The TW-NP sortie
Sunday 10th May 2009 and Monday 11th May 2009
This venture was a long time in the planning and one with an itinerary that had been looked at one way or another more times than we could keep track of – that was the preparation for this sortie of 6 activations…… err, no make that 7.
Although this two day round of activations was loosely based on the experience gained during the 10 summit West Wales expedition of July 2008, the difference this time was the amount of travelling involved just to get in the 6…… err, no make that 7 summits. The date was set before anything else. Cheap rooms at Middlesborough Travelodge became available for the night of 10th May - it was then just down to which order we would activate the summits. Living in different parts of the country was an issue, one that was ultimately solved by Paul’s wife offering to do some driving between Stourbridge and Leicester Forest East services on the M1. We therefore met at the services early on the Sunday morning and parted company there on the Monday evening.
Setting off from LFE services, we made good progress along roads that I had known since my youth as I was born in Nottingham and grew up in the county. It was interesting to see that the A46 is at last getting the long overdue upgrade to dual carriageway north of the A606, first muted way back in the late 1960’s. Fortunately the roadworks were at an early stage and so did not cause us any delay. Once we were past Newark, the barren flatlands of Lincolnshire provided little of visual interest until the Wolds came into sight. I am sure Paul wondered whether there would actually be a hill to activate from. This area is certainly far removed from our preferred activation area of Wales. However, things don’t look so bad once you arrive at the summit and look back out to the west.
Naturally we arrived at Normanby Top G/TW-005 early at 07.28z and Paul was soon set up in the closed off gateway on the west side of the hill. This was to be a lone activation on 2m SSB since I had activated the summit back in 2007 and had no wish to undo my 100% uniques record. In fact it was a rather pleasant experience to be able to enjoy an activation second hand and have a break before the drive to our next summit. I wandered up and down the lane and then sat in the sunshine while Paul operated.
Despite being more than 30 minutes early, Paul was quickly in contact with Frank G3RMD who placed a spot to alert others of the fact we were running ahead of schedule. In all Paul made a very creditable 16 contacts, just 2 of which I did not recognise as regular chasers. It was good to hear him work Chris 2E0FSR in Leeds who normally uses FM and Robert G0PEB way down on the Isle of Wight - a very decent contact for an 817 barefoot into a 3 element SOTAbeam.
Closing at 08:24z after working Mike GW0DSP, Paul quickly packed up and we were back on the road just 10 minutes later. Our route took us along some excellent roads, past the Humberside Airport to bring us around eventually onto the A15 and over the Humber Bridge – well worth the £2 toll to avoid the need to go west and double back on ourselves. North of the river we skirted Hull, Beverley and Driffield and reached our second summit, Bishop Wilton Wold G/TW-004 at 09:45. Another 52 miles under our belt and another 25 minutes made up en route! Paul had hatched a plan as we sped through the sparsely populated roads – to tag TW-002 onto the end of our itinerary for the day and to replace TW-002 with NP-029 the following day. I was definitely up for this as Sharp Haw NP-029 could only realistically be otherwise tagged onto the winter bonus sortie we had already planned for Cracoe Fell and Fair Snape Fell. This way we would be able to concentrate on just the two summits.
The weather was quite bright, with some cloud now spoiling the sun as we set up on the grass verge. We selected a position by the side of the minor road to the north of the trig point that avoided the overhead power lines. Paul hi-jacked a road sign to support his pole and was first into action on 60m making contact with John GW4BVE who kindly spotted him. For a change the sky was not broken and despite the usual erratic propagation that the band can exhibit, Paul made a total of 13 contacts on the band including Peter EI7CC and Robert G0PEB. Moving to 80m at 10:27, Frank G3RMD was immediately on the case with another spot and here a total of 6 were worked including Andy MM0USU. A few calls on 40m netted Rudy ON4CMT and Karl DM2AOC, but Paul found 20m full of contest stations with no space to squeeze in.
My initial calls on 144.333MHz went unanswered, but a CQ on the calling frequency quickly brought in Andrew G7PZL in Wakefield for my first 2m SSB contact, with Mike GW0DSP following on. Conditions on 2m exhibited rapid QSB and several stations were caught out by this and ended up calling when I was already in QSO. Having low background noise and a Gasfet front end meant that I could hear several people at once. Fortunately I managed to work through this and 14 made the log in just over half an hour. Working Graham G3OHC prompted a move to 432.222MHz SSB for a second contact. I also managed a very “slim” contact with Frank G3RMD by using CW. With just the two contacts on the band, I moved back to 2m and put out a few calls for anyone still listening and was rewarded with an S2S contact with Robert GM4GUF/P on Tinto GM/SS-064. On signing with Robert, John GM8OTI/P on Cairnharrow GM/SS-191 called me and almost took the headphones off my head. John had emailed me during the week to say he would be looking out for me and would be trying out his new 7 element beam. This was obviously working okay! In hindsight I should have asked John if he was QRV on 70cms, but Paul and I were keen to move on and the idea went out of my mind. I went QRT once I had completed with John and we were back on the road in short order at 11:21z.
Our next target was Gisborough Moor G/TW-003. Paul had determined that the best place to tackle this summit was from near Wayworth Farm rather than the more commonly used parking spot in Commondale. This gave us a slightly higher start point and we pulled up on the wide grass verge a little way past the farm access road at 12:27z…. and yes, another 14 minutes made up over the 43 mile trip. We now had to get out of our “civvies” and into our walking clothes and boots. Even so, we were on our way to the summit by 12:40z, a full one and a half hours ahead of our original schedule. The track was an easy gradient and we made the summit without pausing, but as we arrived down came the wind and the rain. I suggested the stone circle might provide us with some shelter and indeed it did to some extent once I had spread my tarpaulin across part of it. At least we were able to keep the rigs dry even if Paul’s legs were still getting wet and I was getting cramp hunkered down.
Now what were we going to do? Was a quick activation a possibility? Answer – no, and it soon became obvious that this was not going to be an easy activation. Paul extracted his FT-817 from his backpack while I carefully extracted the dipole rods for the 2m antenna from out of the boom and set up a dipole at 5 metres, wedging the pole into the stones. For some unknown reason I decided to use the back-up feeder. A few calls using the rig barefoot resulted in no response and we both thought that the power output did not look right, even though a high VSWR reading was not indicated. I therefore decided to dig out my LiPo battery and fire up the other 817 and the linear – still nothing! There was no option other than to get out into the rain and lower the dipole and in doing so I found a croc clip had come adrift from the end of the feeder. So out came my usual 5D-FB feeder and we were away at last with the Angus beacon easily audible above the noise.
Putting a CQ call out on the calling frequency at 14:07z brought in Andy G6VVM near Harrogate. However, what we needed to move things along was a chaser. Happily Graham G3OHC was on hand to provide two callsigns and a spot. Paul and I worked in tandem using the single rig until Paul had 8 in his log when he indicated to me that further callers could be spared the trouble of working us both. My log reached a total of 12 contacts before the frequency went quiet. Included in our logs were contacts with Don G0RQL – not bad Devon to the Cleveland Hills using a dipole! We had qualified the summit in reasonable style, so we started to pack up at 14:55z. The rain had now eased and it stopped entirely as we carefully got everything back to where it should be, including the tarpaulin which Paul managed to shake dry. We started our descent at 15.06z and were at the car 39 minutes later, already partially dried out.
We knew it would be about half an hour to our fourth summit, Cringle Moor G/TW-002. Finding a cafe at the parking spot was, however, a complete surprise! Ignoring the temptation to stop off for a brew, we carefully drove past the owner’s Guinea Fowl and out onto the grassy parking area where we parked up at 16:17z. Once out of the car, we first undertook an orientation exercise before doing anything else to ensure that we didn’t end up ascending Carlton Bank instead of our intended summit. Anyway, we were soon sorted out - oh, the joys of doing uniques!!!
The sun was now back out and the clouds were very light. It certainly looked like being a really pleasant evening as we made our ascent. Having been warned by Jim G0CQK that birds were nesting in the area, we decided to opt to operate from a couple of grassy patches just by the side of the path. The sun had quite a bit of warmth despite the relatively late hour, so we took the opportunity to get the kit dried out as much as possible while we operated. It was evident that this part of the Cleveland Hills had missed the rain as the grass was completely dry.
We both were in QSO by 17:10z. Paul started on 60m which was still in fine fettle and much more stable than earlier in the day. The virtually omni-present Frank G3RMD was once again first in the log and the one to spot Paul. In all 10 contacts were made on the band before Paul moved to 80m, again with Frank heading the bill and providing the spot. Four contacts were made in little over as many minutes before the frequency went quiet. After calling for a while, Paul migrated to 40m without success and then moved to 20m when he had an enjoyable chat with Hannu OH1LWZ with good signals both ways. My session on 2m SSB started with Graham G3OHC and totalled 12 before I moved to 70cms SSB where I worked Graham again, but no contact was forthcoming with Frank G3RMD on that band. A brief return to 2m SSB brought in Graham G4JZF operating GB6WAB and once I had done a 360 degree round of calls, I moved to 2m FM where I had a chat with Paul G0OPH in Hartburn near Stockton on Tees. Operations concluded at 18:22z and after packing up we descended to arrive at the car for 18:53z.
The mosquitoes were starting to form up in battle formation as we rid ourselves of our boots and jackets and at last grabbed some sustenance in the form of some very tasty rolls and salad provided by Paul. Suitably fed, we set off for the Travelodge where we parked up at 19:50z. Both the overnight bags and the backpacks were carried to our rooms, which were soon adorned with bits of kit here and there to complete the drying out process. After phone calls home, we sat down in Paul’s room to work out a revised itinerary for the following day. Paul phoned home with the details so the alerts could be updated. It was then a case of getting a shower and some kip, which for me came easier than I had expected. Despite having the motor to do this sort of trip, rushing around the country and the fresh air had obviously had its effect on me!
Revising the itinerary meant that to keep to 07:00z as our first activation time we had to be up 20 minutes earlier than we had previously planned. This meant 05.30 a.m. local time. My first task was a trip down the corridor to check whether Paul was awake, which he was and had been for the past hour. We met up in reception at 04:50z and were on the way to our first summit, Urra Moor G/TW-001, ten minutes later after having snacked on a cereal bar and tidied the car ready for the day’s activities. The parking spot for the summit was Pole Bank car park where we found we were not the only ones out and about at that early hour on a Monday morning.
After getting ready for the ascent, we set out at 05:40z and after an initial bit of bad map reading on my part, we managed to find the paved track up in the direction of the summit. Even though it was early, Paul was in contact with activation control in Stourbridge and the alerts were duly revised to minimise confusion during the day. Apart from one fairly steep section, the way up was very easy and well graded. The early morning light provided us with some excellent views, less spectacular than those from Cringle Moor, but nonetheless enjoyable. As we approached the summit area, we discussed where we should operate from and Paul ended up at the trig point while I took a rather unstable boundary post adjacent to the path. This was contrary to our normal practice where Paul often operates HF from lower down the hill than where I operate VHF from, but in this instance it didn’t matter as the take off to the south from this summit was excellent.
At this early hour we knew we would be reliant upon the members of the SOTA Breakfast Club providing our contacts and as has been the case on many previous occasions, we were not to be disappointed. My first call at 06:56 brought a contact with Graham G3OHC, though Graham was beaten in placing a spot by his namesake G4JZF who was second into my log under the call GB6WAB. Six of the club turned out for me including Steve GW7AAV who had just done a night shift and was on the band when he should have been asleep. Contacts were made on 70cms SSB with Graham G3OHC and Phil G4OBK during which both of them provided me with information in respect of our next summit which we would be ascending “blind” as we had no maps or details with us for Sharp Haw. Despite making several calls after I had signed with Phil, somehow I managed to miss Don G0RQL. Later he told me that he had heard me on both 2m and 70cms. Arghhhh!
Paul started on 60m with three contacts headed by David G3RDQ who spotted him. Steve GW7AAV was first in the log on 80m at 07:13z in a very reasonable run of 9 contacts that included Danny ON4ON. The spot came from Don G0RQL who worked Paul on both 80m and 60m. Having finished my activation I went to see how Paul was faring and got there in time to hear his lone contact on 40m with Mike LA5SAA. I was certainly pleased to have chosen the lower position to operate from as the stiff breeze at the trig was quite cold. Despite Mike having spotted Paul there were no more calls on 40m, so we decided to call it a day and packed up. Between us we had worked a total of 14 different people.
We set off back to the car at 07:55z and arrived there at 08:37z ready for something to eat. At this time of day according to our bodies it was really brunch rather than breakfast. What was important was that we would now be on the road for over an hour and a half, so the food would be properly digested before we ascended our next summit. The trip from the Cleveland Hills to near Skipton was 72 miles and despite some delays due to traffic and roadworks, we arrived at the parking spot in Bog Lane to the south-east of the hill at 10:34z.
Getting out of the car, it was immediately apparent that the wind was stronger in this part of the country and as we made our ascent up the pleasant track Paul commented that he was getting chilled in one ear. I agreed, regretting that I had chosen not to pack my hat. However, the wind was holding off any rain and the mixture of sun and cloud made for pleasant walking and operating conditions.
As we approached the summit, we could see what we thought might be a flag flying from the trig point and something silver glinting in the sun. Was this a welcoming committee? No – it turned out to be a white embroidered apron that had been tied to the trig (the mind boggles as to what it was doing up there) and the glinting turned out to be the memorial bench by the ladder stile. As I was reading the inscription, Paul looked around and found a 7AH SLAB sat on the stone wall behind the bench……. needless to say, this was removed.
Paul set up adjacent to the stone wall on the south side of the summit and I took the trig point, first divesting it of the apron (another item removed from the summit). With the HF antenna strung out over the wall, Paul checked that anyone using the ladder stile would not end up being garrotted. He started on 60m and had a reasonable run of 7 contacts, the first being with Paul G0HNW. Frank G3RMD spotted Paul. Rob G4RQJ was last in line on the band, so at 12:08z Paul moved to 80m to make contact with G0RQL, G3RMD and G3RDQ. Conditions on both bands were not particularly brilliant, with 60m in particular exhibiting the tendency for signals to drop out. A quick look on 40m revealed heavy static crashes, so Paul decided to conclude his activation a little after 12:20z.
At the trig I was first and foremost battling with the strong wind, but managed to cope reasonably well. Opening up at 11:35z, some 50 minutes earlier than planned, no-one was waiting on 144.333MHz, so I called CQ on the calling frequency and back came Tony G7OEM in Blackpool. Tony kindly spotted me as did second in the log, Chris 2E0FSR, the first spot taking some time to show up. On signing with Chris, Mike G4BLH/M called me saying he was heading for a high spot to work me on 23cms. Ten minutes and another 5 contacts on 2m SSB later, he called back in and we moved to 23cms FM where we had a good QSO with me just using the whip on the C710. Back on 2m SSB, Steve GW7AAV was now in the land of the awake and we also tried on 23cms, unfortunately without success. Returning once more to 2m SSB, it was Graham G3OHC’s turn to attempt a second contact, this time moving up to 70cms where signals were an excellent 59 both ways. So back to 2m for a final session on SSB it was to pick up another 5 contacts, the of these being with John MW1FGQ.…. and yes, another QSY to 23cms FM and a successful contact using the quadruple quad this time. As the run on 2m SSB had now ended, I decided to look for Frank G3RMD on 70cms and we managed a very reasonable QSO using CW. Then I had a rare SSB contact on the band with Mick M0PVA who was using a non-resonant antenna. Moving to 4m FM using the Wouxun produced a further 4 contacts, all at 59 both ways.
After packing our kit up, we started our descent at 13:06z in time to meet the local dog walkers coming up the path. At the parking spot there were now 7 vehicles, so we were pleased we had timed this one correctly. We were back on the road by 13.44z and, in my haste, without the satnav. I had fully intended to check the route to our next summit Rombald’s Moor G/NP-028, but had forgotten to do so. Heading in roughly the right direction, the satnav was fired up and as misfortune would have it, it took us to Ilkley on the wrong side of the hill. In hindsight, I should have backtracked and gone around the west side of the hill, but in haste I decided to skirt the east side. By combining the OS map extract we had with us with the directions from the satnav, we eventually made it to the south side of the hill and up to the summit car park, ironically arriving there spot on our scheduled time!
The strong wind was still blowing as we made the minimal ascent towards the highest point, so we decided to seek shelter by the Thimble Stones. Paul used the fence along the wall to set up the HF antenna and found a sheltered spot to take advantage of the sun. I bungied my pole to a convenient rock and took some time to get it stable before operating. Paul was therefore first off the mark on 60m while I was sorting myself out. Paul G0HNW was the first to respond to his call with Phil G4OBK second in the log and the one to place a spot. A total of 11 contacts were made on the band in conditions that had now stabilised considerably. After signing with Peter EI7CC, there were no further calls, so Paul moved to 80m where Frank G3RMD headed a total of 6 contacts which included Lars MM0DWF. Brief checks on 40m and 20m revealed the bands to be noisy, so Paul decided to finish his activation at 16:00z.
On 2m, I had a problem getting the beam to stay in the direction I wanted it to and eventually part way through my activation I had to lower the pole and tape the boom of the yagi to it. First in the log was Steve GW7AAV which immediately prompted an attempt on 23cms FM which was again unsuccessful. While calling Steve on 23, Mike G4BLH once again out portable bagged me for a contact – well, that’s one way of doing it! I was back on 2m SSB by 15:18 where Graham G3OHC headed a run of 13 contacts that ended with John MW1FGQ and another attempt on 23cms. This time the path did not work for us, so it was back to 2m to pick up another 3 contacts on SSB before I moved to 70cms at 15:55z where I worked Graham G3OHC and Mike G4BLH on SSB and Frank G3RMD on CW. Several calls for Don G0RQL were unsuccessful. At 16:00z I put a call out on 4m FM and worked Shaun M3ULT in Wombwell near Barnsley with 57 signals both ways. With no further calls despite making several CQs on 70.450MHz, I called it a day at 16:12z.
We were back at the car for 16:40z and after finishing off the remaining rolls that Paul had prepared, we were on the road for 17:03z, just 3 minutes adrift of our scheduled time. Our route to the M1 took us directly through the centre of Bradford, but I was not worried as this is one city in the world that seems to have sorted out its traffic problems. Roadworks with a mandatory 50 mph limit were encountered on the M1 north of Nottingham, but we otherwise made good time and pulled into LFE services just 2 hours and 2 minutes after we had set off. After transferring Paul’s kit to his car and saying our goodbyes, we went our separate ways with me making Northampton by 19:48z and Paul back home in Stourbridge at 20:33z (more roadworks!).
Once again we had a very enjoyable two days of activations. Many thanks for everyone who followed our progress and coped with the change of itinerary. Particular thanks to all those that spotted us, only some of which are mentioned above, since this helped us considerably when we got out of sync with our posted alert times. Also we would like to say a special thank you to every one that came on to provide us with contacts early on the Monday morning.
As for the next two-day extravaganza, we have two potential areas sorted out and itineraries are in the process of being prepared. No doubt the attendance of the SOTA Breakfast Club will be required once again!
73 to all,