Horse Head Moor NP-021 and Great Whernside NP-008 - Friday 31st August 2007
With the advent of Horse Head Moor NP-021 being replaced by Birks Fell NP-031, I decided to do something a little different to my usual weekend activations in Wales and head north in order to activate Horse Head Moor on the very last day that it would be valid. I posted my intention on the SOTAWatch website almost two weeks before the due date wondering whether I would be contacted by others with the same intention so that a joint activation could be set up. In the event no-one made contact, so I set out at 0405UTC looking forward to a reasonably full operating period covering three bands. I just had to smile when I thought about my wife’s reaction to this activation - “What, only 2 summits?”
I had scheduled Horse Head Moor NP-021 to be my first summit in case the weather was bad and a second summit could not be attempted. The forecast was for wind with the possibility of showers, so the drive up the M1 was reasonably pleasant. The satnav took me straight through the middle of Bradford (why is there no “avoid city” option?) and north around Skipton and into the Dales. The timing worked out well and I avoided the rush hour period and so arrived at Halton Gill at 0722UTC, almost half an hour earlier than planned. My first task was to clear my car of most of the loose change with a visit to the courtesy box built into the wall and then I settled down to a leisurely period of preparation for my ascent. The cloudbase was low and the wind brought a fine rain with it, but it was not unpleasant and I decided that I would leave my waterproof trousers in the bag and see whether I got wet on my ascent.
My schedule was, for once, very leisurely and I had allowed a whole hour for my ascent. I was pleased that I had this amount of time in hand since the track was rather damp. I therefore took great care to avoid slipping on the stones. At the first gate I passed a group of teenage girls taking a rest, presumably undertaking a hike for a Duke of Edinburgh award or something similar. As is so often the case with young people unaccustomed to the outdoor life, their demeanor matched the weather. A few other walkers were about at this hour, which was relatively late for my first activation of the day, but once I was up to where the streams cross the track, I neither saw nor heard anyone else. On reaching Horse Head Gate, rather than going left towards the trig point I turned right and walked by the wall towards Sugar Loaf and the true summit. At this height visibility was no more than 200 metres and the wall helped shield me from the wind which I estimated to be between 25 and 30 mph, gusting to higher speeds.
The summit cairn was very easily located despite the poor visibility and my timing allowed me a brief visit before I retired back over the wall to shelter from the wind and set up my station. I had decided to operate from this location as close as possible to the true summit since it I felt it was only correct to do so on the last day of activation. I started as usual on 2m SSB and after checking the beacons, my first call at 0900UTC was immediately answered by Roger G4OWG. Moving to my usual working frequency of 144.333MHz, we had a chat before I got down to the business of working through a series of regular and not so regular chasers. Graham G4JZF got a post on the website before Roger had the chance (many thanks) and was ready waiting for me for contact number two. It was soon evident from the incoming reports (varying from S1 to S5) that this summit is not that well positioned, something that I had thought might be the case when considering the relative positions of the surrounding hills. Despite this, a straight run of 11 leisurely contacts in 36 minutes made a tidy start to the activation, Don G0RQL in Devon being the furthest away.
Moving to 5MHz SSB, I found Mike GW0DSP waiting on FE (thanks for the post). A total of just 7 contacts were made on this band, though this did not reflect the fact that it was in decent shape, with only Graham G4JZF having difficulty with my 5 watts. Amazingly his new dipole was putting a 59 signal out to me. After the short run, Mike DSP asked whether I could move back to 2m SSB to pick up Mick 2E0HJD who had been out earlier. Colin M5AEH in Queensbury intervened on 144.333 before Mick had the chance to call me. With the contact with Mick bringing the total on 2m SSB to 13, I moved to 7MHz CW, again being posted by Mike DSP with a tip off that Dan DH8DX/P was on 7.032 (many thanks again Mike). The S2S was duly made and then I moved down 500Hz to open up my own frequency, well chuffed to have the new 300Hz CW filter onboard. A further 12 contacts were made with GM, DL, F, PA and HB9 on 7MHz in addition to the S2S, bringing my total to 33 contacts. I then attempted a move to 7MHz SSB, but could not find a clear frequency in the slot that I had announced. I therefore made a few CQs around 7.060, but to no avail. Unfortunately I had no mobile phone coverage on the summit, so was unable to post an alert myself.
After taking some photographs in the improving weather conditions, I leisurely dismantled the station at 1040UTC and started my descent some 25 minutes afterwards. The track was now much drier and I made reasonable time to arrive back in Halton Gill at 1150UTC, my scheduled time for lunch and the unusual treat of an M and S BLT sandwich. After refueling the body, I left for my second summit of the day at 1209UTC, the short 13 mile journey taking 29 minutes down the winding roads of Littondale and through the busy village of Kettlewell.
The ascent of Great Whernside NP-008 was straight forward, though the wind was much stronger at this location than it had been on Horse Head Moor and I was quite literally blown off the track a couple of times. Fortunately the wind was blowing onto the hill and so there was little risk to me other than causing me to stumble. Again, my schedule allowed ample time for the ascent and I reached the summit in good time, but without the benefit of any useful shelter, I decided to move back along the ridge to the stone shelter where I could at least hear my own voice. As I was setting up the station, I was visited by a walker who was interested to see the mast and antenna projecting from the shelter. Surprisingly, when I explained about SOTA, he did not know what a Marilyn was. I suppose not everyone out there falls into the category of hill bagger.
I opened on 2m SSB at 1358UTC and this time it was Mike G4BLH who was waiting to make contact and again I selected 144.333 as the working frequency. Mike spotted me (many thanks) and I enjoyed a decent run of 15 contacts over the next half hour, including another down to Don G0RQL, before I moved to 5MHz. First up this time was Paul G0HNW, though the spot came from Mike GW0DSP who did not encumber me with a second QSO (thanks for the spot and also that for the move to 7MHz). After Paul, Steve GM7AAV/P called in from the cottage up near Dunkeld and a further six contacts including initials for the band with Ron GW4EVX and Mike G0BPU made a total of 8. Again conditions were reasonable, but perhaps not as good as they had been earlier in the day.
At 1450UTC I decided to remove the 5 element yagi from the mast to prevent the wind from doing it for me and I then left the shelter to reset the multiband dipole for 7MHz. I was able to have a bit of fun leaning into the wind which was easily able to support my weight. Suitably refreshed I opened up on 7.0315 and had a run of 10 contacts in DL, ON, LX, F, GM, HB9 and, somewhat surprisingly, with Mike G4BLH. At 1515UTC the frequency went quiet and I decided to look for a clear frequency for SSB, but the situation was even worse than it had been earlier, so I started to dismantle the kit at 1520. Twenty minutes later I started my descent and I was back at the car by 1620UTC just as a brief rain shower started.
Before starting my homeward journey, I ate what was left of my provisions and then phoned Bev to confirm that I was on track for getting home around 2000UTC and reserve my portion of Mousaka. I must say that I almost weakened as I drove through the northern suburbs of Bradford when the gorgeous smell of fish and chips wafted into the car as I was stopped at traffic lights, but I managed to resist and was home slightly earlier than scheduled. 383 miles for the day and 7 hours in the saddle!
All in all, it was another excellent day on the summits. It would have been interesting to have been part of a joint activation on Horse Head Moor, but I think that I gave it a reasonable go on my own and Birks Fell will fit in well with Buckden Pike some time in the future. Many thanks to everyone that made contact. It was particularly pleasing to have so many contacts on 2m SSB on a weekday.