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G4YSS (GX4BP/P) Actn Rprt G/LD8 & G/LD3, 18-11-08


#1

G4YSS Activation Report for G/LD-008 & G/LD-003, 18-November-08

BLENCATHRA & HELVELLYN, LF-QRO (with 4m FM).
G4YSS, using SARS Club-call: GX4BP/P, accompanied by ‘walking mate’ Will’ & Jess, his black Spaniel.
All times: UTC on 18-11-08.

Introduction – GX4BP:
Scarborough can boast two radio clubs and I am privileged to be a member of both Scarborough Amateur Radio Society (GX4BP) and Scarborough Special Events Group (GX0OOO). SARS which was formed way back in 1932 are currently having a drive in trying to raise the profile of the club by airing the club-call as often as possible. Central to this strategy is the passing of the callsign around members on a weekly or monthly basis. My turn had come around so I decided to employ the best means available to me; namely to air it from a recognizable and if possible, classic SOTA summit or two.

Up at 02:55 and left Scarborough at 03:30 in my ‘new’ Fiesta (Mk4) with Will & Jess. The car, for which I had to pay out almost £700, has been in my possession for a month now and many mods have already been completed including an FT1802 2m FM rig, my roofrack and tow bar. This was to be the trial run for it. The Mk3 had served me well but has now convincingly ‘died.’ Just my luck; scrap price has dropped from a recent £100 to just £20!

Arriving at the Blencathra Centre at 06:09 put us in a great position to stretch the planned time margins of what promised to be a moderately demanding day. A 09:00 QRV had been posted but a 06:34 walkout in moonlight and a call to Roy G4SSH, enabled radio readiness soon after 8am. It has become the norm for me to go on ahead and get the aerials up with Will following on behind. Half way through the activation, this process is put into reverse. It means that Will is not left bored and shivering at the summit for too long and if the activation goes well, I can often claw back much of the slack. Since last I was there, a small plaque with the inscription, ‘Ian Hamilton; 1937 to 2008.’ ‘At his Happiest when on Blencathra,’ has been left on the summit cairn.

BLENCATHRA, G/LD-008, 868m, 8 pts, 07:52 to 09:37, 3 deg C, 25 mph wind, low cloud, no lying snow. IO84LP – NY32. IC706 2G (lightened). Link-dipole with 160m coils & 7.5Ah SLAB.

1.832 CW:
The fact that five ops were immediately available significantly earlier than the published time is a measure of the enthusiasm for Top Band amongst a small band of SOTA collectors. Working G4OBK (Pickering), G0TDM (Penrith) G4BLH (Nelson), G4SSH (Scarbro’) & GW0DSP (Connah’s Quay) was a distraction from the cold wind on this ‘no-shelter’ grassy top. Reports for the 40W signals ranged from 339 to 599; the early QRV balancing the fact that most stations use improvised antennas for 160m.

3.556 CW:
30W on 3.557 brought in 18 chasers from G, GM, GW, EI, ON, DL & SM. Reports were mostly from 579 to 599 and two club stations were worked; GX0ANT (Eden Valley) and GX0OOO (SSEG). In my eyes, the latter seemed a little surreal after using this very callsign for SOTA since April 2002.

3.724 SSB:
The change to 3.724 produced 21 QSO’s starting with Graham G4JZF. Using 50W and later 100W resulted in a few ‘plus dB’ reports but I would not now need the amp hours. Time was getting on; Will and his dog had started their descent at 08:38. I would have liked a look on 40m but it just couldn’t be done. As for VHF, the Blencathra QTH is not particularly brilliant.

The Walk-off (which took 39 minutes) was in cloud down about half way and at 10:16 Will had been at the car for just 15 minutes. A battery change and some food preceded the 15 minute drive around to Thirlmere; arriving at the (free) Swirls lay-by for Helvellyn (NY 3157 1699) by 10:50. Time saved on LD8 enabled an 11:01 start for the LD3 walk. Will, feeling a bit light-headed early on, sat down for some eats as I toiled on up a steep paved path in cloud. It was hard work and a new way to me; having mostly combined Helvellyn with up to 4 other summits in recent years. It was probably ‘all in the mind’ but a lighter battery (Li-Po rather than Lead-Acid) seemed to make it less bad.

Somewhere between Browncove Crag and Lower Man, a figure loomed out of the mist. Asking if I was ‘local’ he turned out to be lost. Having been ‘seduced’ off the side of Striding Edge by a lower path, he had climbed up steep ground directly to the trig point; an achievement in itself! Though his destination was Grisedale Tarn via Dollywaggon and eventually back around to Glenridding, he’d turned right (north) instead of left and was heading for Thirlmere and the prospect of a very long walk from the ‘wrong valley.’ I turned him round, walking him back to Helvellyn and warning him to ‘keep that big drop on your left’ and not to take the right turn before Nethermost. He had a strange looking small scale map, his compass was ‘at home’ and he did comment that, ‘There should be more signposts up here.’ This reminded me of a German Girl encountered on Ben Macdui, years ago.

HELVELLYN, LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 12:38 to 14:54. Wind 15 mph, 2 deg C, low-cloud. IO84LM – NY31. No snow except for the final remains of an eastern cornice. IC706 2G (lightened). Link-dipole with 160m coils & 8.8Ah ‘experimental’ Li-Po.

3.557 CW:
After Roy (SSH) had spotted me I got down to business. D-Layer activity was greater than in the morning with signals one or two S-points down. Nonetheless, 16 regulars were logged with 449 to 599 RSTs but as might be expected, none were in continental Europe. Sending CW on a miniature toggle switch with heavy mitts was rather tricky.

3.724 SSB:
This was attended by 20 UK chasers with Scottish activator Barry GM4TOE calling in. With the 706 set to 40W, there were plenty of 59s being sent and a few in return but again no overseas stations were heard. There were a few enquiries regarding the possibility of Top Band so it was promised for the next session. Frank was among these but we both accepted that there would be scant chance in daylight over such a distance.

1.832 CW:
After fitting the 160m loading coils and increasing to 100W, I called CQ. Phil G4OBK was immediately conspicuous by his absence but I later found he’d had to go out. John G0TDM ‘plugged the gap’ and afterwards followed up with his clubcall GX0ANT. John was 559 to me but that was generous and I received 539 in return.

Because it is always used with temporary aerials the meter of my 706 is permanently set to VSWR and I noticed a tuning problem. The dipole was set up in a rock field and the foundations were a bit shaky. This was allowing the 5m mast to cant-over merely with the addition of two 40 gram coils and these were now within half a metre of the ground. As I was rising to fix this, the log became unclipped and blew away down the mountain. After a curse-accompanied 100m dash, I piled stones around the mast and sent another CQ. Roger G4OWG near Bradford answered but he didn’t hear my RST until the second attempt. Miraculously, Frank G3RMD could be heard calling from Cheltenham but no way could I make a QSO out of it and by that time I was weary, cold and a bit miserable.

70.425 FM:
By now it was 14:35 and Will, who’d arrived at 13:07 had been gone a full hour. Even so, I was determined to try out my new IC-E90 4-band VHF handheld on 4m. Packing the HF gear away and walking up to the bleak summit proper while selecting 70.450, I called Mike G4BLH who I knew likes to make contacts on the 4m band. No sign of Mike but I was pleased to hear Dave, G6CRV in Heysham and despite only having a rubber-duck in my over-loaded rucksack, we exchanged 59 reports. Mike was logged later but only by moving to a better location was I able to reach him in Nelson. Finally after starting the walk-off, fortunately still carrying the rig, I heard a broken conversation, ‘missed’ ‘5 minutes.’ This was John MW1FGQ in Flint, who then qualified for the 10 points with little time to spare.

It took an hour to walk down and I arrived 10 minutes after Will. Too late for us but all the low-cloud had finally cleared away.

Home drive:16:15 to 19:00. 270 miles driven.
LD8: 656 m (2,152ft) of ascent / 2 x 3.9 km (4.9 miles) walked.
LD3: 735 m (2,411 ft) of ascent / 2 x 3.8 km (4.8 miles) walked.
Day’s total: 1,391m (4,564ft) of ascent / 15.4 km (9.6 miles) walked.

QSO’s: Total 86 in the day comprising:
160m CW: 8
80m CW: 34
80m SSB: 41
70 MHz FM: 3

Equipment:
LD8 & LD3: IC706 2G with home-brew composite panels, wiring & breakering. CW ‘key’ in microphone.
Link Dipole for 30-40-60-80 with tuneable coils for 160 at the 40m break points. 5m CFC mast – 1m ends.
LD3: IC-E90, 4-band H/H with 1.3Ah battery & 22cm normal-mode helical for 4m, as supplied with rig by ML & S.
LD8: One 7.5 Ah SLAB (Wt 2.7kg) 74% depleted.
LD3: Two RCM 2.2Ah Li-Po’s plus one RCM 4.4Ah Li-Po all in parallel. 11V nom, 100W capable, 0.7kg. 41% depleted

QRO pack-weight LD8: Approx 13kg. (Lead-Acid)
QRO pack-weight LD3: Approx 11kg. (Li-Po)

Comments:
The composite Li-Po battery was deemed experimental for the following reasons. These are nominally 11V batteries being used in theory to supply a required max of 20A at 13.8V (in practice up to 16A at /P battery voltages) for QRO operations. That said, they exhibit somewhat higher voltages than their nominal and all were capacity checked at 5 Amps down to 10.7V. Three of these 10C batteries were paralleled resulting in an 8.8Ah unit, better than the 7.5Ah SLAB and 2kg lighter! Unfortunately this comes at a cost difference of 5 or 6 times. Despite the manufacturer using this very method to factor-up his Li-Po battery capacities, the paralleling of even seemingly identically rated batteries can be hazardous, especially high-capacity, low internal resistance batteries of these types, in a summit situation.

For example if a cell were to fail short-circuit in one pack the resulting inrush from another could prove disastrous with the potential for heat, flame and the release of toxic or corrosive chemicals. Shorting their outputs could also produce similar results. These batteries were charged separately and the tapering equalising currents produced by paralleling were monitored. They were separated after use. The risks of the LD3 experiment were understood & accepted. See http://www.metacafe.com/watch/788668/worlds_most_dangerous_battery/

Routes: In terms of ascent / mileage, both routes used were arguably the most efficient. LD8 - Blencathra Centre. LD3 - Swirls, Thirlmere but my best time for LD3 (from Patterdale) was still exceeded due to poor fitness.

Thanks to all stations worked and to the SMT for making it all possible. Thanks also for spotting support from Roy
G4SSH & G4OBK, GW0DSP, G6CRV. To SARS for the use of the clubcall.

73, John G4YSS (using Scarborough ARS GX4BP/P)


#2

In reply to G4YSS:

Thank you for another interesting and very informative report John, you always take the reader to the summit in the minds eye. It was great to get you on top band for the second time.

73
Mike GW0DSP


#3

In reply to G4YSS:

A new car and a new radio… your wallet must have needed sedating! Nice report as usual John.

Andy
MM0FMF


#4

An absolutely cracking report John. Must admit I was surprised to see you out and about pre-WB period, but you have obviously been keeping fit and must have been chomping at the bit.

80m was unfortunately too noisy here to work you, even on CW - I was tempted to drive out into the countryside nearby, but didn’t think I would have had sufficient time to get everything together… 80 isn’t a ready-to-go band for portable.

Hopefully catch you soon.

73, Gerald


#5

In reply to G3YSS/GX4BP/P :

Many thanks John for the 80m CW contact from LD3.
Sorry to have missed you in the morning but I was busy taking down my 80/40m dipoles and errecting the 160m dipole instead for the winter months.
I did listen for you on 160m from LD3 but all I could hear here was a very weak G3RMD calling.
I guess it was too early. 2 hrs later there was good copy here from a fixed station in Cumbria.
Hope to catch you again soon.

73 David / G3RDQ


#6

In reply to G4YSS:What another cracking report John.It is nearly as good as coming with you.( I would never have made it ) As always looking forward to hearing you again.All the very best Geoff.


#7

In reply to G4YSS:

Interesting that you have used the 3 cell LiPo packs in parallel. I have tried a single 5000mah 3 cell pack, but the voltage dropped far too quickly for my IC7000 and FT857D. It may well have been the quality of the pack.

My usual 100w setup now is a 4 cell 5000mah Lipo pack and I use some diodes (2 bridge rectifiers) to initially drop the voltage. This works very well.

Keep experimenting.

Regards,
Nigel. G6SFP.


#8

Thank you for the activation and great report. Interested to note that you heard me calling you on top band while you were on Helvellan. I listened very carefully for you, but was defeated by a high noise level at my home qth. I called you using my vertical and horizontal aerials, but not sure which was heard.
I must get together a top band portable capability.

73,
Frank


#9

In reply to GX4BP/p

Thanks fer both summits John,
Viva la CW,

73 de Geoff G4CPA.


#10

In reply to ALL:

To Mike DSP: Thanks Mike. Sometimes I do wonder what to write and there is a limit to how different you can make these reports. Basically they are all much the same and I only get really excited when it’s about some far flung, little known (or sometimes well known) Scottish Peak. Having said that, I do enjoy the activations……well at least looking back from the next day! The day was hard for me and I am paying for it still; the price of a summer of sloth. Will’s dog seemed unaffected! Yes, Top Band SOTA is a lot of fun.

To Andy FMF: Yes, the trauma of a ‘new’ car and the steady process of getting to know and trust it. It is not up to the old ones standards. Too much meddling by Ford’s Electrical Department in the honest business of Mechanical Engineering. I will be amazed if it’s reliable and it doesn’t go as well either. I don’t know what I’m going to do about my sleeping board; this one’s a 4 door and the front seats don’t tilt. I need not worry about the lack of rust. The winter will sort that out. You’re right about the wallet but I will comb the shed tomorrow and con a few hibernating moths into an ‘attractive’ repopulation project.

To Gerald OIG: Tuesday showed that I will need to do more about the fitness aspect and I am certainly not falling over myself to ‘get out there.’ Enthusiasm is one problem. Heal pain is another. Yes, isn’t it sad about the state of EMI these days? People are being increasingly forced out of their houses to find quiet locations. I heard of a website specialising in lobbying regarding this. Even if I had the inclination, I could not possibly be a chaser from here. Most of the time the needle sits at S7. I have no idea how Roy copes across the road; he’s nearer the pylon wires. No wonder ops have trouble finding my mouse squeaks on 160. It’s bad enough with QRO. Our hobby really is being spoilt but the problem isn’t about to go away. I hope the RSGB make this their flagship priority. I think 80 is OK for /P. I have used it far more than any other band for the purpose since 1987 and it’s a natural choice for me. It’s not too easy to get anything but half-baked efficiency as a /M though but even that works reasonably well.

To David RDQ: Well done that man! A winter 160m dipole. I had one over my house a lot of years ago. The back garden leg had to be folded a bit but it still worked very well. You are right about the time of day for 160. A sniff of darkness and 160 cheers up no end. Sadly on this occasion, we couldn’t hang around that long. The reason that I like to do Top Band SOTA is because it more or less shouldn’t work. Making it do so is where the interest lies for me. Yes, I could hear Frank too but once again, thermostats, bluetooth, light bulbs, washing machines, carpet sweepers and TV’s knew better!

To Geoff MZX / BCQ: Yes you’d have made it Geoff. You’ve done Skiddaw and all those nice NP’s I’m so jealous that you live among. I may be out again sometime. There are a very few juicy pickings in LD that I haven’t touched this year yet. Trouble is Paul the Weather Man may have more mundane advice for the near future so don’t nip out of your back door and head for Pen-y-Ghent just yet.

To Nigel SFP: Yes there is more work to be done. I only used 41% of the contrivance. It needs to be taken the full way. A 2-summit round with QRO would be good. I find that the upper / lower Voltage limits of these 11v nom Li-Po’s are practically speaking, much the same as 12v nom Lead-Acids but only field trials will prove it. Maybe the 706 is more tolerant to low-Volts than the 857? It’s not intended but it does give a bit of warning of imminent shutdown. I don’t doubt that we are reinventing the wheel here and the facts will be well documented somewhere, probably within our own group. You already know more than I on the subject. I must say I also get through quite a few diodes for the same purpose. Some drop .6, others .8 or .9 but it’s a simple way to avoid regulators (dropout would defeat your purpose) and make things more summit-fixable. Bridge recs are a good way to put a stop to worries about reverse polarity.

To Frank RMD: Yes you were coming in around 339 in my QRN-free RX. I think you called under Roger G4OWG the 1st time but I heard you after I worked him. My time for Roger was 14:16 but that could be 2 mins either way. Out of all the surprises on daylight 160, you rank equal with Andy up in Inverness as the most unlikely receptions at an LD summit QTH. The band comes up with occasional surprises mixed with dogged intransigence.

To Geoff G4CPA: Thanks Geoff. I ask Bob about you every week at the club but he usually tells me he hasn’t heard a thing. Rumours of your appearance 2 or 3 months ago have gradually faded away. I can at least report regularly to Bob that you are in good health and still chasing avidly. BCNU sometime.

73 to all & thanks for your responses,

John G4YSS / GX0OOO/P / GX4BP/P


#11

Thanks for the report John.

there is a limit to how different you can make these reports…

I’m past trying in my case!

Re 80m being your natural band of choice, does that contribute to your avoidance of Summer activating? I know you “abhor heat” (your own words), but if you like 80m as well, then winter is definitely your season!

Jimmy and I have found 80m a really powerful tool this year, but we did struggle in the middle of the day in the height of summer, as expected.

I have only done 160m once from a summit, courtesy of M0GIA’s aerial (BTW is that coming out with us on CQWW Sean?), but it was fun. Somewhat unexpectedly, my home antenna (just an end-fed wire fed against the ground) tunes up beautifully on 160m, and affords me good contacts on CW or SSB most evenings. Certainly, that is the band score that is currently growing fastest in the G3WGV UK CW table!

Regarding QRM in home stations, fortunately things don’t seem too bad for me at present. I keep my fingers crossed that none of my neighbours get any of these powerline broadband adapters installed. One does have to wonder why they’re still being marketed.

Fancy a joint walk/activation sometime over winter? Jimmy and I are hunting down our remaining NP uniques, which are NP-007, NP-012, NP-023, NP-024 and NP-032, any of which might offer a suitable rendezvous.

73, Tom M1EYP


#12

In reply to M1EYP:
Hi Tom,

Just seen your message. No I don’t like summer much unless I can do shade bathing. I tend to stay indoors scanning old photos etc. and getting heavier & very unfit but 2008 summer was not too bad for me. I do walk locally quite a lot but don’t find it a pleasant experience.

For me 80m is primarily an alternative to 2m FM but I don’t see it as a speciality band like 160m but just a tool to get the job done. Obviously, it’s significantly more difficult and time consuming than FM gear but it should (in theory) reach all of the line-of-sight chasers that 2m FM would plus those further afield (eg Frank in Cheltenham or Ken in Edinburgh etc). The task can be divided into stages. Firstly to target the UK islands and secondly if it’s possible, to offer it further afield on 40m or at times 30m. Thirdly, if it doesn’t take too long, to indulge ones self with something like 160m or 4m etc. Time is the problem on 90% of activations.

Obviously I ‘beat myself up’ if I have to miss out one of the ‘target’ bands due to multi-summit working and/or short winter days but you can’t be all things to everyone and I am stuck with time-critical multi-summit SOTA to keep driving mileage down. Like yourself, I try to help the problem with early (& sometimes late) QRVs which give Europe a fighting chance on LF (eg Frid DL1FU etc). When attached to a walking group (eg early June every year) ‘needs must’ and it’s 2m FM in a tearing great hurry. The other situation is when I have William with me.

You’re right, it’s a struggle on 80 in the middle of a summer’s (& sometimes winter’s day). When we return to sunspot high, 80m will be completely abandoned once again, for day ops.

I knew nothing of G3WGV’s band scores. There were some familiar callsigns on the list.

There was an article in QST about what the ARRL are doing to combat QRN. They appear to have a fighting fund and have had some noteable successes. I’m sure that the RSGB are well onto it too. I hope so because as individuals, we have little chance. One problem is the (perceived?) diminishing status of our hobby.

Yes, if it can be arranged in and amongst other summits (but weekends are bad for me) it would be good. I still have Wild Boar to do but have already done Baugh Fell & Hoove but have no plans for Aye Gill Pike or Cracoe Fell at present. I usually do Wild Boar with something else and lately it’s been reserved for the afternoon. It’s quite a pull with 430m ascent and a flat, grassy, open windswept top apart from a tightly walled-around trig point. Notice is the problem in winter WX and parking too. Now presented with a backlog to do, I hope to get round to it and work it in efficiently driving-wise. The A684 is currently closed immediately west of the A1 and I fear snow may be on the way again. I was walking through 4 inches yesterday at a mere 600ft highspot here.

73 to you & Jimmy,
John.