G4YSS Activation Report, G/LD-007 & G/LD-022 on 2m-FM, 24-12-21
Issue-2. Please report errors
FAIRFIELD & SEAT SANDAL on Christmas Eve.
All times UTC
This activation was made possible due to a 4-night stay with my XYL at the Derwentwater Hotel in Portinscale, Keswick. At Christmas it’s expensive (£549 pppn) but we thought it was worth it not to have to get meals ready or do the washing up along with the bonus of some hill walking for me.
The mountain weather forecast mentioned low-cloud, 4C with winds up to 20mph and patchy rain. Not pleasant but nevertheless doable with a little ‘teeth gritting.’ The rucksack was packed with HF QRO gear at home some time prior but on the day I changed my mind based on time considerations but mainly the weather encountered at the start point. Stoicism of the past has gradually waned with age.
Moonraker MT270M 2m / 70cm 25W mobile rig
2.2 Ah Turnigy Li-Po Battery
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H
Half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m
UV-3R carried in top pocket
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Pack weight: 8kg including 750ml of fluids, primaloft jacket and umbrella
Dunmail Raise to Fairfield:
Start point is NY 3278 1160; the ladder stile at Dunmail Raise on the A591 Keswick to Windermere road. Walk east and uphill beside Raise Beck via NY 3352 1194 to the 574m spot height which overlooks Grisedale Tarn at NY 3438 1208.
Turn right (SE) to skirt the Tarn anticlockwise 30m above the water on a slightly undulating path via NY 3441 1206; NY 3453 1191; NY 3480 1174 and NY 3488 1171, then climb Fairfield via the steep gravelly path starting at NY 3490 1168. The path zig-zags up via NY 3535 1182 and NY 3547 1176 to Fairfield’s extensive top at NY 3586 1173.
Fairfield to Seat Sandal:
Retrace your steps back down Fairfield to start the climb up Seat Sandal from Grisedale Hause. At first the path is on loose rock and gravel at NY 3487 1166 but at NY 3463 1150 the gradient eases and the path becomes grassy to the summit at NY 3439 1152.
Seat Sandal to Dunmail Raise:
Downhill all the way, the path off Seat Sandal goes due north via NY 3440 1169 and NY 3437 1193 to the 574m spot where you turn left by the remains of a steel fence post, to walk down beside Raise Beck and back to the ladder stile and the A591 at NY 3278 1160.
The drive from Portinscale (Keswick) down to Dunmail took 22 minutes. Getting off the dual carriageway onto the 4 metre wide verge on a 70mph dual carriageway can feel hazardous but today traffic was light. Parking just short of the ladder stile, I got the car as close to the fence as possible, without scratching the XYL’s paintwork of course!
Getting started at 09:45 after repacking the rucksack for VHF only, I climbed the stile and headed up the Raise Beck valley. It’s a steady climb on a reasonable path with a few almost scrambly bits beside waterfalls. The path forks early and I take the left fork which follows the beck. Maybe the path on the right goes somewhere significant – perhaps to Seat Sandal? At Grisedale Tarn I took the path under the NE side of Seat Sandal to the foot of Fairfield, arriving at its top by 11:22.
The climb was not without its troubles. First the MP3 player, essential to help me ignore the weather, packed in after less than 50m. Fortunately my phone and Ray Robinson stepped in with his old recordings of offshore radio stations; in this case Johnny Walker and Robbie Dale. The GPS batteries failed at Grisedale Tarn and had to be changed, made more difficult because the broken battery cover is taped on. The first change was a failure and had to be repeated. Maybe I got one AAA the wrong way round the first time? This while holding an umbrella to fend off wind-borne drizzle in uninspiring hill fog but at least the dreaded waterproofs were not needed today.
Despite getting plastered by incessant wind and rain all the way up from Dunmail, the summit was strangely benign and I was able to set up at one of the shelters without discomfort. This it seemed, was one of those rare days when it was better to be high up than low down, an observation that was confirmed later by reports from other summits. I could see one reason for the lack of rain above 850m. The amount of cloud above is less than at valley level but that didn’t explain the wind which normally increases in speed as a function of height.
FAIRFIELD, G/LD-007, 837m, 8 pts, 11:22 to 12:39. 5 deg C. Low-cloud. 3 mph easterly wind. LOC: IO84ML. WAB: NY31 (No trig). Patchy Vodafone coverage.
145.525 - 15 QSO’s:
Calling CQ on S20 with only an earlier alert to rely on, I heard Geoff G4WHA/A calling me - on the ball as always. Knowing Geoff was at work in the computer shop in Carlisle and might be hard-pressed for time, I made the decision to quickly exchange 59’s on the calling frequency. Naughty! After QSY Geoff came back to tell me that he now had an external aerial on the shop roof. It was doing well too; as I remember he had to go outside to the mobile the last time we worked.
With 25W from the Moonraker MT270M mobile to the vertical, I went on to work an additional three stations: G1PIE Mark, QTH one mile from M6 junction 29 at Preston. Mark asked about WAB square OV00 and the cliff ladder which has appeared sometime since 2019. It was spotted and photographed by my son Andy who happened upon it in September this year and subsequently reported on WAB-IO groups website by myself. A ladder down the vertical section 60 feet above the foreshore certainly makes activation a bit easier but as always still a real challenge.
Next in was GW4ZPL John – Caernarfon followed by 2E0MIX Derek near Whitehaven. Reports were all 59 apart from 55 coming back from Wales but then someone alerted me to an S2S which I couldn’t hear due to my poor receiver. Time to swap rigs!
Now with just 5 Watts from the IC-E90 with a better receiver, I called in the S2S and heard him for the first time. It was Martin M7BIA/P on G/SP-004, Shining Torr and he gave me 51. Better late than never and if I’d continued with the cheap mobile rig, it would have been never as I couldn’t hear him for noise. The thinking was to try and get out a bit further with the 25W but in truth the extra power combined with an unselective RX just makes the situation worse.
Continuing: M0PVA Mick, an old SOTA friend once eyeballed on Great Whernside, who now lives in Billington Lancs (ex Clitheroe); M1DHA Alan in Barnoldswick; M0SSD George at Dalton-in-Furness; G8CPZ Andy - Arnside; 2E0LND/P Angela S2S and brimming with enthusiasm on G/LD-050 Gummer’s How. Angela actually drove to the car park under Coniston-Old-Man but not liking the look of the weather, rejected it in favour of LD50.
G3TQQ/P, a fellow Scarborough Amateur Radio Society member on a day out from Pickering. provided a third S2S in the form of a windy G/LD-037 Little Mell Fell. I haven’t seen or worked Dave for a long time.
Next in the log were 2E0XUP Steve near Maryport and G0PMJ Dave to the NE at Darlington. The final two to bag LD7’s eight points were G6AEK Dave at Knott End-on-Sea near Blackpool and G0MHF John at Birkenhead on the Wirral.
Reports sent out were mainly 59 with a 55/ 51 for the S2S with Martin and a 57/ 47 for M0SSD in Dalton. I got 55’s from Maryport, Darlington and Birkenhead, a 53 from Barnoldswick and a 51 from Mick M0PVA.
Walking again - LD7 to LD22:
Sure enough once a bit of height was lost it started drizzling and blowing. I met a family with a dog coming up. Those were the last people I saw in the day and there had only been two or three on Fairfield. Seat Sandal is not too much of a challenge from Grisedale Hause but the path is steep and gravelly. I passed a few small patches of snow near the top but it was a relief to get up there and into the shelter, which only appeared a few years ago.
SEAT SANDAL, G/LD-022, 736m, 6 pts, 13:25 to 14:50. 4 deg C. Low-cloud. 10 mph easterly wind. A grassy top with a cairn, wall and small shelter. LOC: IO84LL. WAB: NY31. Vodafone coverage.
145.525 - 10 QSO’s:
A self-spot for .525 started the ball rolling and sticking with the IC-E90 H/H I called briefly on S20 to alert anybody who doesn’t have SOTAwatch. G6AEK Dave at Knott End-on-Sea quickly replied with 59 both ways but then the rig shut down. Something occurred at the other end too and we temporarily lost comms. Two rigs going wrong in one QSO is hard to believe but that’s what happened.
Soldiering on I worked Mark G1PIE but then the rig cut out for a second time and again just as Peter GM3VMB called me. Time to connect the home-brew external 2.2 Ah power supply, which clips onto the IC-E90 where the battery sits but that didn’t go according to plan either. After fitting it the rig still didn’t light up. A broken wire at the connector was the culprit this time but how to bodge it? More delay. What would the chasers think?
Stripping 22 AWG Raychem-55, 150 degree C rated aircraft wire with your teeth is not an easy task and jamming it in the connector while mating it with cold fingers is demanding too. It took a while but the rig was back developing full power again with the added advantage of significant heat given off by the dropper diodes, instrumental in getting my fingers back to life!
Without further ado the following stations were logged starting with GM4WHA/M Geoff, worked for the second time today having reached his home QTH at Annan in the interim then finding he couldn’t hear me. Geoff resorted to the mobile, presumable taking it to local high ground.
2E0FVD Clive – Walney Island followed and shortly afterwards G0MHF John at Birkenhead. Next in were 2E0MIX Derek, who kindly suggested a joint activation of his home summit in the new year and 2E0XUP Steve near Maryport, both with good signals.
Coming back after my earlier battery problem stymied him, GM3VMB at Eaglescliffe who coined the acronym ‘MOTHS’ to describe people like me. Peter explained that this stands for ‘Masochists-on-the-Hills’ but it was taken in good humour and as I sat there shivering, not without some agreement on my part. We went on to have a discussion about the merits of CW and the keyers Peter has made using hacksaw blades.
M7ASK - John called in from Morecambe; a geology buff who had recently visited my home town of Scarborough and its Rotunda museum. What turned out to be the final QSO of the day was provided by Chris in Poulton-le-Fylde, callsign 2E0MOW.
For the final two QSO’s we had some QRM to contend with when a couple of stations in Manchester jumped on the channel not knowing I was there. That can be forgiven of course. I did try a QSY ‘One Up’ but there were no further takers anyway.
All outgoing signal reports were 59 with 55’s to 59’s coming back apart from a 51 from Geoff in Annan. I expected John G0TDM today but it was a no-show, I hope he’s OK.
It was now downhill all the way but the weather took the edge off it. On the plus side I dropped out of cloud for the first time all day and a view of Grisedale Tarn in its entirety was to be enjoyed. The final walk, with brolly deployed for the first half then pressed into service as a walking stick down the steep bits, took 48 minutes and I was back climbing the ladder stile to the road at 15:38.
QSO’s on 2m-FM:
09:45: Left Dunmail Raise (240m ASL)
LD7: 11:22 to 12:39
LD22: 13:25 to 14:50
15:38 Rtn’d Dunmail Raise
Drive from/ to Portinscale: 22min
Dunmail to LD7: 1hr-37 min (net 1hr-27)
LD7 to LD22: 46min
LD22 to Dunmail: 48 min
Total time spent walking: 3hr-11 min
Summit Durations (min): 77 & 85
Total Summit time: 2hr-42min
Total time Dunmail to Dunmail: 5hr-53min
Ascent and Distance: 795m (2,608ft) ascent/ 8km (5mls)
SOTA Points: 20
From this four-summit round, traditionally done from Patterdale in late winter, I had already activated Helvellyn and St Sunday Crag in the summer so that left only Fairfield and Seat Sandal to do. I was a little unlucky with the weather, not really getting a soaking but becoming gradually more damp as the day progressed. The umbrella played its part but flexed somewhat alarmingly on the way down SS.
My last activation before this was Aonach Beag in September so I only had dog walking to keep me fit in between. Walking round home, even 5 miles a day, does little to prepare you for even moderately serious SOTA so you could say I was a little unfit, reflected in poorer times than in previous years. The decision to throw out the heavy QRO kit from the rucksack helped a lot but the weather and GPS problems took their toll on times. In the end, with only one band to put on, the day ended early and well before it got dark.
I must say it was good to be back with SOTA and chatting to people I know well and those who I met for the first time. One op said that he ‘recognized my voice but not the callsign.’ I explained about the passing of Roy G4SSH on Christmas Day 2020 and his ownership of the club calls GX0OOO and GX7OOO. GX0OOO/P is a Scarborough Special Event Group callsign I have used for SOTA since its inception in 2002. Someone else told me that he’d discovered SOTA as recently as 6 months ago and was really enjoying it. Welcome!
Derek mentioned the Anytone VHF mobile rig he’d come across and recommended it for its small size. My MT270 let me down today and I really should learn not to use it for SOTA. Once a half decent aerial is connected it pulls in more rubbish than QSO’s. I have a Sotabeams 2m filter but it wouldn’t take the 25 Watts given out by the Moonnraker, though it might just stand up to the 10W low power setting? It would seem that after 13 years the IC-E90’s BP217, 7.4V/ 1300mAh battery could do with renewing but it’ll be lucky!
Thanks to all stations worked and the spotter for today G4WHA/A Geoff plus the SOTA Spotting app. Also to the op who alerted me to an almost missed S2S. Many thanks to Martin, Angela and Dave for summit QSO’s and weather reports.
Phil G0UUU, who listened to the activation on the Nantwich web receiver while eating his fish and chips, should get a mention. You cheered me up with your text as I faced the wind and drizzle coming off Fairfield! All in all the Christmas spirit was in evidence throughout. As I type this on Christmas Day, a very happy Christmas to all.
73, John G4YSS
Photos - not pretty but for the record:
Above: Parking at Dunmail Raise
Above: Ladder stile at Dunmail Raise and the path up Raise Beck valley
Above: Raise Beck and waterfalls from under the brolly
Above: A bleak and deserted Fairfield Summit G/LD-007
Above: The path up Seat Sandal looking back to Grisedale Hause
Above: The path up Seat Sandal. One of two snow patches
Above: Activation of G/LD-022 on 2m-FM only
Above: First real view of the day. Dropping out of cloud at Grisedale Tarn
Above: The path down Seat Sandal overlooking the 574m spot height at the top of Grisedale Beck
Above: Starting the final leg into Raise Beck valley
Above: Raise Beck valley. Approaching the start point at Dunmail