Grasmoor & Grisedale Pike from Braithwaite, QRP.
Gt.Mell Fell & Little Mell Fell, QRO.
G4YSS, using SSEG Club-call: GX0OOO/P, unaccompanied.
All times: UTC on 11-02-08, using GX0OOO/P. (Beware, it’s another tome!)
‘Winter Bonus under false pretences!’
By activating 4 in the day, this was an attempt to rectify a non-appearance for fully 2 weeks. I really don’t like all the driving involved. ‘Cramming’ like this, is a way of minimising it.
Up at 02:30 and left Scarborough at a frosty 03:00 but only after 15 minutes wasted attending the old Fiesta with chargers, batteries and jump-leads; probably waking the neighbours! Arrived Braithwaite at 05:40 and was walking in starlight from NY 2271 2397, at 06:00 via the track to Coledale Hause and Col 722. The head-torch was required only for the first 45 minutes after which followed an unexciting sunrise, seen here around 07:40. It’s more efficient to parallel the path along the vast top of LD9 to its right (north) and there are light paths to help you achieve this. The views from the summit shelter, which included GD, were distracting to the job of erecting the dipole & 5m mast, which had to be wedged awkwardly into the summit shelter stonework.
GRASMOOR, LD-009, 852m ASL, 8Pts, 07:48 to 10:08, initially minus 1 deg.C, 15 mph wind, sunrise & sunny all day. No lying snow. (IO84IN, WAB: NY12.) QRP.
160m CW: For the past 2 years I carried heavy HF QRO around these two. For the years prior to that it was just 2m FM. Today I had the 5 Watt FT817ND. This raised the problem of Top Band, where 100W is usually needed to make daylight contacts. A kind of ‘sledge-hammer to crack a nut’ approach. The best thing I could do was to get on the air as quickly after sunrise as possible. However, with a 2 hour walk-in it wasn’t going to be easy, which is why 160m was given the first available slot.
I’m a fool to myself. I hate keeping people waiting so my alert times are all too often later than I normally achieve. Today was no exception and calling CQ on 1.832 at 08:03 produced nothing, as expected. Roy G4SSH and mobile phone coverage saved the day and I had my first QSO, albeit with a 229 RST at 08:16. It’s not exactly Top Band but since ‘Big L’ on 1395 kHz was still coming in from Holland at 08:00, I’d had a quiet confidence that the 160m plan would work. Work it did! LD9 was qualified on this band with incoming reports of 229, 559, 339 and 559 from early risers G4SSH, EI7CC, EI2CL and G0NES respectively. Not bad with just 5W and a good omen for the day ahead.
80m CW: An all but random choice of 3.557 brought in 19 chasers but stations DJ5AV and GW3BV fell foul of my mouse power. I tried sending report after report but to no avail. Mike & Quentin missed out on the 8 points, though two DL and one F ‘parted’ the G’s to get through. Gerd DL4FCK duped (08:48 and 09:10) but I don’t mind this at all. Faced with QRM, QRN, QSB and a QRP activation, it must be tremendously difficult for chasers ‘outside the normal service area’ to know for sure whether they’re in the activators log or not. If in doubt, call again; I won’t be offended, though I might send ‘In Log.’ Radio-wise, on LF/HF at least, the job of the chaser is far more difficult than at the mountain end of the QSO.
80m SSB: The change to 3.724 was slightly delayed. Mike GW0DSP had given me full details of John’s expedition to SW22 and that’s where I went; working S2S with GW4BVE on 3.665 SSB. Excellent signals too, with only 5W at each end.
After that I settled down to work 21 ops in 23 minutes. Timothy, 2E0KEA lived dangerously, risking his 8 points by turning up after QRT had been announced! There were no ‘outside UK’ stations in this batch but it was nice to renew acquaintance with Martyn GD3YUM. While packing up, I was joined by a single walker taking photographs. He’d set off at 7am, thinking he was early but the SOTA bug beat him by an hour!
The Walk-off brought memories of snow last year, when the prints of a fox guided me along in freezing clag. Today, it really was glorious with wall-to-wall sunshine, light cool winds. The only snow lay in small patches only on the highest summits and in sunless places. For my taste, it felt a little too warm at times but at 55 minutes, the transfer to LD15 was quicker than in previous years.
GRISEDALE PIKE, LD-015, 791m ASL, 6pts, 11:03 to 13:09, 8 deg C, 10 mph wind, sunshine, no lying snow. (IO84JO, WAB: NY21) QRP.
You can’t hide an 80m dipole on this ‘peaky’ top and the aerial was placed just to the north side of the summit beside a busy path, from which direction came a few curious enquiries and a dog which tried hard to steal my sandwich. This summit is often equally as popular as Grasmoor is quiet. Regretful that the set-up wasn’t a bit less high profile, I carried on but in 6 years of activating, I have yet to encounter objections or even disparaging remarks.
80m CW: After Roy had sent an immediate report to my QRL and spotted me I got down to business but the D-Layer was making its presence felt resulting in just 7 on 3.557 CW, with Mike EI2CL only just managing to sneak in at the end with a 339 report to me. Surprisingly F6GEO made it too.
80m SSB: This was attended by 13 UK chasers on a QRG of 3.723. The D-layer had perhaps relented a little for this 80m SSB session but that didn’t mean I was about to try 160m at noon with five Watts! If I was to avoid getting home around midnight, I didn’t really have much spare time but what little there was could best be used up on 40m.
40m CW: Tuning 7.032 revealed feverish activity. DJ5AA was working chasers from DM/SX-200, like shelling peas. For several minutes I fancied I could work him and called in but he was way out of my league. At 30 WPM, I even had trouble with his callsign. 7.033 was almost as busy, so to be ‘found’ pre-spot, I had no choice but to ‘sit amongst’ RTTY on 7.034. No matter, DL8YR quickly had Grisdale Pike posted and I was underway with the Continentals to the tune of 16, mainly regulars in the log. No doubt they were grateful, having had scant chance on 80m at this time of day. The QSO rate was slow and the 40 minutes spent was to push my fourth and final summit into darkness but it was worth the inconvenience.
The first 1 km and the final bit of the descent from Grisedale Pike down to Braithwaite is steep but with no snow or ice to worry about, I arrived at the car at 13:58.
Time was of the essence but I still had to repack the rucksack with QRO gear and replace salts, fluids and energy lost. By the time I’d driven the 20 miles to the ‘jump-off’ point for summit number three; Gt,Mell Fell it was 14:30. Never mind, the ‘Mell Fells’ are only 2 pointers and not so popular on the air. Perhaps both could be done inside 3 to 4 hours. Oh yeah, tell me another! These might be 2 pointers but they can’t merely be ‘jumped up’ in five minutes. More salient perhaps is that some chasers care little for points and like to bag ‘new ones.’ Of the two, Gt.Mell is the harder, involving 277m of steep ascent and an up-down distance of around 2.2 miles. Still, the WX was kind so there would be no flysheets to erect today.
I set off along the track at 14:32, with almost 30 pounds. The overhanging trees make it awkward for people with masts sticking out of their rucksacks, though it’s a pleasant little fell with a good grassy path avoiding the bracken. As far as I can remember, this is the only SOTA that I have been to with trees near its summit, though many are stunted with a few bent to the ground in submission to ferocious prevailing winds. I set up where the trig point would have been, had there been one.
Gt.MELL FELL, LD-035, 537m ASL, 2 pts, 15:04 to 17:08. 5 deg C, 15 mph wind, last of the sunshine. (IO84MO, WAB: NY32) QRO.
80m CW: Phoned Roy G4SSH before erecting the mast. Thanks to his post, chasers would by ready, time would be saved and LD37 could be added later as SOTA number 4. Opened with good signals on 3.556 at 15:22 where 18 were worked in CW. 80m was supporting G, F, HB9, ON, DL, EI, OZ and PA QSO’s at this time so most chasers got a ‘look-in’ making 40m redundant. Activator Barry, GM4TOE called in at the end of this group where between 20 and 70 Watts was generally used.
Several Geordie lads, encamped in the valley below arrived (shall we say) via a non-recognised route. They sat and watched for a while asking questions about the proceedings. I think my efforts were being compared to the efficiencies of mobile phones but they were too polite to mention it!
80m SSB: A different Barry, 2E0PXW led the charge in SSB at 16:00 and 15 ops followed through to 16:24. All were ‘G’s’ apart from Christian DK5CH and I used 40 to 60 Watts.
160m CW: Time was now in short supply but a quick visit to 1.832 shouldn’t take up much too more of it. Using 60 to 100W Watts, I initially worked six as follows: Roy G4SSH, Mike EI2CL, Dan ON4ON, G3JMJ, Heinz DL7RAG and G3ROO. The latter is not a SOTA chaser but I knew Ian from buying and building Kanga kits. Of course, when you meet an old friend, time goes by without you noticing! I was about to pack up when Mike G4BLH called giving my 100W a 229 RST, after some struggle. It seemed that the close-in ones were the most difficult to work and just to prove it, DL2RNS was easily logged with 579 both ways. That made eight.
There was little finesse packing up and I was back to the car by 17:27. After changing the battery, a 1.5 mile drive with the rucksack just ‘thrown’ unrestrained on the roof rack, was completed in time to set off for Little Mell Fell in dim light, at 17:36. Over the stile, through the mud and up a very steep, grass incline to the trig point. Photos of summit silhouettes against a colourful evening sky with crescent Moon preceded the activation.
LITTLE MELL FELL, LD-037, 505m ASL, 2 pts, 17:49 to 19:02. 4 deg C, 15 mph wind, dark. (IO84NO, WAB: NY42) QRO.
80m CW: I did not wish to appear brusque but having been up and ‘rushing about’ for close-on 16 hours made me deeply determined that this should not take long! I was in no mood to admire the pretty lights of Penrith below. My body hurt in many places, I couldn’t sit up without pain, so just slouched on the grass in a stiff breeze, in the dark, with one elbow slowly soaking up bog water. Fortunately, my guessed QRV time of 6pm was spot-on and Roy responded to a couple of Morse V’s used to check the VSWR on 3.557. I logged 17 chasers, with 20W, in 22 minutes. Finally Mike DJ5AV made it on 80m and Heinz, DL7RAG too. Among the mainly G’s, there were DF2OU, Ambrosi HB9AGH, LA1ENA and of course, Mike EI2CL. This time, Quentin GW3BV made light work of it.
80m SSB: Here, there were only 8 with whom we could ‘do business’ but at the end of the session, who should arrive in the nick of time? Activator and special guest star of the SSEG, appearing in ‘glorious technicolour SSB’ for the first time; Fritz DL4FDM! However brief, it was nice hear Fritz’s voice for the first time but I hope he could understand my Yorkshire accent.
The newly installed reflective strips; two on the mast and one for each end support made QSY’s much easier. In darkness, the remote dipole ends never seem to be where you thought you’d left them.
160m CW: The last gasp! 40 Watts proved sufficient for the easier ones but I certainly needed my ‘foot to the boards’ for the two Mikes G4BLH and EI2CL. Also worked were Roy G4SSH, Roger G4OWG and Mike GW0DSP. John G4WSX called in from Chichester and got his first ever 160m SOTA QSO; the 2 points gained ‘tilting’ him over from 1999 to 2001 chaser points. Well done on the 2k, John!
Packing up was shameful with gear rammed in the sack and other items just held on the outside. The ‘headlit’ walk down was OK and I ‘found’ the car at 19:12.
Home late at 21:52. 280 miles driven.
LD9 & LD15: 15.6 km (9.8 miles) and 1036m (3400 ft) of ascent.
LD35: 3.5 km (2.2 miles) and 277m (909 ft) of ascent.
LD37: 1.2 km (0.75 miles) and 125m (410 ft) of ascent.
Total: 20.3 km (12.7 miles) and 1438m (4718 ft) ascent. 30 activator points.
QSO’s: Total 153 in the day comprising:
40m CW: 16
80m CW: 60
80m SSB: 59
160m CW: 18
LD9 & LD15: FT817ND with external 11 AA x 2.7 Ah Ni-Mh battery, 99% depleted.
LD35 & LD37: IC706 2G with home-brew composite panels & CW key in microphone.
LD35: One 7.5 Ah SLAB, 75% depleted.
LD37: One 7.5 Ah SLAB, 55% depleted.
Link dipole for 80-60-40 & loading coils for 160m. 5m mast – 1m ends.
(QRO pack-weight: 13.5 kg.)
Thanks to all stations worked. The timely monitoring and rapid spotting with particular mention of G4SSH, once again made it much quicker and easier for me, so thank you for the great support from Roy and: G0AZS, EI2CL, DL8YR, DK5CH & G4OWG. Also to GW0DSP for S2S tip-offs, which I will always try to work if time allows.
73, John G4YSS (using SSEG GX0OOO/P.)