Activation Report: 3 NP summits

Great Shunner Fell NP-006, Lovely Seat NP-030 and Dodd Fell Hill NP-016
Sunday 7th October 2007

Saturday 6th October was taken up with a pair of summits in Dumfries and Galloway (see separate report). A very enjoyable day concluded with a social with the members of the Lothian Radio Society (GM3HAM), including Andy MM0FMF. The night was spent in my car and I was awoken by the alarm on my watch at 0355 a.m. to the realisation that I had amazingly managed about 5 hours sleep. I also realised that I had a headache induced by the lack of sleep the previous night. It seemed to be extremely foggy, so I thought that I’d better get a move on and so I crawled out of my sleeping bag and shifted over into the driving seat ready to depart. Peering through the windscreen, I realised that the weather wasn’t that bad – there was a layer of heavy condensation on the inside of the car. I had forgotten to leave a window open! The next problem was that the car had settled into the grass and so I was unable to roll it down onto the road. I therefore had to use the starter motor, knowing that I’d probably be responsible for giving the chaps sleeping in their tents close by a rude awakening.

After leaving Gatehouse of Fleet, I found a lay-by and extracted a couple of Ibuprofen, a cereal bar and some water from the boot. Since I am one of life’s fortunates in that I don’t normally have to take drugs, the pills worked wonders and half an hour down the road the headache was a distant memory. The roads were very quiet and even when I got to the M6 there was little traffic. I called in at Tebay services to fuel the car and freshen up. I also managed to tidy everything away in the car and prepare for the activation. Leaving the motorway at the next junction, I soon ran into fog and it was patchy all the way to the parking spot between my first two summits. When the fog thinned out enabling me to make better progress, it was a case of taking care not to squash the extremely large number of rabbits in the road……… and hares – I have never seen so many. There were actually 4 running down the road in front of me at one point! As if that spectacle wasn’t enough, I was passing through one hamlet and a Little Owl came out in front of me and I followed it down the road. Absolutely amazing! All this meant that I arrived 12 minutes later than planned, but I was in a brilliant mood, the weather was a mix of sun and cloud and above all it was reasonable under foot once I got underway.

In my schedule I had allowed a generous amount of time for the ascent of Great Shunner Fell NP-006 on the grounds that I expected to feel totally trashed from the day previous. As I didn’t feel that way, I made good time and was on the summit by 0720 UTC and operational just 10 minutes later. After checking the beacons, I made my first call and received an instant response from Frank G3RMD who was waiting for me. After a brief chat with Frank, the run started. A number of the SOTA Breakfast Club made apologies for being slightly late on parade, but that didn’t matter and I had 20 in the bag in around 50 minutes, the last one being Mike G4BLH at his local portable site. Mike had driven out specifically to try to contact me on 23cms and although I did not have a decent antenna with me, we made contact on the band with Mike being 53 and myself 51. I was using a newly acquired Standard C710, this having arrived by Special Delivery two days previous. Obviously Mike’s kit was doing all the hard work, but it was pleasing to get a decent contact running just 280mW. Next time I should have a proper antenna with me.

After completing with Mike, I moved to 432.333 to call Frank G3RMD, but there was no copy, so I lowered the SOTA beam and erected the HF dipole. Time was moving on and I made the decision to abandon 60m and go straight to 40m CW. Opening up at around 0835 UTC, Rafik F5CQ was first to find me and the ensuing pile up brought in a total of 19 contacts in F, G, PA, HB9, DL, OE, OK, LX and ON in 25 minutes of operating. At 0900 UTC I went QRT and started to dismantle the station. Being on the Pennine way, I had expected to see some early walkers pass by, but I had seen no-one. I left the summit at 0916 UTC and decided to use the one of the quad bike tracks down the hill. This brought me to the car within 40 minutes and after a quick change of battery, a drink and something to eat, I set off again, this time for Lovely Seat NP-030.

The ascent took me less than half an hour, inclusive of a number of stops for photographic opportunities on the way. As is often the case, I was struggling to get sufficient breath, but surprisingly I felt in good shape and the only issue was that my right hip was starting to ache. This was unusual, since the weak hip is the left one, so I assumed that the ache must have been caused by sleeping overnight in the car. I arrived at the summit and took a few minutes to get some photographs in case the weather closed in and then I set up next to the seat that has been constructed using the flat stones found on the summit. There is a flat stone convenient for use as an operating table. I bungied the mast to the end of the seat and opened up on 2m at 1047 UTC. First in was Simon 2E0VAG/P down in the Chilterns. We moved to 144.320 since a QSO was in progress close to my usual frequency of 144.333. After the contact I had to move back to the calling frequency and was contacted by Stuart M3SMK. Again there was no-one to follow on, so I made a third CQ and a third contact, this time with Graham M0GAE/P off the back of the beam, up near Woodburn. Amazingly I had to call CQ yet again and this time it was Martin G3ZXZ who replied. We moved to 144.350 and it was will great relief that Mike G4BLH followed this contact. It is a long time since I have qualified a summit without a QSO with at least one regular chaser.

A run of regulars followed Mike and the total on 2m came to 14 in around 55 minutes. Every few contacts I announced that I would again be taking the “Plan B” option and activating NP-016 for my final summit rather than NP-018. After the session on 2m I moved to 70cms and called Frank G3RMD. Again the 5 watts to the SOTA beam was not getting down to Cheltenham, but Mike G4BLH responded, once again en route to his local high spot. We moved to 23cms once Mike had arrived and again made contact, but this time I was 31. However, another success for the little rig. I dismantled the beam and set up the HF dipole and found Dan DH8DX, this time on OE/VB-081. I had to wait a couple of overs before someone kindly asked him to listen for /P. Whoever that was, many thanks! Moving down 1kHz, I was soon found by Roy G4SSH, whose callsign I made a complete hash of, but I clarified the contact by referring to him by name. Then it went crazy! In all I made 24 contacts in just under half an hour. Sometimes it was virtually impossible to get calls out of the melee. Again there was a good spread of contacts covering G, DL, F, OE, ON, HB9 and OK. Inter-G signals were particularly strong – it is many years since I have heard them so good.

While I was operating on 40m, a couple of walkers came to the summit, said Hi and then chose to sit at the end of my dipole to eat their lunch. A little later, a group of 3 came up, also said Hi and sat in the same area. Everyone was interested in what I was doing and like myself, all seemed to like Lovely Seat. It is not a particularly stunning hill, but it has a very pleasant feel to it and no doubt seemed to be a good place to stop for lunch. At 1232 UTC I concluded my activation and started to pack up just as the first two walkers said their farewells and started to descend. It took 15 minutes to pack up, then said goodbye to the remaining group and started to descend. The descent took me just 20 minutes and I actually arrived at the road before the walkers that had left the summit before me. I was like a man of a mission!

For the second day in a row, lunch was taken late and then I set off to do battle with the crowds in Hawes. Fortunately I was only slightly delayed by the hoards milling around in the narrow one way streets before I escaped up into the wilderness and rough gated road towards Cam Fell. I parked just through the third gate and started off along the Pennine Way, this being the first part of my ascent of Dodd Fell Hill NP-016. By now the pain in my hip had gone and everything was going well for the forthcoming activation. I had read the access route description prepared by Richard G3CWI and soon found the cairn and watercourse. Beyond the cairn the track was difficult to find and the featureless terrain with boggy areas made it quite a task to keep to the most economic route. However, it was not that long before the hag banks at the summit and the trig point came into view and the tracks became clearer as I approached the area. On reaching the summit, I found the trig surrounded by water, so I had to set up the SOTA pole using the guying system for the first time during the day. At least the grass was dry and I was able to settle down comfortably and start operating.

My initial call at 1442 UTC was answered by Graham G4FUJ who was monitoring 144.300. We moved to 144.333 and had a chat while the troups rallied. This time the run on 2m SSB was just 12, with most reports being down on the earlier summits - indeed I was only a lowly 59 with Mike GW0DSP. The run ended and I then moved down the band a little to call Geoff M3SFN/P on Heath Mynd WB-007 for the first 2m S2S of the weekend. Mick 2E0HJD called in to say Steve G1INK was on Easington SP-012 on FM, so after the contact with Geoff, I changed the beam polarisation and moved up to 145.325 to make contact for a further S2S. I then had a third S2S with Jimmy M3EYP/P on The Cloud SP-015 and then yet another with Ron GW4EVX/P on Foel Fenlli NW-051. Operations were rounded off with contacts with Amanda 2E0MND and Mike G4BLH. As I was making these final contacts I realised that the temperature had plummeted and it then started to rain, with visibility dropping to less than 50 metres. Cloud had descended on the hill and conditions were worsening by the minute, so I decided that it would be prudent to cut the activation short and descend while I could still see the faint markings in the vegetation that indicated the route down. Apologies to those waiting for me on 40m CW – I know there were a number listening out as they had indicated that they would be during the contacts made on the previous summit.

On the descent I found some quad bike tracks which took the general direction that I needed, but these disappeared on several occasions and it was a case of taking it bit by bit until I located the cairn. Once back on the Pennine Way I was able to see much further and I made good speed to reach the car just 25 minutes after leaving the summit at 1617 UTC. As I changed into my shoes, the weather got wetter and it was raining heavily as I sat and ate the remnants of my provisions. My chosen route home was down through Kettlewell to the A65 and then through Leeds to the M1 motorway. I left the parking spot at 1630 UTC. The first section of road was extremely greasy with the rain and I had to take particular care and it seemed an age before I was back onto decent roads. Despite this delay, I was back home for 2010 UTC in good time to see Bev and feed Whisper before getting a decent night’s sleep.

The three summits in the North Pennines provided a complete contrast to those in Southern Scotland. The activation points gained more than redressed the balance for the difficult ascent of Cairnsmore the day previous for a single point. These summits would make reasonably easy winter activations, but looking at it a different way, equally they made excellent summits to be activating on the second day of activations, particularly when the driving and lack of sleep were taken into account. Overall, the round trip was just short of 700 miles.

I must say that I really enjoyed the weekend. Meeting up with the LRS chaps on the Saturday evening played an important part in this, providing a suitable separation between the two days of activating. I was very surprised to find that I had no aches whatsoever after a good night’s sleep and none have developed since. Am I getting fit at last? The lack of sleep was another matter and will need to be considered if I do a double again.

Many thanks to all that made contact, with a special thanks to those that took the time to post on the website. Particular thanks must go to Mike G4BLH for going to his local high spot twice to make the contacts on 23cms. I really do appreciate the support that I received and look forward to being out on the hills again in the coming weeks.

73, Gerald

Summary: Rig FT-817, 300Hz filter on CW (+ straight key); 3.3AH SLABs (12AH on final summit)

Cairnsmore (Black Craig of Dee) SS-170
144MHz SSB – 20; 25w RF, SB5 at 4m
5MHz SSB – 10; 7MHz CW – 17; 5w RF, multiband dipole at 4m
Total 47 contacts

White Top of Culreoch SS-245
144MHz SSB – 13; 25w RF, SB5 at 4m
432MHz SSB – 3; 25w RF, 6el DL6WU at 3m
Total 16 contacts

Great Shunner Fell NP-006
144MHz SSB – 20; 25w RF, SB5 at 4m
1297MHz FM – 1; 280mW hand held
7MHz CW – 19; 5w RF, multiband dipole at 4m
Total 40 contacts

Lovely Seat NP-030
144MHz SSB – 14; 25w RF, SB5 at 4m
432MHz SSB – 1; 5w RF, SB5 at 4m
1297MHz FM – 1; 280mW hand held
7MHz CW – 24; 5w RF, multiband dipole at 4m
Total 40 contacts

Dodd Fell Hill NP-016
144MHz SSB – 13; 25w RF, SB5 at 4m
144MHz FM – 5; 25w RF, SB5 at 4m
Total 18 contacts

In reply to G4OIG:
Many thanks Gerald for a stupendous achievement. Having only joined SOTA on the 6th October, you were my first chaser summit on Black Craig of Dee SS170.
I believe the only hill I have ever climbed is Kit Hill in Cornwall, so I have the greatest admiration for all you activators. Here in Ipswich, on the east coast, I am finding the continental summits much easier than the G/GM, but enjoy the challenges!!
Thank you again and here’s to the next one.
Best 73,s
David G4CMQ

In reply to G4CMQ:

It was good to work you David. A first for me (doing a previously unactivated summit) and a first for you. Excellent! I look forward to working you again when I’m out in the hills.

73, Gerald

In reply to G4OIG:
Hi Gerald,

This was a very enjoyable read and an excellent record of your not inconsiderable achievement. You would certainly need stamina for that. Mental as well as physical. The mileage is frightening and your choice of accommodation basic! (I built a board over the folded-down passenger seat for this purpose.)

I concur that GM is noticeably harder. This lesson is relearned every time I go there.

You picked three which I regard as ‘old trusties’ to follow up with. You suggested it would be a good bet to do these in winter and that is very true. The NP summits are favourable from a safety viewpoint because (as you noted) it’s not too often that you are more than 30 to 50 minutes from a road. It means that they can almost all be done as ‘radials’ (Car-summit-car, car-summit-car-etc) rather than as ‘rounds’ like a lot of LD summits where you can be remote from your ‘security’ and need greater resources (not least electrical power.) Further advantages are the walls (windbreaks) that are found on many of them, the ease of mast erection on soft, grassy ground, less in the way of rock-fields to snag antenna wires, often good paths and relatively few peat haggs (apart from Grimy Gutter Haggs on Shunner). The modest ASL’s don’t often catch the first of the snows.

You took on three in the day however, using multi-band/mode with a big transport penalty, which is a real achievement. You felt great after it because it was hard.

Noted about Mike, G4BLH. You’ll find no keener advocate of VHF I think.
You did very well to ‘get your pass signed’ for such an undertaking.

Good ‘pioneering spirit’ stuff, Gerald,

73, John.

In reply to Gerald’s post below.

  1. Yes, fringe lunacy is an advantage and perhaps required for the territory. It’s so difficult to explain to non-outdoor/radio people. Why do we willingly enter into situations of grossly reduced comfort and increased vulnerability? Because the rewards are very significant, last for a few days until the ‘next one’ and assist with our general fitness & wellbeing. Also it seems to be a human trait and a good way to rebel against a combination of too comfortable modern living and stressful working. As a 1949’er, I feel exactly the same way with fears of future inability. Until that day, the mental side of it is by far the greater challenge for me.
  2. Obsession is good. I was born bone-idle and realised very early on that obsession was the only way I was ever going to get motivated or achieve anything. I managed it with education, family and hobbies but it was a rare thing indeed with career.
  3. You need a diesel estate!
  4. Flaccid airbeds – yes, luxury but I have long wished they’d been lighter!
  5. My XYL thinks this way too but it has not always been the case. I often take her to a café & buy her a scone!

Keep on with the obsessive; it’ll stand you in good stead! We seem to think alike.

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

Many thanks for your very kind comments - much appreciated.

I know that I’m sometimes regarded as slightly mad, getting up in the early hours to start off on a 700 mile round trip costing the best part of £100 in fuel, but I’ve taken the view that I’m going to do these things while I have the health and vitality to do them. As I’m 55 years of age now I might not be able to do these things in 5 or 10 years time. I know that I’m very lucky and priviledged to be able to do them at the moment and it will not always be the case.

My XYL Bev says that I’m obsessive to be almost autistic. When I have a bee in my bonnet about something it just has to be done and so it was with getting a couple of “first activations” under my belt. The weekend was planned as a whole, so the “gentle” NP summits were chosen to be manageable in a sleep deprived state. It was unfortunate that there was a sudden drop in temperature accompanied by rain on the last one, otherwise I would have given 7MHz CW a turn.

With regards to my sleeping accommodation, I’m considering an estate for my next vehicle so that I can get stretched out better. I would have been more comfortable had I chosen to use an air bed to smooth out the undulations of the car seat - they work quite well if not fully inflated - but I decided on simplicity and in the event I had no trouble getting in the 5 hours that were available. Meeting the LRS chaps and Andy FMF provided a break in the proceedings and certainly helped with the mental side of the activation.

As for getting my pass signed, it is really part of a win-win situation. Bev knows that I’m much happier when I can get out to do activations and with me all smiles it has a knock-on effect for her, particularly in the winter period when I tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. In addition, Bev likes to get away on odd weekends and guess who is the chauffeur. Hence the win-win situation.

73, Gerald