G4YSS Activation Report for G/LD-006, G/LD-014 & G/LD-005, 22-June-10
Issue 1 - up issued from Draft 07-07-10.
Three ‘8 pointers’ on HF: Pillar, Kirkfell & Gt.Gable. Including a lost dog mishap.
All times: BST (UTC + 1 hr) UOS.
G4YSS accompanied by Will & Jess (Spaniel Dog).
This was my sixth activation of these three together. In the early years of SOTA I traditionally did these on 2m FM only. For a couple of years now they have been scaled up to HF QRO and latterly I have added 160m to the collection of activation bands. Today it would be QRP but without 160m.
Honister Pass is a round trip of 292 miles but that’s preferable to a figure of 360 miles from Scarborough if Wasdale is the jump-off point. After doing it that way in 2007 it would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when tackling these three in one day in summer. An approach from the north also has the advantage of less total ascent but at the expense of a greater distance walked; most notably for the walk-in to Pillar, the most distant from Honister. This walk-in takes at least 2.75 hours.
The mountain forecast gave light winds and no rain but the possibility of low-cloud. The latter I see as a friend in the summer months. Temperatures at 750m would be in the teens of degrees C. A bit warm for me but it was after all, mid summer’s day plus one.
Scarborough start-time was 03:00, which enabled an early arrival at Honister Mine car park, at 05:45. The charge for the day was £5.40! I usually park on the verge beside the short road to the youth hostel but did not wish to waste time or offend anyone today.
We were booted-up and walking for 06:03, facing almost a 3-hour walk-in to Pillar, the first summit. The plan was to be back at the car within 12 hours as HF takes more time than 2m-FM and these rocky tops do not readily welcome masts and dipole end supports. I thought too that there might be a few issues with getting Will’s Cocker Spaniel up and down the rough surfaces that are encountered on this round but I surely couldn’t have imagined what would actually to happen with the dog. Last time he wanted to take Jess around these three, I advised him against it but forgot to do the same this time.
It was bright but the big tops were still in cloud as we threaded our way along the ‘Boat How Bypass’ a way to avoid climbing Kirk Fell twice. It does little for efficiency however. In order to skirt rock fields and cross Sail Beck where it isn’t actually a gorge, altitude must first be lost then regained to attain Black Sail Pass from Beck Head Tarn. At 08:03 after 2 full hours of walking we were at a point half way round the ‘Boat How bypass.’ At that point, though we were making steady progress Will & I agreed that I should push ahead and save time by getting the station on the air. This is now a well practiced routine with us, as is the procedure adopted by Will of leaving the summits early and me catching him up.
After checking that he knew the way to Pillar, I switched on his GPS, activated the route and ‘took off’ with the intention of getting to Pillar in one further hour. Before going out of view over Black Sail, I turned to see that Will and the dog were still OK and hoped that they could see me standing at the head of the path which they needed to take after the beck crossing at NY 1942 1136. After that I soon entered cloud but achieved the objective by 09:04.
PILLAR, G/LD-006, 892m, 8 pts, 09:04 to 10:40, 13 Deg.C, low-cloud, 25 mph wind. IO84IL, WAB: NY11.
Set up at the summit shelter ASAP; there being no other walkers for the duration. The only discomfort was from water dripping from the aerial having condensed from cloud.
7.032 CW – 18 QSO’s:
Being almost an hour ahead of time, I didn’t expect a pile-up but I might have expected the vigilance of John G4WSX who spotted me immediately. Within 3 minutes Dan F5SQA turned up and he was followed by a steady stream of 18 UK and European stations in 30 minutes. Not a huge number but I did not realise at the time, that this would be by far the best effort of the day.
70.450 Mhz FM - 5 QSO‘s:
Called CQ in standing position using 2m from the IC-E90 - 3.5 Watts to an extended duck and counterpoise. Worked the following stations: G6MZX/M (at local high-spot) G6LKB, G4WHA/M, MW1FGQ, G0TDM.
Where were Will & Jess? Surely they should have been here by now. I was beginning to wonder but busied myself with another band / mode.
7.060 SSB – 5 QSO’s:
It was Don G0NES who picked up my call very quickly on here and gave my 5W a good report. He was waiting some rare WAB at the time and heard me calling CQ. I then worked ON3WAB. Peter told me that Pillar was a new one for him; it is undoubtedly the rarest of the three as it doesn’t get activated that often. He also said he would be here to activate some LD’s in August. We will look forward to that. After Peter: LA1TPA, G0RQL and G8ULM.
LOST MAN & DOG:
It became clear half way through the LD6 activation that Will & his dog were well overdue but he was out of both PMR and mobile phone range. When all said and done he had wanted to bag Pillar just as much as I wanted to activate it but when he’d not shown up more than 90 minutes after my own arrival, I started to feel really uneasy. The Gable Group is in quite a remote area, visibility was down to 30 or 40m and I had seen no other walkers yet. I decided to leave ASAP and head back to Black Sail Pass which is the way I would have been going anyway.
The walk off Pillar was punctuated by unanswered calls on the PMR and mobile phone calls interspersed with shouts; the latter muffled by low-cloud. The path back to Black Sail passes some serious looking gullies on the left which drop down to Ennerdale. Not discounting the worst scenario, I peered down each one and shouted into the fog. Three different groups of walkers on their way up Pillar from Black Sail, could give me no information and it seemed that Will and his dog had completely vanished.
FOUND MAN – LOST DOG:
At around Looking Stead a call on Ch1 PMR was answered by just one word cut in half, ‘Over.’ Will is no radio buff so I knew it could be him! After several tries we established communication and he reported that he’d, ‘Lost Jess, about two hours ago.’ This was bad news indeed but as far as I was concerned it was a huge relief to have at least relocated my walking mate.
Using the PMR, Will went on to explain that he’d crossed Sail Beck OK but instead of carrying along the Boat How path in a westerly direction to the pass, he’d inexplicably missed the path, turned left (south) and climbed a steep scree and boulder field to the foot of Kirk Fell Crags. Here he could get no further and it was then that the dog panicked, pulled the lead out of her master’s hand and shot down a steep gully where Will dared not follow. Instead, he had traversed to easier ground and descended on a parallel heading in the forlorn hope of heading off the Spaniel. Will can cover long distances but is a ‘steady’ walker at the best of times. Faced with the conditions underfoot in that area, he would have had little chance of success in catching up Jess. In fact as we eventually discovered, the dog must have reversed it’s mad dash descent which further compounded the issue.
Jess is no farm mutt but a real family pet so after searching this area in vain for two hours Will had understandably become a little irrational and left his rucksack down by the beck. He couldn’t say exactly where or when he had last seen his dog but luckily he still had my spare GPS in his pocket. From my position overlooking the scene, I could see no black dog, only black lambs. There was nothing further to be gained by remaining high as I didn’t have my telescope today, so I made my way down to Will for a look at his GPS. Getting him to think carefully about when he had lost her and panning the track back to that time did indeed put him up under the crags at the time of the incident (position NY 1949 1084.) A GOTO gave me all I needed and I set off on a 600m upward traverse of the rockfield to start the search at the dog’s last known position. Meanwhile Will hung back in the hope interviewing any walkers that passed by.
In fact, it was Will who struck lucky. A lone walker reported that he’d seen a black Spaniel with a blue lead, the handle of which was stuck in rocks, about 150m east of the 802m summit of Kirk Fell! It seemed that that Jess, far from running downhill, had actually reversed her direction unseen then climbed to the top of LD14 single-handedly, dragging her extender lead behind. Meanwhile Will had been fruitlessly searching 1000 feet below. If the lead remained stuck in the rocks as reported, we were in luck. If it came out we could lose her again so Will headed back east around Boat How with a view to climbing Kirk Fell from the Gable side. I got to work from the Black Sail end. Between us we might close the pincer movement and find her in time.
With a heavy pack I could not make the desired speed up the craggy Kirk Fell fence-line. On reaching the top, I did a brief search, shouting and whistling. No dog and no people either. I would need to do a more thorough search. If that took me off the hill, I would lose the activation. Deciding on a rapid solution I got out the H/H and called on 4m FM but heard nothing. A move to 145.500 got me 4 contacts and a spot by Rob G4RQJ detailing the situation. I was QRT within 4 minutes after there were no further takers. I could not afford to hang around for the spot to ‘work.’
G/LD-014, KIRK FELL, 802m, 8 pts,: 12:15 to 12:22, Hazy sun, no low-cloud, 15 deg C. Wind 15mph. IO84JL – NY11.
70.450 Mhz FM - Nil QSO‘s:Called CQ in standing position using 2m IC-E90 and 3.5 Watts to an extended duck and counterpoise. No QSO.
145.475 Mhz FM - 4 QSO’s: Token (‘emergency’) activation using IC-E90 and 5W into rubber duck: G4RQJ Rob in Walney Island. G1OPV/P S2S with Muncaster Fell, G/LD-055. 2E0XSD Colin Whitehaven. MW0IDX/M in North Wales. Thanks go to Rob for getting the word out ref. the lost dog.
DOG FOUND after 3 hours:
Less than 100m down from Kirk Fell’s summit shelter, a young man and a dog came into view. This was ‘the moment.’ More than 3 hours after going AWOL and with seemingly 50:1 odds against of seeing her that day if ever, here was our dog back! I thanked the man profusely and shook his hand with an iron grip. David from Fort William had only walked her 100m or so from behind some minor local high ground where she’d been stuck. Thanks to the wedged lead, she had not been able to move. From what he said it became evident that he would have taken the dog off the mountain and seen the job through properly but I think he was relieved not to have needed to. He would take no reward but I did get his phone number so that Will could at least get in touch to thank him personally. Luckily, if he hadn’t found her I would have, as I walked down from the summit a little further than my earlier cursory search.
Before we could finally get our day back on track I had to get the good news to Will who was still somewhere on the Boat How path below. The PMR couldn’t cope with the convex hillside but walking north and east to the ‘edge’ I was able to make contact. Needless to say, he was extremely relieved when he was told, ‘I have the dog.’ We arranged to meet at (the dry) Beck Head Tarn whence an emotional reuniting of man with dog took place. Will pulled a bowlfull of goodies from his rucksack and Jess tucked-in to her lunch as if nothing had happened, though I did notice that she had been limping slightly on the way down Kirk Fell.
All’s well that ends well as they say but it was a close call and could have gone very badly if that lead had stuck in rocks far from a path. Jess did not offer to bark at any stage. If she had, things might not have got as far out of hand as they eventually did. As for our planned third activation. It could be carried out as normal. We had been delayed a little but had not had to double back to any great degree. The ‘emergency’ activation of LD14 had saved a lot of time and put us back on schedule. Great Gable was still a goer but I was not to know that radio conditions had deteriorated markedly since LD6 in the morning. As for Will, he was just so relieved to have that dog lead back in his hands but the mishap meant that he had missed out on both Pillar and Kirk Fell. As we made our way up the rocky path and back into cloud after collecting from an earlier drinks depot, I tried to compensate by telling him that Great Gable was the best one of the three anyway.
G/LD-005, GREAT GABLE, 899m, 8pts: 14:02 to 15:33. Bright but low-cloud, 16 deg C. Wind 7mph. LOC: IO84JL, WAB: NY21.
40m CW - 4 QSO’s:
I thought that this was going to be the big finish but the day went out with a whimper. I went ahead and got the dipole up & tuned to 40m. CQ on 7.033 brought in the ever watchful G4WSX John again but the expected tumult never materialised. 40m was in a bad mood again and with just 5W available, it was akin to pulling teeth. The ones that could hear me besides John were HB9AGO, 9A7W and DL2EF. After that; Nil.
10.118 CW - Nil QSO’s: It was unannounced but 3 minutes of Cq’ing here produced nothing.
70.450 FM - 3 QSO’s:
Called CQ in standing position using 2m IC-E90 and 3.5 Watts to an extended duck and counterpoise. G4WHA/M Geoff, G0TDM/M John and an nice S2S with Gerald G4OIG/P on Dufton Pike G/NP-027. Apologies to Geoff and John for my monopolisation of Gerald; I thought you’d already exchanged. Gerald reported that his was a vertigo inducing summit.
145.425 Mhz FM - 4 QSO’s
The IC-E90 and 5W into half-wave vertical for 2m on short mast produced: G3PUO/M Les on his boat on Windermere, G4ZPR Brian in Wirrall, G4ILO Julian Cockermouth and 2E0XSD Colin.
The walk-off was uneventful though getting down to Windy Gap and beyond can be tricky in cloud. By now there was good viz and hazy sunshine. Will took his time on the rough bits, partly in defference to his dog but after we got down to the Honister – Beck Head Tarn path bipassing a second drinks depot, we set a reasonable pace and arrived in Honister at 17:38.
When Will & Jess arrived 10 minutes later, Jess just sat down at the edge of the car park. Will put some water down for her but she was not interested until he carried it over and placed it right under her muzzle. She barely had the energy to jump up into the back seat of my car and onto a ‘bed’ I’d made from an old dressing gown before setting off at around 18:05. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog so entirely spent and she refused all excercise for the next 24 hours. Needless to say, she slept a lot on the way back to Scarborough; we arrived back at 20:50.
These three are a reasonably big workup for one day but have by now become more or less routine. Wasdale is a more obvious start point but Honister is far more convenient driving wise. Although it was a warm day, the low-cloud present on the first and last SOTA helped keep it reasonable. Depotting drinks helped to keep average packweight down but only I did this; Will carried it all around with him plus food and water for the dog.
The day was obviously dominated by the lost dog incident but it could have been much worse. By going ahead for the activations and by necessity vastly decreasing summit time on Kirk Fell, we were able to pull it back to a reasonable gross time. I was concerned at the planning stage how we were going manage the logistics but the dog problem worked it out for us.
I must apologise to SOTA chasers who perhaps hoped for a reasonabe chance of working all three. The dog situation was partly to blame but another issue was the abysmal conditions encountered on 40m in mid afternoon on Great Gable (LD5). 40m has been dreadful of late. At least it performed in the morning for Pillar (LD6). Maybe that was the right way round. Pillar is much rarer than Great Gable or Kirk Fell. They will be on the air in due course but Pillar might average 3 months or more between activations. The QSO total for the day was really disapointing but there was not a lot we could do about that.
The way I handled the Kirk Fell activation was out of character. All I can say in my defence is that there was good reason. Though I did not actually switch off callers, I believe this method of activation has been termed ‘smash and grab.’ It is justified in emergencies and when an activator is in bad WX, with a walking group or non-radio sympathetic companion (which may or may not be the XYL!) At the start of SOTA, 4 to 6 QSO’s was a regular occurrence and my log only had space for about nine.
Total ascent: 1380m (4528ft). Distance walked: 12.3 miles. Distance driven: 292 miles.
Gross time: 11h-34min. Net (walking) time: 8 hr-16 min. SOTA time: 3 hr-18 min.
Pack weight: 11kg (inc. 2.75 litre water but not including 4kg of rock samples recovered from LD5)
DEPOT: 330 ml unopened bottled drink at rear base of cairn at NY 21134 1082124 if req’d by anybody.
24 SOTA points.
FT817ND with external 4.4 Ah Li-Po battery. 5W to a ‘link’ dipole for 80m/60m/40m/(30m)/20m.
5m Carbon mast.
IC-E90, 4-band H/H with 1.3Ah battery with 145 MHz normal mode helical and extension for 4m.
QSO’s: Total of 43 in the day comprising:
40m CW: 22
40m SSB: 5
4m - FM: 8
2m - FM: 8
(LD6 - 28 QSO’s. LD14 - 4 QSO’s. LD5 – 11 QSO’s.)
Thanks for all QSOs and to spotters G4WSX, G0NES and G4RQJ
73, John G4YSS (back to using Scarborough SSEG GX0OOO/P)
((Note: Report up issued 07-07-10 (checked, spellchecked and minor revisions.) The responses following are to the draft issue of this report))