G4YSS 3-NP Activation Report NP6, NP15, NP16 on 06-03-11
G/NP-006 /6 Great Shunner Fell.
G/NP-015 /4 Great Knoutberry.
G/NP-016 /4 Dodd Fell.
On 160m CW, 80m CW, 80m SSB, 40m CW (QRO) & 4m FM.
All times UTC on 06-03-11.
IC706-2G, adjustable dipole, 5m mast, 160m loading coils (at halfway points in each leg)
One 13.2 Ah Li-Po for NP6, NP15 and half of NP16 – fully depleted.
One 9.0 Ah Li-Po for half of NP16 – estimated 30% depleted.
IC E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with extended ‘duck’ and 7.4V /1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery.
QRO pack: 11.5kg (25 pounds).
The intention was to put on three fairly easy NPs today in order to take advantage of the fast running-out winter bonus and to try to get in shape for something harder. I did have thoughts of a fourth; NP31 but this was a Sunday activation (rare for me nowadays) and it turned out to be very busy on the air.
Left Scarborough at 04:20, arriving via the A684, at Buttertubs Pass in daylight at 06:22. Walking for NP6 by 06:35.
There is plenty of space at the cattle grid* (SD 8678 9552) and a boggy track leaves the road at SD 8688 9570, running up via Coal Pit to the fence corner at SD 8694 9639. The track more or less parallels the fence all the way up avoiding the worst of the aptly named Grimy Gutter Haggs, then passing over Little Shunner Fell. Keep to the right (north side) of the fence until it is crossed via a stile not far short of the summit, at SD 8503 9723. It’s not advisable to take a bee-line from the road directly to the top (as I have done in the distant past). Bogs and uneven ground feature heavily.
(*Note: Now that Lovely Seat; NP30 is not a SOTA anymore, there is little point parking at the cattle grid. Better to park where the track leaves the road (SD 8688 9570) though it’s a bit tight. The walk is thus reduced by 200m each way which saves 2 x 2 minutes of walking; useful if you have a lot to do. I forgot and parked at the cattle grid today.)
Today I was trying out my new DAB radio receiver. This is a little pink cube not much bigger than a box of matches and is inexpensive (Argos via Ebay). It was quite a surprise when it worked all the way up NP6 without cutting out too much and on many parts of NP15 & 16. One charge lasted 10 hours. Great for the Cricket!
G/NP-006: GT.SHUNNER FELL, 716m, 6 pts, 07:22 to 09:03, minus 2 deg.C. Wind: 10 mph plus. Overcast. No low-cloud. No lying snow or other walkers. IO84VI, WAB SD89 YSN. 195m ascent, 7.5 km up / dn. (Orange phone signal.)
Most of the bogs were frozen this morning but not quite enough to make it that much easier. The crossed-wall shelter with wooden bench seats provides good respite from a cold wind. I was ready to get on the air by 07:38 with Top Band loading coils fitted and adjusted.
1.832 CW – 5 QSO’s:
When on a summit this early, I always start having doubts about anybody wanting to get out of bed especially on a Sunday, just to chase a few points. For the umpteenth time my fears were unjustified.
Stations worked between 07:41 & 07:52 on 160 were: G0VOF, EI2CL, G4EMM & DK5WL. Finally what I wrote down at the time as U6CEL must on reflection, have been our old friend F6CEL. Powers were 50W for all QSO’s so I was even saving electric! Final calls with full power did not reach any additional stations but it was very pleasing to get five QSO’s, especially bearing in mind that two were continental, at around an hour after sunrise. Thanks once again to everyone who denied themselves a lie-in. This was a flying start.
3.557 CW – 19 QSO’s:
The guile of that man Roy, G4SSH cannot be underestimated. Roy’s working conditions as G4SSH/A down in Fowie, Cornwall are very basic. He uses a short, loaded indoor whip with counterpoises for three bands none of which (nor the whip) cover frequencies below 7 MHz. Nonetheless with rig straining into this inefficient mismatch and Roy listening on a random wire outside the window, he managed to work me first call.
After Roy followed by Nick G4OOE and mostly using 20 to 30W, I worked a further 18 QSOs with UK and the following continental stations: EC2DM, F6CEL, F5SQA, DL1FU, HB9CMI, SM6CMU, DL4FCK & HB9CGA. Some of the latter QSO’s required 100W for reports.
3.725 SSB – 7 QSO’s:
A one kHz move up was required to avoid early morning nets but Steve GW7AAV soon located my QRG. This time the 7 stations worked with 20W were all UK based, many of the signal reports being 59.
70.450 FM – Nil QSO’s.
QSO total for this hill was 31. After a brief and fruitless call on 4m FM, I was QRT by 08:45, packed up and walking by 09:03 and back at Buttertubs Pass for 09:40. Two minutes later it was off to the Coal Road to the start-point for NP15, Gt. Knoutberry (SD 7796 8805). Lovely Seat would normally have been next but it no longer meets the 150m rule, at least not until someone changes their mind after another survey.
The climb to NP15, which in my case is very direct mostly over rough tussock grass but taking in a short, ill-defined animal path here (SD 7839 8762, SD 7851 8751) or a convenient Argo Track there (SD 7859 8739, SD 7872 8723), was started at 10:06. The final approach is with the fence on your right. The summit has a trig-point, a wall and a dry-stone ‘seat’.
G/NP-015: GREAT KNOUTBERRY HILL, 672m, 4 pts, 10:33 to 13:20, 1 Deg.C. 10 mph wind. Sunshine. No lying snow or other walkers. (IO84KP, WAB SD78). 169m ascent / 2.8km up / dn. (Orange phone signal.)
It was still cold but the sun uplifted the mood. Depending on how things went on 160 & 80, there might be time for 40m. It was either that or to try fitting a fourth NP SOTA into the day as per 2009. The obvious thing before noon is to start with the lowest frequency. After phoning Kevin G0NUP for a spot, it was down to work.
1.832 CW – 2 QSO’s:
There were no illusions about how this would go at this time of day but I had hoped to reach Dublin at least. Could I get even one QSO? Yes, the first two stations G3WPF & G0TDM were easy enough to work with 100W but try as I might I couldn’t get EI2CL or G3RMD into my log after they called in at about 559. Such is local QRN for them!
Mark G0VOF later admitted that he’d fallen asleep with the rig set to 1.832 and the AF gain turned up in the hope that the CW would wake him; unfortunately it didn’t! I can’t blame him. After all I was instrumental in getting him out of bed on a Sunday morning at some unearthly hour to catch NP6 on 160m.
3.557 CW – 10 QSO’s:
Looking at the log and despite the fact that I was using 50 to 100W, 80m signal reports were a little down on the earlier summit. That was to be expected but RF still managed to reach out as far as DJ5AV & DL8YR. The other 8 stations were in Ireland & the UK. GI4SRQ was one of the latter.
3.725 SSB – 15 QSO’s:
15 regulars were worked on 80 SSB but again QSB was a problem at times. The rig was set to 40W with the ‘wick’ turned up for any difficult QSO’s. Mark G0VOF was first in. John GW4BVE worked me for the second time with his big signal as he convalesced from an operation. Rick used his shiny new callsign M0LEP this time instead of the M6 which is now burnt into his mind. This session went right up to noon.
7.033 CW – 31 QSO’s:
7.032 was carrying SOTA traffic at the time so I looked half a kilohertz up. This was also busy. Quite out of the blue I heard, ‘G4SSH/A’. I knew Roy was trying to work a SOTA chaser in Europe but I called him quickly and we had the briefest of QSO’s. If I ‘stamped’ I can only hope that nobody got seriously inconvenienced! That now totalled two ‘fluky chases’ for Roy today but at least this time he had an antenna for the band of operation. Would he get me on the third summit, I wondered?
After moving up out of the way to 7.033, the session got underway. It is rarely necessary to ask someone to pre-spot you on here; proceedings normally get underway quite rapidly and so it was today. Just as 80m had carried signals in from Europe this ‘Europa Band’ was also allowing UK chasers in from various distances. SM7BUA was first up. I seemed to be giving out a lot of 579’s and getting in around the same on average, with my 20 Watts.
Altogether six G stations got into the 40m CW log: G4SSH/A, G4CMQ, G0NUP, G4ZIB, G0BPU & G0NES. The following countries were also worked: SM, DL, HB9, S51, OE, ON, OK, SP, 9A & PA. I was also called by HB9BIN/P – Juerg on HB/GR-114 for a summit to summit. Luckily PA1MAX and the military were having the day off.
There were a couple of failures. There was one OE9 that I just could not seem to bring in no matter how much power I threw at the problem and a callsign sounding like F62 which really had me flummoxed. In truth it was probably just me reading the Morse wrong on a band where callers were rarely less than three deep. Getting flustered with CW is easy for me as will be revealed later.
70.450 FM – 1 QSO:
A call on 70.450 FM with 3 Watts brought back M3RDZ – Roy in Burnley with 59 both ways. I haven’t worked Roy before.
The walk down in sunshine would have been pleasant if it hadn’t been for tussock grass and the DAB radio which now insisted on cutting out periodically. This DAB system is all very well but we need more transmitters to cover. I hope they don’t shut down Radio 4 Long Wave on 198 which I used as backup. (My son tells me that BBC-WS on 648 kHz is being cut in about 2 week’s time. Unthinkable!)
I arrived back at Hazel’s car (which she’d kindly loaned me for the day) at 13:40, threw the pack in the back and drove away within a minute. Despite all the Watts being slung about, a battery change was not needed for the third summit, as I was packing 13.2 Ah today. That said, enough doubt crept in during the 30 minute drive to the next summit, that I slipped another battery into the rucksack before the climb. It came in handy too.
Drive down the Cam Houses Road from the Hawes – Kettlewell road as far as Kidhow Gate. Park near the gate at SD 8298 8339 and walk up the Pennine Way North. A minor path leaves the track at SD 8339 8434 but it’s not obvious. From there it’s steeply up via SD 8344 8435, crossing a beck at SD 8352 8432 and following a boggy track via SD 8364 8434, SD 8376 8439, SD 8386 8443 and SD 8397 8453 to the ‘moated’ trig. The path is ill-defined a lot of the way and is easily lost. Dodd Fell may not be a remote summit but it’s relatively featureless and almost pathless. Good navigation is needed especially if you are descending in the dark. The ascent start time for NP16 was 14:14.
NP-016: DODD FELL HILL, 668m, 4 pts, 14:40 to 17:43, 5 Deg.C, 5 mph wind. Sunshine. No lying snow. IO84VG, WAB SD88 YSN. 94m ascent, 4.2 km up / dn. (Orange phone signal.)
There are just shallow depressions to sit in. I chose the one with the Geocache but on examination, its contents were sodden. At least by now it was warmer. I phoned Kevin G0NUP for the final time to say I was going to reverse the band order, putting SSB first to avoid the noisy band conditions that would come with the onset of darkness. This happens over the whole band of course but CW can be narrowly filtered. This change just caused confusion I fear.
3.727 SSB – Nil QSO’s:
CQ’s from 15:08 to 15:16 with powers up to the maximum did not have the desired effect. Maybe conditions were to blame but I regretted changing the routine to this degree. Better luck later perhaps? 80 SSB would be revisited.
7.032 / 7.030 CW – 51 QSO’s:
Frank DL6UNF picked up the CQ on here. With powers varying between 20 and 100 Watts, in accordance with conditions and QRM, the following were logged: DL, PA, G, GW, HB9, EI, PA, 9A, S55, OK, ON, HA, F, OE & LA. 15 from the total of 51 stations were located in the UK. QRM built to such a degree that a QSY to 7.030 was needed after 20 minutes. This session took 69 minutes and I got to the stage where I was getting dupes – people calling on the off chance that I’d moved to another summit. If the sortie onto 40CW had been demanding on the last summit, this was something else entirely and I remember feeling quite drained after it. It’s rare that the radio work becomes more tiring than the walking but it certainly did today. Before 2005, Sunday was my normal SOTA day but I’m obviously not used to it now. That combined with the fact that there are a lot more chasers.
At 15:06 after working G4ZIB I heard the familiar buzzing sound in my phones caused by under-voltage and had to announce a QRX in order to change the battery. This is a bit fiddly – the rig must be removed from the rucksack. It’s not worth rushing when there are polarity issues although I have done my best to protect against that. The afterthought of dropping a spare Li-Po into the pack had paid off.
3.721 SSB – 13 QSO’s:
If the ops who worked me on here were miffed that I’d tried to change the order and failed, they didn’t show it. I worked 13 stations which took 16 minutes. G0RQL Don was first up. Apart from DL8YR all were UK stations. Signal reports were mostly good except for Kevin G0NUP who was only hearing me 339. Kevin is in a high noise area. GM4WHA, Geoff who I normally work locally on 4m FM, called in from GM. The final QSO’s were with a husband & wife from Blackpool, namely Brian & Jennifer, M0OYG & M6MIJ who are SOTA activators.
3.557.5 CW – 2 QSO’s:
To my shame I only worked 2 stations on here. By now I was really weary. Mark G0VOF came in first and that was OK but then I found myself in QSO with a station which was obviously not a SOTA chaser. G4LHI Peter from Huntingdon asked about the club call and sent me some further dreaded question marks. I may be able to cope with rubber stamp SOTA QSO’s but at this stage of a very long day I couldn’t hope to understand just what Peter wanted. All I could do was to instigate a painful extrication, say ‘73’ and QSY to Top Band ASAP. Obviously this is shameful practice and when I found out later that Peter only wanted to know my age for a FISTS contest he was in, I had to laugh. Even if I’d heard ‘age’ I would have thought he was referring to LA1ENA or PA0XAW which would only have further confused me. Thus Peter missed out on what should have been an easy 61 points.
1.832 CW – 7 QSO’s:
This band improved the mood. I worked G0VOF but then nothing. 7 minutes of CQ’s later, in came G3RMD, G0TDM and G3WPF. After another lull there was G4RQJ and EI2CL but I couldn’t get back to Mike. Coming to the conclusion that the day was not sufficiently advanced after trying with 100W for several minutes, I switched off the rig and went for a walk around to ease the pain of 90 minutes sitting on an uneven grass tussock and also to allow the sun time to drop closer to the horizon. This ploy seemed to work and by 17:26 EI2CL was in the log followed by G3RDQ and finally G3RMD again to give me a better RST. The latter was a good ploy in that it helped to confirm that the delay tactics had worked.
Further CQs went unanswered but I shut down satisfied at 17:32. I will admit to simply forgetting about 4m-FM at this point but I doubt if I could have raised anybody from here with my setup; it used to be dire on 2 in the early days of SOTA.
After leaving the forlorn trig point I witnessed a nice sunset before climbing into the car at 18:04. It’s always a thrill when your car’s still where you left it!
It took from 18:10 to 20:13 to get home and the total mileage driven was 202. That’s almost bearable.
14 on 1.8-CW.
31 on 3.5-CW.
35 on 3.5-SSB.
82 on 7-CW
1 on 4-FM
Total: 163 QSO’s.
Breakdown: 31 on NP6. 59 on NP15. 73 on NP16.
NP6, NP15 & 1st half of NP16: 13.2 Ah Li-Po (3 x 4.4, 99% discharged).
NP16 – 2nd half: 8.8 Ah Li-Po 30% discharged (estimate).
Total ‘ON-AIR’ time for 163 QSO’s: 5h-18min (NP6: 1h-5min, NP15: 1h-51min, NP16: 2h-22min at 20 to100W. 15.7 Ah total used. Off times between QSY’s are not taken into account.
G/NP-006: 195m ascent, 7.5 km.
G/NP-015: 169m ascent, 2.8km.
G/NP-016: 94m ascent, 4.2 km
Total ascent: 458m (1503ft).
Total distance walked: 14.5 km (9.1 miles).
Distance driven: 202 miles.
Activator points: 23.
Walking (minutes up + minutes down): NP6: 47 + 37. NP15: 27 + 19. NP16: 26 + 21. Tot: 2hr-57min.
Summit occupation (Hours & Minutes): NP6: 1h-41m. NP15: 2h-47m. NP16: 3h-3m. Tot: 7hr-31m.
It had been a reasonable day weather-wise with moderate winds, temps rising from just below freezing to plus 5, sunshine and no precipitation. I saw no other walkers on these hills but I did hear someone at a distance on NP15.
The NP region is the most attractive to me in terms of convenience and distances driven, walked & climbed. The easier summits can be successfully combined in what I call a radial manner with short drives between, though I wish there were more NP’s because combining just makes them run out all the faster. On the other hand certain ones like NP2 can be savoured singly.
Walking 9 miles and climbing only 1500 feet has got to be a ‘steal’ for 23 points. Gt. Knoutberry & Dodd Fell are probably the easiest NP’s with Great Shunner in the second rank. Every year I reserve NP’s 15 &16 for a rainy day; not literally but when I don’t want to do anything too strenuous, then forget to do them altogether. They haven’t appeared in my log since the winter of 2008-09.
Two things made a big impression on me. One is that half my QSO’s came from 40m CW which was worked only from the last two summits. Secondly, I had forgotten how busy SOTA can get on Sundays. I retired in 2005 and one of the first changes made was to operate on a weekday. I know these were far from physically demanding summits but certainly the operating took a lot more out of me than the walking for once. I would not have wanted to and because of the number of stations calling, there was no time to add Birks Fell to these three on this occasion.
I must apologize to anybody who couldn’t find me or missed a frequency, due to last minute changes in the routine on the final summit of the day.
The poor performance on 4m did not surprise me. These hills are mostly screened to the few 4m-FM regulars that exist. Also Geoff G4WHA was away.
Top band was fun again and I was more than happy to have made over four QSO’s on NP6 and NP16. It seems that for 160m activations around noon, either a big heavy linear or a kite aerial with radials is required. (Or both?)
Taken in context of the QSO totals detailed on the reflector lately, 163 in the day spread across 3 summits is not a lot but they did seem to take some getting through for me personally.
I don’t often appear on 2m nowadays as there’s too much to get through on HF. Early in this activation Steve GW7AAV kindly warned me that there was still a lift on there. That will effectively keep me off 2m-FM because I would want to target local chasers. Some tropo would be nice for VHF NFD in July however.
Thanks to all stations worked, especially those early risers on Top Band and to G0VOF, G4SSH/A, G0NUP, G3WPF, DL8DXL, G0RQL and G3RMD for the all essential spotting services. Further thanks to Kevin G0NUP who did sterling work on telephone liaison in the absence of Roy G4SSH.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)
Miniature DAB Radio mentioned in text:
It includes earphones, weighs one ounce (28gm) excluding earphones and measures 35 x 43 x 22mm. Its internal battery charges from a USB socket in a few hours and a charge lasts about 10 hours. I just use my own SOTA headphones that I use my IC706 with this & it works OK. The phones wire is the antenna. It’s a lovely shade of pink so you don’t need to worry about losing it in the grass. I recommend it is charged just before it is needed. It has controls that are simple, John.