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’. 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. 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.