G4YSS, Act Rep. 6 x LD summits, 04...08-June-07

G4YSS, Lakes Week 2007. Six LD summits, 04 to 08-June-07.
G/LD’s: 23, 04, 13, 12, 19 & 8.

All times BST (UTC plus 1 hr.)
This report relates to five days in the Lake District with an (up to) seven-man walking group, assembled from Worthing, Birmingham and Scarborough. Group leader, David Barnes devised the routes and these were adapted to suit SOTA activity as appropriate.

No ‘required‘ SOTA summits were visited by the group, making detachment and where possible, re-attachment necessary on all occasions. This led to a requirement to severely limit summit activation time, in most instances. For this reason, 2m FM was used for most activations and no pre-annunciation facilities were available. Blencathra was done completely independently of the group and this made an extended summit stay and HF possible. On most days additional (non-SOTA) summits were included in the walks, making for low efficiency but only in SOTA terms. The walking was reasonably enjoyable despite warm conditions and a cool breeze moderated the effect of sunshine for the major part. Good visibility was a constant feature and the company of others was very welcome after much solitary walking.

KNOTT, G/L-023, 710m (6 pts) & SKIDDAW, G/LD-004, 931m (10 pts), 04-Jun-07. Sunny periods breezy 15C. 2m FM Omni QRP.

Data: Orthwaite (start) 228m ASL: 10:08 & 17:14, Knott 12:10 to 13:15, Skiddaw 15:00 to 15:52. 11.2 miles, 1085m ascent, 7.1 hrs gross, 5.1 hrs net.

On the 4th, the group announced a sortie to Great Scar Fell, a little-visited high point north of Knott, with a start point on the C-road just south of Orthwaite. A path goes via Burntodd Gill and Frozenfell Gill, at which point we would go our separate ways and I could divert slightly to look at two aircraft wreck sites. It could be seen from the map that Knott (LD-023) would be easy enough but with some determination Skiddaw (LD-04) could be added; though the extra summit meant there would be little chance of meeting up with the group, no matter how long they took for lunch!

I had no posting facilities and expected to find things difficult on the air from this QTH. In the end and without my prior knowledge, a phone call was made between licensed friends (Richard MM1BHO and Davy MM0KBT) resulting in the vital fourth QSO after an hour and I was able to proceed to Skiddaw over paths, or through heather and grass, via Little Calva and Bakestall. The Knott activation was made rather unpleasant because of the activities of inch-long caterpillars. There were up to 30 per square foot, at altitudes above 500m, for miles around. They were crawling everywhere at impressive speed and it quickly became a stand-up activation with non-essentials fastened tightly in the rucksack. In the end, it was a real relief to get away from this infested ‘VHF desert’ with not a sign of the hoped-for aircraft remains.

After an excellent path, which follows the boundary fence, Skiddaw was marginally better RF-wise and it helped that one or two were waiting for me from the morning activation. However, after just seven QSO’s, the frequency dried up. Not that unusual when using simple omni-VHFM QRP from this well-screened 10-point, 3000 footer. I wish I’d had the time for HF. The retreat was via Broad End, between Cockup and Dead Crags, then dropping very steeply to a track. From there other tracks follow via Cow Wath and under the hill south of Great Cockup then Little Cockup, to the car at NY 2522 3384. There is so little verge space here and I thought I had been very clever in the morning, to ‘ram’ my wife’s new car hard up against a Hawthorne hedge without damaging it. My mistake was to hit the electric-window switch before moving off. Highly strained branches ensured that the inside of her car became evenly covered in flower petals and bits of twig. I did the best I could without a Hoover but I fear a lot of petals and judging by what I found back at the B&B that evening, perhaps a few live caterpillars went undetected down the cracks.

OLD-MAN-of-CONISTON, G/LD-013, 803m (8 pts), 05-Jun-07. Sunshine, cool breeze, 14C. 2m FM Omni QRP.

Data: Walna Scar (start) 230m ASL: 11:06 & 13:36, O.M.C 11:59 to 12:59. 3.4 miles, 583m ascent, 2.5 hrs gross, 1.5 hrs net. (Afterwards: Dunmail Raise 240m ASL 14:11 & 16:04 to meet group on Dollywaggon slopes. 3.4 miles, 300m ascent, 1.9 hrs gross.)

The group walk was to be a ‘linear’ one from Legberthwaite to Dunmail Raise, taking in Sticks Pass, Raise, Helvellyn, Nethermost and Dollywaggon Pikes. So today’s route would be over a SOTA. Sadly, I’d already done Helvellyn (and all associated summits) on 7th of March. We came up with a solution. I could provide the required second car and still have time to put-on Coniston Old Man if I used the fastest route I know for this 8 pointer. I sped to the ‘high’ car park (at SD 28890 97040) above Coniston village and from there, it took me a time saving 53 minutes to the top. This quiet and direct southern route is mostly grassy whereas some of the alternatives use rocky paths through heavily mine-worked areas.

By the time there were ‘no more takers’ I had 9 in the log and with a summit stay of an hour and descent in 37 minutes, only 2.5 hours had been expended. If I tried hard, I could meet the group near the end of their walk and perhaps ‘head off’ any further ‘tongue-in-cheek’ comments like, ‘What is it about our company that you don’t like, John?’ In fact the path up to Grisedale Tarn from Dunmail Raise had ‘road works’ on it complete with big red triangular signs. Repairs to this river-side path were going to span, ‘A few weeks’ and walkers were being advised to take to the right grass bank to avoid the workers, who had their own ‘bait-hut’ strapped down with stakes & ropes.

From Grisedale Tarn and with the help of a small monocular, I could see my friends on the slopes of Dollywaggon, which is where we regrouped and walked back together, examining the geology. They had made excellent time.

HIGH STILE, G/LD-012, 807m (8 pts), 06-Jun-07. Sunshine with some overcast, 16C. 2m FM Omni QRP.

Data: Ennerdale Forest Car Park (start) 135m ASL: 10:32. Hi Stile 12:45 to 14:01. Gatesgarth Farm Car Park (finish) 15:23. 7.4miles, 749m ascent, 4.9 hrs gross, 3.6 hrs net.

Today would see the walking group’s first visit to the remote Ennerdale Water, with the target; Hay Stacks. The ‘finish line’ (and second car) would be at Gatesgarth Farm Car Park, Buttermere (£3 at NY 1948 1498). After the ‘vehicle juggling’ we left the (free) Forest car park in Ennerdale (NY 1098 1532). We would start by heading east up the valley together, beside this beautifully clear lake. I would leave the track at a firebreak (NY 1454 1413) and proceed up the path via Red Pike, to High Stile. The ‘lads’ were to walk up another path to Scarth Gap and onto Hay Stacks for lunch. From there, they would continue along the Honister path but turn left into Wanscale Bottom and down to Gatesgarth. I would activate High Stile and ‘cut the corner’ after High Crag. With luck we should all reach Gatesgarth at a similar time.

The southern slope of Red Pike was a ‘sweaty slog’ and I was suffering from lack of sleep, after programming waypoints far too late to ‘wind-down.’ It took 75 minutes from the track to LD12 and I ended up losing the path and skirting Red Pike’s top. First up was a ‘back-of-the box’ exchange with Steve M0SGB, who happened to be on Dufton Fell G/NP-027. Dave G6LKB was barely hearing me but made it in the end. Roger MW0IDX was easier, with regulars Geoff G4WHA, Mike GW0DSP, Nigel 2E0NHM (now much improved and back home) with Norman G7MRL 59/59 from Whitehaven, filling me in on the particulars of Ennerdale Water reservoir. After announcing QRT to an empty frequency, I was looking forward to the scree on Gamlin End, from where I made PMR contact with the group. From High Stile, it took me 82 minutes to reach Gatesgarth but the timing was perfect for a group ice-cream session, sitting on the bridge in welcome shade. It then took a good 30 minutes to retrieve the other car from Ennerdale.

HIGH RAISE, G/LD-019, 762m (6 pts), 07-Jun-07. Sunshine with some overcast, 15C. 2m FM Omni QRP.

Data: Grasmere P&Disp-£6 (start) 70m ASL: 10:09 & 15:31. Steel Fell 553m 11:32 to 11:51. Calf Crag 537m 12:30. High Raise 13:16 to 13:52. 11.2 miles, 640m ascent, 5.4 hrs gross, 4.5 hrs net.

Yet another new approach to High Raise was made this year; from Grasmere via Steel Fell. I left the group just before Calf Crag, making my way the 2 miles beyond to High Raise via Greenup Edge, whilst they had lunch then retreated along the ridge formed by Gibson Knott and Helm Crag (Lion & Lamb rocks). My return was via the quicker path beside Easedale Gill and thanks to this and a fast activation, I was able to catch them up before Grasmere car park. I made 8 contacts after a CQ on S20. Though only a six-pointer, I should imagine it’s relative remoteness makes this summit rarer that many other LD’s. An interesting route.

BLENCATHRA, G/LD-008, 868m (8 pts), 08-Jun-07. Sunshine initially with dark overcast and no wind later on. 15C. 40m CW and 80m CW/SSB, QRP. Nasty bugs and thieving sheep!

Data: Blencathra Centre (start) 285m ASL: 11:25 & 16:01. Blencathra 12:31 to 15:17. 5.0 miles, 643m ascent, 4.6hrs gross, 1.8 hrs net.

Today’s ‘set walk’ was from Hartsop to Satura Crag, Angle Tarn & Boredale Hause. With High Street, Stony Cove Pike, Red Screes and Place Fell all completed earlier in the year, the area had little left to offer and for the first time, I would have to be completely independent. Blencathra was an easy decision, preceded by a trip into Keswick to buy a down jacket; something I would not need today! I doubt if the route from the Blencathra Centre free car park, at NY 3026 2565 can be beaten time-wise but it was over an hour’s hot-slog today, with HF gear. When you think you’re ‘up,’ there are still two sub-summits (804m & 851m) to traverse, before the real one at 868m ASL.

With HF, it doesn’t matter too much if you are not at the pinnacle, so the dipole was deployed a few metres away, on the northern slope and away from the path, though I would come to regret this later. From here could be seen ‘massive wings’ of excited birds; Rooks, Jackdaws and Gulls. So the secret of square miles of caterpillars covering the northern tops, was out. I had repainted the mast sections a few days before. The paint should have hardened but they needed prizing apart after being tightly bound in this heat. The smart paint-job was wrecked.

A CQ on 7.032 CW quickly brought in DL2DXA. Thanks for the initial post, Bernd. There followed 15 mixed stations, some as close as Phil G4OBK and as far away as SM and DL but with HB conspicuous by its absence. QSB and QRN were regularly reported on a 40m band in rather poor shape. Announcing a change to 10.118 CW several times should have dramatically improved matters but once there, only S58MU and Fritz DL4FDM, were lucky enough to bag LD8’s 8 points. After half an hour I gave up on 30m, whence a QSY to 3.724 CW produced immediate success with Cris GM4FAM (59).

The illusion that it was going to be easy evaporated when I tried for a 5 full minutes and failed to get-back to Mike EI2CL in Dublin, on the noisy band. At least I could log my own village of Irton, with Roy G4SSH, despite deep QSB. That, and the next QSO with my son Phil G0UUU/A at my own house, were quite a thrill but that’s when things started to become more than tedious. In the space of this QSO, the wind dropped to zero and clouds of tiny biting midges (such as may regularly be found in GM) rapidly covered my head, neck and every available exposed area. I could not send even a callsign or report without jumping up and desperately flailing my arms over my head. It took over 5 minutes to complete Phil’s QSO. I read only his callsign and report and nothing of the message he was sending me. By now the midges were operating under my hat and in my right ear canal, under the headphones. If that were not bad enough, I was startled by a very loud sound close by. Turning round, I was confronted with a sheep only a foot away and with me thus distracted, it’s lamb started to chew my rucksack. It was the final straw and after announcing QRX, I had to move the entire station 35m to the edge of the hill where there was still some breeze. During this, the two of them were busy working on my rucksack fastenings. The fact that they didn’t succeed is solely down to Berghaus as I was far too busy to mount a defence.

Calling CQ did not produce any further Morse contacts and with conditions so marginal on CW, phone was ‘bound to fail.’ I was surprised when John GW4BVE came in loud and clear on 3.724 SSB but our normal quick chat was replaced by shrieks of anguish as both sheep and bugs simultaneously returned. Somehow, Keith GM3VTY, Paul G0HNW, Geoff G4WHA, Pete M0COP and Mike GW0DSP were quickly logged but there was little finesse about it. Glynn, GM4CFS ‘got off the hook’ in the QRN. Now there really was no wind at all; rare on a summit. Looking round I could see other walkers with items of clothing covering their heads preparing to move. By now the sheep were annoying someone else but I could see when I was beaten. I left at 15:07, making it back to the car by 16:01.

In Conclusion:

It seems a long time since I used 2FM. What I noticed is that we have obviously neglected it for far too long. Often, serious chasers were in a minority and perhaps this reflects the ‘dark side’ of a highly efficient and reliable alerting system. Even so, simple 2m FM was a pleasant and undemanding change from the intensive, multi-summit HF operations of winter and a change is as good as a rest, they say. I met some new people along the way but after the LD8 experience, I was left wondering why I don’t keep to my rule of not operating during the summer. The (5 day) week’s 46 points compare well enough with previous efforts but fall well short of the 82 points of 2005. Thanks to all ops who worked me. You were good company, though I sometimes had to rush. We had a good holiday too. Thank you to DL2DXA, G4OBK, G4SSH, GW4BE, and EI2CL for spots and to other sporadic and ‘unknown’ spotters, earlier in the week.

TOTALS (for five days): 6 summits, 46 points, 41.6 miles, 4000m (13,123ft) ascent, 26.4 hrs gross, 18.4 hrs net.
Average walking speed (net): 2.26 mph.

VX150, 2/5W FM, half wave omni-vertical.
FT817ND, 5m mast / dipole on Blencathra only.

73, John G4YSS using GX0OOO/P (Scarborough Special Events Group, Club Call)