Friday 20 November 2020 Dale Head G/LD-020 and Robinson G/LD-021
The previous weekend, the week ahead weather forecast had suggested good weather was due on 20/11/2020, so I booked a day of leave from work, with the intent of cycling from my QTH to Buttermere, and ticking-off three summits (Dale Head, Robinson and Grasmoor - with a possible fourth of Grisedale Pike).
As the week progressed it became clear that the fine weather would be a day earlier, on Thursday 19th, and that Friday 20th would be somewhat poor. Nevertheless I resolved to continue my plan and at least tackle Dale Head and Robinson. Parking my bicycle at the top of Honnister pass would make for an easy ascent of Dale Head G/LD-020.
I had an early start on the day, and the cycle ride to Honnister felt longer than usual, since I had opted for a heavier duty bike than my usual lightweight-weight audax bike. It took a couple of hours to cycle from my QTH to the summit of Honnister pass, much of it in the dark. I arrived at the summit of the pass at 0810UTC. The weather had steadily worsened during the ride; I would usually have purchased a cup of tea from the Honnister Cafe, but no such comforts were available today due to the lockdown. The slate mine was still busy though, but with min workers rather than tourists. I locked my cycle to a road sign next to YHA Hostel, and changed into walking gear. Today was definitely a day for multiple layers.
Suited and booted, I headed off up the path to Dale Head. A short break of 2 mins was taken at the ruined stone hut about a hundred metres up - this was a good spot to refill my water bottle/filter and take on some food whilst sheltering behind a wall.
I was soon at the top where I decided to try putting-up a fibre glass pole with a slim jim. The pole went up fine, and I connected a VX6 HT to the feedline. The weather really was foul at this point - sheets of rain were being blown across the summit with the wind at around 30-40mph with some stringer gusts.
On calling CQ I was glad to hear a number of stations returning - 2E0MIX was first followed by another six stations. It was a relief to get the fourth QSL (G7CDA) and know that the 3 hours of effort I had so far expended, in poor weather, were worthwhile.
I was soon dismantling the pole and carefully winding the guy lines before heading off to Robinson G/LF-021. The route to Robinson takes you over a pleasant ridge - Hindscarth Edge. Even in these poor conditions it felt an enjoyable walk. the ridge is not excessively narrow but I was aware of the risk that if the wind continue to increase over the next hour, the return trip could be made hazardous in places.
I jogged across the grassy parts of Hindscarth and up onto Robinson. There is not much to see on the summit (especially in mist) except meagre effort of a shelter. I wedged myself into gap in a rocky outcrop for some shelter and decided to use an RH770 telescopic antenna rather than the pole - by this point the wind was gusting strongly and the sky had turned to water with occasional showers of air.
The RH770 gave good performance - possibly better than the slim-jim and 7m pole I had soon made six contacts including M7XUP who earlier in the week had advised that I wouldn’t need HF to make the necessary contacts on these summits (good advice - there was no way I would have put up a 20m/40m antenna in thee conditions, let alone risk an FT818 to the rain).
Since the RH770 was dual band I switched to 70cms for a quick QSL with 2E0MIX who suggested he put a spot out, cancelling my alert for Gasmoor later that day. I said I would wait until I was back in the valley to decide (the plan at the point was to cycle back to Crumnock waster and ascend Grasmoor).
After closing down, I headed back onto Dale head. At the point the wind had strengthened further and the rain had really blasted me as I had made my way across Hindscarth Edge. It was 1120 and I realised an ascent of Grasmoor might be stretching things a bit, the weather seemed to be worsening. I called-up 2E0MIX (Derek) on VHF and asked if he could enter a spot to cancel my alert for Grasmoor.
I also made three further contacts on my second pass over Dale Head, whom I had not spoken to earlier that morning.
I was soon heading back down towards Honnister, having to pause occasionally to allow strong gusts of wind to pass rather than be knocked over.
Back at the summit I was relieved to find my bicycle still locked tot he post. A quick change back into cycle shoes, and strap by pack to the pannier rack and was heading back down the pass.
The cycle home was rather tough, it being mostly into the wind. As I passed the base of Grasmoor I did almost have second thoughts and attempt an ascent. I assured myself I would be back in a couple of weeks, whence I could collect the winter bonus (and perhaps bag Grisedale Pike too).
I was glad to get home after another 2 hours of cycling, and glad I had not attempted Grasmoor - but already making plans for the next outing. It was a great day - I quite enjoy walking in this sort of weather as the fells feel so much wilder than they do on a fine summer’s day.
I was surprised how little benefit was given by the 7m pole and slim-jim compared to the RH770 - in future I may not bother with the pole(unless using HF)
Many thanks to those who chased me,