Kinder Scout and Shining Tor
Saturday 17th January 2009
Paul G4MD and myself had been planning to activate Moel Siabod NW-010 followed by Tal y Fan NW-040, but a rapidly changing weather forecast turned the likelihood of postponement due into rain into the reality of postponement due to high winds. At 872m asl, the problems that we would expect to encounter on Moel Siabod erecting our masts and antennas, coupled with the inevitable presence of Joe Public, made this activation one for the backburner. We therefore put Plan B into operation, opting for the relatively close-by summits of Kinder Scout and Shining Tor.
The change of itinerary allowed me an extra 30 minutes in bed, though I awoke 15 minutes ahead of the alarm that had been set for 03:30. I was away from home by 04:04, but with a premonition that something out of the ordinary was going to happen during the day. As it was, I didn’t have to wait long. A little over 3 miles from home the A45 dual carriageway down to junction 15 of the M1 goes over flyover above a roundabout. As I approached this there was a silver van stationary with its hazard warning lights on in the left lane, so I moved out to pass it only to discover a car upside blocking both lanes of the flyover. The occupant had disappeared, no doubt having been over the drink limit. After phoning the police, the van driver and I donned reflective jackets, blocked the road off with our cars and orchestrated vehicle manoeuvres for the best part of the next half hour until the police had all their people in place. Eventually we were allowed to step down from duty and so I got underway again, arriving at Paul’s QTH 25 minutes late at 05:45.
A quick turn around got us away at 05:58 with Paul driving from Stourbridge on this occasion. A little time was made up on the journey and we were the first to arrive at the parking area for Kinder Scout G/SP-001 near Upper Booth at 07:53. Our ascent started in light rain at 08:15 which was 15 minutes later than I had programmed, but we were happy that we wouldn’t be particularly late on parade. I had allowed a little bunce in the ascent time and we needed most of that to battle the strong wind that was blowing, especially where it was being channelled down in the valley on the approach to Jacob’s Ladder. It was frustrating to see good weather on the horizon, but over us it was still very dull and cloudy and visibility was not at its best. We reached the trig point at Kinder Low at 09:52 and then looked for shelter out of the wind to set up our stations. We found a suitable position behind some rocks to the south east of the trig. Touching the rock on which the elevated trig stands seemed to be the signal for a heavy shower of hail. With the hail, the temperature started to drop taking it down to just 2 degrees C.
While we sheltered, we debated whether HF would be a practical proposal with the weather now being against us. Fortunately the shower was brief and the sun that had been on the horizon was steadily getting nearer, so our original MO was put into action. I decided that with the high wind speed, using a dipole would be more practical than trying to keep a beam aligned, particularly since mine is quite sharp. This was mounted on the mast at about 4 metres along with the 4m slim jim and I got onto 2m SSB on 144.333MHz at 10:10, just 10 minutes later than the time that I had alerted. Mike G4BLH had driven out to a location to the south of Hail Storm Hill and was first in the log, quickly followed by Mike GW0DSP who kindly spotted me. Paul was still setting up the antenna on HF, so Mike DSP went off to 60m to await his appearance. The dipole certainly did work well for me on this superb site and my main challenge became one of picking callsigns out of the pile up that ensued. I am certain several people gave up, so apologies to those that did not make contact.
Amongst the calls an opportune “summit to summit” call was heard and responded to which turned out to be Iain M3WJZ/P on Black Combe G/LD-030. In all I worked 21 contacts before the frequency went quiet giving me the opportunity to move up to 432.222MHz where Mike G4BLH was waiting together with Frank G3RMD and Geoff 2E0BTR. There were no further calls, so I decided to move to 4m where I managed to work Mike G4BLH and receive a call from Ross G6GVI before the battery voltage dropped too low for the Ascom SE550 to go onto transmit. The rig continued to receive and I heard Mike say that he would monitor 70cms, so I moved back there and advised a move up to 23cms. It was then time to brave the cold wind and stand on the top of the rocks behind which I was sheltering. This enabled me to work Mike G4BLH once again and also John MW1FGQ using the C710. Mike tried to use his IC-T81E and beam, but finding a broken power lead opted for an attempt just using his IC-12GE, initially running just 100mW, then upping the power to 1 watt. This was quite impressive since we were both just using rubber duck antennas. I asked John to monitor 70.45MHz for me for a while in case I could get the Ascom to transmit again and after 8 minutes “rest” the battery had recovered sufficiently for me get back onto 4m where we managed to exchange reports.
Paul got going on 60m at 10:26 with a contact with John GW4BVE who placed a spot on the website. Conditions were rather strange resulting in various skip lengths with both Peter EI7CC and relative local Mark G0VOF making the log. Unfortunately Mike GW0DSP was listening on 60m, but did not hear Paul, though he made it later on 80m. The run of 10 contacts on 60m ended at 10:46 and Paul decided that he was comfortable enough behind his rock to move down to 80m where he was quickly bagged by local Steve G1INK, again with a spot for 3.666MHz being placed. 80m was in decent shape and the contacts rather more widespread, including a very welcome contact with Karim F4CTJ. Brian G8ADD, Frank G3RMD and Mark G0VOF were worked on both bands. Paul concluded operations at 11:09 with an excellent 14 contacts in his 80m log.
I was partly packed up by the time Paul finished his activation and the sun was now warming us quite nicely with the thermometer showing a good 9 degrees Celsius. I took a few photographs and then decided to put out a few calls out on the C710 on 433.500MHz while I waited for Paul. This resulted in a brief contact with John G4OUB/M in Heanor before he drove into an RF black hole. Once Paul was ready, we set off downhill at 11:30 and soon met the ascending hoards head on. At the bottom of Jacob’s ladder we paused to take photos of each other and a passing walker kindly offered to take one of both of us. We reached the car by 12:36 in time for an early lunch since we were now ahead of our schedule. This translated into arrival at the parking spot opposite the Cat and Fiddle by 13:29 and a start to our walk up to Shining Tor SP-004 at 13:35. We could have parked at the start of the track to the summit as there was only one car parked there, but Paul had advised that Steve G1INK had said he might meet up with us for a post-activation drink at the pub. I therefore thought it was more logical to park opposite the pub, assuming it would be a social meet and no more.
We took a reasonably relaxed stroll up to the summit arriving there at 14:10 and took a while to decide where to operate from. The seating at the summit was occupied, so I elected to use the wall adjacent to our approach route as this provided good shelter. Paul chose a more exposed position beyond the summit to make use of a wooden post to support his mast. In the strong wind I lashed my mast to the stone wall with bungies and used a piece of stone attached by more bungies to provide a crude, but reasonably affective counter-balance arrangement. I was only able to erect my beam at around 3 metres as the pole started to bend quite alarmingly. I attached the 4m slim jim to the mast, but in the stiff wind this acted more like a streamer than an antenna.
My first contact was at 14:30, precisely on schedule. This time there was no pile up and only a maximum of two people called me at any one time. The run amounted to 14 contacts and included a pleasing S2S with Geoff 2E0BTR/P on one of my favourite WB summits, Callow Hill WB-015. Shining Tor was my 200th activation, Callow Hill was Geoff’s 100th - quite a coincidence. As I was operating, I became aware of the presence of Steve G1INK who had come up to the summit to see us and to video our operations. Slight smile: act natural I thought – as though crouching in a drainage ditch behind a stone wall on a windy summit was natural.
After taking some shots of me in action, Steve went over to see Paul and took some video of him in action. I moved to 70cms at 14:55 where just Frank G3RMD was waiting to make contact. It was then time to move to 4m where I made contact with Ross G6GVI, Mike G4BLH and John MW1FGQ. Halting proceedings on 4m, I plugged the quadruple quad into the C710 via a short length of RG58U and gave John a call on 23cms where we managed to make a reasonably easy contact despite the path being partially obstructed at John’s end. Steve had returned to video my operations on both 4m and 23cms. Back on 4m, Peter G8CVF, Keith G8HXE and another Keith G6LLX/P brought my total up to 6 contacts on the band. Keith G6LLX was located in the Forest of Dean (IO81RU) and was 59 with me, giving me 57. This was quite a good contact for the band with simple antennas at each end.
Paul had another steady run on 60m, this time headed by Frank G3RMD at 14:37. Peter EI7CC made the log again and this time there was propagation up to Scotland with contacts being made with Martin GM8AGM, Ken GM0AXY and Christine GM4YMM. Paul concluded operations on 60m at 15:06 with 21 contacts logged. I had given Paul prior warning about the 80m AFS Contest and he decided that with the weather steadily worsening, it would be prudent to leave activating the band on this occasion. Steve went back to see Paul as I was finishing off on 4m and a little later they both came over to join me. We all set off for the Cat and Fiddle at 15:35 once I had sorted myself out – it takes some time to pack up kit for 4 bands. Steve was obviously thirsty as he more or less frog-marched us down the hill. Maybe the pace was due to the absence of 16kg on his back – or perhaps he is just super fit and walks at that pace all the time! Anyway, after divesting ourselves of our boots and waterproofs, the visit to the warm pub for a chat with Steve made a very pleasant change to our usual routine.
The return journey to Stourbridge was rather arduous with the weather continuing to worsen. It was very blustery and raining quite heavily when we arrived at 19:13. We quickly transferred my kit to my car and then enjoyed a chat over a coffee before I left for home. The weather conditions fortunately improved and I was back by 21:11 which allowed me a decent amount of time to sort out my kit before getting a good night’s sleep.
Once again we were most grateful for the support that we regularly receive from chasers. There were a few new voices which made for a bit of variety. Many thanks to Mike GW0DSP, John GW4BVE, Steve G1INK, Frank G3RMD and Mike G4BLH for the spots and special thanks to Iain M3WJZ and Geoff 2E0BTR for the S2S contacts on 2m SSB.
73 to all,