Activation Report: 2 LD's + 2 NP's

Lake District and Yorkshire Dales Summits
Sunday 21st March 2010 and Monday 22nd March 2010

Another couple of cheap rooms, this time booked at Lancaster Travelodge, provided the overnight accommodation for this trip. This location suited a day in the Yorkshire Dales, so we split the activations this time between the Lake District and the North Pennines summits. Being quite keen to complete the southern area of the Lakes, we decided to repeat the “little and large” format that we had found to be successful in North Wales and opted for Claife Heights G/LD-053 coupled with The Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013. I suggested to Paul that we would be best to activate The Old Man first on account of the fact that we would be able to guarantee a decent parking spot for the summit at an early time of day. There was also the parking spot for Claife Heights to consider since this is in a church car park. An early arrival might have clashed with the use of the parking by church-goers.

With the alarm set for 02:40, I rolled out of bed ten minutes early. After the usual preparations I was away from Northampton by 03:08 and arrived at Paul’s QTH at 04:26. A quick turn around saw us on the road by 04:40 and despite a major detour through Wolverhampton caused by roadworks between junctions 10 and 12 on the M6, we pulled up in the parking area for our first summit at 07:50. Twenty minutes later we were on our way up to the quarries, somewhere out there in the mist. The ascent was reasonably straightforward, though at one point we did wander off the main track and spent a little time looking at the industrial archaeology.

The upper section of the track was covered in snow, but it was easy to skirt around the majority of this and we topped out at the summit just before 10:00. After the customary visit to the trig on its platform, we split up to set up our stations. I took up a position on the windward side of the platform and used the rocks to bungie my pole to, leaving the sheltered side for the hoards of visitors already on the summit. Paul went downhill about 100 metres or so to set up for HF, so taking the wire trip hazard of the doublet out of the most popular area.

It took me a while to get set up as I managed to bang my hand and then twisting the sections of the pole together I felt something give. This had happened back in December when we activated Rhinog Fawr and my hand had been on the mend, so it was now unfortunately back to a painful square one. At 10:20 I spotted myself and let it sink in for a couple of minutes while I sorted out the log sheets and made the final adjustments to the set up. John G0TDM was first to answer my “ is the frequency in use?” and after a chat, next up was Mike G4BLH on a high spot close to his home. Mike would have to wait over 50 minutes until I had worked through the ensuing pile up in order to contact me on 70cms and 23cms. In all 26 stations were worked on 2m SSB including 2 S2S contacts – Geoff 2W0BTR/P was on Arenig Fawr GW/NW-011 and Terry G0VWP/P was on Bishop Wilton Wold G/TW-004. At 11:14 I moved to 70cms SSB and worked Mike and then stood up with the C710 and quadruple quad and worked him on 23cms FM. John MW1FGQ tail-ended on 23cms and we then moved back to 70cms. After finishing with John, I worked another seven stations to make this one of the most pleasing activations that I’ve ever had on the band. The only downer was that I was called by Frank G3RMD, but unfortunately I did not hear him. Frank kindly provided the spot that helped me get such a decent total on the band.

Paul had what might be termed by some as “fun” setting up in the strong wind that was blowing across the summit and so was not into the action on 60m until 10:29. Roger G0TRB headed an excellent run of contacts which gave Paul a total of 21 on the band in little over half an hour. Mike G0BPU/P was worked on Long Knoll G/SC-007 and a few contacts later in came Dave G8XDD/P on Butser Hill G/SE-004. After a short break in proceedings, Paul found a clear frequency on 80m and was first worked and spotted by Frank G3RMD at 11:14. Paul worked a total of 9 contacts on 80m, with very few contacts being with stations that he had worked on 60m. Brian G8ADD tipped Paul off that Lutz DL3SBA/P was on 40m SSB from Dümberg
DM/NW-222 and he was duly worked at 11:43 for a rare S2S to the continent.

As is often the case, we packed up about the same time. Paul came over to me as I was finishing off hampered by my hand and then we set off with my C520 hand-held fitted with the large Yaesu rubber duck to activate our first non-SOTA Wainwright summit, Brim Fell LDW-037. It was extremely windy as we approached the summit and visibility was down to less than 20 metres, so we decided to opt for playing pass the rig so I could write up a log for us while Paul was using it. The rig was on 145.525MHz when I switched it on and I found the channel in use – despite the howling wind Paul recognised the call WJZ and I duly joined the queue to work Iain M3WJZ/P on Whernside G/NP-004. With this contact in the bag, I put a call out on the calling frequency and was called by David G6LKB. We moved to 145.450MHz where a number of WOTA chasers called in including Phil G4OBK/P on The Calf G/NP-013. Once the frequency went quiet we went QRT and set off down the western flank of the hill to join the path down to Goat’s Water. Once out of the strong wind, it was very pleasant walking and we passed many people making their way up the track, several making enquiries as to the purpose of our fishing poles.

It was starting to rain by the time we reached the car at 13:44, so we sat in the car and ate a quick lunch before setting off for Far Sawrey. Initially I missed the parking spot marked by a large blue P – well the satnav said on the left of the road and it was on the right! After paying the £2 requested to park in the church car park, we set off up the track opposite at 14:30. Initially the walking was easy, but as we got into the woods the ground became very boggy and churned up. It therefore took us almost an hour to get to the summit where we emerged from the trees to find it was still raining.

My first task was to tie a tarp between the rocks and the trig to shelter the 857 as I hadn’t got the means to operate the rig in the backpack sorted out. I used the trig to support my pole and getting the bungies stretched sorely tested my hand, but despite this I was ready to go by 15:47. Mike G4BLH was waiting on my working frequency and thereafter came a steady stream of contacts which was not what I had expected from this lowly 270m high summit. Rick M0RCP/P on Cracoe Fell G/NP-031 provided a most welcome S2S for me with 59 signals both ways. Working David G2BOF in Surrey was a bit of a struggle, but we made it after a couple of attempts. It was considerably easier working Don G0RQL in Devon. 51 reports littered the log, but I was pleased to make a decent number of contacts. At 16:20 I moved to 70cms and worked Mike G4BLH on CW, but there were no further takers. Since Paul had not long moved over to 80m, I decided to put the antenna vertical and try FM. Several calls on 70cms produced nothing, so I moved down to 2m and was called by Brian 2E0TOG. David G6LKB tail-ended and I suggested we move to 70cms FM to make the contact there – needless to say it was 59+ both ways. I was still chatting with David when Paul stood up signalling that he had finished his activation.

Paul had set up on a flat area of ground just down from the summit area after sorting out his own waterproofing arrangements. Frank G3RMD was ready waiting for Paul on 60m. The band was still in good shape and Paul made a total of 16 contacts including an S2S with Bill G4WSB/P on Aconbury Hill G/WB-024. 80m was also in good fettle and a further 9 contacts were made there when Paul made the move at 16:27. Frank once again headed the run and placed a spot. Paul later said that he had had quite an enjoyable activation from what could have been a damp squib of a summit. It even cleared up for a while to allow us to pack up our kit!

It took a while to carefully pack away the wet kit, but we were on our way back to the car by 17:19, arriving there at 18:05. I removed my boots and waterproofing for the journey down to Lancaster which took a little over an hour. The first task at the Travelodge was to stoke up the heating and get everything drying out. We then had some more of the excellent food that Paul had brought before I went to my room, had a bath and watched a bit of TV before lights out. At least on this occasion I could have a lie in – the alarm was set for 05:50.

We both allowed extra time to repack our backpacks with the dried out kit and it was just after 06:30 when I tapped on Paul’s door. We were away by 06:45 and the journey to the parking spot for Pen-y-ghent G/NP-010 took exactly one hour. We set off up the Pennine Way at 07:58 to tackle the southern approach to the summit. From the track it looked quite forbidding, but once we were at the steep part the only issue was the slippery surface of the rocks which were wet and muddy. It was with some relief that we came out on the top and thereafter it was an easy stroll to the summit assisted by the strong wind at our backs. As we arrived, it started to rain, so I bagged a sheltered spot in one of the semi-circular shelters while Paul found a sheltered spot further down the wall to get the HF antenna out of the public domain. We were first to get to the summit, but we knew we would not be alone for long.

The ascent had taken us just 54 minutes, so we were somewhat early. My first call on 144.333Mhz at 09:10 confirmed this by way of a remark from Mike G4BLH, again out at his local high spot. This morning it was a case of dealing with the urgent matters first. I worked David G6LKB while I set up for 23cms, so allowing David to get away from home on time and then moving to 23cms I worked Mike allowing him to get back home. Roger G4OWG was my spotter for the day and he made contact just after Geoff G6MZX. In all I worked 15 on 2m SSB which is a decent number for a weekday. The last contact was with Ross G6GVI who requested a test on 23cms – we didn’t make the contact, but John MW1FGQ once again called in. After that I moved to 70cms SSB and found G3OHC, G4OWG, G6MZX, MW1FGQ and G4OBK waiting to make contact – another pleasing 70cms activation.

First up with Paul on 60m was John G0TDM. John was Paul’s spotter on this one and for the later move to 80m. In all Paul worked 19 stations on 60m around G, GW, GM, and EI. Almost immediately after changing band, his doublet succumbed to the viciously gusting wind, but his ATU was able to tune up what was left of it sufficiently to continue albeit at reduced power and 80m provided a further 9 contacts with Phil G4OBK at the end of the line. Paul started to pack up while I was still in full flight on 70cms and once again joined me at the shelter while I finished off my packing. Not bad, 50 contacts between us.

I was not looking forward to the slippery descent as we set off from the summit at 10:20, but the rocks did not prove to be a problem at all. Amazing how the mind can expand the risk factor! We were over 20 minutes early when we reached the car at 11:04, so providing sufficient time for a reasonably leisurely snack with soup before setting out for our final summit of the trip, Birks Fell G/NP-031.

We arrived in Litton at 11:44 and parked up just along from the pub. I suggested we might try the reputedly excellent ale on our return, but as we passed the pub we found that it was closed all day on a Monday – maybe we will find time to nip round when we activate Buckden Pike. Anyway, not dispirited, we set off up the bridleway past the farm. Once past the stream we found the track to be extremely slippery, the slip factor highly enhanced by a copious amount of sheep droppings – lovely! The wind increased the higher we got and once again the rain started to come in. Our backpacks took most of the brunt of the weather as the wind was once again coming from behind us and it was sufficiently inclement when we reached the top wall for us to head for the trig point rather than the pile of stones that mark the true summit. The trig was reached ahead of schedule at 13:04.

We selected a couple of positions along the wall which provided some shelter from the rain and set up our stations. The wall also provided a means of support for the poles. Paul rigged the 60m dipole loosely to avoid damage to the antenna and pole, the shape of the wires mimicking the sails of an old sailing ship. I managed to get some flexibility into my system using bungies to strap the pole to the wall, but still could only safely deploy the antenna at 3m above ground.

Paul opened up on 60m at 13:21 to find Graham G3OHC waiting to make contact and provide a spot. Thereafter it was a steady run of 15 contacts in half an hour of operating. For this activation Paul was using his 60m monoband dipole due to the damage sustained by the doublet on Pen-y-ghent. Finishing just before 14:00, Paul weighed up whether to try to get the dipole to tune up on 80m, but decided that in the face of deteriorating weather conditions, a reasonably quick exit was required.

Just along the wall, I found Roger G4OWG waiting on 144.333MHz, again with a spot to call in the troops. Mike G4BLH was once again out at his local high spot. He didn’t have too long to wait to work me on the higher bands as the run this time on 2m SSB tallied just 8. It was easy working Mike on 70cms, but for 23cms he had to get out of the car to deploy the beam and in doing so sampled the inclement weather. At my end I was getting it full in the face as I was stood up with the quadruple quad in hand. On my return to 70cms, I found that Roger had already spotted me and the troops were assembled in good order to provide another six contacts, one being Mike back at his home QTH. A test on 23cms with John MW1FGQ during the run was unsuccessful. The activation finished with a contact with Geoff G6MZX sporting the club call MX0BCQ/A. It was now 14:05 and I too considered it time to vacate the summit. The wall was leaking quite proficiently by this time!

After carefully packing up and remembering to take a couple of photos in the gloom, we set off down the hill into the full force of the weather. It was relatively easy going until we got to the muddy track where we found the rain had rendered it almost lethal. Fortunately we kept our footing despite several slips and we reached the car at 15:00 – cue for the rain to stop, the clouds to disperse and the sun to come out. All that was needed to make the day near perfect now was a beer, but we had to make do with more tasty scoff and a coffee – ah, the things we have to put up with!

Our departure for home should have originally been at 16:10, but we bettered this by more than half an hour. We were to need all of this and a bit more as the heavens opened when we got close to Manchester, with hail and sleet in abundance…… and then there were the roadworks! Eventually we got to Stourbridge at 19:06, and after transferring Paul’s kit and the usual welcome cup of coffee, I was back on the road at 19:30, reaching home at 20:44. An early night for a change……

Well, another 4 summits under the belt. The nearest summit to our home QTHs now moves to Buckden Pike. We keep chasing the uniques northwards and at some point our trips will all be north of the border. Activations will probably initially be focussed around Dumfries for three days at a time in order to get better value for money. The continued support of the many chasers that follow us around the summits will be all the more welcome when we get to that stage. Thanks to everyone who supported us on this particular round of summits – we do it all again in a few weeks time.

73, Gerald G4OIG