Using GX0OOO/P. Five G/LD’s: 003, 022, 007, 010 & 027.
Second of the two LD ‘Big rounds’:
Helvellyn, Seat Sandal, Fairfield, St.Sunday Crag (with Place Fell ‘tagged-on’ at the end) All times UTC.
Left Scarborough at 02:35 and was walking out of Patterdale (NY 3899 1595) in the rain, pre-dawn at 05:30. It was very dark but with no wish to alarm the locals, the headlamp stayed in my pocket.
Traditionally, I have limited myself to a lightweight approach on this scale of activation, just using a VX150 VHFM H/H to a vertical half wave. Omni-VHF always excluded the more distant stations, namely the ones in Birmingham, so maybe this was another chance for atonement! I chose a QRP two-mode, single QRG operation on 80m with the possible addition of 40m CW, should there be time.
This is a fairly long ascent, daylight didn’t arrive until around 06:20 and low-cloud ‘lay in wait’ just after Red Tarn. The climb up Swirral Edge arête was a lot easier than last year with only a few patches of wet snow lying as a thin lip-cornice. I’d had a rough time with the WX while activating the other LD ‘big-round,’ two weeks before. I still had the stubborn remains of that chest infection so the rain was most unwelcome.
A glance at my watch, as I passed the LD3 trig point, gave me a nice surprise. Six minutes had been slashed from my previous-best ascent time. There might be time for a QSY to 40m from this popular 10-pointer. I found a crack in the shelter’s stone seat, which accepted the mast perfectly and I noted that at 1C, it was a full ten degrees ‘warmer’ than it was here last March.
- HELVELLYN, LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 07:14 to 09:09. Wind 20 mph, 1 deg C, low-cloud. Rain stopped for the activation!
Opened half an hour early at 07:31 with a CQ on 3.723.4 CW, answered by Edward G0WDT. I spelt out the QTH as I don’t think he knew about SOTA until then. Roy, G4SSH provided the vital initial spot, without which all the hard-earned time-saved would have been in jeopardy. By 08:07 there were 7 CW and 12 SSB chasers in the 80m log. Peter ON3WAB and Heinz DL7RAG were my only European stations on 80.
Now there was enough spare time for 7.033 CW, where the Europeans scored to the tune of a further 26 QSO’s, making a total of 45 for Helvellyn. It proves that chasers don’t mind getting up early for the prospect of ten points and I closed at 09:02, which represented a useful 30 minutes saved against my schedule.
The umbrella angled into-wind, fended off the moisture without the inconvenience and eventual discomfort of a kagoule but the shower became heavier as I descended under a greater cloud thickness.
My favoured route to Seat Sandal saves time by cutting out Dollywaggon Pike, leaving the path at NY 3434 1320 and going cross-country over grass, via NY 3418 1262 which is where, for the time being at least, I ‘lost’ the low-cloud. From the 574m col at NY 3438 1208, Seat Sandal can easily be assaulted by following the wall up.
- SEAT SANDAL, LD-022, 736m, 6 pts, 10:08 to 11:45. 3 or 4 deg C, low-cloud showing signs of clearing, 5 mph wind.
G4SSH needed nothing more than my ‘QRL?’ to supply the spot at 10:24 and a dozen QSO’s entered the log from 3.725.6 CW, in 20 minutes. A switch to 3.728 brought in 15 in SSB including my only S2S of the day, with John GW4BVE/P on NW21. On 7.032 between 11:18 and 11:36, twelve Europeans were worked, making up a respectable total of 39. By now I was starting to get some views and photos of neighbouring peaks and I saw my first walker of the day.
The transit to Fairfield took just 43 minutes and I began to realise that if radio conditions or QSO-rates didn’t let me down, I might just be capable of putting on a fifth SOTA activation of the day, with LD27 that evening. Last year Fairfield had been covered in treacherous hard-ice, which slowed me down significantly and frightened me a lot! Today the rock-field was exposed.
- FAIRFIELD, LD-007, 837m, 8 pts, 12:28 to 14:12. 4 deg C, some sunshine, 35 mph wind.
It took longer to erect the dipole here due to it catching on every available rock. When I went to release it for the fourth time I lost patience, angrily turning over the offending stone, which ‘flopped down’ on the wire, cutting it cleanly. A hasty repair involved stripping the wires with my teeth.
Following another rapid spot by Roy, I had the third activation rapidly underway by 12:50, as I sat in the shelter overlooking Flinty Grave. I could now look back at ‘Number one’ Helvellyn but Seat Sandal (number two) was too small to see from this high vantage point. Number four, St.Sunday Crag, was right there in front of me, with ‘number five’ Place Fell, partly eclipsed by it, in the middle distance.
I had soon logged 14 chasers on 3.722.5 CW, 12 on 3.722 SSB and 15 on 7.032.6 CW. Those 41 QSO’s put Fairfield into second place behind Helvellyn and Phil G4OBK bagged this summit which he especially wanted, before having to go out.
Because of ice conditions last year, the detour needed to get onto St Sunday Crag had taken 1 hr 43 minutes. Today I was on the summit of LD10 in a mere 35 minutes after a 2.2 km ice-free walk down Coffa Pike and up to the St.Sunday summit. What a difference good surface conditions can make!
- ST.SUNDAY CRAG, LD-010, 841m, 8 pts, 14:47 to 16:45. 6 deg C, sunshine then overcast, 15 mph wind.
I would need to be away from here no later than 16:30, if there was to be half a chance of climbing the fifth summit in anything other than pitch darkness.
Things began very well and Peter G3TJE must have been ultra vigilant, to beat Roy G4SSH into the log from my first CQ! Peter’s resulting initial spot brought in 11 and 14 on CW and SSB respectively, inside 45 minutes. During the SSB session, I started to ‘leak-out’ the idea that I just ‘might’ do a fifth summit and after comical comments about using helicopters or winged boots, this second part of the procedure finished as the time approached 15:47.
By 16:35 I was still sifting through the last vestige of a really big pile-up, which had commenced on 7.032 CW immediately after working DL4FDM at 15:50. Fritz knew what he was doing, because if you weren’t first, you could easily be last, such was the ‘wall of stations’ facing me and sounding in my ear-phones, like a single continuous ear-splitting note. Excellent chaser skill and discipline helped me to log 31 stations on 40m, moving LD10 into first-place with a score of 56 QSO’s.
I was now running marginally late but my big mistake was to jump up to dismantle the antenna system; going straight into an agonising cramp. Yet again, I hadn’t taken in enough fluid because I didn’t give the matter sufficient consideration. Something drastic would have to done when I got back to the car, if I was going to stick with the idea of ‘putting on’ Place Fell in the evening. I swung wide from the summit, to head down grass and a lesser path via NY 3717 1357, reaching the car at 17:34.
Now, if I really was serious about Place Fell, I had a few short minutes in which to physically ‘reinvent’ myself. I rushed through a hastily planned routine of re-hydration, electrolytes, a little food and a battery change for the 817. Tying the rucksack onto the car’s roof-rack for maximum time-saving, I sped off on the 5 minute drive to the next venue.
The only parking ‘facility’ that I could ever find in Rooking, is a patch of grass at NY 4004 1603. It’s ‘postage-stamp’ sized and you must ram the side of the car hard up against a grit bin, so as not to be on the road. The nearside rear of the car must touch the wall. With my car, it’s the wall and grit-bin I worry about most but no one came out to bother me.
Place Fell, the fifth and final. ‘Closing the Circle.’
I was walking once again by 17:55, north up the road a few tens of metres, then through a gate labelled ‘Bridleway.’ I made reasonable time up to Boredale Hause but after that, it started to get rapidly darker. I didn’t use the headlamp until much later, when I needed to erect the antenna.
Today’s final SOTA wasn’t chosen for ease of access to its summit but for its proximity to Patterdale and the earlier four. By the time you reach the rocky edifice upon which stands the trig point, taking account of minor intermediate gains (up & back) you will have ascended more than 500m. An HB9 or GM might not agree but in England, that’s an awful lot for just a 4-point reward. As far as I can tell, out of a league table of 19 four-pointers in LD and NP, it’s only beaten in the ‘required ascent department’ by three others; Seatallan, Illgill Head and Black Combe.
With just 50m to go, I phoned Roy G4SSH. ‘Roy, please can you spot me?’ ‘What?’ ‘You’re joking, where are you!’ ‘No kidding, I’m just about to put on number five, put me down for LD27 on 3.725 CW/SSB, in about 20 minutes time.’ ‘OK John, I’ll run up to the shack and fire-up the rig.’
After a couple of flash-photos on arriving at the trig-point at 18:52, I ‘backed-off’ a little in order to find enough flat grass to erect the antenna. In case the now vital GPS failed, I made certain that the aerial straddled the muddy return path and then sat down on the grass for the final time.
- PLACE FELL, LD-027, 657m, 4 pts, 18:52 to 19:43. 2 deg C, overcast, dark, 20 mph wind.
When I was telling the SSB’ers about it from LD10, Roy can’t have overheard my ‘mouse-power’ phone signal with his vertical, on a noisy band. My earlier hints about a fifth activation did not get as far as an alert on the SOTA webpage but they were just that; hints. At that juncture, I was not certain I could add a fifth summit so dare not ‘firm up’ the idea and risk disappointing the chasers.
Success now simply boiled-down to how many chasers were still ‘at their screens’ and not relaxing in front of the TV. Like in the ‘olden days’ I worried about whether I would make the required four QSO’s!’ They would have to be on 80m too; VHFM was practically useless from here because of the screening effect of surrounding higher ground.
I should have had more faith. Roy’s spot rapidly got me four QSO’s on 3.726 CW with a fifth one for insurance! In qualifying LD27, I am indebted to the following ops: Roy G4SSH, Mike GW0DSP, Geoff G4CPA, Mike G4BLH and finally Ken GM0AXY. Despite more CQ’s on CW and two fruitless moves to 3.721 SSB, all other chasers remained firmly ‘in the woodwork.’
Going down LD27 in the dark seemed to take a lot longer than climbing up. The key to success was the GPS in my hand. With ‘one eye’ following the small section of path visible ahead in the headlamp beam and the ‘other eye’ on the map page screen, the art is to ‘match,’ by moving in the appropriate direction, the descent track which is being created on the GPS screen, with the ascent track which was ‘painted’ on the way up. Losing a path in the dark is child’s play but provided you followed it accurately all the way up, this procedure should help you regain it to an accuracy of 15m. All I could see beyond my small circle of light were sporadic, distant house-lights way down in the valley.
It was something of a relief to see the car again at 20:30 but amid the sudden onset of weariness (now permitted) there was the joy of achievement. One object of the exercise, in addition to cramming in five summits and gaining 51 SOTA activator points before the end of winter bonus, was personal success in extending my particular ‘total ascent in a day’ figure.
Stats and equipment:
The horseshoe route around the first four big summits is 17.7km (11 miles) with 1,476m (4,842ft) of ascent. For Place Fell the equivalent values are 5.6 km (3.5 miles) and 517m (1,696ft). This makes a total of 23.3km (14.5 miles) and 1,984m (6,509ft) for the five activations. (Unofficial, unverified statistics from 1:25,000 map.) The GPS figure for total ascent was 2,060m but this value cannot be trusted because of possible atmospheric pressure changes in the time elapsed.)
Gross time ‘out’: 15 hours, comprising……
Net (walking) time: 6 hr-34 min.
SOTA time: 8 hr-5 min.
Short drive and preparation for LD27: 21 min.
Total time (home to home): 20 hr-41min.
Sunrise: 06:50. Sunset: 17:56.
Distance driven: 266 miles.
Total ascent: 1984m (6,509ft)
Dist. walked: 23.3km (14.5 miles)
FT817ND with internal 2.7 Ah AA Ni-Mh batteries (fully depleted).
Reserve battery (11 x 2.7Ah AA Ni-Mh): 65% depleted.
External battery for LD27 only: 4Ah SLAB, 15% depleted.
2.5W / 5W to a ‘link’ dipole for 80m/60m/40m.
5m Carbon mast, with 1m end-supports.
Jingtong JT208 H/H as ‘reserve’ equipment.
Pack weight: 10.75kg.
49 on 80m CW.
53 on 80m SSB.
84 on 40m CW.
5 Summits: 51 SOTA activator points (inc 15 bonus.)
THANKS to ALL STATIONS worked, for your efforts to maximise QSO rates, for a lot of moral support and to G4SSH, GW7AAV, GW0DSP, GM4COX, ON3WAB, M3TMX, G6CRV, 2E0HJD, G3TJE and F5NEP for spotting. Special thanks to Roy G4SSH for liaison and four ‘initial annunciations.’ Also, Peter G3TJE for the LD10 initial spot.
(QSL if req’d: Via the buro or directly to G0OOO / QTHR or QRZ.com.)
73, John G4YSS
(using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Callsign: GX0OOO/P)