G4YSS Actn Reprt G/SB-001, The Cheviot, 30-08-07

G4YSS using G0OOO/P (SSEG) from G/SB-001, The Cheviot, 30-08-07.

All times BST (UTC plus 1 hr) UOS.
5W to a dipole from an FT817ND on 80m CW/SSB.

One of the purposes of this expedition was recreation for my son Andy. Always fond of the great outdoors but now a very busy man, we haven’t done any walking together for many years and he rather got out of the habit. Unlike his elder brother Phil, Andrew no more than tolerates amateur radio. That fact required that it would need to be a somewhat scaled-down SOTA activation combined with a visit to a B17 aircraft wreck, about a mile NW of the summit. When you get Andy you must also accept his dog, a somewhat hyperactive young Boxer called Jessie. I was at first apprehensive about her possible effect on amateur radio equipment, not least antennas, feeders and the rig itself but these fears turned out to be unfounded.

Accustomed to rising at between 01:00 and 04:00 seven days a week, Andy arrived here bang on time at 2 am, enabling us to leave Scarborough at 02:04 BST. I was grateful not to have to drive and the146 mile route via Whitby, the A1 and the A697 brought us to the starting point near Langleeford, in moonlight at 04:46. There is space to park a few cars at NT 9533 2250 and there is no charge.

We were underway as it got light at 05:28, first walking 240m SW along the road from the car, to the start of a well defined footpath, which tries its best to achieve a reasonably even gradient most of the way up the 5.5 km and 608m ascent. The final kilometre is noticeably steeper however. Stiles are met at NT 9459 2228, NT 9405 2223 and NT 9281 2180 along with a ladder over the wire fence and the start of a paved-way at NT 9141 2068. There were sheep, a horse, small birds and Red Grouse on the lower parts of the hill but we didn’t see any notices restricting dogs. Jessie had to be lifted over one of the stiles and was confined to a long trace, all day.

A nice sunrise appeared around 06:10 preceding our entry into low-cloud at the 680m level. The large flat top with the impressively mounted trig-point was reached in soaking low-cloud at 07:13. We decided to reduce the distance to our next target and since VHF was not going to be used, pitched the fully-prepared Viper 2 flysheet on the ubiquitously uneven, boggy ground at NT 9042 2061 (805m ASL.) While Andy installed a groundsheet, I erected the 80m dipole.

CHEVIOT, G/SB-001, 815m, 8pts, 07:13 to 12:52 (including activation and a visit to the B17) 10-14 deg C, 30 mph wind. Low-cloud and light rain for the activation; sunshine later.

How long I could afford to ‘hang around’ largely depended upon Andy and his dog’s reaction to what must have seemed to them, a lengthy and boring period of unfathomable radio activity. Knowing this, I had announced a one-band operation and for once I really meant it. It could have been 2m FM or a single HF band but I chose 3.725 MHz because it would give the more distant UK regulars a better chance than on VHF. With luck and if we were early enough, some of the Europeans might just make it too.

There were a few minutes to run to the announced CW QRV time of 08:00 and my chosen spot appeared to be clear. Unfortunately, while I was readying the log, a powerful G station commenced CQ calls in SSB, right on 3.724. Realising the band was rapidly filling up with early morning nets, I decided to answer him. At least if SOTA chasers could hear me, I could try to QSY them to a clear channel but several calls had no effect.

I selected ‘VSWR’ on the FT817 meter. It couldn’t have been worse and little of my meagre 5W was making it to the antenna. After checking all the dipole links were in place, the problem was traced to a partial break in the coax, where it enters the BNC plug at the rig. There is clamping and I have added graded strain-relief at the connector backshell but at a mere 1.8mm diameter, RG178 is always going to be a weight/strength compromise. Luckily, tying it over to one side allowed it to work perfectly but by now the CQ’er was in QSO with our SOTA friend Roger, MW0IDX. I saw this as a good move on Roger’s part because if nothing else, it showed me that I was probably being sought out. Reverting to plan A, I would now call CQ in CW. The nearest clear spot was ‘way up’ at 3.733 and despite over 2600 feet of ASL, neither of our telephones had even a hint of coverage! I thought I would be calling there for some time but the ever-vigilant Roy G4SSH found me within half a minute.

After this, the rest was easy but I was annoyed because the keying switch, after being ‘drowned’ in Electrolube the previous evening, was once again sticking on dots. Apologies to chasers. I am trying to find another switch but it’s not easy to get a miniature, three position, momentary switch with the desired ‘light-action’ like the one I fitted to the IC706.

The band was in ‘good nick’ but I was still surprised when GM4FAM gave my QRP signal a 599 plus 15 dB report, though I knew it had much more to do with Cris’ antenna system and optimal skip-distance, than the modest setup at my end!

Whilst the rest of the party started lunch (08:15 is a reasonable lunch time when you get up at 01:30) I was pleased to work Ben DL2DXA, thinking this to be a sign of a correct assumption but two other continental stations tried hard and failed. Unfortunately, unlike SOTA in winter, there was evidently too big a separation (2 hours) between sunrise and the operating time, for decent long skip on 80m.

After Phil G4OBK, came Roger MW0IDX, Mike EI2CL, Mike GW0DSP, Peter G3TJE, Don G0NES (who had to go out before I got to SSB so worked me on CW) and Pete EI7CC. This is when I heard DL1FU but try as I may over an extended period, I couldn’t give him a QSO with my 5W. Sorry Frid but the same occurred with Peter ON3WAB later on. Apart from a brief request to work Michael G0HIO after the SSB, Mike G4BLH was the final CW QSO.

At one stage I had noticed that I was being filmed but now my companions appeared to be asleep. Was it fatigue from the ascent or plain boredom, I wondered?

The familiar pattern for SSB was repeated, in that Graham G4JZF was ‘first up.’ Graham also helped later with QSP’s, during a ‘campaign’ to get Mick 2E0HJD successfully into the log. Other stations worked in the SSB mode were Brian G8ADD, Geoff G4WHA, Barry M3PXW, Robert M3PQQ, Alistair GW0VMZ and Glyn GM4CFS. Mike GW0DSP, who (like Graham) had hung around presumably in case I had needed any help, called in last for final 73’s. With tussock grass causing Andy unaccustomed discomfort, a damp Jessie shivering and time advancing, there would be no second band.

The plan was to carry out a GPS survey of the B17 wreck, a mile NW of the summit, near Braydon Crag. The intervening, gently sloping ground, though a huge peat bog wasn’t as bad as I remember it from the summit camps I did in 1981 & 2006. There were no really deep groughs but care is needed. Twice I had to go back to pull Andy out of the mire. I laughed, thinking he was joking but he is heavier than me and the suction really had him! In places a large area will move up & down when jumped on and there are well disguised, man-sized holes in the ground at NT 89485 21132. The last of the low cloud ‘evaporated’ as we arrived at the wreck site.

The aircraft was found in several hollows within a 50m diameter circle around NT 8944 2127. It hasn’t changed much in 20 years; there is plenty to see including 0.5 bullets and a shiny nacelle. Of the four Pratt & Whitney’s (two were removed) only the top inch or so of a remaining one is visible above the black peat.

Braydon Crag may look a little out of place among the peaty ‘wasteland’ but there are pleasant views down into the College Valley and over to the North Sea.

Regaining the 100m of altitude over the trackless 2 km back to the summit took its toll in the increasing sunshine but after a few more photos we were on a leisurely descent which took until 14:36, via spectacular heather. The 156 mile journey home (from 15:00 to 18:50) was via Sutton Bank but there were lengthy delays on the A1, near the Newcastle Metro Centre.

80m CW: 12 QSO’s.
80m SSB: 9 QSO’s.
TOTAL: 21 QSO’s.

10 miles (16 km) walked with 720 m (2362ft) of ascent (inc the B17). 302 miles driven.

Thanks to all stations worked and to G4SSH, GW0DSP, ON3WAB & G4JZF for spotting and assistance. I’m certain that Andy & Jess enjoyed the outing. I did and it helped to have a break from the punishing driving distances associated with Scarborough-based SOTA ing. Andy is no stranger to hard work but today he found muscles he didn’t know he had. Aside from the inactivity during 21 QSO’s, the energetic, intelligent Boxer dog naturally loved it but I have never seen a more bewildered look on a canine’s face than when Jess heard loud SSB human speech coming through a CW filter.

73, John G4YSS
(using SSEG club callsign, GX0OOO/P)

Sorry I could not pull you out of the noise, John. There was too much QRM from a station nearby.

RS 33 was the best I could do. Still there’s always next time.

Thanks for trying so hard