G4YSS Actn G/NP13-G/NP19 (Calf-Yarlside) 11-12-08

G4YSS Actn Rprts for NP13 The Calf, NP19 Yarlside, (but not NP15) 11-Dec-08

11-Dec-08. All times UTC. G4YSS using GX0OOO/P QRO pack: 11kg. Unaccompanied.

Looking for a little light relief after recent big LD’s, I thought the Howgills would be just the ticket. Normally, I follow The Calf and Yarlside with Great Knoutberry; an easy one which can be turned round quickly and can be done in the dark if ‘needs must’ provided conditions are not too unfavourable. That plan had worked like clockwork 1 year ago to the day and in 2006 but the final part was to go sadly awry today.

Left Scarborough for the 101 mile drive at 04:24 which was just after the Cricket from Chennai (Madras) opened on 198 kHz LW. Arrived at The Cross Keys (A683, Cautley) at 07:30. Those two sentences sanitise it somewhat. In fact the main roads were in a shocking state for the first 30 or 40 miles; sheet ice made it necessary to drive along at 30 mph or less and perform regular braking tests. This was all eminently predictable; yesterday’s rain had washed all the salt off the roads and I didn’t see a gritter in the first hour. Last year’s SOTA report was being used as this year’s schedule and after delivering my friend G4LWW’s Christmas card and Scottish Mountain Calendar to Garsdale, I was already 30 minutes adrift.

I set off walking at first light and still ‘wired up’ for cricket, at 07:45. The ground and puddles were frozen but there was only a light wind. The most direct route runs beside Cautley Spout Waterfall but I have traditionally turned right to go around via Bowderdale Head in past years. Today, I stood at the path fork (SD 6833 9751) wondering which route would be best. Thinking it might claw back some lost time, I headed left for the waterfall. This turned out to be a good decision as it is the scenic choice.

The path starts steeply and there is a notice urging walkers to, ‘Zig-zag up this section to minimise erosion.’ After that, steps have been laid and the rushing water takes the mind off any ‘leg distress.’ Later at SD 6798 9752, the stream is crossed and the path follows it at an easy gradient, though today this section was largely covered with snow; its frozen crust not quite supporting my weight. Was it quicker? It took exactly the same as last year, at 75 minutes from Cross Keys to The Calf, which is the highest point on the Howgill Fells. At the head of this path (at SD 6688 9677 in the col between Bram Rigg Top and The Calf) turn right onto a much wider path and walk 300m to the trig point.

Though the views were great when the cloud cleared, wind-chill was ever present and gloves were needed for any work here. As usual, I arrived at the summit wet through with perspiration but this time it had frozen to ice in my hair; what little I have left! After coping with rock for my last nine or more activations, sticking the mast and end-sticks into a grassy hillside was a pleasant variation.

G/NP-013 THE CALF, 676m, 4 pts, 09:00 to 10:40, minus 2 Deg.C and rising, 15 mph NE wind, patchy thin low-cloud initially, sunshine later. (IO84RI, WAB SD69)

160m CW:
Opened with 40W tuning dashes at 09:23 on 1.832 and was answered by Phil’s big G4OBK signal and a 569 RST. In the ‘old days’ I used to think that daytime 160 behaved much like 2m FM but that’s because far fewer stations were interested in chasing it. Difficult it may be but it is possible to work stations a couple of hundred miles away and even outside the country; now that they are more likely to call in of course. Sadly some stations loyal from the start (eg Mike EI2CL) hear me less and less and that is due to local noise.

John, G0TDM called in next, adding his two extra callsigns of G7GQL & GX0ANT. After that it was Geoff G4CPA near Skipton and Reg G3WPF in Cheshire. Geoff (alone) came in with a strange warbly note like one reported by Mike (GW0DSP) on my 160m signal of a few weeks ago. All I could do was send an RST of 557 to convey to Geoff that I was having difficulty reading it. His 160m signal would return to normal later in the day so I don’t know what the cause was. All I can say is that Aurora causes similar but why single out Geoff near Skipton? G3RMD and G3TJE followed these but 100W was needed to get the reports across. Frank and Peter are both located down in the West Country, which is a goodly distance in daylight. Their signals sounded as normal.

80m CW:
G4SSH was waiting and conditions on here were good with 13 callsigns worked. Overseas stations were ON4CAP, F6FNA, SM6CMU and DL1FU. These few European ops tend to have regular success on 80m CW through to GX0OOO/P summits in the UK. Either they have low noise QTH’s, big antennas or both? Most of the rest of the throng usually found on 7.032 must not be able to hear me on 80.

80m SSB:
17 stations called on 3.722. There were no less than two S2S’s: Robert GW0PEB/P on GW/NW-022, Moel Eilio and Nigel G6SFP/P from G/CE-005, Wendover Woods, using 300 Watts!

The walk between The Calf and Yarlside took well under an hour today, although the direct but pathless route up the steep grass of Yarlside’s western flank is demanding for a short distance. I followed the tracks of two foxes across The Calf’s extensive top but repeatedly falling through crust became a little annoying. I saw the only other walkers of the day; a couple climbing towards me from Bowderdale Head and topped-out on NP19 just as Radio 4 were announcing the close of play score in India; England 239 for 5.

G/NP-019, YARLSIDE, 639m, 4 pts, 11:33 to 13:08, 2 Deg.C, 10 mph NE wind. Clear views of the LD summits. Sunny with the odd bit of cloud below me. (IO84SJ, WAB SD69). Gloves not required.

80m CW:
Though I was still half an hour behind last year I was 15 minutes earlier on Yarlside than estimated to Roy at The Calf in the morning. NP19 has been a pretty dire VHF QTH over the years, so I was glad of HF today. Calling CQ for several minutes produced nothing and the band seemed closed so I phoned G4SSH. Following Roy’s spot, in came the callers to the tune of 16. As usual midday signals were significantly down and there was a total absence of continental stations. QSB was deep and quite fast and power was set to 30W and later 70W.

80m SSB:
Poor conditions might have made this a disappointment but 11 ops were worked. Having QRO available helped but most stations were worked at about the 30W level. The QSB and quite a few reports received at around 44 and 37 afforded little encouragement for the 160m CW session which was to follow. Robert called in again; this time GW0PEB/P on GW/NW-030, Moel Cynghorion.

160m CW:
Phil G4OBK came straight back but with a reduced report of 549. Even Phil had dropped an S-point to me; 589 as against 599-plus on NP13 in the morning. After this, I thought I would be packing up the aerial within minutes; hearing other signals was quite unexpected just after noon. It was a bit slow because it took time to get RST’s out in the QSB but in the end I worked more stations than from The Calf. After Phil OBK came: G0TDM (G7GQL & GX0ANT) G4RQJ, SM6CMU, ON4ON, G4CPA, G3WPF and G4BLH. The only ‘ifi’ one was Frank G3RMD who’s RST I sent over several minutes but it seems he got the 559 in the end and I certainly received my 339 without a problem.

It was surprising and a pleasure to work SM and ON on 1.8 MHz, at this time of day but if it was a fluke, I don’t think Ingemar or Dan were complaining!

I phoned Roy G4SSH as I walked down towards Ben End, leaving a message that I would try for NP15 by 15:00. Though I managed to get down to Cross Keys by 13:35, now only 22 minutes behind last year and with adequate time for NP15, Roy’s message would turn out to be famous last words! I swapped the spent Li-Po battery for a lead-acid and drove away optimistically for Great Knoutberry (NP15).

This report should continue with a third and final summit but it was not to be. After driving up Garsdale and turning right past Garsdale Station and passing under the Settle-Carlisle Line, I came upon a sign I’ve seen at the start of the Coal Road to Dent in the past. ‘ROAD CLOSED ABOVE GARSDALE STATION DUE TO WINTER CONDITIONS.’ There was no barrier and so naturally in the interests of SOTA, I ignored the sign, not even slackening my pace. At first I thought I could make it but with 2WD on a 1:4 hill and a sharp right-hand bend, the frozen snow and ice under the tyres had other ideas. The scary bit was reversing this move in an uncontrolled backward slide with all 4 wheels locked. If there’d been a ditch, I’d have been in it. Taking a better run at it, I thought I’d have one more try but got no further. In my mind was the vision of a recent and unfortunate accident which befell Keith M1VHT near Shillhope Law and I had no wish to emulate it.

There were thoughts of walking the whole way or substituting another summit such as Wild Boar Fell but at 2:30 pm on a mid-winter’s day, I just didn’t have enough time for anything other than NP15 from the Coal Road as a third summit. Even then, the descent (as in previous years) would have been after dark.

Getting home earlier than ever before (16:40) and in time for tea was some compensation but I am still smarting about this failure. NP15 is an easy 7 points if you can get there. If only I still had the old Airportable Landie!

Thanks to all stations worked and to G4SSH & G4OBK for spotting. (& G4SSH for phone alerts including cancellation of NP15). Though not to plan, this turned out to be a pleasant day’s walking with sunshine & good views.

Total: 72 (76) QSO’s, comprising:
15 (19) on 1.8-CW
29 on 3.5-CW.
28 on 3.5-SSB.

G/NP-013 & G/NP-019: IC706-2G, 8.8 Ah Li-Po, 97% utilised.
Both summits: Link dipole for 80-60-40-20 (160-coils), 4 section - 5m H/B CFC mast.
Reserve rig: VX150 2m H/H.
Totals (walking): 715m (2346ft) ascent; 9.7 km (6.1 miles). 204 miles driven.

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

In reply to G4YSS:
With regard to 160m activity from G/NP-013 and G/NP-019, I was listening for you but I think that not hearing you, or anyone else except Phil G4OBK, was due to unfavourable propagation instead of the usual qrm from TV sets in my neighbourhood. At this stage, I usually rate my chances of a LD or NP 160m qso on the strength of Phil’s signals. On this occasion Phil was 539 at best whereas, more often than not, his daytime signals on 160m average 569. I also spoke with Peter, EI7CC earlier today. He, too, could hear G4OBK without difficulty but not a squeak from GX0OOO/P on G/NP-013. Peter could not be qrv for the G/NP-019 activation.

Thank you again for the most interesting reports. Your comprehensive and easy-to-read activity accounts are always welcome and always amaze.

73 de Mike, EI2CL (and Pete, EI7CC)

In reply to G4YSS:

Crikey, this thread nearly snuck past me John.
Superb reading as usual, following highly successful activations. thanks for the contacts John and for the write ups.


In reply to G4YSS:

Excellent report, as usual, John.
Nice to work you on 160m NP-013, for info, I was using my Cushcraft R7000 vertical, lowest freq 40m with external tuner!!

73s de Peter TJE+

In reply to ALL:

To Mike, EI2CL & Pete EI7CC,
Nature wasn’t kind to you yesterday again. LD would be much easier for you than NP, with Snowdon almost guaranteed. The band is still giving up a few surprises though. You must be lost if Phil’s not on the air on the subject day; not knowing whether I got a flat battery or there’s no propagation. At some stage on both NP13 & 19, full power was selected. That said the aerial is desperately low (wavelength-wise). I even tried re-orienting it 90 degrees when I couldn’t get back to you (Mike) one day last winter but it seemed to make little difference. It’s likely that polar diagrams mean little at those AGL’s. We are mainly heating up the ground anyway. Keep trying; I’ll carry QRO whenever I can. QRP on 160 is more or less futile except in the dark.

To Mike GW0DSP:
It’s good to tell that winter bonus is upon us. We all soon won’t have the time to write any threads, let alone read ‘em! I hope you weren’t waiting for NP15, which would have given a fine chance for longer distances around dark. Thanks for your words & all the QSO’s. If you hear me on 160, give it a go.

To Peter G3TJE:
I was surprised to work you and even more so now that you’ve said what ant you used. It just shows that it’s worth a try using the tools at ones disposal, however unsuitable they may appear to be. Roy G4SSH works me half the time with a similar arrangement featuring a ‘groaning’ tuner, though his vertical is for 80 thro’ 10. He’s of course much nearer. As we all know, there must be very few amateurs in a position to erect an aerial that would do justice to 160m; in fact that applies to 80m in a lot of cases. The log shows a 1.8 QSO with you last Feb but it was late in the day; probably close to or after dark from Fountain’s Fell, so well done this time in full daylight.

Thanks for all comments,
73, John YSS.