G4YSS Actvn. Report: G/NP-001 Cross Fell 18-08-09

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.

7.032.6 CW:
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.

3.532 CW:
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.

3.721 SSB:
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.

1.832 CW:
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.

4m FM:
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)

In reply to G4YSS:

3.721 SSB: It took 15 minutes for SOTA chasers to find me here

Strange! When I saw your QSY to 80m CW I tuned to the SSB section to wait. Every now and then I turned the dial to see if you were somewhere but I parked the tuner on 7.121 each time as it seemed to be the quietest frequency. I suddenly realised I was hearing a voice on 7.121 and had been for a while but it had not registered. As I reached for the mic Webmon announced your spot. You nearly got away!

Sorry to hear you fell foul of the one eyed bandit. You need a stealth device to avoid the stealth taxes these days. I have them on all my vehicles. At least I think that is why no one can see me coming when they pull out or cut me up.

Regards Steve GW7AAV

In reply to G4YSS:

Just like Phil after him, Mike sounded highly delighted with his 4m band QSO.

Absolutely John. I was more than happy to have managed the top band cw qso (40m dipole at my end), but 4m was definitely the icing on the cake considering the distance and intervening terrain and the fact that my 4m folded dipole is in the loft !!!

Many thanks, Mike G4BLH

In reply to G4YSS:

Sounds like you had a successful day John and kept the chasers happy. Sorry I could not ride shot-gun for you on this one but Dial-a-Spot was temporarily suspended as I was at 17,000 feet over Wales at the time.

Sorry I missed 1.8 MHz, but you had a good haul of chasers.


In reply to John (G4YSS)

Thank you for the reports on yesterday’s NP-001 activation.
At this stage I can’t remember what I had been doing but by the time I noticed the 40m spot by Aage LA1ANA there was no evidence of you being still qrv. In any event, on considering the now normal long skip on 40m, I decided that I would not have heard you. As it transpired, to hear you calling on 80CW was a classic case of one being in the right place at the right time. It was a great pleasure to exchange reports on 160m bearing in mind the antenna used here and the propagation conditions to be expected at the time of day and at this time of year.

73 de Mike, EI2CL

In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John
Sorry for giving wrong summit ref, I should been listening a bit longer hi. Went qrt just after the qso. You were a strong 599+ signals here. Very thanks for the sota qso.
de Aage

In reply to G4YSS:

Thank you for both the 80m and the 4m contact John. I look directly onto Cross Fell from home so as you said true line of sight.

73’s Geoff. G4WHA

In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John,
Interesting and comprehensive report, as always. Pleased to catch you on Top Band. You were a good signal, but very strong qsb was prevalent. Phil, OBK ,was S9+ when he worked you, which encouraged me to think that we would make it ok.
Thanks for your efforts,
73, Frank

In reply to ALL:

GW7AAV : Hello Steve,
All was well in the end and I didn’t have more summits to do afterwards. We were having a ‘real’ QSO and not rushing down a list. Hence the lack of recognition.

I have never had any trouble apart from with this one camera – twice! It is especially tricky. Experienced drivers drive to the conditions prevailing at the time. Speed limits are fixed. The course was good though. I got to meet other naughty boys (& girls) and I did (re) learn plenty.

G4BLH: Hi Mike,
The enthusiasm on the ‘backwater bands’ (for want of a better term) really comes through on occasions and that’s one of the reasons I like working them. If you were on an indoor antenna, it is surprising. Maybe condx were up a bit?

I don’t know Roy; you could at least have worked me /AM! Other keen spotters stood in for you this time. One can usually make one’s presence known on 7032.

Results on 1.8 were encouraging considering the time of day / month.

Hope you got your Red Arrow pics,

Yes Mike, Dublin is normally too close for 40m but I did get some G’s on there. I’d hoped somebody would remember that I usually work on 3.532 and you did! Chasers on one band/ mode cannot always be expected to hear QSY announcements for the next because of their high work-load up & down the bands. (I am not trying to be cynical here. I have always acknowledged that chaser have a lot of ground to cover and that’s why I’m not one of them. The physical demands of activating frighten me less.)

It looked at one point that I wasn’t going to log you on 160. I was relieved when you replied. If you come in weak, I always assume that your noise will not allow my signal to be heard in your RX but I don’t give up easily. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

LA1ENA: Hi Aage,
Thanks for that all-important initial spot to let everyone know my SOTA was up and running. That’s all I needed. After that, the ref is only a small part of the story. Chasers have the opportunity to check it on the air. I try to send it out every half dozen QSO’s or so but sometimes I forget. In that case, chasers ask for it. My excuse was that I had not been QRV for 6 weeks. It was raining & blowing, I was trying to balance an umbrella, which was obscuring the rig & log and I knew at the time that my sending was not great. My reading was even worse!

G4WHA - Geoff:
Sorry that you three must have had to hang around waiting for the 4m QSO. The new aerial seems to be doing its job even if it is a bit heavy. NP1 is certainly good for your QTH and I have had low-power QSO’s from NP2 to Penrith also. 4m Liaison via John (TDM) is working well too.

G3RMD - Frank:
I can’t seem to write a short report even when NP1 is routine for me. What luxury though; only one summit to write about.

160m: The QSB could have been caused by the antenna blowing around; sometimes the coils / wire almost touch the ground. Probably just the ‘D’ layer turning over in bed? We must have caught it napping to have made it through to your QTH! I was quite surprised by the strength of your signal.

Phil’s signal is being used as a guide every time. If it’s quite weak, the far away stations know that they can more or less forget it.

To All; Thanks for the comments, the QSO’s and spotting. Despite the rain, it was a real pleasure just to do one SOTA.

73, John G4YSS.