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G4YSS, VHF-NFD CONTEST/SOTA, G/NP-008, 06-July-08


#1

Gt.WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008 / IO94AD. VHF-NFD / SOTA, 06-July-08, 06:53 to 16:50.

G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P).
All times BST (UTC plus 1) UOS.
IC706-2G, 9-ely for 70cm, 3-ely for 144.
80m link dipole on 5m mast for 6m (& 40m). Coils for 160m.
20 Ah (1 hr rate) lead-acid aircraft battery (10.8kg).
Backup: IC-E90 Quad-band 5W H/H with integral 7.2V / 1.3Ah Li-Po battery.
Pack weight: 25kg, (55 pounds).

Set off from Scarborough at 03:37. My son Phil, G0UUU declined to join me this year; the WX was predicted to be poor. Once the radio gear is switched on, Phil is a real asset but unlike his Dad, he sees the rest of it merely in terms of torture.

Route:
Arrived at the top of Park Rash (SD 9863 7573) at 05:45, walking away at 06:04 and 06:08 (Forgot the 70cm mast the first time). The route is simple but there is a little reascent. A boggy path goes SE via a wall with step-gate and a couple of steep gullies to a stile at SD 9963 7522, where the gradient eases. The well-defined path takes detours around outcrop and is marked by a series of yellow-topped posts (at SE 0005 7468, SE 0019 7429 and SE 0022 7414). The summit cairn and trig-point (SE 00205 73905) showed themselves out of rainy clag by 06:53. Ascent is modest at 211m and distance is around 5.5km (up & down).

Though boggy in places, the big flat top makes an ideal VHF takeoff whilst allowing a huge choice for setting up. The surface is grass on peat, which will readily accept masts and tent pegs to any depth required. This year was no different and I walked grimly NE for a couple of hundred metres.

Equipment:
The period between 07:00 and 07:50 was required to erect a roomy flysheet, half an 18-ely para-beam atop a 2.2m (hand-carried) dural tube, a modified 144 MHz, 3-ely SOTA Beam and an 80m link dipole on its 5m mast. Two sections of this mast are used to support the 2m beam. The 6m/4m dipole could not be used this time. Due possibly to the activities of sheep and the WX, I now had no separate mast for it. Beside that, I was already soaked and chilling in the brisk wind. The rig was an IC706-2G with token back-up in the form of my ‘shiny’ new IC E90 H/H, standing in for last year’s heavier FT817ND. A simple poly ground-sheet, pegged down with short lengths of home-grown bamboo, added the final touch of homeliness and civility. The beams are positioned either side of the flysheet, so that they can be rotated with one hand under the side. The HF dipole needs to be out of the way round the rear of the ‘camp.’

The power source was an old aircraft battery with a (new) rating of 20 Ah at the 1 hr aircraft rating. (36 Ah at the automotive (20hr) rating). The size of a car battery, this is still testing at around 90% of nameplate spec, making it well worth the effort of handling its 10.8kg bulk if you are prepared to ignore the agony it inflicts on the lower back when carrying it!

GREAT WHERNSIDE, NP-008, 704m, 6 pts. 06:53 to 16:50. 12 Deg.C. 15 mph wind. Low-cloud until the afternoon. Heavy rain with periods of light rain and a little sunshine near the end. Heavy static (with shocks) in rain and distant thunder (afternoon). WAB: SE07. LOC: IO-94-AD.

Once again there was no mobile phone coverage (neither O2 nor Orange) so I made a quick call to Roy on 80m CW to at least let him know I had arrived OK. Between 07:00 and 15:00 BST, it was the VHF contest which occupied the time, with thoughts of SOTA on the back burner for once.

2m SSB:
A good place to start but there were few stations around this early. First logged was G3CKR/P in IO93AD (Coincidentally NP8 is in IO94AD). The initial QSO ‘away-rate’ was around one every 6 minutes but I did better than that after settling on a QRG of 144.295. At this point SOTA regulars started to arrive following a spot by Chris M3XLG/P. Tom M1EYP (operating GX4MWS/P) called in with, considering the time of day, a creditable tally of 66 QSO’s. Other SOTA chasers worked in this session were: Roger G4OWG, Don G0RQL, Mike GW0DSP, Graham G4JZF, Dave G6LKB, Mike G4BLH and Steve GW7AAV. During a lull, Helen GW7AAU (Steve’s XYL) thankfully took pity on me and made (apparently) a rare appearance.

At the start, conditions were being reported as bad; some stations desperate enough to call in CW. Turning the beam north, I worked GM3HAM via this mode. Despite not working outside the UK on 2m, I was again surprised at the distance achieved with a modest 3 elements and SSB. Frank G3RMD in Cheltenham, somebody who I would normally meet on 80m, was logged in at 51/51. A return to 2m was made near the end of the contest.

70cm SSB:
The ‘business half’ of Phil’s 430 MHz, 18 ely Parabeam (bought from Elverston Castle Rally when he was 12) was pushed into service. Using just 9 elements made it easier to mount and rotate whilst still retaining useful gain. It was also less ‘peaky’ to aim. Once 2m has been fully exploited, 432 is a good place to try. Stations in the 144 log can be reworked as they appear. The rain increased markedly by 11am and the 70cm log looked like a watercolour painting due to dislodged condensation. Even with a hat clamped down over phones and the AF gain control at 2-o-clock, it was hard to copy weak signals competing with the pounding that the tent was getting. I worked Goole Amateur Radio Club with the unmistakable callsign ‘G0OLE’ and didn’t forget to beam north for GM4ILS/P and GM3PXK/P. With just 9 logged on UHF by 11:30, 6m QSO’s had to be interspersed with 70cm ones and a 15 minute lunch. There was only one extra-UK station in the UHF log; PA6NL (serial 263 at 10:38z!) worked on 433.256 SSB.

Greater precipitation during this session brought its static problems with high QRN, especially on 6m. At 13:30z, I touched the aluminium mesh which was surrounding the rig but soon drew back. The whole radio installation felt as if it had been connected directly to the mains and to continue, I had to find a safe way of earthing it. After managing to force the inline BNC coax connector bodies onto wet grass using two pencils, I could then deploy the rig’s ready-connected earth spike; something I regretted not doing before the start.

6m SSB:
With no aerial for 6m, whatever happened to be selected on the HF dipole (80m and later 40m) had to serve for 50 MHz. That said, VSWR didn’t seem desperately bad so I might try this compromise again. More distant stations worked on 6m were: IZ5EME, EB1DNK and EA1FFH but heard nothing of the reported Caribbean Station. The rest were within the UK and included Kevin M0XLT of the Crag Radio Club. This now 2 year old club has quite a few distinguished SOTA enthusiasts amongst its 15 members.

4m SSB:
Other than FM, I had no TX (or erected aerial) for this band but easily heard a CT1 in IM57NH on 70.200 SSB.

At 13:59, the final contest station worked was none other than our very own Mike G4BLH disguised as G4CPS (Colne School). I told Mike that I would be heading for 7.032, Top Band and maybe 80m later. He kindly posted this information for me.

Powers (typical): 20W on 70cm, 30W to 50W on 2m, 60W to 100 W on 6m (and later on 40m /160m SOTA). Battery utilization was 81% and the IC706’s ‘mystery illness’ showed up on 2m yet again. The rig (whether grounded or not) ‘takes-off’ and the physical position of the microphone, in relation to it becomes highly critical. The remote station receives a broken-up or zero signal. This fault was reported after 90 minutes of 2m operating by Mike GW0DSP but this year was easily cured by loosely wrapping the rig in aluminium mesh, carried for the purpose.

VHF-NFD discussion:
59 QSO’s entered the contest log in a time of 6.75 hours, compared with 54 last in last year’s poorer condx. Chris M3XLG told me his score was 72 for the full 24 hours. He would only be allowed 10W and there’s never much doing overnight. What a keen M3. There were a few serial numbers of 200 or more but there are only so many stations you can hear and work. If you had to stick to one band, it would of course be 2m but frustratingly, I was asked for operation on 23cm or 4m more than once. Possibly IO94 is quite rare. I was thanked quite a few times ‘for the multiplier’ and only worked one other IO94; G0OPH Paul in Stockton. I am no ‘VHF expert’ but though there was QSB about, the bands (and their level of occupancy) seemed fairly good to me.

Judging by what I overheard, apart from one mild (but justified) comment about splashing, operating was gentlemanly and hassle free throughout. Some had time to give their names and ASL’s; to stop for a brief chat or even spot me for SOTA! Many commented on the atrocious WX but few (if any) had a QTH as high as mine, so on the latter point I was in a good position to empathise. At least I wasn’t cold or wet through. Many reports were ‘honest’ rather than ‘59’ which was helpful. Generally speaking, the time and effort taken to get the exchange correct and confirmed, especially for marginal contacts, was commendable. From my side, NFD is done for fun, to give out points and the SOTA summit without the bureaucracy of submitting a contest entry. However, there is the option of a check log.

Backpackers Contest & SOTA:
After the NFD contest, seven stations called in on 144.303 for the SOTA. From these, Steve M0SGB/P and John GW3GUX/P were joining in the Backpacker’s Contest. Steve was on Winter Hill and John on a non-SOTA highpoint called Drum Hill. The others were Graham G3OHC, Chris M3XLG, Scott 2E0RCS/P, Roy G0SLR and our old friend Mick in Clitheroe, 2E0HJD newly returned from Germany. I kept receiving disturbing news about a huge storm. Mick had last seen it heading for Pendle Hill. After that it might wander my way. “You may only have an hour or so!” I hurried onto the next stage, which was to be 40m CW for SOTA.

SOTA 40m CW:
The storm warnings were disturbing. After the static shocks, I knew it would be an electric one and the tip of my carbon mast was the highest point for many a mile. Worse still, Mick (2E0HJD) had reminded me that he, Steve (G1INK), my son Phil (G0UUU) and I had narrowly avoided this potentially disastrous event on this very hill following VHF-NFD in 2006. Noting the wind-speed and direction gave me some confidence but I didn’t want my ‘bacon’ getting cooked. In order to save it, I would need to emulate Klaus, Dan, Norby or Phil G4OBK as closely as possible! Why ‘spare the horses;’ the power was set at 60W and thanks to Mike’s post, the chasers were waiting for me on 7.032; first up being Daryl G0ANV. 37 eager regulars followed in 46 minutes! This was ‘really shifting’ for me. There were a mix of G’s and Europeans today, with one S2S; Guenter DL5WW/P on DM/NW-018. Mike GW0DSP QSP’d a further storm warning via S53X and SM6CMU (thank you all three). Though I tried to scribble this on the damp log, it would have been far better if I’d been any good at reading CW in my head and at the speed I have to send it! Apologies for this.

After a few CQ’s and late-comers, my mind turned again to the worsening WX. I really had to go sooner rather than later. Countering this, I had ‘advertised’ 160m. I fitted the loading coils and guessed the settings; luckily they were right first time!

SOTA 160m CW:
This would have to be ‘rapido’ and merely a duty but if any 160m chaser was not continuously monitoring 1.832 they would surely miss out. Screwing the power up to 100W, my CQ call at 1523z was answered in ‘short order’ by Mike G4BLH, with a 339 RST. Feeling considerable gratitude, I tried just once again but without success. I’m afraid that the ‘80m might do’ turned into an ‘80m won’t do.’ I didn’t feel too bad about this; 40m had covered ‘far G’ and 2m had filled in the gap.

No time to lose; it was fine outside but there were some ‘dirty’ looking clouds hanging over neighbouring hills. Packing the entire ‘encampment’ up in 20 minutes, I was on my way through waterlogged grass by 16:50. 10 hours of lying on lumpy ground had taken its toll and the 85 ltr. pack with its painful cargo and slippery surfaces, ruled out any form of rushing. ‘Almost got away with it!’ The heavens opened 100m from the car, which was regained at 17:32.

QSO Summary.
VHF-NFD Contest:
2m SSB: 38
2m CW: 1
70cm SSB: 14
6m SSB: 6
Total (Contest): 59

Non-Contest / SOTA
2m SSB: 7
40m CW: 38
80m CW: 1
160m CW: 1
Total (SOTA): 47

Grand Total: 106 QSO’s.

Battery utilisation: 81% (measured) of 20 Ah (1 hr rate) lead-acid aircraft battery.
5.5 km walked and approx 211m (692ft) of ascent.
Pack weight: 25kg (55 Ibs).
Home drive along flooded roads: 17:45 to 19:55.

Thank you to spotters: Chris M3XLG, Roger G4OWG, Mike G4BLH, John G4WSX, Mike GW0DSP, Roy G4SSH and Ingemar SM6CMU. Thank you also for the storm warnings.

This was SSEG’s 6th successive VHF field day on NP8, Scarborough’s closest 2k; only 157 miles round trip.
Ascent 211m and 5.5km (3.4 miles) walked.

Maybe this can be repeated next year with better WX (we hope). Phil, G0UUU???

73, John G4YSS
(using Scarborough Special Events Group callsign; GX0OOO/P).


#2

In reply to G4YSS:

Another thoroughly excellent report John. Sadly I was unable to get out and play this weekend but at least you had a contact with my fellow contesters at GM3HAM.

Andy
MM0FMF


#3

Nice report John.

I got all excited hearing my first CW of the contest. And then not so excited when I read it as GM3HAM/P and spotted them already in the SSB log! We were based at Common Barn Farm, near Rainow.

The “commendable” 066 SN I gave you was where we were up to since the start of NFD at 3pm on Saturday! So not all that commendable! Also, we were a multi-op station, and our closing total of 103 QSOs was achieved over 18 hours operating by 8 of us - G0JNJ, G3VKF, 2E0RXX, M3ZRY, M1EYP, M0GMG, M0GIA, M3EYP. It was a first-ever go at contesting by most of our ops, so it was a bit slow going, despite G3CWI giving a talk at the club earlier this year about how to win a VHF contest!

However, part of Richard’s presentation that obviously had sunk in was the review, evaluation and planning aspect. We had a really good discussion at the club last night, and are all focussed on what we want to improve for the next time. Our best DX was ON4FY (SSB), but I only noted CW activity in the last two hours of the contest. Is this normal? We used SSB, FM and CW in the contest overall.

Weather wise, we too had some storms and heavy showers. At least we were inside a caravan, and only a few yards walk from a decent tearoom (fantastic breakfast there - more like an Ulster Fry than a traditional English). We too noted the static rain mushing things up in the last hour of the contest, but the worst weather was a storm that rocked the caravan at 1am on the Sunday morning. You did well being out in that all day.

It was nice to work you John, and several other SOTA activators we caught from there too. I “chased” under the guise of GX4MWS/P, but Jimmy put the power down to 10 watts and used his own callsign for his, so that the SOTA activators got a distinct QSO out of it.

This was my first participation in the NFD, and I enjoyed it. The club’s log is entered, and I hope to see yours on there as a check log John :wink:

Cheers, Tom M1EYP


#4

As usual an excellent report John - another most enjoyable read! Family business kept me away from VHF NFD this year (as it often does) and I spent part of the weekend tiling the bathroom - by all accounts this appears to have been a good option, especially as it earned me Brownie points sufficient to allow an escape into South Wales yesterday when the weather was much better.

73, Gerald

P.S. It seems that you may hold the “Battery Luggers” Award in the “Over 40’s” category. I lugged a 34AH 12V car battery up SP-001 back in the 1980’s, but I was a young man then and such foolish things were the order of the day!


#5

Thank you for all replies:

To Andy MM0FMF/P
Yes, we work GM3HAM year after year in this contest. There are certain other memorable calls, like G0VHF & G0OLE who generally turn up. There is often the complaint from GM that beams are not turned north often enough. There are relatively few GM’s on but they seem to do OK; maybe because there’s no need to beam north for them and time is saved!
73, John.
……………………………………………………………………………………………

To Tom M1EYP (GX4MWS/P)
I wondered where you were located; now I know. Your score wasn’t too bad. It seems that 75% of QSO’s can be worked in 50% of the time, ie Sunday. It’s a bit more popular and has better times of day to suit more people. You probably found few stations around in the evening to say nothing of the night.

I bet Jimmy really enjoyed himself. It sounds like you had quite a civilised QTH. Even better it had a metal skin; something I would have paid a good few quid for had one been available by the afternoon.

Over the years I think we or someone calling us, has resorted to CW a couple of times that I can remember. In GM3HAM’s case, it was obvious from condx existing at the time that he just wasn’t getting many replies in SSB. CW can take longer (because of the info exchange) but why worry when you’re calling your heart out & getting zilch on phone. I didn’t work any FM but I intended to try it on 4m. I forgot but had I done so, maybe nobody would have found me there. For SOTA, NP8 doesn’t cover over to Lancashire with omni, very well.

I just had two S2S’s and both of those non-contest. That is of course unless anyone knows any different regarding the QTH’s of the contest stations.

Phil (usually) & I just do NFD for fun without the slightest inkling of entering. I did look at the NFD site via Google but it was what I expected. I.e. 21st (not 20th) century methods and (starting cold) I wouldn’t have a clue what to do. If it was a matter of sending a photocopy of the log by Royal Mail, I would gladly supply a check log. Mine is all in excel 97.

Great to work you for NFD Tom,
CUagn-SN, 73, John.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

To Gerald G4OIG/P
Brownie points are worth getting but tiling the bathroom. Oh dear! Nontheless, you certainly didn’t miss much WX-wise. It was grim at 2300ft. I am only now (Thursday) getting everything put away after it’s dried out. As you very well know, the trouble with SOTA is all the hidden extras that make the activation run smoothly (& the next one too, eg tent without mildew!).

Yes, the battery is a bit large. Even at QRO, NFD/SOTA only needs 4/5 of the power it contains (less if I power-managed a bit more) but have no battery just the right size. It is car battery sized but it only comes out for NFD.

In the aircraft design world, lead-acid batteries are rated at the 1 hour rate; in this case you would test it by dragging 20 amps for 1 hour until flat (10.8V). If it makes an hour you write ‘100%’ on the paperwork. When it gets down to 48 minutes (80%) it shall be scrapped! (2 or 3 years in an aircraft). Some test out at 105% but usually at 6 months old. New they might average say 88%.

Car manufacturers (& others) can make things look much better as they rate at the 20 hour rate. Taking the energy of a 20Ah aircraft battery at the 20 hour rate (over a period of 20 hours) gets you 36 Ah. Hence the 20Ah aircraft battery and the 36Ah car battery are roughly the same size & weight.

Worse still, we are all using SLABS thinking we’re getting (for example) 7.5Ah. SLAB’s are rated at the 20 hr rate. However, my QRO radio takes all the energy out in an hour or so. Bang goes the 7.5 Ah. It gets factored down x 0.56 to 4.2 Ah which suddenly doesn’t sound such good value for money!

Well, all that’s an ‘aside’ and I can sympathise with you Gerald. SP1 is a long way with that weight, especially considering the groughs you have to negotiate on that one! We all did daft things when we were young, which begs the question, ‘Why am I still doing daft things now?’ I must try to find a lighter solution, but aren’t these LI-PO’s dear?

73, John
G4YSS.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


#6

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

“Why am I still doing daft things now?”

Surely that should have been “we” rather than “I”, but of course you were being polite! Yes, I must say I am rather less hot-headed nowadays and a 34AH Mini Van battery is definitely not on my list of SOTA gear. I just about manage to haul a single 12AH up an average summit okay, plus of course the bothy bag, first aid kit, etc, etc that we didn’t even think about when we were younger and less concerned about personal welfare… “couldn’t happen to me”.

“I must try to find a lighter solution, but aren’t these LI-PO’s dear?”

I agree, but I must say I am rather put off them by their tendency to combust as well as the cost. I suppose setting that aside, for me one missed activation would fund a set of LiPo’s… activations are now averaging out at 350 miles per trip!

73, Gerald


#7

In reply to G4YSS:

Cheers for the glowing report there. Nice to see that ppl can and do post up there THANKS. Glad to hear you had a good time. I also did as from this time and date become top M3 in the NFD contest here are results for 144mhz Low power M3XLG/P IO83 Point’s 11,395 Bst DX DL0V 661 kilometer 10watts 8x8 SLOT FED YAGI. On 6M low power which I gave up due to static. L M3XLG/P IO83 QSO’s 7 points 664 Best DX GM3HAM/P 171 kilometer 10watts 3ele Yagi also leading M3. I enjoy the Activity contests or NFDs & SOTA but am a bit slow when it comes to looking at the computer for spots… Cheers John for the nice write up nice to know you are appreciated and keep up the good work. My sister lives over your way towards Whitby next to the Flask Inn so when I come over to see her I may just give you a call and bob in for a bru. Oh also did 70cms activity night and only got 8 contacts very bad conditions from my location but out of 8 there was 6 new multis and no other M3s in it…hummm makes you wonder where they all are… Anyhow I soon to be 2E0 so then I will be loud…lol Cheers John keep up the good work and hope to meet ya soon…

All the best
M3XLG Chris