G4YSS: Camping on G/NP-010 with a Poorly Grandson 17/ 18-08-15
Summit Campover on Pen-y-Ghent.
Accompanied by my Grandson Jack aged 7.
2m-FM QRP - One QSO only!
Times: UTC UOS
VGC UV-X4 2/70/PMR H/H
12V/ 5v USB Charger & lead
J-Pole for 2m with 2 section whip, affixed to tent pole
Baofeng UV3R 2/70/PMR H/H (Spare rig)
Li-Po Batt 2.2Ah
Packweight: 16.8kg (37 pounds) including 2 litre water, 0.8 litre of Fruit Shoot (for Jack) and 0.5 litre of ice to keep the food cool.
This was a long overdue sortie to walk my Grandson Jack up his first 2000 foot summit and also to provide him with his first camping experience. Though it would be fair to accuse me of ‘going equipped’ for SOTA, the latter took even more of a back seat than I could have imagined. With just a single QSO over both days, it would take some stretch of the imagination to call this a SOTA activation report, it being more a record of events.
Jack has shown a passing interest in ‘going up a mountain with Grandad’ a few times lately, so I took him up on the offer. An overnight camp was added as an aid to obtaining his Camper Badge for Beavers with the by-product that it avoided overburdening him with walking by spreading the effort over two days. It is also something I relish, partly because it’s a bit of a challenge to achieve but mostly because I love being on mountaintops and within reason, the longer the better. Despite ticking off G/NP’s 003; 004 and 017 in a child carrier a few years ago, I’m certain the lad had little idea of what would be involved when he had to be self powered.
Some kids, such as Frank’s Grandson (G3RMD) complete scores of mountain ascents while very young but the manner of their introduction to this massively rewarding but demanding pastime is of paramount importance. Conquering steep slopes and scrambles in order to stand on a mountain top is as much a mind thing as it is physical but you can’t expect the average seven year old to buy into that. I knew I would have to take great care to try and stimulate an interest and avoid putting the boy off mountains for life!
Although he is fairly energetic when playing out with his friend across the road, to be fair Jack doesn’t seem very interested in walking; more into video games and Spiderman. However, in addition to fulfilling his request, this was also designed to give his Mum 24 hours of well earned respite in the seemingly interminable seven week school holiday. Most mothers will know what I mean.
The MWIS mountain forecast was for a west to northwesterly wind of less than 10mph, overcast with no rain or low-cloud and summit temps of 10 to 14C. This is close to ideal for a summit camp-over, especially with one so young. We have waited long enough for a suitable weather window but sad to say when it did arrive, though we didn’t realise it until too late, the lad was somewhat out of sorts.
Leaving Jack’s home at Cayton, Scarborough on Monday 17th August at 13:40 we drove the 101 miles via A64, York, Harrogate, Skipton and Malham; arriving at the honesty box (1GBP) near Dale Head Farm (SD 8426 7145) for 16:20. Apart from the standard question repeated at intervals, ‘How much longer will it take?’ Jack had barely spoken a word on the journey. I thought that was down to a bit of early homesickness. After nothing more than half a tiny sandwich, Jack was carefully crossing the cattle grid and turning right up the lane by 16:42.
Little more than 100 metres later, he sat down, saying he was ‘too tired; the mountain is too far away’ and he could walk no further. After another 100 metres he was complaining of headache, earache, backache and leg ache. I had visions of just camping beside the track but quickly realised that this was not an option due to the lack of phone signal needed to inform the family that plans had changed. It would have to be the summit, where I knew the phone would work, or drive to somewhere mundane with a phone signal and a patch of roadside grass. I wasn’t about to capitulate yet so with a lot of persuasion, the promise of frequent rests and a detailed rundown of how we would prepare the accommodation, a little more progress was made.
Apparently the track was ‘boring’ and the path little better but when we reached the stile, followed by some ‘mountaineering’ his energies increased in proportion to his interest. He was still complaining of aching legs but the introduction of pace counting seemed to help. One, two, three, four…up to ten and rest. Another ten steps and sit on a rock craftily selected by me and always a little further ahead of our position.
By now the wind had dropped to zero and a cloud of annoying midges helped to get him moving a little quicker with the promise of a breezier, bug-free summit. Jack needed no help climbing up the steep rocky section but nevertheless he got it. I was not about to encourage any accidents having faithfully promised his Mum and Grandma that he would be well protected.
The new stone path of the top section was finally reached but four more rests were required to cover this last 300 metres. We topped out at 18:12 and I have rarely been so relieved to see a trig point. The ascent had taken 90 minutes which was 15 minutes quicker than I’d allowed for. Barring accidents, there would be no turning back now; we were here for the night.
PEN-Y-GHENT, G/NP-010, 694m, 4pts, 18:12 (Monday) to 08:23 (Tuesday). 14 deg C. Westerly wind of 10 mph apart from a lull to near zero between 19:00 and 22:00 BST. Overcast with short bursts of sunshine but no rain or low-cloud. (LOC: IO84VD – WAB: SD87). Intermittent Orange (EE) phone coverage.
After what I had long assumed would be triumphal summit photos but actually were rather subdued, it only remained to find a good place to pitch the tent. For best VHF coverage and fewer crowds this had to be on the opposite side of the wall south west of the trig. A fairly level place was found 50m from the shelter at SD 83807 73379. After that the ground began to slope away and nowhere was it less than moderately lumpy, owing to tussocks. As we had a couple of airbeds the latter was of little concern. The wind was light and not too cold so it mattered little that the tent was to windward of the wall.
For rapid deployment, the tent and fly sheet are carried outside the rucksack and the latter has its poles, guy lines and some home-brew carbon pegs already attached. The single-handed job takes less than 3 minutes and the tent is hung inside the fly and pegged down in 6 places. This is an old Lichfield Viper-2 ridge tent bought new in 1988 for a Cairngorm wild camp when my son Philip was eight. It weighs under 5 pounds and has been well used since.
There are far better tents available nowadays but all would take longer to pitch due to assembling and threading poles etc. For the annual VHF field days on NP8, I usually leave the inner tent at home to save weight and increase space. Today I had a guest, making the inner tent a must for comfort and warmth.
By 7pm the antenna was up and all was ready for the night. Thinking he would soon be outside again, I let Jack get into his bed. Far from running around, exploring or playing a game which is what I expected, he was sound asleep by 7:30. He would not move from the sleeping bag and didn’t do so until 07:30 the next morning! Now I knew for sure that there must be something not quite right with him. Maybe some of the aches he’d complained of on the walk up were genuine?
Next came the task of sending the promised ‘arrived safely’ texts to the family and also to Roy G4SSH who had offered to spot for me. This was laborious because of a lack of signal much of the time. Some housekeeping was necessary too. Everything needed to be to hand. Though it wouldn’t be dark until later, this was especially true of the head torches, one of which would be doubling up as a night light.
Having tried three times to alert a QRV time and failing, I put a post on the Reflector before leaving home. As my Grandson in this situation was an unknown quantity, coupled with the fact that we might have failed to reach the summit altogether, I did not detail a specific time. Though it took 40 minutes for the message to clear through, Roy did receive my text by 20:50 BST requesting a spot. In the notes he added the information that 145.400 MHz, was being monitored for chasers.
Since at this time Jack was in alter-ego mode, i.e. being utterly undemanding, I amused myself with a game I found on my phone, interspersed with a few unanswered CQ’s on S20 and S16. As far as radio was concerned there were no worries. I hoped I might get four or more QSO’s; the unblemished norm since I started in 2002 but having activated NP10 as the first of a handful of other NP’s on 10th of March, there would be no SOTA points to collect.
145.400 FM - 1 QSO:
At 21:00 BST I was called by Sue G1OHH who had just finished watching the soaps when she saw Roy’s spot. I was pleased to be speaking to someone after two hours of silence but things didn’t go smoothly. The cheapo VGC UV-X4 worked fine at first with a 59 plus report from Sue but after a short time and just as the conversation was developing, she reported me as unreadable. At around this time Jack started a pattern of waking up every half hour, whimpering and saying he felt ill. Obviously he hadn’t read the script.
I swapped rigs to the Baofeng UV3R (which apart from the badge is identical) and exactly the same happened - 59 plus followed by utterly useless. I had a 12V/ 5V USB converter supplying the first rig and it was feeding the J-Pole I’ve used for 20 years. I tried both rigs just on their own batteries but it made no difference. One or the other of these radios is used for talking around Scarborough on a daily basis without the slightest problem so just what was happening is anybody’s guess.
Due to the known poor filtering on these rigs combined with an external half-wave antenna, I did expect to hear hash coming in on receive and I got it at S4. However, no TX problems were envisaged. The sad thing is, I removed my ICOM IC-E90 Handie from the rucksack just prior to setting off. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I would have been better off with just one quality rig and its own battery than these two with external power backup. With acceptable results using a rubber duck, it did occur to me later that for some unfathomable reason, they might not like the DC short circuit presented by the J-Pole. Alternatively, it could have simply been some interfering signal near to Sue’s QTH. FM can behave strangely when this happens but since there were no other callers we couldn’t check and it will remain a mystery.
Despite a second spot from Roy nobody else called. After losing Sue, I was never certain whether or not my CQ’s were being heard but they certainly were not being answered. Back to the game and a whimpering Jack but by 10pm the thought occurred that I might just as well be trying to get some sleep. In this situation I was somewhat concerned for the young lad but at least he was sleeping peacefully the majority of the time and he was warm enough. Beyond that I could do nothing. The steady stream of visitors to the summit 50 metres away had dried up at around 9pm and did not resume until 07:30 the next day. Getting any advice by phone would prove difficult because of a lack of useable signal.
At 5am Jack was sick for the first time, then again at 05:30. Throughout the night, with him whimpering at regular intervals, I’d had lots of sleepless hours to think about abandoning the plan for radio work the next day. The important thing now was how best to get him sorted and off the summit and it is perhaps fortunate that all Grandfathers train as Dads first. If I did things in an ordered way, I could leave him sleeping until the very last minute, then change his clothes and take the tent down. If things deteriorated, I could take him off at first light.
Jack was reluctant to rise, so at 07:30 some preliminary packing up was started. First to go was the radio kit along with the antenna. With the lad still nauseous, cooking and tea making was not an option. Hexamine fumes would just make matters worse. Most of our 2.5 litres of water and ice was poured away to lighten the load and the bottles squashed down. Last to go into the rucksack were the soggy sleeping bag and clothes, isolated in polythene. A few wet wipes and some fleecy pajamas under a jacket improved things no end for him and I stood him outside, removing the tent in quick time.
By 08:23 after a few more photos, we were on the way down and I was more than pleased to see Jack looking a little more energetic. After stopping several times we arrived at the car at 09:36. The descent took 73 minutes. Just after the boardwalk, crouching to take a photo, I overbalanced due to the weighty rucksack and sat in a bog. After the absence of a smile in the previous 15 hours, it was great to see Jack laughing heartily.
Down at the track were a score of beaters, some with Spaniels and others with Labradors, about to go off in line abreast to attack the Grouse. Though a bit weak due to lack of food, Jack never looked back after my mishap and breaking the journey at an A59 tea bar, which is where we ran into increasing rain, I was able to deliver him ‘intact’ to his Mum in Scarborough for a massive hug at 13:30.
On the way back we were part of a long running 3-way 2m-FM simplex QSO between G3TDZ John in Armley and an M3 called Shaugn in a village near Selby. I was quite pleased when Jack took some interest in this, asking why the radio made a horrible hissing sound and he could no longer hear what was being said every time we went down a hill.
After I lost them I heard Roy G4SSH call me from Irton so we had company all the way home from Harrogate. By the time we arrived in Scarborough the rain was really heavy. What a good thing it hadn’t reached Pen-y-Ghent while we were walking off.
Ascent & Distance:
NP10: 284m (932ft) ascent / 5.5 km (3.4 miles)
90 min up/ 73 min down
Distance driven: 200 miles (Cayton to Cayton)
Activator points: 0
03:40: Left Cayton, Scarborough
16:20: Arrived Honesty Box - Dale Head Fm.
16:42: Walked for NP10
18:12: Arrived NP10 (Monday 17th Aug)
08:23: Left NP10 (Tuesday 18th Aug)
09:36: Arrived car
10:00: Drove away
13:30: Arrived Cayton, Scarborough (stopped on the way)
I was determined to tick this off my list of summer activities. After patiently waiting, we got the weather window required but unfortunately the reason for doing it; Jack was ill at the wrong time. Nevertheless it will stand out in my memory with the best of them and I hope Jack enjoyed it too, at some level at least.
With one QSO in the log, this counted as a SOTA activation. One point, four points or a hundred, there was never anything in it for me having taken the four points plus three points bonus in March.
When carrying a massive load, I like to go as fast as I can manage. How much it hurts seems to be more a function of how long the pack is on my shoulders than the distance walked. I knew climbing a mountain with Jack would take two or three times as long as a solo ascent so I went for the lowest pack weight I could manage. In trying to lighten the load the radio side of things suffered.
Qualifying was never a requirement but a good 5 Watt rig would have been a better option than two of poor quality. We carried up far too much liquid, pouring away almost 2.5 litres at the end. With the change of tack, a lot of the food and equipment, such as the stove, wasn’t used.
To Sue G1OHH for the one QSO which made this an activation.
To Roy G4SSH and for SMS text liaison and spotting.
To Jack for coming along and to Hazel (Mum) & Denise (Grandma) for encouraging him.
I’m pleased to say that Jack is now back to his normal self.
73, John G4YSS
(Using SSEG Clubcall GX0OOO/P)
Above: Climbing beats walking.
Above: Pen-y-Ghent Trig Point
Above: Home for the night
Above: Tent and Ingleborough in distance.
Above: Finally - a smile.