I had been planning to take advantage of the four day Easter break to get out & do some more activating, but the very un-seasonal weather during the week did not suggest that I would enjoy the same superb weather I had on Fair Snape Fell last month, in Winter!
With the snow that fell on this part of Lancashire being very quickly washed away by the more usual rain, an overcast, but dry Good Friday morning spurred me into action. I had got up quite early today, purely by accident, but that at least meant I could listen for Bill G4WSB who was alerted for G/SE-004 Butser Hill at 06:30UTC. I saw him spotted on 2m SSB but from here, using only my dual band vertical that would be quite a challenge so I monitored 60m for Bill to QSY there. I heard a LA station working Bill but I could not hear anything from him here, but I spotted him in any case, for the benefit of others who may be able to work him.
Some time later I saw that he was spotted as calling on 60m but still I could hear nothing, the band was certainly taking it’s time waking up this morning! Then I heard his call just rise above the noise & working on the theory that if I can hear his QRP transmission, he should be able to hear my 100 Watt transmission so I called him & at that time reports were 42 from me & 57 from him. Within 5 minutes he was a solid 59 as the band started to open up for NVIS propagation. Some nearer stations who are usually 59+20 were completely inaudible & the only chaser I heard was G0BPU.
By the time Robert GW0PEB/P called from G/NW-040 the band was in much better shape, although still not fully open for NVIS, but it was quite reassuring that it was at least opening up as that was the band I intended to start with on my activation.
So, after a shower & making sure I had packed everything this time, I set off on the journey to my nearest Marilyn, G/SP-014 Longridge Fell.
It was a quite uneventful journey of about 25 minutes, the highlight of which has to be passing a nice young lady in some extremely tight running gear, who later arrived at the car park at Jeffrey Hill while I was about to shoot the first of my video clips of this activation. She was with her partner & that is where they had parked.
This car park, which is more of an extended lay-by, can get very busy when the weather is nice, but today there were only two cars parked there when I arrived. It is not the nearest parking spot for this summit, but the nearer one only has room for one or maybe two cars. Heading North East from the car park after about 300 metres you come to a marker stone at SD643403. You may think that carrying straight on up the steeper path is the better route but this will lead you into a boggy area & you may have to back track to cross it in bad weather. The marked path bears left at this point & is a flatter route with much firmer footing. You cross a small stream, which is the run off from the boggy area higher up to your right & the path then turns right heading upwards towards the conifer plantation that covers most of this Fell. This 350 metre section of the path can be quite muddy as all foot traffic is kept within a narrow track by the thick vegetation on either side.
On reaching the wall at the corner of the plantation at SD651405 you can cross over the wall via stone steps to follow the track NE to the summit, or you can stay on the North side of the wall & follow the track on that side. The track over the wall is narrower, but drier & you cross a couple of stiles before reaching the trig point. There is only one stile on the North side of the wall at SD653409 although at 341 metres this spot is easily within the activation zone.
The trig point is now exactly 500 metres ahead of you, although it does look deceptively closer, & is very prominent. The path once again is a little muddy in places but soon you will be at the summit.
I decided to move further East from the trig point to find somewhere suitable to set up. After struggling to find somewhere on the North side of the wall I crossed to the South side & found a perfect spot for erecting a HF dipole 320 metres East of the trig point at SD661411. There is a convenient sturdy post you can lash a fishing pole to, & several fence posts at just the right distance to the east to fit one leg of an 80m dipole & approximately 3m of guy wire. For the other leg I simply looped the guy around a stone on the wall, not under too much tension & without damaging the wall. There is space here to sit down on the ground, but with the summit being very quiet as the weather was a little grim, I set up the FT817 & ATU on the top of three stone steps built into the wall. The 7Ah SLAB was on the ground at my feet & I ran my ground wire out along the base of the wall.
I decided to start on 60m & once again the difference between the noise level I have at home & the noise level on a summit was obvious. With a resonant dipole the meter wasn’t lifting off zero apart from the odd small static crash from a distant thunderstorm. Truly marvellous & in truth, the way it should be everywhere including built up areas. My first “Is this frequency in use?” on FE was answered by Brian G4ZRP & followed John GW4BVE who spotted me & then a steady stream of regulars. There was a little QRM which although it was not affecting communication was little annoying so I moved to FM which was lovely & clear. After working all that called me on 60m I wanted to have a listen for Tony 2E0LAE who was alerted for GW/NW-012 at 14:00 & as he had listed 50m SSB as a mode he intended to use I had brought my 6m dipole with me. After letting Frank G3RMD know that I was going to QSY to 6m I dropped the HF dipole & quickly put up my telescopic 6m dipole.
My first call on 50.150 SSB was answered once again by Brian G4ZRP who was a lovely signal despite only using about 8 watts to a dipole inside his shack!
He was followed by Rob G7IGB in Wigan running 2.5 Watts from a Yaesu FT690, which was the 6 metre version of the very popular FT290. The rain had started to fall by this point & although afforded some shelter by the trees behind me the wind was also starting to pick up. After working Tony G4ERQ in Alsager I reluctantly decided to pack up. I had a quick listen on 2m SSB using just the FT817 & rubber duck but there was no sign of Tony or any other nearby 2m SSB activations.
I always monitor S20 while ascending or descending a hill & had my handheld on that channel while I packed up. It was then that I heard Iain M3LIU/P calling CQ SOTA from nearby Pendle Hill (G/SP-005). He was not very strong but as Longridge Fell summit is covered in trees, VHF signals can be greatly attenuated. I heard his first call & the pile up generated, with several local stations being very strong at my location so they must have been extremely strong with Iain. As my 5 Watts into a short whip could not compete with fixed stations I deliberately left my call very late & added “Summit to Summit” at the end. Iain thankfully pulled my call out & I had my only Summit to Summit QSO of the day.
Before finally leaving the summit I gave Iain another call as we both had rain & were both thinking of calling it a day.
On the way back down the shelter afforded by the conifer plantation became very apparent as soon as I reached the end of the plantation at SD651405, where I was suddenly greeted with the full force of the wind & quite cold hard rain. I had taken the wise decision to keep my Hi-vis jacket on above my normal walking gear & despite the adverse weather I was warm & dry throughout.
I returned to the car park at Jeffrey Hill to find my trusty two wheeled stallion alone, & I think pleased to see me. After a refreshing drink of Diet Coke I returned home knowing I had some nice cold Beer in the fridge
Once home I discovered that Tony had to abandon his activation due to the terrible conditions, the right decision in my opinion, there will always be other times.
If I hadn’t lost time finding somewhere suitable to set up, I would have had more time to operate & could have got to work other bands, as was my intention. Despite this, I had an enjoyable day & the exercise was definitely good for me. The first time I activated this hill last year I had to stop a couple of times, although I was carrying a much heavier pack. Today I didn’t have to stop at all, other than to admire the view or shoot some video
A big thank you to all who worked me, & to John GW4BVE, Phil G4OBK & Frank G3RMD for spotting me.
I have uploaded a video on Youtube in which I have corrected a couple of mistakes I made while shooting it.
Yaesu FT817ND @ 5 Watts
MFJ 945-D ATU
80m / 60m / 40m link dipole.
Telescopic dipole for 50MHz
Yaesu VX7R Handheld
Pack weight 16 Kgs including Motorcycle helmet.
Soup - None
1 Litre of water carried - 500ml consumed
Vertical ascent = 80m
Distance walked = 5.12 Km
Distance driven = 28 Km
My Activator log will be entered this afternoon & photos will be uploaded to Flickr in the next couple of days.
Thanks & 73,