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G4YSS: G/NP5, NP10, NP17 on 09-03-18 (160m)


#1

G4YSS Activation of NP5, NP10 & NP17 on 09-03-18
Issue-1

INGLEBOROUGH, PEN-Y-GHENT & FOUNTAINS FELL on 160m-80m-20m-4m-2m

GX0OOO/P SSEG (Op G4YSS):
G/NP-005 /6 INGLEBOROUGH
G/NP-010 /4 PEN-Y-GHENT
G/NP-017 /4 FOUNTAINS FELL

NP5: 160m-80m-20m CW/ SSB QRO
NP10: 2m-4m FM QRP
NP17: 160m-80m CW/ SSB QRO
G4YSS - Unaccompanied
All times UTC
Sun times: 06:40 and 18:00

EQUIPMENT :

HF - NP5 & NP17:
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF (80 thru’ 10) 50 Watt linear amplifier 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

VHF - NP10:
Icom IC-E90 4 Band, 5W V-UHF H/H
UV-5R 2 Band, 5W V-UHF H/H (3 QSO’s only)
J-Pole half-wave vertical for 2m
Extended 2m helical for 4m

Batteries:
NP5: One 5 Ah Li-Po battery
NP10: Icom & Baofeng H/H’s integral batteries only.
NP17: One 5 Ah Li-Po battery
NP17: One 2.2 Ah reserve (not used)

Other:
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB Cube Radio

Pack weights:
NP5 & NP17: 10.8kg (24 pounds) inc. 250ml water
NP10: 8kg (18 pounds) inc. 250ml water

INTRODUCTION:
With January sacrificed due to illness followed by the massive wind-chill factors and snow associated with the so called, ‘Beast from the East,’ I only managed one activating day this year. The Siberian weather wiped out late February and early March but that one expedition on 22nd of February brought me closer to a long running personal target of Top Band MG. By my reckoning, I still needed 15 points and today’s activations were intended to deliver that one final push.

Having grouped them together in 2007, 2008 and 2009, I know that these three summits can be comfortably activated in one day, so long as the total summit time is kept within limits. Hence the VHF only summit at midday.

Ingleborough has quite a long walk-in with the greatest ascent of the three (see foot of report) but routes for the other pair are shorter and have a common access road enabling high starts. From Scarborough the driving distance to this area is manageable and inter-summit driving is less than 15 miles.

Possible lying snow and blocked roads were concerns. As it turned out, there was snow on the road margins, some of it substantial but access was unimpaired.

By the time it gets to March, the optimal times for Top Band have been pushed too far apart to be convenient. It is getting light not much after six in the morning and darkness doesn’t come again until around 18:30. This implies early rising for activator and chasers alike. I dared not come up on the air any earlier than 07:30 even on a weekday and that equates to a setting off time of 03:30 from Scarborough. This is something I used to do routinely in SOTA but now I have developed an aversion to it.

The weather can be really annoying in this country and inconvenient too. With the end of winter bonus looming and after waiting nearly 2 weeks for a good forecast, I then find that the only decent day is on my XYL’s birthday! She wasn’t too pleased but accepted it grudgingly. Extra flowers, some spending money and a meal out helped smooth things over.

The weather also pushed this expedition into Roy’s 10 day break in Cyprus so there would be no G4SSH for spots, liaison or real-time band condition information.

One final concern this early in the morning was the availability of chasers, so as well as alerting the day before, I emailed a few of the regulars. In fact two of them turned it round 180 degrees on me. Both Phil G4OBK and Dave G4IAR would have to leave their respective shacks at 08:00 latest! With this in mind, I pulled the schedule back by 15 minutes and got up at 03:00.

Execution:
Left Scarborough at 03:25, driving via York, Harrogate, Skipton and arriving at Newby Cote Farm cross-roads (SD 7319 7053, 216m ASL). This is on the ‘C’ road which runs from Clapham and I parked on the grass verge at 05:40. Here a wooden sign reads ‘Ingleborough 2.5 miles.’

Booted up & set off walking in the dark at 05:56. Knowing it would soon be light, I didn’t bother with the headlamp and somehow got the wrong track which runs up to the farm dwellings. A short back-track was required. Fortunately I wasn’t detected by the farm-dogs.

For the most part, the path is evenly graded and passes initially over grass and later rock. It’s a fairly painless way to ascend the required 500m or so but it is also a fair distance. In what seems like an age, you reach Little Ingleborough’s shelter, which is at SD 7429 7352.

The marker cairn for the path off the summit plateau (important in cloud) is at SD 7438 7453. If you miss this right turn on the way down to pass the ruin at SD 7425 7342, you’ll end up in Clapham.

Warning: When you consider that Ingleborough is a mountain of character, this route doesn’t do justice to it. Though it is mostly well defined, the path can too easily be lost especially with snow cover, in the dark or in fog. I can testify to this but I now have 23 marked waypoints in the GPS. It was misty on the way up today and this lingered on the summit for a while.

INGLEBROUGH HILL, G/NP-005, 724m, 6 pts. 07:10 to 09:42. Minus 2C. 5 mph wind. Thin low-cloud followed by sunshine. Lying snow on the summit plateau and on the top section of the ascent path. (LOC: IO84TD, WAB: SD77, Trig: TP-4102). No EE mobile phone signal.

One worry had been erecting the antenna in the shelter but there was just enough snow to take the mast and end sticks. Good job too; the ground underneath was frozen solid. In fact once the sun came out, the summit with its covering of snow looked lovely. This early, I expected to have the summit to myself and that’s how it was for the first hour or more. At around 08:30 four walkers arrived but left again immediately after reaching the trig.

1.832 CW - 1 QSO at 07:40:
The QRV time was 10 minutes earlier than alerted. Normally I would have called G4SSH first but in Roy’s absence my son Phil picked up the first CQ on an internet receiver in Nantwich and immediately spotted me. That resulted in two stations; G0HIO Mike in Burton-on-Trent and G4OOE Nick in Scarborough, calling me but try as I may from 07:33 to 07:40, I just could not get them to hear me.

This was frustrating but then came G4OBK (Pickering) with an easy 569 to 579 signal. Phil gave me 449 to open the account but there were no further callers. I elected to try SSB and return to CW later. When I did so, at 08:05 I heard Sake PA0SKP calling. He wasn’t strong but he was perfectly readable at 519. Unfortunately he couldn’t hear his report which made three abortive QSO’s.

I came back to CW at 08:12 to call G0HIO; G4OOE and PA0SKP again but nothing was heard.

1.843 SSB - 8 QSO’s from 07:43:
First to answer the CQ was M3FEH Karl in Cornwall. His 10 Watts were only just audible so he got 33 from me, coming back with a 55. Phil G4OBK was next with a 57/ 43 exchange. Dave G4IAR got in with a few minutes to spare and 55 both ways, before having to be elsewhere, then there was a strong call-in from Nick G8VNW, close-by in Wharfedale. Despite his proximity (27km ESE of NP5) Nick could only give me a 47 report but he was 57 on the meter.

The final four were Terry G0VWP in York and G7LMF Graham in SJ61, both with 55 both ways. Geoff GM4WHA called in from Annan, just before leaving for the shop in Penrith but we could only muster 33 between us. Brian G8ADD (55) scraped in at the end giving me a surprising 58 from Birmingham.

The session spanned 17 minutes, ending at eight o’clock. Power was 50 Watts and though no further CQ’s were answered, morale was high.

3.557.6 CW - 3 QSO’s:
3.557 had a QSO on it. Expecting 80-CW to be quite good, it was disappointing to work only three stations on here. However, after his failure on 160m, I was pleased to see that Nick G4OOE was one of them. G0BPU Mike was next and PA0SKP Sake, also a casualty on Top Band, made it into the 80m log at 599/ 339. Power was 30 Watts.

3.760 SSB - 20 QSO’s:
3.724 was noisy with strong adjacent stations so the WAB frequency was used instead. It didn’t take long to get going.

In the log: MW0ISC Steve; G3PRI Dave; G6MZX Geoff; G0RQL Don; G4PDF Bob; G0VWP Terry; M0JLA Rod; MM0XPZ Steve; G6NHW Pete; M3FEH Karl; M0BKV Damien; MW0BYS Bill; MM6DBT John; ON4VT Dan; G4WHA/A Geoff; MW1BLE Colin; G8ADD Brian; G0TDM John; MW0XOT John and G0NBI Graham.

Apart from a very few in the range 53 to 57, all reports were 59. The 80m band was really open. Using a power of 30 Watts, this lucrative session took just 27 minutes from 08:37 to 09:03. What next?

14.052.6 CW – 7 QSO’s:
It was now a cold but beautiful morning and I didn’t want to leave. I had time and battery Voltage to spare so how best to use it? Terry G0VWP answered a spot request on 80m SSB, otherwise this band wouldn’t have been included. Seven stations were worked just as soon as I had opened the 20m dipole links.

In the log: SP9AMH/ QRP Mariusz; SP8RHP Robert; OH3GZ Jukka; OE7PHI Hans; YO2BP Alex; IK2LEY Fabio and EU2MM Vlad. All reports were in the range 57 to 59 except the one incoming from Italy which was 559. Power was 30 Watts for the first four and 50 Watts for the last three QSO’s.

14.285 SSB – Nil:
I tried a CQ on the SSB frequency of 14.285 but without success. As it turned out there wouldn’t have been the power left for this anyway and I hadn’t brought a spare battery.

Descent and drive:
Still slightly ahead of schedule, the walk down was unrushed and in mostly clear conditions, apart from a thin mist half way down. The car was regained at 10:43.

The 12 mile drive to Dale Head Farm, on the ‘C’ road from Stainforth to Halton Gill, took until 11:16. Only after arriving was the rucksack repacked with VHF kit. There was little point in disturbing it until the road state could be checked. I might have had to go for an alternative and if that was going to be Dodd Fell, I would need HF. The ‘C’ road had apparently been blessed with plenty of snow but thanks to the plough, it was now only on the verges.

I was walking again by 11:36 after ritually paying my £1 to the newly painted honesty Box near Dale Head Farm (SD 8426 7145). The route goes up the track to the farm, after which there was an old 2-foot deep snow drift blocking the way for vehicles. There were one or two more like it on the way up until more consistent snow was met near the top. Quite a few others had the idea to climb Pen-y-Ghent today. It certainly is a popular hill.

PEN-Y-GHENT, G/NP-010, 694m, 4pts, 12:23 to 13:53, 4 Deg. C, 5 mph wind. No low-cloud and some sunshine. Deep lying snow beside the wall and patches elsewhere. (LOC: IO84VD; WAB: SD87; Trig: TP-5414). Poor EE mobile phone signal.

I set up the J-Pole on a short mast jammed in the pig wire at the top of the wall and connected the UV-5R handheld. An area of snow drift then got trampled flat to take the sit mat about 30m SW of the trig and shelter.

145.400 FM - 14 QSO’s:
Knowing Geoff might just be listening at the shop in Penrith, I called G4WHA/A on S16 first but he must have either had a customer to serve or was on lunch break.

After a quick CQ on S20 went unanswered, a flick through the channels revealed a strong signal. This resulted in an S2S with Caroline and Martyn (M3ZCB and M1MAJ) both portable on Grisedale Pike G/LD-015. The signal reports were 59 both ways and I noted that they had come up from Whinlatter Pass. A good start.

Next to Call was Mike G4BLH/M who was near home at Clitheroe but out mobile in the hope of a better signal, which indeed was 59 both ways. Mike and I arranged to QSY and meet on 4m-FM (see 70.450 below).

Next I worked Rob G0RQJ who told me that his SOTA activities were temporarily curtailed pending attention to his eye. I had to swap the rig at this point. Rob was breaking up badly due to noise entering and overloading the UV-5R. From this point the IC-E90 was used.

The remaining stations worked are listed below:
G6YGP Dave - Ormskirk; 2E0HTC Gary - Barrow; G4ZRP Brian - Wirral; GM3VMB Peter near Lockerbie; G6XBF Walt in Leeds; M0VZT Bob in Telford; M3ULT Shaun - Wombwell; G4WHA/A Geoff - Penrith; G1OHH Sue in Lancaster and finally G4XTE Jim between Halifax & Huddersfield. Sue tells me she is now a Great Grandma.

I was surprised to work Bob in Telford so easily. He was using 40 watts from an FT 857 and I think he said that his antenna was indoors. He reported, ‘No movement on the ‘S’ Meter but excellent audio.’ This I interpreted as 51 so that’s what went into the log.

Brian told me that he’d been unable to work me on 2m-FM last year when I was on Snowdon, He thought it was due to the UV-5R overloading but at the time I didn’t notice anything untoward. Nothing like the audible racket which wiped Rob out at any rate and I worked nearly 40 stations on 2m from NW1, the majority with the Chinese rig. However I am now convinced of its shortcomings, particularly when attached to an external aerial.

5 Watts were used throughout the 43 minute session but the latter included a brief excursion to 4m. Signal reports were mainly 59, with the exception of Geoff 59/ 41; the aforementioned 51 from Bob, 52 from Peter and 54 from Jim.

70.450 FM – 1 QSO:
At 12:50, during the 2m-FM session, I QSY’d to work Mike G4BLH/M near his home QTH in Clitheroe. Using the IC-E90 and extended helical, we easily exchanged 57 reports.

After the 2m session at 13:28, a couple of CQ’s were put out on 70.450 but there were no takers. There wasn’t sufficient time to erect the 4m-band half-wave I’d brought up with me. NP17 and Top Band now became the focus.

Descent and short drive:
Carefully climbing down the (in places) snow covered rocky southern route, I was back to the car at 14:27. Another few minutes were used up re-packing the rucksack for NP17 and Top Band.

Looking across at the amount of snow on the western flank of my next target, I was feeling a little like, ‘Shall I just go home?’ The east side of Pen-y-Ghent had been swept almost clean of snow by the vicious Siberian wind of 10 days prior but anything west-facing had a lot more snow still remaining.

After some food and electrolytes I drove the mile north to attempt NP17. As in the past the intention was to take a direct line straight up beside the wall but I didn’t like what I saw after stopping the car. There was a great deal of snow on the very steep final section. It was not exactly a cornice but it looked feet deep just down from the lip and I assumed it would be an exhausting effort, especially when carrying an HF station. Obvoiusly the gale force east winds had swept the summit plateau and dumped it just over the edge. I thought about taking the ice axe to make a path but in softening snow I’d be digging deep and any gain would be minimal.

I was walking again from Blishmire cattle grid (SD 8531 7233.) by 14:55 and after 5 minutes I met two men who were coming down. Knowing I’d be coming off in the dark and after a discussion I decided to break with tradition and follow the Pennine Way up; the way they had just come down after visiting the summit cairn. It was still be significantly snow covered but grassy bits here and there would give respite.

Apparently these two had looked over the snowy obstacle from above and decided against going straight down. To be fair, they did have a Yorkshire terrier with them which is not a large dog. They further warned against melting snow overlying slimy mud and asked me what Pen-y-Ghent was like for snow and whether I thought they’d get down its west side. I replied that it was snowy at that side but that I’d seen people heading off that way. This exchange of information was very useful. The Pennine Way approach was now looking favourite.

Where the PW swings left, I met a young couple who mentioned they’d just ‘shot down’ into snow up to their waists. Further up still, four middle-aged ladies (as they described themselves) were picking their way carefully down. To be honest I have never seen so many people on Fountain’s Fell. In fact this late in the day there’s usually nobody.

It’s many a long year since I used the round-the-houses route to NP17. Following the PW was straightforward but there weren’t any waypoints in the GPS for finding the easiest route across the summit plateau after rounding the right hand bend at SD 8666 7213.

After walking a little further along the snow covered path, I could see a wall stile ahead. My sole interest was activating rather than visiting the summit cairn so I turned off the path well before this at around SD 8665 7193 to head cross-country, crossing hags and snowy gullies, until I found a raised quad track at around SD 8656 7180. This enabled easier walking for a while, then I followed the wall to the corner, choosing a spot to operate at SD 8635 7161, which is close to a second wall stile that gives access to the summit cairn.

There was plenty of snow on the summit and some big drifts near the walls. There were patches of grass but the ground was frozen solid everywhere I probed. After much forcible stabbing, I managed to get the mast into a grass tussock and the end sticks in snow. The indirect route had taken more time which now put me a few minutes behind schedule.

FOUNTAINS FELL, G/NP-017, 668m, 4pts, 15:46 to 18:13, 3 Deg. C, 5 mph wind. Overcast but no low-cloud. Lying snow especially against the walls. (LOC: IO84VD; WAB: SD87; No Trig). Good EE mobile phone coverage.

3.557 CW - 7 QSO’s:
Starting late at 16:13 the following stations were worked with 30 Watts: G0BPU Mike (actually worked with 5 Watts before I switched on the amp); MW0BBU Steve; G3TJE Peter; G0HIO Mike; G4FGJ Gordon; DL6AP Andreas in Rostock and G4WSB Bill in Swindon.

Outgoing reports were all 599. Reports on my signals were between 539 and 599 with one 339 (complete with accompanying apology) from Gordon. I still don’t know what was happening on the frequency. I’d been on there for 17 minutes but was hearing loud exchanges ‘QSY’s’ and a few ‘HEE HEE’s.’ Thinking I may not have checked the frequency properly in the first place, I backed off confused and went to SSB. A timid attitude for sure but I’d rather avoid confrontation. By then there were no more chasers calling anyway.

3.726 SSB - 26 QSO’s:
Power was left at 30 Watts. I had to nudge up from 3.724 to avoid a strong station but this had been anticipated by G8ADD using pure logic. Though it was 2 kHz up from the alerted frequency, Brian was right back to me the moment I checked if it was clear. Apparently this was the only clear space available on this bit of the band. Brian and I exchanged 59 reports and had a quick chat about two of our favourite subjects; mountains and Top Band.

After G8ADD, the following stations were logged: G8VNW Nick; G0VWP Terry; M0JLA; M3FEH Karl; EI3GYB Michael (Mayo); G4WHA/A Geoff; G4PDF Bob; G4WSB Bill; G0RQL Don; G0TDM John; PA0U Gerry.

By now there was quite a pileup so a list was made. Quite a few amateur ops don’t like lists, I’m told but it helps me keep a track of proceedings. However, the freezing, ungloved right hand made for slow writing and risked further chaser frustration.

Next: ON4VT Dan; PA0SKP Sake; M0MDA Mick; DJ5AV Mike; G1OCN Dave; G4IPB Paul; 2E0TBD/P Andy; EA2DT Manuel; G4DQB/M Geoff calling from a canal boat in Shropshire; 2E0VMD Helen; G4OOE Nick in Scarborough; G3RDQ David; M0NTC Gez and G4OBK Phil who had just landed back from work. Excellent; he would now be able to help the 160m cause.

The majority were strong and 59 to me, with a couple of 57’s and a 58. Weaker exceptions were G4WHA/A, G4OOE both 55, M3FEH 56 and 44 for M0NTC. Incoming reports were in the range 56 to 57 and some gave me 59 plus. Mick in Leeds M0MDA reported 52 to 59 QSB, which in terms of dB is quite a range. Stations not hearing me so well were: G0TDM 43; G1OCN 56; 2E0TBD 47; EA2DT 45; DJ5AV 37; M0NTC 55 and Nick G4OOE 33.

Nick first called me off frequency (LF) which made him hard to identify. He then moved HF of me but I got the 33 in the end. I think the problem may have been that I wasn’t on my normal frequency and he was hearing me so badly he couldn’t net. Nick lives down the hill near Scarborough hospital and his noise levels are absolutely massive. He probably wasn’t hearing the chasers either and probably had to ‘wing it.’ Just a theory. No matter it was a good QSO in the end as I heard him QSL my report.

Once again in the melee someone panicked that his call-in hadn’t been heard. I think it was Don G0RQL who reassured this station with, ‘Your on the list.’

It was now time to insert the loading coils but first I had to get my right hand back into the land of the living. I decided to try out a chemical hand-warmer; only the second time I’ve used one; first time Ben Nevis in February 2006. I had two but one had gone solid because of an unseen ripped wrapper and the second one split, spilling metal powder on the snow. This was bundled back in its packet and put into the mitten. It helped eventually but dexterity was the casualty. Further comfort was sought from a scotch egg (see photo) and two chocolate biscuits.

1.832 CW - 2 QSO’s from 17:20:
The coils tuned up first time but I was 20 minutes later than the alerted time. G4OBK Phil was a good signal at 589 but I noticed QSB down to 539. He gave my 50 Watts 559. The only other station to call in CW was David G3RDQ in Stockbridge, Hampshire - 559 both ways. There was still almost 40 minutes to go before sunset but 160m was delivering. However, a further 2 QSO’s were needed to qualify on 160m so it was over to SSB.

1.843 SSB - 10 QSO’s from 17:30 to 17:52:
With the power setting left at 50 Watts and in very loud FT8 QRM, which had crept up from its allocation again, I logged the following chasers:

G8VNW Nick; 15km ESE of me in Wharfedale was 59 (both ways); M3FEH Karl in Saltash’ Cornwall (44 both ways). Oh Joy! Karl’s QSO was the one required to qualify Top Band for this summit and furthermore (if my calculations were correct) gain me a 160m MG certificate which has been 14 years in the making! That’s it, I can go home now. Just kidding.

Next to call was G8ADD Brian in Birmingham with his low-slung antenna (56/ 44); G0VWP Terry in York (2 x 55); ON7ZM John 57 both ways; G4OBK Phil in Pickering (57/ 44); G4IAR Dave using his 80m dipole extended for 160m (2 x 55); G4RQJ Rob on Walney Island 57/ ‘11’ which in theory doesn’t count (whereas 21 would); EI3GYB Michael in Mayo (55/ 31) and finally G6MZX Geoff struggling with my signal 23km south of me at Thornton-in-Craven (55/ 33). There were no more takers.

I couldn’t see it in the overcast but as I was collecting up the gear to go down, the sun was setting. I walked off at 18:13 safe in the knowledge that I ought to at least get back across the summit plateau to the Pennine Way before darkness fell. In fact it was almost fully dark as I rounded the bend on the PW in a big snow drift following two mountain bike tracks which hadn’t been there earlier.

With cheapo headlight in place (I still haven’t found my Petzl) it was now just a matter of carefully following the PW down to the car whilst avoiding deep snow wherever possible. What couldn’t be avoided had to be walked over but I was lucky enough not to sink in more that about eight inches. However, that was enough to give me wet feet.

Reaching the car at 18:50 was a huge relief after a long day. With 10 minutes to remove boots and stow the equipment, and a queue for roadworks on the A64 near Sheriff Hutton, I didn’t get home until 21:35, more than 18 hours after setting out. The total distance driven was 208 miles via Skipton, Harrogate and York and traffic was heavier than expected.

QSO’S: 99 comprising:
NP-005: 39 (1 x 160m CW; 8 x 160m SSB; 3 x 80m CW; 20 x 80m SSB; 7 x 20m CW)
NP-010: 15 (14 x 2m-FM; 1 x 4m-FM)
NP-017: 45 (7 x 80m CW; 26 x 80m SSB; 2 x 160m CW; 10 x 160m SSB)
One S2S: From NP10 with Caroline M3ZCB and Martyn M1MAJ/P on GLD-015.

BATTERY UTILISATION:
NP-005: One Turnigy 5 Ah Li-Po battery (tested - 95% discharged)
NP-010: Handheld integral battery only
NP-017: One Turnigy 5 Ah Li-Po battery (tested - 66% discharged)
One 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery (Carried but not used)

Round Trip Ascent & Distance:
NP-005: 510m (1,673ft) ascent, 10 km (6.3 miles). 74U, 61D.
NP-010: 270m (886ft) ascent, 5.5 km (3.4 miles). 47U, 34D.
NP-017: 250m (820ft) ascent, 3.7 km (2.3 miles). 51U, 37D (via PW including talk stops)
Totals: 1,030m (3,379ft) ascent, 19.2 km (12 miles) walked.

Times: 2hr-52 min of ascent; 2hr-12 min of descent
Total walking time: 5hr-4 min at 2.4mph ave.
Summit times: NP5: 2h-32m. NP10: 1h-30m. NP17: 2h-27m
Tot: 6hr-29m
Home to Home: 18hr-10min.

Chronology:
Left Scarborough: 03:25
Arr. Newby Cote Farm (98 miles): 05:40
Walk for NP5: 05:56
NP5: 07:10 to 09:42
Rtn. Newby Cote Farm: 10:43

Drive to Dale Head Farm (12 miles): 10:50 to 11:16
Walk for NP10: 11:36
NP10: 12:23 to 13:53
Rtn. Dale Head Farm: 14:27

Drive to Blishmire cattle grid (1 mile): 14:45 to 14:50
Walk for NP17: 14:55
NP17: 14:56 to 18:13
Rtn. Blishmire cattle grid: 18:50
Drive home (77 miles): 19:00 to 21:35 (10 min at A64 road works)
Distance driven: 208 miles (98+12+1+97)

Activator points: 23 (inc 9 WB)
Qualified 160m on NP5 & NP17
Attained 160m MG on NP17


SOTA News April 2018
#2

OBSERVATIONS:
Activating on my XYL’s birthday wasn’t something I would normally chose to do but with only six days of winter bonus remaining, the British weather left little alternative. Sad to say that this was only my second outing of 2018 but judging from the number of activators Roy G4SSH hasn’t been working lately as a chaser, that likely applies to other activators too.

160m needs to be done as close to sunrise and sunset as possible with the result that rapidly advancing daylight made this into an 18 hour day. It would help if the summits were nearer to home but not a lot can be done about that.

160m CW/ SSB:
160m qualification of both summits was the aim but it is never guaranteed. Emails to some of the regular 160m enthusiasts seemed to help again. My son Phil G0UUU, listening on an internet receiver and spotting, helped too, as did the other timely spots. In fact Phil made some recordings of the morning 160m SSB session on NP5 and Mike G4BLH did the same for the final 160m SSB QSO from NP17.

Band conditions seemed quite good considering the sun times versus QRV times. The best distance achieved in the morning was M3FEH, Karl in Cornwall and in the afternoon ON7ZM, John was worked. The ratio of CW to SSB QSO’s on 160m was a surprising 3 to 18, which begs the question, ‘Are there as many Morse Code ops in the UK as in Europe?’ To be fair, some people were absent.

As per the afternoon activation of 22rd of February, there was severe QRM on 1.843 from the start. This was found to be caused by FT8 transmissions which had crept up from 1.840 MHz. I dared not QSY in case I lost someone but I will consider moving the SSB frequency to 1.846 which, I’m told, was clear at the time. The aerial should accommodate this but coil tuning will be more critical if both CW and SSB are to be used without adjustment at QSY.

When starting the 160m specialisation in 2004 (coincidentally during an overnight stay on today’s third summit - NP17) there was not a thought for the points but they have gradually mounted up. Counting only the summits qualified with 4 QSO’s, the contact with Karl M3FEH from NP17 at 17:35 today brought the total to 1,001.

80m CW/ SSB:
Sunspot low is imminent and 3.5 MHz has established itself once again, for inter-G communications, plus the near continent. I am probably biassed but SOTA activity on the band is to be encouraged. Against this is the size of the aerial required. Some of the more peaky summits will barely accommodate 40 metres of wire. (For instance the one I worked Caroline on today – LD15 Grisedale Pike is difficult. Y Lliwedd is another.)

20m CW:
This was an afterthought facilitated by G0VWP Terry who pre-spotted it, resulting in 7 quick QSO’s with SP; OH; OE; YO; IK and EU. There were no answers to CQ’s on 14.285 SSB but that would have quickly exhausted both the battery and the available time.

2m-FM:
Fourteen leisurely QRP QSO’s on 145 MHz from NP10 midday made a pleasant change from carrying and setting up HF. I enjoyed chatting but almost stayed too long.

Again I started with the UV-5R but had to swap to the IC-E90 when interference wiped out the QSO with Rob G4RQJ. At 200 grams the UV-5R is the lightest VHF, 5 Watt handie I own and weight is still the main priority when the main aim is HF QRO or overnighting on a summit. However the UV-5R has its limitations.

4m-FM:
On the 22rd of February, I had intended to take a home-brew 4m band end-fed vertical up NP15 and regretted not doing so. The antenna was actually carried up NP10 today but ironically there wasn’t time to use it. The only 4m QSO was an arranged one with G4BLH and for this the IC-E90 and an extended rubber duck was used. A later CQ call wasn’t answered.

WX:
No complaints really, though my hands got rather cold on the last one. Temperatures swung either side of zero with light winds but there was some morning sunshine. Except for the walk up Ingleborough in the morning, there was very little low cloud and no icing conditions. The wind, being light, seemed to get confused on NP17 and the wall failed to give shelter from it from half way through.

As for the weather of two weeks ago. It had left quite a bit of lying snow particularly on NP17’s west face. There was sufficient to put me off going straight up but the longer Pennine Way route saved the day. When I looked the day before, the Ingleborough webcam didn’t show much snow because the east faces were swept clean by the wind. This same strong and bitter wind must have swept Fountains Fell, dumping the snow just over the western lip and blocking the usual bee-line approach.

Phone:
EE mobile phone only worked on NP17. Plans to self spot (it would have been for the first time) had to be put aside but the chasers and G0UUU made it unnecessary.

THANKS:
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED, especially the ones on 160m, early and late. What great support!

Many thanks to the Sotawatch spotters: G0UUU; G4OBK; G4VWP; G4WHA; G0BPU; G8VNW and M3FEH. Thanks to Terry G0VWP responding to a request for a spot on 20m.
Thanks to Phil G0UUU for recordings made of the NP5 160m SSB session (am).
Thanks to Mike G4BLH for recordings made of the NP17 160m SSB session (pm).
Thanks to my XYL for putting up with this on her Birthday.

73, John G4YSS.
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)

Photos:
NP5: 4-16-30-47-50-61-70-72-80-91-95-99
NP10: 100-106-110-118-125-137-140-145
NP17: 157-160-161-162-173-174-178-181-185-187


Above: Upper section of path to G/NP-005 Ingleborough from the south


Above: G/NP-005 Ingleborough summit at 07:10 half an hour after sunrise


Above: Activation of G/NP-005 Ingleborough on 160m; 80m & 20m


Above: G/NP-005 Ingleborough summit. View down-sun with just a hint of Brocken Spectre.


Above: G/NP-005 shelter from Ingleborough Hill Fort ruin.


Above: G/NP-005 Ingleborough summit. Iced grass.


Above: Activation of G/NP-005 Ingleborough on 20m using Morse code. CW ‘Key’ in mic.


Above: Activation of G/NP-005 Ingleborough at QRT. Didn’t want to leave. Who could blame me?


Above: G/NP-005 Ingleborough. Relocating the descent path. Cloud inversion.


Above: Looking back northwards to Ingleborough’s summit. Descent path to Clapham in distance (right). ‘My’ path in the foreground and an RAF Tucano beating up the summit.


Above: Lower part of path back to Newby Cote Farm.


Above: Start of 4km Ingleborough path at Newby Cote Farm.


Above: Driving north to Pen-y-Ghent (centre).


Above: Like a kid with his piggy bank! The only place I get pleasure from coughing up for parking. The honesty box at Dale Head Farm cattle grid.


Above: Dale Head Farm track with Pen-y-Ghent ahead.


Above: Pen-y-Ghent’s south-facing slope. Photo from the ‘Bracken Bottom’ path Junction.


Above: The higher part of the path up Pen-y-Ghent’s south-facing slope.


Above: Final path to the summit of Pen-y-Ghent with NP17 in the background. Behold - a runner; making me feel old!


Above: Activation of G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent. J-Pole for 2m on short mast.


Above: View from the summit of G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent, looking northeast.


Above: On the Pennine Way ascent path for Fountains Fell (NP17) looking SE. The snow on the foreshortened summit doesn’t look much but it’s too deep to attempt the direct approach.


Above: On the Pennine Way for Fountains Fell (G/NP-017) looking back down to the start (west) from the top corner. Pen-y-Ghent G/NP-010 at right.


Above: The Pennine Way to Fountains Fell (G/NP-017) after turning the top corner.


Above: The bleak summit plateau of Fountains Fell G/NP-017 looking NE. The map show dozens of old mine shafts.


Above: Activation of Fountains Fell G/NP-017 on 160m. QTH looking SE to summit cairn.


Above: Activation of Fountains Fell G/NP-017 on 160m. QTH looking NW to G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent at right.


Above: Activation of Fountains Fell G/NP-017. Sitting still for 2.5 hours makes you cold. Food is a way to warm up.


Above: Dark descent of Fountains Fell G/NP-017. Pennine Way relocated!


Above: Dark descent of Fountains Fell G/NP-017. Pennine Way mountain bike tracks which appeared since the ascent.


Above: Dark descent of G/NP-017. G4YSS with still a mile to go. A tired but happy op.


#3

Thanks for another brilliant report, unfortunatly work got in the way so was only able to chase you on Fountains Fell, and even then missed you on 160m due to taxi duties.
I have a much shorter drive to the area so hopefully will also activate these hills later this year your information most valuable.

73 Paul


#4

As ever, thanks for a wonderful read, John.

73 Mike
2E0YYY


#5

A pleasure to work you as always, John. I also agree with the below, but there again, I could well be biased also!


#6

I’m not a morning person but thinking about your top band activation had me out of bed at 5.30!
I heard GX0OOO/p clearly once then nothing. In the evening you were 599 on 80 metres and nothing on top band. Very frustrating. I don’t have much of an antenna for top band I will have to do something about it this summer. Sorry for trying to hold a CW conversation I didn’t think it through. Love reading your reports thanks.
Mike


#7

I think that possibly people tend to over think their top band antennas, thinking that if they can’t get a half-wave dipole umpty feet off the ground it isn’t worth trying the band. My antenna is a G5RV wired as a doublet by extending the 300 ohm ribbon, and I worked John on SSB with this antenna only about fifteen feet off the ground, less at the ends - the weight of wet snow in early december snapped the pole and I haven’t replaced it yet. Nothing special about the rig, either, just an FT857D and an MFJ-949E tuner. The only thing in my favour is that the noise pollution nowadays is less on top band than it is on 80 and 60, it used to be hammered by a local plasma TV which (hopefully) is now on the dump!


#8

Great to get you John on two of the summits. The problem with being off frequency is at my end. Unfortunately it varies between bands and I hadn’t worked out what my offset should be for 80m. Anyway it should be resolved soon as the transceiver is going in for repair. In the meantime I have set up my activator transceiver to continue chasing. I was interested in seeing your route up to NP5 as I have never done it from Newby Cote but I will try that way next time. I too am back to using 80m on HF activations.

73
Nick


#9

Yes, it was tricky. The snow cover was really helpful, because I could clearly see (in order to avoid) the paths where people were walking. I found just enough space for the 80m dipole on the north-west side of the ridge, with the centre close to the old fence support to the south west of the summit.

It took me an inordinate time to set up. The pole kept telescoping. Eventually my “summit brain” worked out that by tying the backstay to the fence support (to avoid a trip hazard on the path) I was putting too much downward force on the centre point. I ended up rigging the antenna a bit looser than normal, and finally got it to stay up for the activation.

Caroline did operate on 80m after I’d finished on 60m; the match was a bit off but she got 6 SSB contacts.

This is the final operating position. I don’t think it gets much better than this.

Martyn M1MAJ


#10

Indeed. That’s a fabulous photo Martin.


#11

Are you sure thats the right photo? I reckon I could squeeze in a 160m diploe on that summit and still have room for my 2/70 Jpole
Compton


#12

That is certainly Grisedale Pike.

I suppose it depends a bit on how far down the slope you want to go. I don’t think I could have safely put up double the length in that position. The photo doesn’t really show the lie of the land and where the paths are - are you familiar with it?

There may be bigger spaces further away from the true summit but still in the activation area. But Caroline was operating VHF from near the true summit. It’s inconvenient to be too far apart. If I’d been much further away I’d have missed the S2S with John.

Martyn M1MAJ


#13

TO ALL:

G4IPB
Paul,
You sound like a busy chap and radio must be fitted around it. I remember the days when work was the major intruder to life. Needs must, however but sad I got my timing wrong on Fountains. I would have liked to stay longer but even leaving when I did meant a late return home.

Yes, I hope you go and put them on even if it’s just on VHF. If you need any route advice I have plenty for NP’s and LD’s 2 to 10 points. GPS points .gpx or .gdb

Look forward to logging you on 160 on future but it might not be until July if I camp on Gt.Whernside again, WX permitting.
73, John.
……………………………………….
2E0YYY
Mike,
Glad you liked it. Long read again, split into two. Why I feel the need to write everything down I don’t know. Something to do with my job – when I had one.
Keep up the World-wide activating. You are our envoy!
73, John
………………………………………
G4IAR
Dave,
Yes, I have always liked 80m. I think it stems from when I was first licenced. It very quickly became clear that on the higher bands nobody actually spoke to anyone. ‘59 – Goodbye.’ After all the hard graft with the RAE and even more sweat for the Morse test, this came as a rude awakening. Generally 80 is not like that. Also my first WAB contact was on 3.760. Happy days.

Thanks again for the advertising,
CUAGN on 160,
73, John
……………………………………….
G0HIO
Mike,
Sorry you didn’t get a QSO. I felt it would be in the bag when you called simultaneous with G4OOE but conditions must have dropped between us just after your call, never to return. It was disappointing. I do my best to get chasers in but on this occasion, there was nothing to be done apart from calling back for as long as possible as I was already on max power. The same went for Nick G4OOE who didn’t get into the 160m log either. I thought I was pretty early but sadly the planet and its rotation didn’t agree! This was March not February and there’s less of a chance.

Don’t worry too much about the aerial. It’s not everybody that can get on 80m let alone 160 so we just use what we can. The antenna I use at the summit is half as long as it should be and at 5m AGL in the centre and lower at the ends, it probably thinks it’s laid on the ground! Yet it works after a fashion if conditions allow. If nature’s not playing, there’s nowt much any of us can do.

Hope you have better luck next time.
73, John.
……………………………………….

G8ADD
Brian,
Well done for getting into the 160m log again Brian. You are rarely very strong but you seem to have better ‘ears’ than the average. Don’t change anything.

I didn’t realise about the plasma TV’s. Sounds like a case of good riddance. We are being overwhelmed by rubbish at our home QTH’s. OFCOM seem almost powerless in the onslaught. I think it’s the reason why Mike EI2CL and Pete EI7CC gave up Top Band chasing. They were regulars at one time but Mike mentioned the Dublin noise on many occasions.

Keep calling in,
73 John
……………………………………….

G4OOE
Nick,
Yes, it’s always good to get ‘400 Club’ members in the log but you have a lot to put up with, living down by all those computers, scanners, X-Ray machines etc.

Don’t worry about the off frequency, you were going in the 80m log no matter what (well almost) but I thought I’d better tell you in case you didn’t know. I hope it doesn’t cost too much but you’re likely looking at a hundred quid plus P&P. Martin Lynch have served me well in that dept but I was a bit embarrassed when I sent in a rig that actually had nothing wrong with it. Not in your case though.

Yes, the Newby Cote route is long and boring but for SOTA it’s good for carrying weight. Not as steep and fairly even; a means to an end. Also it’s a more easily and quickly accessed set-off point than Horton or the Hill Inn. Not good for taking guests though. When my niece came over from Maryland we took the Hill Inn route. Much more interesting. Thanks for the reply.

Roy will be chuffed that you’re using 80!
73, John
…………………………………………….

G1MAJ – M3ZCB
Martyn & Caroline,
Yes, I have seen that metal fence post and it’s very solid. All depends on the wind of course. I usually put the dipole down the slope one side or the other from the peak and parallel with the path. The worst was one winter when it was blowing directly along the summit at 50mph, which meant zero shelter in neg. temps. It wasn’t snowing but it might just as well have been as the wind was whipping it off the surface. It was all I could do to stand up and put two sections of mast up. Most of the dipole was on the snow! I tried to build a drift up to hide behind but you can’t with powder. As I remember I did get a few on 80 and 160. Goodness knows what the VSWR was.

Beautiful photo of the operation; I think looking back towards Grasmoor. We chose a good day to go activating. There weren’t too many of those this winter. I have never been up from Whinlatter. Usually go from Braithwaite, once from Lanthwaite.

Thanks for the S2S’s; my only ones of the day.
73, John
……………………………………………
Tom
M1EYP,
Thanks for the ‘73’ passed on by my lad Phil from the 6m contest last month. Agree – lovely picture!
73 John
……………………………………………
VK2HRX
Compton
The photo makes it look easier than it actually is. It is like the dorsal fin of a fish. Slopes in all directions especially at the sides parallel with the path that goes over the top. There are worse ones of course but I could certainly name fifty UK summits that are easier than this one for HF operations. VHF is easy enough of course.
Would love to work you someday!
73, John.
…………………………………………

Thanks for all the replies and also for those of 22nd Feb (NP6-NP15-NP9)