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Activation Report: Scafell Pike G/LD-001

Scafell Pike - Saturday 17th July 2010

At the end of June my points tally stood at a tantilising 10 points off Goatdom. This would be an important, but secondary milestone for me in my SOTA career as, along with Paul G4MD, I am a very keen Uniques activator. Paul suggested that it might be appropriate for me to attain the 10 points with a single activation – in reality that meant either Scafell Pike or Helvellyn. Initially I wasn’t fussed either way, but looking at the Hill-bagging website one evening, I saw the potential for a full day of activating by adding four Wainwright summits to the schedule in return for around 2km extra distance on the return from the summit fo Scafell Pike. The scheme was rather speculative as it would be highly weather dependent, but on paper it worked out well, getting us back to the car by 5.40 p.m. – about as late as we could push it in order to undertake the 272 mile journey home.

At fairly short notice, Paul and I booked up 17th July with our station managers and alerts were duly posted. The alarm was set for 01.30z, but for various reasons I didn’t manage to get to bed early and so had just 2 hours sleep on board before carrying out the activation. All went smoothly at home and I was on the road for 02:04, picking up Paul at Stourbridge and making the parking spot at Seathwaite by 06:53z. The parking area was already heaving, a tent even occupying one spot! We found a place under a tree and started to get ready. It had been raining intermittently since Preston. Fortunately it was having one its quieter phases as we prepared for the ascent, but it got heavier as we set out at 07:20.

The walk up to Stockley Bridge was reasonably pleasant despite the weather. It quickly became apparent that the humidity level was so high that our jackets were not breathing sufficiently and I certainly had condensation on the inside of mine. This provided a warm clammy feeling. Hardly pleasant, but we had been out activating in weather far worse than this in the past.

From Stockley Bridge we had decided to take the Grains Gill route. This was perhaps a mistake given the conditions as the rocks underfoot were extremely slippery. We had to take great care on several sections, but we eventually made the col beneath Great End. From there we cut up to Esk Hause and turned right towards the west, not as though we could see much as the rain continued and visibility from around the 600m level was generally down to 10 metres or so. As we approached Broad Crag, a couple of walkers passed us. I was in the lead at the time and had my head down battling against the wind and rain which was quite heavy. It was an easy thing just to play follow my leader across the rock fields on that part of the path, but suddenly I found that they had come to a halt and were peering somewhat anxiously into the gloom. I turned round to consult Paul – no Paul! After a while out of the gloom Paul caught up with me looking somewhat relieved. Conferring with our fellow walkers, it appeared that they had suddenly lost the line of cairns that mark the route and it was now a question of re-finding it.

Back-tracking was easier said than done in the featureless landscape and initially we were misled by what looked like a path, but after taking a couple of GPS readings and consulting the map we saw that it was taking us in the wrong direction. Taking a compass bearing for the summit, we set off again through the murk, over slippery rock fields only to find ourselves at the top of a crag. Now it was my turn to compound the situation by declaring that we should go to the right, rather than to the left to get around this obstacle. After a couple of minutes traversing boulders I re-ordered my brain, consulted the map once more and countermanded my decision, suggesting that we traverse left. From the position we were at, we were able to pass beneath the crag and shortly thereafter we intersected the proper path not far from the final ascent to the summit of Scafell Pike.

The extra distance walked seemed to drag on my resources and the final push up the steep slope to the summit took considerable effort. Once at the summit I realised that I was indeed running on empty. I never eat immediately before an ascent as I don’t find it easy to digest food while taking exercise. On this occasion, the last thing I had eaten was at a bowl of cereal 01.45 and it was now 11:42. The first task therefore was to have something to eat and once I had a couple of energy bars inside me, I felt much better.

The summit area was crowded in spite of the dire weather conditions. Everyone seemed to be shouting, so we decided to move away from the masses to set up our stations. Perhaps poor visibility makes people deaf or the murk was reflecting the voices, who knows, but it was far from a pleasant experience as I could hear them even with headphones on. Paul and I sat about 5 metres apart and operated in a sitting position with our poles supported between our knees. At one point my pole collapsed in the strong cold wind that was buffeting us, but at least the rain was only light during our operating period.

I expected Paul to be first on air, but in fact I made the first contact which came after a couple of CQ calls on 70cms SSB. Mike GW0DSP/M near Abergele called in and was surprised to head the log as it was now 12:00 and we had alerted for 11:15. Mike G4BLH out at his local high spot called me once I had signed and then new chaser Bob G6ODU called in. Mike DSP called me under his alternative LFX call for QSO number 4 and then I had a very pleasing run of S2S contacts. First up was Rick M0RCP/P on Great Shunner Fell NP-006, then David 2E0DAI/P on Lingmoor Fell LD-040 and then Andy M0FMF/P on Lambrigg Fell LD-046. All had waited for us to turn up and it was a real pleasure to make contact with them. All were sheltering from the weather. David’s father was sheltering inside a couple of survival bags, both of them now keen to get off the hill and down to the pub and Andy was having his own trials with low battery power and hiding behind the wall up on Lambrigg. It was a shame that Andy’s batteries expired just as we tried to make contact on 23cms and although he briefly heard me, we did not make contact on that band.

After the 23cms attempt with Andy, I was called by Mike G4BLH to say that he had heard me. On trying to make contact, we found that what he had heard was probably an aircraft reflection and in order to make contact direct I had to lower the 70cms pole and stand up with the 23cms kit. Mike was 53 with me, but he only copied me 31 – a good contact nonetheless. Back on 70cms I found Iain MW3WJZ/P eagerly waiting for an S2S from Arenig Fach NW-027, another one to have waited for me. I then had a run of contacts up to around 13:00z when I was able to change mode to CW. Despite calling for several minutes, there was nothing to be heard from Frank G3RMD. John G0TDM was also looking for me and through a QSP via Paul, I arranged to try to make contact. Nothing was heard from John with the beam at 3 metres above ground, horizontally polarised, but once I had lowered the pole and held the beam vertically polarised by hand, contact was made. It was quite a feat holding the antenna in my left hand and keying with my right. I think in future I will have to use a crossed yagi for 70cms as many people seem to run simple verticals on the band. Thanks to Tom M1EYP who was listening on his vertical and who kindly spotted me, but did not make contact.

John G0TDM had been Paul’s first contact on 2m SSB and the one to place a spot. The activation on 2m was a leisurely affair with no more than two calling at any one time, yet Paul was in continuous contact for an hour from 12:03. Several of the longer distant stations struggled with Paul’s barefoot 817 to the 3 element SOTAbeam, but in all a decent total of 19 contacts was made. This included Iain MW3WJZ/P, Rick M0RCP/P and also Walt G3NYY/P on Ruardean WB-021. Looking at Paul’s log at the car later in the day, it became apparent why I was not able to make contact with Frank G3RMD and Don G0RQL on 70cms - they had not been particularly strong on 2m. Everyone that spoke to Paul that could not hear me on 70cms passed on their best wishes for Goatdom, so many thanks to everyone for that, indeed to also those that sent personal emails before and after the event.

Operations concluded at 13:15z and as I was packing the kit away, Paul came over and presented me with a bottle of Bathams ale to celebrate the event. It was 13:35 when we set off down the still wet and slippery path. Progress was quite slow and the rain did not let up until 14:00 when finally we were able to lower the hoods on our jackets. The sections of path over the boulder fields were particularly treacherous and care had to be taken. As we approached Esk Hause, we had to make a decision as to whether or not we would activate the nearby Wainwright summit of Great End. We were well over an hour behind schedule, rather wet and visibility was also still very poor, probably 20 metres at best. We therefore decided to give Great End a miss and consider Esk Pike and Allen Crags a little later. On reaching the point where we would branch off for these summits, we decided that we were too far behind schedule and that it would be foolish to activate them. Conditions down to Grains Gill continued to be rather slippery, but eventually at 15:30z the sun finally came out. The car was reached at 16:22, just 18 minutes before our scheduled time – the weather had prevented us from activating the Wainwrights, but there will no doubt be opportunities to activate some in the future.

After removing our outer layers of clothing, we both discovered that the wind had driven rain water up our waterproof trousers beneath our jackets and our under layers were damp. In my case this meant that I had to sit on a towel for the return journey, but that was no hardship. After excellent soup and “buns” provided by Paul, we got on the road at 17:15 and with some delay experienced near the M6 / M5 junction, we got to Paul’s house for 20:58. My eventual arrival at home was at 22:45z. It had been a long day on just 2 hours sleep and I was exhausted!

So Mountain Goat attained. It has been quite a challenge to get this far living in the SOTA wasteland of the East Midlands. It is an 80 mile journey just to get to Paul’s house. For this trip it was 544 miles from start to finish – if only I could get points for driving!

Do I feel elated or different? Well no. I don’t feel any different and certainly I don’t feel elated in the way that several people have suggested might be the case. I guess this is purely down to the fact that I am a Uniques freak and there is definitely a very interesting life to be had after MG. That is, of course, not in any way to diminish what I have achieved nor the congratulations that I have received from fellow SOTAists. The actual physical achievement is an entirely separate thing as far as my mind is concerned and I am extremely grateful to have the health at 58 to enable me to accomplish the task. Paul has certainly been a major factor in helping me achieve MG status – the value of his companionship is beyond measure. He is coming up on the rails, so we will be continuing apace and no doubt it won’t be long before I am carrying a bottle of ale up another summit for another MG celebration.

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:

Congratulations again Gerald, you certainly didn’t pick the best of days. Things weren’t much better on NP-006 I foolishly opted not to put on my over trousers after the first shower (reasoning that my Craghoppers would quickly dry in the wind) only to find that the next shower filled my boots and this despite wearing gaiters!

Anyway it was nice to make contact on 70cms, a rarity for me, but it demonstrates that the 3-el sota beam works reasonably well on that band. I’ll forgive LFX for beating me to your 4th QSO. Didn’t manage to work him myself perhaps unsurprisingly given my QTH.

Pity you had such a long journey at the start and end of your big day. I had visions of you and Paul staying at the Wasdale Head Inn as a special treat but I guess you opted to minimise the driving instead.

Not been out much myself recently but will definitely make an effort to be out when it is Paul’s turn. I trust it will be soon. Is Helvellyn the likely target for that trip?

73

Rick

In reply to G4OIG:

Congratulations Gerald. A fine achievement. As someone who likes uniques, and tries to activate on VHF but sometimes has to resort to HF, and who lives even further into the flatlands of the east, I have nothing but admiration for your achievement.

Shame you couldn’t have better weather - sounds nearly as bad as Martyn and my trip up Hill of Stake which defeated all our waterproofs. OTOH I’m sure it made the activation memorable if nothing else!

Caroline M3ZCB.

In reply to G4OIG:

Excellent report Gerald as usual!! Congrats again on reaching the unique Goat!!

Really sorry I missed you, but grateful for 10 points off Paul!

Well done on the driving distance also.

Best 73

Tony

In reply to G4OIG:
Hi Gerald,
Congratulations on achieving unique MG. I remember remarking to Richard (ERP), some years ago as we toiled up a hill, that you and Paul had taken on an impossibly difficult challenge. We were finding it to be quite taxing to keep the momentum going on our respective, non unique, MG attempts at the time, so very impressed, indeed, with your success. I very much doubt if unique MG will be achieved by anyone else, other than you and Paul, of course.
A pity wx conditions were so bad on the day and sorry about my omission from your 70cm total. I called you a lot on cw, but really struggled to work Paul on 2m ssb. I suspect your position on the summit plateau, dictated by the wx and limited visibility, did not lend itself to good propagation to the south.
Thank you both for all the UNIQUE summits and good luck to Paul in his, soon to be achieved, MG
73, Frank

In reply to G3RMD:

I very much doubt if unique MG will be achieved by
anyone else, other than you and Paul, of course.

…it already has I think Frank: Norby LX1NO claimed his a while ago. Gordon G0EWN is also well on the way!

73

Richard
G3CWI

Great report Gerald. I have been blessed with rather nice wx all three times on LD-001; wouldn’t relish being up there in what you faced!

I might very well lay claim to the least unique MG achieved to date :wink:

Tom M1EYP

In reply to G3CWI:
Hi Richard,
Whoops! I’m behind the times! Amazing achievement from one and all.

73,
Frank

Hi Dad,

You are wrong about having good weather during the 3 times you have activated Scafell Pike G/LD-001. I’m sure when you activated Scafell Pike for the first time with Myke G6DDQ the weather was awful, possibly worse than Gerald G4OIG’s mountain goat activation of this summit.

Happy 40th Birthday to you.

Jimmy M3EYP

In reply to M1EYP:
Golly yes, many happy returns, Tom!

73

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G3RMD:

My money would be on Norby to be first to reach 500 Uniques too. He recently activated every summit on the Isle of Man in around 7 hours (first to last QSO). An amazing feat indeed.

73

Richard
G3CWI

In reply to G4OIG:

Yes, congratulations again from me too. It was great to be able to work you both s2s, although the conditions on Arenig Fach were much more user friendly - no rain, good vis, a nice shelter to hide in and the hill to myself, it was rather breezy though. Incidentally your report from NW-027 was rather useful as I used the “G4MD route”.

I was going to ask which way you had gone up but decided that given the conditions it wasn’t the day for a nice extended chat. 10 hours on a bowl of weetabix, wow, I think I’d be considering eating my map by that stage :slight_smile:

Good stuff and hopefully a few more s2s’s to come.

Iain, M3WJZ

In reply to G4OIG:

Congratulations Gerald on getting your goat in poor conditions… smelly car again? :o)

Sorry to have missed both of you.

Carolyn

In reply to G4OIG:
Well done Gerald, how strange we decided to complete this one on the same day :slight_smile: Both Dave M0TAZ and myself John M0UKD are staying near Keswick camping for a few days. We must have missed you by 30 mins or so, and only managed 9 or so contacts on 2m SSB before the weather closed in. We decided to cut the activation short due to the heavy rain about 20 mins after our fist contact, but still managed a valid activation.

Thanks to everyone we worked, and sorry for the rapid close down.

John M0UKD
Dave M0TAZ
Pictures here http://www.flickr.com/photos/m0taz/sets/72157624538413866/
Equipment FT 817 on 5w and home made 5E Beam. Sorry no activation pictures the weather was just too poor.

Congratulations Gerald on your four years of uniques to reach Mountain Goat!

My age is within a year of yours and although it doesn’t get any easier, the key is to walk and climb regularly and maintain a reasonable level of fitness. I reckon with my progress it will take me until I am 63 years old to reach 1000 points.

I was interested in the route you described to climb Scafell as I am going up there myself in 3 weeks time, hoping of better weather than yours. I did hear you very well on 70cm from LD-001 here in Pickering, I worked Rick M0RCP on Great Shunner after you did but lost you after that, in those condx I thought you had gone QRT, so congratulations on the series of S2S contacts that you made.

Looking forward to many more VHF/UHF QSOs with you in the future!

73 Phil

In reply to ALL:

My thanks to you all for the congratulations and comments which are much appreciated. The commitment and support of chasers and fellow activators has been superb on the journey to Mountain Goat and invaluable in many instances when I’ve activated difficult summits like Craig y Castell NW-074 or had to undertake a rare quickie activation from somewhere such as Gummers How LD-050. I’ve had enjoyment all the way regardless of the conditions and even when cold, soaked to the skin and with boots full of water I’ve managed a smile. I have never once regretted carrying out an activation, regardless of the difficulties I’ve experienced.

to Rick, M0RCP: It was a real pleasure working you on the MG activation. I look forward to another chat over a pint in the not too distant future. Thanks for using the 2m beam on 70cms - I wish more people would do that. 70cms is a superb band. We didn’t have time for an extended stay this time around, but Paul is currently considering how he wants to get to MG and we may well be stopping over. It was a long hard day on Saturday!

to Caroline M3ZCB: The weather was tolerable on this activation - certainly nothing like Snowdon back in February 2008 when the weather was atrocious with 70mph gusts and heavy rain. On that occasion I poured water out of my pockets when I got to the car!

to Tony 2E0LAE: Sorry to have missed you. We were compromised somewhat by the hoards on the summit. Give me a quiet remote spot any day.

to Frank G3RMD: It was a shame that we were not able to make a QSO as your support has been invaluable all the way along the road to MG. I did consider running 2m SSB, but we knew HF would be difficult on a Saturday due to the popularity of the summit, so I relinquished that band to Paul while I played radio on my favourite band.

to Tom M1EYP: I read your reports which were most useful and I decided the final stint to the summit from the Corridor route might not be the easiest route. However, the route via Broad Crag was quite challenging at the end of a long walk.

to Iain M3WJZ: I was very pleased that you were able to hang on for the S2S and also that the route researched by Paul and proved by us worked out okay. Certainly I look forward to more S2S’s with you and thanks for those we’ve achieved so far.

to Carolyn G6WRW: Smelly car, moi? No, nothing like the Llyn trip. It did stop raining mid afternoon, so we had a couple of hours “drying time” on the descent. We’ve also learnt to take poly bags to put damp clothing in!

to John M0UKD and Dave M0TAZ: Sorry we missed each other by just a whisper. I looked at your photos and the route didn’t look much better than ours, so well done. Pleased that you had no problem qualifying the summit after Paul had hoovered up the contacts before you arrived!

to Phil G4OBK: I saw you were alerted for the summit next month. Let’s hope you have some excellent walking weather and get some decent views. I don’t think there is an easy way up. Having seen Dave’s photos, there didn’t seem to be much between them. Pity you didn’t chip in while I was working Rick or keep an ear out for my CW a little later on - you were certainly noted as missing from both of our logs. Hopefully you’ll be around for Paul’s MG. If it happens to be Helvellyn, then we’ll definitely be running the same bands as on Scafell Pike.

73 to all,

Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:

Belated congratulations Gerald on achieving Mountain Goat :slight_smile:

I have not been too active over the past few weeks so unfortunately missed working you on your qualifying activation. It is always a pleasure to work you though & I never cease to be amazed at what you can acheive on VHF / UHF.

Here’s to the next 1000!

Best 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0VOF:

Thanks for the congrats Mark. Your absence has been noted - it is always a pleasure to speak to you.

2m has always been part of my “repertoire” and in more recent times 70cms too. At least with modern kit I don’t have to drag a QQVO2/6 and inverter supply up a mountain… those were the days. My back has never been the same since. It was the car battery that did it :slight_smile:

73, Gerald