G4YSS Activation Report, LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10-LD37 on 14-03-12.
HELVELLYN, SEAT SANDAL, FAIRFIELD, ST. SUNDAY CRAG & LITTLE MELL FELL.
SOTA’s: G/LD-003, G/LD-022, G/LD-007, G/LD-010 & G/LD-037.
G4YSS using SSEG Clubcall GX0OOO/P on 80-40-4-2m (49 points)
All times: UTC.
Mobile phone coverage on all tops except LD7 - Orange network.
FT817ND QRP. Adjustable dipole 80 thru 20. 5m mast; 1m end sticks.
IC-E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with extended ‘duck’ and 7.4V /1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery.
One 8.6 Ah Li-Po for LD3, LD22, LD7 & LD10 QRP (40% depleted).
One 8.8 Ah Li-Po for LD37 VHF QRO (Part depleted).
QRP pack: 10.5 kg (23 pounds) inc 1.5 litres drinks (1ltr used) food and coat.
THE PATTERDALE ROUND:
Over the years this has proved popular with me mainly because of the SOTA ‘pointsfest’ of 44. Ten years ago 2m FM equipment was the norm and some summits were missed out simply because I didn’t realise they were SOTAs. With the coming of Germany to SOTA, HF QRP and later QRO became a worthwhile option. Very often by March most of the snow has gone; there is good daylight and the round has good escape routes between summits.
QUART into a PINT POT:
One year ago to the day, Nick (G4OOE) & I tackled this round Helvellyn first. It was an exciting day especially the climb up Swirral Edge on snow & ice. This year the plan was to do it in reverse (LD10 first) that idea coming from Phil G4OBK and his February expedition which also included WOTAs. My reversal of it didn’t happen due to a last minute decision. Old familiar habits die hard especially when you’re faced with walking in the dark.
Another feature this year was a return to QRP to reduce pack weight on this 12 mile / 5,000 foot round. To say little of the extra supplies required when you are away from the vehicle for 12 hours, every kg saved on radio gear would be significant when multiplied by the distance and ascent. I had become weary of lugging the IC706 and its batteries on big rounds and badly needed a break. Out came the FT817 for the first time in ages. A huge (for an 817) ‘fit and forget’ 8.6 Ah Li-Po was coupled to it and pack weight was still 2 kg less than QRO.
With four big SOTA’s on the round, three of which have rocky tops which slow antenna work, summit time would need to decrease to an hour and a half absolute maximum. My recent experience on Mellbreak and some comments from Nick G4OOE, who had nearly ‘frozen solid’ on Birks Fell, made me fight shy of putting 40m on, at least until I could see how things were panning out. I wanted to have a go at Little Mell Fell - the ‘steal’ for an extra 5 points on the way home so I decided to use 80m on the first two. That must have seemed like a pretty naff idea to chasers who missed out on 16 points but I thought I might make up for it on later summits by offering 40m if there was time.
It was quite simple really. With just 5 Watts 160m was likely to be a waste of time and time was by far the most valuable commodity of the day. Nevertheless, the loading coils were first removed from the rucksack and then put back in again - just in case. I must really love them!
I try to prepare for these things as best I can. It’s possible to get some walking in both around home and on expeditions but I’m never satisfied that I’m totally on top of fitness these days. The one thing I can’t get right is sleep. I start fretting about up-coming SOTA trips too early. Phil G4OBK seems to have suffered from this prior to his magnificently successful execution of this round plus Great Mell Fell, in February.
A lack of sleep the night before is obvious when you’re only in bed for 3 hours but the night before that has become a problem for me too. I routinely retire close to 1am but brought that forward to 11pm for the two nights prior. Even so, with too much stuff flying round in my mind, I got even less sleep than normal. As the expedition approaches I worry about the lack of sleep which causes a lack of sleep. Maybe I take SOTA too seriously but this problem along with the distance to the hills, has become something of an impediment and the reason why I have enjoyed local HuMP activating so much lately. Half an hour of prep followed by half an hour of walk from my front door and I can be on the air.
I think some people are concerned about fuel costs too, which is understandable but I can’t steel myself to go often enough for that to bother me.
Much to the distaste of my XYL, the alarm sounded at 02:00. I left Scarborough at 02:15, arriving at the Patterdale Hotel Pay & Display car park (NY 3960 1593 - £4.50) by 04:50. Parking up the lane which runs from the main road to the start of the path to the Hole-in-the-Wall has been banned for a couple of years now. This change needlessly adds an extra half-mile ascent and 10 minutes each way to the round which firstly annoys me no end and secondly significantly changes the planning of an already full day.
After downing a litre of water to save carrying it, I left the car park using a headlamp at 05:21 which was half an hour ahead of what was planned. Because of the early start time it wouldn’t be light for over 30 minutes so the clockwise plan was ditched as I headed for the familiar Hevellyn path. From Patterdale, LD3 is marginally further than LD10 with more ascent. The change would eat up some of the unwanted time and help to bring me closer in line with the alerted on-air time of 08:30.
At 06:00 it was more or less light but by the time I’d reached the paved way, which starts at NY 3618 1555 and goes up towards the Hole-in-the-Wall, the cloud was down. Half way up Swirral Edge the light improved markedly and there was a hint of hazy sun. I thought that I could hear distant voices coming from the Red Tarn area. Near the top the clouds folded back briefly to reveal the yet substantial remnants of Helvellyn’s snow cornice seen against a deep blue sky complete with jet trails. After topping out beside the large cairn, I reached the trig point in intermittent sunshine and thin cloud propelled by a cold wind, at 07:15.
At about 07:20 and whilst setting up at the crossed wall shelter I heard voices again, this time getting louder. After 3 or 4 minutes a large group of walkers emerged from the cloud which had temporarily reestablished itself. I heard someone say, ‘There’s someone already here.’ Then, with a hint of indignation, ‘You said we were the highest people in England!’
This turned out to be a group of about 15 lads from BAE Systems in Barrow - the submarine builders. They were apprentices and had spent the night down at Red Tarn. They quipped about being out of place this far ABOVE sea level then I found out that their leader knew Scarborough. His father had run the ghost train on the seafront many years ago. Naturally they wanted a full explanation of what I was doing there and why this early? They’d set off from Red Tarn at 06:30 and must have climbed up the headwall. By the time the dipole was up, they’d disappeared into the cloud again.
Getting an aerial up here is not that easy but the mast can be leant against the shelter or wedged in broken masonry. With gravel and rocks, the end sticks are troublesome. After building a miniature cairn for one, I found I’d inadvertently pulled the mast over so had to rebuild it 5 metres closer to the shelter.
- HELVELLYN, G/LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 07:15 to 08:46. Wind 20 mph, 1 deg C - later 3 deg C. Alternating sunshine & blue skies and low-cloud. LOC: IO84LM, WAB: NY31. Orange Mobile phone coverage. QRP 5W.
3.557 CW - 9 QSO’s:
Ironically, I had started the day with ‘managed’ time wasting; first at the car park and now at the summit, to try and bring my start time closer to 08:30, which I’d stupidly put on as an alert. To be fair it wasn’t stupidity, merely a lack of conviction stemming from a fear of being late on parade after the debacle on High Stile the week prior. Roy said he’d be listening from 08:00 and I was reticent about disturbing him earlier. It was my fault - he’d offered 07:30 but I said it wasn’t necessary.
After a slow breakfast I called CQ at 07:45 and it didn’t take too long to be rewarded with an answer. This was not Roy as it normally is but Mark G0VOF. As we exchanged RST’s (599/559) and sent the revised SOTA Ref, I felt relief that, if at all possible, a spot would be duly applied. It was! Not only that, I later found out that Mark had phoned G4SSH to tip him off. Sure enough, just 3 minutes later Roy was in the log too and we were half way to qualifying, which even now must still be regarded as the first hurdle especially when you only have QRP and so soon after a major solar event. Roy’s report to me was 559.
In fact the band was working reasonably well but with only 5% of the normal power available it was never going to be easy for the chasers with their noise levels. I consoled myself with the fact that there are fewer chasers about at this time. I also knew that three of the four ops from the Scarborough area, who would normally work me, were all away. The other stations worked were: G3RMD, M0MSW, EI2CL, G3TJE, G0UBJ, ON4FI and G4MSR. Some had been worked on CW. The ‘gottaway’ coming in at 559 was S51ZG but I was quite encouraged to work an ON and the more distant UK stations.
3.724 SSB - 6 QSO’s:
Roy picked up the QSY and after spotting it, G0TRB was first on the scene. After Roger came: G6MZX, G0VOF, GW7AAV, G3RMD and G0VWP. Apart from the first two, the incoming reports indicated pretty average conditions and I think it was Frank who commented that the absorption had increased noticeably since QRV. With no more answers to CQ’s, it was almost time to pack up but not before 4m FM had been given an airing.
70.450 / 70.425 FM - 3 QSO’s.
Stations worked between 08:39 and 08:42 following a CQ on 70.450 were as follows: M1LSD Lee; G6CRV Dave & M3RDZ Roy. 5 Watts from the IC-E90 with integral battery to an extended rubber duck and counterpoise from the summit shelter were the 4m working conditions. All reports in and out, were 59.
The few photos I got were certainly worth having. The temperature inversion was in charge today. Parts of Swirral and Stridding Edges, Catstye Cam and one or two other high spots were sticking up through the clag into sunshine. Other than that, the breathtakingly white blanket was complete in all directions as far as the eye could see. With cloud periodically rising and falling, Brocken Spectre conditions were perfect but I saw none. Total QSO’s for LD3 was 18.
THE WALK TO LD22:
This and the rest of the route is described in my report of exactly a year ago but for the third time I did my best to ruin it by trying to go down to Thirlmere instead of past Nethermost. This is usually caused by fiddling with a broadcast radio or trying to text the family on the mobile. The error-making path is very clever in its deception technique and full attention at the junction NY 3429 1446 is essential. After returning, I added some extra GPS waypoints which should prevent a fourth cross country next time.
The non-path walking from the col twixt Nethermost and Dollywaggon, done in fog this time, doesn’t get any better and I wonder about the wisdom of passing up the chance of a path round the top of Dollywaggon and down the wall path to Col 574m.
- SEAT SANDAL, G/LD-022, 736m, 6 pts, 09:48 to 11:09. 3 deg C. Damp, swirling low-cloud. 20 mph southerly wind. A grassy top with a wall. LOC: IO84LL. WAB: NY31. Orange Mobile phone coverage. QRP 5W.
This is the only summit on this round with both easy antenna arrangements and decent shelter from the wind. The mast is easily stuck in the grass to leeward of the wall and the end supports can be wedged in its broken top. To my mind, LD22 is more reminiscent of an NP than an LD SOTA.
3.557 CW - 7 QSO’s:
I phoned G4SSH and we tried out 80m with a few dashes from my 817. Even now the band seemed to be working reasonably; if I could get a signal to Roy’s ground-mounted vertical, then other stations would hear me too. After some indecision on my part about whether to migrate to 40m for this one, I settled on 3.557 and called CQ after working Roy.
Worries about absorption on 80 further receded when a minute later Mike EI2CL got his RST in one. Most stations were around S7 to me with my 5W signal producing reports from them of 219 to 579. After EI2CL I logged: GI4ONL; M0MSW; G4RQJ; G0NES and ON4CAP Andre. If anything band conditions had gone down since LD3 but not nearly so much as expected. The D-Layer had been at work for two more hours but its effect seemed minimal. An ‘ON’ had still got a QSO. Later in the day a few stations reported that they hadn’t heard anything from me on 80 and in a phone conversation, Roy and I agreed that it would be foolish if not wasteful of time to try 80 again today.
3.724 SSB - 9 QSO’s:
I think Geoff G6MZX had been monitoring 3.724 for a while. He replied to my QRL enquiry immediately. Stations worked between 10:35 and 10:51 were: G6MZX; MW6GWR; G8ADD; G6WRW; G0TRB; G0RQL; G6LKB; 2E0NHM and MM0USU. Incoming reports ranged from 31 to a single 57 from Andy in Falkirk (USU).
It was clear that chasers had struggled long enough with 80m. Thus far, a fairly tight rein had been kept on the time schedule, the next SOTA (s) could be offered on 40. Maybe the approach had been overly cautious.
70.450 - Nil QSO’s.
A few calls on here at the end of the activation were unsuccessful. I know Mike G4BLH was away today but this hill was also the lowest in the group.
I make a point of not walking in my coat. No matter how cold it is, I normally use no more than a microfleece base layer topped with a (now ancient) 200gm pertex-lined fleece. The coat became soggy from the effects of the low-cloud. It took some ramming into the pack but I was quickly off and hoping for better things on Fairfield. The QSO count for LD22 was a mere 16.
THE WALK TO LD7:
The NE flank of Seat Sandal is steep and loose in places but I have few issues with walking downhill. The climb up to Fairfield from the col is also steep and has gravelly bits. This is where Nick & I parted a year ago. Every time there’s an ascent any sense of enjoyment evaporates as one becomes a slave to gravity. Stopping, starting, wheezing, sweating and cursing seem to characterize my progress uphill these days - or has it always been like this? To help take my mind off the pain of these relentless ascents, I really would have liked my DAB radio but unknown to me the charging lead had gone faulty and the thing was dead.
I knew time was of the essence but after a wasteful circumnavigation of this boulder-infested ‘battleground’ I found all the shelters occupied. Probably more crestfallen than I should have been - I was starting to get a little weary by now - I walked to a meagre pile of rocks that might afford a little shelter from the cold wind and started to deploy the station which, due to the surface, took almost half an hour.
- FAIRFIELD, G/LD-007, 837m, 8 pts, 11:57 to 13:41. 5 deg C. 20 mph wind increasing. Alternate sunshine and low-cloud. LOC: IO84ML. WAB: NY31. NO (Orange) Mobile phone coverage. A solitary Raven seemed to have made its home here. QRP 5W.
7.032 CW - 21 QSO’s:
I called Roy several times on the prearranged frequency of 7.034. He must have been temporarily distracted. There were plenty of other SOTA stations up today and judging by his chaser score, Roy has a habit of working them! 40m CW is one place where you don’t have to worry about being spotted as there will normally be a dozen stations visiting 7.032 every five minutes just to see what’s happening. Indeed this appeared to be the case with DL3HXX answering my second CQ call and kindly spotting me. After that, contacts were many and I needed my wits about me in the pileup that rapidly ensued.
From 12:30 to 15:54, 21 stations from the following countries were worked: DL; PA; G; EI; GI; ON; F and GW. Reporting on my 5W signal was better than I could have hoped for; generally in the range 539 to 599. 40m was being very efficient again today!
7.085 SSB - 21 QSO’s:
As there was no phone coverage here (my text messages stayed in the outbox) I think I must have sent the QSY freq at the end of the CW session and Roy pre-spotted it for me. G4SSH was first in the SSB log at 12:56 followed by another pileup (quite orderly I might add) of 20 stations. Curiously all these were Brits apart from DL1DVE Tom. With 59 coming my way quite often, signal reports were becoming barely believable but there was QSB about and I think most of the reports refered to the peaks. I did get a 59 plus 10 dB but on the other hand there was a 22 to 57 with QSB report. It was true though; the band was working so well to G that everbody was 59 or 59 plus to me. I made lists and tried to work down them fairly quickly.
Midway through this session, I began to suffer because of the cold wind. I didn’t have much shelter apart from my coat and hood. It was necessary to don a pair of mittens which really slowed me down by making it difficult to keep the log and handle the PTT. My concentration lapsed here and I failed to pick up GW0DSP/P in reasonable time for an S2H with HuMP GW/HNW-007. Mike was a good signal and we did work at 13:17 (59/59) but I fear I delayed him. Fortunately, he didn’t take the hump! ‘Groan.’
It was good to work Hazel M6YLH, using my old but trusty FT77 with 10 Watts into my home QTH Windom aerial (58/57).
After the lack of success earlier on LD22 and the necessity on this summit to walk over to the southern edge for a better VHF takeoff, I didn’t try 4m FM from LD7. The QSO total for LD7 was a more respectable 42.
THE WALK TO LD10:
Last year there was verglas on Coffa Pike which held me up somewhat. This year I was tired but still trying to move as quickly as possible. I talked to a couple on the way down Coffa Pike. They must have seen my setup on Fairfield and asked what the mast was for. Non amateurs don’t always know it’s radio gear. Some think you’re gathering weather data, which was the case today on Helvellyn when I met the BAE apprentices. I always explain and they usually look puzzled, so I explain some more and give them the web address. You can often sense what they’re thinking; ‘WHY?’ My answer to their unspoken question is; ‘Oh, it’s just a barmy hobby which gets me out of bed in a morning and up to these fine places.’ We laugh, they agree and we get on fine.
100m short of the final rise to the summit and about 15m down from it, I spied a large and obvious flat area of grass which I hadn’t really noticed before. I will never know why but this (at NY 3685 1335) is where I set up today. It was far easier and quicker than activating from the very top. I think that’s acceptable on HF but I always try to put on VHF from the highest point no matter how rough or windy it may be.
- ST.SUNDAY CRAG, G/LD-010, 841m, 8 pts, 14:20 to 16:01. 8 deg C, sunshine with some low cloud, 20 mph wind. LOC: IO84MM. WAB: NY31. Orange Mobile phone coverage. QRP 5W.
7.032 CW - 32 QSO’s:
Despite the fact that no advice on an LD10 QRV time could be given from LD7 due to lack of phone coverage, Mike EI2CL was waiting to answer my CQ call and thankfully spot me. Later I found that Roy had been called across the road by his neighbour and was at that time trying to fix her printer. This was followed by a friendly cup of tea which made it appear rude to rush back. This minor mishap placed G4SSH way down at number eleven in the LD10 CW log! I can only hope that this revelation won’t adversely affect his reputation.
If conditions on 40m from LD7 had been excellent, these were possibly even better. The miniature (CW) toggle switch in the 817’s microphone has a different feel to it than the one on the 706 but after a bad start, I’d finally got used to it and a good job too. Apart from some QSB, the 5W signal did another fine job with 32 stations worked from an energetic pileup. Discipline seemed good again but it is not easy to pick out individual callsigns until most stations have been worked. They all merge together to form a single note with no CW audible at all. With QRP I was afraid that my returns would not be heard under late callers so I sent each chaser call twice. This seemed to work OK and gradually the log filled up.
At 14:48 HB9BIN/P called in from HB/SO-012 for an S2S. The mountain was called Roggenflue and it’s ironic to know that he was up at 993m ASL getting 1 point, whilst I sat at 841m bagging 8! This must have made it very difficult for Jurg to obtain his mountain goat status but the fact is that he did and in a relatively short time, is worthy of recognition. So, congratulations to Jurg for a magnificent effort and thanks for making my Scarborough colleagues G4SSH, G0NUP & G4OOE happy with chaser points on an almost daily basis.
Countries worked from 14:38 to 15:20 were as follows: EI; G; DL; OK; OE; HB9; HA; PA and F. Incoming reports ranged from 559 to 599 and everbody apart from the more distant HA (579 but picked out and logged at an early stage) was 599 or better to me. This session was exciting if a little wearying.
7.085 SSB - 28 QSO’s:
This is where I may possibly have started to talk rubbish and to dither a bit. If so it was due to tiredness and getting up at 2. Also I had done my usual thing which was to underhydrate - only 1 litre since the start, some 10 hours earlier. All this tends to addle your brain and the brisk, still cool wind made it slow down further. I had to try and shake myself out of this when I realised that here was another pileup that I needed to deal with.
The QSY was correctly guessed by M6MZX who was waiting on 7.085 simply because that had been the channel used on LD7. Geoff came straight back to my ‘QRL?’ which was merely going to be a prelim to returning to the CW channel to announce a QSY, or phoning Roy. The fact that I didn’t need to was a relief and just another small thing that helps you through a long day. Before long the QSY had been spotted by G4SSH.
Similar to LD7, the unexpected happened. SSB produced a 28:1 split between UK and overseas stations worked whereas the CW proportions were 11 to 23 for this summit. Why this consistently happens I don’t know. It may just be that they can’t understand my Bradford accent!
Again incoming RF was strong with almost all stations 59. The reports of my signal ranged from 55 to 59 plus, apart for G4WHA/A (57/31) who was struggling on an indoor antenna at his shop. The one overseas station worked was Sake - PA0SKP (59/56).
Young, enthusiastic foundation op Ricky MW6GWR called in for his 3rd chase of 'OOO in the day and Hazel M6YLH for her second from Scarborough. While on the subject of Foundation licencees, I also worked M6BGM and M3XIE. This may be the first licence stage but you really wouldn’t know it.
The final stations were hunting LD10 as a team. Ken and XYL Christine; GM0AXY and GM4YMM, neither of whom I have worked for a while. Just before this Roy G4SSH called in to get my intentions for a possible fifth SOTA. Ken was audibly shaken. ‘Was that G4SSH on a microphone?’ ‘What is the World coming to?!’
I should apologize for garbling callsigns, forgetting names and uttering, ‘Thank goodness for that’ when presented with dead air at the end of this session. It was nothing personal, just a tired brain. I use the same excuse for not calling on 4m FM after the 40m SSB session. The QSO total for this hill was a much improved 60.
On the way off I picked up some rather nice rocks with hexagonal quartz crystals in them. Though I can’t tell you what frequency these were, they look good on our mantlepiece (though I suspect they won’t be there long!)
I have grumbled before about the ‘sting in the tail’ for this round on the steep section down to Thornhow End and the extra half mile I have to walk through the actions of ’double-yellow line merchants.’
I was back at the car by 17:12 which gave sufficient daylight for a crack at the diminutive 2-pointer, LD37.
The 7-mile drive round to Little Mell Fell was completed in under 15 minutes after a rehash of the rucksack; exchanging the 817 for the IC706 and adding a 3-ely beam and a new 8.8 Ah Li-Po battery.
There is a small layby to leave your car and I started walking for LD37 at 17:36. The route is initially over a stile then through some ‘squidgy bits.’ Soon you are on steep ground but the pain is short lived. To be honest, the main object of doing this one at the end, in the final gasp of winter bonus season, was the extra 5 points in exchange for minimal effort. I hoped a few chasers might benefit also but they would not worry if they missed 2 points. For that reason but mainly because of the already long day, I would carry HF but avoid its use if at all possible.
- LITTLE MELL FELL, G/LD-037, 505m ASL, 2 pts, 17:50 to 18:28. 9 deg C, 15 mph wind. (IO84NO, WAB: NY42) IC706-2G and 8.8 Ah Li-Po No 2. Orange mobile phone coverage (overlooks Penrith & the M6). QRO 50 W.
After a couple of photos, I set up the 3-Ely SOTA-beam vertically polarized next to the trig, plugged it into the 706 which was then set to full power. This hill has a terrible reputation with me for bad VHF. That was long ago and with QRP to a vertical but I had no time to mess about today. From the outset, I would be applying all the brute force I could muster.
At 17:58 I put out a CQ on S20 and back came G0TDM. This was a good start and John made it his priority to spot me and then directly alert MM1MPB and GM4WHA in Annan by means of text messages. I swung the beam north with the result that Mark and Geoff were quickly in the log. Geoff gave me a fourth QSO via his ‘B’ callsign of GM6SMW, ‘Just in case.’
Roy G4SSH, who had been sitting on 3.557 CW with Nick G4OOE just on the offchance, phoned me to ask about HF. I was hoping not to have to use it but I still needed one QSO to (unambiguously) meet the rules. I told Roy that I would phone him back.
After a few more minutes John’s spot did the trick and Dave G6LKB called in from Ulverston with 50 watts and a beam. We exchanged at 53 both ways. Turning the beam south increased that to 59 both ways and probably enabled others to hear me. I then worked Karen 2E0XYL in Cheshire; Nigel 2E0NHM - Preston; Brian G4ZRP (very weak in the Wirrall) Gareth M0MOL in Barrow and finally Geoff G6MZX at Thornton in Craven.
In the end it wasn’t primarily the ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach which got me through here but more the finesse of the internet spot by John G0TDM. Partly because this little fell has seen me ‘weeping’ into S20 on a dark, cold night for a final QSO and partly because I was anxious to start home, I am extremely grateful to John and the small band of chasers his spot alerted. I must also say thank you to Roy & Nick for hanging around on my behalf with no result. There just wasn’t time for any more.
A final CQ with squelch disabled produced only noise and so I sped off in the last remnants of daylight, arriving back to the car by 18:36. The 137 mile drive home was quick at just over 2.5 hours and I arrived home at 21:11 which was the better part of an hour earlier than I’d told the family.
ASCENT & DISTANCES:
Patterdale-LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10-Patterdale: 1,510m (4,953ft) of ascent / 19.1 km (12 miles).
LD37: 125m (410 ft) of ascent / 2 x 0.7 km (0.9 miles).
TOTALS: 1,635m (5,364 ft) of ascent - 20.5 km (12.8 miles).
Up at: 02:00.
Left Scarborough: 02:15
Arrived Patterdale (131 miles): 04:50
Walk for LD3: 05:21
LD-3 Helvellyn: 07:15 to 08:46
LD-22 Seat Sandal: 09:48 to 11:09
LD-7 Fairfield: 11:57 to 13:41
LD-10 St Sunday: 14:20 to 16:01
Returned Patterdale: 17:10
Drove away from Patterdale: 17:20
Arrived The Hause (7 miles): 17:34
Walk for LD37: 17:36
LD-37 Little Mell Fell: 17:50 to 18:28
Back to car: 18:36
Drive 137 miles to Scarborough: 18:39 to 21:11
Gross time (home to home): 18hr-56 min.
Distance driven: 274 miles.
16 on 80m CW.
15 on 80m SSB.
53 on 40m CW.
49 on 40m SSB.
3 on 4m FM.
10 on 2m FM.
SOTA Activator points: 49
With 15th March looming there was urgency to log some extra winter bonus before it was too late and the Patterdale round is the perfect place to do it. With the exception of a cold wind and low-cloud, the WX was quite benign and underfoot conditions could hardly have been better.
Swirral Edge has something of a reputation with two deaths on ice last year. In contrast to our experience precisely a year ago to the day, when Nick G4OOE and I climbed up it in marginal conditions, there was no snow and the only ice I saw was clinging to the Helvellyn trig and shelter. Helvellyn still had the remains of a cornice for quite a distance around the east facing rim but this did not need to be crossed.
80m was not the ideal band for chasing Seat Sandal LD22 but I would not like to argue which was the best HF frequency for Helvellyn at 07:45. I could easily have put it on 2FM but by far my greatest fear was getting embroiled, which can be especially dangerous with non-SOTA chasers. An expedition of this nature is always going to be a compromise.
The high workload day didn’t allow summit overstays. Every action whether it be putting up a second antenna or risking a sortie onto 40m has a time penalty. If you are not disciplined, all these times can add up to a loss of later summits. As it is, aerial work on LD3 and LD7 is difficult and thereby time consuming, though it won’t be difficult on LD10 next time. When you analyse it, actual airtime is just the tip of the iceberg but at the same time it’s the only thing ‘seen’ by the chaser. It is necessary to minimise walking time as much as possible by not having breaks or food other than whilst activating at the summit or hyperventilating on the inclines.
I haven’t properly analyzed it but I think one station managed the full compliment of 34 chaser points; the first, second and fifth summits being crucial to this. This was G6MZX. Congratulations Geoff - you always managed to be in the right place at the right time! Hard on the heels of Geoff were a few ops who worked all of the four big ones which counted for 32 points.
Top Band was omitted because QRP was used. I have Top Banded this round with QRO a couple of times in the past but I don’t know if I’d do it again because of the extra weight not to mention my own personal extra weight! I passed a few WOTA’s that last December Phil G4OBK had added over and above the summits I did today. The thought alone produced breathlessness!
The QRP FT817 did me proud. On 40m at least, any extra power would have been superfluous and effort lugging it wasted but I was lucky with conditions on there. I have had bad times with QRO on bands that are in bad shape let alone tackling them with QRP. It would have been nice to have put a better signal out on 80 and to have done 160m and even 2m but you can’t have everything.
4m FM worked well from Helvellyn but not at all from Seat Sandal. There wasn’t time to try it from the other summits but other than G4BLH who I knew would be absent, there are one or two callsigns that I no longer seem to hear on a regular basis.
To ALL STATIONS worked, for your patience in pileups and help where needed. To G0VOF, G4SSH, PA0ALW, EI2CL, DL3HXX & G0TDM for time saving spots. Once again, special thanks to Roy G4SSH for liaison, his ‘Phone-a-Spot’ Service and for staying back at the ‘office’ after hours. Also to Nick.
The next time we hear from Roy will by as 5B/G4SSH (Cyprus) on 14.058 +/- CW at around 10:00z on Tue 20th and/ or Fri 23rd of March 2012 (revised times / QRG 20-03-12). As for my next SOTA? No plans yet.
73, John G4YSS
(Using Scarborough Special Events Group Club call - GX0OOO/P)