G4YSS Activation Report for G/LD-008 - Blencathra on 8th June 2016
This was day-4 of our annual five-night break in the Lake District with the walking group.
(G/LD’s: Day-1 LD20; Day-2 LD23; Day-3 LD4; Day-4 LD8; Day-5 LD1)
See: G4YSS: Lakes Week 2016, G/LD20-LD23-LD4-LD8-LD1 Report Links
G/LD-008, BLENCATHRA on 160-80-60-30-20-2-4m
G4YSS using GX0OOO/P (G4YSS/P on 5MHz)
QRO on 80m & 160m-CW/SSB; 60m-SSB; 30m-CW & 20m-CW
QRP on 2m-FM & 4m-FM
All times BST (UTC + 1) UOS
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver without internal batteries
MX-P50M 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H for 2m-FM and 4m-FM
Antenna - HF:
Link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20m
Home-Brew tunable loading coils for 160m
Four section, 5m CFC mast with 1m end sticks
Antenna - VHF:
Half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m-FM
Extended set-top helical for 4m-FM
Li-Po Battery for HF (11.1V nom): 5Ah Turnigy (no reserve)
QRO Packweight: 10.9 kg including large umbrella, 0.75 litres of water & fleece with contents.
There was no set walk today owing to the fact that our walk leader David was incapacitated following a fall near Ullswater the previous day. Instead, while I elected for Blencathra, Roger and Rob were taking their wives Ruth and Chris on a walk around Buttermere. That doesn’t sound particularly remarkable until you know that Chris has been totally blind due to MS for a few years now. She has circumnavigated this lake and also Derwent Water in the past so I had no doubts about her achieving it again.
Laptop & GPS:
That morning I used my newly commissioned Windows-7 laptop to put the LD8 routes into my GPS. It had been necessary at the last minute, to spend 110 GBP on this refurbished computer because Windows-10 had been loaded onto my desktop overnight and completely without my permission. Windows-10 will run every function of Garmin Mapsource but it no longer allows communication with the old favourite GEKO-301. I keep going with this GPS because it’s small, light and simple. Incidentally, neither could I print anything from W-10. There were no drivers available for my old (4-GBP from ebay) Lexmark printer, making it necessary to splash out a further 20 GBP on a Canon.
With certain reservations, I had respect for Microsoft but I will never trust them again after this. I could have removed Windows-10 but that may easily have led to even more problems of the kind I can well do without.
Anyone seeing him hobbling around would have no doubts but the RAC needed proof that David was incapable of driving the 360 miles to Worthing. After breakfast I drove him down to the hospital in Keswick to ask them nicely to fax the RAC with the particulars. Once again he only had a short wait and soon after that the job was done.
I dropped Dave off at the B&B, taking in the sandwich shop on the way. He settled down with a wad of my old trail magazines whilst I drove to the A66 layby at NY 3390 2670 for an assault on Blencathra from Scales; starting the climb at 10:13.
Here is the route for GLD-008 from Scales layby but be aware that these waypoints were collected last year on the way down. Thus the Scales Fell waypoints in descent order are: NY 3251 2776; NY 3275 2777; NY 3291 2770 (Doddick Fell path junction); NY 3320 2788; NY 3353 2779; NY 3380 2753; NY 3434 2754 (turn right on descent; left on ascent); NY 3448 2736 (turn left on descent - right on ascent); NY 3448 2723; and the gate to the open fell at NY 3402 2682. The path/ A66 junction is at NY 3402 2677. This route takes you from LD8 to the A66 layby. Reverse it if ascending to LD8.
The climb was hot and laborious at first until a substantial rain shower cooled things down to bearable half way up. This was fended off with a large Dunlop umbrella of dubious quality but it did the job and would be called into service again more than once during the activation. I am hoping to get a Mizuno Twin canopy golf umbrella, recommended by Dave G3TQQ for my birthday but the cheap Dunlop (two for £6 from Sports Direct) sufficed for today as there was almost no wind. Weight is 545gm and when furled it measures 0.75m (top to spoke-ends excluding spike)
There is no shelter on Blencathra, not that I needed any today, so I set up on the grass about 25 metres away from the ground-level trig point, brolly within easy reach. Though there had been rain on the ascent, the grass was quite dry here which indicated very localised weather patterns. As on previous days, I hoped that the afternoon lightning would be elsewhere.
There was no wind and it didn’t take long to notice the flies - actually midges and many of them. I hadn’t brought any repellant but luckily a head net; now badly needed, was hanging from my rucksack toggle. Though not quite as vicious or tenacious as their Scottish cousins, these midges were much the same in one aspect. They are grounded in winds of more than 5 to 10 mph. In the absence of even the tiniest of air movements today and if I was to avoid locking midges inside the net with me, there was little choice but to create my own breeze. My technique is to run in circles as quickly as possible, whilst brushing the hands over face and hair to dislodge the blighters. When you judge that all is well, don the head net and tighten the neck cord quickly. Now you can stop running.
After this the antenna was erected in relative safety but without the luxury of seeing too much of what I was doing. Also the rig’s frequency display and ‘S’ meter is almost impossible to see through the green haze and the on-off requirement of spectacles can be challenging. I find that they are better worn outside the net. One last thing. When it comes to lunch, you have to remember that you are wearing it.
BLENCATHRA, G/LD-008, 868m, 8 pts, 11:31 to 15:38, 17 deg C, Zero wind, overcast with low-cloud and showers of heavy rain mixed with hail. Thunder in the distance later on. IO84LP – NY32. Orange (EE) mobile phone coverage.
3.557 CW - 7 QSO’s:
50 Watts on 80m produced QSO’s with: Roy G4SSH; G0TDM; GI4ONL; G4OBK; G4RQJ; G3RMD and GB21WM before the frequency dried up and Roy spotted the QSY to SSB. The special event station called several times without hearing me back but we made it in the end.
3.724 SSB - 9 QSO’s:
All stations were from the UK including some WAB members. Incoming reports were in the range 33 to 56 with a single 57 from G7BGA Geoff. Again 50 Watts.
With the head net in place I was mostly safe from the biting bugs but the backs of my hands were suffering. The itching and irritation was putting me off my CW and SSB for that matter. I regretted throwing the fleece gloves out of the rucksack before the holiday on evidence of hot weather.
Thence the timely arrival of two lads with north-eastern accents both armed with the answer. ‘Help yourself,’ they said, handing me a container of Scottish midge’s nemesis. I know all about Avon Skin-so-Soft and have used it on and off for well over 10 years as a bug repellant but it never goes into the rucksack when I’m doing HF-QRO due to the weight. With it ladled on I felt a bit more secure and seemed to have no further trouble. Whether it was the product or the fact that the midges didn’t like the changing weather, I couldn’t guess.
10.117.2 CW - 16 QSO’s:
There was a strange sound or maybe a QSO on 10.118 so I moved down a little. G4OOE/P was first into the 30m log with 599 both ways. Nick was on G/TW-003 which made this one of ten S2S’s that he’d worked in that one activation. Next was John G0TDM in Penrith.
Countries worked were: G; DL; HB9; PA; OK; SM; SA and TF. The last station was TF/ W4MQC (Alan) and he was operating from some peninsular (LOC: IP06LB) in what I first thought was Turkey but when I look up ‘TF’ turns out to be Iceland. I don’t work Iceland too often so that was a welcome QSO indeed. Power on 30m was 30 Watts.
1.832 CW - 1 QSO:
G4OBK was the only station that could hear me on Top Band today and I think I just caught him before he had to go out. Power was 50 Watts. Thanks again Phil!
1.843 SSB - Nil QSO’s:
Unsurprisingly, given the time of day, I had no success with 50 Watt CQ’s in SSB.
14.052.6 CW - 5 QSO`s:
This was another QSY set up via text to G4SSH. I think it was the time that SP9AMH requested 14 MHz. Stations worked with 30 Watts: SP9AMH (an apparently pleased Mariusz) and G4OOE/P (a surprising second S2S on a higher band than you’d expect to work a relatively short distance). These were followed by G0TDM; EB2CZF and OE6GND. Incoming reports from Europe were in the range 339 to 559 so propagation can’t have been too good.
5.400 SSB - 4 QSO`s:
G4YSS and USB channel ‘FE’ were used on 60m SSB but I was only able to work two stations: GI4FZD Paul in Belfast (Flex and a dipole) and MM0WWM Roy ‘two miles south of Oban.’ Signals were 58 or 59 for both, with a power of 30 Watts.
As well as midges biting my hands prior to the dose of Avon, I had to suffer heavy downpours of rain mixed with hail at intervals during the activation. Apart from minor leaks, the umbrella really came into its own and except for my boots which protruded a little, I was saved along with the equipment.
145.400 FM - 3 QSO`s:
Prior to VHF, I packed up the HF gear and moved up to the highest point. From there I worked Geoff G4WHA/A (who was monitoring 145.400 from the shop once again) and John G0TDM also in Penrith. 2E0LDF - Reg in Cockermouth called in. These were worked with 5 Watts from the IC-E90 handheld plugged into a vertical J-Pole which was supported by the bottom section of the HF mast.
70.450 FM - 2 QSO`s:
John G0TDM and Geoff G4WHA/A in Penrith were reworked on 4m using 5 Watts from the IC-E90 to an extended 2m band rubber duck. 59 reports both ways and another two QSO’s for the lately somewhat neglected 4m SOTA history.
An uneventful walk back to the car was completed by 15:26 and I was back to the B&B 20 minutes later.
HF conditions were probably a bit worse than those of the day before. The QSO count was poor but the QSO rate was poorer.
80m and 60m were the bands used to contact 'G’s but once again, they only demonstrated the potential rather than filling up the log up to any great degree. Rightly or wrongly, 40m was again avoided with 30m substituted for the Europeans.
160m CW thankfully brought one contact from the well equipped G4OBK Phil but sadly due to work commitments, I was not going to hear Mark G0VOF. With the exception of G4SSH who didn’t hear me on this occasion, anyone further afield didn’t stand much chance at that time of day.
Cooler conditions at last but it was a slow and sultry ascent at the beginning and very humid all day. I have been annoyed by insects before on LD8 and apart from the head net, had forgotten to properly prepare them again. Despite admitting to many passers by that I looked ridiculous, the head net was a real Godsend.
There was rain and hail but there were no electric shocks today. However, after more reports of people being struck, afternoon rumbles of thunder did play a big part in my decision to leave.
The two group members Roger & Rob along with their wives Ruth & Chris did make it around Buttermere OK, evidently without suffering any of the heavy rain showers which plagued Blencathra.
80m CW: 7
80m SSB: 9
30m CW: 16
160m CW: 1
160m SSB: Nil
20m CW: 5
60m SSB: 2
2m FM: 3
4m FM: 2
A66 Layby nr. Scales (215m ASL): 10:13
Blencathra summit: 11:31 to 15:38
Back to A66: 15:26
1hr-18min up/ 48 min down
Total: 7.9km/ 660m ascent
A big thank you to G4SSH for the text and telephone ‘SOTA spotting’ service. Thanks to all chasers worked and the following spotters: G4SSH; G4WHA/A; SP9AMH; G3RMD and G0RQL.
(G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GX0OOO/P.)
Above: A66 and Scales Farm from the path up. Warm sunshine and very humid.
Above: Half way up from Scales. Thankful for a short but heavy rain shower.
Above: A different type of trig point. A dry LD8 summit.
Above: LD8 HF activation looking north towards Atkinson Pike.
Above: LD8 summit activator. Ridiculous but effective!
Above: Taking no chances after precipitation static shocks on LD4 on the previous day. Ground spike by Victorinox.
Above: The only grey day in five. Looking down Halls Fell to the A66.
Above: Heavy showers with a little added hail. Bless that brolly.
Above: HF-QTH with summit behind.
Above: VHF-QTH 5m from the summit trig at the top of Halls Fell Ridge.