Attempted Cross Fell activation

Well yesterday was my birthday and so i thought i’d try and get back into sota activating after 10 year away. I also thought it would be good to try and do a HF activation for the first time. I decided upon Cross fell due to my partial wanting a full days walking and also the greediness of the 11 points on offer(8+3 winter bonus). I did not take into account that 10 years older I have gotten and the rather heavy(i need to lightne up my HF kit) equipment i was carrying.

I set off at around 8.30 from hartlepool and parked at the bottom of the access road to Great Dunn fell, near the first private road sign. I could have gotten to the first cattle grid but I didn’t know that until i walked up it as it looked quite snowy. The snow was on the road just after the cattle grid so would have only saved me 15 minutes.

I set off around 10.30 and the first half an hour made me question if Cross Fell was going to be activated at all. The first half hour of walking up the steep access road was tough and then I hit snow pretty early on, just past the first cattle grid, and the slow slog started. After about an hour my body stopped moaning about all this sudden excersice and steep walking and I got into a slight rhythm although the snow on the road was a big slowing influence. As I set off I was in the hope the cloud would shift by the time i got to the top and i could have some great views across to the Lakes. I got a nice view up to the cloud of the snowy peaks in the Lakes that looked a lot less cloud covered. I soon however was engulfed in the cloud and was alone and tired on this unrelenting road upwards. No wildlife, no other people, no sounds other than a sound of a river somewhere in the cloud below. The more I headed up the more the wind grew and the cloud/fog became colder. All I had other than my map of course to see how far i was up the road was the snow poles. I started at 330 or more and it was gradually going down, 300, 250, 200. I was following some footprints that looked fresh and can see how if people walk along time in the arctic etc could go mad.
Anyway around 12.00 the snow poles were down to single figures. i could only see a maximum of two-three snow poles in the distance and I had realised its safer to come down this hill and enjoy the walk when i look back than to get lost in near white out conditions for some points. I got the last gate across the road near snow poles 14 I think and knew I must be near the top. i couldn’t see the golf balls yet but i kept following the caterpillar tracks up the road until out of know where a cattle grid and fence came in to view at around 12.15. Once at the cattle grid I looked up, seen a faint sign that said Great Dunn Fell Communications and what appeared to be two grey towers in the cloud. Still no view of the golf ball.

By this time the wind was quite strong and very very cold. Visibility was around 10 metres or so and there wasn’t much distinction between snowy ground and cloud/freezing fog. I give an obligatory phone call(three network works fine all the way up) to my home contact to tell i was safe and i was heading down. I ate a small snack took some pictures and headed down at aorund 12.20-12.25. It took me two hours to get up and around an hour to get down.

If i wasnt following the road up but going up Cross Fell direct. I still dont think I’d have made the summit due to the weather and conditions. It was only that i was on a tarmac road, although snow covered and had snow poles the length of my route that I got to the top and down safely. I got back to the car at around 13.35.
Back at the car my legs immediately said thats enough and stiffed up. I gave my contact the news I was back at the car safely and i sat in the car and ate my lunch.

i will attempt Cross Fell another time but in the meantime I am going to look at lightening my load i had to carry.

Amazing view to the lakes from just after the start.

me around half way up. the sun glasses were necessary due to the sun sometimes coming out and shining through the clouds and dazzling off all the snow.

The view down from near the top.

The eerie looking grey towers in the cloud.

The radar station and golf balls are there somewhere!

The first view I got once I had descended out of the cloud. As you can see the cloud had lowered since the morning.



There’s no shame in admitting you fell uncomfortable in the conditions with your experience level. Rather turn back to try another day than become an unfortunate statistic. Iain MM3WJZ, who is well experienced in Winter hill walking, made the same choice the other week on Ben Lui having climbed to nearly the summit. If there was no fog you probably would have had few problems, legs and fitness excepted. Or if you had done it before and knew the path between. Having got to the radar station, the walk between is quite straightforward even in fog. But only when you have enough experience to read the map contours with your feet!

So now you can figure out how to lighten your pack and to pick some other summits to practice on and get fitter. Whilst Cross Fell is only 890m or so, that’s a big, big hill for England and a respectable height for Scotland. Let’s hope you have more luck with you next activation.

A bit too late, but happy birthday, Anthony.
We say in Spanish “una retirada a tiempo es un victoria” which I’d say in English as withdrawing in time is a victory.
There will be many more days to activate Cross Fell and many more summits to be activated in many other days.
Take care and best wishes.
73 de Guru - EA2IF

Happy birthday Anthony!

Sorry to hear you didn’t make your goal, i know how annoying that can be, but like the others say, you made absolutely the right decision. I’m an instructor in another discipline where the same rule applies as in mountaincraft, knowing when not to push on and to turn back shows the very best of judgement and skill!

Good luck with the next one!

Yeah I was fine walking up the road and following the map n snow poles but I was not comfortable walking in the freezing fog and snow on a compass bearing with no crampons or ice axe. I also probably didn’t realistically balance out my lack of fitness. Something I hope to remedy.
As for lightening my pack my first thoughts are a lightweight dipole antenna. I took a resonant end fed antenna which has a large ip65 rated box on the bottom. I also don’t at the moment have any short thin coax leads so took what I had (20m) rg213. I also think i might downgrade my battery. Although the ts480 isn’t a lightweight HF rig at 3.5 or 4.5kg I can’t change it nor is it light on power draw but I think a 5ah battery hopefully of some lightweight lithium technology will reduce the weight but give enough juice. As will taking a few top sections out of my 10m mast.
So plenty to think on what to use some birthday money on lol.

Excellent write up. I would love to hear more about your pack setup, with pics. I love talking gear. There is a valuable wealth of knowledge here about tips and tricks to lighten your load.

There wasn’t anything special about my pack setup per sa. Th equipment list is as follows. And was made up of what I had available
Macpac ascent rucksack
kenwood ts480 SAT(auto ATU model) on the bracket that fits the front onto the back, sort of.
20m of RG213 coax.
10m fishing pole bought from Ebay.
1/2 wave resonant end fed antenna by G whip.
1:1 balun(i got free with the end fed antenna)
stock fused power lead from the Kenwood rig.
Stock kenwood Hand mic
DIY guying ring made from some 8mm ish plywood with spare guys from my sotabeam wasp special guying kit.
Baofeng misuto Hero 2m Handheld 2m/70cm with nagoya NA771 antenna with hand mic.
A5 notepad for logging.

the radio i wrapped a teatowel around it to help keep moisture out and then wrapped it around my goretex bivvy bag.
The battery I wrapped my emergency blanket(orange poly bag) around it.
The rest I just put in a seal plastic bag and put in my rucksack.
The pole was in the side straps and the rucksack has small pockets at the bottom on the side to hold ice axes and poles from falling out.

Then I had the usual walking stuff with me
Hat, gloves, waterproof mitts, sunglasses.
montane waterproof coat and waterproof trousers
map, compass,
two Leki Makalu walking poles

I didn’t quite know how to pack it all in so i placed the rig next to my back and the battery in front of it at the bottom of my pack. Then put the rest of the gear where I could.

Any tips would be appreciated. I can change most of the kit except the radio, i can’t afford to change that hihi