G4YSS: G/NP-010 NEW YEAR Summit Camp, 31-12-16 to 01-01-17
A wild night out on Pen-y-Ghent’s summit for New Year and double points!
Issue-2; 09-01-17. Minor additions in QSO’s section, two callsigns etc
Planning: GX0OOO Campover on G/NP-010
G4YSS using SSEG Club Call GX0OOO/P
All times UTC
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier (80 thru 10) with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20 with loading coils for 160m
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
2 x 5 Ah and 2 x 6 Ah Li-Po batteries (22 Ah)
IC-E90 4 Band VHF-UHF 5 Watt Handheld in reserve (not used)
Viper-2 Ridge tent (1988/ 2.2kg)
Sleeping bag 1.6kg synthetic
Goretex Sleeping bag cover (Bivvy Bag) 820gm
Airbed (Cheap - 4 GBP ebay) failed in first hour (490gm)
Packweight: 18.9kg (41.7 pounds) inc 1.75 ltr water
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB112 Technika Radio (Tesco)
Goretex Bootees worn for use if leaving the tent
Overnighting on summits is something I have greatly revelled for many years. Starting with The Cheviot in 1981, a memorable night on Ben Bheula in southern Scotland in the same decade, Cross Fell, Ben Macdui etc and four sessions on NP8 for VHF-NFD/ SOTA. A night on NP17 specially for the first Top Band S2S in 2004 is another that comes to mind.
None of these have been particularly ambitious and all have been in the summer or autumn season. Since SOTA came along, I have developed a taste for New Year activations. This was chiefly for the experience but also for the pleasure of giving out New Year’s greetings from a SOTA summit. Some think it’s just a way of getting double points for no extra effort. Actually, they’re right!
Previous New Year SOTA Summit Camps:
2004-05: G/NP-018 Nine Standards Rigg
2007-08: G/NP-004 Whernside
Each time I do this, when weather forecasts are on a collision course with a fixed date, I agonize long and hard. There’s enough concern about the weather before any SOTA activation but this is entirely another thing. Being a born worrit, it is difficult for me to keep the lid on the ‘demons’ and that situation was no different this time.
With the right conditions, a hill like Pen-y-Ghent is benign but in really bad winter weather, it could be down right dangerous. What if I was forced to retreat in high winds, snow, ice or whiteout, in the dark down those steep crags at the northern end? With forces pulling in opposite directions, I was loosing sleep just thinking about it.
For some days before the event, the BBC and Met Office had been predicting a band of heavy rain crossing the country. With each passing day the cursed thing would not budge from the Yorkshire Dales at the very time I wanted to be there. In late December at over 2000 feet, heavy rain can soon turn into something more sinister. A couple of degrees lower and it can be a different story, so the decision to ‘go’ or not to go could never be taken lightly.
WEATHER - MWIS mountain forecast at 600m ASL:
Saturday 31st December 2016:
Gale to near gale SW wind of between 40 and 50 mph, overcast with persistent low cloud, pockets of drizzly rain. Summit temps 5C; minus 8C wind chill with overnight rain to follow. ‘Walking arduous across the hills, particularly higher tops in the Yorkshire Dales.’
Sunday 1st January 2017:
Sustained overnight rain followed by snow. Northerly wind of between 25 and 35 mph, no low-cloud, probable sunshine and snow flurries. Summit temps of minus 1C and falling.
Neither the MWIS nor the BBC forecasts were at all inspiring. The only thing they had going for them was the ‘high’ temperature of 5C on the 31st and a chance of some views on New Years day morning.
With 75% of NP’s already activated in 2016, I had just a few to chose from. On the short list were NP10; NP17 (nearby Fountains Fell) or NP5 (Ingleborough.) As the time got closer and nothing changed with the forecast, I knew I was up against it. Any advantage to be gained had to be exploited.
I know at times that the MWIS forecast can be prone to slight exaggeration, particularly with wind speeds but with ‘up to 50 mph’ appearing in print, the essential thing on this occasion would be a dry stone wall. That immediately ruled out Ingleborough which was a pity as its 6 point status would be more attractive to Shack Sloth chasers. Leaving it as late as possible, I checked the wind direction predictions against the wall angles shown on the 1:25k map in an attempt to find best spot to pitch and on which of the two remaining contenders; NP10 or NP17.
The problem was not so much the wind speed; a good high wall can largely protect you from that but the varying directions over the two days in question. Starting in the south-west, this ‘gale or near gale force’ wind was going right around to northerly in one night! Finding a wall to protect from all of the predicted directions would entail a lot of luck.
Yes, NP17 had walls but to exploit their protective powers I would have had to climb one of them; not something I wanted to be doing with close to 20kg on my back. It came down to NP10 with its north-south running wall which jagged to SW-NE near the trig point. It may not fully cover me initially but things should improve through the night. Trivial as it may seem, the result of this research was central to an eventual decision to go ahead. NP10 also has a marginally better VHF takeoff than NP17.
Leaving Scarborough on the morning of the 31st, the first thing I did was to call Roy G4SSH on 145.400. We had a short discussion about the schedule I had just emailed to him. A list of sked times for the proposed NP10 summit camp. Proposed it was - even at that late stage. With an (at best) marginal weather forecast the only option was to go there and assess it for myself. That would mean climbing with the overnight pack then deciding. If it was a no go, I would make a swift appearance on 2m-FM then go back down. All the meticulous prep would be wasted and my back would still hurt from the heavy rucksack without the compensation of an extended activation. If conditions at the summit gave me at least one good vibe and if I could get the tent up and firmly anchored, I would SMS Roy in order for him to drop the schedule onto the SOTA reflector.
That was the plan but it suffered a minor stumble just 15 minutes in. I had omitted to print myself a copy. Stopping the car near Thornton-le-Dale I wrote while Roy read out the list over the air. What would we do without him!
Starting at 09:40, the 101 mile drive via A170, A168, A1M, Ripon, A59, A65 and Malham took until 12:20. Yes, I went the wrong way - blame the satnav. There’s space to park next to the honesty box near Dale Head Farm (SD 8426 7145) now 1GBP- short stay and now 2 GBP - long stay. 100% inflation! The view of Pen-y-Ghent was encouraging then. It was cloud free but that was to change in the next 30 minutes.
Heaving a 42 pound pack up from the ground is never going to be easy but at least it wasn’t the 61 pounds I’d sweated with on NP18 on New Year’s Eve 2004. Li-Po batteries rather than Lead-Acid made most of the difference but I also carried more food and water back then.
Leaving the car at 12:45, I soon fell into a good pace. I find that the pain of a big carry needs to be as short in time as possible. By modern standards the seldom used 85 litre pack, bought in 1989 for an expedition to Shian Bay on Jura’s west coast with my 8 year old son Philip (now G0UUU), is not particularly well designed but I’m too tight to replace it with a new high tech one.
The DAB radio helped with the discomfort of ascent as did plenty of stops on the steep craggy bits where great care was needed; particularly with balancing the heavy load in the strong wind. Despite the dull windy day and poor forecast, there were plenty of people going up and down. One chap saw the tent strapped on the back of the pack and asked if I was camping. I just about had sufficient breath for a brief explanation and he would later wish me ‘good luck’ as he left the summit.
The stone path at the top section was a sight for sore eyes as it meant that all the awkward bits had been overcome and I topped out to a busy trig point at 13:28. The ascent had taken 43 minutes, less than half the time for an NP10 overnight camp of August 2015 with my 8 year old Grandson Jack. Admittedly he was claiming to be ill and the poor lad proved it beyond doubt in the early hours.
I took a few summit photos but they were very much for the record. The clag was down and you couldn’t see far. It was to stay that way until morning.
PEN-Y-GHENT, G/NP-010, 694m, 4pts. 13:28 on Saturday 31-12-16 to 09:40 on Sunday 01-01-17. 4 deg C dropping to minus 1C overnight. SW wind of 35 mph decreasing a little and veering northerly in the early hours. Overcast with low-cloud. Heavy rain 21:00 to 03:00 and snow after that. No lying snow until morning, then approx. 3cm. LOC: IO84VD. WAB: SD87. Trig: TP-5414. 90% reliable EE phone coverage.
Survey & Assessment:
The decision of whether to stay over or not rested on finding a good pitch for the tent. It wasn’t raining at the time so the weather aspect had already passed scrutiny. With the wind direction in mind (SW - later N) I’d worked out that the best place to shelter from it would be near a bend in the wall at SD 8377 7334, 100m SW of the trig. Going there briefly, I wasn’t impressed. The surface wasn’t very even and the gradient too great for comfort. It was also at least 10m below summit height; a fact that would spoil the VHF takeoff NE to the Tyne & Tees areas.
After probing the ground with a length of GRP rod brought for the purpose, I settled for a patch of smooth grass where the gradient was very slight. This was just 28 paces SW of the trig point and a metre east of the wall at SD 8383 7337.
For rapid deployment, the tent and fly sheet are carried outside the rucksack and the latter has its poles, guy lines and home-brew carbon pegs ready attached. The single-handed job usually takes less than 3 minutes after which the tent is hung inside and pegged down in 6 places. This is almost 30 years old but a tried and tested Lichfield Viper-2 ridge tent weighing under 5 pounds.
You can call me old fashioned but ridge tents have their advantages. They have exposed pole tops which can easily be adapted to take VHF verticals. They can also be double guyed when there is a need to counter high winds. This was one of those occasions.
Today it took longer to pitch because of the addition of four extra guy lines and multiple extra pegs which I’d brought along for insurance. Though a few needed minor repositioning due to rocks in the sub-soil, the ground was mainly ideal and all pegs but one went in like a dream. A few people waved as I worked, wishing me luck as they left the top.
That tent wasn’t going anywhere and the final decision was made for a protracted stay. I text Roy G4SSH accordingly and he got the ball rolling by posting the schedule on the SOTA Reflector. It took the better part of another hour before I was entirely satisfied that everything was in its correct place but there was time for a short break before a 2m-FM session at 3pm. The wind, not yet behind the wall but more along it, battered the tent. Sometimes the fabric went with a loud crack but I found comfort in the knowledge of the extra pegs and guys.
145.400/ 145.350 FM - 12 QSO’s from 15:00z
The dipole on its 5m mast was supported at the southern end on a 1m rod and tied to the last fence post at the northern end. The J-Pole was fixed on the top of the front tent pole.
The opening session started at 15:00z (31-12-16). It was not on the Reflector schedule but I had alerted it in case conditions were not suitable for camping. If that were the case, the summit would at least be qualified before descending.
Using 5 Watts from the FT817 to the J-Pole I logged the following local stations: G0VOF Mark; M0CQE Paul; MW1FGQ John; M0GNA Alan; G0WAB Terry (Wirrall); M3RDZ Roy; G0WRE Paul; MW3UDA Gareth; G4MYU Art; MX0YHA Kevin (M0XLT in Gargrave) and M0RSF Chris in Leeds.
When after 25 minutes the channel dried up, an earlier tip off was followed up. I QSY’d down to 145.350 and worked the only S2S of my stay - Gerald MW0WML/P on GW/NW-028 (59/ 58).
14.052.6 CW - 8 QSO’s from 15:46z:
With the FM session over, there were 90 minutes before the next scheduled activity, which was 80m CW and SSB. I had brought 22 Ah of battery power so surely I could afford to insert another band. Why not a higher one? Wouldn’t it be great if I could pass a ‘Happy New Year’ or two over the pond? A quick phone call to Roy soon had me spotted for 20m CW and SSB. I also got to know that the band was open to North America, which was a real bonus?
I was surprised when Mark G0VOF answered my CQ and I logged him at 579 both ways. OK2PDT Jan followed and then it was over to the USA with N4EX Richard in NC; worked in the past. VE2JCW was next - St.Jerome QC. Three USA stations easily bagged the points: N4DA Luther in GA; AC1Z Robert - NH and N1GB George in Vermont. VE1WT was last in - Phillip in NS.
Incoming reports were in the range 339 to 559 with a 229 from N4EX and 599 from VE1WT. Power was 30 Watts to the inverted Vee. I don’t mind how low the reports are, so long as the chasers get into the log.
14.265 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 16:00z:
As was the case for the rest of the day, Mark G0VOF was ready and waiting to give me a report on 20m SSB. This was 57 both ways. He was followed by HB9BHW - Hans near Zurich (57/ 55) and VE2JCW John (56/ 43).
The final two stations logged were: EA7JUR - John (AKA G1WUU) in southeast Spain (IM87WH - 59/ 57) and G8VNW Nick, a few miles away in Threshfield, Wharfedale. We exchanged at 53/ 43 QRM and I think Nick was hedging his bets in case he didn’t hear me on 160m later. Again the power was set to 30 Watts - 2.5 Watts excitation to the amp.
I now had nearly an hour to rest but there were a few things to do like eating for instance. Looking outside I could see only fog. All the people had gone and it was now getting dim. A long lonely vigil was certain. No going back now!
3.557 CW - 13 QSO’s from 17:00z:
First item on the schedule was 80m CW at 17:00 and that was the exact time of the log entry for the first caller, G4OOE Nick followed shortly by G4SSH Roy. Following were: G4FGJ Gordon: G0HIO Mike; GI4ONL Vic; G0IBN Andrew; F5PLR; G4WSB Bill; SA4BLM Lars; EI2CL Mike in Dublin; G3YPE Mike; DK6YM Sebastian and G0VOF Mark bringing up the rear. Most of the incoming reports were 599 with a couple of 579’s and 559’s from EI2CL and G3YPE respectively. Power was 30 Watts again.
I must say it was a pleasure to hear that distinctive keying coming out of Dublin once again. Mike EI2CL was a regular chaser on 160m until his QRN got so bad as to make it almost impossible.
3.717/ 3.719 SSB - 18 QSO’s from 17:25z:
Roy G4SSH picked up the ‘QSY SSB’ and spotted the intended frequency. 3.724 was in use and the band was almost full. With power remaining on 30 Watts the following chasers called in: GM0AXY Ken; GM4YMM Ken’s XYL Christine; G0RQL Don; MK3FEH Karl; G0VOF Mark; GM4WHA Geoff and G4IAR Dave.
At this point a slight adjustment to the operating frequency was required to dodge serious QRM which had come up without so much as a ‘QRL?’ A spot was forthcoming from Mark G0VOF. Continuing on 3.719, I went on to log: GI0AZB & GI0AZA Ian & Esther; G0FEX Ken; G8ADD Brian; PA0SKP Sake; G3XXR Roger; GW4VPX Allan; M6COJ Glyn; G4WSB Bill; F4GSO Olivier and finally 2E0SCS Stephen.
Top Band Coils:
The time was now 6pm and it was as black as pitch and foggy outside. There was still no rain however so it was easy to fit the Top Band coils into the 80m dipole at the 40m break points. I set both slugs to ‘4.3’ and went back to the tent to get out of the strong, cold wind. I really should have taken more care with fitting the coils.
I designed the coils to have a small clasp at one end that is intended to fasten around the antenna wire. This is in addition to the two electrical connections. The coil nearest the trig point was secured easily but the one in the other leg had a clasp that had been broken for years. I was to regret not replacing it but I almost never fit the clasps especially in light winds and/ or for short durations but this was very different.
I intended that this should be my final sortie out into the elements until morning. With high winds and a band of heavy rain six hours wide heading my way, I had no intention of QSYing the dipole to any other band than 160m. Sticking my neck out just by being there on my own in the middle of winter, I had no intention of getting soaked and bringing all that back inside my tiny tent. It was going to be cold enough without that. When I had unpacked the gear, some of it was in bags secured by rubber bands. As I removed them they were put together in a safe place in case I needed one but now I couldn’t for the life of me remember where that safe place was! This is the price of tidiness. I would have been better just throwing them everywhere, I might have found one and been able to secure the coil to the dipole before coming back in.
My son Phil G0UUU will laugh when he reads this. He has been telling me for years that my methodical approach is entirely wrong. I hoped the coil would stand up to hours of violent movement just with its electrical connections but this was asking too much and it would come back to bite me later on.
1.833 CW - 3 QSO’s from 18:22z:
Now down to the main attraction - 160m. A Russian station was calling CQ on the normal channel but it was clear one kHz up. Sticking with 30 Watts, a CQ brought in Mark G0VOF for 589 both ways. When you look at the map, you can see that there is more or less a clear takeoff from Pen-y-Ghent to Mark’s QTH in Blackburn. Hence the strong and QSB-free signals.
Just two more stations were logged in CW: G4SSH Roy near Scarborough 559/ 449 and G4AZS Adrian in Shrewsbury, 579/ 559. It was quite important to me to qualify the summit on Top Band if possible but several minutes of 50 Watt CQ’s added nothing further.
1.843 SSB - 9 QSO’s from 18:40z:
Once again Mark G0VOF was first in, 58/ 57 and a spot followed. I clearly heard Karl - MK3FEH calling but try as I may, he couldn’t hear me. I kept on going back to this problem throughout the session but Karl never did manage to receive very much at all from me, least of all a report. It was a pity because he had declared on the reflector that he would dearly like to add a 160m SOTA QSO to his collection.
Continuing on, I worked: G0RQL Don 58/ 47; EI3GYB Michael 58/ 56; PA0SKP Sake 58/ 57 and G8VNW Nick 48/ 47, the latter was almost swamped by heavy QRM which had appeared from nowhere. A QSY was rapidly arranged and also spotted by G0VOF - Mark who found 1.850 to be a somewhat clearer channel. I didn’t want to go outside to adjust the coil slugs but found I could just manage a QSY this far up the band without doing so. Nevertheless the SWR was quite high and dancing up and down in time with the wind outside.
Next in were: G8ADD Brian in Birmingham 47/ 37; ON7ZM John 57/ 57; EI9O Eoin in Co.Longford 59/ 57 reporting ‘heavy rain’ and finally G0HIO Mike at Burton-on-Trent; 54 both ways.
Power for this session was 50 Watts and by the end, the first of four Li-Po batteries (a 5Ah) was fully discharged. The time was 19:25z and wearing a base layer and 200 gram fleece throughout, I felt the need to get inside the sleeping bag. I told Mark that I’d be on 2m-FM after a short interval.
145.300/ 145.350 FM - 6 QSO’s from 19:36z:
After fitting a fresh 5 Ah battery (No.2) I set the FT817ND to 5 Watts and called CQ on S20. The QSY needed to be right down at 145.300 as the band was quite busy. I had left the radio in the car on and tuned to this frequency and now imagined it booming out near the honesty box on the road below. Why I did this I don’t really know. It was probably down to some subconscious and misguided thoughts about safety.
First in was M0PXP - Chris in Stainforth just 4 miles from me. This turned out to be an interesting encounter with a sequel the next day. Chris had been in the habit of climbing Pen-y-Ghent every New Years Day before dawn in order to watch the sun rise from there. He was working late at a caravan site where a New Year party was going on but nevertheless promised to come up and see me at around 7am in the morning. It was to be a late night for him, being the one who had to take many of the revellers home in a minibus in the early hours. In his own words, ‘I’ll need to be sober!’ I asked him to ‘knock’ on the tent door.
There followed: G4DEE Tony in Bury; M3LIU Ian Burnley (with a 59 plus 40dB for me) and G4BLH/M Mike now moved to Clitheroe from Nelson. It’s a while since I worked Mike and it was an appropriate time to renew our acquaintance. He was the one who ‘stood guard’ for me when I did New Year 2007-08 on Whernside.
After a QSY to 145.350, to avoid a net that had shown up on the frequency, the session was continued with G3ZHE in Warrington, running 20 Watts to a Diamond vertical and M0MOL Gareth with whom I had a conversation about Rawlinson Street near his QTH in Barrow. Reports were mostly 57 to 59 with 54 from G3ZHE Albert (an ex Venture Scout Leader and a ‘Dirger’ like myself but with five crossings to his name). Mike G4BLH/M gave me 52. New Year greetings were once again exchanged with all stations.
Take a Break:
The time was 20:40 which made it an hour and twenty minutes before the next scheduled item at 22:00; a repeat of Top Band for those who missed it and hopefully others farther afield who might take advantage of the later hour.
Owing to the cramped positions that have to be adopted when activating in a confined space, I was glad of the rest and something to eat. A cup of tea or soup would have added greatly to morale but I never once got around to using the rudimentary stove I had available.
With little else to do, I should have used this time for sleeping but it didn’t happen. For one thing with the airbed flat, the ground was both hard and cold. For another, I was too hyped up to switch off. After texts of ‘HNY’ to various family members and friends, I went round the stations on the tiny DAB receiver but was disappointed not to log Scarborough’s brand new station, Coast and County which actually is meant to cover the whole of North Yorkshire.
Sometime around 9pm, I heard the first spots of the forecast rain on the flysheet. Mark G0VOF had warned me more recently when he’d gleaned an update from a radar site. The question was how long would it last? I certainly didn’t want it hanging around until morning.
Repeaters on 2m-FM:
I passed some of the spare time by going through the repeaters in the FT817’s memories to see which ones responded. With 5W to the J-Pole: GB3HG (FSD); GB3HS; GB3LD; GB3TP; GB3MP; GB3RF and GB3YW. I wasn’t expected from here but there was no response from dual mode repeater GB7RW at Robin Hood’s Bay.
1.832 CW - 8 QSO’s from 21:55z:
With a power of 50 Watts and scheduled for 22:00z, this was supposed to bring in a few Europeans as well as extra UK stations, particularly Karl MK3FEH who had narrowly missed out earlier. It was handy that the advertised frequency was clear and this time we suffered very little QRM.
Stations logged: G0VOF (Mark who spotted me); G4SSH Roy with 559/ 339; G4VHH Fred 599/ 459; GI4ONL Vic 599 both ways; G4OOE a friend - Nick in Scarborough, 559/ 339; PA7ZEE Geert 559/ 519; G7ROY (AKA G4SSH) 569/ 559; OH6KSX 559/ 339; DJ5AV Mike 559/ 539 and SA4BLM Lars 579/ 559. Rather than adding previously worked callers to the tally (G0VOF & G4SSH) I have just counted QSO’s new to this session.
Skip didn’t seem to be that much longer than it had been three or four hours earlier, which was surprising. I was mildly annoyed by this fact; not for myself but for would be overseas chasers. Still I couldn’t complain with PA, SA and OH in the log.
1.847/ 1.985 SSB - 6 QSO’s from 22:46z:
This session started off well but later technical difficulties caused a 25 minute delay. Power was again 50 Watts and first in was G0VOF Mark to give me a report and spot. Unless there was really bad QRM Mark, at 58 both ways, was mostly armchair copy making it easy to pass information quickly either way. This facility would be needed shortly.
The session proper opened with G6WRW Carolyn who gave me 55 in exchange for 58. Later, as I remember, we came up to 59 both ways. At some point a few minutes later Carolyn was reporting a sudden and massive drop in my signal. Mark came in to confirm it and advised me to run VSWR checks. Sure enough the SWR was sky high which meant that finally, the long suffering dipole or its loading coils had been disrupted in some way by the heavy rain and relentless buffeting wind. Considering its strength, this wasn’t surprising.
I don’t remember whether I had a fully working station or not for the following two callers but both were a struggle. In fact the first, MK3FEH Karl could not get his report from me at all, despite coming in at between 55 and 58. Poor Karl, he’d failed yet again in his quest to log his first Top Band SOTA but try as I may, over and over again, the system remained stubbornly one way only.
Next came Geoff GM4WHA and he was so ‘back of the box’ that I couldn’t read him at first. However, it wasn’t long before we exchanged successfully at 22/ 31 and I heard him saying, ‘Many, many thanks and a Happy New Year’ from somewhere down in the noise.
At this point I suspended operations so that an investigation could be carried out regarding the antenna system. Whatever happened, I had resolved that I was not going out in darkness, fog and atrocious weather just to get soaked and drag it all back inside. I had waterproofs with me but what if the fault couldn’t be fixed anyway? I would have gained nothing and lost a lot. After all, I would be confined to this small (and apart from a bit of condensation caused by equipment pushing inner tent into outer) dry tent for the next nine hours or more. This was my world, it was all I had and I had to protect it at all costs.
I decided to see what could be done from inside and if the dipole was truly defunct, it would be 2m-FM from now on in. The crux would be to discover if I still had resonance somewhere and that would give me the means to work out what had gone wrong. Switching off the amp and using the FT817’s built in VSWR meter, I quickly found that the antenna had ‘moved’ up the band somewhere above 1.975. This was great news. I’d expected to find it working at some useless frequency like 2.3 MHz for instance but this meant I could carry on the 160m session without having to repair anything.
The Solution - 1.985 from 23:20z:
I relayed the good news to Mark G0VOF on 2m and he put a spot on accordingly. 1.980 was busy so I chose 1.985 for a continuation on SSB and for use on both CW and SSB for the session after midnight. In fact when 1.985 MHz was set up as an SSB frequency, it changed to 1.985.7 when CW was selected. I did have reservations however. Firstly, would all chasers be able to follow this major QSY perhaps using tuners etc? Secondly I was reminded by Mark that the power limit drops to 32 Watts at the top end of the band but that is the main reason I use 1.832/ 1.843.
Once the change was noticed by the chasers I began to get contacts again: G4WSB Bill 57 both ways; PA7ZEE Geert 56/ 31 and M6BYW Debbie (Bill’s XYL) 55 both ways. CQ’ing brought no further chasers so at 23:40 I QSY’d to 2m-FM. As far as 160m was concerned, the day was saved.
2016 to 2017!
145.400 FM – 8 QSO’s from 23:45z thru’ to 00:20z:
With just 15 minutes of 2016 remaining, I put out a 5 Watt CQ on S20. MW3UDA Gareth in Holywell answered and we exchanged 59/ 58. Gareth said he’d keep me company until midnight. We chatted for a while until called with an end stopping signal by Geoff G6MZX at nearby Thornton-in-Craven with his XYL Joan on the side. Geoff, who is an ex RR engineer and restorer of vintage tractors, is also a long-term chaser of the SSEG club call. Joan was about to make a night cap but couldn’t be persuaded to bring one up Pen-y-Ghent for me. Next in was 2E0REG Reggie in Kirby (59’s). Great callsign Reggie and not often you can get your name in it.
At this stage Gareth came in once again to continue our chat but with just a minute of the old year left, I called Mark G0VOF in the hope that he could lead us through into 2017. After all he had been in attendance since 3pm that day and had helped sort out the mini disaster involving Top Band. Guess what; he wasn’t there! Mark must have been poised for Big Ben and the fireworks so Gareth was handed the job of spanning two years with one QSO.
After synchronising my watch with a radio-controlled clock the evening before, I had the precise time. As the second hand swept inexorably towards midnight, I allowed the rare leap second to pass before sending Gareths callsign and report once again. That was it – 2017! Over to the south or south-east of my lofty position and overpowering the racket produced by the weather, I could hear the distant explosions of fireworks.
G6MZX Geoff came back in to claim his second batch of four chaser points and I soon had my 2017 activator points for a qualification of GNP-010 after QSO’s with G0VOF Mark and then M3RDZ Roy. One more op; M6HHA - George in Leyland, Lancs answered a QRZ and then the channel went quiet. As far as double points was concerned, the job was done almost without moving a muscle; the third time I’d managed to take advantage of this unique loophole.
1.985.7 CW - 3 QSO’s from 00:25z:
At 00:25 this was the last item on the schedule for some hours, the next being a repeat of 160m CW at 07:00. Stations worked on 2017’s first offering of 160m SOTA: G0VOF Mark; G0HIO Mike and G4WSB Bill. Power was 30 Watts.
1.985 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 00:40:
With the headphones on and AF gain turned up to drown out wind and rain, this session brought in: G0VOF Mark 57/ 58; G8ADD Brian 31/ 34; G4AZS 31/ 22; G6WRW Carolyn 55/ 44 and GM4WHA – Geoff, validated with difficulty at 21/ 22. While sending 73, Geoff came up to 31.
Just what was going on here was unclear. Reports were well down on what I’d hoped after midnight but if skip had gone a bit long for the ‘locals’ there was no evidence of it coming from Europe. An absence of EU contacts may have been less down to propagation but more to do with the fact that it was New Year. After staying up beyond midnight, ops further east on CET would have retired to bed following their celebrations well over an hour earlier.