G4YSS Activation Report: G/LD-009, G/LD-015 & G/LD-037 on 18-02-11
Grasmoor & Grisedale Pike from Braithwaite and Little Mell Fell, QRO.
Route varied this time to take in Sail & Crag Hill.
G4YSS, using SSEG Club-call, GX0OOO/P, accompanied by William & Jess (dog).
All times: UTC.
These summits appear many times in my log but in the case of LD9 & LD15 apart from two approaches; one from Lanthwaite and one via Rowling End, I have always preferred the most efficient route often because I wanted to add another couple of summits on after these. My walking friend William had the idea to change the approach route today and it turned out that a change was as good as a rest.
Leaving Scarborough in Will’s car at 03:33 (my car ran out of MOT about 4 months ago) we arrived at Braithwaite pre-dawn at 06:14.
Will, his Cocker Spaniel Jess and I walked away from the usual parking area NY 2271 2397 in the dark at 06:33 but instead of exiting via the track which leads directly to Coledale Hause and Col 722, we descended the hill into the sleeping village of Braithwaite and from there to a gate at NY 2298 2324. This marks the change from metalled road to a dirt track which goes via High Coledale to Barrow Door, passing Outerside and ending via NY 2043 2048, at the summit of Sail. Prior study of the map picked out the most efficient route between Barrow Door and a sheepfold at NY 2114 2121 as being along a minor contouring path which passes through NY 2181 2171 and NY 2163 2167 but somehow we failed to find this path, going instead along a slightly lower secondary path (NY 2171 2162 and NY 2152 2149.)
By now in cloud, we proceeded to Crag Hill in hill fog but missed the target, skirting it to the south on a good path at NY 1927 2023 which runs westward about 140m to the south of the trig point. I asked Will if he wanted to detour to the summit but since there was no view he didn’t see the point and we carried on to meet the main path which runs down from Crag Hill to Col 722. Jess seemed to be enjoying it; pulling on the lead all the way like she’d seen a cat. Now that Will was close to a place he knew well, I took off for Grasmoor to get started ASAP. In the event my on-the-air alert time of 10:00 was just complied with. Shortly after arrival at 09:30, the low cloud blew away and it was intermittent after that. There was sufficient snow in the shelter to take the mast but the end supports proved to be more difficult to anchor; one in 3 inches of snow, the other in the shaley ground with the ever present danger of insecurity when the 160m loading coils were added.
GRASMOOR, G/LD-009, 852m ASL, 8Pts, 09:30 to 11:17. 2 deg.C, less than 10 mph SE wind. Occasional low-cloud with brief bursts of hazy sun. Little lying snow apart from in the summit shelter. (LOC: IO84IN, WAB: NY12.) No walkers throughout.
160m CW – 4 QSO’s:
After alerting Roy by phone, I opened on 1.832 with the 100 Watt IC706 backed by an 8.8Ah Li-Po. With an almost 3-hour walk-in this time, the ‘D’ layer had plenty of time to become established but I heard signals quickly after calling CQ. First up was EI2CL. Mike, who is one of a small band of unstinting supporters of 160m operations, was coming in at an optimistic 559 but he heard me without trouble and replied with 539. Because of log keeping, I mostly have to judge signals by using the old Mk1 lughole method. At times, the meter fails to confirm my estimates which on 160 can be optimistic. This tendency is probably due to very low summit noise levels which make signals sound stronger than they probably are and it seems likely that this happens in the opposite sense at the chaser end of the QSO.
Mike was followed by an easy copy from Mark G0VOF who had stated in advance via email that he would be listening out on 1832. Pete, the second Dublin regular, EI7CC was next. After that I could hear snatches of callsigns in and out of QSB but apart from Andy GM0UDL who I couldn’t get back to, they were unrecognizable. I later found out that the Scarborough stations had been calling without success.
Second prior to the QSY I heard a signal which was outside my filter. It turned out to be Rob G4RQJ. I touched nothing and immediately worked what I could hear; a somewhat squeaky sound. He came straight back to my estimated RST of 579. Likely he was much stronger than that to be able to splash readably into a 0.5 MHz filter from an adjacent channel but the QSO was good and that’s what counts! All things considered Top Band had done well again but where was Top Band superman Phil G4OBK? It later transpired that he was WOTA’ing on 2FM only a couple of miles away but each was unaware of the other’s presence.
80m CW – 9 QSO’s:
Starting with Roy G4SSH and one of SOTA’s latest activators Nick G4OOE, 3.557 brought in 9 chasers including a ‘long time no hear’ Mike GW0DSP. To be fair most people were long time no hear – my fault not theirs! Despite 30 to 50W and 100 needed at times, incoming reports were mostly disappointing and no overseas stations were heard. It was not what I had expected. I thought we might struggle on the second one - LD15 after noon but 229’s on LD9 at 10:20 on 80, particularly after successes on 160, left me feeling that life should have been easier. Certainly my FT817 radio would have proved inadequate for this session. The final two logged were G0NUP (Kevin with a distinctive low note) and G0SIG who required full power. Sending ‘SSB’ several times always evokes a response from a vigilant G4SSH. Roy’s spot on SOTA-Watch at this point makes it easier for everybody.
80m SSB – 12 QSO’s:
John GW4BVE found me on 3.724 and after that I was grateful to be informed of an S2S. Carolyn – GW6WRW/P was calling from GW/NW-032. With this contact logged, we moved on to Geoff G6MZX who is always ready to complete quickly. G4WHA/m came in from Penrith and I think I promised 4m FM later. 12 QSO’s took 19 minutes at a power of 50W.
4m FM – 1 QSO:
After packing up the HF gear I worked Geoff G4WHA /M in Penrith on 70.450. I thought I would hear Mike G4BLH with possibly John G0TDM and John MW1FGQ but Mike didn’t copy my CQ. G0TDM was unavailable as I think MW1FGQ must have been also. I didn’t have a proper aerial. I get out reasonably well after installing a socket at the top of a 2m rubber duck and adding a piece of stainless steel welding rod. A counterpoise helps but though convenient, it’s not as good as the end-fed half-wave I made for this band.
Will had started the descent to the main path at ‘Col 722’ about 45 minutes before me so I cut the corner and found him and Jess in low-cloud just short of Coledale Hause. He was puzzling over which way to go and had almost been succoured into taking a wrong turn down towards Braithwaite. After our preferred lunch place (we didn’t stop there today) a spot at NY 1908 2166 which more often than not is sheltered from the worst of the wind (just past Stopes Mine), I left him again to get the station set up on Grisedale Pike. Instead of skirting Hobcarton to save a few metres of ascent on a bad path (NY 1941 2197 & NY 1945 2204) I climbed over the top. Unlike Crag Hill, skirting Hobcarton is simply not worth the bother.
There is a shelter near the summit of Grisedale Pike but try as I may, I cannot work out whether this is in the activation area or not. Memory map doesn’t credit LD15 with a height of 791m which makes things difficult to work out but that’s probably down to map detail versus scale. I marked the shelter years ago at NY 1978 2249; it lies beside the approach path and though I have never given it a try, it might give some comfort under certain conditions even if that’s just for a sandwich before the activation further up. I think someone ascertained that LD15 had one of the smallest activation areas in England if not further afield.
GRISEDALE PIKE, G/LD-015, 791m ASL, 6pts, 12:17 to 14:17. 2 deg C. 15 mph SE wind. Patches of lying snow. Overcast with low-cloud. A few seconds of sunshine at the end. (LOC: IO84JO, WAB: NY21). A few walkers passing.
This ‘peaky’ top is not well suited to 80m dipole deployment but I have known worse. If the wind is along the ridge, there’s no respite. Today it was across it (a south-easterly) which made erecting the antenna on the NW side quite easy despite there being little grass. Last time I activated this one, conditions were atrocious with powdered snow, a 50 mph wind straight down the ridge, minus 2C and whiteout at times. It was the only time I failed to get all of the aerial off the ground and I was amazed that 160 & 80 worked at all. Not so this time. I had a good deployment and a decent ‘perch.’
80m CW – 13 QSO’s:
Calling CQ with a power of 100W brought Roy G4SSH straight back with a 569; much better than LD9’s 229 in the morning. Turning the power down to 50W brought reasonable reports from 13 regulars in Britain and Eire but there was nil from Europe. Once again it was a full house from Scarborough and better RST’s. I got 599 reports from the line-of-sight plus-a-bit stations, e.g. Rob G4RQJ and Bill G4USU both in the Barrow area but also from Andy GM0UDL up near Inverness. Mike GW0DSP helped the QSO total by working me with his other call – GW1LFX. This session took 25 minutes. As often happens on popular tops, Will was fielding questions from curious walkers. He knows exactly what to say by now.
80m SSB – 14 QSO’s:
It was lucky that the normal QRG of 3.724 was available for the second time today. Using moderate power it took under 20 minutes to log 12 stations some of which were unfamiliar. Maybe these were WOTA chasers? David G3RDQ called at the end. He normally works CW but couldn’t hear me at the earlier time. There was plenty of QSB about.
160m CW – 3 QSO’s:
After fitting the loading coils to the dipole, a full power CQ was quickly answered by Mark G0VOF. Since conditions had been better on 80m than in the morning, it might have been reasonable to assume that Top Band might have been livelier too. In fact I ended up with one fewer QSO than in the morning. 160m isn’t supposed to by easy in daylight (which is why I like to put it on) and fair’s fair it was only 90 minutes after noon. Pete & Mike EI7CC & EI2CL filled the other two lines of log. After that nothing apart from an exceedingly weak Roy G4SSH with whom I failed to QSO.
30m CW – Nil.
There was not sufficient slack in the schedule to ‘risk’ 7.032 but judging that I had a little time to spare in catching Will up on the way down, I thought I would have a try on 30m. Disappointingly, ‘off chance’ CQ’s between 13:47 and 13:51 on 10.118 produced nil replies. People occasionally monitor this QRG but not today, possibly because 7.032 was active at the time.
4m FM – 2 QSO’s:
After packing up the HF gear I worked Geoff G4WHA /M in Penrith on 70.450. A new station to me, GM4FZH called from ‘over the Solway.’ We QSY’d to .425 for a brief chat. Clive told me that QSY’s away from the calling channel were almost unheard of where he was; such was the low level of activity. His square was IO74SS. Again I used 3.5 W from the IC-E90 to the extended ‘duck’ with counterpoise; a quick and convenient setup. It’s fair to say that I’m still running 4m as an afterthought and can spare little time or added weight to achieve it. It is a really special band though. It may end up almost as busy as 2m eventually if the Chinese get their way.
Will and Jess had been gone 45 minutes by the time I left. The first 1 km of the descent down the sharp NE ridge from Grisedale Pike to Braithwaite is very steep but apart from loose shale it was OK underfoot today. I spoke to a couple on the way. They had seen the radio gear at the top.
Once down onto the grass, I spotted Will and Jess way out ahead. After catching them we arrived back at Will’s car at 15:16.
After a battery change, Will was persuaded to add Little Mell Fell on the way home. More correctly, I would be adding it while Will & Jess slept in the car! Driving away from Braithwaite at 15:30 we arrived at the jump-off point for LD37 (NY 4234 2353) at 15:54, after getting stuck behind a wide load on the A66. I phoned Roy on the way. Could we have a spot please? By 15:56 I was walking again. With just a few minutes needed to climb it, even with a heavy pack and at 5 points (in Winter) Little Mell Fell is a total steal. It is also easy to activate apart from there being no cover but for a few reed beds. Masts sink into the ground very well. Today it was quite windy and because I was trying to rush so as not to keep my mate waiting, the wire and coax got tangled up. Drat! (or words to that effect). More haste – less speed!
As for bands, it would have to be a minimalist approach. 2m with an omni would not work from here. I tried that at least twice in the past and ended up ‘weeping’ into 145.500. I know it’s somewhat exclusive, but this would have to be a job for Top Band CW. I could always add 160 SSB after that.
LITTLE MELL FELL, G/LD-037, 505m ASL, 2 pts, 16:08 to 17:02. 2 deg C, 20 mph SE wind. (IO84NO, WAB: NY42) IC706-2G QRO – 7.5 Ah Sealed Lead-Acid. No walkers throughout.
160m CW – 14 QSO’s:
Chosen to get the job done on this occasion and not just for its cranky image (in daylight at least),160m was starting to liven up by 16:25 so it turned out to be a good choice. No less than 14 QSOs were logged around G and EI, added to QSO’s with PA0SKP and OK1CZ near the end. Stations worked were: G4OOE, G4SSH, G0NUP, G0SIG, GW0DSP, M0COP, G0VOF, G4RQJ, G3QPF, G4UDU, EI2CL, PA0SKP, OK1CZ and G0NES. 100 Watts was used on the usual 1.832 channel and I can’t remember anybody having much trouble hearing their RST’s. That made me optimistic for a QSY to the SSB frequency.
160m SSB - Nil:
Roy spotted me on here. I was very pushed for time but called CQ with 100W on 1.843 for just under 5 minutes from around 16:46. Though I was heard and re-spotted by Mark G0VOF, no QSO’s resulted which was a bit of a disappointment but it certainly was short notice. At this point the HF setup was dismantled.
4m FM – 1 QSO:
I worked Geoff G4WHA on 70.45 MHz; 59 plus both ways. He was just leaving his shop. As was to be expected around this quarter of the LD region, a low ASL SOTA and with G0TDM away, there were no further takers on 4.
How many times have I pushed my luck with my walking mate’s goodwill? I rushed back down to the car in 6 minutes flat by 17:08. Will was driving within one minute as I de-booted and he dropped me off in Irton at 20:10. Unfortunately we travelled 164 miles on the return journey as against 137 on the way out. The A1 is festooned with road works and junctions are disrupted or masked. Somehow we missed the A168 to Thirsk and carried on down to near Wetherby ending up on the A64 near York. I really don’t like the cross country driving that must be done to access SOTAs of any size.
Distance & Ascent:
LD9 & LD15: 16.5 km (10.3 miles) and 1,060m (3,478 ft) of ascent. (Includes 233m ascent from Coledale Hause to Braithwaite via LD15) (Route via Sail, skirting Crag Hill at 816m & climbing Hobcarton)
LD37: 125 m (410 ft) of ascent / 2 x 0.7 km (0.9 miles) walked.
TOTAL for day: 17.9 km (11.2 miles) walked and 1,185m (3,888ft) of ascent.
301 miles driven for the day (Will’s car: 2hr 41min out / 3hr return).
QSO’s: Total 73 comprising:
80m CW: 22
80m SSB: 26
30m CW: Nil
160m CW: 21
4m FM: 4
G/LD-009 & G/LD-015: IC706-2G, 8.8 Ah Li-Po, 97% utilised.
G/LD-037: IC706-2G, 7.5 Ah SLAB, 69% utilised.
Both summits: Link dipole for 80-60-40-20 (160-coils), 4 section - 5m H/B CFC mast.
Reserve rig: IC-E90 6-4-2-70 H/H (5W & 3.5 W on 4m.)
4m band aerial: A 2m rubber duck with 26.5 cm extension rod and quarter wave counterpoise for 4m.
Drinks (LD9 / LD15): 1 litre pre-hydration plus 0.8 litres through the walk.
QRO pack-weight: 11.5 kg – Gras & Grise. 12.5 kg - Little Mell Fell.
25 SOTA Points (inc 9 bonus)
The new route to Grasmoor from Braithwaite was a breath of fresh air even though we walked a little further and climbed more. As is mostly the case the walking styles of Will & I compliment one another. Will prefers to go slowly, to stop and admire the view, have some food, a drink etc whilst I stop for nothing except my lungs, the odd photo and the SOTA. Going ahead as we approach the summit and William leaving the summit early, rather than freezing without anything to occupy his mind, suits us both and makes the best use of the available time / daylight.
Conditions on 80m were poor at times. A Solar event caused this. Strangely, condx. were noticeably better 2 hours before noon than 2 hours after. Usually a handful of European stations (e.g. Frid DL1FU) succeed on 80 CW but not so today. The only European ops worked all day were two on 160m in the late afternoon.
One S2S was worked in the day. Carolyn, G6WRW /P on NW32 (80m SSB).
Another bonus was that the dog didn’t run off this time unlike on the Gable group activations last year which caused a 2 hour absence when she climbed Kirk Fell on her own! She was delivered safely back to Will’s XYL on this occasion after sleeping the complete return journey.
Little Mell Fell was just a way of grabbing a few extra points on the way home as it is not known when I’ll get out again. In the end, because of the season but more so time of day, it became by far the most productive from a Top Band viewpoint. Apologies for not appearing on 80.
The WX was kind to us with no rain or snow. The low-cloud parted just often enough to keep us interested in the surroundings.
Thanks to all stations worked and to G0VOF, G4SSH and EI7CC for SOTAWatch spotting & to G4SSH for telephone liaison. Thanks to William Hall for transport, companionship and a new route.
73, John G4YSS (using SSEG GX0OOO/P.)
(Footnote: Following an analysis by Jim, G0CQK, if my marked position is accurate, the shelter (NY 1978 2249) on Grisedale Pike mentioned in the text above (the para prior to LD15 activation para) would appear to be within the activation area. Obviously activators should satisfy themselves of this and that large antennas do not overhang the -25m area. Thank you Jim.)