G4YSS: Activation of G/LD-003, HELVELLYN 10-06-21
LAKES WEEK- 6 th to 12 th June 2021:
G/LD’s: Day-1 LD9; Day-2 LD10 & LD8; Day-3 Nil; Day-4 LD3; Day-5 LD4
G/LD-003, HELVELLYN on 2m-FM QRP, using G4YSS
All times BST (UTC + 1)
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, V/UHF H/H
Baofeng UV-5R, 5W, 2m/ 70cm H/H
Baofeng UV-3R, 2W, 2m/ 70cm H/H
2m Band Vertical J-Pole
Mountain Warehouse small (expendable) auto-up umbrella
Pack-weight: 8kg (17.6 lbs) Inc 0.5ltr fluids.
This was the fourth activation of our annual six-night break in the Lake District with the walking group staying at the Avondale B&B in Southey St, Keswick at £45 pppn. The previous day, Wednesday the 9th June, the third day of the holiday, was a day off. (For more details refer to LD8 Blencathra report G4YSS 08-06-21 G4YSS:G/LD-008 70cm &160m,Evg.08-06-21).
After doing St Sunday Crag during the day on Tuesday and Blencathra the same evening, I arrived at the B&B in the early hours of Wednesday morning in a dehydrated state. Not wanting (or daring) to disturb my XYL’s sleep, I wasn’t able to go through the process of recovery nor to wind-down so I didn’t get a wink of sleep until 2 hours before it was time to get up. As a consequence, I was forced to take Wednesday off. This was my own fault and the result of being too busy or distracted to take in sufficient fluids. I don’t seem to have a natural drinking trigger and instead have to remember to do it.
The walking group, consisting of David, Rob and Christine, did a flat walk up the railway from Keswick. Apparently after a lot of expensive attention it is now passable for 5 miles with a new bridge to replace one swept away in floods, new signs and a tunnel you can walk through. I regret not going with them but at that time I badly needed a break.
Dearly wanting to do Helvellyn again as it’s a favourite of mine, I made the suggestion to walk leader David that we use two cars to do a linear walk from Thirlmere. If we parked one car at Swirls and the other at Dunmail Raise, Wythburn Church or down near Grasmere, we would not have to walk back to the car after climbing Helvellyn. It wouldn’t be difficult with the cars as Thirlmere is only 15 minutes from Keswick. David readily agreed the night before but because the weather forecast was none too good, we thought we’d keep the walk to a minimum by starting at Swirls and finishing at Wythburn.
Route from Wythburn Church:
Route details once again. The path leaves the car park (NY 3244 1362) via a gate and passes initially through trees to cross a track junction at NY 3269 1363. The trees are left behind at around NY 3282 1353 and the path becomes paved a little higher up. After that it’s gravely. The route climbs through Comb Crags onto Birk Side and then onto the western flank of Nethermost Pike. It is quite steep but easy to follow via: NY 3292 1363; NY 3318 1364; NY 3322 1342; NY 3335 1337; NY 3369 1353; NY 3391 1389; joining the Dollywaggon - Helvellyn path at NY 3429 1446 which goes up to the summit.
When Thursday morning dawned there was cloud well down on the hills but with the chance of a clearance later in the day, we decided to give it a try or at least to go and look. Upon arrival in convoy at Wythburn Church car park (still free!) to drop off David’s car, it was raining with the cloud-base around 500m ASL.
Realizing we’d been here before during Lakes Week 2019, that is in the same place, with the same aims and exactly the same weather issues, we decided to wait a while in case conditions should improve. Last time they didn’t and we climbed Skiddaw instead, which was clear but in fact we did come back to tick-off Helvellyn the following day.
After a while, when it didn’t stop raining, David decided not to climb on the grounds that we would see nothing but cloud. Looking at it from David’s point of view, who in their right mind would want go to 3000 feet in rain and fog? I agreed with his decision so we parted company. David went to Grasmere for a look around, possibly a walk later while I got back in the car to wait a little longer, more in hope than expectation.
The idea of a linear walk was now off the agenda though Dave, the kindly person that he is, actually offered to come back later to drive me to my car. Of course I wasn’t having any of that. Besides for a few years now I have done LD3 up and back from Wythburn and could do the same this time.
I walked away from the car at 10:12 . It was still raining but an umbrella enables me to walk up in shirt sleeves without recourse to waterproofs, knowing full well that it would be difficult higher up. In fact it was tricky low down too, getting the thing under the trees.
It was one of those days when you just have to grit your teeth and get on with it. I think I met three people, one was a lady runner coming down in a bright yellow outfit; the only ‘sunshine’ of the day and a young couple looking wet but happy.
Tightly clutching the trusty umbrella in increasing wind and introducing myself as ‘Mary Poppins’ so at least I got the quip in first, I trudged slowly to greater heights and cloud thicknesses. Looking for distraction, I tried for the Eng-NZ cricket test match on my phone but there was no signal. ‘Should have brought the MP3.’
It’s always a relief when you reach the junction after the flat bit up near Nethermost. ‘Only 750m left to walk and not too steep either.’ However, it took me 1hr-25 minutes today, quite a lot of teeth gritting and four bent spokes on the brolly but at least I was not soaked through with condensation from waterproofs. I replaced the umbrella with an identical model the following day.
HELVELLYN, LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 11:37 to 12:57 . 10 deg C. Wind SW 25mph. Constant low-cloud above 500m and light rain all the way up, breaking to showers at the summit. LOC: IO84LM, WAB: NY31. Trig TP3724. Vodafone coverage.
There was a strong wind blowing but it wasn’t cold and the direction was perfect for diving down the eastern slope a short distance to hide from it. I chose a grassy ledge about 2.5m down from the summit cairn. Having used it before, I knew that there was just enough coax to run up to the aerial if it’s stuck in the grass above but I noticed on erecting it that the wind had bent the soft aluminium top section. The ground is very steep there. It’s where that big cornice forms every winter, so I pegged the rucksack to the ground.
While I was setting up, a girl arrived at the summit. She was a German student doing Helvellyn via Striding Edge and possibly unsure which way to go in the mist. She wanted advice about which way to descend. I suggested Swirral Edge as her car was in Glenridding. ‘It’ll be quicker than retracing your steps.’ I told her where to turn off and took her photo in the hope it might brighten up my report. Unfortunately she was dressed all in black.
145.550 FM - 15 QSO’s:
This was another activation that needed to go quite quickly but at least I was out of the wind if a little damp. I donned my fleece but left the jacket in the rucksack. There was little point in wetting everything just for the sake of an hour or so.
First up, in answer to a 5 Watt CQ, was G1FVA Keith near Carlisle 59/ 53 quickly followed by G0LWU - Andrew at Overton just south of Morecambe who gave me 59 plus 50! (Thank you for the spot Andrew). Then came G6CDA calling in from Lancaster with 59/ 56. This was Dougie who I’d worked on previous days.
Often first into the log (but I didn’t alert today because of the weather) is John G0TDM in Penrith today the third entry and giving me 59+. Where there’s John there’s often Geoff G4WHA and that’s often because John sends Geoff a text to alert him there’s a SOTA active. Thank you John! I worked Geoff with much better signals today 57/ 55. Good enough for a brief chat.
Back to it with G1OHH Sue in Lancaster (59’s); G6LKB Dave in Ulverston with 59 both ways and the non-SOTA chaser Peter GM3VMB in Eaglesfield nr. Lockerbie 2 x 59. In fact Peter thinks we’re all crazy people and there’s a fair chance he’s right! However he is a good hearted soul who is prepared to humour us just to ‘give us a point.’ Many is the time in the dim and distant past, when Peter has come along to save me from the dreaded three QSO status.
I recognized the distinctive voice in the minor pileup but then needed the callsign to get the name of Mark. G1PIE in Preston, who I’ve worked on and off for years,starting on the WAB net, was 59/ 57. Mark was followed by Mike 2E0MKH in Thornton-Cleveleys 59/ 56 and Tony G1OAE at Seaton nr. Workington 59/ 44.
M7AVT fooled me with an overseas accent. This turned out to be an interesting one in the form of Aigars, a Latvian living in Carlisle with home call YL2GTS. I made a note in the log and before having a brief chat we exchanged with 59 both ways. I noticed later, from Aigars’ QRZ page, that he used to be a submariner. Welcome to SOTA Aigars and here’s hoping we work again.
The last three in the log were: 2E0XUP/M Steve in Whitehaven 59/ 51; G0UXC Peter at Rainhill 59/ 56 and finally 2E0EOY Mark in Blackpool with a ‘lowered mast’ - 59/ 57.
Power was 5W throughout the 35 minute session and the rig was the Baofeng UV-5R.
Little to be added here. Cloud base was about the same at 500m but at least it didn’t rain much for the walk down. I reached the car at 15:04 and Keswick 20 minutes later. Parking in the streets around the B&B can be difficult and the only space was tight (see photos).
After downloading my tracklog and photos, I repaired to the lounge for further clerical work to clear backlog. David joined me after an hour and we exchanged our impressions of the day.
This was planned as another VHF activation driven by the necessity to be time-efficient where other people are involved. However, when David made his wise decision not to go due to the weather, I could have loaded up my rucksack with HF QRO gear. The fact is by then I had set my heart on another easy activation and that wasn’t about to change.
From my own perspective, HF activations are at least three times as difficult for a range of reasons and it’s so much easier to site one small vertical antenna and work one band/ one mode for a relatively short time. That’s even more true when the weather is not as you would have preferred it. Countless sufferings in the past have taken their toll.
Notwithstanding the above, it does seem a shame after taking the trouble to climb a mountain like Helvellyn, not offer it to the maximum number of chasers further afield but chasers don’t object. Rather they are happy to take what comes and save what doesn’t to another day. If this had been a remote Scottish peak there’d be little choice than to put on HF but as we know GM has a difficulty level one step greater than G for a number of reasons.
Despite the weather and wrecked umbrella, I really enjoyed the day including the walking, probably because it was Helvellyn and carrying simple gear made it seem less arduous with less anxiety. It would have been easier still with the distraction and shared experience of a companion but 99% of my activations have been solo, so I’m well used to that.
The UV-5R did the job well with no apparent receiver overloading but I had the filter just in case. Andrew G0LWU kindly gave me comparative reports of 59 plus 20 with the filter in-line and plus 59 plus 50bB without but ‘S’ meters certainly aren’t known for their accuracy and are for guidance only. A loss of five ‘S’ points is hard to swallow and way outside sotabeams’ test results but this was just a quick impression rather than an exhaustive test under controlled conditions. I should do the test at home with a power meter and dummy load but so far I haven’t. Just another thing for which I’ll need to dust off my ‘Round Tuit.’
The reserve rig wasn’t used at all but it should have been. It’s a four-bander and I often call on 70MHz at the end of an activation; forgetting this time. It was tried from Grasmoor three days prior with no result but spotting might have helped. MW1FGQ John (Holywell) often answers 4m calls.
15 on 2m-FM
10:12: Left Wythburn
11:37 to 12:57: Helvellyn summit
13:53: Arr. Wythburn
Ascent, Distance, Walking times:
From Wythburn Church: 764m (2,507ft) ascent/ 7.7km (4.8 miles)
1hrs-25min up, 56min down
Summit time: 80min
Thanks to all stations worked and spotter Andrew G0LWU.
Above: Gate out of Wythburn car park (still free)
Above: Thirlmere not looking its best
Above: Wet through but still enjoying it after 15 months of restrictions
Above: Summit of G/LD-003 Helvellyn. German student checking on the route down
Above: Activation of G/LD-003 on 2m-FM. A 750ft void but unseen
Above: G/LD-003 on 2m-FM.
Above: G/LD-003 summit cairn
Above: G/LD-003 looking in direction of trig pt
Above: Deserted shelter - Helvellyn
Above: Nothing much to photograph so here’s the aircraft memorial stone again with some fog.
“The first aeroplane to land on a mountain in Great Britain did so on this spot on December 22nd 1926. John Leeming and Bert Hinkler in an Avro 585 Gosport landed here and after a short stay flew back to Woodford”
Above: Out of the clag at least. At last!
Above: Nearing the car park
Above: Three extra cars
Above: Automatic parking can’t do this!
Blencathra Street, Keswick. Great name!