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Another wet activation

Ward’s Stone SP-003 and White Hill SP-006
Saturday 7th March 2009

An early start was required for the planned itinerary of Ward’s Stone, White Hill and Fair Snape Fell. I set out from home at 03:06 and arrived at Paul’s QTH at 04:22. It was my turn to drive, so after the usual welcome mug of coffee, we packed Paul’s kit into the boot of my car and were away from Stourbridge by 04:38. The forecast promised a grey day - that was really the only part of the forecast that we could rely upon as it had changed every 6 hours (or so it seemed) during the week. The Met Office had actually got the wind direction right and it was already blowing quite strongly from the south west.

Traffic was fairly light on the M6 and we were making good progress when we came upon debris strewn across the motorway just south of Junction 14 to Stafford. In the split second available to me, I aimed as best I could to miss what I could see in the headlights, but there were two resounding bangs followed by an ominous rumble which indicated a tyre had deflated. Fortunately the car remained entirely stable. As I pulled over to the hard shoulder, the motorway maintenance depot at Doxey came into view, so I pulled in and parked up. This gave us a safe place to change the wheel. The left rear tyre was totally deflated and on removing it, we could see a clean gash in the side wall extending from the rim right to the edge of the tread, over 3 inches in length. How fortunate were we? – it could have been a front tyre.

Changing the wheel delayed us a good 20 minutes and I took it steady for quite a while thereafter to check whether there were any other issues with the car. Fortunately there appeared to be none and we arrived at Tarnbrook in the Trough of Bowland at 07:12. I parked up on the grass verge outside the village and we got ready for our first ascent up to Ward’s Stone SP-003. It wasn’t long before we were ascending the track out of the village onto the fell side, Unfortunately visibility was little more than 50 metres, so there were no views. Once at the top of the track, we followed what we thought was the continuation, but after checking the GPS against the map, we discovered we were heading too far east and so cut back north west towards the summit plateau. It was extremely boggy underfoot and we had to pick our way carefully. Eventually the plateau came into view and we made directly for the trig at the western end, which we reached at 09:18.

It was very windy at the trig point. Paul set up his antenna using the trig for support and I used a bungie cord to strap my pole to the nearby rocks. I was fortunate enough to find a position out of the wind. It took us both a while to set up our stations and a while longer to make our first contacts. Presuming that 60m would not yet be open, Paul attempted to raise interest on 80m first, but without success. Peter G3TJE called in, but immediately disappeared. Paul therefore decided to move to 60m and at 09:42 was worked by Martyn M1MAJ who spotted him. Robin GM7PKT was next in the log, followed by Peter G3TJE. In all 17 contacts were made on the band before the frequency went quiet and Paul went back to 80m where he was spotted by Frank G3RMD. John GW4BVE headed the run of 11 contacts on that band at 10:17. There was a surprise for Paul in the form of Helen using her new callsign M0YHB. Last to be worked was Dave G6DTN, logged at 10:33.

While Paul was having a hard time on 80m, I was having a hard time with my equipment. My FT-817 had not awoken from its outing on Allt-fawr GW/NW-025 the previous Monday when it had got wet. I was therefore forced to use one of my other 2m SSB rigs, an old Trio TR-7010. The rig is modified for use with an external VFO and while everything seemed to be working okay, I was not getting any power out. Fortunately the original VXO arrangement in the rig has been left in place and so I was able to switch in that system and the rig came to life. I clunk-clicked the tuning up to around 144.333MHz and called – Mike GW0DSP came straight back and helped me ease the 1kHz or so onto my usual spot. I was in business. Mike was on Skype with Barry 2E0PXW and he kindly asked Barry to spot me. The result was that by 10:13 I had a respectable 15 contacts in the log. However, a number had been more difficult than usual and the Cheltenham Mafia and Don G0RQL were notably absent. This may have been partly down to another attribute of the modified 7010 – the front end is a low gain noise matched stage as the rig is usually used with a BNOS linear which has a preamp. Basically it could be described as being quiet, but deaf.

At 10:15, I fired up the newly acquired Wouxun KG-699E on 4m and had a small run of 5 contacts including Mike G4BLH/M out at a site near Pendle SP-005. The next band to be used was 23cms, so I hopped up onto the rock near the trig and called on 1297.500MHz using the C710 and its whip. Three quick contacts ensued: Mike, John MW1FGQ in Holywell and Ron G8CXR in Fleetwood. I had worked John on 2m and 4m and Ron on 4m, so it had been useful leaving this band until last. Forewarned is certainly forearmed. Noting that Paul was packing away, I decided on a quick call using the C528 on 433.500MHz – the result was yet another QSO with John MW1FGQ. There were no further calls, so at 10:45 I decided to pull the plug and started dismantling the station.

We started our descent at 11:00, a full hour behind schedule. The weather had improved during our stay and we now had reasonable visibility and it was a more pleasurable descent than we had expected earlier. Unfortunately as we approached the car some 55 minutes later, a few spots of rain started. The weather deteriorated as we sat eating our lunch before travelling to the parking spot for our second summit, White Hill SP-006.

We reached the Cross of Greet parking spot at 12:46 where it was raining heavily and was very windy. It took us a while to prepare our packs and we did not set off for the summit until 13:00. The ground underfoot was very waterlogged and boggy. Several times we crossed the fence that runs up to the summit in order to get onto better ground. With the wind more or less directly fully in our faces it was a struggle, but we made the summit by 13:50. Paul set up at the junction of the fences that meet at the summit and I moved away slightly seeking drier ground, but did not find any. Conditions were what only could be described as dire. Before setting up, we decided that we had no option but to make this the final hill of the day. Fair Snape Fell would have to wait until another day.

Setting up took some time in the bad conditions and my first contact was not until 14:07. Mike G4BLH/M was again out near Pendle and was waiting patiently on my usual frequency. Graham G3OHC was second in the log, placing a most welcome spot for me. In all I made 15 contacts on 2m. It was a struggle to get signals down into the Midlands and it took quite a bit of effort to exchange reports with Graham G4JZF who was using the call GB40WAB and with Roger G0TRB. Reports in other directions seemed to be much better, possibly indicating a poor path down towards the south from this summit. I operated 2m lying on my front so as to keep as low a profile as possible. Moving to 4m at 14:44, I made just two contacts with Mike G4BLH/M and John MW1FGQ. Mike also made the sole contact on 23cms at 14:48 where he was 57 sitting in his car and 59 when he got out of it. Standing up to make the call on 23cms I discovered that I had been lying in water an inch deep which had collected while I had been operating.

Paul’s first contact on 60m was an S2S with Robert GW0PEB/P on Foel Fenlli GW/NW-051 at 14:13. Carolyn G6WRW was next in the log and she placed a spot for Paul. In all he made 14 contacts on the band with Peter EI7CC being the rear guard. Paul’s position on the hill was rather exposed and he decided to call it a day after making contact with Peter at 14:32. Once he was packed up, he came over to help me dismantle my station and we set off down the hill with the wind and rain on our backs at 15:08, arriving at the car by 15:42. I turned the car round to face the wind and with the boot open we had some shelter to change into dry clothes. Paul’s waterproof trousers had proved to be anything but waterproof – I was much better off, but still damp on my lower half and for both of us rain had found its way past our waterproofs and gaiters to run down into our boots. Dry socks were almost the equivalent of heaven!

Before setting off home, we sat and had soup and sandwiches. We left Cross of Greet at 16:16 and arrived back in Stourbridge at 18:54 after a very calm and relaxed journey. Being back early allowed me to take a decent break at Paul’s house during which I consumed an absolutely huge mug of coffee and a chocolate muffin before setting out for home at 19:48. I arrived there at 21:16, still damp but suitably chilled out.

As usual we would like to thank everyone that came on to work us, especially to everyone that placed a spot, including any that were deleted. We were sorry not to be able to activate Fair Snape Fell as this would have been the last SP summit for Paul. Maybe it will be our first target next winter when we plan to activate that other “escapee” Cracoe Fell NP-032.

73 to all,

Gerald G4OIG


G4MD – FT-817ND, tuner and doublet at 7m.

G4OIG – Trio TR-7010 144MHz SSB, 8W nominal output / Standard C-528 433MHz FM, 5W output / Standard C710 1297MHz FM 280mW output / Wouxun KG-699E 70MHz FM – 4W output. Dual band yagi (5 and 8 elements), 5m 5D-FB semi rigid coax, 5m pole, 4m slim jim, 2 x 3.3AH SLAB each summit.
Weight incl survival kit, water, etc: 14kg

Ward’s Stone, SP-003, 560m asl
4.8 deg C, rising to 7.2 deg C, cold strong wind, visibility 50m initially, improving
G4MD: 60m SSB – 17, 80m SSB – 11
G4OIG: 2m SSB – 15, 4m FM – 5, 23cms FM – 3, 70cms FM – 1

White Hill, SP-006, 544m asl, visibility 50m
6.1 deg C, dropping to 3.8 deg C, cold strong wind, horizontal rain
G4MD: 60m SSB – 14
G4OIG: 2m SSB – 15, 4m FM – 2, 23cms FM – 1

Total distance walked – 13.3km taking 4 hours 9 minutes; total ascent 512m

Mileage driven – 465 miles

Soup – G4MD: Heinz Cream of Tomato / G4OIG: Baxters Royal Game (I’m learning!) :wink:

In reply to G4OIG:
Hi Gerald,

Sounds like an annoyingly poor day weather-wise but you succeeded in pleasing the chasers. I don’t like the sound of lying in water and I can deeply sympathize with wet feet.

You had quite long summit times for such conditions so well done in sticking with it and carrying it through when the first instinct (I know) is to forget it.

I hope the 817 works OK eventually. It sounds like the spare rig nearly let you down but for the VXO.

From the three you mentioned, I have only done White Hill. It was over snow but very windy and I remember that there was a lot of unseen boggy ground underneath. 14kg is quite a lot to carry over that sort of terrain and if there was a path, it was invisible to me at the time. Despite modest height gain, I was left with the impression that it was quite a big work-up for a 2-pointer. A fair way to walk.

Pity you had to drop the last one but after such a ‘dangerous’ start with the car’s near accident and delays changing the wheel, it was the only thing you could do. There is very little spare time left in a 3-summit activation plan these days, with the number of chasers. Every minute counts. Besides, once you get wet through, the day is best ended.

Hope the new tyre didn’t cost too much. Trust you called at the scrappy and bought one on a wheel. I have a stack of these in my back yard. Four for £15 was best price but that was 2 years ago.

Well done to you & Paul for creating activity where there is relatively little.

73, John G4YSS.

In reply to G4YSS:

Trust you called at the scrappy and bought one on a wheel.

Snigger! You’re such a card John. I reckon tyres for Gerald’s posh jalopy are around £125 discounted and an 18in Audi alloy wheel I would guess will be in the £450 range.

Good to see the pair of you got out. I had a miserable day. Woke up to find a proper blizzard in situ and 3in of fresh snow. I waited till 10.00am for the gritters to get out and set off in the sun. Loads of snow but the 4WD coped nicely. Within minutes I was in another blizzard as I crossed the moors. I finally got to the parking spot and it was sunny. Of course before I’d finished getting boots on the blizzard started. I sat for 25mins in the car and it just snowed more and more. Whiteout conditions. It didn’t seem sensible to set off in such bad weather so I gave up and came home instead. It snowed hard for the rest of the afternoon but by 5.00pm all the snow had melted.

So that was a day wasted. Unlike you, my only expense was petrol and the fact I’d jet washed and waxed the car the day before and now it’s completely filthy again. There was so much salty spray that roof is filthy never mind the sides!.


In reply to G4YSS amd MM0FMF:

Hi John and Andy,

Wet weather seems to be following me around - Mike G4BLH reckons I should have an activation health warning slapped on me. Maybe it’s just the SP’s that don’t like me - it started at the end of September on Longridge and Easington Fells when Paul and I got absolutely soaked. On the other hand it could be the red car that sets it off as I seem to get wet in other parts of the country.

It turns out we were extremely fortunate on the M6. Near the spot we hit the debris there were a couple of vehicles on the hard shoulder with their hazard lights on - culprit and / or victim? - not sure as I was busy avoiding debris at the time. After we had left the maintenance depot, we passed another wheel changer on the hard shoulder and there were lots of Police vehicles with blue flashing lights heading south to the next junction. My son was travelling about an hour behind us on his way up to Glasgow and he said the motorway had been closed due to an accident - so someone came off much worse than we did. As for the tyre, you are right Andy - a Michelin cost me 130 notes - with 197BHP under the bonnet, you can’t scrimp on what connects you to the road. Fortunately the alloy only just got a slight nick and not on the rim - phew!

With regards to the activation, we were running later than planned and Fair Snape Fell would have therefore been activated in the dark - fine if you’re dry and warm, but under the circumstances Paul and I felt it was better to postpone our visit until we could do it justice. We do try to put on as many bands as we can, particularly minority ones, as this is the only way of keeping the interest going. Unfortunately on this occasion 70cms was particularly poorly represented, but hopefully the 817 will soon be back in action. I’m awaiting a report on it from MLS.

As for the summits, better visibility on Ward’s Stone would have been good. White Hill was more of a slog than any real effort - walking into the strong wind and rain was not pleasant and a fishing shelter or something similar would not have gone amiss as there is no natural shelter at the summit. I keep looking for something practical, but it would be one more thing to carry and deal with when activating. Just how far does one go?

73, Gerald

In reply to G4OIG:
Sorry to miss you (and Paul) on the first summit. I’d hung on as long as possible before going out for provisions etc (i.e. taxi drive for XYL!), realising something had gone wrong - no sign of either of you, no spots.
As luck would have it, you were spotted less than 10 minutes after I’d gone out!
I did manage to work Paul on the second summit and apologies for not being around for the first activation, but I only heard you twice, briefly popping up out of the noise. Shame really - I could have done with both summits on vhf! There will be other opportunities.
Hope your next jaunt is in more clement wx (and without the hassle of m/way debris!).
73 Graham G4FUJ

However, a number had been more difficult than usual and the Cheltenham Mafia and Don G0RQL were notably absent.


Some of us were here and heard you, but extremely weak and it seems you never heard us (same occurred with Rick M0RCP the previous weekend). I did do a terrain plot from my home to SP-003, it showed 2 more significant lumps in the path, so I was not really surprised that we never made it.

However my 5MHz contact with Paul means that the last SP wanted has now been removed from my list.