BUCKDEN PIKE G/NP-009 - using G4YSS/P for this activation. (GX0OOO unavailable and being used by G4SSH as 5B/G0OOO).
All times UTC on 26-03-10. Accompanied by Hazel; her fourth SOTA.
MF QRO: IC706-2G / 20m, link dipole. 11V, 8.8 Ah Li-Po battery (2 x 4.4 Ah).
VHF: IC-E90 4-Band VHF. Half-wave J-Pole for 2m FM & extended rubber duck with counterpoise for 4m FM.
After dropping Grandson Jack off at the childminder’s, Hazel & I left Scarborough at 07:25 for the 80 mile drive along latterly very wet roads, to Bishopdale. We arrived at the planned ‘new’ start point (suggested by Richard G3CWI and attractive for its apparent efficiency) of the White Lyon Inn, at around 09:30. After marvelling at impressive waterfalls on the way down, one look at the stepping stones was enough to put us off. Half were under water and the current was quite strong. Wet feet towards the end of an expedition is arguably an acceptable state of affairs but certainly not at the start and little more than five metres from the car! With time constraints regarding Jack’s childminder and a possible sked time of 11:00 with Roy G4SSH in Cyprus on 20m to meet, there was no time to lose. We turned the car straight around and headed back up to ‘the devil we know’ which was my usual start point for Buckden Pike at SD 9432 8037.
UP TO THE AXLES:
In my haste to start the walk without further ado and whilst parking carelessly on a soggy grass verge, I got the car stuck in deep sludge! As is often the case, revving the engine impatiently just made things worse; we were just not going anywhere. Hazel had the best idea. Put the thing in first gear, let the clutch up and let it spin on idle while we both get out and push from the rear. I thought this might just work but the verge was too slippery for us to get any purchase. Eventually we had to break out the hand winch, lash a rope around a gate post and try to pull her out. After breaking one rope then tensioning up another, the old Fiesta powered out but only with Hazel sitting on the bonnet! By now a good half hour had been needlessly squandered but we did manage to get away for NP9 at 10:03 in high winds and the threat of rain.
The way goes initially through an open gate, across fields and up to a wall corner. This lower section was very wet today but so we found, was the rest of the ascent. This is not really a recognized route but it is quite efficient, usually enabling oneself & all the gear to be hauled up this six-pointer in not much more than 45 minutes. Today there was not the pressure of further SOTA’s after this one so we just plodded up through the boggy grass and past occasional snow patches; some still a foot deep but now melting fast. On the way we saw many Rabbits, a few pairs of Lapwings and Red Grouse. There were traps on the wall tops apparently for small mammals which might disturb the birds.
On the previous evening, Hazel enquired of me what was meant in the MWIS Mountain Forecast, by the phrase ‘considerable buffeting.’ Now she knew first hand but she also complained that the wind made breathing difficult too. With poor going under foot and a number of obstacles to negotiate, she remarked that she was finding Buckden Pike harder than any of her previous SOTA’s; Great Shunner, Lovely Seat and Pen-y-Ghent. At least there was no low-cloud and we had the views but the summit photo this time was of a weary girl.
The ladder stile seemed to be in a bit of a lake and no part of the top was ‘sog-free.’ With a brisk southerly airstream we headed a little further south for the activation, getting as far as an east-west running wall which is part way to the Wellington Bomber Memorial. In these wind-speeds walls ‘leak’ a bit so in deference to my female companion and having brought a flysheet, I proceeded to deploy it albeit on a ‘sponge.’ We soon had her ‘installed’ but something which did not impress her was the fact that I omitted to mention that the groundsheet leaked and you had to use your sit-mat! Further information that the walking trousers that I had given her were quick drying did not help the situation all that much.
BUCKDEN PIKE, G/NP-009, 702m, 6pts, 11:35 to 13:45. 7 Deg.C. Wind southerly at 30 mph. Overcast with showers of rain or sleet. One heavy shower of hailstones featuring precipitation static. LOC: IO84XE, WAB: SD97.
The idea today was to ‘put on’ 1.8 CW, 3.5 CW and 3.5 SSB but not until an attempt had been made to work Roy, G4SSH using 5B/G0OOO from Cyprus. My alert had been for a commencement on 1.832-CW at 12:00 but I had hoped to be QRV before 11:00 for a chance to work Roy on 14.055 CW. After a false start, getting the car bogged and erecting the flysheet and dipole, we were running over an hour late. I thought Roy would be on his way to the airport for his UK flight before now but as luck would have it, I was wrong.
14.055-CW - 5B/G0OOO:
It’s quite a while since the 20m links on my SOTA HF dipole have been ‘inconvenienced.’ A listen on Roy’s QRG of 14.055 seemed to confirm my suspicion that we’d ‘missed the boat’ so I tried a ‘CQ SOTA’ on there but to no avail. Moving up to 14.055.6 MHz, I heard strong signals and the last part of a familiar callsign; ‘Dah dah dah; dah dah dah.’ Roy heard me first call at 12:09, giving me 579. He was in the log and I’m certain that the 6 chaser points gained would please him no end. This QSO certainly pleased me but his, ‘Temp 25C and sunny’ while we sat on a cold, wet windswept expanse of very little did not impress us in quite the right way!
After nipping out to fit the 160m loading coils between showers, I noticed that we had a ‘sky-high’ VSWR which did not go away at any point in the band. A bit later without touching the coil slugs, the readings returned to normal, which is around a minimum of around 1.4:1. Thinking little of it after hearing and working Phil G4OBK at 599 plus, I carried on but noticed periodic excursions to high SWR values. I leave the IC706’s meter set permanently to VSWR so as to alert me of any aerial problems ASAP. Thankfully this did not prevent me working Reg G3WPF, Don G0NES and finally Mike EI2CL; the latter station with comparative ease but it is possible that other keen 160m chasers missed out if the fault returned undetected. If so I am sorry but no further QSO’s were to be had on this antenna on any band today. Power was 50W at first and 100W for Don & Mike, though Mike did hear my 50W transmission.
3.532-CW & 3.724-SSB – NO SHOW:
The intermittent aerial fault which had shown itself on Top Band had now become permanent. It seems that the PTFE insulated, 24 AWG link dipole wires had been strained once too often. Later examination (at home) detected a break in the ‘hot’ leg and capacitance readings are likely to point to the area where it joins the coax inner. I always accepted from the outset that equipment built for lightness will periodically require some maintenance or repair but I can only apologize to those who missed out on 6 points today. I could not hear signals let alone work stations. Thinking that the fault could conceivably be outboard of the 40m links, I tried the 7.032 CW with the same bad result. The only recourse now was to VHF and the IC-E90 H/H. Hazel continued to read her book under the flysheet while I prepared the 2m antenna in light rain.
A call on S20 with 5W from the IC-E90 to a vertical half-wave deployed on the front tent pole got a reply from a grateful G4BLH. Mike’s HF aerials had gone the way of mine today and he could not reach NP9 using 1.8 MHz. I was grateful too because Mike could now spot for me. This brought in a total of 7 chasers as follows: G4BLH Mike, 2E0ZMO/M Andrew, G6MZX Geoff, G1OHH Sue, G6HMN Ray, M3ZSV (Tim in Thirsk, newly licensed last week), G6LKB Dave.
This was pre-arranged with Mike G4BLH who came in at 59 to my 51 going back. Working conditions were 3.5W from the IC-E90 to a 2m rubber duck extended for 4m and counterpoised via a quarter-wave wire dangling from the SMA connector outer. It came as a bit of a surprise too; I was seated in a tent about a foot from an aluminium tent pole. John MW1FGQ followed up giving me 53 but after these two nil, though I tried a CQ standing up outside the tent. The two 4m QSOs were a bonus as I expected nothing from NP9 with this limited setup.
We closed at 13:20 and started packing up before yet more rain arrived. The walk down was easier but we had to run the gauntlet of the farmer in a tractor & trailer. Nothing was said.
Getting back to Bishopdale at 14:42, we were driving away within 3 minutes. The timing could not have been better; we were right on the nail, collecting Jack in Cayton at 17:00.
NP9 - Buckden Pike: 292m (958ft) ascent / 6.2km (3.9 miles) up/down.
Distance driven: 160 miles.
Battery utilisation: 11V, 8.8 Ah Li-Po – not measured but estimate 15 %.
Pack weight: 14 kg. (Extra today: Flysheet (Viper-2), umbrella, second coat etc).
14.056 MHz CW: 1 - (5B/G0OOO – Roy G4SSH)
1.832 MHz CW: 4
145.350 MHz FM: 7
70.450 MHz FM: 2
Though it could be argued that they got AM swapped with PM, the (poor) WX was more or less as predicted. The car bogging could have been worse but it wasted valuable time. The failure of the HF Dipole resulted in a meagre QSO tally but the sortie was still enjoyable at some level and in hindsight. Hazel found this one quite hard but that probably had more to do with lack of sleep than ascent and distance. She is learning fast and is hoping to progress to bigger stuff one day and maybe obtain her own licence. She says that she’ll ‘go again.’
THANK YOU TO ALL STATIONS WORKED and to G4OBK & G4BLH for spotting. Apologies for non appearance on 80m due to antenna failure.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using G4YSS/P on this occasion)
(Thanks to all who wrote comments on the last two reports. Apologies for not replying personally.)