G0VOF/P: G/SP-007 Fair Snape Fell 14th July 2016

Firstly, apologies to anyone who may have wanted to work me on 160m/80m/60m today, things didn’t exactly go according to plan! See below…

After a tip-off last night that John G4YSS would be activating G/NP-001 Cross Fell using GX0OOO/P & that he would be using Top Band I decided, quite late on, that I would also activate a summit with the goal of having another S2S on 160m with John.

The weather forecast was good & as I had recently only been activating lowly 1 point local hills I thought I would re-visit one of my favourite hillss G/SP-007 Fair Snape Fell, which I hadn’t activated for a few years.

After only getting to bed very late having been testing gear & charging batteries etc. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but after forcing myself to, I realised I would be running a bit late so decided to activate first, then do my necessary shopping afterwards.

So with my gear packed I set off on my motorbike towards the village of Chipping. As I went over the crest of Jeffrey Hill with the fine vista of Parlick & Fair Snape Fell in front of me, the view was stunning, & also a little imposing & I wondered what I had let myself in for. I don’t get much exercise so the thought of having to climb Parlick & Fair Snape did fill me with a little dread!

The view toward Parlick from the parking area at Fell Foot

With the weight of my 160/80/60/40 linked dipole & 12m of RG58, my pack was a little heavier than I have been used to & ascending around the western side of Parlick was just as hard as I remember (I’ve never been fit enough to go straight up!)

After a while the terrain gets easier & Fair Snape Fell itself comes into view:

Fair Snape Fell from the Western face of Parlick

After a small drop, you then begin ascending again past “Nick’s Chair” and on towards the cairn & shelter at Paddy’s Pole. It was quite obvious that some real hard work has gone on since my last visit, with the shelter re-built & looking splendid in the sunshine. One item of interest here is that one of the stones has a German word carved into it:

Carved stone in the shelter at Paddy’s Pole.

With my new Android phone, Google translate eventually arrived at a translation of “Beauty”, which given the full meaning of Fair Snape Fell being “Fell of the beautiful pasture” I thought rather appropriate :slight_smile:

I also took the opportunity to try out the “Panorama” mode on my phone to capture the following image by the trig point at Paddy’s Pole:

Panorama at Paddy’sPole

Whilst monitoring 145MHz FM I heard Geoff G4WHA/P calling CQ SOTA from G/LD-004 Skiddaw so my first QSO was an S2S. After this I walked further North East to find a spot to erect my 160/80/60/40 linked dipole where it would not be in the way of any walkers.

I already knew I was running late & as I had no reliable phone signal at the spot I’d chosen I phoned Roy G4SSH to let him know that at least I was on the summit although not QRV yet. By this time John G4YSS had already been on 160m & was at that time on 60m.

Here is when my troubles began! After snapping my 9m carbon fibre pole not once, but twice, whilst putting up the dipole I then found that I was not hearing very much at all on any band & the VSWR was sky high!. I dropped the antenna & tried all the connections but it was to no avail.

After putting the antenna back up I scanned the bands to see if I could find John & eventually found him calling around 1832KHz CW. I immediately called him but my keyer was still set at 28WPM so after a few buitton pushes I dropped to 20WPM & called again with 5 Watts into a very high VSWR. Incredibly John heard me & we exchanged 599 /559 reports before John asked to switch to SSB. After a move to 1843KHz we exchanged 59 /41 & it was obvious to me something was very wrong with my antenna. I thanked John for the S2S & set about investigating what was wrong with my antenna. In the end I decided it was a fault with the coax that I couldn’t repair on site so decided to drop the dipole & put up an end fed half wave instead, tuned using one of the SOTABeams 40m-17m EFHW tuners.

That of course meant no 80m or 60m SSB so my apologies for anyone who may have been waiting to work me.

A couple of calls on 7032-cw & I was answered by Les G3VQO, Chris F6EAZ & a portable station that was being hit heavily by QSB. Eventually I heard Terje LA8BCA/P calling me from LA/OL360 & after a couple of tries we made the S2S. Terje was followed by Christphe ON6ZQ but after that calls seemed to dry up. At that point I decided to try 14062-cw before packing up, & my call was answered by Vic SM7ZDI before again there were no more takers.

As I still had my shopping to do (postponed from the morning) I decided to pack up & head home.

I stopped at the trig point for a “selfie” :blush:

Then made my way back towards Parlick:

Parlick from Paddy’s Pole

I would normally return via the same route I ascended by but today I thought I would return via the Eastern side of Parlick to see if that was any easier. In some ways it was easier as there is less of a descent & re-ascent at the saddle between Fair Snape & Parlick although futher on the route levels out & you tend to be walking further without losing any height.

The view back towards Fair Snape Fell from the track around the Eastern side of Parlick

Eventually I came to the point at which the path straight up & down Parlick crossed the track I was on & decided I would take the direct route down. It was harder on the knees than the route I would normally take & I did end up on my backside at one point, so I may well stick to the western route in future :blush:

Anyway, despite the various problems it was a great day out in glorious weather so a big thank you to all stations that worked me, especially S2S & very special thanks to John G4YSS (GX0OOO/P) for the Summit to Summit QSO’s on Top Band :slight_smile:

Thanks & best 73,

Mark G0VOF


Hi Mark, reminds me of our joint activation a few years back.

Hi Mark,

Many thanks for the summit to summit contact on Skiddaw, From your photos it looked like you had similar weather to myself. It was very pleasant on the summit of Skiddaw and not that windy.

I spoke to John GX0OOO on the descent from Skiddaw on 2m and he said he had not heard you on top band but I told him I had spoke to you on 2m and that you were hoping to work him on Top Band. Pleased you got your Top Band contacts with him.

Look forward to hopefully working you again in the future.

73’s Geoff GM4WHA

Wow you don’t hang around Mark! Activation and report in pictures all in one day. Nice report and thanks for showing us what Fair Snape looks like. Very bonny. Parlick was mentioned by G4OBK Phil today on Top Band and he was referring to your activation route, which looks and sounds like a long way.

Thanks for the S2S on 160m as they are quite rare. Yes, I’d left Top Band but was very concerned that you wouldn’t get your planned S2S after all the effort you put in.

I got some info from Roy & your phone number but there was no signal your end and it went on to message both times. I then tried 2m-FM to see if you were there and worked Geoff & John G4WHA/M and G0TDM. Geoff told me that he’d worked you so that confirmed Roy’s message that you were on the hill. I never did get on 60m at that time - only later. I sat on 160m for a while with the result that all’s well that ends well.

It didn’t matter about your low signal strength. What counts is that you’re in the log so thanks for going to all the trouble of hauling the gear up what looks like quite a big hill.

Thanks to the other Top Banders of today - G4SSH; G4OBK & G8VNW and all the other chasers. Band condx were pretty poor and it took a long time to fill a page of log.

73, John.

Thanks for the report and pics Mark very different to when Gerald and I did it in half a metre of snow! Sorry to hear you had difficulties with the kit hope you found and cured the problem eventually.

73 de Paul G4MD

Thanks for the nice comments :slight_smile:

Yes, I remember that day well, from the surprise of meeting you at Fell Foot to the way you shot past me on the way up as if I was standing still! I did mention you as I stopped for a chat with a walker who was in training for an Alpine walk with 2000M of ascent. He was in shorts & a t-shirt and only carrying a water bottle so after our chat he also left me for dust. As I mentioned above, a lot of work has gone on since our visit with Tony 2E0LAE (Now G1JPV), & the fell and surrounding access land have been made much more appealing to walkers. I believe that special fences have also been erected in some areas to prevent further erosion of the peat by grazing sheep, although they are further to the North East towards the true summit & not really visible from Paddy’s Pole.

Thanks for the S2S & my first QSO of the activation. I usually monitor 145.500MHz FM for the chance of chases or S2S’s but as I was running late I hadn’t switched on my VX7-R until I was actually in the activation zone. I did answer your first CQ but closer, more powerful stations got in first so I was a little cheeky calling “Summit to Summit” in one of the pauses in proceedings. I had originally thought John G4YSS was also running late but by the time of our QSO I think I had already gathered that he was actually on time based on his original schedule. I didn’t have an accurate idea of how long it would take me to ascend from Fell Foot but on this occasion it probably took me about 1 hour & 15 minutes. Quite slow I know, & others do it in much less time, but I am nowhere near as fit as they are :slight_smile: Our QSO was a nice start to the activation, it was shortly after that when things started to go wrong! Thanks for letting John know I was on the summit & still hoping to work him.

What can I say, I was pleased that you were going to be out again & using Top Band and I know I have chased G/NP-001 Cross Fell on 160m before but as it is much further North than my relatively local NP summits I wasn’t certain I could chase you from home with my new noise levels. Rather than risk not working you, a fairly late decision was made to go out & activate myself which would also mean the possibility of a Top Band Summit to Summit contact, which are still quite rare. I chose G/SP-007 Fair Snape Fell as it is my favourite summit, with the view of it from G/SP-014 Longridge Fell being one of the best views in Lancashire in my opinion. It does take more effort to activate than most other G/SP summmits with around 6KM of walking & 280M ascent / descent using the route from Fell Foot.

Several activators have commented over the years that for the effort involved it should be worth more than 2 points. Of course that is a valid opinion, but activator points are not based on the difficulty of ascending a particular summit. In writing my report above I looked at the summit information posted by other activators & the route I took was almost identical to that posted on Phil’s (G4OBK) blog, with the exception being that on my descent of Parlick I continued a little further along the horizontal path than Phil did & descended straight down the path to the West side of the large gulley on Parlick’s southern face. I knew at the time that descending such a steep path would be hard on my knees & my legs ached for a couple of days afterwards, but it did save some time compared to following the track around to where it meets the track around the West face of Parlick. Incidentally, the fall I took was very minor, but could have been a sprained ankle if I had not been wearing appropriate footwear :wink:

As it was, the worst pain I felt at at the time was from the dry grass (like a stiff brush) against my bare sunburnt right arm! I had a slight bruise in the same place for a few days but no harm done :slight_smile:

I knew EE phone coverage was patchy & not reliable at my operating position 95M NW of the shelter at Paddy’s Pole although I did receive the odd ping telling me a text message had arrived. Phone & text coverage was available at Paddy’s Pole as was data coverage although the speed of this did vary. I’m glad Roy could get a message to you as I had no means other than Radio to contact anyone from my operating position.

At the end of the day we made the Top Band Summit to Summit & you qualified Cross Fell on 160m, so at least my main objective was achieved :slight_smile:

I remember that morning too, based on your alerted time I think you started your ascent in darkness, with plenty of snow both on the roads & even more on the hills. I, along with a few other committed chasers were waiting for you or Gerald to appear on the air. Like John G4YSS both you & Gerald are pretty accurate with your alerted times so when that time came & went some may have thought you were not going to appear at all, but I had a bit more confidence, & sure enough, a little bit late you were both eventually QRV :slight_smile:

Another reason your activation sticks in my mind is that I activated Fair Snape Fell a few weeks after you & Gerald. Despite weeks of warmer weather there were still odd patches of hard packed snow left over from the winter, which I included in the Youtube video I uploaded of that activation.

Investigation into Antenna problems:
Despite testing my kit beforehand, & a quick investigation after I arrived home not pointing to any particular cause of my antenna problems, a more thorough investigation did reveal some issues.

I had not one, but at least two intermittent faults that typically worked with each other to produce the “faulty antenna” I experienced last week. Either individual issue would have been fairly quick to diagnose & possibly repair on site, but with two faults conspiring with each other it was a bit more tricky than I had time to look into on the summit.The coax I use has a PL259 plug on one end (fits on the radio) & a PL259 + adapter on the other end. The 160/80/60/40 linked dipole I use has a coax choke at the feed point terminated in a PL259 plug which joins with the adapter on the coax mentioned earlier.

The antenna itself is basically the first one I made, originally a dipole for 80m, then with 60m added & then with further links added for 40m and extension pieces added for 160m (Video on Youtube showing the day I added the 160m sections). The coax is not only used on summits but also at home & other portable locations so it has been very much used in all weather conditions. The antenna itself has also seen much use & been out in all weather since it was first made.

On investigation I found oxidization within the PL259 plug at the radio end of the coax as well as a physically loose connection between the braid & plug body. I also found some oxidization & physically loose connections between the coax braid and centre conductor at the point where they join the elements of my linked dipole.

I remade the radio end of the coax & all is now good. The feed-point of my linked dipole, being one I made years ago was absolutely covered in insulation tape. I have now remade this using far less “insulation tape” which is useless for keeping out water, & based it more on the design of the feed-point of my later 60/40/30/20/17/15 linked dipole which leaves anything that can get wet out in the open, but still minimizes water ingress into the coaxial feeder.

I will certainly be giving the antenna & coax a thorough on-air test before I carry them up a hill again, although a 160m dipole is far too big to set up in my garden! I am afraid I am going to consign my 9M (Originally 11M) carbon fibre pole to the dustbin as it has now seen so many “quick repairs” most of its strength now probably comes from the aforementioned “insulation tape” :blush:

I may even remake the entire antenna using thinner wire, then I wouldn’t need such a strong pole to support its weight!

Once again thanks all for the nice comments :slight_smile:

Very best 73,

Mark G0VOF