BIRKS FELL G/NP-031 & BUCKDEN PIKE G/NP-009.
All times UTC on 31-12-08. G4YSS using GX0OOO/P. Unaccompanied.
HF QRO IC706-2G / link dipole. VX150 & half-wave J-Pole for 2m FM.
Left Scarborough: 04:11 for the short 83 mile drive on dry & well gritted roads. Arrived at 06:14, parking by the river bridge at SD 9395 7734 for the second year, with the car’s nearside rammed hard against the fence. The start point (Redmire Farm) is 300m further up the road towards Hubberholme but there’s nowhere to leave even a small car there. I was either too early or I’d alerted too late. Either way, it was going to be dark for another hour and a quarter, so I waited a while & set off walking with the headlight at 06:57.
BIRKS FELL ROUTE:
This route was newly devised last year and worked out well then, if a little steep in places. It has the advantage of being a direct route to the SOTA recognized summit. Not that it matters; the activation zone for this one is about 5 km long! The disadvantages are that it’s not an obvious route and it involves climbing a couple of gates. On the plus side, there’s a path (of sorts) which follows the left side of the wall, most of the way up the open fell. Prior to that, it’s a simple matter of following the forest track up through Kirk Gill Moor Wood.
From the road at SD 9365 7747, walk up the bridleway and turn right at the forest track at SD 9337 7730. Follow this track through trees and via two ‘zigs’ up to a forest exit-gate at SD 9294 7745. Cross the track at this point and walk up the fell to where a dry-stone wall starts and there’s another gate at SD 9285 7738.
Climb over the gate so that you can walk up with the wall on your right. It’s a bit tussocky and unpromising for a short distance but by SD 9280 7732 a half-decent path is encountered. This takes you all the way to the top via SD 9249 7708, SD 9218 7688 and the top of a steep section at SD 9198 7675. It’s undefined in places but only for short distances. I marked the 610m summit, consisting of a small cairn on a raised area and surrounded by boggy ground, at SD 91877 76372.
There are ‘spine’ and ‘rib’ walls to choose from for shelter or even an old Laithe (favoured by G4CPA I think) further east, so no one need worry if it’s windy. Today it was more or less still and as I passed the 610m point at 07:50 the sun was preparing to rise.
BIRKS FELL, G/NP-031, 610m, 4Pts, 07:50 to 10:22. Minus 5 deg.C at first. No wind. Sunrise followed by sunshine all day. Heavily frosted grass but no lying snow. (IO84WE, WAB SD97)
There was no need to rush; the alert was still an hour away. I took photos and admired the view of the Three Peaks, while fitting & tuning the 160m coils. Though a new thermometer read minus 5C, it was promising to be a perfect winter’s day. There were no responses to my VSWR tests so I knew chasers were not at their sets yet. The first CQ call was at 08:15.
Mike EI2CL tried hard for Mickle Fell last week and failed. He was determined today and we exchanged without trouble. Those Dublin kids must have got fed up with their newly won QRN generators of one sort or another.
Next was Mike G4BLH and after John G0TDM, I settled into the rhythm. Actually, Top Band was quite kind to us today but one op (Laurent - F6CEL) got clean off the hook.
Stations in the 160m log were: EI2CL, G4BLH, G0TDM (G7GQL / GX0ANT) F8BBL, EI7CC, DL5WW, G4SSH, G4OBK (just prior to going out), G4CPA, G3RDQ, G3TJE, G4OWG and finally Chris (of G-QRP Club renown) G4BUE. What a cracking start in what was by now full daylight. Powers were mainly 50W but I screwed the wick up for F8BBL & G4SSH. Thanks to everyone who got up early.
G4SSH was straight back to my QRL again. After Roy, I worked a further 16, which included a healthy mix of UK and overseas stations. What Frid (DL1FU) always knew, more are discovering. Yes, there is a reasonable chance to work into Britain from Europe on 80m in daylight early and late, though I suspect noise levels have much to do with the chances of success. I used 20 to 50W with excursions up to full power for DL2DXA, DL5WW and Don G0NES. Don alone failed to hear his report but we put matters right on SSB later.
Mike GW0DSP was waiting on here, so another quick start was effected. I often chat briefly to the first station so as that others can tune in and line up. There were a lot of callers. I worked 22 in SSB and I don’t think there was one who was not a SOTA chaser. Amongst the regulars was Richard G3CWI. Another surprise was Andy GM0UDL; we made friends in May during my Suilven expedition. Andy persuaded GM4FAM onto the air. I haven’t worked Cris for ages; he is busy with his station alterations & other things. Luc; ON6DSL was the only overseas caller in this mode and the band dried up at 10:04. After packing up I went to have a look at the summit proper.
It was a real pleasure to descend on a day like this. Straight in front of me was my next objective, Buckden Pike but the intervening valleys and forests were full of freezing fog, which I had to pass through to reach the car by 11:02.
A battery change, lunch and the 2 mile drive to the start point for Buckden Pike in Bishopdale (SD 9432 8037) set me up for an 11:30 set off for NP9.
The way goes initially through an open gate, across frosty fields and up to a wall corner. This lower section was well fogged-in today but the clag was soon left behind at the start of the steep ascent, which follows the wall up to the summit trig. Again, this is not really a recognized route but it is exceedingly efficient, enabling oneself & all the gear to be hauled up this six-pointer in not much more than 45 minutes.
BUCKDEN PIKE, G/NP-009, 702m, 6pts, 12:17 to 16:20 Minus 2 Deg.C at midday, minus 5 deg C just before dark. Wind less than 3 mph. Heavily frosted grass with snow-blasted walls & fences. Constant sunshine through to sunset, with cloud-filled valleys below. LOC: IO84XE, WAB: SD97.
After intimating that the QRV on 80 CW would be at 2pm, I had to amuse myself for over one & a half hours. Finding somewhere to operate took up some of the spare time. There were a few people around so I set up away from the wall and trig point, in a frozen Peat Hagg. This turned out to be a mistake. After sitting there for hours, the ice melted and I ended up covered in black filth. What a mess. I should have brought the rocks over to sit on right from the start.
As I was setting up, a lady of about 60 came over to ask, ‘Are you transmitting?’ Being a much more informed question that is normal in these situations, I probed a little. She had seen it all before and Sharp Haw was where. We talked a while, mentioning the temperature inversion and the sea of cloud below but she was much more interested in whom I would be contacting and how far away. She was into CW too! Whilst on a cruise years ago, she’d made friends with the radio officer, who had taught her the art and allowed her to practice.
I still had a lot of time but fought shy of 40m CW because of battery considerations to say little of ‘mental stamina’ these days! After all, I planned to be on the summit until just before dark to give 160m a ‘fighting chance’ but settling for 30m instead of 40m seemed like a good compromise. A potential for 40 plus QSO’s on 7.032 might ‘whittle down’ to under 20 on 10.118 so I pulled out the appropriate aerial links and called CQ. Zilch! Trying again, this time with 50W; it was just the same. Surely someone was listening for activators on this recognized SOTA QRG? Ah yes, someone is calling me back. A chaser? No such luck, it was K4UK, Stan in Moneta Virginia. Stan was confused by the QTH and asked for two or three repeats of ‘SOTA G/NP-009.’ He went on to ask about the WX, gave me his ‘12 C & sunny’ and finally, ‘What is your club number?’ He gave me 2934 but I was stumped as to what I could reciprocate with. After 10 minutes of this, I thought I must extricate myself and work the droves of frustrated SOTA chasers who surely by now, would be lined up behind Stan. I need not have worried; there was just one more caller OK1FCA, then nothing. It would seem that the skip was going over most of the chasers heads on 10 Megs at this time.
Though an hour early, I should have known G4SSH would be monitoring. Just like G4BLH’s spot in the morning, Roy got things moving again and though they generally needed more RF, it was great to log the continental station’s successes amongst the G’s, this close to noon. 27 QSOs were completed on here in 45 minutes. Hardly G4OBK style and I would have been concerned, had I been doing 3 summits in the day. As it was, time still hung heavy.
Using around 30W on here brought in 20 stations with reasonable reports on a busy band. As is customary, mobiles got preferential treatment by being called in first. This turned out to be one car and two ops; namely Carolyn and Helen (G6WRW/M & M3YHB/M) on the A14 to Cambridge. After recent help with GW0DSP’s 25k, there came another honour for me; to take Helen up to Shack Sloth status! Congratulations Helen you can now send off for your cert and glassware. BCNU SN as 2E0YHB.
Only two ‘extra-UK’ stations managed to ‘punch through’ on here. These were Aage PA0XAW and Declan EI9HQ. It was still only 14:37 and I needed another ‘time consumer’ before the 160m session. With no mobile coverage, it was fortuitous that Roy was still on 3.719 ten minutes after the SSB session, so I asked him to post me on 2m FM.
After setting the dipole up ready for 160m, I walked over and stuck the half wave vertical in the wall top. I had to stand up for this activation but didn’t expect more than 3 or 4 callers. It just shows you the power of advertising. Using 2W from my VX150, I worked: GW4EVX, G4BLH, G7WAW, G4OBK, G6MZX, 2E0XLG, G6LKB, M0VEY, M1YAM, M0PVA & GW4BVE with good reports apart from Mick M0PVA who experiences regular noise on 145.350. When I mentioned 160m, Phil M0VEY requested an SSB sked so I told him it might be possible after the CW (battery & time permitting) and to monitor 1.843.
This was the final band of the year for me and the reason I had hung around all afternoon. It started at around 15:25 just over an hour before dark. In the fullness of time and with any luck we would reach Dublin! This is how it went: G4OBK, SM6CMU, DJ5AV, G3HKO, DL7FD, G3RDQ, G4OIG, G4OWG, EI7CC, G3WPF, GW0DSP, G4CPA, G4BLH, G4SSH & last but not least, EI2CL! It was great to welcome Gerald G4OIG into the ‘160m Club.’ A departure from the norm was with Mike EI2CL’s QSO. This time I was the one asking for a repeat of the RST due to QRM from a ‘sideband splasher’ calling CQ but all in all, it rated as a second good session of the day on ‘Medium Wave.’
This QRG is in the IC706’s next memory up from 1.832 but it took me a while to realise why my calls went unanswered. After selecting LSB instead of CW, all was well and I immediately heard Phil M0VEY calling from Hornsea loud & clear. Judging by his voice, he appeared to think that his first summit chase on 160 was worth the wait and others followed in eager succession. GM7UAU, M0JDK, G0VOF, G0RQL, G0TRB and G4BLH. Some were newcomers to Top Band SOTA. Maybe I should do 160m SSB more often but there’s seldom enough time or battery power so I doubt that it will become regular. By 16:03, there were no more callers, the sun’s glow made a great spectacle after dipping behind the Three Peaks but light was fading fast. That said, I still had to force myself to leave this breathtaking scene behind.
145.600 FM (GB3YC):
I stuck the 2m half wave on the back of the rucksack and walked off at 16:20. One call through Scarborough repeater and I was in QSO with my son Phil, G0UUU. He could keep me company for the first half of the descent, after which the signal is lost. With mobile phones useless on NP9, GB3YC was to have been my method of emergency communication with home if I’d remained at the summit for the night. After giving it careful thought over the past few weeks, I lately decided not to stay but now (too late) I could see that there could never be a better New Year to camp high than this one. The forecast was for a settled high pressure and though the temperature was ‘into its boots,’ more importantly, there was no wind at all. The ground was not too frozen to accept pegs either. My two previous New Year camp-overs were troubled with poor WX. In 2004 high winds damaged the tent on NP18 and in 2007 almost an inch of rain fell on Whernside and 18 or more hours is a long time to be confined in a tiny tent. Never mind, maybe another time or someone else for this year’s double points?
I got back to Bishopdale and its freezing fog, at 17:04 but without needing the headlamp. The drive home took from 17:15 (when I got the car thawed out) to 19:19. 164 miles in the day is the least I can ever hope for living on the East Coast. This was an undemanding day with lots of spare time and I didn’t have a third summit left to add to these two, even if I’d wanted to. The WX was absolutely perfect; what a privilege to be out enjoying it! Summer has nothing on days like this.
The seven QSO’s on 160m SSB more than double my previous tally. Most of those were from campovers; the most notable being an early-hours Fountains Fell S2S with Jon GM4ZFZ, who was bivvying on Ben Nevis in 2004.
NP31 – Birks Fell: 390m (1280ft) ascent / 6.8km (4.3 miles) up/down.
Battery utilisation: 92% 7.5 Ah SLAB.
Pack weight: 13kg.
NP9 - Buckden Pike: 292m (958ft) ascent / 6.2km (3.9 miles) up/down.
Battery utilisation: 95% of 11V, 8.8 Ah Li-Po.
Pack weight: 11kg.
QSOs: NP31: 52, NP9: 80. Total: 132 for 2 summits on the nominal QRG’s below:
1.832 MHz CW: 28
1.843 MHz SSB: 7
3.557 MHz CW: 42
3.7XX MHz SSB: 42
10.118 MHz CW: 2
145.350 MHz FM: 11
(145.600 Repeater: 1)
THANK YOU TO ALL STATIONS WORKED on this expedition and for your support throughout 2008.
Thanks to G4SSH for liaison & spotting. Also for spotting: G4BLH, F8BBL, EI2CL, G4OBK & G0VOF.
The Scarborough Special Events Group & I wish everyone a Happy New Year and good health for 2009.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using SSEG Club-call, GX0OOO/P.)