G4YSS Activation Report, G/NP-001 & G/NP-015, 23-12-08
Cross Fell from the NATS Radar Site.
Great Knoutberry (Widdale Fell) from the Coal Road.
All times UTC on 23-12-08.
Introduction: Activators seem to have been somewhat thwarted by the WX of late. I intended to go out earlier than this and put right the wrong done to me by a snow-covered Coal Road on the 11th. It was sure to be clear now after recent mild weather and should allow access to NP15.
Time wise, we seemed to be fast ‘running into the buffers’ and I still had six NPs to activate before the end of the year. I looked at ways of knocking three off but at this time of year an 8-hour day with three 2-hour summit stays leaves little time for actual walking. Certain combinations lend themselves to it but when I tried to draw up a schedule to tackle NP1 and NP7 (done as a pair without problem last year) but then follow them up with the easy NP15, it would have meant doing three out of six traverses in the dark. In the end, all I could do was schedule my arrival at NP1’s Trig Point at first light so as to enable setting up on the rocky top, then trust to luck that the activation would somehow be shorter than normal. The trouble is I’m a sucker for Top Band so didn’t want to drop it.
Execution: Got almost no sleep chewing this over all night and left Scarborough for the 113 mile drive at 03:23. The little roads leading to the CAA’s Northern Radar Station are quite hard to follow in the dark and the cloud-base was encountered at 1600ft. I must confess to 25 minutes sleep in an A66 layby on the way but still arrived way too early at 06:05, which meant waiting in the car before walking off. It was similar last year with wind-chill conditions but this year the choice was between a cosy car or swirling fog in pitch darkness.
06:46 saw me groping my way from the car (at NY 7163 3160) up the private road in a brisk wind with the headlight producing bounce-back and barely enough visibility to stay on the road. I remember feeling rather unhappy and the only thing that kept me going was the sound of Test Match Special from India in the headphones. That sounds quaint but one can feel quite small and vulnerable in such situations, when your entire ill-defined world has a radius of just 5m. No doubt the radar station maintenance men would confirm it; nature rules up here!
My small illuminated screen said, ‘Right at the Cattle Grid’ so I followed the fence to start skirting the station but was soon way off the path in soggy open country. ‘Don’t Panic!’ ‘Trust the technology’ but it was a while before I spied the paved way down the other side of Great Dunn Fell. Some of the stones were a tad slimy so the solution was to walk beside the path at those points. I’d planned to activate beside a pile of stones that I call ‘Stack 2’ (NY 6902 3425) but for some reason carried on to the summit shelter at which point and in accordance with the plan, it became light enough to set up.
CROSS FELL, G/NP-001, 893m, 8Pts, 07:56 to 10:00, 7 Deg C, 15 mph, low-cloud (all day above 1600ft). Very occasional small patches of wet, lying snow (IO84SQ, WAB NY63.)
A bungee was used to anchor the mast to the shelter but a recent repair was ‘shown up.’ The mast bent at the top screw-fitting and skewed over by 30 degrees. This was the fault of air-voids in the epoxy and it would barely hold the aerial when the 160m coils were added. It was damp but not that cold so the coat stayed in the rucksack. A dry coat would be more appreciated later in the day so I just shivered this one out.
It took merely a few tuning ‘V’s on 1832 kHz at 08:15 to evoke a response; Roy G4SSH was waiting with a reassuring signal report, so the output was hitting Scarborough at least. The fact that it had only been daylight a few minutes no doubt helped propagation but it was still surprising when 30 to 70 Watts produced the following: G4OBK, EI2CL, G0TDM (G7GQL, GX0ANT) G3RDQ, SM6CMU, G4OWG, F6EFI, G4BUE, G3LDI, MW0IDX, EI7CC, DL2DXA, DF2OU, DL9KR, G4WSX, GW0DSP, G0VYR, & finally ON4ON. 19 ops in all; what an excellent turnout!
This only ‘beat’ Top Band by 3 stations with again a welcome sprinkling of overseas callsigns in with the G’s. At this stage I seemed to be doing OK for time so perhaps NP7 would be a goer. Most were worked with 20W but a few needed 50W. Callsigns with two figures really throw me for some reason but I worked S51ZG and S57OP; at least that’s what’s written in my log!?
A little time was needed to find a clear spot but the switch to SSB produced another 20 QSO’s. Carolyn (GW6WRW) late of Glyder Fawr ‘heroism’ was worked /M, no doubt on the way to her latest activation. She must have a decent mobile setup; signals were good. Martin (GD3YUM) not heard for a while, called in with a really big signal. Roger in Tamworth (G0TRB) rounded things off but it was now coming up to 10am and I still had to dismantle the station then get back to the car (regained at 10:57) to ‘splint’ the mast.
By the time the mast had been fixed it was 11:07; surely too late to squeeze Wild Boar Fell NP7; thirty-odd miles and almost an hour’s drive away, before NP15. Four hours would be needed just for NP7; two hours walking, as it’s a substantial undertaking and two hours at the summit. Besides it was drizzling and ‘clag’ was down on everything above 500m. Wind was also on the increase. I had some time to decide and would have to pass Wild Boar Fell, even if NP15 became the sole afternoon choice.
I must have changed my mind 20 times, even toying with a 2m FM only ‘smash and grab’ idea but in the end there just would not be sufficient time for these three SOTAs today unless all of the last one were done after dark. NP15 became the natural choice because it’s much quicker & easier than Wild Boar, meaning I could put on an extra band, namely 40m CW. I could also be home for 7pm instead of closer to 10pm, for the three. Quart and pint pot come to mind.
After phoning Roy from the Coal Road parking point, which is at SD 7796 8805 and adding a 7.5 Ah SLAB to the pack, I was off walking again by 12:43. The Coal Road has had some much-needed resurfacing of late and the snow & ice had long gone. My route for Great Knoutberry is essentially a bee-line, mostly over tussocky bog but taking in a short animal path here or a convenient Argo Track there. Sink holes must be avoided, particularly if it’s dark. The final approach is with the fence on your right and the summit is ‘furnished’ with a trig-point, a wall and a ‘seat.’ As bad luck would have it, the wind was blowing down the wall today so the dipole was set up near the seat, which is at an angle of 90 degrees to the wall. Pools of watery bog made it tricky to ‘patrol’ up & down the antenna, to change links etc.
G/NP-015: GREAT KNOUTBERRY HILL, 672m, 4 pts, 14:22 to 16:32, 5 Deg.C. 25 mph wind & low-cloud. (IO84KP, WAB SD78). No lying snow.
The coat helped but by no stretch of the imagination was it pleasant up there. On the plus side, I now had loads of spare time and extra battery power available, so a foray on 40m CW suggested itself for starters.
7.032 - 7.033 CW:
Unfortunately a station was giving out quick-fire QSO’s on 7.032, so after working DL8DXA/P, BERND on DM/SX-055 more for ‘advertising purposes’ as for the S2S, it was up 1kHz to reap the rewards. What hit me? This is no place for a tentative CW man these days! Not to put too fine a point on it, my brain was heavily addled after working my way through a 44 station pileup in an hour. Again it was the increasing numbers of less familiar callsign configurations that ‘threw’ me. Not thinking I could stand a minute more of Morse ringing in my ears after a sleepless night too, thoughts of bringing the 80m SSB session forward, came to mind. After a walk; an advantage of link dipoles, I felt some improvement.
There was a short QRX because the battery needed changing but after that 11 QSO’s were completed. There had been some G’s on 40m so fewer needed NP15 on here. As had been the case all day, signals were mostly strong.
Ten mainly regular ops were logged on 80 SSB but the band was fairly noisy with what sounded like data. No power worries meant that the ‘wick’ could be turned up for any difficult QSO’s.
The final session had arrived and it’s becoming a real favourite. Four stations were worked on half power and the rest on full. As the antenna blew around, its ground proximity altered resulting in the VSWR becoming a slight annoyance, mid-session. Nevertheless, the following stations were worked without too much trouble: G4OBK, G4RQJ, EI7CC, EI2CL, G4BLH, G4SSH, F6FTB, G3LKZ, G4OWG & OK1AY. One will need further investigation; something like SA9SH?? The station was closed at 15:49 to start the 1.4km walk down at 16:00. By 16:20, at the car, it was more or less dark and still misty (1700ft ASL). The GPS really showed its worth on this trackless waste again. I saw no one all day on either summit.
The drive back to Scarborough took from 16:40 to 19:06, with a stop for some Wensleydale cheese and Cumberland sausages at Elijah Allen’s shop in Hawes.
Total: 138 QSO’s, comprising:
31 on 1.8-CW
33 on 3.5-CW.
30 on 3.5-SSB.
44 on 7-CW
G/NP-001: 414m ascent / 9.3 km
G/NP-015: 169m ascent / 2.8km.
Total: 583m (1912ft) ascent / 12.1 km (7.6 miles)
243 miles driven in the day:
(QTHR to NP1: 113 mls. NP1 to NP15: 40 mls. NP15 to QTHR: 90 mls)
IC706 2G QRO with home-brew composite panels, wiring & breakering. CW ‘key’ in microphone. Link Dipole for 30-40-60-80 with tuneable coils for 160 at the 40m break points. 5m CFC mast – 1m ends. Reserve rig (not used): VX150 2m Band FM H/H with 2.7Ah AA battery.
For NP-001 & 40m band on NP-015: Two RCM 2.2Ah Li-Po’s plus one RCM 4.4Ah Li-Po all in parallel. 11V nom, 100W capable, 0.7kg. 100% depleted.
NP-015 80m / 160m: 7.5Ah SLAB 65% depleted.
QRO pack-weight – NP3: 11kg. 13.6 kg for NP-015.
Thanks to all stations worked and for valuable spotting assistance by: G4SSH (also liaison) GW0DSP, G6MZX, G4OBK & ON3WAB. Thank you to the SOTA MT for their efforts in maintaining our hobby. A very happy Christmas is wished to all. Hope to be out before 2009 arrives but that depends on a few things. If not; Happy New Year and many thanks to all ops who have worked the SSEG and/or SARS callsigns in 2008.
Congratulations to Mike GW0DSP on attaining 25,000 chaser points (on Top Band today). In 2002 it would have been deemed impossible. How SOTA has grown and what dedication!
73, John G4YSS
(using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)