G4YSS Activation Report for G/NP-001 18-August-2009
CROSS FELL from the NATS Radar Site.
All times BST (UTC + 1) on 18-08-09.
QRO on 40-80-160m. QRP on 4m-FM.
Introduction: Speed Tax:
This activation was an aside to a Speed Awareness Course which I had elected to attend at the Heaves Hotel, near Kendal, Cumbria from 09:00 to 13:00. One hidden problem with long-distance SOTA is that from time to time you end up paying some speed tax. Once again, the A591 at Ings was the cause. No excuses but this is a 40 mph limit cleverly disguised as a fast piece of road. +8 mph is all it takes. I set off from Scarborough at 05:28, arriving 45 minutes early for the course for 20 people (four of them female).
We introduced ourselves around the table, viz name, occupation, types of car (laughs all round) and miles driven in a year. An interesting course; the time passed quickly but my Kinetic Energy theory to explain their speed versus fatality curve produced little more than puzzled looks and a tongue-in-cheek remark about ‘Engineers.’
Though it probably made little difference in the end, coupled to a bad forecast, the heavy showers seen out of the hotel window persuaded me to change the venue from Old man of Coniston in favour of the more easterly Cross Fell.
The 43 mile drive to the NATS Radar site took from 13:09 to 14:15 but I was ready to walk from the car at NY 7163 3160, by 14:42. The radar station was clagged in and it didn’t take long for rain to arrive. After half a mile of fending off the wind-driven rain with a large brolli, I was forced to stop at the Little Dun Fell shelter to don overtrousers. The block path was slippery in many places and walking down the boggy ground beside it rather defeats the object of having a path. The umbrella ‘took over’ at times and keeping it aligned with a determined side-wind took some effort. After just under an hour of walking, Cross Fell’s summit shelter emerged from the murk.
This is well documented being pioneered by (I think) Rob G4RQJ. Park at NY 7163 3160 (a couple of cars can be parked) and follow the road up to the Radar Station front gate. There turn right along the fence to skirt around the station via NY 7109 3220 and NY 7103 3230. The paved way starts at NY 7095 3235 and this takes you down Great Dun Fell via Col-780m at NY 7075 3272 to part way up Little Dun Fell as far as NY 7057 3289. Follow the path up to Little Dun Fell NY 7044 3302. There is more paving between NY 7023 3334 and NY 6955 3403 with Col-772m (NY 6985 3369) between these two.
After the paved way follow a path, boggy in places, rocky in others and look out for the next waypoints which are: Stack-1 at NY 6938 3411 and Stack-2 at NY 6902 3425. These two are much taller and ‘pointier’ than mere cairns. The shelter and trig are on the extensive flat top at NY 6873 3432.
Any temptation to drive through the radar station gate if it is open and park further up the road should be strongly resisted. Getting locked in creates an even bigger problem than in previous year’s. Additional road-side boulders have been deployed and that effectively rules out bypassing the gate in all but the most rugged of 4 x4’s.
G/NP-001, CROSS FELL, 893m (2,930ft), 8Pts, 15:39 to 18:38. 11 Deg C, 25 mph southerly wind. Intermittent low-cloud and rain at first. (IO84SQ, WAB NY63.). NP1 is the highest point in the Pennines.
The fist job was to put on a coat and erect the 80m link dipole in ‘horizontal’ rain. The recently arrived arrangement of stones in the shape of a small tent gives testament to the fact that Cross Fell’s surface rejects masts, pegs and the like. A bungee was used to anchor the mast to the shelter. As for the end supports; each required the assembly of a small pile of rocks to hold it upright. The 4m aerial would have to wait in case time ran out but the Top Band coils were placed to hand. I had made no prior announcement for the activation so in order to find chasers the choices were simply 2m-FM or 40m CW. As Cross Fell does not overlook many chaser QTH’s, 40m was decided upon.
Both ‘SOTA channels’ were occupied so I decided to try to squeeze in between them. It took a little while before my 30 Watts were heard and it was slow going with only 6 QSO’s in 10 minutes from 16:04 (BST). After 16:14 a steady stream of chasers came in including F, LA, DL, HB9, G, LX, ON, OE, IK, SM, HA and OK callsigns. This made a good start to proceedings with 33 in the log and it was a nice surprise to work Norby LX1NO. Two ‘OE’ callsigns with only the last letter different had me confused for a short while. Fritz DL4FDM called in but he was in disguise as HB9CSA and I only realised who I’d worked after the event.
I must thank but also apologize to Aage LA1ENA. I haven’t activated for some time and my keying (like my reading) was none too good. This meant that NP16 (Dodd Fell) got spotted initially, when the correct summit was actually G/NP-001 – Cross Fell. It only takes bad spacing and an extra dot in the phrase, ‘GX0OOO/P on SOTA G/NP1 BK’ to mislead the chasers. I will try to be more careful in future but the wind & rain were getting to me a bit.
I’d hoped that someone would hear my 80m QSY QRG announcement on 40m and that ‘someone’ was EI2CL. Either that or it was a bit of intelligent guesswork on Mike’s part. Thanks Mike; perfect timing too and for recognising the incorrect SOTA Ref.
A QSO with what I believe to have been a non-SOTA station (G0VQW/P – Sandy) took some time but after that the chasers got their chances with 11 stations worked. Just as I was reaching for the VFO control after giving the SSB QSY info; the final two sneaked in. These were Don G0NES & G3ASX in London.
It took 15 minutes for SOTA chasers to find me here but meanwhile my CQ was answered by MM5AHO/MM; Geoff on his 10m yacht 10 miles north of Oban on Loch Linnhe. After that came G6XBF who wanted a report on a long-wire antenna he was trying out. By 17:36 the first chasers had arrived with a total of 14 regulars and WAB OV00 controller GM3VTY (2006) Keith in Dunoon. G6DTN reported that last year’s treatment had been a resounding success but he must keep to 118 bpm when exercising. Again two ‘just in time’ stations called in; namely GW3GUX John and M0RCP Rick.
It took merely a few tuning ‘V’s on 1832 kHz at 18:01 (BST) to evoke a response. Phil G4OBK was waiting with a reassuring signal report of 599, so the output was hitting Pickering at least. In total 100 Watts to my loaded 80m inverted vee at 5m AGL, produced the following 7 contacts: G4OBK, G3RMD, G0TDM, G4BLH, EI2CL, G3XYP and G3WPF. I thought that was a pretty good showing at tea time in August. Even Mike EI2CL, who normally has trouble with QRN, heard me OK after a couple of long calls.
The bottom two sections of the dipole support are needed for supporting the home-brew 4m vertical half-wave, so I removed the top two sections and left the dipole lying. It took a while to unwind the coax and dig the IC-E90 out but like Top Banders, 4m enthusiasts show a lot of patience! First in was G4WHA but I could hear other signals under his. Geoff was using no more than a mag-mount on his gas fire, which reminds me of the improvised ‘biscuit tin groundplane’ of CB days. This was definitely a true line of sight QSO however; Cross Fell to Penrith.
I could hear G4BLH and G4OBK both calling at once but worked Mike first as he was the one most likely to ‘fade out’ on me. Signals into Nelson were 56 at my end with 43 coming back. Not bad for Cross Fell which despite its status as the highest point in the Pennine Chain, is not the best of VHF locations. Just like Phil after him, Mike sounded highly delighted with his 4m band QSO.
Last in the Log was G4OBK in Pickering YSN. Phil’s incoming signal was a variable 53 to almost 59. The reason for this was obvious when he told me his antenna was horizontal. The effect of the wind at 2,930 feet ASL was causing small angle variations in the orientation of my ‘new’ home-brew vertical half-wave. It didn’t need to move very far from the vertical to produce a dramatic change in signal strength. Phil was pleased with the QSO because he works few SOTA stations on 4m. I was more than happy with 3 QSO’s. 4m is a really nice band.
Time was certainly pressing. After closing at 1824, it took until 18:38 to get everything back into the rucksack but somehow, I seemed slow today. This may have been an unwanted mental effect of my recent bus pass acquisition or just the unfitness that comes with summer. It took 55 minutes to walk back to the car (14:33) but at least it wasn’t raining. I paused for photos on the way; most of them later deleted. It had not been a good looking day at any point but I habitually ‘drink in’ far too many shots in case I’m ‘never back this way again.’
With the speed awareness lecture fresh in my mind, I couldn’t rush the 113 mile home run. (19:43 to 22:01.)
Total: 68 QSO’s, comprising:
33 on 7-CW.
11 on 3.5-CW
14 on 3.5-SSB.
7 on 1.8-CW
3 on 4-FM
Walking: 414m (1,358ft) ascent / 9.3 km (5.8 miles) walked.
Driving: 276 miles driven in the day.
IC706-2G QRO with home-brew composite panels, wiring & breakering. CW ‘key’: Switch in microphone body. Link Dipole for 30-40-60-80 with tuneable coils for 160 at the 40m break points. 5m CFC mast – 1m ends. IC-E90 6-4-2-70 FM H/H with 1.3Ah Lithium battery.
Battery utilisation: Two RCM 4.4Ah Li-Po’s in parallel. 11V nom, 8.8 Ah, 100W capable, 0.7kg. 94% depleted. (With only one summit to do, I didn’t spare the ‘horses.’)
RF Power output:
40m CW: 30 to 60W.
80m: 70 to 80W.
160m CW: 100W.
(4m FM: 3.5W.)
Note: The powers given above are those set using the IC706 control. When SLABs or 3S-cell Li-Po’s are in use, true RF output will be significantly down on these figures due to the lower input voltage. The IC706’s ratings assume an input of 13.8V. As is also true for velocity & Kinetic energy, a power to V-squared relationship produces large effects on power for relatively small voltage changes.
QRO pack-weight: 11.5 kg.
Thanks to all stations worked and for valuable spotting assistance by: LA1ENA, EI2CL, G4OBK, G4BLH and to EI2CL & G4OBK for straightening out the error with the summit ref.
73, John G4YSS
(using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)