Grisedale Pike, Grasmoor and the Fairfield Trio
31st July and 1st August 2011
The planned activation of Grisedale Pike and Grasmoor as a summit pairing had been prepared for many months, scheduled originally for the winter period as an out and back walk from the Revelin Moss car park at Whinlatter. This was later modified by Paul as a more relaxed outing incorporating a return to the car by bus which we would catch at Rannerdale near Buttermere. Modifying the itinerary in this manner would allow us a little more operating time, subject of course to weather conditions and a pleasant linear walk. Quite a number of activations came and went and this pairing remained on the list of outstanding summits in the Lakes. However we were running out of Uniques, so they got put in as a first day of activating ion our July sortie. Our plans for the second day were less fixed and alternatives were notified via the SOTA alerts system.
Although the timing for this pair of summits was not particularly critical, we decided to keep to our long tried and tested routine which starts with my departure from Northampton at 02:00z. Despite waking early, I seemed to be in a over-relaxed mode this particular day and I was slightly late setting out. However, the timings at Paul’s both in arrival and departure terms were spot on. We encountered very little traffic heading north up the M6 and the only “weather” of any note was a 15 second rain shower as we approached Lancaster. Thereafter the cloudy skies darkened, but it remained dry until we arrived at the car park at 06:35z, 35 minutes earlier than planned. The first surprise of the day was to find the Forestry Commission now charge in this car park – a whopping £5.80 for the day. Rather than look for a kerbside parking spot back on the road, we decided to pay what was due. However, while we were getting ready others came and parked up without paying and set off on their mountain bikes – did they know something we didn’t?
We set out up the well-marked path for Grisedale Pike G/LD-015 at 07:00z. Once out of the forest, the ascent proper starts. The track runs up the spine of the hill and is well graded, but fairly relentless. The clouds were now starting to break up and the temperature was rising steadily, so we kept our clothing layers to a minimum for the ascent, but knew that once we reached the summit we would appreciate the warmer garments that we were carrying.
It was 08:25z when we reached the summit cairn – the legs weren’t working very well this particular day on account of it having been several weeks since we had been out on an activation. Just beyond the summit cairn there is a convenient fence post with a couple more lower down, all just off the path. As I was running the higher frequencies, I utilised the higher post and set up the dual band beam. Paul took the next one down and set up his antenna in line with the path. Visibility was quite good despite there being quite a lot of cloud about and we had excellent views both east towards Blencathra G/LD-008 and west out to the Cumbrian coast. It had been calm during our ascent, but now on the summit as expected a cool breeze blew and forced us to put our jackets on.
I was first on at around 08:45z after checking the Kent beacon. Calls on 144.333MHz received no response – not surprising seeing that our alert was set for 09:30z. A call on the SSB calling frequency however brought John G0TDM straight back and we QSY’d to my usual frequency. I had a chat with John while he placed a spot for me and then the pile up started. I worked through 17 regular chasers and finished the band session with a contact with Ian G0IAA in Wakefield to add one to that total and take the time to 09:35z. John called in to say that Ian 2E0EDX was out on a WOTA summit and so I joined the pile up that Ian was working. Unfortunately, thinking that he had not heard me, after listening to a couple of QSOs I decided to QSY to pick up the regulars on 70cms. Frank G3RMD was worked on CW followed by Bob G6ODU on SSB before the frequency went ominously quiet. I therefore checked back on 2m, but by this time Ian had packed up and was on the way to his next summit. I learned later he had actually had me on his list of callers. Returning to 70cms I decided to try FM for a change and worked 4 of the locals to bring my total for the summit to 24. I packed up at 10:22z after working Dennis G0ORO.
Paul made his first QSO on 60m at 09:50z. For a Sunday there did not seem to be many chasers around. Frank G3RMD was first in the log followed by Don G0RQL. The total slowly rose to 6 in 20 minutes, after which several minutes were spent calling CQ without further contacts being made. At 09:22z Paul moved to 80m where he found Geoff G6MZX portable on his canal boat. Frank once again was on hand to assist and eventually Paul scraped 7 on the band. Signals were not brilliant on either band and it took effort to get some of the reports through, but under the circumstances making 13 contacts was quite a good result.
After packing away, we set off in a south-westerly direction towards Coledale Hause at 10:35z. It is a well graded descent to the col followed by a short ascent and then a flattish section, all on good tracks. With Crag Hill to our left we looked for the track off to the right that is marked on the 1:25,000 map, but nothing showed on the ground – well nothing that we could see. We therefore continued up to the 722m spot height and then turned right up a reasonably steep gradient to quickly gain another 100m. Thereafter it was an easy trek to the summit. We had allowed a fairly relaxed 1 hour and 30 minutes between the summits and it took most of that to get us to the summit of Grasmoor G/LD-009 where we arrived at 12:00z.
At the summit the wind was blowing quite fiercely. My initial idea was to set up in a small stone shelter on the south side of the summit to take advantage of the take-off. However, the up-draught from the valley below was considerable at this position and I soon decided to seek shelter on the summit plateau a short distance from where Paul had started to set up. This proved to be good enough to allow me to have the beam at around 3 metres without stressing the pole. Paul’s antenna was soon bowing out nicely mimicking sails in the wind.
Paul was first to make a contact at 12:22z with Steve GW7AAV who was monitoring FE. A steady run ensued after Paul signed with Steve, mainly with regular chasers and Paul had 14 in the log in little over half an hour. Several people complained of high noise levels on the band, but it was quiet at Paul’s end, indeed rather too quiet and devoid of activity. Once again the locals missed out on working Paul, John G0TDM being the exception. Moving to 80m, Paul found the band in poor shape and after a few unanswered calls, decided to call it a day.
On 2m SSB, a single announcement of my presence was enough to set the ball rolling. Bob G6ODU was sat waiting on 144.333MHz, as indeed were a number of others. Signals seemed to be down on those earlier in the day and I used CW to good effect to work Frank G3RMD and Mike G4BLH. John G0TDM bagged a contact on the key to raise my total to 16 before the frequency went quiet. I moved to 432.222MHz at 13:00z and was surprised to be called by Mike G4BLH on the higher band. Bob G6ODU followed on SSB, but signals were only 52/51 and thereafter the frequency went quiet, so I decided to switch polarisation and try FM. Colin 2E0XSD was monitoring the calling frequency and we QSY’d for a contact. John G0TDM followed on and told me that Ian 2E0EDX was up on another summit, so I dropped down a band to work him. A single call on the 2m FM calling frequency then brought me two more contacts, one being an S2S with Ric M0RCP/P on Cross Fell, G/NP-001. I remembered that Colin G4UXH might be looking for me on 70cms FM and that proved to be the case, so bringing my total for Grasmoor to 24 contacts. All in all, another fair activation for me.
The descent to Rannerdale via the scree slope down onto Lad Hows was quite steep until we reached the track through bracken to the road down near Crummock Water. This was ankle aching work and conscious of past problems, we took the descent extremely carefully. At least this time we were within a few minutes of our scheduled time and our assessment of the descent time was pretty much spot on as well – we reached the road at 15:00z. Down in the valley it was warm and humid, so we drank the last of our water while we waited - now all we needed was the bus to appear. Appear it did at 15:32z and by 15:54z we were back at Whinlatter and walking the final few metres up to the Revelin Moss car park.
The weather was now quite sunny and warm and it looked set fair for a decent evening, but we knew that a band of rain was expected during the night. We arrived at Cockermouth Travelodge at 16:26z and once booked in, agreed to meet up at 17:30z to go into town to The Bitter End pub for food and a drink. Paul had his usual Gammon Steak, this time with extra salad, while I went for the Haddock, chips and peas. Portions were such that we both declined a sweet and settled for a reasonably early night to make sure we were suitably refreshed for the morning. On account of the weather report we decided upon our Plan B for the following day which would be the Fairfield Trio.
We met at the car at 05:10z, hopeful of not too inclement weather on the Eastern Fells. With sporadic rain forecast for much of Cumbria, we had allowed a very generous 3 hours to get to first summit of the day, St Sunday Crag G/LD-010. The humidity level was running extremely high, almost on the point of rain, when we pulled onto the verge at Dunmail Raise at 05:50z. The question was, what to wear? With the temperature already 16C, we ended up keeping the layers fairly light and carried our waterproof layer as we had done the day previous. This indecision caused a bit of a delay, but we got under way at 06:15z at the scheduled time. The ascent up by the side of Raise Beck was very pleasant until we hit the cloud layer just after we passed the waterfall.
As we climbed, the visibility continued to worsen and by the time we reached the col at 574m it was little more than ten metres and we were being bathed in light drizzle. We shouldn’t have missed the start of the track around Grizedale Tarn, but somehow we did and so had to veer off the track which we were on – Dollywaggon Pike was not part of our itinerary this particular day. We soon found the track around the tarn and shortly thereafter the drizzle got heavier. Now we were in a quandary – did we don our waterproof layers and risk overheating or stay as we were and risk getting soaked? On balance we decided to stay as we were and fortunately the wind was strong enough to keep us reasonably dry. A couple of groups of rough campers were passed as we rounded the tarn, the second group standing dejectedly by their tents. We passed with smiles on our faces looking forward to the ascent up to Deepdale Hause - all they had to look forward to was packing up a wet tent.
There was no evidence of another track as we left the tarn so we were sure that we were on the right route. At one point there was a steep route ascending up to the ridge, but the main one went on, so we did too. Eventually it turned right and we were then plainly making for the col between St Sunday Crag and Fairfield which we reached shortly thereafter. The position where we joined the track between the summits was clearly marked by a cairn. It was then a case of walking the ridge in visibility of around 100m until we reached the summit of St Sunday Crag at 08:53z – how slow were we? Anyway, we were still ahead of schedule, so all was okay. There was not much shelter on this summit, so I used the summit cairn to get as much respite from the cold wind as I could while Paul dropped down to flatter ground back in the direction we had come in order to set up for HF.
After putting on my jacket, having drink and something to eat, it took me a while to set the pole up, so it was therefore not until 09:20z that I was ready to start up on 2m SSB. Roger G0TRB was ready waiting for me on frequency and he kindly spotted me. I worked 15 in a run in 25 minutes with signals quite good all round. Signals down to Don G0RQL in Devon peaked 57/56. Brian G4ZRP was contact number 15 and we moved up in frequency to try a test on 23cms. The contact was quickly made and Geoff G4WHA/M in Penrith tail-ended the QSO. Back on 2m SSB I worked another 4 and then moved to 70cms where I bagged 5 on SSB, 3 on CW and I also managed to remember Colin G4UXH who was ready waiting for me on FM and easily workable on the handheld with its rubber duck. The total for the summit was 31 QSOs and I finished at 10:23z.
On 60m conditions were slightly better than they had been the previous day. The number of people on the band was also greater and Paul worked 17 in all in little over 30 minutes. Considering whether to move to 80m was a hard decision. The weather was still quite difficult, with periodic drizzle and a strong wind blowing across the summit. Paul decided on safety and dropped the antenna before the wind did the job for him, so he was ready for the off by the time I closed down. Fortunately I was now into speed packing mode and we were away and making our descent by 10:33z, just 3 minutes adrift of our schedule.
The walk back towards Fairfield G/LD-007 started easily enough. It only seemed to be a few minutes before we were back at the cairn marking the route up from Grisedale Tarn. Then the climbing started up to the top of Cofa Pike. Just before we reached the highest point on this section, we met three people coming the opposite way. Seeing Paul was equipped with map and mapping GPS, they sought reference as to their position, only to discover that they had taken the wrong route off Fairfield. We walked as a group of 5 for a short distance before they surged ahead of us with our considerably heavier packs and by the time we reached the summit at 11:46z they had already departed, we hoped in the right direction!
At the summit the main shelter was full of people sat eating their lunch. The weather was still rather turbulent so we opted to take up position side by side in one of the other stone constructions. These rudimentary shelters are never high enough to provide full protection, but at least they are better than nothing. We have operated in this fashion before without any issues and so it proved this time.
Paul was first up on 60m with John GW4BVE the first to be logged at 12:05z. Conditions were still reasonably good so Paul had only to act like a human speech processor a couple of times. At this time of day, the skip was short enough for Sue G1OHH in Lancaster to be able to contact Paul. The remainder of the log was a rearranged version of the one written earlier in the day minus a couple of people – 16 in all for this summit, again in little over half an hour. Paul decided not to bother with 80m, particularly as it was now around midday and propagation would be questionable anyway.
By comparison to Paul’s relatively placid activation, the three band thrash on VHF and UHF was quite exhilarating for me. On 2m SSB Colin G4UXH was first into the log followed by Mike G4BLH/M who had gone out to a high point to work me on 23cms. The run was quite snappy. Knowing I had only 45 minutes to complete the activation, I had 21 in the log in the first 27 minutes. Even non-chaser Hugh M1NTO in Tilsley caught my drift, as so to speak, and passed all the information over inside a minute. Moving up to 70cms SSB at 12:35z, I logged 7 contacts in 7 minutes and then to tidy things up, Mike G4BLH and Brian G4ZRP were worked on 23cms. Geoff G4WHA also called me on 23cms, but somehow we lost each other before we could exchange reports and there was no time to spend trying to re-establish contact. We had to move on as it was now 12:50z and I had another 30 in the log.
After a couple of photos in the mist on the summit, we started our descent towards the final summit for the day, Seat Sandal G/LD-022 at 13:03z. Map, compass and GPS combined were used to make sure we located the correct track off the summit. This soon became a scree-fest akin to that coming off Glyder Fawr GW/NW-003 in the direction of Y Garn GW/NW-004 in Snowdonia. Knees and ankles ached once more and it was with some relief that we reached the level ground at Hause Gap. In the mist ahead we could see the ascent route for Seat Sandal, described by Frank RMD as “interesting” and so it proved to be – a sloping route across light scree, followed by a scramble between rocks and then up fairly steep grassy slopes alongside a fallen wall. Eventually, with tired legs, we reached the sharp bend in the wall and crossed over to the summit proper. It was now 14:14z and we were actually a minute early!
Once again we took up our usual positions – me at the summit cairn and Paul downhill a short distance, in this instance finding shelter behind some rocks. The weather had now improved considerably and after fashioning a support for my pole, I found that I was able to get it raised to the full height without any problem. It had stopped drizzling during our ascent making operating conditions easier. My first contact was with John G0TDM at 14:31z and another reasonably snappy run put 19 in the log on 2m SSB in 27 minutes, by which time my battery pack was beginning to fail. Moving to 70cms at 15:00z, I decided to try to work Frank G3RMD first using CW, which was successful. John G0TDM was alerted to my presence by key clicks across the band resulting from the low voltage! There was sufficient power left to work him and also Mike G4BLH/M on CW and Brian G4ZRP on SSB before the pack died. With people still to work on the band, I switched polarisation on the antenna and fired up the handheld. This added 6 contacts on FM and facilitated a further one on 23cms FM with Geoff G4WHA/M. Unfortunately I was not able to complete on the higher band with either Brian G4ZRP or Mike G4BLH/M. All in all, another 30 contacts were made in just less than an hour.
On 60m, John GW4BVE once again provided the first contact for Paul. The log was similar to that on the previous summits, with 14 making the log before the frequency went quiet. Paul called for a while without any further takers before moving down to 80m where just Paul G0HNW and Frank G3RMD were worked. Conditions were still not very good on the lower frequency. Paul went QRT around 15:10z and then came up to see how I was getting on before packing his kit up and making a phone call home.
Just as I was finishing my activation, it started to rain in true fashion. It was a case of blowing water off the storage boxes before packing them away and in my haste I forgot to take photographs of the summit. Not as though the day had produced any views anyway. We set off down the grassy north-west slope of the hill at 15:45z, soon to have wet feet as the water cascaded off the tall grass and ran uphill and over the tops of our boots, this despite both of us wearing gaiters. We reached the track alongside Raise Beck just above the waterfall and then it was a trudge in the damp conditions back to the car, which we reached at 16:47z. Fortunately after a few minutes the rain ceased and we were able to change into dry clothing and have some of the excellent food prepared by Paul’s XYL before we set off for home. It was 22:22z by the time I got back to Northampton.
So another 5 summits activated and another 36 points on the board, not as though we are counting any more – points that is, not summits. It will be September before we are both out on the summits again – in the meantime Paul hopes to catch up on the number of G summits activated by working through the SB’s.
73, Gerald G4OIG