G4YSS Activation Report: HELVELLYN, SEAT SANDAL, FAIRFIELD, & ST. SUNDAY CRAG.
SOTA’s: G/LD-003, G/LD-022, G/LD-007 & G/LD-010.
FT817ND QRP, 80m CW/SSB 40m CW & 4m FM.
G4YSS Using GX0OOO/P.
Times: BST (UTC = 1) UOS.
Mobile phone coverage on all tops except LD7. (Orange network).
The Patterdale Round.
This is a very efficient way to amass significant SOTA points in one day, normally in the Winter bonus period. Over the years, I have activated this round several times with 2m FM and with both QRP and QRO HF gear, last year adding LD37 prior to and LD8 afterwards. Having been up a couple of times from Thirlmere, walking friend William wanted to try Helvellyn from the east. He has always had a fascination for Helvellyn’s two edges; Striding and Swirrall. Will had also been on Fairfield but the two ‘SS’s‘ namely Seat Sandal and St.Sunday Crag were both on his wanted list.
Our walk had been planned a few months ago giving plenty of time for a bit of training and thoughts about what equipment to take. Despite all the good intentions no real preparation took place apart from a few well separated SOTA sorties and occasional walks to Scarborough carrying the ‘Jack-Pack.’ With this in mind, I couldn’t stomach QRO HF, going instead for QRP. In addition to the guilt this caused me; it being less than popular with many chasers, it meant that thoughts of using Top Band were more or less out of the question.
3.5 MHz with 5W would be challenge enough but that was the band decided upon mainly for reasons of speed mixed with tradition. To 80m could be added a favourite of mine, namely 4m-FM. Early and late, 80m was expected to perform. Around midday it might not. If it didn‘t, 40m would have to substitute for it.
With 12 miles to walk, 5K of ascent and 250 miles to drive, summit time would have to be strictly limited to around 90 minutes. When you add the miscellany of small operations required for each activation plus antenna erection and dismantling, it ties up almost 2 hours for four summits. So as to remove any temptation of wasting valuable minutes and the efforts of chasers trying to get 160m QSO’s that were never going to happen, I removed the Top Band loading coils from the rucksack.
After the debacle during June’s Pillar, Kirk Fell & Gt.Gable expedition, Will’s XYL has banned him taking the dog on any but the most benign summits!
Will arrived at my house early and we left Scarborough at 02:55, arriving at the Patterdale Hotel Pay & Display car park (£3.50) by 05:35. This was the first time I have used this car park, traditionally parking up the lane which runs from the main road to the start of the path to the Hole-in-the-Wall. Someone in ‘authority’ has seen fit to get serious about banning parking there, adding some unsightly and slightly officious notices. As far as I can see, no problem need be caused by parking in the lane, so long as people are sensible in keeping close to the edge. The change adds an extra mile and 100 feet of ascent to the round.
The path out of Patterdale pre-dawn at 06:00 was not immediately obvious until a minor search around the rear of the hotel with a torch revealed it.
It was daylight in no time then we saw the sun at around 7am. The climb up to the Hole in the Wall did seem quite slow and I panicked a bit when it was realised that we were going to be later on the air than announced. I was torn between guiding Will up Swirrall Edge; a feature with which he was unfamiliar or ‘taking off’ for the summit to get the aerial up. In the end we separated just before Red Tarn but it was a while before the phone worked well enough to give the new ETA to Roy, G4SSH. On reaching the trig point I was shocked to see that the LD3 ascent had taken the better part of 2 ½ hours against a more usual time of around 95 to 110 minutes from the old parking spot. Part of the problem was down to the parking change which had added 15 minutes but we could not afford further lost time.
- HELVELLYN, G/LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 08:25 to 09:58. Wind 25 mph, 3 deg C, low-cloud. LOC: IO84LM, WAB: NY31.
80m CW (LD3) - 19 QSO‘s:
3.532 now has a beacon on it. Roy suggested a QRG of 3.558 and he was first in the log after giving me a report of 339. 19 chasers were worked in all on here. Representing Europe were: F6CEL, F5SQA and DJ5AV, far fewer overseas stations than last March, though it was later in the day. EI2CL sneaked in too. I heard Frid DL1FU call but despite spending several minutes trying to get back to him, disappointingly we did not make a QSO this time.
The rest were G’s both close-in and far away and all the Scarborough lads made it. RST’s in response to my mouse power ranged from 339 to 579 and even 599 from G4CPA near Skipton. I wasn’t sure whether Bill G4WSB worked me twice (07:49z and 08:20z) or the later QSO was actually John G4WSX. Maybe someone can clear up this mystery?
80m SSB (LD3) - 10 QSO‘s:
3.724 was quiet and MM0USU answered my CQ with a 47 report. After Andy came G3RMD, G0RQL, G4WSB, G8ADD, G0TRB, Carolyn G6WRW, M0COP, G4OOE Nick and ‘long time no hear’ John GW4BVE. 33 to 58 was the incoming report range. Bill G4WSB made doubly sure of it on here.
4m FM (LD3) - 4 QSO‘s:
One CQ using 3.5W from the IC-E90 with its extended 2m duck and counterpoise on 70.450 FM got me Mike G4BLH, Geoff G4WHA/M, John G0TDM and John MW1FGQ.
The preferred route to Seat Sandal saves time by cutting out Dollywaggon Pike, leaving the path at NY 3434 1320 and going cross-country via rock fields, a stream and over tussocky grass, at NY 3418 1262. From the 574m col at NY 3438 1208 where stand old steel fence posts, Seat Sandal can be climbed quite quickly by means of a narrow path at the left hand side of the wall.
In keeping with normal practice Will left LD3 early. I caught him up at the path leaving point and he followed me down the rough stuff while questioning the wisdom of our actions. That is until later in the day when he was able to see from Fairfield just how much walking we had saved and the steepness of the zig-zag path down Dollywagon Pike to the tarn. He joined me on LD22 a few QSO’s into the action.
- SEAT SANDAL, G/LD-022, 736m, 6 pts, 11:10 to 12:58. 9 deg C. Sunshine. 10 mph wind. Grassy top with a wall, a cairn & good views. LOC: IO84LL. WAB: NY31.
80m CW (LD22) - 3 QSO‘s:
With good Orange phone coverage, I was able to use G4SSH’s brilliant ‘Fone-a-Spot’ service. Roy suggested an adjustment to 3.556 to avoid some QRM but after working him along with G0NUP and G4OOE (229 reports) there was evidence enough that the old D-layer had ’cut-in.’
When Will arrived I moved a big stone for him to sit on, not noticing that it had trapped my RG316 all but severing it. The rig went even quieter than an absorptive 80m usually sounds but I did not immediately see why because this coax is a similar colour to dry grass. I phoned through notification of a 10 minute delay while the damage was fixed using a penknife and some self-amalgamating tape. Despite restoration of a proper VSWR, no further CQ’s on 80 were answered.
80m SSB (LD22) - Nil QSO‘s:
If CW couldn’t do the job, 5W of SSB would be unlikely to. Nevertheless a few calls went out on 3.724 but to no avail. With 3 QSO’s in the log almost an hour after arriving, something would have to change and that was the band.
40m CW (LD22) - 22 QSO‘s:
40 proved to be much livelier than 80. One call on 7.032 brought in a vigilant Dan F5SQA. Once spotted a steady stream followed: F, SM, HB9, PA, SK, G, DL, S51 & OK. Fritz DL4FDM brought greetings and Frid DL1FU made it through this time. Responses to my 5W on here were much more favourable with 559 being common. As far as I remember here occurred the only S2S of the day. This was with Alain F6ENO/P on F/JU-087. A memorable SOTA ref. which brings to mind an aircraft of WW2. Some of the QRM on the bands sounds like one of these! Thanks for the QSO, Alain.
4m FM (LD22) - 4 QSO‘s:
One CQ from the IC-E90 on 70.450 FM got a quick response which is often the case on here. If not, I don’t think I could include it as it’s always a post-HF afterthought. Mike G4BLH, Alex G7RNX, Geoff G4WHA/M & John G0TDM entered the LD22 4m log.
The final part of the climb down Seat Sandal on the Fairfield side is steep, rocky & loose. The route to LD7 follows a zig-zag path also over loose stones which is a ‘bit of a pull‘. I passed Will in the col talking to some Scarborough people. Always on the lookout for saving time, I got myself asap to Fairfield’s summit shelter for photos, later backing off to a quieter place to set up.
- FAIRFIELD, G/LD-007, 837m, 8 pts, 13:43 to 15:08. 12 deg C. 15 mph wind. Sunshine. LOC: IO84ML. WAB: NY31. Approx 20 walkers on this summit.
40m CW (LD7) - 15 QSO‘s:
7.032 was thrang but 033 seemed clear. Uncharacteristically it took 10 minutes of CQ’s to get noticed on 7.033. Admittedly everybody’s attention was with .032. Eventually I was ‘found’ by LA1ENA and Aage kindly put a spot on for me. This brought in the other chasers: PA, G, HB9, OK, DL, F, S51, LA, SM & SK. Conditions were not as good as previously on LD22. Many incoming reports were 229 with the better reports coming from G‘s.
80m CW (LD7) - 3 QSO‘s:
There was very little life in 3.558 at this time of day but I did get G stations in the log. Reports were terrible and the struggle was real. Further CQ’s got me no further forward.
80m SSB (LD7) - Nil QSO‘s:
What more is there to say. 80 was all but closed but I did try.
A lady with a curious expression and a bizarre pair of heart shaped, yellow framed sunglasses sidled up to the station. ‘I know you must have been asked this question many times before, but……………? Thankfully it was Will who gave out the well rehearsed screed leaving me to carry on with the activation undisturbed.
4m FM (LD7) - 6 QSO‘s:
True to form John MW1FGQ was again logged at 59, though my RS had reduced to 53 on this one. I then worked , John G0TDM, Brian 2E0TOG & Alex G7RNX. Mike G4BLH and Geoff G4WHA/M called in later but I could not get back to Mike at first. After leaving the HF station and walking about 50m to overlook the southern aspect of the mountain and with some QSP help from John FGQ, Mike peaked up to 55 and he was able to hear me OK. The HF rig could be heard at quite a distance; I’d left it on but I don’t think anyone noticed. Earlier on we had been asked if we had the cricket score. It has a lot to do with the time of day but as always, Fairfield was by far the most popular summit of the four visited.
The 2.2 km walk to LD10 can take as little as 35 minutes. Today it took 37. Again I passed Will on the way. He had experienced some nerves on Coffa Pike and wisely reversed his moves and gone another way round. I too have a respect for this feature; not in today’s conditions but in the winter of 2005 when I was forced, due to hard white ice and no crampons to back off and contour Fairfield’s snow, ice and loose rock-covered NW face, to the col at Deepdale Hause.
- ST.SUNDAY CRAG, G/LD-010, 841m, 8 pts, 15:45 to 17:15. 12 deg C, sunshine, 10 mph wind. LOC: IO84MM. WAB: NY31.
By late afternoon I expected that we could revert to plan which was 80m. Roy kindly posted a start time for me while I walked the final few metres to the summit cairn. The crowds were thinning out by now so the dipole was placed right on the top. I didn’t have the energy for much in the way of finesse.
80m CW (LD10) - 11 QSO‘s:
G4SSH was first in the log on 3.558. G0NUP & G4OOE, Kevin & Nick were hard on Roy’s heels. After that it was G3ROO, Ian who I know from Kanga Kits. I built a lightweight 3-Band, CW/SSB, 10W rig back in 1989 simply because I could not buy anything suitable even at twice the weight. It was built from three Kanga Kits with a Cirkit PA and home brew panels and filter. After 200 hours work, Ian helped me to commission it and it was used successfully for WAB/P ops for the next 10 years. It weighed 4 pounds.
After Ian, seven more regulars were headed up by Frank G3RMD. EI2CL made it through in this batch but Frid DL1FU was having more bad luck with me today. Again I tried and tried, dearly wishing I could turn the ‘wick’ up but failing in the end. The FT817ND with it’s QRP is a miracle rig but if conditions are poor you just won’t make it. Every time this happened I thought of my regular IC706-2G but it and the associated batteries would have added a further 2.5 kg to the pack. Reports ranged between 229 and 559, which made me think that the long awaited band condition improvement had not commenced.
80m SSB (LD10) - 12 QSO‘s:
Frank G3RMD led off on 3.724. I asked him about his activation of these summits in summer. We both agreed that the worst thing was still to come; namely the final descent into Patterdale at a time when you think it’s all over bar the shouting.
In many ways, this was one of the best sessions of the day. Conditions rose throughout and helped by promptings from Frank & Don G0RQL, I even worked HB9BIN with my 5 Watts. Most were regular chasers who must have been tearing their hair out trying and failing to dig me out of the noise all day. Many of these same ops were now giving my QRP reports like 58 and 59, though some till struggled. I was buoyed up and it certainly was a nice way to wind up HF ops for the day; GW4BVE being the final caller.
4m FM (LD10) - 4 QSO‘s:
I must apologize here for having got someone on 80m SSB to spot my intended ‘QSY to 4m FM in 5 minutes.’ I then decided to pack up the HF station. By the time I got to them, the 4m boys were thinking they’d missed me but I worked: G4WHA/M Geoff, MW1FGQ John, G0TDM John and G4BLH Mike. For the fourth and final time I used the IC-E90 with 3.5W o/p to an extended 2m band ‘duck’ and counterpoise. I hadn’t expected to work Mike with this setup from LD10 because I’d assumed that he was screened. Screened or not he gave me 55. It was now time to try to catch Will, who had left the summit at around 16:30. I caught him up by the oak trees just prior to the hotel path turnoff but carried on through, regaining Will’s car by 18:23. He arrived at 18:31 looking just as tired as I felt.
Yes, after having got up at 02:30 in the morning that final descent, extended half a mile by ’yellow line merchants’ was annoying to say the least. Thankfully, I wouldn’t be adding two more this year!
ASCENT & DISTANCES:
Patterdale-LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10-Patterdale: 1,510 m (4,953ft) of ascent / 19.1 km (12 miles) walked.
(Birks & Dollywagon Pike were both bypassed)
Left Scarborough: 02:55
Arrived Patterdale: 05:35
Walk for LD3: 06:00
LD-3 Helvellyn: 08:25 to 09:58
LD-22 Seat Sandal: 11:10 to 12:58
LD-7 Fairfield: 13:43 to 15:08
LD-10 St Sunday: 15:45 to 17:15
Returned Patterdale: 18:23
Drove away from Patterdale: 18:44
Arrived Scarborough: 22:02
Patterdale (Hotel) to LD3: 145 min
LD3 to LD22: 72 min
LD22 to LD7: 45 min
LD7 to LD10: 37 min
LD10 to Patterdale: 68 min.
LD3: 93 min
LD22: 108 min (Coax repair)
LD7: 85 min
LD10: 90 min.
Total time spent walking: 6 hr-7 min. (Ave:1.96 mph)
Total time spent at summits: 6 hr-16 min.
Walking plus Summit time: 12 hr-23 min.
Booting up & prep: 25 min
Booting ‘down: 21 min
Driving time: 2h - 40 min plus 3h - 20 min return (inc 25 min diversion) = 6hr.
Gross time (home to home): 19hr-7 min.
Distance driven: 284 miles. (132 miles each way plus a 20 mile diversion via Northallerton because 100m of road in Thirsk had been closed for repairs on our return journey!)
FT817ND, adjustable link-dipole. 5m H/B CFC mast with 1m CFC end supports.
One 4.4 Ah Li-Po for LD3, LD22 & LD7 QRP. (95% depleted).
IC E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with 2m set-top helical extended for 4m and quarter-wave counterpoise wire. ICOM BP217 Li-Ion detachable battery (7.4V - 1.3 Ah). 3.5W used for all QSO’s on 4m.
PACK WEIGHT: 11kg (24 pound).
QSO’S: (All four summits qualified on 4m.)
36 on 80m CW.
22 on 80m SSB.
37 on 40m CW.
18 on 4m FM.
32 SOTA Activator points.
The WX was kind; sunshine being moderated by a cold breeze. Again the low-cloud was confined to Helvellyn in the morning and there was no rain.
The plan was centred around 80m and only one HF band per summit was the aim. In fact midday conditions made life far too hard for the 817’s low power on 80m and 40m had to be the recourse.
William is a good walking companion. He has no interest in radio whatsoever but he will gladly explain our antics to curious passers by when I’m too busy. Our well developed technique of walking enables longer summit stays than perhaps could be tolerated by an uninvolved person sitting around waiting for an amateur who is mostly oblivious to the time and weather conditions. My going ahead to start each activation then sending Will off to the next one half way through proceedings makes the best use of our time. He does not feel under pressure to walk too fast whilst I don’t worry too much about running over by 10 minutes or so at the summit.
Will bagged two new summits (LD22 and LD10). He enjoyed both of them but after expecting a boring minor summit, made a favourite out of LD22 Seat Sandal. He also enjoyed Swirral Edge and has his sights on Striding Edge. He had been told that the path to Hole-in-the-Wall was long and this is what he found. I don’t really know what happened here but we took longer than expected plus I did not go ahead soon enough. Walking times seemed to improve as the day progressed but the broken coax made LD22 the longest activation.
It seems that there will always be frustrations and failures when trying to fit a quart into a pint pot and I regret missing out on 160m QSO’s. For too many ops, it must have been very annoying work trying to chase me today; too few people got a look in, especially either side of noon though in the end, it’s just a hobby.
THANKS to ALL STATIONS worked, and to spotters: G4SSH, F5SQA, F5AKL, LA1ENA, G4BLH & G3RMD. Once again, special thanks to Roy G4SSH for liaison and his ‘Phone-a-Spot’ Service. Another full day!
73, John G4YSS
(Using SSEG Club call - GX0OOO/P)