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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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)