I was getting Cabin fever - I needed to be out!
So I didn’t do much planning other than wanting to do Cross Fell, G/NP-001 & stay in the vehicle for a night or two. I’ll decide what to do later. So off I went. The weather looked OK, A couple of hours driving across the A66 to discover the summits were in thick dark cloud and pretty windy. The temperature had dropped down to 15c, half of what it was earlier in the week. (Mid July) Not quite what I had in mind. It was getting late afternoon so I decided to spend the evening parked up at Kirkland in a tiny parking area just beyond the last holiday cottage. The hill was still clouded in the morning and I could see showers coming from the SW. I decided I may as well walk from Kirkland as I also wanted to see Greg’s Hut. How I wished I’d brought my goretex boots. It had rained a lot overnight and the ground was very wet and soft.
Approaching the flatter ground on the NW shoulder of Cross Fell, I noticed something orange on a peat hagg some way off to my left. I went to look. There was a large ex-military rucksack, an orange tent and other equipment piled up around it. I wondered whether there was someone sheltering under it, or perhaps, even worse, a body. I politely asked if anyone was there. No answer, so I carefully lifted a corner of the collapsed tent. No body at home! The bag was stuffed with kit, most of it cheap rubbish. I wondered what had happened. I guess the owner just gave in on the Pennine way and went home as there were no ‘personal possessions’ just old, damp and rusty kit. I could see the faint impression in the purple moor grass where a quad bike had passed so someone local knew about it. I continued on to Gregs hut arriving exactly 2hrs after leaving Kirkland. The possibility of staying there one New Years Eve and activating the summit twice in 24 hrs crossed my mind. Two sets of activation points and only a short walk from the hut!
Arriving at the summit I was delighted to see a lovely summit shelter in excellent condition.
I needed it as it was thick cloud, wet, & windy. I hid under an ex-military poncho and an umbrella I’d thought might keep some rain off. Even though I’d self spotted and I’d seen I’d been picked up by the RBN I struggled to make my 15 CW QSOs on 7,10 & 14mhz. using my SOTA Beams linked dipole. I was getting very cold, my hands too. My morse was starting to suffer. The poncho wasn’t a good Idea as I’d no way of keeping it taught. It flapped wildly and noisily. The umbrella held in the hand did keep the heavy rain showers off me though!! . After an hour on the summit I packed up returning via the bridleway at Tees Head to the SE and taking a short cut via Wythwaite and Ranbeck back to Kirkland. This route was much drier under foot.
Where tomorrow? Sitting in a car isn’t the best way of deciding what to do and where to go, especially if you’d not done any planning and were trying to examine OS maps!!
Nine Standards Rigg looked good and not too far away. And I knew there was shelter there as I’d passed that way a few times before when I’d guided groups over the S2S. I treated myself to Fish 'n Chips in Kirby Stephen and purchased a pair of gloves from the builders merchant. I passed a pleasant evening/night in the vehicle near the end of the road leading up to the top. My socks drying out overnight.
1hr 20’ after leaving the car the next morning I was on the top.
(G/NP-018) Joined by several s2s walkers. Just below the nine standards is a small enclosure perhaps once a sheep pen(?) providing an out of wind shelter and some privacy. There were spare thin stone slabs, which re-arranged made a nice seat and a table for the rig and my morse key. I spent 2 hrs on the summit obtaining 22 CW qso’s on 14 & 10mhz, including 2 S2S ones. My linked dipole refused to work on 7mhz. but at least I was much warmer having found an old work fleece under my car seat and I’d purchased a pair of builders gloves in the Kirby Stephen builder’s merchants the previous day.
Back at the car. What to do the next day?
Another hour or two in the car, fighting with my maps to decide where I chose, G/NP-006, Great Shunner Fell.
A pleasant drive in sunshine soon saw me parked up at the south end of the Buttertubs pass, overlooking Hawes and Wensleydale. I treated myself to a bottle of red merlot and celebrated the drying out of both boots and socks. It rained again that night again and it looked grim again in the morning. I thought about going home. Dark cloud everywhere, but the wx forecast looked promising.
I set off following the faint track/quadbike path via the ‘coal pits’, Ahead of me, a young man (well younger than my 69 years.) was in front, carrying what looked like a vhf/uhf aerial of some sophistication and a large rucksac… Oh, dear I didn’t want to share my activation with anyone else! I threw the rest of my kit quickly in my bag and set off after him determined I’d bag the summit first, but also wondering what he was up to… But then he turned south, off the path and out of sight.
I needed to check the map. To my alarm I discovered I’d left it behind!. Do I go back? I’d never been on this hill before and the summit was out of sight. Every instinct told me to go back and fetch the map. The car beckoned a long way away, glinting brightly at me in contrast to the grey skies. But I had my compass and I knew if need to retreat I only needed to go East - and the fence was also a useful handrail for my return. Using my OS Locate app on my phone I recorded the few changes of direction I made along the fence line and photographed the way back from each location - I now had ‘waypoints’ to follow in reverse. Following this fence up hill however, I soon discovered I’d arrived at the top in just less than an hours walk from the car! Relief!! And as a bonus, it was now sunny and another nicely built wall shelter provided shelter from the strong winds. I set up office in the sun. Like before I was wearing two fleeces and a set of waterproofs. The builders gloves worked a treat. My morse was back to normal - which I hope is good.
Note on radio kit. YouKits, familiar I guess to many, has internal batteries but I had no way of re-charging them so I’d brought along a 2amp slab battery (the orange package). The morse key an old army model bought for £15 and an excellent morse key if somewhat heavier than some would like. (GYSS had told me it was, “a lot of atoms”, when he held it in his hand some weeks before at our club meetings - thought that an amusingly witty description of something heavier than he’d prefer!), 2 pencils, JVC headphones purchased for £2 from a charity shop. My logbook and a flexible clipboard with a growing list of SOTA callsigns & names someone had posted on The Reflector. I always feel slightly honoured when chasers greet me with my name. So I’m making an attempt to do the same to chasers! Ideally I guess there must be a logging program I could use on my Ipad that would do both jobs.
I had an extremely week phone signal at the summit and I was lucky to be quickly spotted by the RBN as I was unable to self spot.
14mhz at 1100utc again produced the most QSOs (8) followed by a few on 10mhz and after twiddling with the rusting crocodile clips on my linked dipole I fixed the 7mhz link and I got another couple of QSO’s on 7mhz, including a call from a GM callsign with the suffix, /A, the only time I’ve heard it used. I packed up after an hour. No more chasers.
On my way home I decided it would be much more sensible to plan what I was going to activate before I set off as I’d wasted so much time in the car struggling with maps and my list of SOTA summits!
Arriving back home later that day I discovered the weather at home had been warm and sunny with not a cloud in the blue skies or anything stronger than a light breeze. Our new dog, Jack bounced up and greeted me. “I’ll take you next time Jack”, I told him. I took him out for a short run the cabin fever long gone. It was a good 3 days for me and I learned a few more lessons about operating in the hills!