G4YSS: Activation of G/LD-018 & G/LD-011, Christmas Eve 24-12-18
STONY COVE PIKE & HIGH STREET on 160m & 80m CW/ SSB QRO
Unaccompanied from Hartsop Car Park
G4YSS - John, using GX0OOO/P
All times UTC
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier (80 thru 10) with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20
HB loading Coils for 160m at the 40m breaks
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po battery (95% depleted)
One Turnigy 11.1V, 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery (est 50% depleted)
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H with 1.3 Ah integral battery (not used)
2m Band Vertical J-Pole (not used)
Pocket Rig: Baofeng UV-3R, 2W, 2m/ 70cm H/H
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB Cube (not used)
Thirty six points were required for the latest milestone. Cross Fell and Burnhope Seat, scheduled for November, never came off. Incentive is reduced when you know winter bonus is imminent. Since 160m was involved, the usual route was reversed today. The reason? I would likely end up walking at least part way down the final summit in the dark and the path from LD18 to Hartsop is very steep.
For the first time in our lives we would not be doing Christmas with family, instead booking into the Derwentwater Hotel at Portinscale near Keswick for four nights (23rd to 27th December).
Both LD18 and LD11 can be accessed up the paved way in Pasture Bottom but I didn’t want use it. The route to LD18 from Hartsop car park (NY 41000 13000) and up over Hartsop Dodd is initially very steep but it is more direct and avoids two visits to Threshthwaite Mouth if LD11 is to be added later. The same goes for a Kirkstone Pass start point and you have to climb LD18 twice as well.
Cross the bridge NY 4105 1294 at the back of the car park and pass through a gate at NY 4104 1287. Follow the path up steep ground, bearing left at NY 4087 1258 then onward to NY 4055 1319 and NY 4156 1101 to the summit. For shelter there is a low wall, ruined in places. There is no trig point.
An early breakfast was booked the day before and Paul, the night porter, served me at 06:40, making a second appearance as Santa Clause the following day.
After the 21 mile, 35 minute drive from Keswick, I was walking out of Hartsop in daylight by 08:14. Always remember to shovel a few quid into the honesty box; the cash goes towards Patterdale School.
Two cars had arrived as I was preparing but all four occupants were away before me. One pair headed for High Street and the other for High Raise, the one that’s not a SOTA. It should have been nearer 8am when I left the car park but there was a false start and a return for sunglasses which could not be found. The latter are now mandatory in sunshine following the recent discovery of mild cataracts in both eyes, all part of the joys of ageing. The MWIS forecast had been for hill fog but that changed the day before from 30% to 70% cloud-free summits.
With little serious SOTA done since June, the initial section came as a bit of a shock but I was quicker than the last time I climbed LD18 this way, one advantage of cold conditions. Though frosty with a cold breeze, the day had now turned into a sunny one and that would persist uninterrupted until sunset. There was no lying snow anywhere in LD or in NP, another bonus for ease of walking.
STONY COVE PIKE, GLD-018, 763m, 6pts, 09:29 to 11:25, 1 deg.C, sunshine, SW wind 5 mph. (IO84NL, WAB: NY41, No Trig). No lying snow. Cloud-filled valleys to the SW. Vodafone coverage.
1.832 CW - 4 QSO’s:
A phone call to G4SSH helped me greatly due to Roy’s spot saying ‘QRV in 10 minutes.’ Meanwhile I set up the dipole and tuned the coils. Both Roy and Phil G4OBK had been briefed via email the evening before and I also put on two alerts.
Stations worked were the above two followed by G3RDQ David and surprisingly DJ5MW. Reports were 559/ 229 for Roy, 599/ 549 for Phil; 589/ 559 for David and for the German station 579/ 559. In fact his signal was stronger than that at times so he must have had a big station. Try as I may, I couldn’t get a report back to PA0SKP, though Sake was coming in to me at 559.
Power was 50W to the loaded 80m dipole at 5m centre height and 1m ends. This was an unexpectedly good start; not at all bad for 10:00 in the morning, more than two hours after sunrise. I wondered what SSB would bring.
1.848 SSB – 4 QSO’s:
I’d advertised 1.846 but found that 1.845 was occupied. 3kHz up was clearer. Thanks to Phil G0UUU for flagging this up on the spots page, very likely he was listening via the Nantwich on-line receiver. G4OBK returned for a quick chat and a 58/ 35 then later a 54 exchange. Phil really has made good use of reduced space at his new QTH.
Next were Nick G8VNW in the Yorkshire Dales, M3FEH Karl in Cornwall and G8ADD Brian in Brum. Reports for these were 52/ 47; 22/ 33 and 2 x 33 so it wasn’t completely straightforward. Power was 50W but by now the time was pushing 10:30am, so the last two QSO’s probably shouldn’t have worked. Whatever happened from now on, 160m had been a success.
3.557.6 CW - 8 QSO’s:
A slight adjustment was required to clear a QSO on 3.557 but as expected G4SSH found me first. Roy was patiently waiting on 3.557 with a wide filter and was 589 to me, giving my 30 Watts a 569.
I have been feeling really sorry for Roy lately. Despite his skills and devotion to the cause, over the past few weeks, he has not been getting many in the way of chaser points, mainly due to poor conditions and a dearth of HF CW activity. While walking around locally, I speak to him daily on 2m-FM for a SOTA update and on many days, apart from a couple of Swiss ops, Bruno and Juerg, there is little and sometime nothing doing. In fact, looking from Roy’s viewpoint, one could be forgiven for thinking that HB9 was keeping SOTA CW going. I’m sure things will pick up over Christmas.
After Roy, Ryedale and Scarborough stations Phil G4OBK and Nick G4OOE came in followed by Frid DL1FU; John G0TDM; Allan GW4VPX; Mike DJ5AV and David G0FVH. Band conditions were good for inter-G, typically 579 to 599 but understandably more challenging further afield, 339 from Frid and 549 from Mike. Power was 30 Watts.
3.760 - 22 QSO’s:
It was Nick G4OOE who posted the SSB QSY for me. I was reticent about using the WAB frequency in case there were mobiles out but when I got there, the temptation was too great. Just about to finish was Neil G0WPO/P on Harter Fell G/LD-028 so I called in. Neil mentioned that he’d failed to get up the road in Hardknott Pass in his 4WD vehicle because of sheet ice and had been forced to walk the length of it.
After completing an S2S Neil left me the frequency, an offer I could hardly refuse on a somewhat crowded band. So there I was, by default. I heard with some trepidation that Neil had worked 40 stations. Would I have enough battery power for the next summit? The solution was to drop down to about ten Watts but I would have been better killing the amp altogether and working with 5W direct from the FT817. Conditions would have allowed this as the band was fully open and very lively.
Stations worked: G0FEX Ken (his latest Magazine had WAB history in it and more is promised); G0BFJ Brian; EI3GYB Michael in Mayo (why do I always call him ‘Jim?’); GI0AZB Ian; G0RQL Don; G8ADD Brian; G8MIA Andy; G7AFM Phil; M3FEH Karl; G0GWY Geoff; G7LMF Graham.
Next: G1YFF Jake Nr. Cambridge in TL64; MW0XOT/P John S2H on GW/HMW-081 (HuMP); DG1NPM/P Nobby, Fauna and Flora - DL/FO5?; MM0XPZ Steve; GI0AZA Esther; M0JLA Rod; G4RQJ Rob; G6LKB Dave; G4WSB Bill and MM3PDM/M Peter. MW0IFC gave me 47 but couldn’t hear me going back. Power was initially 30W and later around 10W.
Walk to LD11:
Not something you look forward to with Threshthwaite Mouth in your way. It’s not technically difficult or demanding but the descent into it from LD18 is rocky, awkward and quite steep near the end. Just when you think you’ve reached the bottom, a further low-point reveals itself before you can commit to gaining height once more. Even then, it’s steep and the path is just loose gravel and stones.
When the gradient eventually relents, the path seems to take an unexpected dive to the right before redeeming itself and dropping you neatly off at Threshthwaite Beacon. Job done, well almost. There is still height to be gained but that is done in a more civilised manor, either along the Roman road or on grassy paths parallel to it and more directly to the summit.
Some waypoints for this section: Large cairn on SCP - NY 4187 1000; Paths merge - NY 4223 1019; NY 4245 1021 and Threshthwaite Mouth low-point - NY 4272 1029. There are choices from here but until this activation I used to go via: NY 4293 1029 and NY 4308 1016 to the beacon at NY 4313 1001. From there, head initially along the wide path at NY 4334 0996 and then NE via NY 43644 10235 (where the Mardale Bell path joins). LD11’s summit trig (TP-0693) is at NY 4410 1110 near the ruined wall.
Phil G4OBK is lately trying to raise the profile of WOTA, it having found a new enthusiastic and IT savvy leader on the form of Mark M0NOM. I promised Phil that I would stop and give a call from Threshthwaite Beacon on 2m-FM. This I did but there were no replies to my 2W handheld with rubber duck. Now I’m not even sure if this is a WOTA or HuMP but it is certainly a significant land mark and possibly nigh on 12 feet tall. There were a few people here so I hung back briefly for a chat. Two (a couple) were runners, a great way to keep warm in the gradually increasing cold wind. They beat me to LD11 by some significant margin. The journey took 70 minutes all told.
HIGH STREET, G/LD-011, 828m, 8pts. 13:05 to 15:55. Minus 1 deg C, dropping at sunset. SW wind – 15 mph. Sunny with wispy low-cloud at sunset. (IO84NL, WAB: NY41, Trig: TP-0693). No Vodafone coverage.
3.557 CW - 10 QSO’s:
Sod’s law was in operation. Why is it that the wind will usually be blowing parallel to the wall? Luckily this wall, which stands tall only in places, curves a little. A half-decent place was found a few metres from the trig point but instead of running the radio on top of the rucksack, it was removed and the pack put to my windward side in case the wind should alter direction during the activation. The spare battery (a 2.2 Ah) was made ready, as I was sure it would be needed later if only for Top Band.
With no phone coverage to let Roy know and I tried half a dozen times, the only recourse was to transmit and hope for the best. It could have been a long wait but as I remember it, I was close to the alerted time and was quickly answered by GW0TAU and after Paul was finished, Roy duly called in. The reports were 599 apart from a 559 from Roy who immediately spotted me.
There followed: John G0TDM; Phil G4OBK; Bill G4WSB; Geert PA7ZEE (229 to my 30 Watts); Mike G0HIO; Paul G4IPB, Frank G3RMD and finally Declan EI6FR. Reports sent were all 599 apart from John G0TDM who was closest to me at Penrith (579). The responses ranged from 559 to 599 with a 339 from John and a 219 from Geert as stated. Power was 30 Watts with 2.5 Watts for G4OBK and G4WSB.
3.760 - 19 QSO’s:
After an initial QSO with WAB controller Geoff G0GWY, who did a great job throughout despite a croaky voice (caused by a cold courtesy of his wife apparently), all QSO’s used 5W from my end. In fact the system was shutting down with the linear in use and I wondered how long the 5Ah (which had already done LD18 in the morning) would last. If fact with such low demand, it finished this session undaunted. However, I did wonder about my power connections or whether I’d put one series diode too many in the line to the 817.
An obviously suffering Geoff ably ran me down the list, a mix of SOTA, WAB and indeed Trig Point collectors. On the down side, I was still in NY41, the same as in the morning but close enough to the trig for it to count.
Stations worked: G1YFF Jake; Ken G0FEX; Brian G0BFJ; Craig 2E0SCG; Peter MM3PDM/P; Tony G3XKT; Andrew G4AFI; Esther & Ian GI0AZA/ GI0AZB; Bob G4PDF; Don G0RQL; Tom G0FGI; Paul G4IPB and Neil G0WPO/P S2S on Hard Knott G/LD-034.
Continuing with check-ins: John G0TDM; Geoff GM4WHA at home in Annan and not at work for a change; Karl M3FEH and Steve in Greenoch MM0XPZ. Nigel GJ7LJJ failed to hear my report. I tried the linear but the system just cut out again and there wasn’t time to swap the battery.
The timing beeps were there but the otherwise clear frequency and great propagation allowed 5 Watts to do the job without too much trouble.
1.832 CW - 9 QSO’s:
With a fresh battery and the power at 50 Watts, I managed to work: Roy G4SSH; Rob G4RQJ; Frank G3RMD; Phil G4OBK; Mike DJ5AV; Geert PA7ZEE; Sake PA0SKP; Don G0NES and Paul G4IPB.
Roy and Rob got a bit mixed together. I first heard Roy and called him in. My report for Roy was QSL’d by Rob who gave me a report. In the end I had them both in the log. It serves me right. This was a clear case of when NOT to use names in noise and QSB. I chuckled to myself and carried on; it was all part of the enjoyment of radio.
It really wasn’t close enough to sunset when I started and I would hesitate to say this was easy; the nine QSO’s spanning 25 minutes. One has to give the chasers the best chance possible by sending their callsign several times, adding their name if it’s known and sometimes by going back many times. When chasers really struggle, as they often do on Top Band, any tiny clue as to who the activator is calling or in QSO with is a lifeline to grasp at.
On many occasions, the activator’s signal will be deep in noise and the chaser’s only chance is that brief QSB peak, a tenuous clue and the report if it comes several times. No, I’m no chaser, I simply wouldn’t survive!! However, I know a chaser of long experience (G4SSH) and know what he describes and how difficult it is. All the respect here is for the beleaguered chasers, surrounded by a wall of noise, whilst the activator can generally hear a pin drop. It’s a good case for QRO, certainly on 160m.
1.845.5 SSB - 3 QSO’s:
Last gasp of the day – SSB. There was a QSO going on above so I squeezed in between that and an awful lot of squeaking, which is something I came across about a year ago on this part of the spectrum. It seems to be spreading to the right somewhat which is why I had to stop using 1.843. On this occasion, every time I asked ‘Is this frequency in use please,’ There came a deafening screech in my headphones. I could have gone above 1.850 but on the one hand, the chasers might not have found me there and on the other, I would not be able to use 50 Watts.
I often work as many if not more stations on SSB than on 160m CW but not today. With 50 Watts to the loaded dipole I logged Karl M3FEH (53/ 44); Paul G4IPB (2 x 58) and Phil G4OBK (59/ 45). Several CQ’s brought nothing further.
The 2.2 Ah reserve battery, inserted into a rucksack side pocket as a bit of insurance, had been essential but even so the rig shut down once on a voice peak.
Who said it was dying? This particular High Street was at the end of a busy day but the now deserted summit was fast becoming a bleak place. Wind speeds had increased during the day and were now approaching the 15 to 20 mph mark. Not fast but at minus 2C and falling, certainly the start of wind chill, especially when the odd patch of freezing cloud blew across. Time to go. From QRT, a bite to eat, a drink of fast freezing water which caused a temporary headache, packing up and rigging up the MP3 player took 17 minutes until 15:55 which was 5 minutes after sunset.
No stranger to dark mountain walking in winter, I knew it would have to be faced again today. The route would be deserted and nobody would be coming this way until the next day. At least it wasn’t foggy and a good job too. The replacement footbridge over Hayswater Gill would have to be found on the way down and it would be dark by then. The crossing is no longer near the dam, which is now removed (so that Hayswater could return to a natural Lakeland tarn) but around 300m further downstream. If I missed it, I would possibly be committed to pathless walking along a steep stream bank. I didn’t have advanced knowledge of the fording possibilities and couldn’t assume anything.
All was well until I got past The Knott. Following the GPS but maybe not too attentively, I found myself suddenly in the wrong place with the arrow imploring me to go left a couple of hundred metres. I must have somehow got onto the path that goes eventually to Place Fell LD27 or so I though, a way I have used in the past to put on LD27 and LD11 but that was in June in full daylight. After crossing the grass which fortunately wasn’t too rough, I found a quad track which led me neatly down via NY 4280 1270 to the footbridge at NY 4267 1276 and onto the old reservoir track which goes back down to Hartsop.
Happy now and unable to go wrong it was just a case of following the headlamp beam, avoiding the ice and crossing a further bridge at NY 4167 1290, which is smooth sheet steel and was coated with ice at the time. Seeing the car is always a pleasure after a SOTA expedition, especially in winter but it took a while to defrost the windows after arrival at 16:55.
The 21 miles drive back to the Hotel near Keswick took 35 minutes to 17:43, where a hot bath and evening meal awaited.
All in all this had been a successful activation day which brought me 20 points nearer to my goal. Top Band met expectations in the afternoon and exceeded them mid morning. 80m was magnificent around the UK both am and pm and it gave PA and DL stations a fighting chance too, depending on their noise levels. Both times the WAB frequency delivered the most contacts and Geoff’s control in the afternoon removed some pressure from a shivering op.
I wish I could have used either 40m and/ or 20m but at my speed of working, I would have been still there at 7pm. As it was the last half of the descent of LD11 was done with the aid of a headlamp while trying to locate the new footbridge, never crossed before. When the dam was there, the footbridge was adjacent to it. I dare say fording there is a possibility, in fact I’m sure I did it last time but you never know what the water level will be. Looking from The Knott, Hayswater looked much the same as it did when it was a reservoir, albeit the water was a little further down the banks.
A further 16 points are still required. Perhaps Boxing Day?
08:14: Left Hartsop
09:29 to 11:55: LD18 summit
13:05 to 15:55: LD11 summit
16:55: Arr. Hartsop
Driving: 2 x 21 miles
Car to LD18: 1hr-15min
LD18 to LD11: 1hr-10min
LD11 to Car: 1hr.
Summit time LD18: 2hr-26min
Summit time LD11: 2hr-50min
Total ascent 838m (2,750ft) with 14.4km (8.3 miles) walked
Thanks to all stations worked and to spotters: G4SSH; G4OBK; G0UUU; G4OOE; M3FEH and EI6FR. Thanks to Geoff G0GWY for WAB control on 3.760 in the afternoon. Thanks to Roy G4SSH and Phil G0OBK for responding to emails and to Roy for spots in response to a phone call from LD18.
Congratulations to Karl M3FEH on attaining 2E status. 50 Watts here we come!
(G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GX0OOO/P)
Above: Hartsop Car Park just before dawn. Patterdale School appeal
Above: Steep section just out of Hartsop towards Hartsop Dodd. Not properly light yet
Above: Path by the wall. Stony Cove Pike LD18 ahead
Above: Activation of G/LD-018 on 160m & 80m
Above: Looking SSW. An inversion. The cloud over Windermere didn’t shift all day.
Above: Looking West. Great Gable G/LD-005 shows itself right of centre
Above: Looking down LD18 towards Threshthwaite Mouth and beacon
Above: A little closer to Threshthwaite Mouth
Above: Looking back over Threshthwaite Mouth towards LD18
Above: Threshthwaite Beacon
Above: The Roman road High Street or at least it’s close to this modern track. High Street is the name of the road. LD11 is really called ‘Racecourse Hill’.
Above: Summit of High Street or is it Racecourse Hill? We know it as G/LD-011
Above: Trig plate LD11
Above: Activation of G/LD-011 on 160m & 80m
Above: Activation of G/LD-011
Above: G/LD-011 three minutes prior to sunset
Above: The footbridge over Hayswater Gill at NY 42667 12757