3 big hills in the Lake District.

Way back, over 10 years ago, Trail Magazine posted an article about trying wild camping for the first time. The route suggested in the article went over Great Gable G/LD-005, Kirk Fell G/LD-014, and Pillar G/LD-006 - all 8 point summits. I was instantly attracted to the idea of activating the summits and trying solo wild camping.

I consulted with John, @G4YSS, via email, explaining the magazine article and my desire to attempt it. John responded with a fabulous email, including lots of photos of the summits. John encouraged me to just go for it, he believed that as a winter activator, I had the necessary mountain skills. Again, this was over 10 years ago.

I started to collect some gear. I bought an ex-demo Vango Banshee tent for £44 in ‘vivid blue’. :smile: My wife bought me a Coleman F1 Lite camping stove and also a Mountain Equipment sleeping bag. Again, all years ago!

In July 2009, I decided to attempt my solo camping trip. Well, the first mistake was the weather; it was far too hot. I managed to activate Great Gable, G/LD-005, but then something just felt wrong. I felt exhausted and I had a wierd feeling. I decided to abort. I used the remaining daylight to reach the Black Sail Hut YHA hostel and then walked back to my car, which was at Bowness Knott, via the service road. I reached my car late at night and then rain started, and then thunder and lightning! I arrived home in the early hours, having driven home through some pretty rough weather.

Ever since that aborted trip in 2009, I have frequently thought about completing my challenge. Over the years, my little blue tent has been used for other stuff, like RAYNET trips and my ‘build on the summit’ challenges. Equally, the little stove has been used too.

2022 seems to have been my year for doing stuff, I said it before, but the loss of our dear friend Guru EA2IF, really reinforced the fact that time is precious and you have to make the most of it.

On Tuesday this week, my wife and I had a rare opportunity to go out for lunch without the kids. We were chatting about general stuff and I mentioned that the last thing left on my list of ‘wants’ was the LD camping trip. My wife suggested that I should go on Thursday, saying that she had arranged to meet her friend anyway, so I would be free. Crikey! I work Wednesdays, leaving me very little time to get ready!

I checked the weather forecast and it really couldn’t have been much better - hardly any wind and mild temperatures. The radio bands seemed to be working in some kind of fashion too… On Wednesday evening after work, I decided that I would go!

I still have all of the camping gear and I’ve been added a few more bits over the years, in the hope of completing the trip one day. :slight_smile: Radio wise, my activity has changed these days, I now use CW with Mountain Topper radios.

I elected to take my MTR-2B built for 30m and 20m, which isn’t my lightest rig, but is small and allows the use of my lightweight 30m/20m dipole which I designed to use a 4m travel pole.

I left home about 0945BST on Thursday morning and arrived at Bowness Knott car park at around 1230BST after a stop at Tebay services for a very expensive coffee.

The route was quite simple, I just followed the service road to the Black Sail Hut and then carried on up to Windy Gap before summiting Great Gable G/LD-005. The magazine route suggested going over Brandreth, but I was short on time really, and it had no SOTA value, so I skipped that bit!

I fired up the MTR-2B on 20m at 1548utc and was found by EA2DT pretty quickly. I was surprised to have a QSO with Fred, WX1S, I wasn’t expecting transatlantic with my puny antenna and QRP! I logged 18 QSOs on 20m before changing to 30m. I worked 6 on 30m, including Alex @G7KSE in St Bees - just on the coast not far away at all. Alex’s signal sounded a little rough, definitely a weird path at work.


Great Gable G/LD-005


Looking towards Scafell Pike G/LD-001 from Great Gable.

I descended to the saddle between Great Gable and Pillar, where I set up camp for the night, looking down Wasdale.

After instant porridge, coffee and a breakfast bar, it was time to pack up and head up Kirk Fell G/LD-014. I was surprised to see a walker already stood at the top before 9am BST, must’ve been an early start for him! I opened up on 30m and worked 15 stations. I worked G4OBK which was a difficult contact, 30m was definitely the wrong band for inter-G! I added 3 more on 20m, taking my QSO tally to 18.


Kirk Fell summit, looking towards Pillar.

Next was Pillar G/LD-006. I was all set up and ready to go at 1058BST. First in the log on 30m a couple of minutes later was Manuel, EA2DT to make it a perfect score of all three. I managed 21 QSOs (15 on 30m, 6 on 20m) in total including S2S with IK2LEY/P on I/LO-294, M6GYU/P on G/LD-013, TM2SOTA on F/AM-627 and TK5EP/P on TK/TK-136. It really amazes me just what you can do with a tiny QRP CW rig and low dipole. Congratulations to EA2DT, F4WBN and EA7GV who worked me on all three summits.

I followed the magazine’s suggested route over Scoat Fell and Steeple before working my way down Long Crag to Ennerdale Forest and then along towards the footbridge before joining the service road back to the car.


Steeple - the pointy bit, and Long Crag descending into Ennerdale forest.

So finally, after about 13 years, I conquered my first solo wild camping trip! The weather was perfect and radio propagation was good enough to support QSOs with a very tiny station.

Finally I have express my thanks to John, G4YSS for giving me the encouragement and information all those years ago, and also more recently, Matthew M5EVT who sent me a PM suggesting that I should just go for it regarding my wild camping trip.

73, Colin

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Colin Seeing your spot for 30m (I think on Friday) I looked for you but heard nothing. Then you moved to 20m and I could just discern your signal but could not copy it. I could hear some chasers but not all. Never worked an LD station so was keen to work you if possible, but no…

Next time…
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2DA

Well done Colin, a great report with photos :+1:

cheers to you :beers:

Geoff vk3sq

To get a QSO would have been awesome!
Amazing that you could detect me on 20m. :slight_smile:

I have two power leads for my MTR rigs, one has a dropper diode fitted internally in the power plug. Back in ancient times, it was thought that the MTR PA was a bit vulnerable, so a supply voltage of less than 12V was recommended. It’s transpired that the BS170 FETs used in the MTR rigs are far more robust than the 2N7000s originally used in the ATS series, so the advice for lower supply voltage is no longer applicable. I use a 3S lipo for power and was initially worried about the 12.6v fully charged voltage. I no longer worry, but I carry both the straight-through and diode dropper power leads, one as a spare in case of blown fuse (I do tend to carry a spare fuse too). My power leads are labelled 2S and 3S - the 2S one is straight through for 2S lipos. I now use the 2S lead for all activations.

The relevance of all the above is that I discovered after my activation on Friday that I’d used the dropper diode lead to power my rig! It was probably fatigue, I just matched 3S lead to 3S battery. I wasn’t at full power!

73, Colin

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I’m picturing a big red “turbo” button to short out the diode :rofl:

Enjoyed your report, Colin, a good expedition, thanks!

73, Adrian

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Well done Colin. I’m yet to combine wild camping with radio - still on my bucket list! Reading reports like this add encouragement. I just need to take the kitchen sink out of my rucksack :wink:

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Thanks for the report Colin - and the S2S.!

Incidentally I too worked WX1S but from Helvellyn the day before you did and probably like you using only on 4w on a linked dipole on 14mhz.

Dave M6GYU

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Super effort Colin, well done. As I was reading your first paragraph I was wondering if you were going to have a base camp for the three summits or lug your tent, sleeping bag, gas burner and food with you everywhere. I know I would be worried the whole time about having my stuff knicked from an unattended base camp.

It makes such a difference to the weight and stability of the rucksack with camping gear. I wild camped for Top o’Selside G/LD-048 a few years ago. It was July and a hot afternoon so I was sweating like a pig for the ascent. Like an idiot I took an indirect route to do two WOTAs first (which I abandoned once on foot) and lost the faint trail and had to bushwhack with the tent banging against me. I was exhausted before arriving on summit (I was a mere 68 then)

Wild camping for multi-summit SOTA is very appealing but not for the faint hearted.

Andy

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Ha!

No, this is the turbo button - a 20w Altoids tin sized PA with plug in band modules! I was gifted the parts, I just had PCBs made. I must try to build one soon.


PCB panel for 2 off JN1GLB Altoids PAs with filter modules.

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Yes, I took everything with me. Last time I took a Lichfield (Vango) Explorer 70+10 rucksack and whilst it was comfortable it was very heavy.

This time I used my Osprey Mutant 38 rucksack, which is my winter pack. The good thing is that it has a floating lid so it turns into something more like a 50-60l backpack if needed. I wasn’t keen on using wild water sources, so I took my water with me, which added another 4kg at the start, I had just enough. Wild water was there as a back up if needed - I could have boiled it.

It’s definitely hard work carrying everything with you, especially on the descent. The article in the magazine reckoned a Wainright count of 6, but just doing the SOTA was enough to think about.

73, Colin

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Well done for taking the plunge Colin! I’ve been planning multi-day trips in the Scottish hills since I was in my 20’s and I’m only getting round to some of them now, nearly 30 years later.

Looking forward to hear of what you’re scheming next…

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Next up is the Lake District Weekend in two weeks time. After that It’ll be the RSGB Convention in October. I’m not planning to go to Newark, although I have offers of transport etc.

November sees my annual activation of Buckden Pike, G/NP-009, I might try top band and 80m again.

And then we’ll be back in to winter bonus season. :slight_smile:

73, Colin

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Glad to hear your trip was a success. When I saw your spot in the early morning I thought you’d either got up early or stayed over night. The weather is returning to normal Lakeland service so waterproofs / wetsuit will be necessary for the LD weekend

Alex

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Well done and a great trip. Cant beat solo multi day wild camping with radio.
Will be back down on Dartmoor later this month for a three day solo outing. Only the one summit there but after what must be 30years walking the moor, it still evades me for one reason or another.

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I forked out just over 30 notes fir a Sawyer Mini and I used it for the first time on my last outing. The water quality in the streams was good, but you never know what is lying in the water upstream. I once drank directly from a stream in Derbyshire and then found a dead sheep lying in the water 100m upstream. :grinning:

Well done on the excellent outing Colin and for conquering the wild camping duck. I must admit to having some trepidation about overnighting alone, but hopefully will conquer that one soon.

73, G

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I did look at water purification but for a one off camping trip, it didn’t seem to be worth the investment. The MSR Trail Shot is what appealed to me most. There’s a device called a ‘life straw’, but it wouldn’t be much use to collect water to save for later, it’s literally a straw which you place directly into wild water.

I called in at my local shop to ask about chlorine dioxide tablets to buy ‘just in case’ but they didn’t sell tablets. I did buy some stove gas, which was good as the small canister I had at home was empty and the bigger one I have would be too bulky to carry.

The water in Ennerdale looked amazingly clean, but I’m a wuss! I managed fine with my 2.5l bladder, 1l sigg bottle and a 500ml pop bottle that was full of pop when I set off. Black Sail Hut was open when I got there, so I drank the pop and then refilled the pop bottle from their tap. :slight_smile:

73, Colin

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But drinking it didn’t make you ill?

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I drank untreated water whilst walking to The Calf G/NP-013 last week.

I had misjudged the weather, it turned out to be warm to hot and I drank most of my bottled water during the ascent especially on the very steep bit by Cautley Spout waterfall. Following Force Gill Beck was great for splashing water over my head to cool off but I didn’t fill my bottle from the beck until about 15m below its source, a boggy mossy spring not far from the summit. I checked for sheep, some live ones nearby but no dead ones.

It tasted great and I’ve had no ill effects.

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I’ve always drunk fast flowing stream water in Scotland when above valley level. Never had an issue. There aren’t any pathogens to worry about. I suppose there’s a remote chance of a dead sheep, goat or deer lying upstream.

On my last overnight trip I was consuming 5-6 litres a day (including cooking). Filtering water or packing in 6 l would have slowed me down considerably.

I have a natty MSR water filter that I use in the USA, Europe etc. It’s only drawback is that it looks like a hand grenade when viewed through an airport security scanner…

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Yes, on reflection it would probably have been safe to drink from the fast flowing parts further down. Mountain streams collect so much run-off from the sides, not just from up-stream, the diluting effect would render drinking nasty pathogens unlikely unless a dead animal was immersed close by.

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