NP’s: 5, 10 & 17. Ingleborough, Pen-Y-Ghent & Fountains Fell on LF.
IC706-2G, adjustable dipole, 5m mast, 160m coils, one 7.5 Ah SLAB for each summit.
QRO with 13kg (29 pound) pack.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P. All times UTC on 28-01-08.
With increasing daylight, and despite not being all together, these three are worth considering as a ‘day job’ so long as activation times are kept within certain limits. Ingleborough has quite a long walk-in with the greatest ascent of the three but routes for other pair are short, sharp and have a high, common access road. Perhaps most importantly for me, the road distance is well below the 300 miles demanded by most LD sorties.
Left Scarborough at 04:06, arriving at Newby Cote cross-roads (SD 7319 7053, 216m ASL) on the ‘C’ road which emanates from Clapham, parking on the grass verge at 06:18. Here a wooden sign reads ‘Ingleborough 2.5 miles.’ Idled away 30 minutes before setting off in the dark at 06:45. I didn’t bother with the headlamp but still managed to wake one of the farm-dogs, sleeping in an outbuilding.
Once again and even with a GPS, the path was easily lost in the low-cloud and darkness but luckily there’s very little ‘bad ground’ on NP5’s grassy southern flank. There is also an easy opportunity to go badly wrong in daylight on the way down. Though it’s quite arbitrary really, by 07:30 the eye / brain combination decided that day had replaced night. The path is nicely graded and passes over grass initially and later rock; a painless way to ascend the required 500m or so. (Take a left at SD 7339 7104. Little Ingleborough shelter SD 7429 7352. The summit plateau marker cairn is at SD 7438 7453.)
INGLEBROUGH HILL, G/NP-005, 724m, 6 pts. 07:56 to 09:48. 4 Deg.C. 30 mph wind. Low-cloud. Sat awkwardly in the ‘crossed walls’ shelter, where can be seen far too much litter. No other walkers, no rain and no lying snow.
There was nowhere to insert or lash the mast, so it was leant against the shelter wall and held there with a large rock. Once again Roy G4SSH showed he can get up early and it was he who posted me after I called ‘QRL?’ precisely on time for once.
Starting today, the operating practice was going to be slightly different. The CW would be in the CW section of 80m and the SSB in the ‘All Modes.’ ‘Straightforward enough,’ you might say but I have been using a one QRG / 2 mode approach for the past year, with mostly acceptable results. However, during the last activation, there had been a complaint of interference; my CW signal splashing onto an SSB net, even though I was 3 KHz away!
Another ‘innovation’ was to nudge the CW speed up from 17 to 19 WPM. This would risk embarrassment if an experienced op should ‘find me wanting’ on receive but it would also save me time and battery power. Therefore, no contest! Question marks preceded by long passages of fast CW are likely to be met with silence and head-scratching. After all, once the summit ref is known, there are only four vital components to a SOTA QSO, namely those three magic figures and the correct callsign.
Using ten Watts, it didn’t take too long to log 13 CW QSO’s on 3.553 but only two of those were European and one in Ireland.
Today a change to SSB required a QSY to the distant realms of 3.723 but I was soon ‘found’ and 19 ops were worked there, led by Geoff G6MZX. At least one chaser worked me ‘pre-school run’ again. At busy times, I would encourage anyone in a desperate hurry to say so when they call-in. Something like ‘2E0PXW / school run,’ or simply ‘in a hurry,’ would suffice, though activators sometimes only hear bits of callsign when 3 or 4 chasers call in at once. Any embarrassment is preferable to missing out on chaser points or annoying your children’s teacher!
1.832 CW (50 Watts) was a success with 4 stations worked; G4OBK, G4SSH, G3RMD, G4OWG. Frank G3RMD is located in Cheltenham, which by my reckoning is a goodly distance for 160m, more than 90 minutes after daybreak but my records show that much the same thing happened from NP5 last year. I could hear Mike G0BPU calling but it wasn’t a surprise when I couldn’t make him hear even my 100W signal.
Arriving at the car by 10:40, I was able to drive away at 10:50, following the all important battery change. At Rainscar (11:16) I payed my £1 to the honesty Box near Dale Head Farm (SD 8426 7145) then set off up the farm track past more barking dogs, for Pen-Y-Ghent at 11:20, passing the trig point to the accompaniment of the noon pips on Radio 4. Walking a little further north into a dip, where the wall was mis-shapen, got me some protection from the wind.
PEN-Y-GHENT, G/NP-010, 694m, 4pts, 12:00 to 13:58, 5 Deg.C, 25 mph wind. Low-cloud but no lying snow. There were one or two people and a dog on this popular summit.
A little over a year ago, the 80m band was in the habit of taking a ‘lunch break’ caused by a strong ionospheric ‘D’ layer. Today it showed its worth and just like on Ingleborough earlier, starting with Roger G4OWG, 13 stations were logged on 3.553 CW using mostly 10W; 90W being needed for Dan ON4ON and Frid DL1FU. The occasional QRO-QSO justified the associated extra weight on SSB too, as 27 stations led by Graham G4JZF, were worked on 3.723.
If 80 was nicely open then 160 was fully tightly closed! Only the powerful signal, big gain-antenna and geographical location of G4OBK combined to allow, what turned out to be my only QSO on 1.832 CW from Pen-Y-Ghent today. Thanks Phil!
Despite a second appearance of Dan & Frid on 3.553 MHz, 80m cannot effectively break into the ‘European market’ at this time of day and I thought briefly of a QSY to 7 MHz. However, I’d used a lot of time up on 160m trying to get an extra QSO or two. By the time I had finished calling on there, time was pressing. For the same reason I missed Steve G1INK and Mike GW0DSP on 5 MHz channel FE. They were activating up near Fort William but by the time I got the chance to listen, they’d gone.
The rocky southern scarp was tackled easily enough and I was back at the car for battery number 3 and the drive to Fountains Fell, by 14:32. Blishmire cattle grid (SD 8531 7233) is only a mile along the road so by 14:44 I was off walking for the final time, chewing on a Fair-Trade chocolate bar. It’s very steep near the summit but the pain doesn’t last too long. Another dry-stone wall offers protection.
FOUNTAINS FELL, G/NP-017, 668m, 4pts, 15:13 to 17:31, 4 Deg.C, 30 mph increasing. Overcast but very little low-cloud. No other walkers and dark by the end.
There was no O2 mobile phone coverage on Fountains Fell, I was early and 3.553 was a poor choice on a noisy 80m band, late in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was full of data noise but I dared not risk not being ‘found.’ Nudging down 500 Hz and calling CQ with 50W got me Rob G4RQJ but because of the racket, this took almost 10 minutes. After a while, I managed to direct everyone to 3.550.5, which was crystal clear for a short time. After an agonisingly slow start, I logged 25 CW callers (a good mix of UK and European ops) but it took me 50 minutes. SSB on 3.722 didn’t yield at all badly either. 18 stations were persuaded into the log but brute force, always useful if you have it available, was sometimes needed for reports.
1.832 CW (20W) was very well supported with 11 stations worked: G4OBK, G3RMD, G4SSH, EI2CL, G3SED, ON4ON, G3VYF, G4OWG, G3WPF, EI7CC and G3HKO. At the end, I called with 100W but there were no further chasers. The forecast drizzle and rising wind was now adding to the inconvenience of darkness, so it was a case of using the headlamp to pack up as quickly as possible and walk down the steep western slope in the dark, to the car for 17:53. With 10 minutes to remove boots and stow the equipment, I didn’t get home until 20:31, which was 16.5 hours after setting off. Though distance driven was only 224 miles, it had been quite tiring for an ‘NP’ day.
Thanks also to ALL STATIONS WORKED and the spotters: G4SSH, G6MZX, GM0VMZ, G4OWG, EI2CL, ON3WAB and G4OBK.
Total: 131 QSO’s, comprising:
51 on 3.5-CW.
64 on 3.5-SSB.
16 on 1.8-CW
Breakdown - QSO’s: 36 on NP5. 41 on NP10. 54 on NP17.
NP05: 74% discharged 7.5 Ah SLAB.
NP10: 78% discharged 7.5 Ah SLAB.
NP17: 83% discharged 7.5 Ah SLAB.
NP-005: 510m (1,673ft) ascent, 10 km (6.3 miles)
NP-010: 270m (886ft) ascent, 5.5 km (3.4 miles)
NP-017: 241m (791ft) ascent, 2.9 km (1.8 miles)
Totals: 1021m (3,350ft) ascent, 18.4 km (11.5 miles)
Summit time: 6 hours - 8 minutes.
Walking time: 4 hours - 8 minutes.
Quite a few stations got the 14 points on offer but considering the effort involved in activating these with a heavy pack that seems rather hard on chasers, though I admit to having allowed myself to become unfit. My tally was a more respectable 23, of course.
When using QRO, I try to ‘power-manage’ as much as possible although QRO rigs are a frighteningly inefficient means of producing QRP. If I can get away with it, I use around 10W for CW and 20 / 30 W for SSB. 100 W is reserved for ‘difficult situations’ and often on 160m in daylight. If I am tardy in answering, I’m often adjusting power, writing in the log or trying to reposition the tiny CW key in gloved-hand. My CW reading is still not brilliant, though I can pick out the reports easily.
73, John G4YSS
(using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group, Club Call)