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19-JAN-2020 Nigel's first ever SOTA, on the Calf G/NP-013

My good friend Nigel M5TUE finally got himself registered for SOTA, this was to be his first ‘proper’ activation. I say this because back in March 2018 we had operated from Lambrigg Fell G/LD-046 but as he wasn’t registered with the scheme it was only me that logged points.

In what promised to be spectacular weather we set off for the Calf G/NP-013. This is part of the Howgill Fells and will be very familiar to those who travel through Cumbria on the M6. Just South of Tebay the motorway cuts through a valley separating G/LD from G/NP in a very impressive fashion. In contrast with LD-land the Howgills are much more rolling: ‘sleeping elephants’ as Wainwright described them.

Our path took us from a parking spot at the base of Linghaw on Howgill Lane. Beware, if you approach from Lowgill you will encounter the Crook of Lune Bridge:


This humped and narrowing bridge will have you reaching for your wing mirrors in haste being only 2m wide. It is certainly the narrowest bridge I have crossed, in the Fiat 500X had only 30cm each side to spare!

We arrived as some paragliding guys were getting ready to ascend for a jump off of Break’s Head - they made remarkable progress up the hill given then 15kg+ backpacks.

We made more steady progress, the blind summits taking their toll on mental fortitude with very little change in scenery to break up the hour and a half walk. However, on a good day the views more than make up for this.

The view towards The Calf

Looking back towards the Lake District - spot the SOTA activator!

Snow covered Lakeland Summits - anyone want to guess?

Footing was good, crisp under foot, only a few slips. Tarns were frozen solid. The wind was light. However… in spite of the fantastic forecast upon reaching The Calf the clouds to the South appeared menacingly from nowhere and indeed within 5 minutes we descended into the gloom, not to see another view all day!

Basecamp, trig point in the distance

Nigel had bought an excellent tarp in his rucksack which he immediately put to good use and it was an absolute Godsend in staving off the cold. We both setup our equipment:

Nigel had brought two rigs: a venerable FT290R, 2m SSB/CW portable 2.5w and a Philips Simoco FM1000 - a 4m FM rig that really doesn’t belong on a fell, given its’ size and weight! Nigel had made a 4m ladder line Slim Jim and was hoping to get some 4m contacts.

Previous reflector subjects and an exchange with @G8CPZ Andy fit right in with Nigel’s plans to try 2m CW from the fells. I put up a spot and after his first CQ SOTA call Phil @G4OBK from Pickering responded! We were using my Sandpiper Delta Quad 2m antenna which I was supporting manually on half a fishing pole (snapped in the middle in high winds on Red Screes!). Next in the log was John @G0TDM in Penrith. Three SSB QSOs folowed: a S2S with Andy G8CPZ on Arnside Knott (which I also completed), M0YOB/P on Ashurst Beacon and M7SZY/P in West Kirkby also, by coincidence, using an FT-290R! Nigel then dropped back to CW to complete a S2S CW call with Andy G8CPZ.

I then setup the Sotabeams Quadbander (wired for 20/40/60/80m) on the last-used 40m band and worked 10 stations in quick succession on the FT-817, with 3 cell 18650 LiPo pack at 5w. Whilst I then worked four stations on 80m and two on 20m Nigel hooked up the FM1000 and after a spot and a few CQ calls worked two stations: Nonie G3TNN in Warton and MW1FGQ in Holywell.

Nigel using the wonderfully 80’s Philips Simoco FM1000 with powered dock

We then finished with 2m which didn’t appear to be working very well, possibly due to atmospherics. Dave @G6LKB came in strong but then calls were futile after that. However, M7MAV/P and 2E0FQN/P were braving the highest North Pennines peak, Cross Fell G/NP-001 but not having a lot of luck with their equipment. I had heard them calling for a while with no takers. I completed a QSO with M7MAV/P and then quickly shouted Nigel over and on the FT-817 he worked both M7MAV/P and 2E0FQN/P - they were somewhat made up that he was the fourth contact in the log. It would have been a very long way to go to come back without points!

By this time the light was starting to dim and both Nigel and I had had enough of the cold! The tarp made all the difference, but eventually the water that had run down the fishing pole into my gloves (mental note, guy the antenna next time!) took its’ toll on my warmth. The Jet Boil did get some use and provided welcome hot drinks.

On the way back we managed to get lost in the fog for a while but luckily Nigel corrected our course and it was probably an easier descent apart from putting a foot in the stream that Nigel zig-zagged across with ease! The weather was far from what I expected but what a great adventure with good company!

The video shows a large number of the QSOs, so if you are in the log hopefully you made it into the video.

My Log:

Time Call Band Mode Notes
13:05z G8CPZ/P 144MHz SSB
13:40z EA1DHB 7MHz SSB
13:41z EA2DT 7MHz SSB
13:43z IU1KGS 7MHz SSB
13:43z PA0B 7MHz SSB
13:44z EA7GV 7MHz SSB
13:44z ON4CB 7MHz SSB
13:45z DL5AWI 7MHz SSB
13:45z F5JSK 7MHz SSB
13:45z M0BKV 7MHz SSB
13:46z DD5LP 7MHz SSB
13:46z G0RQL 7MHz SSB
13:47z EA2CKX 7MHz SSB
13:52z G0FEX 3.5MHz SSB
13:53z 2E0ESY 3.5MHz SSB
13:54z G0SXC 3.5MHz SSB Kevin
13:55z 2E0FEH 3.5MHz SSB
14:14z SP9AMH 14MHz SSB
14:16z SP9TKW 14MHz SSB
14:28z G6LKB 144MHz FM
14:29z M7MAV/P 144MHz FM

Nigel’s Log:
2020-01-19 1241 G4OBK 144 CW 579 559 2.5 Pickering IO94of 119 96 Activating The Calf - G/NP-013
2020-01-19 1250 G0TDM 144 CW 599 559 2.5 Penrith IO84oq 38 344
2020-01-19 1300 G8CPZ/P 144 SSB 59 58 2.5 Arnside Knott; G/LD-058 IO84ne 24 221
2020-01-19 1310 M0YOB/M 144 SSB 41 41 2.5 Ashurst Beacon 0 0
2020-01-19 1314 M7SZY/P 144 SSB 59 59 2.5 West Kirby IO83ji 117 199 Also using FT-290R
2020-01-19 1319 G8CPZ/P 144 CW 599 589 2.5 Arnside Knott; G/LD-058 IO84ne 24 221
2020-01-19 1351 G3TNN 70 FM 59 53 25 Warton IO83ns 66 194
2020-01-19 1409 MW1FGQ 70 FM 55 59 25 Holywell IO83ig 128 200
2020-01-19 1433 2E0FQN/P 144 FM 55 59 5 Cross Fell; G/NP-001 IO84sq 38 16
2020-01-19 1433 M7MAV/P 144 FM 55 59 5 Cross Fell; G/NP-001 IO84sq 38 16

The route - left to right, top to bottom on the way back