G/NP-017 (FOUNTAINS FELL with Grandson - Jack)
All times BST (UTC + 1)
G4YSS using GX0OOO/P – Accompanied by 21 month old Grandson Jack & his Mum Hazel.
EQPT: HF-QRO: IC706-2G. 80-60-40-(30)-20 (160) link-dipole on 5m H/B CFC mast.
8.8 Ah Li-Po battery. (Jingtong- mono band/2W FM H/H and J-Pole as reserve but not used.)
Pack weight 22 kg (48 pounds) consisting of Radio Gear, Baby Carrier (The Jack-pack) with spare nappies and Jack (12.7kg).
This was our second SOTA with Jack. Must get it done before the ‘capability gap’ between about 3 and 6 when (most) children are too heavy to carry but not strong enough to easily climb it themselves. The compartment underneath where the child sits accommodates the rig, battery, dipole, sit-mat, log etc and I carried the mast like a walking stick. Hazel took along some toys, a tennis ball and a small kite.
Fountains Fell is rather steep at one point but it isn‘t a long walk. It also has the choice of walls or a depression in the ground for use as windbreaks.
Jack is a bit more aware than he was in April for NP3 so the impact of waking him up at 6am could be ameliorated by telling him he was going up a mountain. After seeing a large photo of Great Gable in our hall, he knew roughly what this meant.
Different driving route:
I have developed a real downer on hitting York and Harrogate both ways at rush hour so I devised a route via Sutton Bank (to be closed from 11-Oct to 15-Nov for repairs - by the way). After a short section of A1 between exits 49 & 48 it was onto byways and through the villages of Minskip, Burton Leonard, Markington, Burnt Yates followed by Pateley Bridge, Grassington and Halton Gill.
We were able to start the 102 mile drive at 06:50 to make an arrival at Blishmire cattle grid (SD 8531 7233) immediately west of Fountains Fell at 09:40. Not much time was saved but it wasn’t any further and we saw little traffic. On the way we worked Roy G4SSH from a point west of Pateley Bridge called Greenhow Hill; roughly 100km from Scarborough. Roy was able to pass over the information that Phil G4OBK would be listening for us on Top Band so at least we should get one contact on there.
The walk started at 10:03. For NP17 (amongst others) I have long favoured a ‘straight up’ approach; the other option being to follow the Pennine Way as it swings east then cut south for the summit. The direct route is very steep just before the top but the inconvenience doesn’t last long and it’s quicker that way. Though there was a cool breeze, the WX was being really kind today with initially 1/10th cloud and then lots of sunshine. We therefore took our time but were not 1/3 of the way up before pain started for Hazel.
Jack spotted a small waterfall and that, along with various aircraft visible overhead and in the valleys below, took our minds off the work. Where the ground became really steep we just concentrated on getting Hazel a few steps at a time, from one ‘terrace’ to another. She wasn’t exactly dreading the descent but understandably, some concern was evident. It was here that my grandson saw fit to start tickling me; an unsafe thing to do to your ‘packhorse’ when he’s struggling up a 30 degree slope on wet grass.
FOUNTAINS FELL, G/NP-017, 668m, 4pts, 11:06 to 13:23, 14 Deg.C, 20 mph wind dropping to 10mph. Bright sunshine and no low cloud (which had cleared all summits in this area by 10:30.) (LOC: IO84VD – WAB: SD87). Mobile Phone: Orange (2-bar signal) and O2 (intermittent).
80m CW - 18 QSO’s:
On the last ‘Jack trip’ and on a recent 3-SOTA LD sortie of mine, CW on 80m was hard work with QRP. I reasoned that the extra weight of QRO might actually both save me time and make the chaser’s job less taxing so the IC706 was today’s choice. Nevertheless and also because we were early at the top, I phoned Roy G4SSH for a spot. He duly announced 3.558 and also became the first entry in the log. At this stage of late morning the strength of Roy’s signal surprised me but it wasn’t a fluke; most others were 599 too. Apart from moderate QSB, 80m was working well and I knew with QRO we would have an easy time of it today.
Out of the 18 stations worked, 14 were G’s with two PA’s and two DL’s including Frid DL1FU, for whom I turned the power up to full. For the most part I used about 30W but sent several high power CQ’s towards the end to ensure stations with high noise levels would have half a chance of hearing me. I tried hard to rid myself of the habit of sending ‘VA’ at the end of every QSO in favour of ‘AR’ but VA kept creeping back. Incoming reports were between 579 and 599 with a few lesser ones. One unusual caller was GX4ARF; op Barry but there was no time to discover much more. Interestingly some of the closer stations were the toughest to work; e.g. John G0TDM in Penrith.
Jack had played nicely and ate a good lunch but he was starting to become hard work for Mum. I took him up and down the dipole to ‘help’ insert the loading coils in readiness for Top Band.
160m CW - 9 QSO’s:
I never expect great things from Top Band in the middle of the day but there was some evidence that conditions might be a little better than normal today. Firstly I checked Big-L on 1395kHz before leaving the car. Emanating from a 10kW transmitter in Holland, this oldie music station’s signal is usable in Scarborough but rarely penetrates this far inland in daylight. Today it was putting in a noisy but intelligible signal on the car radio after we parked and I find that this is often a guide to how 1.8 might behave. It seemed to be confirmed by the fact that signal strengths during the 80m session were far better than a week or two ago and indeed throughout the summer.
G4OBK was there and loud as ever; 599 plus 10 to 15dB from Pickering. What I did not expect after working Phil was to hear several stations calling at once. Some were very weak; e.g. Roy G4SSH at 229, albeit without a proper aerial, but others were surprisingly strong. Incoming reports to my 100W output ranged from 559 to 589 with 339’s from Roger at Rawdon; G4OWG and John - G0TDM. Kevin in Scarborough G0NUP gave me 229 but got his report OK. When you consider the proportion of good reports and where they came from, this represents a breath of fresh air for 160m.
Here’s a list of stations worked with power set to full throughout: G4OBK Phil, G4SSH Roy, G3WPF Reg, G3IZD Ivan, G4RQJ Rob, G4OWG Roger, G4BLH Mike, G0TDM John and G0NUP Kevin. I found out later that Frank G3RMD was hearing me in QSB but I didn’t hear him at all. That’s not the usual way round as noise in the receiver on a 160m-daytime summit is invariably not worth mentioning. I can hear even the faintest of signals. My trouble is getting back to them even with QRO. Perhaps Frank was ‘behind’ other callers today.
After a further trip with Jack down the dipole; this time to remove the coils and some more photography, mainly with Pen-y-Ghent as a backdrop, it was time for 80-SSB. As he normally does, Roy had picked up the QSY from 160 and duly spotted it. However, instead of the usual 5, it was 12 minutes before I appeared, having lost my glasses again.
80m SSB - 11 QSO’s:
Responding to a CQ on 3.724, Terry G0VWP (York) was first to call in. Roger G0TRB had a little help from Graham G4JZF which took the form of, ‘John is calling you; listen up.’ It’s been a while since I worked Graham and he seems to have a really strong punchy signal nowadays.
After quite a chat with Steve GW7AAV about his national SOTA logos, I worked GW6ZDH Ron and G6ODU Bob. After that came a special event callsign GB0RTM - a B17 Flying Fortress & B26 Marauder airbase of WW2 called Rougham. M0RCP Rick (of LD1 New Year camp-over 2008-9 fame) was next. G4SSH Roy, G3RMD Frank and G1UGH/P (AKA Terry G0VWP) finished the day’s events off. Power was 40 to 50W throughout this session and incoming reports were mostly 58 to 59 with one from GW7AAV of 59 plus 20! The signal was even strong enough to overcome noise created by Steve’s DVD left on pause while he worked me, so 80 must have really been reflecting well today.
I had a tune round on 2m FM after this but it seemed unfair to stay longer; Jack and his Mum having tolerated almost two hours already. We also had a bedtime deadline to meet. I had no 4m gear with me so packed up quickly leaving the summit proper at 13:23, after Jack had walked as far as the ’edge.’
With the boy aboard, the steep part was negotiated with care. Hazel has new boots with better grip and ankle support but the radio mast was needed to double as a walking stick. The descent took 42 minutes and we arrived at the car by 14:05 whereupon Jack shouted, ‘Bye Bye Mountain.’
Jack seemed to enjoy this outing, even asking to climb another mountain (pointing at Pen-y-Ghent). It would have been easy for him of course. He took plenty of interest in his surroundings and didn‘t disrupt the activation in any way. Maybe we could let him walk more but there are only so many hours in a day, with much of it ‘wasted’ on the road.
Another 102 mile drive followed (to Seamer Chip Shop); this time via Kettlewell and the A684 (14:15 to 17:05).
Ascent and mileage: 241m (791ft) ascent, 2.9 km (1.8 miles) walked.
Miles Driven: 204. (102 each way)
4 activator points.
18 on 3.5-CW.
9 on 1.8-CW.
11 on 3.5-SSB.
Total: 38 QSO’s.
Battery utilisation: 58% depleted, 11V nom, 8.8 Ah Li-Po.
Summit time: 2 hours - 17 minutes.
Walking time: 1 hour - 45 minutes.
Driving time: 5 hours - 40 minutes.
Home to home: 10 hours - 15 min.
Thanks to all stations worked and for telephone messaging & spots via G4SSH.
73, John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club-Call GX0OOO/P)