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G4YSS: G/NP8 VHF-NFD Campover, 4&5-07-15


#1

Gt.WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008 / IO94AD VHF-NFD / SOTA Campover, 04 & 05-07-15
Reduced version to meet 32,000 character limit
Draft-1

G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P).
VHF-NFD on 2m & 70cm (13th consecutive year for VHF-NFD on NP8).
SOTA on 160m-40m-10m & 2m.
Unaccompanied.

TIMES:
Non-radio: BST (UTC plus 1)
Radio ops: UTC (‘z’)

EQUIPMENT:
IC706-2G HF-VHF-UHF 100W Multimode with CW key (Miniature toggle switch) in the microphone. 3-ely SOTA-Beam for 2m SSB. 9-ely parabeam for 70cm.
80-40-20-15-10m link dipole on 5m mast for HF.
Loading coils with slug tuning for 160m.
IC-E90 Quad-band 5W H/H with external 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery.
(Integral 7.2V / 1.3Ah Li-Po battery was not used.)

Li-Po Batteries: Two 9Ah (100% used). Two 6Ah (one used). One 4Ah Floureon (not used). Total 34Ah carried (24 Ah used). Three paralleling harnesses. 2.2Ah for handheld (Part used)

COOKING: ‘Stove’ made from 5 pieces welding rod. Three tablets of hexamine. Fruit tin 3.3” dia by 3.5” high used as a boiling vessel. Detachable aluminium pan handle.

LUXURIES: Cheap (ebay) airbed. 3 tea bags & dried milk. Can of sardines. Home-brew voice keyer (0.18kg).

Pack weights:
85 litre rucksack with 3.6kg of antennas, poles, flysheet etc strapped to outside (included in figures)
Ascent: 24kg, (53 pounds) including food, 1.5ltr ice, 1.5ltr water, 0.5ltr orange, 0.5ltr electrolytes
(Not including masts for VHF & UHF beams and some canes which are hand-carried - total 1kg)
Descent: 19.5kg, (43 pounds). Approx.1 litre unwanted water discarded before descent.

EXECUTION:
Set off from Scarborough on Independence Day - Saturday 4th July-15 at 16:40.
Drove via Masham. (79 miles).
Arrived Top of Park Rash above Kettlewell (Parked at SD 9861 7567 - nettle bed) at 18:52.
Walking: 19:15.
Arr. Trig Point/ photos: 19:58.
Camping place / QTH: 20:03 Saturday to 15:00 Sunday.
Descent to car: 15:35 Sunday.
Drive home: 15:45 to 17:51 Sunday.
(Drive:157 miles both ways).

This was the thirteenth consecutive G4YSS/ GX0OOO/P Great Whernside VHF-NFD. Of these there have been four campovers in 2011; 2013; 2014 and this year. Just like last year the decision to stay overnight was not a simple one. The mountain weather forecast suggested that, ‘Heavy thundery showers would develop on Sunday afternoon.’ Before that it looked fairly benign, if a little windy for tent erection but otherwise it was a go.

Since NFD is no more than the taking part and a bit of fun for me, it wouldn’t be detrimental if I was forced to leave the summit early so long as ‘early’ wasn’t in the middle of the night. However 90 minutes warning would be required; the time it takes to pack up the extensive camp and walk down. To meet that specification, I asked Roy G4SSH to relay the latest forecasts up to me on 2m-FM on Sunday morning; mobile phone being very unreliable on NP8.

I try my best to decrease the weight of equipment year on year. This year I bought a high spec (800 FP Down) sleeping bag weighing less than 1kg to replace the cheap synthetic 1.2kg one. In the end I stuck with the latter. One reason for that is the expensive new bag is almost too good to actually use! Too much water, food and batteries resulted in a 53 pound carry (3 pounds more than last year). The basic 85 litre rucksack really hurts my shoulders and it’s worse since I lost weight. Despite a DAB radio to take my mind off the discomfort, it was a testing walk up in sunshine, albeit with a strong cool breeze.

The SOTA QTH is a couple of hundred metres NE of the trig point and at just gone 8pm, I was there a bit earlier than last year. It takes more than an hour to prepare the camp and NFD station during which I listened to Wimbledon on Radio 5 Live. The 3-ely for 2m and 9-ely for 70cm beams sit atop 2.2m alloy tubes positioned either side of the flysheet near the front. These can be rotated with one hand under the side and vertical lines are painted down one side of each mast to assist blind aiming. A groundsheet covers most of the grass but insects can enter at will.

The link dipole is positioned to one side near the 2m vertical J-Pole which was feeding the IC-E90. There was still plenty of daylight remaining but a cold wind was blowing under the flysheet. In theory the wind would drop after the onset of darkness. In practice it didn’t disappear altogether until around three o clock in the morning.

GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008, 704m (2310ft), 6 pts for SOTA. 19:58 Saturday to 15:00 on Sunday 5th July 2015. 16 Deg.C/ 9C overnight. 20 mph west wind dropped to zero from 03:00 to 06:30; 10 mph on Sunday. Full or hazy sun both days with periods of overcast on Sunday. Intermittent but mostly non existent phone coverage (Orange-EE). DAB radio coverage on summit and route. WAB: SE07. LOC: IO-94-AD.

Index to operating 2015:
Times: UTC

Saturday – NFD & SOTA:

  1. 144 SSB - 17 QSO’s from 20:39z. NFD
  2. 145 FM - 1 QSO at 21:05z (Ross G4ZNZ)
  3. 1.832 CW - 3 QSO’s from 22:00z. SOTA
  4. 1.843 SSB - 6 QSO‘s from 22:13 to 22:29z. SOTA

Sunday – NFD & SOTA:

  1. 144 SSB - 1 QSO at 06:54z NFD
  2. 1.832 CW - 2 QSO’s from 07:00z SOTA
  3. 1.843 SSB - 1 QSO at 07:12z SOTA
  4. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 07:19z NFD
  5. 28 SSB - 1 QSO at 07:35z (G4BLH SOTA 10m Challenge)
  6. 144 SSB - 9 QSO’s from 07:43 to 08:41z NFD
  7. 145 FM - 1 QSO at 07:50z G4SSH update
  8. 432 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 08:47z NFD (inc EI9E/P)
  9. 7.032 CW - 18 QSO’s from 09:09z SOTA
  10. 7.132 SSB - 13 QSO’s from 09:38z SOTA
  11. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 10:02z NFD
  12. 432 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 10:13z. NFD
  13. 145 FM - 11 QSO from 10:43z NFD/ SOTA
  14. 144 SSB - 7 QSO’s from 11:59z NFD
  15. 432 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 12:46z to 13:04 NFD
  16. 144 SSB - Nil QSO’s from 13:20 to 13:35z - CQ SOTA/ CQ NFD

Notes:

  1. Saturday sessions 3 and 4 and Sunday sessions 2; 3; 9; 10 and 11 were alerted the day prior.
  2. NFD Serial numbers 16; 17 and 58 were given out twice in error.

Sessions in detail:
SATURDAY 04-07-15

  1. 144 SSB - 17 QSO’s from 20:39z. NFD. (Plus a 2m-FM QSO):
    With an hour to spare compared with last year there was ample time to sort out the tent, blow up the airbed, eat my evening meal (such as it was), prep the IC706 and work a few on 2m SSB in the NFD contest before the Top Band sked.

First called was GM3HAM/P in IO74WV. He was 57 to me. After that came: MW0TWC/P in IO74JG; GW2OP/P in IO71OP; G0OLE/P in IO93PX (Goole Club); GW3ZTT/P in IO82KW; G4ZAP/P in JO01PU; M0MCG/P in IO80AQ and G4ZNZ Ross; a friend in Thirsk (IO94HF). Ross requested a QSO on 2-FM where he was a much better signal due to identical polarization at both ends. Working conditions for the FM QSO: A vertical and 5 Watts from the IC-E90.

Then back on 2m-SSB: G0ROC/P in IO83VQ (Rochdale); M0NFD/P in IO94MJ (near The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge NYM); MM0CPS/P in IO84BT; DG7TG Thorsten in JO34WE (Helgoland); G3PYE/P in JO02CE; G3XHB in IO94DJ; G6XBF in IO93FU (Walt in Leeds); G3RSC/P in IO92FM and G6ODU in IO83NN (Bob in Ormskirk). The last four stations responded to CQ’s on a frequency of 144.367 MHz, close to a spot alerted the afternoon before but which was currently occupied. Two of these; G6XBF and G6ODU - Walt and Bob were regular SOTA chasers. 50 Watts was used on 2m-SSB, swinging the beam as required.

  1. 1.832 CW - 3 QSO’s from 22:00z SOTA:
    As always for me, 160m is the highlight. The loading coils had to be fiddled with to get the resonance right to cover both CW and SSB frequencies but all was ready by 11pm local; the pre-announced sked time. Using 100 Watts to the centre loaded 3.5 MHz dipole, the following stations were worked: G4SSH Roy at 229/ 559; G0VOF Mark 589 both ways and GM4WCE Peter in Edinburgh with 479/ 459.

160m works much better than in daylight, but in the dark the frequency was much noisier than normal because of lightning in the south of the country. The crashing and banging was almost constant and reached a level of 9 plus 20dB on the IC706 meter. Roy G4SSH in Scarborough was a barely audible and it took three repeats to log the report he was sending. Even the strongest signals were being chopped into unreadability a lot of the time

  1. 1.843 SSB - 6 QSO‘s from 22:13 to 22:29z (SOTA):
    Six stations made it into the SSB log as follows: Mark G0VOF in Blackburn; Bill G4WSB in Swindon; M6BYW; RA2FI Valery in Kalingrad and finally Tony and Sara M3NHA and M6NHA from near Manchester Airport. Incoming reports for my 100W signal were all 57 apart from a ‘57 to 59’ from Valery and a 58 from Mark who listened to proceedings and spotted me. After a short chat, I wished him goodnight and retired to my rather basic bed.

Unlike last year the cheap thin airbed remained inflated all night but sleep was almost non existent after 02:30. The lack of an inner tent allowed a strong breeze inside until about 3am when it became still. Less than half an hour later the tweeting of a bird some distance away started to get on my nerves. It was like CW but more annoying. One dash every three seconds. I counted it up to 100 whence others joined in. As always on these occasions, it was a relief to get up to a tin of fruit, a pot noodle and a large cup of Yorkshire tea. The empty tin becoming my kettle.

SUNDAY 05-07-15:

  1. 144 SSB - 1 QSO at 06:54z. NFD:
    While the water was boiling and before a QSY to 1.8MHz, there was time to work one station in the contest. G3RCW/P was in IO93EP. Power was 50 Watts for this and all subsequent 2m-SSB contacts. .

  2. 1.832 CW - 2 QSO’s from 07:00z SOTA
    The sked was arranged with G0VOF the night before but Mark had spotted it then. The power was already set to 100 Watts on HF but VSWR had drifted down-band overnight due to dipole sagging under the weight of the loading coils and changes in wind speed. G0VOF Mark was coming in at 579 but he was only hearing me 559. Signals were down on the night before simply because it was now daylight but the static QRN had dramatically receded, thereby increasing readability. G4SSH Roy was also a much easier copy at 529 but he found me weaker than yesterday at 339. Later on I also tried to work Mike G4BLH on 1.832 CW without success. (see session 5 below).

  3. 1.843 SSB - 1 QSO at 07:12z SOTA
    I could only raise G8VNW Nick in Threshfield in SSB. I was a little surprised when he told me that he was using 250 Watts to a 20m long wire. Unsurprisingly, reports were 59 plus both ways. Threshfield is a village just down the Wharfe valley from Great Whernside. It’s approximately 6 miles distant and almost line of sight. After some CQ’ing, nothing further was heard.

The VSWR was approaching 3:1 on the SSB frequency. When I had erected the antenna the day before, a 20mph wind was blowing. The three point system does not use guys. Instead looking from above, the dipole’s included angle into wind balances the system keeping the mast vertical. Now that the wind speed was half that of the previous night, the mast was no longer vertical and the 160m loading coils were closer to the grass, lowering resonant frequency.

  1. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 07:19z NFD
    G3ZME/P in IO82NN; MW0TZC/P in IO82JG and G4BLH Mike near Nelson in IO83VT were easily logged. Battery-1; a 9 Ah became discharged after the first QSO and was swapped for another of the same capacity. Mike was merely SOTA chasing and requested a QSY to help him with his score in the current SOTA 10m challenge. I was happy to oblige and also to try 160m; see below.

  2. 28 SSB - 1 QSO at 07:35z SOTA 10m Challenge
    Using the dipole which was still set to 160m at the time, I worked G4BLH Mike near Nelson for his 10m challenge. Signals were 59/ 54 despite a massively high VSWR. Needless to say, transmission time was minimised. I also tried Mike on 1.832 CW but no QSO resulted. He was using an improvised antenna partly comprising the outer of a coax feeder. I could hear him 229 on 160m but he was getting nothing from me probably due to local noise level.

  3. 144 SSB - 9 QSO’s from 07:43 to 08:41z NFD
    As I was driving from Scarborough the evening before, there was a CQ on 145.500. Before long there were four of us in a group QSO comprising Ross G4ZNZ, Richard G7HHK; Tony G3MAE and me. I told them about VHF-NFD and it was followed up when I received a call from Richard G7HHK; not far away in IO94HK. We had another short chat.

  4. 145 FM - 1 QSO at 07:50z G4SSH
    After working Richard, I heard Roy G4SSH call me on the IC-E90. With just 5 Watts on offer, he was not hearing me well at all but he got the gist of my request ‘please spot me on 144.305.’ Roy obliged and returning to the 144 MHz (session-6 above) I soon had six SOTA chasers in the log: G0VOF Mark; G8MIA Andy; G0RQL Don and G0TDM John. I just couldn’t think which direction Penrith was for the latter so it took a bit of beam swinging to bring John in. Even then it was just 51 both ways. The same reports were exchanged with Don in Holdsworthy Devon and I was pleased to get the QSO. Don said his antenna had been taken down at one stage due to lightning storms. Knowing the weather predicted for Yorkshire in the afternoon, a shudder ran down my spine.

After these I did some more hunting up and down the band: G4ATA/P-IO83NU; G4BTS/P-IO93IM (Sharon M0BOH); EI9E/P-IO62OM and ON4WY-JO11LC. I was informed that EI9E/P could also be found on 70cm which is what took me there at this stage.

  1. 432 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 08:47z NFD (inc EI9E/P)
    Normally the QSY to 70cm is done at midday but because of possible lightning in the afternoon, the whole activation had to be pushed forward again this year. I was also looking for EI on 70cm. The nice thing about arriving on a new band for the first time is that no log check is required before each QSO. The log is difficult to check when it contains multiple QSY’s to HF and 2m-FM interspersed with VHF-NFD and SOTA entries. It’s alright for the big stations with their computers but it’s another matter with several sheets of A4 lying haphazardly on a groundsheet. I try to fold the sheets and put them together so that only NFD and one band is showing but nothing is easy in a small tent. I did call one station twice on 2m but it was quickly pointed out.

The IC706 puts out 20 Watts on 70cm but I use 9 elements of my son’s 18-ely Parabeam to add some ERP. Aiming is more critical than with the 3-ely of course. QSO’s were logged with: EI9E/P in IO62OM; GW3ZTT/P - IO82KW; G0ROC/P - IO83VQ; M0NFD/P on the North York Moors at Blakey Ridge and G2OA/P in IO83MN. G0ROC/P was located on Hailstorm Hill which is as far as I know a SOTA but this was invalid as an S2S owing to their use of a generator. It was now 18:59z and time for a 40m CW sked.

  1. 7.032 CW - 18 QSO’s from 09:09z SOTA
    Boots on and change the links. The time had come for the 40m session advertised on SOTAwatch the day before. I was a little late but Mark was waiting there to give me a good start at 599 both ways. I set the power down to 50 Watts to save the batteries and worked: DL1FU; DK1WI; HB9AGH; PA1AT; G4WSB; F6FTB; DL7VKD; G4FGJ; M0IML; SP8RHP; G3WCY; ON4FI; PA7ZEE; DL6UNF; G4CMQ; DL6WT and DK4FT. Most were 599 to me but incoming reports ranged from 559 to 599. Roy G4SSH was noticeable by his absence; the 40m signal going right over his head at Scarborough. No matter; he was already in the 160m log.

Around 09:30, I QSY’d to SSB and put some water on to boil. The next thing I knew, flames were lapping close to the inside of the tent door. The stove had dried out the grass next to it and this had caught fire. A little water was wasted dealing with this.

  1. 7.132 SSB - 13 QSO’s from 09:38z SOTA
    Sticking with the 50 Watts it was Mark G0VOF who found me again. Since Roy could not hear me, he had phoned Mark to ask if he would listen for the mode change and spot it. It was much appreciated and I was rapidly found by: M0DGY - (VK5EE Tom, in the UK for the past two months); G0RQL; M3FEH; EB2JU; EI9LB; EB2CZF; G0ELJ; F5PVK; G0FEX (Ken now collecting SOTA as well as WAB); G0HBA/P; M0MDA and finally PA0SKP.

All reports; incoming and outgoing, were in the range 56 to 59 apart from Mick in Leeds M0MDA who was 51 to me giving me 32. This just confirmed what was already evident; that the closer stations were either hearing nothing like G4SSH or struggling on the edge of the skip zone like Mick. Thanks go to Roy and Mark for enabling an early spot. G0FEX Ken told me he now collects SOTA as well as WAB and that the latest WAB mag was on its way. Conveniently the QRG dried up just in time for the next pre-announced QSY for SOTA chasers; namely 144 MHz. With bad weather expected and no time to do any other HF bands, the HF dipole and mast were packed away.

  1. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 10:02z NFD
    For the benefit of SOTA chasers because they can’t easily hit a moving target, this fixed frequency session was pre announced on SOTAwatch the day before. I thought there might be more but perhaps few SOTA chasers are equipped for serious 2m-SSB/ horizontal working. I was called by G1WAC/P in IO92BJ; M6AIF/P in IO83PN and G6XBF in IO93FU - Walt in north Leeds. As before, power was 50 Watts. Further CQ’s went unanswered.

  2. 432 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 10:13z. NFD
    This was 70cm session number two from three. Three stations were worked on three different frequencies with 20 Watts to the 9-ely: G6IPU/P in JO02QV; G5TO/P in IO93FL and G3ZME/P in IO82NN.

  3. 145 FM - 11 QSO from 10:43z NFD/ SOTA
    2-FM was specifically targeted at SOTA chasers but serial numbers and locators were taken from all who knew them. Before starting I went outside to change the 3-ely beam from horizontal to vertical. So that the aluminium mast does not upset the antenna, a wooden dowel is fitted as the top section for vertical polarisation. There is still the issue of the coax running between the antenna elements but it still seems to work well. What to my mind doesn’t match up with regard to FM is that it takes an awful lot of battery power to reach mostly local stations. FM QRO is therefore not a SOTA friendly mode.

The session was opened with the IC706 running 25 Watts into the beam on the preferred frequency of 145.400 MHz. I first pointed the antenna east and called Roy G4SSH. After dreadfully poor copy with 5 Watts to an omni earlier, he almost jumped out of his skin giving me a 57 report. We had a brief conversation about the lack of short skip on 40m and he passed the latest weather forecast to me. Some of the NFD stations had been reporting electrical storms so I knew the danger was making its way up country having already overrun Ireland and reached into mid Wales. After Roy, I worked Mick M0MDA again, this time with a VHF contest exchange from IO93FS. At 59 both ways, he was miles better on here than on 40m.

Around this time the second battery (a 9Ah) went flat. It was replaced by one of the 6Ah’s.

Next in was an S2S from Rombalds Moor G/NP-028/ IO93BV in the form of G6OVR/P Ian who gave me 59 plus 60dB. Now the trouble started. The IC706-2G which had behaved impeccably up to now suddenly decided to play up. It only happens on 2 metres. Nothing is evident except that the remote station reports the signal cutting out. It has been doing this over the years and 6 weeks with Icom UK failed to improve it. In the end the only way to stop it was to wrap it in aluminium mesh and that’s how it has been ever since. Annoyingly, it still does it on occasions but this time only on FM.

At first Ian thought his receiver was being de-sensed by strong adjacent signals or interfered with on the channel we were using. To combat this we tried a few QSY’s and I also reduced power to about 10 Watts until I realised that the old IC706 trouble was back. I hope we didn’t loose any stations that were waiting in line as we ended on an obscure channel of 145.275. In the end the IC706 was replaced by the standby IC-E90. With 5 Watts to the beam I was still getting good reports so not a lot was lost. The only problem was the handheld was getting very hot to hold. I toyed with the idea of turning the power down but with choices of 5 Watts or half a Watt, I had no wish to lose 10dB.

Once settled I logged: G8VNW Nick in IO84XB; G4DAX Dave SARS member at Goathland in IO94PJ; G7MFN Ian with 120W in IO94HV; G4VUN Peter in IO94DG; G0KVL Craig in IO94JM; 2E0CSW/M Scott currently in IO84WS; G3XHB Graham in IO94DJ Richmond (worked in SSB on Saturday evening) and G6JTI Harold in IO94HF - Thirsk. Harold had been tipped off the night before by Ross G4ZNZ.

G4DAX is a fellow member of Scarborough Amateur Radio Society. He is the mainstay of the club from the technical viewpoint and also the repeater builder and keeper for various repeaters such as GB4HG; GB3YC in its initial form and lately the digital repeater at Robin Hood’s Bay. I felt a little sorry for Dave following all the crazy QSY’s but all credit to him he stuck with us and we got a nice QSO in the end. He gave me the latest from a weather radar website and it became ever more obvious that I would have to think about packing up in the next two hours or so. I had no intention of being caught out by approaching lightning with an hour of packing up to do so I was taking down what could be dispensed with as I went along.

  1. 144 SSB - 7 QSO’s from 11:59z NFD
    After reconnecting the IC706-2G and returning the 3-ely to horizontal polarisation, a final return to 2m-SSB initially brought in GW3SRT/P in IO82LQ on 144.230 MHz. After this the following final few 2m stations were logged: G4VFL/P in IO84IQ; GW7LAS/P in IO82HV; G4TJC/P in IO93AK; G3VEF/P in IO91JA; G3CKR/P (Warrington Group) in IO93AD and G6IPU/P in JO02QV.

Yes it had taken this long for the ‘twins’ IO93AD and IO94AD to meet this year. Mike, operating G3CKR/P on a high spot outside Warrington and I commented on it as we have done every year for the past ten.

  1. 432 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 12:46z to 13:04 NFD
    I didn’t know it then but these would be the last QSO’s of the day. Swapping the 3-ely for a 9-ely for 70cm I first worked the Goole Club in IO93PX with their highly appropriate callsign of G0OLE/P. Being a ‘Gooleaphile’ of long standing as a result numerous visits to relatives there in the 1950’s and 60’s, I regard them as comrades. Just the smell of the River Ouse is ecstasy for me. ‘Whatever floats your boat’ is the likely (and in this case somewhat appropriate) reaction to that comment.

The final four stations were: GW2OP/P in IO71OP; MW0TWC/P in IO82JG; M0BAA/P in JO01KJ and G3PYE/P in JO02CE. Power was the maximum available 20 Watts from the IC706.

  1. 144 SSB - Nil QSO’s from 13:20 to 13:35z - CQ SOTA/ CQ NFD
    I chose a fixed frequency of 144.233 being right in the middle of the section normally used for VHF-NFD. For this the home-brew voice recorder was employed for the CQ’s. It is very basic usually effective. After pressing the trigger button, its speaker is held up to the mic. on the IC706 whilst the mic. is keyed. It saves your voice whilst relieving the boredom of repetition. I need not have bothered. Numerous CQ’s with 50 Watts and the beam pointing mostly south but in other directions too, yielded nothing. At the end of 15 minutes the third battery (6Ah) was exhausted.

This tactic has worked in previous years but unlike this year’s final hour, the band has been packed out with portables desperate for those last few points with fixed stations obliging them. Scanning the band still with half an hour to go revealed a scant few operators. Earlier in the day, I had heard a few saying that they would be packing up early and others who had experienced violent electrical storms when setting up the day before. That must have been very off putting to say the least. Having pushed my luck as far as was prudent, I wasn’t complaining. With cloud building to the southwest, I set about the task of dismantling what was left of my station and encampment ASAP.

I was underway and walking off the summit at the precise time the contest ended at 15:00 BST which got me back to the car by 15:35. Though cloud was building, it didn’t rain after all but I listened to driver warnings on Radio Lancashire. It was obvious that the storms had arrived there causing flooding, spray and presumably lightning. It wouldn’t have been too long before NP8 got a wetting too. It was good to be back in my Faraday cage. By 15:45 I was away, arriving home via the A648 and Sutton Bank at the unprecedentedly early time of 17:51.

Battery utilization:
A total of 34 Ah was carried from which 24 Ah was used. The IC-E90 and an externally wired 2.2Ah Li-Po (not included in the 34 Ah stated) was used as a backup for the IC706 on 2m-FM and for monitoring 145.400 most of the time. This is a small low current battery designed for a radio control TX.

VHF-NFD discussion:
Just 59 Serial numbers were given out for VHF-NFD contacts or so I thought. In fact due to my errors, numbers 16; 17 and 58 were given out twice which means I worked 62 stations for NFD purposes. Most were on 2 & 70 SSB but a few were on 2m-FM. The furthest station worked was DG7TG in JO34WE (Helgoland).

Taking into account previous expeditions, VHF band conditions seemed flat, though there was QSB on most signals. As usual I incremented the serial numbers regardless of band because I never submit a contest entry so don’t have to comply with any rules which can change and trip up the unwary. To me this event is about enjoyment and achieving a summit camp or all day stay; something I love doing.

As in the past, the conduct of participants was well mannered with no bad operating. Just one station was splashing across the band but I didn’t find out who. With the short exchanges in operation, it wasn’t too annoying. I may be wrong but I continue to claim the highest VHF-NFD QTH in the country but this year’s total was a modest 110 QSO’s; well short of the 167 in 2013.

TOP BAND:
A good reason for staying overnight is 160m. Propagation after 22:00z on Saturday evening was good enough to reach Kalingrad as well as to work some Top Band SOTA regulars in the UK. Static crashes and general QRN made it hard work however. The quieter morning session was worthwhile in that it brought in three stations. Phil G4OBK was missing from the log because he was SOTA activating in Tuscany at the time.

General:
Mobile phone coverage is unreliable to say the least but I did manage to send and receive texts on an EE (Orange) phone, albeit at least one got stuck in the outbox. It normally lasts a week or so but under these conditions the phone battery died inside 24 hours. Luckily I keep a spare one with the phone.

Conditions on 40m CW were reasonable but they were favouring longer distances at the expense of close by ‘G’ stations. G4BLH was worked as a one-off on 10m but I didn’t hang around to see if the band was open. Neither did I look on 6m which is Saturday only for NFD. I had no antenna for the band.

The decision to go overnight can only be taken after it becomes fully clear what is happening with the WX. In this case it was done in the final couple of hours before leaving. As has happened more often than not in the past, NFD has been overshadowed by the threat of bad weather and more specifically lightning conditions. Two walkers were killed after being struck in the Breacon Beacons and a further two seriously injured at the very time I was up on NP8 this Sunday, proves that my long running concern on this subject is not mere paranoia. The weather updates passed to me on 2 metres from Roy G4SSH and the radar situation from Dave G4DAX and at least one other station proved invaluable safety assets on this occasion.

Taking 1.5 litres of water as ice keeps food and drinks cool in the hottest weather. I insulate the bottle with a layer or two of bubble wrap which ensures a slow melt. There is always some ice left at the end. A similar arrangement in the car ensures that cold drinks are available on return though none of the food there was consumed this year. As for the summit. Almost half the food taken was left at the end but it’s always best to have something in reserve. About a litre of water was poured away prior to the descent.

The only wildlife seen were Curlews, Lapwings, a Red Grouse, some unidentified small birds, a green caterpillar, a few strange looking flies and a spider or two. There were no sheep on the mountain that I could see. I saw walkers at the trig but nobody came my way this year.

QSO Summary.
Saturday: 27
Sunday: 83
TOTAL: 110

VHF-NFD Contest:
2m SSB: 40
70cm SSB: 13
2m FM: 9
4m FM: Not used
Total (Contest): 62

Non-Contest / SOTA:
160m CW: 5
160m SSB: 7
40m CW: 18
40m CW: 13
10m SSB: 1
2m FM: 4
Total (SOTA): 48
Grand Total: 110

Ascent/ Distance: 211m (692ft)/ distance 5.5km (3.4 miles up & down).
Times: Ascent: 43 min. Descent: 35 min. Summit time: 19hrs.
Distance Driven: 157 miles

Pack weight: See ‘Equipment section’.
This was SSEG’s 13th successive VHF National Field Day on NP8, Scarborough’s closest 2000 footer at 63 miles line of sight.

Thank you to: G4SSH and G0VOF for spots, telephone and 2m-FM liaison when it was possible. Thanks to all SOTA chasers and contest stations for another enjoyable VHF-NFD. I am already looking forward to the next one.

73, John G4YSS
(Using Scarborough Special Events Group callsign; GX0OOO/P)
Photos: 9-18-20-24-48

Above: NP8 Summit Cairn & Trig

Above: NP8 VHF-NFD/ SOTA & Sunset

Above: NP8 VHF-NFD/ SOTA

Above: NP8 VHF-NFD/ SOTA - IC706-2G

Above: NP8 VHF-NFD Looking SE. Bad WX Warning


SOTA NEWS AUG 2015 Part 1
#2

Hi John,

Thank you for another overnight activation of Great Whernside & for the QSO’s on 160m, 40m & 2m. Thanks to the tip off from Roy the day before I was waiting for you on Top Band well before your alerted time.You were just readable on your 2m FM link with Roy so I knew when you would be trying 160m on Saturday night & listened whilst you worked Roy first. My local man-made noise was fairly bad but you were quite readable on the second attempt to pass me my report as your signal dipped into the noise a little on the first attempt.

From then on, on 1832-cw you were readable throughout, being the strongest station I could hear with the exception of GM4WCE who made it easily through my local noise when he worked you.

As usual, I utilised one of the now numerous Web SDR’s to listen to the rest of your CW session in order to hear the stations you were working that would not be audible here due to the noise. Even the QRN you were suffering due to the thunderstorms around that night was virtually masked by my local QRM so I would have no chance at hearing more distant or weaker stations using my own station.

Short of arranging a power cut for my neighbours whenever I want to play radio there is little I can do about the noise, so using a Web SDR to listen at least makes things easier on the ears. As regards logging contacts made using Web SDR’s to receive, they go in my main station log as any other contact would, but I would never claim that as a valid chaser QSO for SOTA. For you, as an activator the QSO would still stand as you have no quick way of determining how any station you work is actually is working you. In any case, you will be pleased to know that all of our QSO’s on Saturday night & Sunday morning were made the “old fashioned” way, between my station & your station with no help from the Internet.

When you moved to 1843-ssb the noise appeared worse due to the wider bandwidth of my SSB filter but even so you were fully readable at S8, which I was very pleased about, having sometimes been unable to read you on phone after working you on CW, (as was the case on Sunday morning). The use of SSB again brought more contacts than CW & I was very pleased to hear some familiar chasers working you on Top Band, along with the surpirse of RA2FI!

Later on Sunday morning I was pleased to find you on 40m CW & heard you calling Roy G4SSH a few times so I phoned him & discovered that he couldn’t hear you as the skip was just too long. I experienced the same thing in the afternoon when I couldn’t hear Rob GD4RQJ/P on the Isle of Man on 40m but I heard Roy working him.

I was on the phone with Roy when you QSY’d to 40m SSB but managed to find you in any case. Again quite an easy contact 58/59 despite the noise here.

Thanks again for the overnight stay & all the QSO’s especially on Top Band.

Very best 73,

Mark G0VOF


#3

Hi Mark,

I don’t know how long your post has been here but I just saw it when I came to take the link for G0OII Richard in Scarborough. He was interested as he tried to work me before his rig went wrong.

That is a very detailed analysis of the situation on Top Band. Several points are interesting. The increased noise due to increased bandwidth on SSB but yet still good audibility.

The assumptions regarding the use of internet receivers etc. You think the same as me. You wouldn’t dream of cheating in effect - ‘yourself.’ This has been a principle point since I took up WAB in 1987 but there is no struggle to comply with requirements. It comes as part of the game and the satisfaction that results from it. I had to laugh when in 1987 I (with Roy) gave a talk at SARS on the activation of OV00. A group of amateurs came all the way from Rotherham and stated that it wasn’t at first believed by them and a few other doubters until they went down Beast Cliff themselves and saw the fixed ropes and ladder on the rock face.

I fully sympathise with you on noise. I suffer 9 plus 5dB on bands below 14MHz a lot of the time. I can’t work from home. Son Phil does the CW from here on 40m when we have a special event but I bet there are three that come back to his CQ’s and are not heard to every one we work. Dreadful.

Yes, 40m was strange that day. It’s strange still and I was saying to Roy on 2-FM today, it might be useless until the next equinox. I think I may have to resort to 80m if this goes on. It won’t get me too far but I may get some of the closer ones in the log.

Thanks again for all your interest in 160m and as for the Top Band news, you are the man for the job alright!

Must fly now/. It’s Tuesday at 20:30 - time for Roy to host me a weekly cup of tea, CU on the next one unless you’re at work. So glad that’s over!

73, John.