G4YSS Four G/NPs Activation Report for 09-01-09
G/NP-006 Great Shunner Fell.
G/NP-030 Lovely Seat.
G/NP-016 Dodd Fell.
G/NP-031 Birks Fell.
On 80m CW / SSB and 160m CW (QRO).
All times UTC on 09-Jan-09. G4YSS using GX0OOO/P. Unaccompanied.
IC706-2G, 5m mast with 1m end supports. Link dipole for 20-(30)-40-60-80-(160).
Jingtong 208 2m FM – 2W in reserve (don’t laugh!)
The intention was to put on two NPs and if all conditions were favourable after those, follow up with a third. Often in the past, plans have gone awry as the day unfolded and adjustments have had to be made. Normally a little built-in slack takes care of circumstances which give rise to time delays. Rarely does reality exceed expectations but this time the upshot was that time was gradually gained throughout the day. A major consideration was a reduction in activation time. This was partly due to there being fewer chasers around and possibly a slightly faster QSO rate with the ones that did call in. As before, there was no attempt to pursue an ‘all bands, all singing & dancing’ activation but preserving a ‘fighting chance’ for as many chasers as possible was still the priority.
Left Scarborough at 04:13, arriving via the well gritted, fog-free A684, at Buttertubs Pass for 06:15. There was almost 90 minutes of darkness left to run but I booted up without rushing and left, using the headlight at 06:43.
There is plenty of space at the cattle grid (SD 8678 9552) and a boggy track leaves the road at SD 8688 9570, running up via Coal Pit to the fence corner at SD 8694 9639. The track more or less parallels the fence all the way up through the aptly named Grimy Gutter Haggs and over Little Shunner Fell. Keep to the right (north) side of the fence until it is crossed via a stile not far short of the summit, at SD 8503 9723.
The temptation to take a bee-line from the road to the top (as I have done in the distant past) must be avoided on this one. Bogs and uneven ground are both quite severe. The route described is quite long but it bypasses most of the ‘badlands’ and it is easy going in terms of ascent rate. This morning a terrified Red Grouse flew noisily up in response to the beam from my headlight.
G/NP-006: GT.SHUNNER FELL, 716m, 6 pts, 07:30 to 09:19, minus 2 deg.C. Wind 5 mph. Overcast with low-cloud. 20mm lying snow. IO84VI, WAB SD89 YSN. 195m ascent, 7.5 km up / dn. Pack weight: 13kg.
The excellent wooden-seated, crossed-wall shelter hove into view through the fog. I was ahead of schedule and at 07:30 it was still quite dark. The mast had to be bungeed to the seat but as was to become a feature of today, it was impossible to drive in the end supports in most places. Different positions had to be tried and the vigorous action of trying to punch through varying layers of frozen crust took its toll on muscles and time. The hardest ground was where the wind had impinged or where there were vertical surfaces or undercuts, which added a second route in for the frost. All today’s hills have grass over peat tops. Despite all this I was ready to get on the air by 07:47 with Top Band loading coils fitted and adjusted in quick time.
After having minor reservations regarding ops wanting to get up this early just to chase Great Shunner Fell, I was pleasantly surprised. Roy G4SSH was already at his radio (with a bowl of porridge) and came back to my VSWR-checking V’s with a 569 report! The all important spot resulted and in a short time F6ACD was also calling.
Stations worked on 160 were: G4SSH, F6ACD, F6CEL, EI2CL, G4OBK, G0TDM (G7GQL / GX0ANT) DL7VKD and G4BLH. Powers were mainly 50W with 100W for Dieter but only 30 Watts were needed for Mike EI2CL and the two French stations. Thanks to everyone who denied themselves a lie-in but this was a flying start.
G4SSH did the same again! After Roy and mostly using 30W, I worked a further 11 QSOs with UK and overseas stations in the ratio 25% / 75%. Frid (DL1FU) was second caller with a big signal.
A one channel move was needed to avoid early morning nets but Steve GW7AAV soon located the correct QRG. This time the 13 stations worked with 30W were all UK based. The final QSO was with Gerald G0OIG who was QRP. Geoff G6MZX gave me the position of a wrecked Beaufighter near Grassington and Helen gained the 6 points using her new callsign 2E0YHB and new permitted power of 50W.
I was QRT by 09:06, packed up and walking at 09:20 and back at Buttertubs Pass for 09:59. The car stays in place for NP30 but a short stand-up lunch was shoe-horned in. By 10:06 it was off again, over very wet but thankfully frozen ground to the start of the climb for the aptly named Lovely Seat, which is a gift in terms of ascent; only just fulfilling the 150m rule. Once again you keep to a path on the right hand side of a fence and again it is crossed via a stile at SD 8784 9503.
G/NP-030: LOVELY SEAT, 675m, 4 pts, 10:27 to 12:03, 0 Deg.C, 5 mph wind. Overcast & low-cloud. 30 mm lying snow. Minor icing conditions. IO84VI, WAB SD89 YSN. 151m ascent, 2.9 km up / dn. Pack weight: 13.5 kg. (No O2 phone signal).
Someone has rammed a metal loop shaped fitting into the side of the ‘Lovely Seat’ which is no more than a small seat-shaped dry-stone windbreak on the smooth summit similar to the one on Gt. Knoutberry. The wind direction was such that this loop could be pressed into use as mast support. Again it was hard to force the end sticks into frozen ground but I also know this top to be deceptively rocky under a thin coat of soil & grass.
Roy (SSH) had accurately worked out my ETA from last year’s report and posted it accordingly. He was also there replying to the tuning Vs again. 17 stations were logged and power was 30 Watts apart from Bert DF5WA who needed all available ‘umph’ and two attempts. Despite the time now approaching 11am, it was pleasing to note that almost half the callers were overseas chasers.
40W on here brought in 13 stations with reasonable reports on a busy band. PA0XAW Age stood out alone amongst the UK stations and the QSO rate was quite leisurely compared to CW. I thought it only fair to give periodic warnings that the 7.5 Ah SLAB used already for NP6, was about to fail. Arthur GW1LDY called just as it did. Three minutes later, after connecting the 8.8Ah Li-Po and despite calling him with 100W, he was gone, probably thinking I’d gone QRT.
Conditions on here were unmistakably ‘day time’ and in the absence of Phil G4OBK who was not available, it was hard work. G3RMD could be clearly heard calling at the beginning and end of the session but try as I may, I could not get back to Frank. G4BLH was almost a casualty too but I did manage to work Mike with ON4ON, G4RQJ, G4SSH and G3WPF following on. 100W was used throughout and by 11:48 CQ’s had gone unanswered. I heard nothing further and left at 12:03.
This is a short descent and getting back to Buttertubs Pass by 12:19 left more than enough time to follow up with NP16 Dodd Fell. The drive was foggy at first but clear through Hawes. From there you take the Buckden Road south past the Wensleydale Cheese works then along Cam Houses Road to Kidhow Gate. Because it was covered by a layer of icy snow in low-cloud and due to there being a few ‘side-drops,’ the Cam Houses road needed great care today. Luckily all three gates were open which saved twelve operations and valuable time with the result that I was striking out for NP16 along the Pennine Way by 12:52.
Park between the gate & sign at SD 8298 8339 and take the Pennine Way North. It’s not at all obvious but a minor path leaves the track at SD 8339 8434. From there it’s steeply up via SD 8344 8435, crossing a (frozen) beck at SD 8352 8432 and following a boggy track via SD 8364 8434, SD 8376 8439, SD 8386 8443 and SD 8397 8453 to the ‘moated’ trig. Today I found a parallel path but there is little difference in efficiency and the poor track detailed above is perhaps easier to follow.
NP-016: DODD FELL HILL, 668m, 4 pts, 13:19 to 14:43, minus 2 Deg.C, 10 mph wind. Low-cloud with rapid icing conditions. 40 mm lying snow. IO84VG, WAB SD88 YSN. 94m ascent, 4.2 km up / dn. (O2 phone signal.)
Apart from the cement-repaired trig pillar, this is a bare top but a little comfort is to be had using one of the shallow depressions to sit in. One problem was caused by freezing fog which rapidly built up on the aerial wire, gradually reducing its height, especially when rigged for 160m. I had to clear this three times and reposition an end stick due to a change in the wind-speed combined with the ice problem. I was reminded of a notice we used to put on every production aircraft instrument panel: ‘This Aircraft is not Certified for Flight in known Icing Conditions.’ The Geocache I’d stumbled upon last year was invisible under snow today.
Without the aid of any phone calls so far today, G4SSH consistently had me found and spotted in seconds. It happened here on NP16 too and within 3 minutes in came Karim, F4CTJ. As well as the UK, signals proved to be available to chasers in France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and not forgetting our two friends in Eire. Again the compromise power of 30W was used unless more was needed. As is usual I turned up the power at the end of the session to try and pull in any stragglers. Just ten were worked in CW but SSB was somewhat more successful.
16 were logged in this mode and reports were mostly good. All were G’s, M’s or 2’s except for ON4ON and F4CTJ. There is often trouble with splash and splatter on SSB and this session was no exception. Two club calls were worked: MX0BCQ/A (CRAG - Geoff) and GX0ANT (Eden Valley - John).
This was the most disappointing session of the entire day with only 2 QSO’s. Despite full power, the worst thing was not being able to get RST’s back to Mike EI2CL and Frank G3RMD. Both could be heard calling weakly but in the end successes were limited to Reg G3WPF and Phil G4OBK (both worked with 50W). Phil’s signal, I’m certain would be audible by all prospective UK chasers but I would be willing to bet even that would have been significantly down on previous summits. Further CQs went unanswered before QRT at 14:30. I left the bleak, forlorn trig point behind at 14:43 before spying the car through mist at 15:06.
So the day ‘ended’ with three successful activations completed but with significant daylight remaining. On the 11th of December having completed NPs 13 & 19, I was ‘cheated’ out of a third summit (NP15) by a snow-bound and impassable road. This was starting to look like an evens chance of taking ‘revenge’ on the NPs for this annoyance! All that was required was the formulation of a plan extension, the acceptance of slight additional risk, a little more work and enough daylight to reach a fourth summit. Getting down afterwards would have to take care of itself.
Thoughts turned to what to do next. Half of me was all for going home early, another bit said, ‘you should have stayed to work more bands from NP16’ but the small adventurous portion which still remains was spurring me on to a fourth summit. The problem was that the first two personas wouldn’t let the third commit and I knew that apart from a telephone box, NP16’s summit had been my last chance to notify Roy.
With time to ponder on the way down I’d managed to narrow it down to a choice of three. NP15 Gt. Knoutberry; NP9 Buckden Pike or NP31 Birks Fell. The easy NP15 would mean going further west so I ruled that out. Both the other two were in my log from just 10 days ago and both were moderate undertakings. Of the two only Birks Fell NP31 had mobile phone coverage, it was the closest to me and conveniently was more or less on my route back home. Unhappily, it is the hardest option of the three; having an ascent of almost 1300 feet and adding over 4 miles of extra distance.
I passed the phone kiosk at Oughtershaw, slowed but didn’t stop. Still dithering! After Hubberholme I saw the track entrance for Redmire Farm and halted there. There wasn’t time to drive the 300m further to the bridge parking spot and walk back. With no traffic about, the car could stay where it was so long as I could manage to ‘ram it’ closer up against the wall.
After filling in my ‘destination form’ and placing it in the window, I got out at 15:39 with as much purpose as could be mustered, grabbed the pack from the back seat and made for the Redmire track, not giving myself a second in which to change my mind. By the time I’d walked 100m, I was at last firmly committed to activating NP31; my only worry outside collapsing half way up, was the state of the part-used battery I was carrying and notifying the unsuspecting Roy by phone.
I used this route on 31st December 08 after first surveying it in 2007 and I have come to know and love it. It has the advantage of being a direct route to the SOTA recognized summit. It starts at Redmire Farm (SD 9365 7747) & passes through Kirk Gill Moor Wood before following up a grassy path beside a wall. Unfortunately (in snow) there is at least one steep section. For full details see: http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=2663#
There was more snow than on either of the first three and as the time approached 4pm, I entered low-cloud and the light began to fade. I kept trying the mobile phone bought recently for £9.50; an attractive pink one with flowers. ‘Emergency only.’ It wasn’t until I reached the ‘lip’ at SD 9198 7675 that coverage began. ‘Hi Roy, please could you post me for Birks Fell?’ Scarborough radio station ‘G4SSH’ had been closed down for the night but after exhibiting some surprise, Roy swung swiftly into action. ‘Shall I post you when you get there?’ I wasn’t going to be hanging around for long and wanted no delay. I also knew that there might be precious few chasers remaining. ‘No, please tell ‘the boys’ ASAP.’ Time and Ampere Hours wait for no man and knowing that something would have to be dropped from the ‘usual’ schedule, 80m CW became the casualty. With the proviso that it would soon be dark, we would have to make do with 80 SSB then 160 CW.
Today the cold wind was from the SW so I headed past the summit, making for the ‘spine’ wall where respite could be found. The ascent had taken 49 minutes but considering it was almost dark, it didn’t take much time at all to set up the dipole beside the wall with the mast in a couple of inches of fluffy frozen snow. This is just practice over the years.
G/NP-031: BIRKS FELL, 610m, 4Pts, 16:28 to 17:52. Minus 2 deg.C at first, falling to minus 5 after dark. Wind 15 mph. Low-cloud with icing conditions. 60mm lying snow. (IO84WE, WAB SD97) 390m (1280ft) ascent / 6.8km (4.3 miles) up/down. Pack weight: 11kg. (Orange phone signal)
SSB is not Roy’s speciality and neither is it Phil’s but it was G4OBK who answered my QRL. Unusual this late in the day, that the alerted channel could be this quiet, so with the power set to about 30W, we chatted briefly to allow stations to net. 14 regulars were logged in the light of a headlamp in as many minutes and any concerns about not making 4 QSO’s evaporated. What did surprise me was the D-layer which did not appear to have retired to bed yet. This resulted in expectations of roughly 50/50 mix of UK and European stations not being met. Most QSOs were with G’s and just two called in from overseas; ON4ON and F6FNA.
Whilst tuning I heard evidence that Phil G4OBK and perhaps a few others were waiting here and had perhaps interrupted a meal to gain their 4 points. Not knowing for sure how much was left in the battery or what band conditions would be like, the rig was set to about 50W for starters and turned up when required.
The following 19 stations were worked on 160 CW: G4OBK, G3RMD, SM6CMU, G4SSH, EI2CL G3WPF, SM1TDE, DJ7MI, G3PQA, G4RQJ, G4WSX, G4OWG, G4CPA, DL6ATM, GW0DSP, G4BLH, EI7CC, G0NES and finally Heinz DL7RAG for an HNY.
I must apologize for the reports. The backlighting is routinely switched off to save power and I could barely focus on the log let alone the S-meter. Perhaps that’s an excuse and chiefly I was now getting a little weary after what was to become a 17-hour day. That said, some of the rubbish I made up for reports was just that; rubbish. Here’s hoping nobody with a top-o-the-range 160m setup was offended by 559 when I meant 599! I know I did this but in reverse for Mike G4BLH who, struggling to hear me, must have thought a one-way duct had opened between Nelson and Birks Fell.
1.846 SSB: (Nil)
That morning, Carolyn G6WRW had asked me about the possibility of 160m SSB. I gave one of my patent ‘half-baked’ non committal answers but there are always genuine concerns about time, power, propagation and the WX. ‘There might be a chance from the last one.’ Well that turned out to be enough to confuse anyone; knowing now that I can’t even define ‘last one!’ Though greater than the expected numbers of regulars had been logged from this ‘late news’ SOTA, it was significant that many (including Carolyn) were missing from the log.
I was here so I would give it a go. Finding a clear spot for phone at 1.846, I nipped back to announce it in CW on 1.832 in case anyone was listening, then set off to retune the dipole coils onto the new spot. It isn’t that straightforward in the dark as the wire is invisible. You have to walk from the mast towards the end sticks until the headlight picks up the reflector at its top. At that point you must reach out, grasp the wire and walk back towards the mast until the coil is found (at the 40m break point) and the slug moved. That must be repeated for the other coil and if a new VSWR test is failed, off you go again. It sounds like a lot of messing about and indeed it is but on cold days the exercise is often welcome and with the carbon mast’s slender top now bent over by 90 degrees, I had to go and clear a weight of ice which had collected on some 40m of wire anyway.
Close to 10 minutes (on & off) of 100W CQ’s up until 17:43 produced not a squeak and this can be put down purely to a lack of advertising and conviction on my part. In truth, I would rather have had it that way than feel guilt about chasers waiting for something that may never have happened. Thanks go to Frank G3RMD for posting this last gasp. The final descent started at 17:52.
If the headlight had packed in then it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. There seemed to be a tiny trace of ambient light and a snowy surface makes the most of it. After dropping through 450m ASL the low-cloud suddenly evaporated and the full moon shone out over the wintry scene. SOTA can be hard graft but the rewards are priceless. Over my shoulder I could see the planet Venus but concentration was needed to get safely down the snow-covered steep sections, to the gate and into the forest. Once there I stopped worrying but switched off the light, sneaking down to the road unobserved at 18:31.
It took from 18:37 to 20:35 to get home which was close to the time given to my XYL before leaving. I hate the bit where the rucksack and everything else has to be got back into the house.
34 on 1.8-CW.
40 on 3.5-CW.
56 on 3.5-SSB.
Nil on 1.8 SSB (NP31 only)
Total: 130 QSO’s.
Breakdown: 33 on NP6. 36 on NP30. 28 on NP16. 33 on NP31.
NP6 & NP30 80m band only: One 7.5Ah SLAB (100% discharged).
NP30 160m band plus NP16 & NP31: 11V - 8.8Ah Li-Po (86% discharged).
Total ‘ON-AIR’ time for 130 QSO’s: 4 Hr – 24 min.
(30 to 100W QRO. Tuning before and off times between QSY’s are not taken into account).
Total ASCENT: 830m (2723ft).
Total DISTANCE WALKED: 21.4 km (13.4 miles).
Distance driven: 187 miles.
Activator points: 30.
Walking (min): NP6:47 + 40. NP30: 21 + 16. NP16:27 + 23. NP31:49 + 39. Tot: 4hr-22m.
Summits (min): NP6: 109. NP30: 96. NP16: 84. NP31: 84. Tot: 6hr-13m.
Driving between: NP30 & NP16: 33min. NP16 & NP31: 33 min. Lunch: 7 min. Tot: 73 min.
It had been a reasonable day weather-wise with light winds, temperatures safely below freezing and no precipitation. Apart from the low-cloud on all four tops, the conditions suited me and many of the numerous boggy stretches were solid. 13 miles doesn’t sound much to a long distance walker but is a fair way in SOTA terms in England. However, I had not even climbed 3000 feet and it was the latter fact combined with the cold conditions that made this not too demanding.
At this time of year, one thing is certain. For multiple undertakings of this kind, you have to be prepared to face the darkness at both ends of the day but the fact that loyal chasers are there in these lonely places when you really need them, is a blessing which guarantees real gratitude and friendship.
The NP region is the most attractive to me in terms of convenience and distances driven, walked & climbed. The easier summits can be successfully combined in what I call a radial manner, though I wish there were more because combining just makes them run out all the faster. On the other hand certain ones can be savoured singly.
It’s perhaps a double edged sword but apart from a single set of footprints on NP6 from the day before, I found no evidence of any other walker on any of the four summits.
I have been suffering quite severe right foot pain in recent weeks, even limping the quarter mile to Seamer Chip Shop last Thursday night. My old mum used to say, ‘Keep going!’ She was right, the pain was there but it was not too severe and did not get much worse during the course of the day.
I now find out that not only has my XYL found out how to ‘spy on me’ via SOTAWatch but now also my Daughter-in-Law. I suspect this has a lot to do with my duties as a grandfather.
Thanks to all stations worked, especially those early & late and to G4SSH, G4OBK, G3WPF & G3RMD for the essential spotting services. G4SSH put in a long day delivering outstanding liaison work and real help on this expedition. The activator / chaser relationship in SOTA is a special one which was really noticed today.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)
A Happy New Year and my gratitude go to the SOTA MT and all participants.