I had not yet activated Black Combe (G/LD-030), and so decided to make a night of it. The weather forecast for 29 July 2021 was for 30mph winds on the tops, and potential for rain. I set a limit of 30mph for summit top camps in a 3 season tent, so this was just about acceptable.
I have only been on top of Black Combe once, many years previously. Having forgotten what the summit was like, this was going to feel like a fresh ascent.
I cycled to the top the Conrey Fell road - which was quite an effort with a cycle weighed down with camping and radio equipment. It was a pleasant evening, but as I pedalled up the hill I could see Black Comb was shrouded in mist.
At the summit of the pass (elevation 400m) I turned off the road and cycled a couple of hundred metres along some singletrack towards Stoneside Hill (elevation 422m). I locked the bicycle to a wire fence (the only real threat being the possibility of sheep nibbling my panniers) and was soon heading off.
The first few hundred metres of walking was in descent towards a haunted looking wood marked as Charity Chair on OS maps. The wood was comprised of gnarled, twisted and stunted trees, with tattered streamers of sheep wool hanging-off low hanging boughs. The sheep clearly use it as refuge in foul weather.
I was focused on searching for evidence of a track up the side of Swinside Fell, and eventually opted to follow the fence-line, aside which was a clear narrow track. A fairly gentle climb followed to to the top of Whitecomb Moss, where the route heads southwesterly, climbing even more gently. I was now in thick mist, and conscious of the potential for being misdirected onto several paths heading down into the Whicham Valley. Navigation proved easier than one might expect though, and I was soon following a good clear path along the top of Whitecomb screes.
I started to hear various chatter on 2m at this point - mostly stations in Lancashire looking for a Friday night ragchew. A shortwhile later I was nearing the summit of Black Comb , and pleased to observe acres of sheep nibbled grass suitable for a tent pitch.
The summit was a surprise, consisting of a trig point surrounded by a drystone sheepfold type structure. It was tempting to pitch inside the sheepfold, as the wind was blustery. However, I opted for a lovely patch of grass on the outside of the sheepfold, sheltered by its eastern wall.
With the tent pitched, it was now time to find water. I headed SE, dropping down 25m to an un-named tarn. The stream bed tot he west was sure to provide water, but after dropping down 50m of elevation it remained dry. So I headed back up t the tarn and reluctantly collected some rather brown water before heading back to the tent.
Visibility was down to 20m, and I was pleased when the tent appeared out of the mist. After gulping down some water I started on erecting the antenna. A flowerpot antenna was raised on a 7m pole. By now it was raining heavily and so I was glad to get into the tent and begin calling CQ on 2m at 2120BST. G1ZIM/M answered first - down in Millom, he was a clear 59. 2E0KGA, M0XOC and G1OHH followed to qualify the summit. A good hour of operation on 2m followed, with some good chats with chasers. G0MHF advised that an alert was out for an activation of Snowden at midnight, so I started looking forward to the S2S points.
At 2300BST I switched to 40m. My inverted vee got tangled as I was unwinding it, and I spent a very unpleasant 10 to 15 minutes in the rain and wind, untangling the wire. F4WBN called in first followed by PD1BU, PD1RO, ON5PU and M0BKV down in Cornwall. At about 2345BST I closed down on 20m - leaving the inverted vee in-situ for some early morning operation.
I put a few calls out on the HT at about midnight, and GMHF called to say that the midnight activation alert had been abandoned. I can understand why - the rain was heavy, and wind blustery by this time.
At around 0015BST it was lights out. The wind was strong throughout the night, and the rain constant. A set of earplugs ensured I got a good nights sleep. Woken at about 0500BST by my alarm, I tried on 20m but couldn’t make any contacts. Later-on I found my antenna wire had broken. Witht he wire re-stripped and twisted together I was back on 40m at 0800BST - after a quick chat with G4VFL on 2m.
40m was quite lively, and I quickly made a S2S with HB9/F5HTR/P atop HB/VD-025. A good pileup followed on 40m. By 0900BST things had gone quieter and I started looking around for S2S. 2E1PJE/P called in from The Wrekin (G/WB-010) followed by several S2S in Italy, Portugal and Germany.
With he clock nearing 1100BST, and not having packed any lunch, I really needed to head off. I reluctantly dismantled the antenna and tent and headed back to the cycle. The gentle descent and clear path made easy walking.
I was glad to reach Charity Chair and get out the mist - the first few over 20m in distance since the previous evening.
Looking forward to the descent down corney fell, I changed back into my cycling gear and begin the ride home.
Thanks to everyone who chased me! This is great summit to camp out on, and I’m sure to be back in clearer conditions. Back home, I had an experiment with attaching the fibreglass pole to my bicycle - making use of a tagalong - thanks to 2E0XUP for the idea!