G4YSS: Act'n Rprt:. G/NP-017, 07-10-10

G/NP-017 (FOUNTAINS FELL with Grandson - Jack)

All times BST (UTC + 1)
G4YSS using GX0OOO/P – Accompanied by 21 month old Grandson Jack & his Mum Hazel.

EQPT: HF-QRO: IC706-2G. 80-60-40-(30)-20 (160) link-dipole on 5m H/B CFC mast.
8.8 Ah Li-Po battery. (Jingtong- mono band/2W FM H/H and J-Pole as reserve but not used.)
Pack weight 22 kg (48 pounds) consisting of Radio Gear, Baby Carrier (The Jack-pack) with spare nappies and Jack (12.7kg).

This was our second SOTA with Jack. Must get it done before the ‘capability gap’ between about 3 and 6 when (most) children are too heavy to carry but not strong enough to easily climb it themselves. The compartment underneath where the child sits accommodates the rig, battery, dipole, sit-mat, log etc and I carried the mast like a walking stick. Hazel took along some toys, a tennis ball and a small kite.

Fountains Fell is rather steep at one point but it isn‘t a long walk. It also has the choice of walls or a depression in the ground for use as windbreaks.

Jack is a bit more aware than he was in April for NP3 so the impact of waking him up at 6am could be ameliorated by telling him he was going up a mountain. After seeing a large photo of Great Gable in our hall, he knew roughly what this meant.

Different driving route:
I have developed a real downer on hitting York and Harrogate both ways at rush hour so I devised a route via Sutton Bank (to be closed from 11-Oct to 15-Nov for repairs - by the way). After a short section of A1 between exits 49 & 48 it was onto byways and through the villages of Minskip, Burton Leonard, Markington, Burnt Yates followed by Pateley Bridge, Grassington and Halton Gill.

We were able to start the 102 mile drive at 06:50 to make an arrival at Blishmire cattle grid (SD 8531 7233) immediately west of Fountains Fell at 09:40. Not much time was saved but it wasn’t any further and we saw little traffic. On the way we worked Roy G4SSH from a point west of Pateley Bridge called Greenhow Hill; roughly 100km from Scarborough. Roy was able to pass over the information that Phil G4OBK would be listening for us on Top Band so at least we should get one contact on there.

The walk started at 10:03. For NP17 (amongst others) I have long favoured a ‘straight up’ approach; the other option being to follow the Pennine Way as it swings east then cut south for the summit. The direct route is very steep just before the top but the inconvenience doesn’t last long and it’s quicker that way. Though there was a cool breeze, the WX was being really kind today with initially 1/10th cloud and then lots of sunshine. We therefore took our time but were not 1/3 of the way up before pain started for Hazel.

Jack spotted a small waterfall and that, along with various aircraft visible overhead and in the valleys below, took our minds off the work. Where the ground became really steep we just concentrated on getting Hazel a few steps at a time, from one ‘terrace’ to another. She wasn’t exactly dreading the descent but understandably, some concern was evident. It was here that my grandson saw fit to start tickling me; an unsafe thing to do to your ‘packhorse’ when he’s struggling up a 30 degree slope on wet grass.

FOUNTAINS FELL, G/NP-017, 668m, 4pts, 11:06 to 13:23, 14 Deg.C, 20 mph wind dropping to 10mph. Bright sunshine and no low cloud (which had cleared all summits in this area by 10:30.) (LOC: IO84VD – WAB: SD87). Mobile Phone: Orange (2-bar signal) and O2 (intermittent).

80m CW - 18 QSO’s:
On the last ‘Jack trip’ and on a recent 3-SOTA LD sortie of mine, CW on 80m was hard work with QRP. I reasoned that the extra weight of QRO might actually both save me time and make the chaser’s job less taxing so the IC706 was today’s choice. Nevertheless and also because we were early at the top, I phoned Roy G4SSH for a spot. He duly announced 3.558 and also became the first entry in the log. At this stage of late morning the strength of Roy’s signal surprised me but it wasn’t a fluke; most others were 599 too. Apart from moderate QSB, 80m was working well and I knew with QRO we would have an easy time of it today.

Out of the 18 stations worked, 14 were G’s with two PA’s and two DL’s including Frid DL1FU, for whom I turned the power up to full. For the most part I used about 30W but sent several high power CQ’s towards the end to ensure stations with high noise levels would have half a chance of hearing me. I tried hard to rid myself of the habit of sending ‘VA’ at the end of every QSO in favour of ‘AR’ but VA kept creeping back. Incoming reports were between 579 and 599 with a few lesser ones. One unusual caller was GX4ARF; op Barry but there was no time to discover much more. Interestingly some of the closer stations were the toughest to work; e.g. John G0TDM in Penrith.

Jack had played nicely and ate a good lunch but he was starting to become hard work for Mum. I took him up and down the dipole to ‘help’ insert the loading coils in readiness for Top Band.

160m CW - 9 QSO’s:
I never expect great things from Top Band in the middle of the day but there was some evidence that conditions might be a little better than normal today. Firstly I checked Big-L on 1395kHz before leaving the car. Emanating from a 10kW transmitter in Holland, this oldie music station’s signal is usable in Scarborough but rarely penetrates this far inland in daylight. Today it was putting in a noisy but intelligible signal on the car radio after we parked and I find that this is often a guide to how 1.8 might behave. It seemed to be confirmed by the fact that signal strengths during the 80m session were far better than a week or two ago and indeed throughout the summer.

G4OBK was there and loud as ever; 599 plus 10 to 15dB from Pickering. What I did not expect after working Phil was to hear several stations calling at once. Some were very weak; e.g. Roy G4SSH at 229, albeit without a proper aerial, but others were surprisingly strong. Incoming reports to my 100W output ranged from 559 to 589 with 339’s from Roger at Rawdon; G4OWG and John - G0TDM. Kevin in Scarborough G0NUP gave me 229 but got his report OK. When you consider the proportion of good reports and where they came from, this represents a breath of fresh air for 160m.

Here’s a list of stations worked with power set to full throughout: G4OBK Phil, G4SSH Roy, G3WPF Reg, G3IZD Ivan, G4RQJ Rob, G4OWG Roger, G4BLH Mike, G0TDM John and G0NUP Kevin. I found out later that Frank G3RMD was hearing me in QSB but I didn’t hear him at all. That’s not the usual way round as noise in the receiver on a 160m-daytime summit is invariably not worth mentioning. I can hear even the faintest of signals. My trouble is getting back to them even with QRO. Perhaps Frank was ‘behind’ other callers today.

After a further trip with Jack down the dipole; this time to remove the coils and some more photography, mainly with Pen-y-Ghent as a backdrop, it was time for 80-SSB. As he normally does, Roy had picked up the QSY from 160 and duly spotted it. However, instead of the usual 5, it was 12 minutes before I appeared, having lost my glasses again.

80m SSB - 11 QSO’s:
Responding to a CQ on 3.724, Terry G0VWP (York) was first to call in. Roger G0TRB had a little help from Graham G4JZF which took the form of, ‘John is calling you; listen up.’ It’s been a while since I worked Graham and he seems to have a really strong punchy signal nowadays.

After quite a chat with Steve GW7AAV about his national SOTA logos, I worked GW6ZDH Ron and G6ODU Bob. After that came a special event callsign GB0RTM - a B17 Flying Fortress & B26 Marauder airbase of WW2 called Rougham. M0RCP Rick (of LD1 New Year camp-over 2008-9 fame) was next. G4SSH Roy, G3RMD Frank and G1UGH/P (AKA Terry G0VWP) finished the day’s events off. Power was 40 to 50W throughout this session and incoming reports were mostly 58 to 59 with one from GW7AAV of 59 plus 20! The signal was even strong enough to overcome noise created by Steve’s DVD left on pause while he worked me, so 80 must have really been reflecting well today.

I had a tune round on 2m FM after this but it seemed unfair to stay longer; Jack and his Mum having tolerated almost two hours already. We also had a bedtime deadline to meet. I had no 4m gear with me so packed up quickly leaving the summit proper at 13:23, after Jack had walked as far as the ’edge.’

With the boy aboard, the steep part was negotiated with care. Hazel has new boots with better grip and ankle support but the radio mast was needed to double as a walking stick. The descent took 42 minutes and we arrived at the car by 14:05 whereupon Jack shouted, ‘Bye Bye Mountain.’

Jack seemed to enjoy this outing, even asking to climb another mountain (pointing at Pen-y-Ghent). It would have been easy for him of course. He took plenty of interest in his surroundings and didn‘t disrupt the activation in any way. Maybe we could let him walk more but there are only so many hours in a day, with much of it ‘wasted’ on the road.

Another 102 mile drive followed (to Seamer Chip Shop); this time via Kettlewell and the A684 (14:15 to 17:05).

Ascent and mileage: 241m (791ft) ascent, 2.9 km (1.8 miles) walked.
Miles Driven: 204. (102 each way)
4 activator points.

18 on 3.5-CW.
9 on 1.8-CW.
11 on 3.5-SSB.
Total: 38 QSO’s.

Battery utilisation: 58% depleted, 11V nom, 8.8 Ah Li-Po.

Summit time: 2 hours - 17 minutes.
Walking time: 1 hour - 45 minutes.
Driving time: 5 hours - 40 minutes.
Home to home: 10 hours - 15 min.

Thanks to all stations worked and for telephone messaging & spots via G4SSH.

73, John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club-Call GX0OOO/P)

Good stuff John, and achievements on many levels as usual.

I’ve done Fountains Fell twice, but only via the Pennine Way and never visited the summit. The Pennine Way passes through the activation zone, so both times we activated from near the large cairn by the path.

It is an intention to revisit this one sooner rather than later though, to bag the summit true, and to do it as a double with Pen-y-ghent NP-010 on a day trip. This happened of course on our Pennine Way day from Malham to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, but was very wet, so it would be nice to do them on a nice day!

As for the steep direct approach - I fail to see the attraction! I will walk the path up to the cairn and then cut south as you mention. Give me a longer graded approach over a short steep one every time.

Now, about this nonsense about not being able to take Jack hillwalking between the ages of 3 and 6…

It was when Jimmy (M3EYP) was 3 that he began his love of walking, when his mum took him for long walks along the canal. By 4, he was walking with me in the Peak District. Three days after his 5th birthday, he became the youngest person ever to complete the Macclesfield ‘Beating the Bounds’ walk - 19 miles around the town boundary, including a hilly section.

My other son Liam was 5 years old when I started SOTAing, in September 2002. He accompanied me (and Jimmy) on my first activation - Shining Tor SP-004 and on most of what followed the next couple of years. Obviously, the bigger and more demanding stuff was left aside until appriopriate ages for either lad, but lots of 1, 2 and 4 pointers were done by the three of us. Jimmy did Snowdon with me in 2003 - Snowdon 2003 - while Liam’s first taste of a big mountain was probably also Snowdon, in 2007 - Snowdon 2007

Looking back though, some of those 1 pointers in Shropshire, North Wales and Cumbria seemed more strenuous for my young family back then, than Snowdon!

What I am saying John, is do not write off Jack’s 3 to 6 period - just choose some different hills. You don’t tend to do much in the way of benign trivial 1/2 pointers in SOTA, so perhaps now is the time to break that habit, foster Jack’s love of hillwalking and boost your activator uniques score!

(Everyone’s a winner! (Delboy, 1981))


In reply to M1EYP:
Hi Tom,

Thanks for the post and advice.

I am just going by when my lads were young. Maybe I wasn’t ambitious enough. We did an LD-2400 footer and Gt Coum when the youngest was about 4 so they were capable. One did an overnighter in NP2 when he was 6 and we did it from the north. He carried all his own gear in torrential rain and it’s close to 10 miles up and down. I think we tend to cart our kids around in cars far too much, not maybe because we think they are incapable but because walking somewhere takes 10 times as much of our ‘valuable’ time as driving. Fortunately I now have time for Jack that was harder to find for mine. He is not yet of the correct mentality for walking even short distances and it’s the state of mind that counts with anybody of any age. That will need to be carefully fostered and I plan to do that. I just think it will be difficult because of the distances we have to drive as much as the ascents but I take your point about smaller summits and there is one as close as 30 miles; not that you need to walk up Bishop Wilton Wold! I can always do big ones on my own. There’s plenty of time for advancement with the lad so we will see what develops. What I have in mind eventually is for him to carry the batteries and rig…and me if I get too old!! You have done really well with your two!

It never occurred to me that the PW was in the activation zone! Maybe next time we could try that with the boy walking. I think the same applies to Birks Fell; not the PW but a good path goes into it. I’m afraid I do have a mind set about things and almost always go to the highests point; sometimes I have VHF in mind.

As for direct approaches; again another mind set. I seems to be my experience that the fewer steps you take to get there, the quicker it is (within reason). There are many that come to mind. Baugh Fell, Calf Top, Old Man of Coniston etc etc. It appears to be true with those. It won’t work when I apply it to Jack; it’s designed to cram as many SOTAs into one trip as possible mainly to minimise driving which has been a problem all along and which has now become a dreadful mind over matter struggle. NP10 and 17 combine excellently.

Shropshire? I think the Long Mynd is there. My cousins live in Brum. We did it in about 1980 and I thought it was further and harder than I expected. I think it may be a 1-pointer, so I agree about the unexpected sometimes. GM 2 pointers can be real workups! I think Dodd Fell and Gt.Knoutberry would be good targets for a little’un. Once they get to school things get more difficult.

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS

Shropshire? I think the Long Mynd is there. I think it may be a 1-pointer,

As well as the Long Mynd (G/WB-005 : 2pts) we also have some other 2 pointers in the county or not far outside : G/WB-002, 003, 004, GW/NW-043, 044, 051, and GW/MW-013. A little further afield in GW/NW-012 (8 pts) and a number of 1 pointers. There’s also the QTH of GW4BVE not far away naer Welshpool. Some of these make good pairs. Worth a visit?

Regards, Dave, M0DFA/G6DTN (QTH 4 miles West of Shrewsbury)

In reply to G4YSS:

Nice to talk to you again John after a gap of a few years, our first time on SSB if I remember correctly. Last time it was on 80m CW - one of my rare SOTA CW chases. The first time we bumped into one another was on the top of Scafell Pike when I was up there with Nigel M0NJW ages ago.

Re: starting them young. In my experience the provision of food and equally importantly a trip to a suitable public house on the return trip helps to keep them interested. Mind you I think Alice (our youngest) had her expectations falsely raised when she found out that there was a cafe serving chicken soup on the top of Snowdon (one of her first big mountain expeditions). Funnily enough, we’ve never discovered a cafe at the top of another mountain since, despite much searching.

If the thought of driving the A66 is starting to get you down you’re welcome to jump on the train to Leeds if you fancy a non-drive outing. There are a number of summits in GW/NW that are long overdue a visit from me.

73 Rick

In reply to M0DFA:
Hi Dave,

2-pointer is it? I thought it seemed hard for 1 point. Thanks for the other tips that I could do if I were on holiday in GW. NW12 looks a bit harder. I’m ashamed to say I have only done NW SOTAs not MW or SW,

73, John.

Long Mynd-Pole Bank is the easiest 2-pointer (5 in winter) going - if you want it to be. You can walk up from Church Stretton and make it substantial, or park on the top road just a few metres from the trig point.


In reply to M0RCP:
Hi Rick,

Yes, I remember that meeting. What a good day it turned out to be. It does make it more interesting on the rare occasions we meet other activators. That was 17-04-06.

Yes, you need to feed them well. That’s another thing about Jack. He hardly eats anything, though seems healthy enough.

Thanks for the offer. I will think about that! An alternative to avoid the A66 is to activate The Cheviot.

73, John

In reply to M1EYP:
Thanks Tom,

That sounds good for testing new gear or taking a disabled family member etc.


In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John,
Sorry we did not make it on Top Band. I was hearing you quite well in deep qsb, but apart from Phil, could not hear the other stations working you. I suspect I was calling you when other(stronger) stations were transmitting so hope I was not generating QRM. I was using the usual 100W into an inverted L. Look forward to your next one on 160.
You know that my grandson Robin completed all of the Wainwrights by the time he was 6 years old. It still astounds me, so forgive my repetition, and yes, he did walk up them all!
73, Frank

Yeah but that’s the sort of thing you (a) want to repeat - especially in the pub, and (b) will get away with repeating because it is genuinely astounding.

Some of the Wainwrights are pathetically trivial - one I did on the way up to LD-029 was a bit of a joke with about 5m of prominence! But “one or two” others (ie Scafell Pike, Great Gable etc) certainly are not.

So well done Robin (until the next time you grandad tells us about it) :wink:

BTW, somewhat peculiarly, my scanner is scanning in the shack, and while writing this post, it has stopped on 145.425 - a WOTA activation of Yoke LDW-085, G4UXH/P - wkg G8ADD/P!


In reply to M1EYP:

He called me and was a terrific signal! How come you didn’t call me, I’d have given you a chaser point, even if it was peculiar! :wink:


Brian G8ADD

Two reasons Brian:

  1. No rig in the shack - it is away being modded for 5MHz and having one or two other issues looked at - I was eavesdropping the whole business using my scanner.

  2. I couldn’t hear you!


In reply to M1EYP:

I knew I should have carted up the 857!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G3RMD:
Hi Frank,

I think you must have been under stronger stations because I didn’t pick you out. I always make a point of trying (often quite exhausively) to get back to anybody I hear, particularly on 160m. It’s a shame I didn’t get even a snippet of your call.

That boy must be nothing short of superhuman and I think his Dad is too. What character building achievements. If he applies it to the rest of life he will go far indeed!

73, John G4YSS,
Currently 4X/G4YSS - 2m FM only (Tiberious)
Hi to all SOTA ops!