but just before phoning Roy to cancel HF, I found that the CW jack had probably been partially out of its socket. Phew!
Within seconds of getting the radio back into the rucksack and selecting 1.832 CW, a CQ was heard. Conveniently it was Phil, G4OBK and a rare Top Band S2S (G/TW-004 to G/NP-005) resulted at 8am. This is only the second 160m S2S in SOTA history and over 4 years have passed since the first which took place at around midnight on 30-July-2004, between Jon GM4ZFZ/P on Ben Nevis and GX0OOO/P on Fountain’s Fell. In my haste and excitement, I gave Phil 559 but he was much stronger than that. I must have been comparing the sound to his home signal (which is terrific.)
Afterwards Phil took TW4 up to 7.032 and chasers started to call me for NP5. Seven stations made it through on 160: EI7CC, EI2CL, G3RMD, G0TJE, G3FPQ, G4ZIB & G4SSH. Regrettably, there were 2 casualties. Mike, GW0DSP caused by a mix-up with the other ‘Mike’ EI2CL and ON4ON Dan, who did not receive his RST. The S2S was done with 30W and 70W for the others.
I made the ‘arbitrary’ decision to try a new QRG for 80m SOTA operations and chose 3.532. We have 7.032 and 1.832 so why not 3.532? It remains to be seen whether this is a good move or not and there is already the half-expected evidence that it may not be as quiet as 3.557. Also it further exacerbates the potential antenna bandwidth problem for 2-mode operations. Starting with Roy G4SSH and using about 20 Watts, 3.532 brought in 14 chasers including overseas stations DL1FU, ON4ON, LA1ENA & DJ5AV. A slight QRM-dodging QSY was needed near the end but EI2CL detected it easily.
Geoff G6MZX found me on 3.722 and after that things became quite busy. 22 lined up including Gerald G4OIG who was using 10W via a tuner. The long absent Quentin GW3BV was welcomed back. Again the power was just 20W. The 8.8 Ah battery was a consideration at every stage; it was going to have to cover NP10 as well. Carolyn G6WRW checked on plans for Pen-y-Ghent; still required for her unique collection and it was good to work some M3 and 2E stations during this session.
Packing up the HF gear made it possible to save a little time by doing 4m FM ‘on the hoof.’ The disadvantages are cold fingers, possible trips due to distraction, going the wrong way in the fog for the same reason but mainly a lack of logging facility. Mike G4BLH offered to solve the latter problem by logging for me but in the end I did manage to record the basic information OK. However, thanks for the offer Mike. I might need it one day, especially when the WX is bad.
This time (at 0 degrees C) the IC-E90 H/H was usable on 5 Watts. That is, it didn’t automatically drop to 0.5 W as occurred on Grasmoor and others at minus 4C. Mike G4BLH, John (Flintshire) MW1FGQ and Dave G6CRV down in Lancashire came back to a CQ then Mike made it four with his club-call, G4CPS. I was only using the extended 2m-band duck and such is the coverage of NP10 that no report was less than 57. A success; these obscure bands invariably cause some interest.
Descent and drive:
The descent seemed long for an NP but this time the critical right fork off the main path just after Little Ingleborough was not missed today. Basically you need to head for the ruins at SD 7425 7342 but the turnoff and lesser path is not that obvious and it’s all too easy to just follow down the main trail which takes you too far East. Past the ruins, the path becomes better defined at SD 7422 7331 and it’s easy to follow from there to Newby Cote.
Arriving at the car in mist by 10:35, I was able to drive the 25 km or so to Rainscar and was walking again by 11:07. I payed my £1 to the honesty Box near Dale Head Farm (SD 8426 7145) then set off up the farm track in cloud for Pen-Y-Ghent. An old 10 foot wide by 2 foot deep snow drift paralleled the summit wall for as far as could be seen in the fog. I settled into a 2 foot gap between it and the wall but there was no comfort to be had and the cold snow gradually melted into my clothes. By the end I was almost too stiff to rise from this position and must have looked like a man of 90 scrabbling and creaking my way out.
PEN-Y-GHENT, G/NP-010, 694m, 4pts, 11:45 to 13:32, 2 Deg.C, 15 mph wind. Low-cloud. The only lying snow was by the wall. Final path to summit was very muddy. There were a few people on this popular summit. (LOC: IO84VD – WAB: SD87)
Two years ago, the 80m band was in the habit of taking a ‘lunch break’ caused by strong D-layer ionisation. Nowadays 80 generally shows its worth and today 15 stations were logged on 3.532 CW using mostly 20W. However, none were located on the continent, though our two EI friends made it through OK. A session on 7.032 would have made sense but I didn’t think there was the time or power available.
Including Phil G4OBK (who was first up) 17 waited in line to work Pen-y-Ghent on 3.724. Power was 30 Watts and it took 24 minutes to complete. Carolyn G6WRW who always puts out a strong signal, was noticeably pleased after having missed all previous NP10 activations since she ‘converted’ to SOTA. Again, no overseas stations were able to hear me at this time of day but I called with full power at the end just in case.
With noon only an hour behind us and the obvious shortened skip on 80m, this was never going to be a roaring success. Nonetheless, six stations were worked using 80W and some with 100W. It should have been eight but try as I may at 12:57 and again at 13:05, I could not get a report back to Frank G3RMD (heard at 519 to 559 QSB.) The trouble was that the QSB peaks were only lasting for around 5 seconds; not long enough to exchange both ways. The other casualty, was sending a callsign that I couldn’t make head or tail of. It sounded like ‘SMSI??’ I tried with 100W several times but nothing came back after his two initial calls. The successful stations were: G4OBK, G3WPF, G4RQJ, G4BLH, SM6CMU and G4CPA. After a few more CQs, the battery had finally depleted enough for sidetone chirp to appear in the phones. Time to deploy the Handie.
Again 4m FM was done while walking off but this was restricted by the short distance to the ‘lip.’ Standing by the wall I called CQ. G6MZX Geoff came quickly back and he was followed by Mike G4BLH. Next was MW1FGQ John, M3LIU (also John). After these it was the turn of M3RDZ Rob and G4CPA Geoff. Geoff was throwing caution to the wind and squirting a 70 MHz signal into his G5RV. Very successful it was too! All reports were 59 both ways except my RS from M0PVA which was 44, so there must be intervening high-ground. I know Mick has local noise problems but it’s a while since I worked him. Nice to know he will call in now and again, even if all he gets from me is a discussion about the comparative cost of a box of oranges bought in Scarborough versus Clitheroe. (Close to half the Yorkshire price!)
Descent and (short) drive:
There were a few people using the rocky southern scarp route. As is customary, I had a brief chat with each of them and was back to the car at 14:05. That is another positive feature of hill walking. Everyone is friendly. After food, drink, a one mile drive and a battery change, I was walking again for NP17 by 14:26. This was from Blishmire cattle grid (SD 8531 7233.) I prefer a straight up approach; the option being to follow the Pennine Way as it swings east then cut south for the summit. It’s very steep just before the top but the pain doesn’t last too long and it’s quicker. Unlike when Phil G4OBK and others did this one a few weeks ago, there was very little snow; just a few patches. This made for good progress; the pain in my legs being the limiting factor. A NW-SE running dry-stone wall offers protection and there is another wall running SW-NE. There is also a substantial summit cairn. Thus wind in any direction can be sheltered from.
FOUNTAINS FELL, G/NP-017, 668m, 4pts, 14:55 to 17:11, 2 Deg.C, 15 mph wind. Overcast but low-cloud lifted before arrival. Rain started half way through and gradually increased. Up to approx 40cm of lying snow beside the walls only. (LOC: IO84VD – WAB: SD87)
There was no O2 but there was Orange mobile phone coverage on Fountains Fell so I kept Roy G4SSH informed. I had seen footmarks in a few snow patches on the way up. Now I could see who made them. Two people were close to the wall. One was standing and pointing a G3CWI-SOTA-Beam in a south-westerly direction. As I got closer I could hear the familiar voice of Mike G4BLH, issuing from a radio speaker. One person was sitting on the snow logging. This turned out to be Jenny with Gordon, G0EWN operating the radio. We shook hands and talked for a while as I set up the dipole on an old snow drift by the wall. I was concerned that my 80m CW signal would ‘flatten’ Gordon’s VHF rig but it seemed to be having little effect on the Handie in my pocket. It’s nice to meet someone especially when you only have yourself for company all day. These were like-minded people and we had plenty in common. One thing was a mutual love of the far northwest of Scotland and Suilven in particular.
With the band starting to open far and wide, 3.532 seemed almost like 7.032. A goodly number of G’s got their chance but there were French, Belgium, German and Norwegian stations in there too. Trade was brisk and 21 regular chasers were worked in 22 minutes using about 30 Watts. A friend Kevin G0NUP, who is also the secretary of the SSEG surprised me by calling in from Scarborough. I must apologize for giving F6ENO a wrong name. I know full well he is Alain and not Andre (Andre’s call is ON4CAP). Sorry Alain and also to Aage (LA1ENA) who I renamed Ingemar. With my brain now well & truly addled, I probably did this to a few more ops. The QSO with Frid (DL1FU) was an easy 589 / 579 this time so the band was performing excellently into the near continent.
At the end of this, Gordon & Jenny passed by on their way down. We had another 5-minute chat which must have left the SSB chasers wondering where their QSO’s had got to. To be honest the break didn’t go amiss after such a long day but as if the discomfort of sitting in wet snow wasn’t enough, it had now started to rain. We agreed that this was not forecast and that forecasts in general had not been all that accurate lately!
Steve GW7AAV was the first to spot the move from the alerted 3.724 to 3.720, which was still a noisy channel. With battery sufficient for 2 summits, there was no point in being frugal now. Up went the power to 80 Watts, making it easier for the chasers and quicker for me in the rain. There were eight Europeans and the Gs added to these to make no lesser sub-total than 29. It felt a little like a weekend. Maybe a few people finish work early on Fridays. It was FB & a pleasure to work our old friend Fritz DL4FDM (HB9CSA), though today we got the mode ‘wrong.’
With the rain increasing, sitting here was becoming pretty unpleasant. Furthermore my coat was the non-waterproof variety and it simply wasn’t efficient at this late stage, to start messing about with waterproofs. This wasn’t the final session though. 4m FM was promised after 160. It could be seen as a good or bad thing but the fact was that with darkness imminent, 160m band skip would lengthen and more stations would call in.
As is often the case Phil G4OBK started us off on 1.832 at 16:34. This time G3RMD had little trouble. Frank was followed by G3RDQ and G3WPF. Kurt confused the issue a little by signing HE8AFI instead of HB9AFI but to be fair I had been warned about this temporary change to Swiss callsigns. I think he did quite well to bag NP17 on 160m in the last of the daylight. After Kurt came EI2CL, G4BLH, G4CPA, DK2PH, G4SSH, GW0DSP, DL5WW, ON4ON and SM6CNN. 14 stations on 160m from NP17 was a decent tally but 28 worked in the day shows how much operators have gradually come to love collecting SOTA on Top Band. Power was 80 / 100 watts.
I called Mike G4BLH but he’d warned me earlier that I might struggle to work him from NP17. Eventually, with the help of subsequent callers we just made it. He was 57 to me but I got a 31 report from Mike. The other stations worked were: MW1FGQ John, M3LIU John, and G6CRV Dave. I just hope there weren’t others that I’d forgotten to log because I had become quite distracted by the WX and discomfort.
Warm glow time:
It was a relief to pack up and walk down the steep western slope in the remaining daylight, to the car for 17:30. With 10 minutes to remove boots and stow the equipment, I did well to get home for 20:02. There was plenty of traffic but it was moving fast with very few ‘blockers’ for a change. Distance driven was only 220 miles but all in all, it had been quite a tiring day.
Thanks also to ALL STATIONS WORKED and to the spotters: GW0DSP, G4SSH, DL4FDM, G4OBK, EI7CC, G3RMD, G4BLH. Thanks to Roy G4SSH for looking after the interests of Phil G4OBK from very early morning to GX0OOO/P throughout a 10-hour day.
Total: 161 QSO’s, comprising:
50 on 3.5-CW.
68 on 3.5-SSB.
28 on 1.8-CW
15 on 70.450-FM
Breakdown - QSO’s: 48 on NP5. 45 on NP10. 68 on NP17.
NP05 & NP10: 99% discharged 11V nom, 8.8 Ah Li-Po.
NP17: 71% discharged 11V nom, 8.8 Ah Li-Po.
RF output powers quoted in this report are theoretical. In practice a QRO rig running from a nominal 12V source might deliver as little as 60W max.
NP-005: 510m (1,673ft) ascent, 10 km (6.3 miles). 71U, 54D.
NP-010: 270m (886ft) ascent, 5.5 km (3.4 miles). 38U, 33D.
NP-017: 241m (791ft) ascent, 2.9 km (1.8 miles). 29U, 19D.
Totals: 1021m (3,350ft) ascent, 18.4 km (11.5 miles)
Summit time: 6 hours - 13 minutes.
Walking time: 4 hours - 4 minutes.
Booting – de booting, drinking, GPS & sundry: 26 minutes.
Lunch / Battery change: 16 minutes.
Driving time: 5 hours - 5 minutes.
Total (Home to Home): 16 hours – 4 minutes.
One S2S: NP5 to TW4 with G4OBK on 160m CW.
FB Eyeball with Jenny & Gordon, G0EWN.
Quite a few stations got all 14 points on offer but compared with the 100 chaser points available per day at the very peak of SOTA, mine begins to sound like a poor contribution to the chasers ‘coffers.’ However there were quite a few other activators to be worked today, which I understand has not been the case too often of late, especially through the week. With winter bonus, the activator tally is a more respectable 23 points, which I think is a reasonable balance between time & effort put in versus points gained.
The carrying of QRO gear on these three SOTAs was made noticeably easier this year because Li-Po batteries were substituted for Lead Acid. Li-Po slows the ascents noticeably less than does Lead-Acid. These batteries demand careful handling and treatment with regard to electrical parameters but does QRO equate to time saved at the summit? On the one hand reports can be got across with fewer repeats. On the other hand, more chasers will hear you. On balance, it’s probably quicker for the activator and undoubtedly easier for the chaser.
The heel pain is was not so severe today. The boot inserts recommended by G0CQK must be helping. Thanks Jim!
BCNU SN (I hope)
73, John G4YSS
(using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)