G4YSS Activation Report for G/LD-001 on 29-09-11
G4YSS accompanied by Will & Jess (Spaniel Dog) and joint activation by G4OOE - Nick (2FM & 40CW).
QRO HF on 160m & 80m. QRP on 4m, using SSEG Club-call, GX0OOO/P.
Times: BST (UTC + 1 hr) UOS on 29th September 2011.
Route: Seathwaite - Stockley Br. - Sty Head - Corridor - Lingmell Col - LD1 - Esk Hause - Stockley Br. - Seathwaite.
‘Walking mate’ William had been working on me for some weeks reference a trip to Scafell Pike. I used every excuse I could find; it’s summer, we have the builders in, I’ve got man-flu, the WX is bad, we have the Irton village tree to save etc etc.
Will was not the only persuader. There was also Nick G4OOE, ‘If you’re going to do LD1, I’d love to come too.’ Will told me that he was free for the coming week then working solid afterwards. Though the weather was a bit on the warm side for my liking, we agreed a sortie. Nick could make it too so we were ‘on for tomorrow’ the 29th and no more excuses. The issue with the village tree was threatening to come to a head in the next two days because of an injunction but I sent my apologies via Hazel after doing the 10pm to 1am stint for almost a week.
The drive to Seathwaite in Will’s car, picking up Nick on the way, took from 03:15 to 06:20. This was longer than usual. From Nick’s house, the satnav told us to go via Whitby and sadly we believed it. By Middlesborough it started demanding apparent stupidity at which point we resorted to Will’s prior knowledge and road signs. It took 95 minutes just to get to Scotch Corner. We were walking in increasing daylight out through the farm yard and past the toilets, into a brisk southerly wind at exactly 7am.
The route was over Stockley Bridge and up to the footbridge at NY 2346 0992 at which point you can see Great End and Lingmell. At the Sty Head stretcher box we turned left then a quick right, descending slightly to pick up the corridor route. After the minor scramble at NY 2189 0852 (a kind of Hillary Step in miniature where Jess needed help) I went on ahead over Peirs Gill. From there it’s out of the top of the corridor at Lingmell Col where a left turn is required to pick up the increasingly rugged path to the summit. About half way up this section visibility dropped to about 50m in thin low cloud. Despite a weather forecast to the contrary, this clag was to prove tenacious for some hours; ruining the views we’d hoped Nick would experience for the first time.
After telling Nick, who was a newcomer to England’s highest mountain that there would be at least 30 people at the top, there was just one walker sitting with his back to the shelter wall cowering from low cloud propelled by a strong, gusty wind. Summit numbers were to increase markedly by early afternoon.
It is always something of challenge to erect a dipole over a loose rocky surface and there was no respite from the wind due to the lack of available (free) space near the shelter and because of the footpaths, which radiate from it. My home-brew antenna system relies on a thin CFC mast and a light 80m-link dipole made from 24 AWG wire. There is no guying; instead reliance is placed on the dipole to hold the system steady. In a cross-wind, the included angle of each leg is adjusted by moving the end sticks into wind until the mast is vertical and wind pressure balances the forces produced by tension in the wires. That is all well and good when the antenna is on grass where infinite variability is an option. On rock the end stick positions are often a compromise.
Because Top Band in daylight is a bit like VHF, I wanted to remain as close to the highest point as possible so choices on the lee side were severely limited.
These factors, added to the effect of a wind which was varying between 10 and 40 mph, caused the 160m coils to whip up above head height for a time then sag to the ground in a lighter wind. The system was never designed to take coils which weigh 40 grams each and the effect of ground proximity on VSWR was all too apparent. This must have resulted in strange bursts of QSB on my signal. The conditions were having a bad effect on me struggling as I was to adjust the aerial whilst looking upwards and being blown sideways over sharp, uneven rocks. Any activator of LD1 and the like will know how this feels. The coax was pressed into service as a guy line but it helped only for a short time until the wind misbehaved once again.
In this way, some 35 minutes was squandered before it was time to cart a heavy flat rock a few metres to act as a seat. A lightweight sit-mat was not really an option in this wind. It was going to be uncomfortable but at least the temperature was relatively high.
SCAFELL PIKE, G/LD-001, 978m, 10 pts, 10:27 to 13:40, 12 deg C, 10 to 40 mph gusty winds. Low-cloud with short bursts of hazy sun and fleeting views. LOC: IO84JK – WAB: NY20. Intermittent Orange mobile phone coverage.
1.832 CW - 7 QSO’s:
More in hope than expectation on Top Band, a ‘CQ got a great response. Geoff was the first callsign deciphered from two, perhaps three simultaneous callers. EI7CC Pete, G4RQJ Rob, G0TDM John, G0VOF/P Mark, EI2CL Mike and G4SSH Roy followed in response to my 100W signal. This was a pleasing though unusual result on this band this late in the morning.
I also heard Frank G3RMD calling me on several occasions with what seemed like quite a usable signal considering the distance from Cheltenham but I could never get back to him. Likewise Phil G4OBK - and this came as a real shock - as he was sending NIL - NIL. This is the first time we have failed to QSO with QRO at my end and it was purely down to his noise level at the time. This made the QSO with G4SSH an even greater surprise. Roy, who of course has no aerial for 160, was coming in just over the noise and was probably 329. In shock I gave him the wrong RST - 559 - but he QSL’d it anyway and was therefore OK in the log. If he’d been any weaker I would have missed him but my noise level was miniscule.
Mark G0VOF/P had actually gone to the trouble of setting up a 160m station based around his motorcycle. He succeeded with a 559 plus signal. Many of the incoming signals were quite strong today - there was a certain amount of life in the band. With just a day before the end of the month I remember thinking that this session would give Mark something for his 160m news slot just in the nick of time.
3.557 CW - 8 QSO’s:
Given the great conditions on 160, I was expecting even better coverage on 3.5. In fact despite investing a lot of power here, the QSO count was just one greater. I tuned to 3.557 and heard Roy put his call in but somehow switched to the next memory down - 3.532 - without realising. That made me wonder why Roy wasn’t coming back and why I suddenly had some weird interference where none was present earlier. After a few minutes of calling on here the error was finally spotted.
First in were the stations that had missed out on 160m due to high local noise levels - G4RMD and G4OBK. OK1AU called in and we exchanged at 559/339 - not a bad QSO on 80 for this time of day. 70 to 100 Watts were used for these eight.
3.724 SSB - 14 QSO’s:
The switch to SSB produced almost twice as many QSO’s as on CW. The rig was set to 50W and later 90W for this session. GW7AAV was first in, followed by familiar chasers and a few SOTA / WABers. It was nice to welcome Nigel 2E0NHM back after a couple of years off from chasing.
At the very end I was surprised to hear the familiar voice of Hazel M6YLH calling from Scarborough on my FT817 and Windom. This QSO really put the urban noise problems faced by chasers into perspective. She gave me a report of 48 - later 38 and at times was struggling to hear more than the odd word per over from my 100-Watt transmission. Conversely Hazel’s QRP was coming in at 56 but I could hear every word like it was 2m-FM with next to no competition from QRN. Who’d be a chaser?
It was now time to move to the summit proper to put on VHF. Unlike when Nick had done his 2m-FM session there earlier, the lee side of the shelter was now thronged with walkers. I moved to the SE side - in the wind but away from the crowds. Southerly is where I wanted the signal be strongest, as it’s where the majority of the VHF chasers are based.
70.425 FM - 8 QSO’s:
Stations worked: G4BLH, G4UXH, G6LKB, GW7AAV, M0XAT, M3RDZ, G1KLZ and G4PEW. All were full scale on my meter but the response to my 3-watt signal varied from 55 but mostly 59. I was using the usual 2m duck with an extension rod plus counterpoise fixed to the IC-E90 H/H. A man walked gingerly past me with bare feet. I wondered if he was doing Scafell Pike for a bet. Will saw him too.
Mike G4BLH told me he’d not only become a grandfather but doubly so in a short time. Congratulations to Mike G4BLH and his XYL Louise G8CME. Life will never be quite the same again Mike! You can have my Jack-Pack soon; the lad’s getting a bit heavy for carting up SOTA’s with HF radio gear. Either that or you could design a carrier with two side-facing seats.
Before moving position for VHF, I offered some of my remaining battery capacity to Nick. He didn’t hesitate so whilst I had a chat on 4FM, G4OOE/P was going out all over Europe and the UK with 40 Watts on 7.033. Nick logged more than 23 QSO’s at a rate of one a minute but he looked cold when I returned. In fact it was quite cool in the low cloud with a strong wind. Instead of 17C forecast for the top, it was actually 12 to 13C.
Will and his dog had been gone an hour by the time Nick and I packed up the HF station and set off down via the Esk Hause route. We were soon heading down the hill then up again to pass Broad Crag - a route ‘glitch’ featured in a Julia Bradbury TV programme. Her heart had dropped here when late in the day’s ascent she could see Scafell Pike’s summit then realised that she would have to loose height to get there. We clambered steadily on through the rock field, which reminds me of WAB area OV00 without the slime, talking to a couple from Brighton who had done Scafell Pike for the first time and who were mildly nervous of getting lost in the fog.
Will was encountered just below the Grains Gill gorge. On the lower part of the mountain despite the breeze, it became hot humid and uncomfortable. The QRO pack was chaffing my back and my only thought was to get rid of it. Perhaps risking a stumble, I pressed on from here to Seathwaite, arriving at 16:14. Nick, followed by Will and Jess were all safely back within a few minutes either side of 17:00. Will came in limping due to some damaged toe nails and blood blisters resulting from the long downhill slog impacting his toes into the front of his new boots. Nasty!
It had been a tiring day but we all had the warm glow of satisfaction. It was now down to Will for the drive home.
Ascent / Distance: 991 m (3251 ft) of ascent including return reascent, 14.6 km (9.1 miles) walked.
Drive home: Approx 17:40 to 21:20 inc dropping off Nick. Approx 295 miles in day (out via Whitby - back via Thirsk.)
QSO’s - G4YSS:
160m CW: 7
80m CW: 8
80m SSB: 14
70 MHz FM: 8 (IC-E90 – 3.5 W)
Total - G4YSS: 37
(QSO’s - G4OOE):
(40m CW: 23)
(Total G4OOE: 48).
IC706-2G with home-brew composite panels, wiring & breakering. CW ‘key’ in microphone.
Link Dipole for 80-60-40-20 with tuneable coils for 160 at the 40m break points.
5m CFC mast – 1m ends.
IC-E90, 4-band H/H with 1.3Ah battery with 145 Mhz normal mode helical and extension for 4m.
Two RCM 4.3Ah Li-Po in parallel making 8.6 Ah. 11V nom (12.6 V fully charged) 0.7kg.
Battery Utilisation: 8.6 Ah Li-Po, 79% discharged (including 23 QSO’s on 7.033 by Nick G4OOE). Plus H/H usage.
QRO pack-weight: 11.5kg including 1.75 litre drinks.
Thanks to all stations worked and also for spotting support from Roy G4SSH. Spotters: G4SSH, G3RMD, G4OBK, G4BLH.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using SSEG Callsign GX0OOO/P)