G4YSS: Activation of G/LD-009, GRASMOOR 07-06-21
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-009, GRASMOOR on 2m-FM QRP, using G4YSS
Accompanied by David Barnes – Walking Group Leader
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
Pack-weight: 8kg (17.6 lbs) Inc 0.5ltr fluids.
This was the first 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. (For more details refer to LD8 Blencathra report G4YSS 08-06-21 G4YSS:G/LD-008 70cm &160m,Evg.08-06-21).
David announced that today’s target would be Grasmoor and that the walking ‘group’ would consist of just me and him; Rob saying that he was not up to a walk of that ascent and distance. SOTA points were in the offing but it was to be a new route borrowed from Lakeland Walker Magazine.
As always David had made a laminated map with photos and a full description. The start point was to be Cinderdale/ Rannerdale, next to Crummock Water and the weather forecast was good. This report is more about what went wrong than what went right concerning the radio part of it.
Park in the southern car park at NY 1625 1927, both are free. Ford the stream at NY 16291 1927 and proceed up the fell at Lad Hows on a grassy path via NY 1675 1943; NY 1720 1930; NY 1779 1980 where you bear left (north) continuing up a rocky path via NY 1781 2001 and NY 1779 2019 to join the summit path at NY 1770 2029. From there it’s just 200m to the summit shelter at NY 1749 2035.
The retreat was via the 722m spot height, just west of Crag Hill, Whiteless Pike and Rannerdale as follows: Walk to the east end of Grasmoor, over the minor 827m summit at NY 1823 2026 and down to the 722m spot height at NY 1860 2018 where you turn right (SSW). Follow the path down then uphill through NY 18330 1953, past a cairn and then downhill along Whiteless Edge and up to Whiteless Pike at NY 1801 1896. Continue down SSE to bear right at NY 1811 1823 and then to turn right (WNW) at NY 1795 1779. Head down Rannerdale beside Squat Beck via NY 1755 1808 to cross the footbridge at NY 1688 1862, and walk back to the car via NY 1653 1894.
Using the B&B Wi-Fi, I managed an alert for 12:00 UTC. We took my XYL’s car, which got us to the Cinderdale car park NY 1625 1927 at 09:40. Leaving at 10:03 we made our way slowly upward, me in shirt sleeves as it was already quite warm. Neither of us had much in the way of ascent under our belts over the past year of Covid restrictions. David’s year was spent dealing daily with a weed infested allotment and my activity had been the afternoon dog walks; mostly on the flat but sometimes up to 55 miles a week if the weather was cold enough. Neither of these activities prepares you very well for mountain walking, so we didn’t rush.
High on the hill at NY 1779 1981, David suggested I went ahead to set up the station. I left him at 11:24, reaching the summit by 11:47 . I had everything set up and ready to go when David arrived at 12:03. Nothing to do with David but this was when the trouble started.
GRASMOOR, G/LD-009, 852m ASL, 8Pts, 11:47 to 12:59 . 13 deg.C, 5 mph wind. High cloud with intermittent sun. LOC: IO84IN, WAB: NY12. No trig. Good Vodafone coverage.
70.450 FM – 0 QSO’s:
The first thing I did on arrival was to try 4m-FM with the IC-E90 equipped with 2m-band rubber duck extended for 4m. With nothing doing I stood the rig on my rucksack just in case someone should call ‘CQ4.’
What I should have done next was to find my reading glasses amongst all the other ‘bric-a-brac’ in my fleece pocket but time was of the essence and I was only doing a simple VHF QRP activation. With no multi-band/ mode HF; I might only get half a dozen contacts and be away in 15 minutes. Surely I could manage without specs to write those few in the log but this omission would presently contribute to a classic case of ‘more haste, less speed.’
145.550 FM – 16 QSO’s (Eventually!)
With the IC-E90 monitoring 4m-FM, I thought I would try out my UV-5R/ Sotabeams 2m-band filter combination. The antenna was the usual home-brew J-Pole on a short 2-section mast and I sat down on flat ground some 30m east from the shelter.
There were no channels in use, least of all the one I was going to use but I checked it as usual. With the band apparently dead I was relieved to have alerted the activation earlier. Using 5W or a bit less through the filter, I called CQ on ‘my’ frequency of 145.550 and also on 145.500 but nobody came back.
After 5 or 10 minutes going back and forth like this with not a squeak, I began to worry that this could be my first ever SOTA in all the 19 years, to go unqualified. I checked the AF gain - OK. I couldn’t stay all day hoping for contacts because I was technically in a walking group albeit only a group of two. David was sitting in the shelter wearing all the clothes he had with him, explaining to two middle-aged ladies about just what I 'did for a living’ on mountaintops.
A further 10 minutes passed and by now I was pleading with the usual line, ‘I climbed up here, please give me the four contacts needed to qualify this summit.’ Not so much as a burst of noise! Nothing. Zilch! Was it the hitherto untried filter perhaps? I removed it. No different. Could it be the rig? After all it only cost twenty quid and maybe the transmitter PA had gone pop. I tried a self spot but it didn’t help. Then another with ‘Nil Heard here’ in the comments. No effect.
By now, still convinced that there was nobody around to hear me, I accepted that this would be a non-qualification. Last week had been bank holiday week – busy on the bands I guessed but now it was just another mundane Monday. All the ops bar none were either having a break from radio or were back at work. Should I try the only other option of 70cm? No, if 2m had gone on strike, that would be even deader. Oh how I wished I’d brought HF!
The Band Awakens!
Disconnecting it and substituting the IC-E90, I laid the Chinese rig down on the ground. Calling CQ for the umpteenth time but now on the other radio, it was interesting to note that my own voice was coming out of the speaker of the apparently dead rig! OK, so it’s not completely broken, it’s just gone deaf. As soon as I released the PTT there was a deafening roar of callers all on top of one another coming out of the trusty ICOM speaker. Despite the lack of spectacles, I could see the big signal meter on this rig shooting across the scale and threatening to punch a hole through the side. Phew! What a relief, I was going to qualify after all.
It was then that I was told that the World and his dog for miles around Grasmoor had been calling me for 20 minutes to tell me to turn up the volume. Someone said he’d even emailed me in the hope I’d pick up his message on my phone. ‘WE CAN HEAR YOU!!’ I hadn’t of course but this all made painful listening. I looked for a deep crack in the ground but it was only short grass and gravel. All I could do was apologise and try to forget it by proceeding with the activation ASAP but I didn’t know what had gone wrong until that evening (See ‘Comments’).
At least there was one advantage to this, like a slow tractor collecting a procession of impatient car drivers, the ‘warm-up comedian’ now had a stream of chasers all ready to work. Frustrated chasers, chasers who’d missed their lunch, chasers with little hair left but high-value chasers nonetheless.
There were a few more comments and some offerings of ‘sorry’ from me but I soon had plenty in the log. What a nice lot of people amateurs are. Despite my efforts at blocking up the calling channel in three or four UK countries plus IOM and Eire, for what must have seemed like an age, nobody was in the least bit rude.
In the log (at long last!):
G0TDM John in Penrith; GM5BDX/P Barry S2S on GM/SS-016 Beinn Narnain; G4WHA/M - Geoff outside work in Carlisle and GI4SZW Seamus in Newry.
Moving on: G1OHH Sue in Lancaster; GI4KSO/P Darrell S2S on GI/MM-005 Slieve Meelbeg; G1OAE Tony at Seaton; G4ZRP Brian – The Wirral; 2E0XUP Steve in Maryport (thanks for the email Steve) and G0ORO/M Dennis in the hospital car park.
The two ladies had left the shelter by now and David came over to find out what the delay was. I didn’t have the courage to give him a straight answer at that juncture but did reassure him I wouldn’t be too much longer. His teeth were not actually chattering but from his stance I could see that he was obviously quite cold.
The last few: GW4ZPL John - Caernarfon; EI3ISB John in Dublin; GD4SVD Tony in Onchan (nr. Douglas); M7BUY Kevin - Workington; G6LKB Dave in Ulverston and finally MW0CHZ David in Caernarfon.
Five reports on my signal were 59 with one ‘plus 60dB’ but there were 33 reports from Carlisle, Dublin and Ulverston. The remainder ranged from 51 to 57. The session took half an hour if you discount the 20 minutes of what eventually turned out to be stupidity on my part.
Not actually a descent just yet but it was time to proceed with the round. Walking along the top of big, flat Grasmoor in hazy sunshine with good viz and a cool breeze was a pleasant experience making wayfinding easy. David soon warmed up again and we met plenty of like-minded people on the way. There is some re-ascent required to access Whiteless Pike but after that it’s almost all downhill.
Rannerdale with Squat Beck flowing down it turned out to be a pretty place with small trees, bushes and bluebells lower down, though they were past their best. For some reason we went straight on instead of crossing the bridge at Dale How but corrected it, reaching the car at 15:10.
Considered just as a walk this was a good day. There were good paths all the way round with warm weather and no rain or low-cloud. David made a good choice when he picked it.
In 2015 I made the mistake of climbing Grasmoor from Cinderdale but instead of going up ‘David’s way’ (Lad Hows) I took the path straight up the front of Grasmoor via Fall Crag and Red Gill. It’s far too steep to be efficient and higher up, little better than walking up a scree shoot. I will not be going that way ever again and that day I came back down today’s ascent route.
After the time delay caused by a dead band that wasn’t, the activation was necessarily briefer than I would have preferred. I do quite like a chat on voice, especially VHF but we needed to move on. For instance Dennis G0ORO is a SOTA chaser who goes back a very long way but there was no time for a brief catchup.
It was good to hear the two dependables, John G0TDM and Geoff G4WHA/M again though John tells me that his radio hobby has been curtailed somewhat since his op and not being able to get up to the loft as well. Geoff now works in Carlisle and not Penrith and he has to work harder to log SOTA stations from there, sometimes using a 70cm link to his car setup on 2m, necessity being the mother of invention.
There were several regulars including Sue G1OHH, Brian G4ZRP, Dave G6LKB plus others I don’t work quite so often. All in all the log looked more than satisfactory as in it were G, GI, GM, GD, GW and EI plus two S2S’s that I didn’t expect on a Monday; one GI and one GM. As for the GM, Barry was on a mountain – Beinn Narnain - I instantly recognised, having myself done the Cobbler which is next door to it, last year. Barry told me that he was off to The Cobbler next. That’s quite a ‘workup’ for summer, presumably from Succouth.
What about the radio debacle you might ask?
Please bear with me (or skip this bit). It’s a long story. This goes back over a year. My friend Roy G4SSH – a very well known and successful CW only SOTA chaser - became house bound after a fall in November 2019. He was banned by his daughter (wisely) from going upstairs to the shack so I loaned him my UV-5R H/H and sat it in its charger beside his living room chair. This was so I could continue to contact him on my daily dog walks round and about. It worked a few times then he never came back. ‘Didn’t you hear me Roy?’ ‘Oh, sorry John, I switched it off as it kept making a terrible noise.’ After that, I used to call round his house instead.
Fast forward many months and he is now a resident at Briar Dene Retirement Home in Scarborough. I still went round to see him every Tuesday as I had done since 1983. I tried to persuade him that he should be on the air again any way he could but he kept putting it off. Over and over I asked if I could bring some gear down but he seemed reticent, possibly afraid of causing interference or making noise? There was always a reason of some sort, ‘Yes OK but wait until we’ve moved into the new building’ was one such.
‘What about borrowing my handheld again?’ ‘No, I’d better not.’ I got it ready anyway and with the evidence from before, I had the bright idea of setting a CTCSS RX tone of 88.5Hz on it and adding the same TX code on all of my handhelds. That way the squelch might just stay closed when the noise bursts came along.
The rig stood in the corner of my conservatory along with an indoor J-Pole in case he should relent and want me to bring it down. Knowing that things don’t always come back when you take them to a nursing home, I bought another UV-5R for myself and forgot all about it but then came Covid and I was banned from visiting anyway.
Eventually I took all his HF kit down there instead and an indoor dipole I made for 20m. There were full instructions for the staff on how to erect it but due to workload caused by Covid, it never happened and then of course Roy died on Christmas Day last. That UV-5R has never been used since and I clean forgot about the RX code.
With the code duly cancelled, I used the rig for the rest of Lakes week without any problems but I did get asked about it almost every day. Two things are explained though:
The ‘dead’ UV-5R thrown on the ground in disgust, coming to life when I was using the spare handy. I was transmitting the tone of course. I likely won’t have occasion to but I will never set an RX CTCSS tone on a rig again without adding a big red label!
Yes and the spectacles left tangled up in my pocket. Had they been in front of my eyes I might just have seen the tiny mobile phone type ‘S’ meter moving to the responses.
So that’s the sad and sorry saga which led to my embarrassment on Grasmoor but I am absolutely certain about one thing. Roy would have laughed his socks off at this one and I would have received gentle reminders for the foreseeable future; had there been one. Let’s hope Roy reads this wherever he is and has a good chuckle at my expense. I don’t mind.
16 on 2m-FM
10:03: Left Cinderdale
11:47 to 12:59: Grasmoor summit
15:10: Arr. back at car
Ascent 807m (2,648ft) / Distance 9.2km (5.8miles)
1hr-44min up, 2hr-11min down
Summit time: 72min
Thanks to all stations worked and to any spotters? To David Barnes for organizing a really nice walk with the bonus of tea and cakes at Buttermere Cafe afterwards. I call that civilised SOTA. Amongst hundreds of solo activations, it’s good to have a companion now and again and it does seem to make the job a little easier.
Finally my sincere apologies to the chasers who had to suffer twenty minutes of – well, I can’t find a word to describe it!
Above: Starting up. Crummock Water
Above: The first part of the path. Crummock Water
Above: The up to Lad Hows
Above: David on the Lad Hows path
Above: Looking across at the 2015 approach; the steep slope on the right. Won’t be doing that again!
Above: The path gets rockier as you climb higher
Above: Going ahead to set up. David below.
Above: Final approach to the summit of G/LD-009
Above: The vast top of Grasmoor. Plenty of room for your VLF dipole?
Above: Slightly hazy view over Crummock Water and Buttermere
Above: A cold David and the summit shelter
Above: The only photo that remotely represents the activation. Packing up. UV-5R in poly bag takes the blame (for now at least).
Above: Descending Wandope Moss on the way to Whiteless Pike. I would discover later that I, not the UV-5R was the ‘one dope’.
Above: Half way down to Whiteless Pike. Cairn marked on map at NY 1833 1953
Above: Looking back at Whiteless Pike and David removing coat.
Above: Coming down Whiteless Pike towards the Squat Beck turn-off.
Above: Rannerdale (Squat Beck)
Above: Gate to the foot bridge over Squat Beck in Rannerdale
Above: Foot bridge over Squat Beck in Rannerdale
Above: Rannerdale and the prettiest part of the walk
Above: Squat Beck and Rannerdale bluebells - past their best
Above: The final few hundred metres