G4YSS, LAKES WEEK 2009. Five LD SOTA’s, 01 to 04-June-09
G/: LD-012, LD-004, LD-001, LD-005 & LD-014.
(HIGH STILE, SKIDDAW, SCAFELL PIKE, GREAT GABLE & KIRK FELL)
All times BST (UTC plus 1 hr.)
HF: ICOM IC706-2G providing QRO to a link dipole on 5m mast from an 8.8 Ah Li-Po battery.
2m Multi-mode: FT817ND – 5W to a 3-ely modified SOTA Beam or vertical half-wave.
4m FM: ICOM IC-E90, 4-Band H/H to 2m rubber duck, extended for 4m and quarter-wave counterpoise.
This activation report relates to our annual (five-night - 2009) holiday in the Lake District with a seven-man (& one woman - 2009) walking group assembled from Worthing, Birmingham and Scarborough. Accommodation was in Keswick. Group leader, David Barnes devised the routes based on Lakeland Walker Magazine. Three XYL’s came along. Two did not walk with the group but one intrepid lady successfully accompanied us on 3rd-June. A first ever ascent of Scafell Pike (LD-001) was her hard-won but well deserved prize.
If the purpose of the holiday is group walking then an effort should be made to do so. In the end just two required SOTA summits were visited by the group, making detachment necessary for the rest. There was a requirement to limit activation time, on LD1, LD5 and LD14 where VHF only was used. Generally speaking, if a SOTA is reachable from some part of a planned walk, an effort is made to activate it. If this is not possible a solo expedition is mounted and where these are single-summit, a full HF/ VHF QRO activation is possible.
Operations are limited by meal times at the B&B and in the town of Keswick. In addition to time considerations, the usual problems of distance / ascent versus weight also came into the equation when deciding equipment. The company of others was very welcome and useful in taking one’s mind off long ascents, after much solitary walking over the past year.
The WX was bearable on the 3rd and 4th despite warm conditions. Excessive heat on the 1st and 2nd made ascending unpleasant though a cool breeze moderated the effect of sunshine at times. There was no rain and except for minimal low-cloud on adjacent mountains on the 3rd & 4th good visibility was a constant feature.
HIGH STILE, G/LD-012, 807m (8 pts). 12:30 to 15:32 BST. Sunshine-90%, 16C. Wind 5mph. 54 QSO’s on 160-80-40-20-4m. QRO HF-VHF. Nil Orange network coverage.
Buttermere Car Park above the Church (start & finish) 140m ASL to LD12: See summary for times & details.
Today the walking group were heading for Great Bourne via Red Pike. In the end they cut the walk short at Starling Dodd due to excessive heat. It would be a simple matter for me to ‘peel-off’ at Red Pike turning left for High Stile and have enough time for a multi-band operation. I elected to forgo what must have been a pleasant break beside the Tarn and carry on up the southern slope of Red Pike which proved a ‘sweaty slog.’ Powerful solar radiation was experienced in a sheltered col after Red Pike. It felt like I was being systematically cooked, just like when you open an oven door when too close. The summit was somewhat better because of a light breeze.
It is almost unbelievable but this summit had never seen operations on 80m let alone 160. In fact in its 7-year status as a SOTA summit, only 246 QSO’s had been completed. 27 of these were on 40m, 26 on 60m, 192 on 2m and none on 4m. This one should be popular.
40m CW (22):
I set up the dipole at NY 1702 1482 handy for an exit via the NE ridge and with no phone coverage, went straight to 7.033 CW with 20W. Roland SM1CXE answered a CQ and the final tally was 22 including two G’s. It felt good to work so many overseas members after a winter of mostly 80 and 160m. Amongst the many old friends was DL4FDM. Fritz & I have not QSO’d for quite a while so it was great when he called in for LD12.
80m CW (7):
As I called CQ on 3.532, I half expected G4SSH to best-guess me but for once, Roy’s 579 reply was beaten into second place by another Scarborough op; Kevin G0NUP. Only seven were worked on here; one being Dan ON4ON.
80m SSB (17):
3.724 was used to pull in another 17 but most of the time big power was needed to overcome chaser local QRN. First was Steve GW7AAV and last Don G0RQL.
Frank (G3RMD) told me of an impressive challenge that his son recently completed. Apparently it involved 72 miles of walking / running routed over 42 summits and climbed 27,000 feet! Were the participants given a week or even two to do this? No; just 24 hours! He did comment that, ‘A lot drop out.’ Well what a surprise. Talk about superhuman! This makes SOTA activators look like gentlemen of leisure.
20m CW (3):
With most of the ‘mandatory’ stuff out of the way it was now time for a spot of light relief in on 20, 4m, 160m & 2m. 14.032 was QRL so nudging up the dial 1.5kHz got a reply to a CQ. At one point I thought LD12 was going to be popular on here but the QRG dried up after SP4NKU, HB9SVT and F8MS.
20m SSB (nil):
CQ’s and over 15 minutes of flitting about from 14.263 to 14.285, 14.280 etc produced nil interest no matter how much I turned up the power.
4m FM (2):
Dave G6CRV and Geoff G4WHA.
160m CW (3):
I worked Pete EI7CC, John G0TDM and Mike EI2CL on here in no time at all at around 14:00z. As usual and despite not knowing just when I would turn up, these keen 160 ops were waiting on 1.832.
2m FM (nil):
Believe it or not after relocating the station to the ridge top, two CQ’s on 145.5 with a half-wave and 5W went unanswered.
I had enjoyed a leisurely activation but was glad to get away from the 20mm long, ugly flies which continually tried to get down the back of my neck, sometimes in pairs. The route off was initially to a cairn at NY 1711 1498 and then via a steep path to NY 1738 1518. At some point after NY 1800 1489 and NY 1811 1519, I went wrong, lost the path, climbing the wall enclosing Burtness Wood to regain it. The descent to Buttermere (16:52 BST) took 81 minutes but I wasn’t rushing about in that heat.
Many thanks to all chasers and spotters: DL6KVA, G4SSH, HB9SVT, G6CRV and EI7CC.
SKIDDAW, G/LD-004, 931m (10 pts). 11:11 to 16:05 BST. Sunshine, 14C. Wind 10mph. 70 QSO’s on 160-80-60-40-30-20-4-2m. QRO HF-VHF. Nil Orange network coverage.
Group-leader David’s group walk for today was to Clough Head east of Keswick so I headed to Jenkin Hill car park (NY 2802 2534) for a solo attack on Skiddaw (LD4) and an easy, unrushed ten points. The ‘Skiddaw Motorway’ south-facing as it is, though moderated at times by a light breeze, proved a hot slog with a heavy pack. It is a well known fact that I don’t like summer so I was determined to get this trial over ASAP, electing for a non-stop, brow-mopping ascent which took 76 minutes from car park to trig.
After a photo, I back-tracked to near where the Ullock Pike path turns off the summit ridge and set up the dipole overlooking the latter mentioned peak and Bassenthwaite Lake. There were a few of the big flies here again. Just as annoying were the smaller ones. You don’t get any of this nonsense in winter!
3.760 WAB net (4):
With no mobile coverage, getting the word out was a priority but here was a WAB net. Perhaps Graham G4JZF could be found there and I would be spotted. No sign of Graham but I did work Dave G6LKB.
40m CW (21):
An alert Phil G4OBK answered my CQ here and 20 more chasers followed. Only two other Gs (John G0TDM and Mike G0BPU) were able to get into the 40m log but in the case of John, that was simply by being more or less within line of sight. The rest were via skip in DL, F, SM, S51, HB, ON, OK with Mike MM0ROV bringing up the rear.
80m CW (9):
This time Roy G4SSH was the first to guess where I’d next appear; namely 3.532 and nine chasers followed him. Again newcomer Kevin G0NUP was one of them.
80m SSB (11):
3.724 captured another 11 regulars but ironically the highest power was needed for one the closest, G0TDM. Starting this session off was Andy GM0UDL from Inverness and M0JDK John called too. Both of these were long time-no hear.
160m CW (3):
100W of CW again caught Pete, John & Mike (EI7CC, G0TDM and EI2CL) on 1.832 and it took no more than 2 minutes.
30m CW (3):
Reconfiguring the dipole in asymmetric (1/3 – 2/3) fashion enabled three eager beavers to gain their 10 points on 10.118 with 20W. These were Andreas DL5CW, Ambrosi HB9AGH and Jozsef HA7UG.
20m SSB (1):
Again CQ’s went on for almost 10 minutes on various 20m QRGs and I even tried CW on 14.032. Finally I got an answer in SSB from W8PHZ on 14.280. Ralph told me he had been based in Coventry in 1942 but didn’t seem to be ‘in the know’ about SOTA. We did get some trials done and I sent back reports of his signal; barefoot and via his linear. There were two S-points difference. I used about 40W.
60m SSB (1):
As usual, I chose FE channel for this but perhaps that’s now out of vogue. However you can generally be fairly sure someone will answer you and that someone is often G0HNW in Huddersfield. Thanks Paul but without the benefit of alerting it was just the one QSO.
2m FM (15):
John G0TDM and a few others were attentive on 145.500. A QSY to .400 brought in a good crop of stations despite an omni vertical and a poor VHF QTH (that is, considering the antenna is at 3000 ft.) GD6VVM/M called in from Laxey but QRM after that required a move to .425. In all 14 got top points via the 2m band.
4m FM (2):
Dave G6CRV and Geoff G4BLH responded to a call with 5W to a set-mounted aerial and counterpoise. After this it was now 4pm and time to go down.
I would say that LD4 is the easiest of England’s three 10-pointer’s; the return to Jenkin Hill car park took 48 minutes.
Thanks again to all chasers and spotters: G4OBK, G4SSH, G4WHA, HA7UG, G4BLH and DL2DXA.
SCAFELL PIKE, G/LD-001, 978m (10 pts). 12:40 to 14:22 BST. Sunshine-60%, 13C. Wind 5mph. 44 QSO’s on 2m-4m. QRP-VHF (FT817). Low-cloud on Scafell only. Orange network coverage.
LD1 has got to be a real treat in any walker’s eyes. Group Leader David had selected this one mainly to support one of the group member’s wives who was on a quest to complete all three UK peaks before she was ‘too old to do them.’ Liz had done Snowdon in 2008 and England’s best was next in line. She is an experienced walker but not an experienced mountain walker. However, she was not merely willing to have a go but was absolutely determined to succeed.
For my own part, after two consecutive days of carrying QRO HF gear in hot conditions, sweating up another 10-pointer with a heavy pack had somehow lost its appeal. Besides, I had put this on 80 and 160 in the past. To me, summer activating is more about swanning around and enjoying it than packing multiple summits with QRO into a short day. Out went the 706, HF dipole and so too any thoughts of last November’s effort of doing Great Gable on the way back. In went the 817 and a SOTA Beam.
After much discussion about which route would be best for Liz, the Corridor was the final choice. Liz and Chris got themselves a 30 minute start and were equipped with a PMR rig to keep them in token touch with the group. Despite a forecast for 4 degrees C at the summit and low-cloud, it was to be another hot day with a lot of sunshine.
We caught them up and walked slowly up with them between Stockley Bridge and Sty Tarn but Roger & I broke away after Sty Head to get to the summit in good time for the activation. As it turned out, this timed well with helping Liz’s descent later in the day. Roger set a really cracking pace up the Corridor which I was hard pushed to sustain but we summited together in sunshine after a total of 2.75 hours of walking and much liquid loss.
When doing HF it makes little difference and normally I avoid the summit. Today I set up about 20m south of the busy cairn. A beam is unfamiliar territory but was quickly mounted vertically on its 7ft mast and rotatable in a rock-pile in light winds. Drawing a compass rose on a nearby rock was to help greatly. Witty comments came from the direction of the cairn, Roger telling them I had a flat screen TV in my rucksack and would they like to watch it?
2m CW – Vert (5):
I had told Roy on the phone that 2FM would be the start point. A ‘fatal’ mistake is to test the system on another band or mode before settling on the opening QRG. Sending a single CW ‘vee’ on 144.050 elicited an immediate response in the form of an irresistible question mark and so it transpired that CW opened proceedings with G4RQJ’s 569.
After Rob came a weak signal and it was fortunate that the beam was pointing east and was vertical. Roy G4SSH exchanged with 519 both ways. This was perhaps a fluke of conditions at that moment but Roy had his 10 points via his favoured mode. After that I worked John G0TDM, Mike GW0DSP and Mike G4BLH before migrating to FM a few minutes later than planned. As far as I can remember these were my first ever contacts on 2m CW and were undoubtedly inspired by Tom EYP. What a great way to do SOTA!
2m FM S2S / 4m FM (3):
The opening QSO on FM was with G0WHA/P on Pike of Blisco (LD24). Geoff had climbed via Crinkle Crags and suggested a quick QSY to 4m FM, which was a success. Whilst there, I thought I might just as well work callers John MW1FGQ and Mike G4BLH before finally getting back to the 145.400 chasers.
2m FM (16):
I must start by apologizing for the unplanned QSYs and delays but once established I worked 17 stations on 145.4. I tried all directions of the compass so hopefully all who wanted LD1 on 2FM got it.
4m FM (2):
A quick call on 70.450 brought in two additional callsigns; G4CPS and G6CRV (Mike & Dave). Back to 2m.
2m SSB - Horiz (16):
CQ on 300 then QSY to 310. First in was GW3GUX, John. Another ‘long time-no-hear.’ There followed some local stations and others further afield; a total of 16. I was hoping to reach Birmingham and the likes of Don G0NES, JZF etc but did not expect to get as far down as Devon (G0RQL) or Cheltenham (G3RMD.) Carolyn G6WRW was a goodly distance for a 3-ely and 5W but we managed it; just! Turning the beam east brought in Phil G4OBK at 57. I can’t remember having this much success on 2-SSB before.
2m CW again (2):
At the end I heard strong CW on my QRG of 144.310 but it took at least 2 minutes to remember how to switch modes on this rig and it didn’t help that some of the controls were covered up by padding. Out of sight – out of mind. Thankfully Reg G3WPF and Frank G3RMD didn’t get fed up of waiting! QRT at 14:04z.
What of Liz?
After the main group had taken off for Esk Hause Liz & Chris summitted at around 2 pm BST. For them, it had been a 4.75 hour ascent but I have rarely seen anyone look so pleased. Liz wore a grin from ear to ear. After 30 minutes rest and photography, they were on their way down again. After packing up, I caught them at the top of the Corridor and we three kept together until Stockley Bridge, which was reached well after 6 pm. Liz was ‘steady’ but needed a helping hand at certain challenging points on the route and certainly at the up-scramble at NY 2189 0852.
There sat a young couple who said they were just about to turn back because the route had ‘gone over the edge.’ Having ascended via another route, little did they realise that you have to turn right and climb the rock-face. This was despite a chalked arrow giving guidance. With me pulling Liz from above and Chris pushing from below, the three of us made it without much trouble and the couple getting the idea, quickly followed.
Liz & Chris had walked for a total of 9 hours but Scafell Pike had been well & truly conquered. Next stop Ben Nevis!
Many thanks to all chasers and spotters: G4SSH, G4RQJ, 2E0PXW, G4BLH, G0RQL and G4OBK.
GREAT GABLE, G/LD-005, 899m (8 pts). 11:54 to 13:51 BST. Sunshine / high cloud. 9C. Wind 5mph. 20 QSO’s on 2m. QRP-VHF (FT817). Orange network coverage.
David, our leader came up with what I thought was quite an ambitious plan for today. We were to start at Gatesgarth in Buttermere, climbing over Scarth Gap and up Black Sail Pass to Kirk Fell (LD14). From there it would be Great Gable (LD5) then back via Green Gable and Brandreth to Honister Pass. Two cars would be required with a third just for me because I keep shooting off to play radio.
On the day the plan ‘rendered down’ to Honister – Gt.Gable – Kirk Fell – Gatesgarth but for the less fit, back to Honister. I was more than happy and booked my place. Usually I add Pillar (LD6) to these two but that is in winter. Summer conditions must be treated with more respect and the two 8-point LD’s on offer would be just the ticket with lightweight equipment.
We parked at Honister mine in a new car park which costs £5.20 for the day. This is an NT car park and it’s free if you are a member.
While others ‘shuffled’ cars between there & Gatesgarth, I got myself a flyer by 10:18, hoping to have finished the first activation by the time the group showed up. In my haste I went slightly wrong, climbing Brandreth instead of skirting it. To cut a long story short, I ended up traversing a steep and unstable rock-field on the western slope of Green Gable. Though I had to pick my way carefully, this may have actually saved time by cutting the corner and depositing me half way up the steep, loose path to Windy Gap, rather than at the bottom of it. Either way, I was up the scramble from Windy Gap and onto Gable in a total of 96 minutes which included marking some extra waypoints.
4m FM (nil):
No stations replied.
2m CW (4):
There was scant hope of reaching Scarborough two days running but I thought I would try anyway. With the beam upright and pointing east, I called CQ with a high SWR. No signs of G4SSH or G4OBK but back came G0TDM John in Penrith. Mike G4BLH and Rob G0RQJ followed but then silence.
After the 2-FM session, I tried again with horizontal polarisation. This got me a report from John TDM again and the addition of Graham G3OHC near Selby.
2m FM (10):
A couple of stations were worked with the beam (vertical pol) but the VSWR was sky-high again and the power output low. It wasn’t the rig; switching to the omni vertical restored a good match. In all 10 were worked on here which included two S2S’s as follows: 2W0PWR/P Dave on GW/NW-044 and GW3NPJ/P Alan on GW/NW-032.
2m SSB (6):
Mick M0PVA came back to a CQ on 144.300 but only a total of 6 made it on 2-SSB. Either Great Gable isn’t ‘great’ enough or the conditions were down on the day before. I suspect mainly the former. The activation just did not ‘flow’ like LD1 had so after yet another fruitless try on 4m FM, I closed at 12:35z just before ‘the boys’ arrived.
The group had apparently hit trouble when one member (Richard) had difficulty in getting down off Green Gable to Windy Gap. They decided to abort Kirk Fell, go back to rescue the ‘lost sheep’ then proceed to Hay Stacks with the option of straight back to Honister. We parted and I started down towards the dried up Beck Head Tarn. The route up the fence line was easy to find. After that it’s a grassy ‘ad-lib’ around the secondary summit of Kirk Fell. The move from LD5 to the much quieter LD14 took 52 minutes.
KIRK FELL, G/LD-014, 802m (8 pts). 14:43 to 16:48 BST. Sunshine / high cloud. 15C. Wind 5mph. 36 QSO’s on 2m. QRP-VHF (FT817).
4m FM (nil):
No stations replied.
2m FM S2S (17):
At switch-on I heard CQ CQ from MI3WJZ/P. This turned out to be Iain on GI/MM-001 Slieve Donard 2786ft. What an opening QSO! I had a chat with Iain for a while before going off to work 17 chasers in FM.
2m CW (2):
There was no hope of reaching Scarborough because LD5 was now well and truly in the way. I beamed that way anyway, pulling in John G0TDM and Bill G4USW. A return there after SSB added three more (see 2m SSB).
2m SSB (14):
Once again it was Mick M0PVA who came back to my CQ on 144.300 and we clean forgot to QSY until Mike GW0DSP reminded us. I will use ‘tired’ as an excuse! 14 stations collected in SSB and once again a lot of the 80m regulars were successful on 2-SSB including G3RMD and G0RQL. Try as I may, I could not get Carolyn G6WRW into the log on this occasion. My signal was reaching beyond her QTH but maybe she was suffering from high noise. M6MIJ and 2E0OCC (Jennifer and son Nathan) both gave me ‘50’ reports which I logged as 51.
2m CW (again) (3):
At the end of the voice session, Tom M1EYP called me from The Cloud. After a switch to 144.050 CW, this ended as a two-mode S2S followed by the two Mikes GW0DSP (horiz) and G4BLH (vert) both bagging LD14 in CW.
I retraced my steps down a deserted Kirk Fell to Beckhead Tarn but after that there is some dreaded re-ascent. Otherwise the path back to Honister is well-defined, fairly straightforward and apart from a bad stumble on the incline, got me efficiently back to the car in 82 minutes.
This year, the routes chosen by David were favourable for adaptation to SOTA activity. Only one of my four days was totally independent.
HF & LF (which included 160m) with the addition of VHF was made possible by single summits and short walks on the first two days. After that summit times were increasingly limited by B&B meal times and greater distances. This problem was answered by a VHF QRP Multi-mode approach that gave surprisingly good results, especially from LD1 on the 3rd. Pre-annunciation facilities were unavailable on the first days but short-notice was given via mobile phone to Roy G4SSH, in some instances later on.
The 4-day week’s 44 points compare well enough with previous efforts but fall well short of the 82 point max of 2005. Thanks to all ops who worked me.
The group and its leader long since became wise to my ‘radio antics’ and I think they see them as harmless if a little eccentric. There were comments like, ‘when John is faced with the choice of walking with us or operating his radio equipment, he always chooses the latter.’ This tongue-in-cheek remark is just part of a gentle banter directed at one member or another for much of the time.
It was a good Lakes week, though a little expensive (for two). B&B was £30 pppn and (two course & a drink) evening meals ranged from £18 (Rembrandt) to £23 (Something Different). The latter was well presented but poor value and we walked out hungry. The former was a good all-rounder as was the Casa Bella Pizza & Pasta place. The George Pub prices are apparently high but we didn’t try it this year. Meal prices compare badly with the excellent all-you-can-eat Carvery at Scalby Manor in Scarborough this year. £3.50 plus £2 to £3 for a pudding. However, that’s how it is in the Lake District and if we want to go, we must accept it.
Total cost inc. Diesel: £550. (For two)
Thank you to G4SSH for the ‘SOTA Control’ service on the small number of occasions when it could be accessed by mobile phone. Other than this Roy was reduced to educated guesswork which usually came out well. Thank you to all chasers and the spotters mentioned. You help in making this a successful trip was much appreciated.
By the way:
The SOTA Beam VSWR problems were due to the (semi) conductive nature of the carbon mast and coax routing when the aerial is mounted vertically. No such problem existed with it horizontal.
73, John G4YSS using GX0OOO/P (Scarborough Special Events Group, Club Call)
G4YSS (GX0OOO) ‘LAKES Walking Week’ 2009:
June SOTA SUMMIT Time (BST) With:
1st Buttermere Church-140m 10:18 Group
1st Bleaberry Tarn (Red Pike) 11:45 Detach
1st Red Pike 12:08 Solo
1st HIGH STILE 807m, G/LD12-8 12:30-15:32 Solo
1st NE Ridge Path off smt 15:32 Solo
1st Buttermere Church-140m 16:53 Solo
Multi-HF inc 160m & 4m
Totals: 9km - 790m ascent - 3.6hrs walking - 6.6hrs gross - 54 QSOs.
June SOTA SUMMIT Time (BST) With:
2nd Jenkin Hill Car Park-295m 09:55 Solo
2nd SKIDDAW 931m, G/LD-004-10 11:11-16:05 Solo
2nd (Walk Trig to QTH-Add 3.5min) Solo
2nd Jenkin Hill Car Park-295m 16:53 Solo
Multi-HF inc 160m & VHF
Totals: 10.6km - 666m ascent - 2.2hrs walking - 7.0hrs gross - 70 QSOs.
June SOTA SUMMIT Time (BST) With:
3rd Seathwaite 09:56 Group
3rd Corridor Route up-down Group
3rd SCAFELL PIKE-978m, G/LD-001-10 12:40-14:22 Group
3rd Seathwaite 18:30 Group
2m Multi-mode & 4m FM
Totals: 15.2km - 893m ascent - 6.9hrs walking - 8.6hrs gross - 44 QSOs.
June SOTA SUMMIT Time (BST) With:
4th Honister Pass-350m 10:18 Solo
4th GREAT GABLE-899m, G/LD-005-8 11:54-13:51 Solo
4th KIRK FELL-802m, G/LD-014-8 14:43-16:46 Solo
4th Honister Pass-350m 18:08 Solo
2m Multi-mode & 4m FM
Totals: 13.3km - 880m ascent - 3.8hrs walking - 7.8hrs gross - 56 QSOs.
TOTALS (for four days) - 5 SOTAs - 44 pts - 224 QSO’s:
Walked 48km (30 mls) with 3,229m (10,593ft) ascent.
16.5hrs walking - 13.6hrs activating - 30.1hrs gross.
Walking speed: 2.5km/hr - 1.6 mph (LD12-Walking Group to B-Tarn)
Walking speed: 4.8km/hr - 3.0 mph (LD4-Solo)
Walking speed: 2.2km/hr - 1.4 mph (LD1-With Walking Group).
Walking speed: 3.5km/hr - 2.2 mph (LD5-LD14-Solo)