G4YSS Actn. Rprt. G/NP6, NP30, 15-March-10

G4YSS Activation Report NP6, NP30 on 15-March-10

G/NP-006 Great Shunner Fell on 80m CW / SSB and 160m CW (QRO).
IC706-2G, 5m mast with 1m end supports. Link dipole for 20-(30)-40-60-80-(loading coils for 160).

G/NP-030 Lovely Seat on 2m FM & 4m FM (QRP).
IC-E90 4-band VHF H/H with 5W to H/B half wave ants: J-Pole for 2m and end fed for 4m.
All times UTC on 15-Mar-10. G4YSS using GX0OOO/P. Accompanied by Hazel.

Having been absent from SOTA until March, the intention was to put on two NPs as a late, ‘last gasp’ effort to bag myself a winter bonus total which at least might not be considered completely derisory! These two summits were chosen to give Daughter-in-Law Hazel a decent challenge on her second SOTA outing, without being too demanding of her emerging skills as a winter mountain walker.

Two modes on 160 & 80 has been the favoured activating regime in the past but I was not sure we could sustain that for both summits today. In the event a quicker activation was needed for NP30 in the afternoon. The reasons for this were the fact that Hazel has her parental responsibilities which can only be handed over to others on a short term basis and the fact that wind-chill caused her some distress on NP6 in the morning. We could not set off from Scarborough until 07:30 so the expedition had to be built around that fact.

Left Scarborough at 07:25 for the 88 mile journey via the A684, arriving at Buttertubs Pass for 09:50. After parking by the cattle grid we set off into a brisk Westerly wind at 10:03.

There is plenty of space at the cattle grid (SD 8678 9552) and a boggy track leaves the road at SD 8688 9570, running up via Coal Pit to the fence corner at SD 8694 9639. The track more or less parallels the fence all the way up through the aptly named Grimy Gutter Hags and over Little Shunner Fell. One must keep to the right (north) side of the fence until it is crossed via a stile not far short of the summit, at SD 8503 9723.

The temptation to take a bee-line from the road to the top (as I have done in the distant past) must be avoided. Bogs and uneven ground are both quite severe. The route described is quite long but it bypasses most of the ‘badlands’ and it is easy going in terms of ascent rate.

Today the going underfoot was largely dominated by a combination of snowfields with poor load-bearing properties in places, alternating with peat bog or tussock grass. The snow averaged perhaps 6 inches (15cm) plus drifts and there was also ice or rock-strewn mud in places. Much of the normal route had to be skirted to the right.

My companion did very well and had the required determination on this comparatively long but shallow ascent. Her main difficulties were negotiating the springy, semi-frozen tussock grass and where snow-crust collapsed without warning. We were serenaded by a pair of Curlews, a Lapwing and numerous Red Grouse. Hazel commented that the Grouse’s alarm call made them sound like they were laughing at us. It was decided that they probably were doing just that and that they had every reason to!

As we negotiated the stile, a single heavily laden walker left the summit shelter and headed down the Pennine Way. He was the only person we saw on today’s fells.

G/NP-006: GT.SHUNNER FELL, 716m, 6 pts, 11:27 to 13:04, 2 deg.C. Wind 35 mph. Overcast with no low-cloud and a little watery sunshine for a few seconds. Large patches of lying snow. IO84VI, WAB SD89 YSN. 195m ascent, 7.5 km up & down. Good Orange phone signal.

The excellent wooden-seated, crossed-wall shelter was a welcome sight in today‘s moderate wind-chill. There was a snow drift in ‘our’ quadrant of the shelter which at least came in handy to stick the mast into. It was difficult to drive-in the end supports in many places.

Despite her having on 3-layers of clothing already, I made sure Hazel put on her windproof. I also had my usual Primaloft activating coat with me which she wore under it. Half way through the activation, shivering visibly and with teeth chattering, she borrowed my overcoat to make layer number six! We were ready to get on the air by 11:50, which was 10 minutes prior to the announced time. With Top Band loading coils fitted and no adjustment necessary, away we went.

1.832 CW:
In spite of a great performance on the 11th with 30 daylight QSO’s on Top Band, reservations regarding the efficacy of Top Band at noon being anything but poor, were realised. At first no one answered but after 3 minutes calling with 100W, Roger G4OWG came back to me with a 559 RST. Next Frank G3RMD (Cheltenham) called with a signal which was varying from about 319 to 569 but try as I may, I could not get a report down to him. I kept repeating his RST and callsign between the other QSO’s but it was to no avail on this occasion.

Reg G3WPF came in with his usual big signal and we exchanged in no time at all. Mike G4BLH was much weaker but made it through OK. The last op to work NP6 on 160 today was Rob G4RQJ. That made four valid QSO’s in all. Thanks to everyone worked but sorry to those who listened but could not hear my signal. G4OBK was busy activating Place Fell today, thereby missing the 160m session; rare for Phil.

3.532 CW:
For the first three QSO’s about 40 Watts were used. After that I turned up the power to 80W because I knew I would not be short of battery capacity today. Incoming reports ranged from 339 (G0NUP and DL1FU ) up to 599. Frid DL1FU was one of three continental ops worked on here today and I don’t know quite how he gets such consistent results on 80 into G-land during daytime. The others were ON4CAP Andre and ON4ON Dan. Apart from the two Dublin regulars, all the rest were G’s making up a total of 14 for 80CW.

3.724 SSB:
A move to SSB produced a further 18 QSO’s to add to the log. First up was Graham G4JZF. All but DL5AV Mike, SM6CMU Ingemar, GI4SRQ George and GW0SSI Ossi, were G stations. 100 Watts were employed for the entire session which produced a few compliments on the signal, whereas I am normally quite frugal with battery power. Helen M0YHB was worked but not her friend Carolyn who was up on a Welsh mountain doing 40m SSB.

2m / 4m FM:
Calls to Phil G4OBK on 2m FM were unanswered. It’s hardly surprising. I know from bitter experience that his QTH on Place Fell in LD, being completely surrounded by higher mountains, is a bad VHF location and I was only using 5W to a duck at NP6. Similarly equipped, calls on 4m yielded nil QSO’s.

QRT at 12:55 we packed up, starting the walk down by 13:04 and arriving back at Buttertubs Pass for 14:23. The car stays in place for NP30 but a short lunch is the tradition. After her ‘refrigeration’ on Great ‘Shudder’ Fell, a relieved Hazel was consulted as to whether she wished to try for NP30 Lovely Seat. Bless her; with it’s snow slopes clearly visible through the car windscreen, she was adamant that she would give NP30 her best shot. In deference to her discomfort on NP6, I scaled down the activation from HF-QRO to the more low-key VHF-FM QRP. The time factor also came into the equation.

By 14:43 we were off again, traversing very wet ground to the start of the climb for the aptly named Lovely Seat, which is a gift in terms of ascent; only fulfilling the 150m rule by virtue of a dip in the ground. Once again you keep to a path on the right hand side of a fence and again it is crossed via another stile; this time at SD 8784 9503.

The NP30 ascent is noticeably steeper than NP6’s and most of the inclined parts had snow on them. In one place, approximately 10m of the 1m-high fence disappeared well below snow level. Fortunately more of the snow was firm than had been the case on NP6. We laboured slowly up; Hazel later commenting that her legs ‘felt like lead.’ I kicked steps to help us later on the way down and took photos.

G/NP-030: LOVELY SEAT, 675m, 4 pts, 15:30 to 16:25, 5 Deg.C, 25 mph wind. Overcast but no low-cloud. Grass with snow patches. IO84VI, WAB SD89 YSN. 151m ascent, 2.9 km up & down. Poor Orange phone signal.

The ‘Lovely Seat’ which is no more than a small seat-shaped dry-stone windbreak on the smooth summit similar to the one on Gt. Knoutberry, perfectly suited the wind direction today. Rigging the VHF masts for this activation was somewhat easier than is the case for HF operations. The stonework of the seat can be pressed into service for this purpose. Also I have noticed in the past that the soil on NP30’s summit is very shallow, making for poor mast stability.

Thanks to Roy G4SSH a phone call using an Orange network mobile phone got us a much needed spot. After around 16:00 this service promptly vanished not to return whilst we were there at least. The plan was to put on 2m and 4m; both FM using the IC-E90 H/H.

145.400 FM:
My habit before calling on S20 is to ‘QRL?’ possible QSY frequencies first. I had just done so on 145.400 and was getting on with the final preparation when by chance I heard G4BLH. It was a chance meeting and Mike’s spot got me 3 or 4 other QSO’s before having to call on 145.500. I know from past experience that Lovely Seat is not a brilliant QTH when using basic VHFM / QRP kit with an Omni aerial and that is why these G4SSH and G4BLH spots were so important today. This enabled me to attract the attention of five ops but also Martin & Caroline, (M1MAJ/M & M3ZCB/M) located half way up Pendle Hill on their way for an activation.

Other stations worked besides the above two and G4BLH were: G4OWG Roger in Rawdon, G1KLZ Doug near Ingleton, 2E0CSG Derek in Burnley and M3UHG Bob at Skelmersdale. They made a total of seven on here.

70.450 FM:
Again it was Mike G4BLH who started a short run of three stations on 4m. The others were John MW1FGQ near Hollywell and 2E0CSG (see above). John is always a very good signal wherever I happen to be in NP and LD so I asked him about his station. Expecting a multi-element beam, big power and a preamp, I was somewhat shocked to hear ‘15W to a vertical’ but it seems that John’s secret weapon is his 600 foot QTH.

Though this activation was completed in quicker time than the earlier HF one, it still came as a relief to Hazel to get walking again. In fact she quickly realised that walking down firm snow banks was far preferable to the ankle twisting tussock and bog and more fun too. It wasn’t too long before the car appeared below and we reached it by about 16:53.

It took from 17:03 to 19:10 to get home. Next stop was the local ‘pizza palace’ whence a very tired and hungry young lady was rewarded for her contribution to a somewhat demanding but very enjoyable SOTA expedition into ‘NP-land.’ She should be proud of her efforts and for agreeing to do the second one when the obvious choice was to sit it out in the car and read her book!

Winter bonus has ended for another year. I regret missing three whole months of it but family circumstances dictated it.

QSO’s (NP6):
4 on 1.8-CW.
14 on 3.5-CW.
18 on 3.5-SSB.
QSO’s (NP30)
7 on 2m FM.
3 on 4m FM.
Total: 46 QSO’s.

NP6: 11V - 8.8Ah Li-Po (88% discharged).

Total ASCENT: 346m (1,135ft).
Total DISTANCE WALKED: 10.4 km (6.5 miles).
Distance driven: 173 miles.
Activator points: 16.

Thanks to all chasers and to G4SSH, G3RMD & G4BLH. Also to G4SSH for his valued Phone-a Spot service.

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

Excellent report John, a great read as usual. Despite having missed three months of the seasonal bonus period, I suspect you have still bagged more winter bonus points than me. I actually tried really hard to be active throughout the winter, but the heavy snow stopped me from driving or walking or both on most of my planned outings.

I too have found Roy’s Dial-a-Spot service invaluable in recent months where I have increasingly found myself with a phone signal, but no WAP / GPRS. However, with the introduction of Andy MM0FMF’s excellent new SOTA SMSBOT service, I shouldn’t need to mither Roy any more with spot requests. An appropriate time therefore for me to thank Roy most sincerely for allowing me the use of his home phone number for activation support this last year.

Think I will do NP-006/NP-030 again at some point - a nice day out that pair.