G4YSS: Act’n G/NP-001 & NP-003, 22-12-11

G4YSS Activity Report for G/NP-001 & G/NP-003 on 22-12-11

Cross Fell and Burnhope Seat on 160-80-40-2m.
G4YSS using GX0OOO/P - Unaccompanied.
All times UTC.

EQPT: HF-QRO: IC706-2G. Link-dipole 80-60-40-(30)-20-(160 with coils).
5m H/B CFC mast with 1m end sticks. 8.8 Ah Li-Po battery for each summit.
VHF-QRP: IC-E90 Four Band (6-4-2-70) H/H.

GX0OOO/p hasn’t been aired from Cross Fell since the afternoon of my 2009 speeding course in Cumbria so it was on the urgent list for getting crossed off and had been pencilled in for 1st December 2011. Few people were out then; the WX had other ideas. That situation has continued in Britain and the winter bonus system has seemed to fall a little flat on its face in the UK so far this month.

A mid-month outing called for lower summits with good shelter; namely a couple of 4-pointer NP’s but not the Pennine’s highest summit. I think many activators have been balancing the two forces of enthusiasm versus a sortie into the discomfort zone for three weeks now but still the weather would not fully cooperate. The conclusion; this had to be done in unideal conditions. My first thought was to follow NP1 up with NP7 - Wild Boar Fell but the late substitution of NP3 was made on the day.

The MWIS forecast for the 22nd stated, ‘Drizzly rain. Wind 25 to 35 with sudden gusts of 50 mph. Low-cloud but mild; 6C at 750m ASL.’ The intimation was for the best conditions to be in the north and east of the LD/ NP region. There would also be thawing snow on the ground.

I left Scarborough in the beat up Fiesta at 03:55 arriving high up on the feeder road for Gt.Dunn Fell National Air Traffic Control Radar site at 06:25. Going up the road, I was driving in low cloud long before reaching the parking place, which is directly outside the barrier (NY 7163 3160). The surface was mostly clear apart from the odd snow patch but the cleared surface ended at the barrier which was open today. In the swirling cloud it was evident that the road I was going to be walking up still had deep snow lying on it.

Getting out of a nice comfortable car to walk up any SOTA in winter can be something of a trial but I find that doing it at 760m ASL in bad weather well before dawn is best described as a shock to the system. True, I had been psyching myself up for this for a month now but if anyone had told me then and there to forget it, I would have obliged without too much argument.

Momentarily opening the car door just reinforced my feelings. Hill fog, drizzle, quite an energetic wind and of course pitch black. The only saving grace was the temperature; probably around plus 5C but even that was going to conspire against me when walking over soft snow. The trouble with plus 5 C is that it rains rather than the more manageable snow or a frost.

Where was the inspiration coming from? How many times in 10 years of SOTA have I had minor mental battles in these situations. Too many! Then a voice. It was Phil G4OBK/m calling me on 2m FM. He was driving the A66, on his way to do a mammoth multiple SOTA/ WOTA activation centred on Helvellyn and was eager for a report on conditions at 2500 feet. While we talked I started to get ready. If Phil could contemplate Swirral Edge in December then I should stop being a wimp and get out into it too.

With gritted teeth, headlight on and after one abortive exit from the car without the waterproofs on, I was underway by 07:02. The snow was quite soft and deep in places but these were only long drifts with intervening tarmac. True, wind blown light rain is not pleasant to walk into and I could see little ahead for backscatter but with the knowledge that I have never yet turned back from a SOTA once underway. I couldn’t spoil it now so plodded onward to the Radar Station turning right just before the entrance.

The next section, round the back fence of the station and down the hill, was over deep snow and harder going. Why I ‘fell for it’ again I don’t know; the GPS has the route in it, but with the path hidden, I wandered off the correct way and floundered, sinking in deep snow some 100m from where I should have been. A GPS just has periodic waypoints; not an infinite trace of the path between them. All I could do was to pick the next point and go in what my senses were actually telling me was completely the wrong direction. Eventually I dropped off snow and scanning with the headlight, spotted the path at this point paved, when just a couple of metres from it.

In the dark, in fog with dark grass and a path that curves in places hidden by extensive snow patches, it wasn’t the last time I lost my way today. These were minor aggravations but they were costing me valuable time and effort. The cols between Great and Little Dunn Fells and between Little Dunn Fell and Cross Fell were very boggy. Missing the path at these points cost more time but even the path has its hazards which I have learned to avoid in the past by walking beside it if it’s icy or green. That said, I still fell flat on my face on a patch of water-lubricated ice which was invisibly covering the stone slabs in half light; hurting my hands.

The next challenge was the final hurdle; the ascent onto Cross Fell’s summit plateau. For the most part the path here was hidden under snow. The best policy was to accept the discomfort of boggy tussock grass, where it was offered, in preference to deep snow but it was snow most of the way.

Just as it got light and the mood lifted, I walked into a perfect trap - a snow bridge - shooting through with one leg with a sharp jolt but still with forward inertia. After a second involuntary step I was up to my waist in a hollow over a beck which I hadn’t heard flowing because of wind and rain noise on my hood. With body pitching forward and face imbedded too, I was firmly stuck - pinned by my own heavy QRO rucksack, my arms too feeble to right me. I had to roll around to get myself upright again but the process wasn’t quick and I now had a cold and soggy right foot to add to my woes. I had no need of worry - snow down the boot tops further up, brought my left foot’s condition into line with the right.

Gradually it got lighter and with altitude, the snow firmer. In conjunction with the GPS, the two successive stone stacks were used to determine today’s limit of visibility which was 60m but by now rock was visible beneath my feet. In fact the higher I got the less lying snow there was. The prevailing westerly winds had seemingly blown the plateau almost clean and dumped it down the east side from whence I had just come.

Pausing in the lee of the second stack, I phoned Roy G4SSH to say that the activation would be late. The fact that there was a phone signal here was fortunate. The Top Banders could be waiting and some, like Mark G0VOF, might be going out to work for 9am. In the end it took 1 hr 25 minutes for the ascent versus just over an hour in good conditions.

CROSS FELL, G/NP-001, 893m, 8Pts, 08:27 to 10:19, 4 Deg C, 25 to 30 mph with gusts, low-cloud. Occasional small patches of wet lying snow (IO84SQ, WAB NY63.)

Cross Fell’s shelter, now rather dilapidated, was almost totally blocked by a large snow drift but there was just enough space for me and the rucksack. The dipole was deployed with quite a small included angle against the wind; the snowdrift convenient for the mast. Possibly left by previous activators or even myself, there were rocks in convenient positions to wedge the end sticks behind and the 160m band loading coils tuned second time. All was now ready. I could only hope my lateness hadn’t given the band time to close or eliminate some of the chasers through work commitments but a little time had been saved.

1.832 CW - 8 QSO’s:
I knew G4OBK, the station every Top Band SOTA chaser uses as a signal strength yardstick, would be absent. Phil was just now struggling his way up towards Helvellyn. Phil often gets the ball rolling on this band but today it would be the turn of Mark G0VOF. I took this as a sign that Mark may be on his starting blocks for work so I worked him fast at 08:48.

It gradually became evident that conditions on here were not half bad. Signals were actually doing better than just moving the S-meter and ops were coming back with reports of between 339 and 599 for the closer ones.

Stations worked in 12 minutes using 100 Watts were: G0VOF; G4SSH; G4WSX; G3RMD; G3RDQ; G4OOE; EI2CL and finally G4CPA. There was just one casualty; Roger G4OWG called in simultaneously with Mike EI2CL. I took the weakest signal first, Mike’s that is, but despite a few calls afterwards, Roger never appeared again. It could have been QRN at his QTH or maybe he too had to go out.

Apart from the log being soggy and a mess, this was an excellent start to the day with Frank (Cheltenham), Mike (Dublin), David (Hampshire) and John (Chichester) all making it with relative ease.

3.557 CW - 13 QSO’s:
Roy G4SSH was swiftly back to my ‘QRL?’ followed by other ‘G’ regulars but again the band was still open to Germany. DL1FU Frid gave me 339 and was followed by Dan F5SQA and later ON2WAB Peter. 2E0RAF (op Roy) came in from Kendal and apparently M0BKV was in Cornwall. Power throughout was 40W, the session taking 18 minutes including some CQ’s.

Once again 80m had worked well, giving chances to a wide range of stations near and relatively far.

3.724 SSB - 17 QSO’s:
Responding to a CQ on 3.724 after a spot by Roy, was Graham G4JZF. 16 UK stations followed and apart from three, were all recognised SOTA chasers. I don’t know what power I used as I have omitted this from my log but it’s likely to have been around 40 Watts which is possibly a good compromise between being reliably heard and killing the battery.

70.450 FM - Nil QSO’s:
Before packing up the HF gear I tried the handheld set to 4FM. I didn’t hang around more than 2 minutes but there were no replies to my CQ’s.

145.300 FM - 3 QSO’s inc G4OBK/P:
Having worked Phil car to car on his way to Patterdale, I was anxious to know how he was fairing in what I knew could well be at best difficult conditions on the Helvellyn range. With just 5 Watts to the handheld’s rubber duck, I called him at 10am and was amazed when he came straight back! Phil was close to the WOTA summit of Catstye Cam, LDW-010 and reported much the same conditions as me. It was bad with deep snow in places there but by no means difficult everywhere.

At least I could now relay his progress back to G4SSH with a time estimate for LD3.
While Phil was covering the last 50m to the top I worked G0TDM and MM1MPB. Thus followed a SOTA/ WOTA S2S with G4OBK at 10:05. Phil was making really good progress but he would need to if he were to complete four SOTA summits with six WOTA ones on top, all on winter solstice day!

Within 15 minutes I was packed and ready to go. Just as well; G4JZF had heard my teeth chattering on SSB. To get on the air fast, I’d had to forgo the extra layer and the shelter wall behind me had a few air leaks.

There can be little argument that bagging Cross Fell from Great Dunn Fell Radar road is the most efficient method; beating the Kirkland route by almost an hour. The drawback is that you must climb over both Great and Little Dunn Fells twice per round trip whereas most SOTA’s are downhill all the way. All the intervening bad ground awaited me for the second time but at least it was now light. It was however still clagged in but I could follow my own footsteps (where appropriate!!)

It was good to get moving and warmed up. The return was undoubtedly easier had it not been for one further incident…

On the way off the summit plateau, after the rocky top on a mixture of grass and snow, a sudden movement caught my eye. At nearly 3000 feet on mid winter’s day in a brisk cold wet wind, sauntering across the surface at an unrealistically slow speed was a good-sized pale-brown mouse. This came as a surprise. Why would this diminutive mammal be wandering around on top of the ground and snow in these conditions with me standing over it? Shouldn’t it be asleep? (I later found out that they don’t hibernate).

Partly out of curiosity and partly because I thought it would make a superb hand warmer while I photographed it - my gloves were out of reach at the time - I picked it up. I thought it would be difficult to catch but it was easy. It seemed to nestle well into my cupped left hand and indeed the handwarmer idea had been a sound one. I fumbled for the camera and snapped off one shot. For a better second picture I opened my hand a little. At that the blighter sank its teeth deep into my cold hand which I hardly felt, followed quickly by my index finger which I did. I shook it but for a second or two it held on for grim death as if to say, ‘No human is going to mess with me!’ It ran around for a while allowing two more ground photos before finding the entrance to its burrow.

I had ‘survived’ but not unscathed. My hand was covered in blood and try as I may for the next mile I could not stop it. I tried rubbing it in the snow and dunking it in streams, finally resorting to holding it above my head; an uncomfortable process in the cold wind. Stopping in the lee of the Little Dunn Fell shelter gave me the opportunity to sort myself out. I wasn’t about to root out the first aid kit but I did find a tissue to hold onto the punctured skin. The tissue filled up for a while but it had done the trick after another half mile of walking. I saw a second mouse behaving in identical manner. This was left to go about its legitimate business unmolested!

On the way down the road from the station there was a man using a digger to clear the remainder of the road. ‘Is that your car down the road?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You’re not really supposed to bring it up here. It should be left at the wide bit lower down.’ ‘The road should be kept clear for snow removal.’ (Though the car was well off the road to one side). Making some excuse about ‘dark’ and ‘foggy’ and not seeing the sign, I managed a civilised withdrawal. He wasn’t angry at all but he had taped the road off at the permitted parking spot which I GPS’d at NY 7147 3093 and added a second sign. He asked me to replace the tape after driving through. This request was complied with after the car was regained at 11:26.

The problem for SOTA ops is that the official highest parking point that the ploughman was suggesting would involve extra ascent and walking of some 80m height gain and 2 x 800m distance respectively. Not much perhaps but with a heavy backpack, it all adds up. The way I read it was that parking up near the barrier and off the road at NY 7163 3160 would not be a problem if there was no snow to clear.

Cloud base had risen a little since the morning and the Eden Valley had some sun on it. The drive around for NP3 took a bit longer than usual but there was no rush. There was the taped-across road to deal with and a few QSO’s on 2m FM mobile on the way. Added to that were phone calls to Roy G4SSH to change the second summit from NP7 to NP3 and to relay various findings, direct and indirect, regarding G4OBK Phil’s progress and intentions around his Patterdale / 4-SOTA/ WOTA plus 6-WOTA expedition.

From the car, I worked G4YTD/P on High Street. Tim who was shivering but informed me that Phil had now passed Helvellyn, had lashed his antenna to the trig where I know there is not much cover from the wind. A short time later G4OBK & I made contact on 145 MHz FM. Phil was now on WOTA LDW-018; Dollywaggon Pike and reported that the tops were largely free of snow. The main snow-going problems were on the mountainsides and this information was in line with my NP1 findings that day. He confirmed that he would do SOTA LD22 next but was in two minds whether to take the direct route down the broken wall or the longer way down the path to Grisedale Tarn. He was certainly doing well.

The drive up above 1900 feet to Hartshead is a long one and it wasn’t until 12:52 that Darngill Bridge on the B6277 appeared ahead. I parked in the dirt pull-off beside the road. The quarry road was full of snow so I wouldn’t have made it up there. It was still cloudy but apart from Cross Fell, the local tops seemed clear of the cloud base and it wasn’t raining either. After a battery change, victuals restock and the addition of the tent flysheet for this shelterless summit, I was off walking again by 13:10. The plan had been to change boots, socks and any wet clothes but in the end it was all too much trouble. I just went as I was, in the knowledge that I had the tent strapped to the pack.

There is a ruined building on the way, at NY 7770 3719 and a faint Quad / Argo track at NY 7810 3738 but I have yet to find a path that’s any real help for any useful distance. The summit is extensive, large and grassy. Apart from the trig point, there is barely any shelter, either natural or man-made and it has a tendency to be very boggy, with pools of standing water particularly just west of the trig. It’s best not to bother with the trig on this one. It’s not the true summit anyway - in fact the location of that that debateable. One listing which I think I got from Jim G0CQK, puts it at NY 78410 37630 but that’s across another bog.

BURNHOPE SEAT, G/NP-003, 747m, 6pts:13:35 to 16:30, 11 deg C, 20-mph wind, Intermittent low cloud. Dark by the end. No lying snow. Unreliable Orange phone coverage. (IO-84-UR, WAB NY73).

The ‘peg and pole prepared’ flysheet was erected in a couple of minutes. It’s been used numerous times for SOTA - and a few times on NP3. The mast and aerial followed but the groundsheet had been overlooked in preparation. With just a sitmat, I would have to recline on one elbow; my waterproofs providing ground isolation. It was going to be uncomfortable but at least it was a lot warmer than NP1 was at eight-o clock that morning.

Top Band would be left until last and I would stay until it got dark so saving activation time was of little importance. For once Parkinson’s Law could be allowed to prevail and the job would be stretched to fill the time available.

3.557 CW - 14 QSO’s:
Following an earlier phone call, Roy G4SSH was first up at 14:06 but it wasn’t immediate which made me think propagation might be a bit dead. Compared to the early morning session on NP1, signals had gone down a bit but as continental stations began to succeed, it soon became clear that the band was in good condition.

In amongst G, GI and EI chasers were: PA0SKP and DL1FU Frid. Frid had got a QSO with NP1 in the morning but usually fails to get through in the afternoon. Well done Frid and 80m. I started with 40 Watts on here but that later became 100. At the end of this session I heard what I took to be somebody sending my club callsign but was actually Roy with 2E0OOO. I couldn’t resist going back with full callsigns both ways and all 35 dashes!

3.724 SSB - 4 QSO’s:
This was intended to be the one voice communication frequency from NP3 today but external happenings decided differently. Maybe that was a blessing as things started rather slowly on here. I worked Graham G4JZF; Roger G0TRB; Don G0RQL and Roy G4SSH who helped coordinate a QSY to 40m SSB when I failed to hear Hazel M6YLH calling me on 80.

I asked Roy. ‘Do you think 40 might work?’ With short skip being more the rule than the exception over the past few weeks, it would certainly be worth a try.

7.090 SSB - 26 QSO’s:
This QRG was chosen because it was clear and it was in the memory of both transceivers we would be using. If I’m right, SOTA activators used it in the early days when most did QRP. Hazel had only QRP. Of course other chasers later found me and though a QSY was contemplated, it didn’t actually happen. Apologies to any SSB QRP stations wanting to use it for that half-hour.

The first job was to get established with Roy G4SSH who was an encouragingly good signal on 40. The QSO with Hazel was tried but I couldn’t hear her call in QRM. It was agreed to try again later.

Using 60 to 100 Watts, I got nearly 50% of the NP3 QSO’s on here so it wasn’t a bad move at all. What’s more 14 of the 26 worked were G stations which removed any lingering guilt about abandoning 80. A couple of incoming reports were 59 plus and a further dozen were straight 59. In a combination of workload and discomfort from lying on a wet ungroundsheeted surface, I forgot to conserve power, which could have put the 160m operation in jeopardy later on.

The following entities were worked. G; HB9; DL; ON; EI; F; EA; OE and MM.

It was fascinating if not a little surprising to hear some of the European CW regulars calling me in voice but I hoped they were satisfied with a ‘mere’ SSB contact. Would they even enter it into the database? Some purists would not. In these circumstances I am not averse to briefly changing modes to work them in CW and in fact on more than one occasion someone has called me in CW when I was doing SSB. Today I regret that there were too many callers for those kind of antics.

With 100 Watts to the dipole I received 59 plus 10 from G0RQL - Don and 59 plus 20 from F2LG - Peter.

What of Hazel? M6YLH made it into the log later when signals on the band seemed to be peaking up and she was quite audible between QRM.

1.832 CW - 9 QSO’s:
Was this to be today’s star turn? Top Band close to the onset of darkness! It’s not often convenient to be SOTA-ing after dark but with just two summits to fit in the day, there was no rush. In fact I would need to dawdle a bit to optimise conditions. The session started at 15:25 and power was 60 Watts.

G4SSH was 559 as against 339 in the morning so that was a good start. After Roy the following stations were worked: G3RDQ; EI2CL; G3WPF; SM3EXO; DJ5AV; DL2HX; G0UBJ and G0NUP - Kevin in Scarborough. Roy had warned me that Mark G0VOF would not be along because of important work committments. I think one or two regulars were otherwise engaged; there was Christmas shopping to do - but with that in mind and the fact that few people can muster a station for 160, nine worked was a satisfying tally.

At around 1551 Roy relayed the fact that Phil G4OBK was on his final SOTA LD10. With not much daylight remaining and two WOTAs yet for Phil do, it was clear that I would not be the only one about to be walking in the dark. Compared with Burnhope Seat, Phil had by far the greatest challenge and I wouldn’t have swapped places with him at that moment.

Well that was it; nobody coming back to my CQ’s and at 4 pm, light rapidly fading. Was it time to go? An idea. Why not try SSB. Nothing to lose. I made contact with Roy and sent a QSY frequency for SSB that would not necessitate going out to retune the loading coils; namely 1.843 MHz. It is the next IC706 memory up from 1.832.

1.843 SSB - 3 QSO’s:
Roy must have got the QSY QRG without trouble because he was there waiting after no doubt spotting the move. With G4SSH in the SSB log, I got just two more callers before the rig cut out completely due to under voltage. The final two were F8BOJ Claude and 2W0LYD Barry in Caernarfon at 16:15. I turned the power down and tried to continue but the rig was having none of it. That’s your lot mate!

70.450 FM - Not used:
Experience has shown that the chances of even one QSO on here were almost negligible and I needed to leave ASAP.

Within 15 minutes all was packed away and the descent was started at 16:30. I have walked up or down this one more times in the dark than in daylight so was not unduly concerned. That said, the navigation needs care because the hill is rounded and looks much the same whether you’re on track or off it and the bogs and pools need avoiding. Also, there is no path.

Within two minutes I’d hit the ‘deck’ for the third time in the day. A sizeable tussock went unnoticed as I fiddled with the GPS. At least it was soft grass. ‘Keep the valley to your left and walk into wind,’ I told myself. It seemed to be taking too long and I was off track more than once but eventually the ruin caught in my headlamp. I now knew where I was and could relax with only 300m to the road.

Never relax! What I’d failed to remember was that I’d parked by the roadside today but the route end-point was the old quarry where I’d parked last time. Not only that but the GPS was now ignored because I was ‘nearly there.’ After walking some 200m (as I later found) north of where I should have been, I had to take stock. The new bearing took me to the quarry edge, which fortunately was seen in time. After skirting that I saw the short bit of track down to the road at 16:55 but it had taken as long to get down as it had to climb it. Just another minor glitch.

The drive home via Barnard Castle, A66, A1, A168 near Topcliffe and Sutton Bank took from 17:02 to 19:25. (2 hrs - 23 min).

After ten years of SOTA, the novelty of walking in the dark especially in poor weather is now wearing thin. The shortest day (22nd this year) and the prospect of better 160m conditions early and late were the main drivers. Also the snow conditions slowed down progress somewhat. Despite being later on NP1 than on NP17 ten days ago the propagation on the 160m band was decidedly better. The afternoon session from NP3 was finished in darkness when continental stations can be worked.

A rare try on 160 with seldom used (SOTA-wise) SSB mode yielded results also. If this was advertised in advance it might become popular. It would be hopeless in full daylight however.

80m worked well both times it was used and 40m SSB was even better. Both bands demonstrated their ability to simultaneously cover the UK and Europe but I would like to keep 80 going for a while longer.

It was nice to be able to keep tabs on Phil G4OBK at certain times of the day on 2m. He did in fact finish his mega-round in the dark. Well done to Phil for the magnificent achievement of 4 SOTA/ WOTA’s with 44 points and 6 WOTA’s and over 6,000 feet of ascent in less than ideal conditions. Phil plans to repeat this round in the new year.

Snow conditions on NP1 were variable. Higher up the going tended to be firmer but lower down it was soft and wet in places, allowing frequent and tiring penetration of the crust. Though there was a lot of lying snow on the sides, there was very little of it on the actual top of NP1, apart from in the shelter and none on NP3.

Especially on NP1, the atmosphere was filled with an all-pervading wetness which necessitated taking everything out of the rucksack to air once home. The ground too on these NP’s seems to be saturated. For surfaces not covered in snow, bogs and standing water are the norm at present.

As a contingency, I carried half a litre of fluids to both summits but none was required. A little food kept up energy levels and provided warmth when sitting around for long periods.

Unless they’re biting insects, I won’t be interfering with wildlife on SOTA’s in the future! When you really study it, any small mammal living at almost 3,000 feet through a UK northern winter is going to be a tough, no nonsense type. Therefore I will no longer be accepting the implied meaning of the mischievous enquiry, ‘Man or Mouse?’ Activators of Cross Fell will have no nav issues for the next few days at least. Just follow the trail of blood!

G/NP-001 Cross Fell: 414m (1,358ft) ascent / 9.3 km (5.8 miles) walked.
G/NP-003 Burnhope Seat:160m (525ft) ascent, 2.4 km (1.5 miles).
TOTAL: 574m (1,883ft) ascent, 11.7 km (7.3 miles) walked.

Miles Driven: 257.
20 activator points.

17 on 160m -CW.
3 on 160m -SSB.
27 on 80m -CW.
21 on 80m -SSB.
26 on 40m -SSB.
3 on 2m -FM.
TOTAL: 97 QSO’s. (NP1 - 41 and NP3 - 56)

Battery utilisation:
NP1 Cross Fell - 37 % depleted, 11V nom, 8.8 Ah Li-Po.
NP3 Burnhope Seat - 100 % depleted, 11V nom, 8.8 Ah Li-Po.

Summit time: 4 hr - 49 min. (1 hour - 54 min plus 2 hour - 55 min.)
Walking time: 3 hr - 22 min. (1hr-25min + 1hr-7min + 25min + 25min)
Driving time (exclusive of NP1 to NP3 drive): 5 hr - 15 min. (2hr-30min + 2hr-23min)
Home to home: 15 hr - 30 min.

Thanks to all stations worked, especially the Top Banders who rose early, were kept hanging around then stayed late and for telephone messaging via G4SSH. Also for spots from G4SSH, G0VOF, G0TDM, G3RMD and DJ5AV.

Once again, well done to Phil G4OBK for a potentially gruelling activation of 10 assorted SOTA & WOTA summits on this day. (See Phil’s report).

A very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2012 to all SOTA participants and their families from me and The Scarborough Special Events Group.

73, John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club-Call GX0OOO/P)

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi, John, I missed most of your Burnhope Seat activation but copied you at 5/5 in Top Band. You didn’t seem to hear me calling but perhaps that was the failing battery, pity Claude didn’t keep it short! Better luck next time!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G4YSS:
Well done again John. I think that the SOTA management team should think about awarding SOTA purple hearts. You certainly deserve one - hi hi!

Nick G4OOE

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

A superb report as usual :slight_smile:

Thank you so much for activating Cross Fell G/NP-001 on Top Band :slight_smile:

I saw your alert the previous evening & put up my 50ft vertical specially, as I have never chased Cross Fell on any band & I wasn’t sure that my horizontal antenna would be up to the job over the distance. I wanted to use the best antenna I could as I knew that Phil G4OBK would be on his incredible marathon SOTA/WOTA trip in the Lake District & would therefore not be able to work you on 160m. Certainly for UK based chasers & activators Phil’s signal from his home station is a very good indicator of how the band is working. With Phil not being around, I wanted to give you the best chance of at least one or two QSO’s as I assumed that John G0TDM in Penrith would be able to work you quite easily.

I had been monitoring 1832KHz constantly from aboout 0810z & when I saw Roy’s alert at around 0825z stating that you were delayed until 0910z due to deep Snow I resigned myself to missing you again.

As it was, I had set up a video camera to record signals here, & around 0826z I heard Frank G3RMD in Cheltenham testing, so I gave him a call. Frank was 579 with me & he gave me 559 so the band was certainly working ok at that time.

You do have a reputation for being early so I thought I would hold on until the last possible second before I would have to leave for work, which would be about 0855z, this would make me late, but within acceptable limits as I was working late that night anyway. Would you live up to your reputation & be QRV earlier than 0910z, by which time I would definitely be well on my way to work?

I had just set my video camera running again at about 0845z whilst I started to put on my bike gear ready for a swift departure, when about a minute or so later I heard your QRL? followed by your first CQ call. Needless to say I was very pleased to hear you calling earlier than expected & after a quick scramble to get to my radio, I called you straight away. I was very pleased to be first in your log & although I gave you 599, I at first had logged you at 579 from your initial call, but I amended my log to match what I actually sent, so 599 from me & 579 from you is correct. I rarely look at the meter anyway but when I did the QSB was quite apparent on all signals. Rather than switch off straight away I decided to leave the camera running to record who else I could hear & I followed your activation up until about 0855z, when I really had to depart.

Following our QSO I heard you working G4SSH, G4WSX, G3RMD, G3RDQ, & G4OOE but had to leave while you were sending Mike EI2CL his report several times so at that time I didn’t know if Mike managed to work you or not. I also heard Geoff G4CPA in Skipton calling you, firstly just after me when you started up & at various times afterwards. Thankfully, from your report I see that Geoff managed to work you in the end as well, but I did wonder if he would manage to work you at the time even though he was quite strong here in Blackburn, in fact probably the strongest signal I heard that morning at my location.

I was a little dissppointed to see that John G0TDM in Penrith had +20db of noise on Top Band & couldn’t hear anything, as I had expected him to work you with ease being by far the closest station, I wonder if John’s noise is a recent problem or something he suffers from a lot?

Of the stations I heard this morning only G3RMD (579), G4CPA (599) & G3RDQ (at best about 339), were readable here with other stations only occasionally being detectable above my noise, which although quite low, is nowhere near as low as it is on a summit in the countryside. I noted from Mike EI2CL’s comments on your activation report for G/NP-017 that he could hear me that morning when I was only using my horizontal loop, so I wonder if he could hear me working you on G/NP-001 as I was using my “better” Top Band antenna, a 50ft resonant vertical. I could not hear Mike for the brief time I was listening as I was in the process putting on the last of my gear for the 15 minute motorbike ride to work. There may have been a chance that I would have heard him if I had been around for longer as, at least on paper, being almost entirely a sea path between us, we should be able to work. I am certain that an hour earlier we would have been able to work each other easily as the band was still wide open to continental Europe at that time.

I am very sorry to hear of your mishaps on the somewhat more boggy terrain than usual at this time of year & your run-in with the ferocious wild beastie! As you say, anything that can survive a UK winter at 800m plus, is certainly worthy of some respect. (Would an up-to-date Tetanus Jab be in order perhaps?)

The winter so far has certainly been much milder in this part of the UK than it has been for many years, in fact I was able to vist my Sisters family on Christmas day on my motorbike for the first time this year. Usually there is too much Ice on the side roads making them very dangerous, even for 4-wheeled vehicles.

I note your comment about SOTA SSB use on 160m. For obvious reasons CW is the mode of choice when band conditions may be patchy or worse. However, if the band is working well SSB does have a couple of advantages over CW. It gives chasers who do not operate CW the chance of chasing a summit, & the “potentially” quicker exchanges on phone could help to conserve battery power. Of course, using the reasoning that the most successful modes tend to be used more & less sucessful modes used less, CW has certainly been the preferred mode for UK based 160m activators. This does not preclude a foray onto SSB, which appears to have paid off for you in the afternoon from G/NP-003 Burnhope Seat. Despite being unable to listen, I followed the spots on my mobile phone from work & after seeing a spot from DJ5AV I knew you must be having fun :slight_smile:

One comment from your report almost made my spill my coffee, did I really read that you worked Roy G4SSH on 80m phone? I didn’t even know that Roy’s HF radio had a microphone socket HI!

Of course I jest :wink:

Roy’s spotting & co-ordination skills are legendary, although it still came as a surprise to read of him using HF phone. Quite sensible really, given the reason :slight_smile:

It is a shame that your rig finally gave up due to exhausted batteries whilst there were still chasers waiting to work you. I had the same happen to me on G/SP-008 Boulsworth Hill - Lad law, & although I could still hear Martyn M1MAJ calling me, I could not send him his report as every time I keyed the PTT the rig switched off, even with the power output reduced to minimum. Needless to say, the next time I was on G/NP-008 & Martyn called me, I made sure we had made a vaild QSO as quickly as possible, despite the fact that my logsheets had failed due to being wet, even though I was in a tent.

It was wet & very windy though!

On that occasion I used the video camera in my mobile phone to log the activation, as I have done on activations since, when pencil & paper just cannot cope. I now have a waterproof video camera which I can use for the same purpose when the need arises.

I think if you do decide to activate NP-001 Cross Fell again on 160m you should try to get Brian G8ADD in your log early on if you can :slight_smile:

My Morse is not good, even at the best of times, so anything other than a simple exchange of reports does cause my brain to overheat. Anything conversational & my speed (RX & TX) slows down considerably. You were sending at around 18wpm, which I have previously read easily, but that morning I seemed to have a mental block, I did however read you thanking me for waiting!

Do not thank me, I had by far the easiest side of things!!!

Thanks must definitely go to you John, for once again for activating on 160m, in less than ideal weather & ground conditions. With thanks personally from me, for my first chase of G/NP-001 Cross Fell, on any band, let alone Top Band :slight_smile:

A highlight of my chasing career :slight_smile:

As an aside, December 2011 has been by far the busiest month for SOTA activations on 160m that I have had to report on for the SOTA news. Could this be entirely due to band conditions being more favourable, or was this genuinely an unusually busy month for SOTA activations on Top Band? I will have to look back at the statistics for previous years but it is certainly encouraging to see more SOTA activators taking on the challenge that 160m activating presents :slight_smile:

So also, special thanks from me to all who have activated on Top Band this month, or during 2011!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!

Thanks & Best 73,

Mark G0VOF

HI John

Glad to be on the tops the same time as you - it all adds interest to the day. Tampering with wildlife is fraught with snags! Did the mouse inject you with Warfarin which thinned your blood and that is why you didn’t stop bleeding?!
Well done on the top band contacts and doing the two big summits in the day.

73 Phil