Activation Report: More LD's and NP's

Yet more Lake District and North Pennines summits
Friday 14th May 2010 and Saturday 15th May 2010

The itinerary for this round of activations changed several times before we settled on activating a couple of LD’s, followed by a couple of NP’s on the second day. Our base at Burton in Kendal Travelodge was ideally located for tackling a couple of NP’s on our way home without unduly going out of our way and a couple of “near” Lakes summits for day one seemed to be the best option. All that wasn’t ideal when it came to it was the weather on the first day.

The first summit was the soon to be deleted Baystones G/LD-039. To achieve an 09:00z activation time, I actually had a lie in and it wasn’t until 03:03z that I set off to Paul’s QTH. Being a Friday and a slightly later start than usual, traffic was quite heavy, but everything went smoothly and we got away from Stourbridge at 04:38. Paul had programmed his satnav to locate the “EYP” parking spot (NY405069) to the north of the summit and we arrived at the lay-by at 07:25, having first passed it and done a three point turn in the road farther along. Fortunately there wasn’t much traffic at that time of day and it turned out to be a good move as the road was considerably busier after we had completed the activation and we would have had some difficulty finding somewhere to turn the car round.

Our ascent…. or rather descent, then ascent started at 07:48 and we were at the summit by 08:16. Visibility was initially a few hundred metres with typical Lake District mizzle prevailing, but the mist rapidly closed in as we neared the summit to give us no more than 30m at best. It was quite breezy at the summit, so Paul dropped down the hill a little while I braved the elements at the highest point. We were both on for just after 08:30 and despite being half an hour early, we both found chasers waiting for us. On 60m, Graham G3OHC responded to Paul’s call and spotted him to bring in a number of chasers. However, it was quite hard going on the band and it took almost an hour to get 13 in the log. Several of the more local chasers that I spoke to on 2m told me that they couldn’t hear Paul, though he did manage to work Rob G4RQJ. There were a couple of significant periods when no-one was heard and when there were signals, they were in and out like a cuckoo clock chiming the hour. 80m was a total wash out and it was the same later in the day on that band.

On 2m, matters were considerably easier. Roger 2E0BMO was waiting for me on 144.333MHz and we had quite a lengthy chat. Mike G4BLH was waiting in the wings and spotted me. Sue G1OHH reminded me that I should be trying 2m FM for Wainwright hunters. In all I worked 13 on 2m SSB in 35 minutes with varying reports. A brief test on 23cms FM with John MW1FGQ provided fleeting signals from him, presumably by aircraft reflections, but nothing from me back to him. The situation on 70cms SSB was dire with just Mike G4BLH worked followed by an airing of the G4CPS call on CW when I changed to that mode. Graham G3OHC was looking for me, but we did not hear one another. With Sue’s reminder retained in my mind, I flipped the beam over and called on 2m FM to once more make contact with Mike G4BLH followed by Doug G1KLZ and then Kevan MW3KML.

We started our descent at 09:54 and took 22 minutes to get to the car having veered slightly left of our intended route, but in the mist this was not particularly surprising. We now had a brief snack scheduled and the tasty roll and soup that Paul produced was most welcome, particularly as breakfast had been at 02:30z. By 10:30 we were back on the road and soon were making progress up the single track road up Sleddale. Rather surprisingly we came up behind a gulley emptying lorry which was in a kind of Mexican stand off with a vehicle coming the other way – our arrival on the scene swung the balance, so we didn’t have to back up. The lorry driver kindly let us pass at the next passing place and we arrived at the parking spot at Sadgill (NY484057) at 11:21z.

Having considered the various options as to how to ascend our next summit, Tarn Crag G/LD-026, we had decided to take the more gentle, but considerably longer route up the valley to swing right and then approach the summit from the north. This was a 5.1km trek with 474m of ascent, but in the conditions we thought that it provided us with the safest option. We reached the summit in just under two hours. There was a strong wind blowing across the summit and the mizzle had now turned to more persistent drizzle, so we sought the only shelter that was available – the stone pillar that is located close to the summit. This would mean that we would be operating in close proximity, but we had half an hour in hand on our itinerary so we decided that we could operate one band at a time if this proved to be necessary.

I set the pole and beam up where the pillar offered some respite from the strong wind and Paul set up the HF antenna a few metres away. Thankfully there was no interference between us and we soon got used to the unaccustomed sound of each other operating. No sooner had I set up, than I had to forsake my comfortable spot to try a 23cms QSO with John MW1FGQ who was first to call me on 2m. Nothing was heard this time, so I returned to 2m SSB to find Ron GW4EVX waiting. Sue G1OHH was the quickest to spot me on this one and she provided QSO number 4. In all I worked 17 on 2m SSB before moving to 70cms. A few calls on SSB produced nothing, so I moved onto CW. This brought in Mike G4BLH who kindly spotted me and the spot resulted in contacts with Reg G3WPF, Rob G4RQJ, Phil G4OBK and Frank G3RMD, all on CW. I was so jubilant over this that I completely forgot about 2m FM, so apologies to anyone who might have made it to Tarn Crag on that mode.

Paul found Graham G4FUJ waiting on 60m and a steady run of 15 contacts was made in 46 minutes. Conditions were still quite poor, with deep QSB and several short periods when no-one came back, but it was not as problematic as it had been in the morning. A few more local stations made it into the log – G0TDM, G4RQJ and GM4WHA. A brief look at 80m after the run on 60m finished showed Paul it was still dire on that band, so he started to pack up while I worked my way through the 70cms CW session. It had rained properly while we had been operating, but fortunately the weather had improved by the time we started to pack up.

I closed my station at 15:08 and we were on our way down by 15:24, reaching the car in 1 hour and 20 minutes. The cloud base was considerably higher when we got to the head of the dale and started down the main section of track and thankfully it was much calmer and drier in the valley. This allowed me the luxury of changing out of my boots for the drive down to Burton in Kendal. It was 17:41z by the time we pulled into the car park at the Travelodge.

We have adopted a routine when we arrive at our accommodation. First up is to remove the kit from the backpacks and adorn our rooms with the items we take with us to start the drying process. The same goes for clothing. After this we pick up our evening food from the car and convene in one of the rooms (usually Paul’s) for scoff and a debrief. Then it’s off back to my room for a shower and a bit of TV to catch up with the news before shuteye. This time I actually managed to stay awake until 10 p.m. – then again, it was hard to sleep as a couple of deaf elephants were staying in the room above mine. At least they were watching the same TV program as me!

The alarm was set for 05:15 a.m., but I was up and about a quarter of an hour before this. We had arranged to meet up at 05:40 a.m., which we did – with uncanny accuracy! Outside it was foggy and only 5 degrees C so we wondered whether we were in for the same as the day previous. Fortunately the fog only delayed us a little and we made reasonable time to the parking spot for our first summit of the day, Wild Boar Fell G/NP-007. The fog cleared abruptly as we turned off the A684 onto the B6259 at the Moorcock Inn and the sun came out. It looked like it was going to be a decent day after all.

We parked at the roadside near the entrance to Hazelgill Farm (SD783997) and quickly got sorted for our ascent. We set off along the farm access road at 05:50z and having read the very interesting and informative report by Roger G4OWG, we were soon picking up the various points of interest. There are a few steeper sections on this route, but generally it is well graded and we made good progress to arrive at the summit in a few minutes over the hour. For the ascent we had carried our top layers strapped to our backpacks, but now thankfully donned them as there was a sharp north-easterly breeze blowing over the top. As we were unlikely to be joined by anyone during our stay, Paul used the trig to support his pole while I set up alongside using the stone shelter to support mine. Initially we were both positioned out of the wind, but it veered to a north-westerly during our stay and so we became exposed and had to hunker down to get what shelter we could.

On this summit I was the first to get into the action. John G0TDM was first up – he has now learnt to turn the audio gain down before passing it back to me. A 53 report became 59+ when I turned the beam. Turning the beam caused consternation for Graham G4JZF who had heard me at 53 and then I completely disappeared! Graham was pleased when I turned the beam back to where it had been and his spot then brought in a very steady run of regular chasers. John G0TDM called in a little later for a second time to get me to swing my beam north to pick up Geoff GM4WHA and Mike G4BLH/M on the hill near his home QTH pressed Bill G0BQC onto the mic to make a contact with me. In all I worked 18 on 2m SSB before moving to 70cms SSB where I worked Mike and also Geoff G6MZX/M. A test on 23cms FM with Mike out of his car and up at the trig point produced a contact on that band. I intended to return to 70cms, but unfortunately got distracted by a comment that Mike made relating to 4m. The feeder had disconnected itself from the slim jim when I put the pole up so I couldn’t use it, but for some reason I decided to do a quick test and purloined Paul’s doublet to see whether it would tune up on the band. It did, though with a fairly poor SWR. However, Alex G7RNX was quick off the mark to bag a QSO on the band. A few more calls produced nothing else, so I released Paul’s antenna back to him to allow him to dismantle his station. Unfortunately the packing away instinct then overrode the intended return to 70cms, so apologies to anyone who was looking for me there.

Paul found 60m to be in better form on this summit with Don G0RQL ready and waiting to make contact and provide a spot. The run of 12 contacts with regular chasers, this time including Richard GM0OGN, took around half an hour. This was quite slow for a Saturday morning. Don helped Paul by assisting with the move to 80m where 7 contacts were made including an S2S with Geoff 2W0BTR/P on Llan Ddu Fawr GW/MW-005. Don was the only person to work Paul on both bands.

On our descent we visited The Nab and looked down into the valley at the extensive limestone pavements that are exposed in this area. The Nab would have provided a better take off on VHF, but we knew that there was no shelter there, hence the reason for operating at the trig point. As we descended we met the first walkers making the ascent and later on there were more people coming up the bridleway. We arrived at the car at 10:10z, 55 minutes after setting out from the trig. The itinerary said snack and so we did – more soup and rolls in readiness for our next ascent.

It was a pleasant trip over to our final summit of the day, Buckden Pike G/NP-009. The bikers were out in considerable numbers and Hawes was starting to heave with humanity. Fortunately we were early enough to avoid any delays and soon we were turning right off the A684 to head south on the B6160 towards Buckden. Paul had spotted a parking spot which looked promising – this was located between the G4YSS and G3CWI start points. Having seen this on the ground and discussed our options, we decided to turn around and take the G4YSS route as it offered a considerably better start point and the route across the fields looked as though it would be reasonably straight forward. There was ample parking in the entrance to Gilbert Lane at the Causeway (SD943804).

I must admit to having been somewhat apprehensive about the route across the fields, but gates appeared in the right places and soon we were ascending the hillside on the left side of Cow Close Gill to cross the gill by a stone wall. The route ascends to meet the bridleway at SD956792 and thereafter it was a straight walk up to the summit. Even taking a number of stops to review our position and to ascertain the best route, we made the summit on tired legs in about an hour. This route is, as John says, economical and actually not far off a straight line between the summit and the parking spot…

After visiting the trig and the other structures at the summit, we crossed the wall using the ladder stile and took up positions on the other side to take advantage of the shelter that the wall offered from the wind. The sun was still shining, but lacked heat as there was considerable cloud cover. Timber posts provided a very convenient support for our poles, so Paul was on in quick time. Frank G3RMD headed the 60m log and provided a spot. A pleasing contact was an S2S made with new activator Phil G3YPQ/P on Brown Willy G/DC-002. The QSO rate was steady, somewhat limited by conditions which were still proving to be difficult. George GI4SRQ made the log and Paul finished the session on the band with another S2S, this one with David G3RDQ/P on St Boniface Down G/SE-008. Moving to 80m, Paul made just 4 contacts starting with Steve GM7UAU, followed by Rodney EI7GAB and Frank G3RMD. Graham G4JZF called in just as Paul was closing.

Having set up on 2m, I soon discovered that I could not hear any beacons. This was traced to a failed connection at the top of the feeder, so I hooked up the spare feeder and made a late entry onto the band at 13:00 to work Frank G3RMD. Once Frank’s spot took hold, a sizeable pile up ensued and I do know that on this one several people gave up on making contact with me. I did work through until the frequency went quiet, so it is a case of being patient and periodically keeping a check on the frequency. I made my only S2S of the tour from this summit when I was called by Terry G0VWP/P on The Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013. It took 50 minutes to complete 23 contacts on 2m SSB before I moved to 70cms SSB. Here I worked Graham G3OHC with ease followed by Mike G4BLH/M and Graham G3YJR in Sheffield. Graham YJR said that he would look for me on 23cms and after working Mike G4BLH/P, once more at the trig, with Bill G0BQC once again pressed to the mic to make his first 23cms QSO, Graham called me much to my surprise. Not a bad contact for 280mW to a quadruple quad. Despite several calls in a number of directions, no further contacts were made, so I returned to 2m to provide Graham with a contest QSO and then started to pack away. Paul was already for the off having concluded his activation almost half an hour previous.

The descent to the car was easy and we breezed in in just 46 minutes. We reflected on the fact that we had descended in the time it takes John G4YSS to make the ascent…. mental note: we need to get fit! We finished off the remaining food after stowing the kit in the car and changing into civvies. It was 15:50 when we set off for home, first port of call being a refuelling stop in Skipton and thence down the motorway system to reach Stourbridge at 19:02z. It was 20:40 when I reached home in Northampton.

Well, this was yet another successful round of activations and again the support of the regular chasers was crucial and very much appreciated. Particular thanks to those that kindly spotted us. The next sortie is planned for the third weekend in June based at Carlisle and will be a 3 day affair which presents its own challenges in respect of food and battery power. We are also continuing to develop our plans for the autumn and the winter.

73, Gerald G4OIG