G4YSS: G/LD’s 3-22-7-10 + G4OOE,14-03-11

G4YSS Activation Report, G4YSS / G4OOE Joint Actv’n on 14-03-11:

SOTA’s: G/LD-003, G/LD-022, G/LD-007 & G/LD-010.

G4OOE (Nick) using his own call.
G4YSS (John) using SSEG Clubcall GX0OOO/P.

Times: UTC.
Mobile phone coverage on all tops except LD7 - Orange network. (This information - Sept 2010, my phone was faulty today).

EQUIPMENT - inc Batteries & RF power:
IC706-2G. Adjustable dipole, 5m mast, 160m loading coils (at halfway points in each leg)
Battery power: One 13.2 Ah Li-Po covered GX0OOO & G4OOE on LD3, LD22 & GX0OOO 160m on LD7 and was 66% depleted. (LD10 was VHF H/H only).
Powers: 160m CW from LD3,22 & 7 - 100W. 80m CW & SSB from LD3 – 30W & LD22 – 50W.
One 9.0 Ah Li-Po reserve battery. (Not used).
IC-E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with extended ‘duck’ and 7.4V /1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery.
One 2.2 Ah Li-Po reserve battery for IC-E90. (Not used).
QRO pack: 13.5 kg (29.7 pounds).

After a few months of SOTA chasing, Nick who lives here in Scarborough has been ‘testing the water’ of activating recently and has found a very real enthusiasm. His experiences hitherto have involved a joint activation with HB9BAB on Juerg’s local summit in Switzerland followed by a couple of 1-pointers in North Yorkshire with his XYL Eva. Although he thoroughly enjoyed these introductions to activating, Nick wanted to extend his capabilities to something more ambitious and had asked me a while ago whether he & I could do a joint activation.

Further background information regarding the intricacies of activating was also needed. Once these two things had been dealt with, his hope was to become sufficiently confident to graduate firstly to some of the intermediate summits before perhaps moving on to bigger mountains. It was easy to supply plenty of information such as clothing recommendations, equipment lists, weights and types, in addition to activation tips etc but there is nothing like practical experience.

It was now a question of which mountain(s) to activate. I think Nick had in mind one or two of the three peaks of Yorkshire but this is traditionally the time of year when the evil day looms and there is no longer any winter bonus. The need to grab some is uppermost in the minds of many an activator. It’s a bit like the final day of Boyes Sale.

Over the years, I have enjoyed activating this round firstly with 2m FM equipment and later on HF using either QRP or QRO. Very often this has been in early to mid March when much of the snow has gone and there is a reasonable amount of daylight. First up is Helvellyn via either Striding or Swirral Edges. The first one is more interesting but can take more time. Swirral can have its excitements but is generally the quicker option.

The ‘baby’ of the group, the six-point Seat Sandal stands next in line followed by Fairfield and if you’ve still got some energy, St.Sunday Crag completes the SOTA round. That’s LD3, 22, 7 & 10 and it’s an irresistible bargain at 44 points in winter, which certainly makes the effort worthwhile.

One big advantage of this round is that there are good escape routes at every juncture. You are more or less committed to climbing Helvellyn unless you simply turn back but any or all of the next three SOTAs can be bypassed or abandoned altogether. I’d had doubts about dropping Nick in this deep but the above was one of the factors that persuaded me that it was not quite as over ambitious as it might first appear.

When I put this proposal to Nick, pointing out the required ascent of almost 5000 feet and the 12 miles covered, I half expected him to flinch. On the contrary he seemed excited at the prospect of increasing his activator total steeply upwards from 3 points. Our walk had been planned for a week or so by now and we’d been forced to postpone it in the face of bad WX forecasts. Last year I felt that I couldn’t stomach QRO HF on this round, going instead for QRP which meant that 160m was more or less out of the question. This time I had a couple of multi-SOTA activation days behind me and a month-long sore throat had finally gone away. QRO and the associated heavy pack it was then but we could only take one HF set & and a couple of handhelds between us.

Nick is a CW professional of 45 year’s standing so it would make sense for him to do some Morse. Initially we thought that might be on 40m but gradually it became obvious that we would have to tailor the radio to fit the demands of the expedition. We would have one HF station and our handhelds. Certainly, I wanted to put 160m on so why not ask Nick to do 80m CW followed by 80m SSB? While that was going on, I could busy myself with 4m & 2m FM provided that crosstalk didn’t preclude it. Nick just wanted to qualify however it happened but with any luck the activation might be shortened by having two ops semi overlapping time wise.

Nick arrived at my house early and we left Scarborough at 02:57, arriving at the Patterdale Hotel Pay & Display car park (NY 3960 1593 - £3.50) by 05:57. This was the second time I have used this car park. Parking up the lane which runs from the main road to the start of the path to the Hole-in-the-Wall is now banned unless I can find some way around it. The change adds an extra mile and 100 feet of ascent to the round but we traded some of the extra ascent for distance this time by using the road on the way up.

After deciding that Nick’s rucksack, which purports to have a 25 litre capacity was much too small, he transferred his gear to his larger one. I handed Nick a GPS, the spare Li-Po battery (9Ah), logsheets/ backing board, electrolyte powder, sit-mat/ map case, a hand warmer, some miniature headphones and finally 500ml of drinks to carry for me. Nick carried his VX7 Handheld and I carried the HF station albeit with a larger battery and my IC-E90; pretty much the normal weight for me. Following a double check of everything and some pre-hydrating, we were underway in daylight, a bit later than scheduled, at 06:21.

Even if it meant a delayed activation, the climb up to the Hole in the Wall was not a thing I wanted to rush as we had a long way to go today. Nick was making steady progress as he marvelled at the views on what had now become a sunny morning without a single cloud, high or low. The frosted flanks of Nethermost & Dollywaggon Pikes looked magnificent against a blue sky. It was one of those days when you’re glad to be alive.

After some man-made stone steps Nick climbed over the ladder stile which leads to Swirral Edge. Reaching for the camera was pure impulse; a stunning Helvellyn complete with a blindingly white cap, was revealed to us in full. The flat section to Red Tarn made a welcome change but I phoned Roy G4SSH to say we’d be an hour later than the alerted Top Band QRV time of 08:30.

Looking up at our intended route we could see that Swirral Edge had at least a little snow on it but there seemed to be plenty of rocks sticking through. I hoped we’d have an easy passage but it was not to be that simple. The first stage is a narrow but easy path and this had snow on it with what looked like fox tracks.

Higher up, the route seems to split with a few choices and it was here that we realised that the skim of light snow was hiding more compacted snow beneath which was now ice. This wasn’t the worst kind of ice, there was grip to be had but care would be required. I tried to scout ahead for the best route kicking steps all the way. I had expected a myriad of footprints and an easy passage but apart from the odd boot print here and slide mark there, it looked like traffic had been low volume. Perhaps the two fatalities there in December when snow and ice had been right down the mountain (Second death in fall on Helvellyn in Lake District - BBC News) had put people off. At least today the snow line was high, meaning that if a slide did occur, it would be for a short distance only.

We pressed on but at a snail’s pace looking for the best holds. After overcoming one or two problems we found ourselves at the very final section which is a short plain pitch. I have been up it on snow at least three times before but the care we had been forced to exercise lower down today had caused some apprehension. In the event it wasn’t all that difficult. The surface was still offering some grip but just to be sure we installed a neat set of steps using a sharp stone I’d pocketed lower down and my boots. ‘There you are Nick, ‘Helvellyn.’ He looked mightily relieved but at the same time excited to have attained the summit.

Out came the cameras again for the summit photos. Nick was visibly elated. Great Gable looked terrific over to the west and the curve of Helvellyn’s eastern cornice, albeit non-overhanging but with Red Tarn and Striding Edge as a backdrop, was impressive. Our time at the trig point was 09:44. We then made our way to the shelter which conveniently had snow drifts in it; just right for the mast. The end sticks had to be persuaded into the frozen shale or wedged with rocks. Since there was almost no wind a ‘shaky’ setup could be tolerated.

Though my Orange mobile was OK on LD3 last year and had worked at Red Tarn today, neither of our phones worked from the shelter. This was confirmed by a visiting walker. Unbeknown to me, my phone had decided to lock-up which meant that I would not have this facility for most of the day; in fact it wasn’t until after I left the 4th summit that the problem was sorted. For many hours, I thought it was just a coverage problem. What I should have done was to get my standby phone out of the rucksack to establish comms with G4SSH but there are many other things to think about.

  1. HELVELLYN, G/LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 09:44 to 11:11. Wind 3 mph, minus 1 deg C, Sunshine & blue skies. LOC: IO84LM, WAB: NY31. GX0OOO/P & G4OOE/P.

1.832 CW / GX0OOO/P - 4 QSO’s:
Stations worked between 10:05 & 10:11 on 160 were: G4RQJ, G3WPF, G0TDM and G4SSH. The response to 100 Watts ranged from 229 to 579. Thanks to everyone who were patiently awaiting our arrival and apologies to those who had to go to work prior to it or couldn’t get in because of a developing D-Layer.

3.557 CW / GX0OOO/P - 1 QSO:
After working Roy G4SSH on here using about 30W at 10:20, I QRT’d GX0OOO/P and handed over to Nick G4OOE to handle all further 80m QSO’s including CW and SSB. What did surprise me was that Nick, accustomed to the very best of CW sending apparatus, took to my microphone-mounted miniature spring-loaded toggle switch like he’d been using it for months!

(Nick G4OOE made 11 CW contacts from this summit on 3.557 MHz from 10:25z.
Please refer to Nick’s log.)

3.724 SSB / GX0OOO/P - 0 QSO’s:
(Nick G4OOE made 5 SSB contacts from this summit on 3.724 MHz from 10:49z.
Please refer to Nick’s log.)

70.425 FM / GX0OOO/P - 5 QSO’s.
Stations worked following a CQ on 70.450 at 10:24 were as follows: G4BLH, G6LKB, G4WHA/M, G0TDM & G6CRV. 0.5 Watts from the IC-E90 with integral battery to an extended rubber duck and counterpoise from the highest point cairn were the 4m working conditions.

145.400 FM / GX0OOO/P - 13 QSO’s:
The setup here was 0.5 Watts to a vertical J-fed half wave on its own mast stuck into snow at the highest point of the hill. John G0TDM was first to pick up the CQ and the final QSO was with Brian GW8ADD in a car park prior to his activation of GW/NW-047. In between were mostly regular chasers.

It came as a surprise that despite minimal separation of about 30m (op to op) no crosstalk occurred between HF & VHF. That was also the case from LD22 later on.

The QSO sub-total for this hill involving GX0OOO/P (G4YSS) was 23.
The QSO sub-total for this hill involving G4OOE/P was 16.
(Please refer to G4OOE, Nick’s log / report.)
Total QSO’s for LD3: 39.

With HF and VHF stations packed into the rucksack and Nick suddenly declaring ‘Wow, I’ve just got 13 points’, we took off for Seat Sandal. After a few metres we delayed briefly to photograph the commemorative plaque which gives details of the aircraft which landed on the summit in December 1926. This was an Avro 585 Gosport based at Woodford and it was ‘The first aircraft to land on a mountain in Great Britain.’ After a short stay, it took off again. I always marvel at the skill and bravado that this feat must have involved on this narrow, inclined surface with a serious drop on one side.

The walk was pleasant in sunshine along the well defined gravely path and the views were spectacular. Once again I was fooled and despite GPS, took the wrong path; the one which heads down to the Church at Thirlmere. After realising the error, we quickly regained the proper path with a little cross country walking and no height was sacrificed.

Varying the route to cut out Dollywaggon Pike, by leaving the path at NY 3434 1320 and going cross-country past rock fields, a stream and over grass at NY 3418 1262, saves valuable time and ascent. However nothing comes free and the ground is steep, pathless, tussocky and further down; quite boggy. From the 574m col at NY 3438 1208 where stand old steel fence posts, Seat Sandal can be climbed quite quickly by means of a narrow path to the left hand side of a derelict wall.

Once Nick was established on this short-cut and we had the target firmly in sight, I went ahead to start the activation. I advised him to go very slowly because, like William last September, he was suffering due to the uneven surface.

  1. SEAT SANDAL, G/LD-022, 736m, 6 pts, 12:31 to 13:48. 2 deg C. Sunshine. 10 mph wind. A grassy top with a wall, cairn & good views over Grasmere. LOC: IO84LL. WAB: NY31. GX0OOO/P & G4OOE/P.

1.832 CW / GX0OOO/P - 5 QSO’s:
Stations worked between 12:45 and 12:56 on 160 were: G0TDM, G4RQJ, G4SSH, G0NUP and G3WPF. 100 Watts were used for all contacts with incoming reports ranging from 229 to 559. As on LD3, there was again no sign of Mike EI2CL but I knew that Phil G4OBK was unavailable today. I could plainly hear both G0NES and G3RMD calling at about 339 & 559 respectively in QSB but no QSO resulted. Nevertheless, I was pleased with 5 QSO’s at this time of day.

Nick arrived at approx 13:05 and he sounded tired. His first words were, ‘Hi John, I propose to go back to the car and leave you to carry on. I felt suddenly responsible for getting him into this situation. Maybe he would recover sufficiently during this activation to do one of the two SOTAs ahead?

We were halfway round the 12 mile circuit and had climbed roughly 3500 feet from a total of almost 5000, thus far earning 22 of the 44 points on offer. He sat down to prepare his log and had something to eat and drink along with some of the electrolyte powder. He certainly looked better after that. Would he be OK for the next two summits after all?

3.557 CW / GX0OOO/P - 4 QSO’s:
After working Roy G4SSH on here using about 50W at 13:03, stations G0NUP, EI2CL, and G0NES followed. At 13:10, I QRT’d and handed over to Nick G4OOE who again worked all further 80m QSO’s including CW and SSB, using the same 50W. He was enjoying life again.

(Nick G4OOE made 4 CW contacts from this summit on 3.557 MHz from 13:12z.
Please refer to Nick’s log.)

3.724 SSB / GX0OOO/P - 0 QSO’s:
(Nick G4OOE made 10 SSB contacts from this summit on 3.724 MHz from 13:22z.
Please refer to Nick’s log.)

70.425 FM / GX0OOO/P - 4 QSO’s.
Stations worked on 4m were: G6LKB, G4BLH, G4WHA/M & G0TDM. 0.5 Watts to an extended rubber duck and counterpoise from a point by the wall were the working conditions. Again there was no crosstalk.

145.450 / GX0OOO/P - 7 QSO’s:
The setup here was 0.5 Watts to a rubber duck. Again John G0TDM was first up. Incoming reports were in the range 53 to 59.

The QSO sub-total for this hill involving GX0OOO/P (G4YSS) was 20.
The QSO sub-total for this hill involving G4OOE/P was 14.
(Please refer to G4OOE, Nick’s log / report.)
Total QSO’s for LD22: 34.

Nick looked across from Seat Sandal to the highly visible LD7 ascent route with apparent disdain. I was hoping to change his mind but as the grassy path off LD22 worsened to steep, rocks and gravel, and despite the use of a makeshift stick based on a mast section, it was clear that Nick would not be continuing to LD7 or on to LD10. His main concern was an ankle that had been broken years before in a serious road accident where a car had hit him full tilt when on his push bike on his way to work. This could potentially cause great discomfort or worse, become a complete show stopper, particularly after being aggravated earlier on the ‘tussock section.’

On reaching the col between LD22 and LD7, we sat down to reprogram the spare GPS to take Nick directly back to Patterdale. I can’t remember ever using this path but though a long way, it is direct and looks good on the map. So it proved to be for Nick but I urged him to take it slowly.

We separated at 14:36 and Nick made his way uneventfully back at the car in Patterdale by 17:31. We pledged to keep in touch on 145.400 but neither heard anything from the other until near the end when I got my phone working. The fact that I couldn’t be sure what was happening with Nick caused me concern later as my imagination gradually got the better of me.

I tried to rush the climb up to Fairfield from the col which is not a great distance but it still took me over 35 minutes. At first I thought I could activate short of the summit to save time once I attained 850m ASL but I then remembered the issue with 4m which would not get far unless it was set up near to the southern edge of the summit plateau.

In the end I walked to a substantial unoccupied shelter in that area, first erecting the dipole awkwardly over the rock field; the mast going in a convenient snow drift that these shelters always seem to attract. As I did so, I could hear at least two other summit stations on the rig in my pocket. There was no time to call them as I was now in a race to get the job done ASAP so as not to keep Nick waiting too long.

I was also determined to try to claw back some of the time we were adrift in the schedule which arose mainly because of the state of Swirral Edge. Our original itinerary had us back in Patterdale by 18:30 so I would give it my best shot even if that meant drastically trimming the activations.

  1. FAIRFIELD, G/LD-007, 837m, 8 pts, 15:12 to 15:57. 2 deg C. 5 mph wind. Sunshine. LOC: IO84ML. WAB: NY31. GX0OOO/P only.

1.832 CW - 7 QSO’s:
Stations worked between 15:25 and 15:35 on 160m were: G4RQJ, G4SSH. G0TDM, GM0UDL, G0NUP, EI2CL (at last - well done Mike) and GI4SRQ. The usual 100 Watts attracted reports which varied considerably from 229 (or worse) right up to 599! Thanks to everyone for being brief and for finding me quickly. I just didn’t have the time for delays. The station that ‘got away’ was DL3HXX. I was copying Lothar 559 but he may have been using very high power. Whatever it was he didn’t copy my attempts to get an RST to him. To be fair the QSB was quite deep.

3.557 CW & 3.724 SSB: Not activated. There was insufficient time.

70.450 FM – 1 QSO:
3.5 Watts from the IC-E90 with integral battery to an extended rubber duck and counterpoise brought in G0OWA – John in Chorley. Of the regulars, there was no sign but I seem to remember that G4BLH can be marginal from here.

145.400 / 145.550 – 6 QSO’s:
Working conditions were again basic; 5 Watts to a rubber duck. This time it was that keen couple 2E0TDX/P and 2E0XYL/P on Pen-y-Ghent who were first to be logged. (S2S G/NP-010, RS: 53 / 57). After a QSY to 145.550, incoming reports for this session were 55 to 59.

That was all there was time for, I’m afraid so I must apologize to the 80m chasers for a no-show, although we didn’t announce frequencies for the last three anyway.

The QSO total for this hill was 14.

The 2.2 km walk to LD10 can take as little as 35 minutes. Today it took 45 due to a heavy pack and ice mostly in the form of verglas on Coffa Pike where added care was needed. This was one of the concerns Nick had voiced when he elected to go back to the car and on balance, he was probably right. However, I forgot to tell him about a slant-path which I had pre-programmed into the GPS and which would have taken him directly from Grisedale Tarn to Deepdale Hause where we could have met up after the LD7 activation. This route would have enabled the bypassing of both Fairfield and Coffa Pike and cleared the way for LD10 and a further 11 points for the taking by Nick.

On reflection Nick may not have gone for it and to be fair it is rather narrow, rough and muddy in places. Another factor is that the walk down off LD10 to Patterdale is demanding not only due to the distance but also because of the steepness lower down.

  1. ST.SUNDAY CRAG, G/LD-010, 841m, 8 pts, 15:12 to 15:57. 0 deg C, sunshine, 5 mph wind. LOC: IO84MM. WAB: NY31. GX0OOO/P only.

70.450 FM – 1 QSO:
3.5 Watts from the IC-E90 with extended rubber duck got me G0OWA – John in Chorley once again. If there’d been no further callers on 4m from LD7, there certainly wouldn’t be any here and so it proved.

145.400 – 6 QSO’s:
Again there was no time to set up anything in the way of an efficient aerial. I used 5 Watts to a rubber duck in true ‘smash & grab’ style. For the third time it was John G0TDM who was first on the ball. Incoming reports were in the range 54 to 59 with a 41 from Geoff GM4WHA/M now in Annan for the final QSO of the day. Well not quite the final one……

I was very concerned about how Nick was doing on the path 2000 feet below me that I called John G0TDM back in to ask him if he would do one final spot. Nick and I had separated more than two hours before and I still hadn’t managed to contact him either via 2m FM or because of my unserviceable phone. Neither could I contact Roy G4SSH so it was a relief when John answered immediately. He spotted ‘End of operations for the day’ on SOTAWATCH and reassured me that an earlier spot had informed of the fact that Nick was returning to the car alone.

So there we have it; the irony of it all. In a complete reversal of normal thinking, because I expected conditions to be good on 160, I elected NOT to put it on but the real reasons were that there was just no time and I wanted to know what had a happened to Nick at the earliest opportunity. The combined time required to erect and dismantle the 160m antenna system over rocks would have been at least 20 minutes and that’s without so much as calling CQ. I might just have managed it around midday when 4 or 5 callers could be expected, so long as I ignored all other bands but what if half of Europe called me? I might have been there for an hour when at a stretch I had a scant 30 minutes.

Once again I can only apologize to both 160m and 80m chasers for ‘no-show’ on either band but as all SOTA ops truly understand, the well being of those at the ‘sharp end’ must come first. That goes for anyone but especially for Nick who is on the first part of the learning curve of SOTA activating. After all he hadn’t wanted to be on his own on the hills, which is why we teamed up. To ameliorate somewhat, he was on a well-used path (Coast to Coast) which is easy to follow and was downhill most of the way. In fact he told me later that he had met people to walk down with and had glimpsed and been impressed by that special camaraderie that hill walkers experience on a regular basis. Fortunately that had taken his mind off the discomfort. In fact he said afterwards that he had met people to walk down with and had glimpsed and been impressed by that special camaraderie that hill walkers experience on a regular basis. Fortunately that had taken his mind off the discomfort.

The QSO total for this hill was 7.

This took 73 minutes and I always find it to be the sting in the tail for this round. It is truly a sting in the thighs caused by constant ‘heavy braking’ required on the section down to Thornhow End. After having got up at 02:30, that final descent, extended half a mile through the action of ’double-yellow line merchants,’ was annoying to say the least.

Part way down the phone started working after the simple expedient of ‘switch off / switch on’ and I had been able to get through to Nick for about 2 seconds; long enough for him to tell me that he had arrived at the car at 17:31. This I passed onto Roy who in turn passed it to Nick’s XYL and all was well when I regained Nick’s car at 18:13.

Patterdale-LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10-Patterdale: 1,510 m (4,953ft) of ascent / 19.1 km (12 miles) walked. ( The summits of Dollywagon Pike and Birks were both bypassed).

CHRONOLOGY - G4YSS (G4OOE to Grisedale Tarn):
Left Scarborough: 02:57
Arrived Patterdale: 05:57
Walk for LD3: 06:21
LD-3 Helvellyn: 09:44 to 11:11
LD-22 Seat Sandal: 12:31 to 13:48
LD-7 Fairfield: 15:12 to 15:57
LD-10 St Sunday: 16:41 to 17:00
(Nick walked Grisedale Tarn to Patterdale: 14:36 to 17:31.)
Returned Patterdale: 18:13
Drove away from Patterdale: 18:20
Arrived Scarborough: 21:40

Gross time (home to home): 18hr-43 min.
Distance driven: 264 miles (Nick’s car)

LD3: 23
LD22: 20
LD7: 14
LD10: 7

QSO Breakdown – GX0OOO/P:
16 on 160m CW.
5 on 80m CW.
0 on 80m SSB.
11 on 4m FM.
32 on 2m FM.

LD3: 16
LD22: 14

QSO Breakdown – G4OOE/P:
15 on 80m CW.
15 on 80m SSB.

Total QSO’s, all summits, both ops: 94.

44 SOTA Activator points (GX0OOO).
22 SOTA Activator points (G4OOE).

The WX was as near perfect for SOTA activating as it ever gets: Sunshine, blue skies, cold but with light winds and no precipitation. Far better than summer!

The plan was centred on getting Nick some experience and SOTA activating points while the winter bonus was still available to both of us. Everything else was secondary and with that aim in mind the undertaking can perhaps be regarded as prototypical but mostly successful. It seems that there will always be room in SOTA for the unexpected and I regret that Nick missed out on the final two summits. However, the sight of him beaming at the top of Helvellyn will linger in the memory for a very long time.

Swirral Edge has something of a reputation. It stamped its authority on Nick & I today and we had go slowly and carefully. Spikes and an axe might have been an advantage though in some places, there was insufficient depth to make much difference.

Due to the lack of information after the first activation, we must have been a difficult chase today but having two ops and therefore concurrent activity seemed to help with the problem of QSO’s versus time. This and a reduction in frequency bands later on ensured that the final time on the schedule; the return to Patterdale was met and we were also home 20 minutes early. It certainly helped on the air that this was a Monday and not a Sunday.

Roy G4SSH had a difficult job ‘controlling’ us today but his experience paid off in turning educated guesswork into reality on more than one occasion.

Judging by what he achieved, I think Nick now has sufficient confidence to go forward in SOTA activating. He did really well and I was genuinely proud of the way he overcame the hardships to a point but made the difficult decision to curtail the operation when there was a danger of physical problems. In at the deep end certainly concentrates the mind. He will now have a better idea of what changes he needs to make if any and what challenges will best suit him personally. From my viewpoint, it was a great expedition because it was totally different. Other than with my son Phil G0UUU for VHF-NFD on NP8, I can only remember doing one joint activation before; that was with Phil G4OBK on Kinder Scout.

I can see advantages with these joint activations. The time-consuming task of formalising the log and uploading each QSO is cut in half! We must do this again sometime.

THANKS to ALL STATIONS worked, and to spotters: G4SSH, G0VOF, G4RQJ, G4BLH, G0TDM & EI2CL. Once again, special thanks to Roy G4SSH for liaison and his ‘Phone-a-Spot’ Service and to John G0TDM for the last post. Finally to Nick for the use of his car and for a great day in the hills.

Note: Nick will be preparing a short report of his own in due course, either for the reflector or the SOTA news.

73, John G4YSS
(Using SSEG Club call - GX0OOO/P)

In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John,
Thank you, once again, for an interesting and informative account of your joint activation. I enjoyed reading it, as always.
A pity Nick had to curtail his round, but it was a sensible decision, given the conditions and his potential ankle problem. It is a wonderful walk, but quite taxing, and I fully agree with your observation on the nature of the descent from St Sunday Crag. It is truly a ‘sting in the tail’ and would not have improved Nick’s dodgy ankle.
Sorry we did not make it on 160M. I was out during your morning activation, and was unable to copy you later in the day. Not quite sure why you are able to hear me, and I struggle with you. My noise floor, on the North looking K9AY loop, is less than S1 on the IC-7000, with the preamp on. It is S9 when receiving on the transmitting antenna inverted L, but I can hear some of the calling stations quite well on the loop… I suspect that ground losses/absorption on your low dipole is significant, as well as the obvious difficulty in trying to communicate on 160M at midday. Can you bring a 160M rotary rhombic at 100 feet with you next time.
All in all, an interesting challenge, and thank you for making the effort to entertain us with it. I find it very easy to come up with silly suggestions, whilst sitting in a warm shack. Keep up the good work, it is much appreciated.

Thanks for that report. Interesting, even if the activations were all “got aways” for me. :wink:

I spent a few days based at Glenridding YH with friends in June a couple of years back. The day we chose to climb Helvellyn it was clear in the morning, but soon clouded over. From Red Tarn we took a look at the crowds crawling along Striding Edge, and went up Swirral Edge instead. It was somewhat slippery in places, and we met the cloud base on that final pitch. Nothing like climbing to the top and finding you can only see a hundred feet… :wink:

73, Rick M0LEP

In reply to John, G4YSS:

Thank you for the reports on your latest trips to G/LD. As expected, conditions on 80m were “fair” but the chance of 160m QSOs had to be pretty slim. Despite a considerable lull in QRN, it was zilch from GX0OOO/P and those who called you on LD-003 and 022. LD-007 was very different. Having noticed the 160m spot and forgetting that the tumble dryer was in use, I QSYed upstairs to the shack, “just in case”. It was most surprising to hear you through the tumble dryer QRN but the combination of your persistence, timing and filters provided the desired result.

73 de Mike, EI2CL

In reply to G4YSS:

Many thanks for another interesting and inspiring report John. It was a pity that Nick had to cut this round of activations short, but it was definitely the most sensible decision. As someone once said to me, better to know when to call it a day rather than invoke a visit by the big orange bird.

When I read that Nick was doing a joint activation with you, my immediate thoughts were “brave man”. Several times I have checked my ascent timings against yours and found that I have taken one and a quarter to one and a half times as long - and that’s on what I considered to be a good day. Your reputation goes before you!

As for joint activations, well I can’t really recommend them. Paul and I chat amiably most of the way up and down the hills, we enjoy a pint or several of an evening when we are stopping over and travelling together breaks the boredom of long distance travel. No, you’d not like them. :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:

Paul and I chat amiably most of the way up and down the hills

Chat on the way up? Oooo! I’m impressed. I’m normally too out of breath when Brian G4ZRP or Sarah accompanies me on an activation to talk on the way up. Possibly on the way down.

John G4YSS: Hope to see both you and Roy at Blackpool this year.


In reply to ALL:

G3RMD: Thanks Frank,
Glad you agree about the climb down from St.Sunday. It has annoyed me quite a few times. It’s even worse if you go via Birks! Nick was OK after a day or so – he was just a bit stiff but no ankle probs. He is keen to try SOTA again. I agree with your comments on 160m aerials. I will be lucky if I can radiate one Watt from my 100 in a direction that counts. Your K9AY loop sounds good though. Yes, I will try a bigger aerial if you can get me a herd of Yaks! Seriously, I did think of trying a kite on 160m but the last time I tried a kite aerial on a summit, it was a 10FM overnighter on Beinn Bheula 1984. The kite folded & broke up immediately - I’d designed it too light. Maybe try again? 73 John.

M0LEP: Hi Rick,
I think out of the times I’ve done Helvellyn I must have seen a view about 30% of the ascents so it’s normal to me. I agree it is a shame though. The views are great when they are there but it’s hardly worth getting the camera out most times except just to prove you were there. One problem is that I usually arrive too early to allow the day to get going. This time it was, in old parlance, fab. I have only done Striding once. In my view it just wastes an hour. No good for SOTA – great if you are just walking. 73, John.

EI2CL: Hello Mike,
This must be a first for you – supplying you own QRN! Well done on LD7. Sorry you didn’t hear me on the others. Never mind, your 160m score is gradually rising. I think it will be even harder from the end of March though unless I do an overnighter. Having not done one for a couple of years, I’d love to but I don’t think it will happen. CUAGN, John.

G4OIG: Thanks Gerald,
You are right – safety first. I am a worrier but there was really nil to worry about. Nick was perfectly well capable of getting himself back to the road. Not as bad as William’s dog disappearing for two hours to the top of Kirk Fell though. Times? Well, certainly I don’t seem to be going fast. The uphill seems like a struggle to me. I am always stopping and so impatient with myself. My brain is miles ahead and cursing my body! Maybe I make up on the flat. Good points about joint activations. I must say sharing the worry of the road travelling helps. If I go alone I am less likely to sleep the night before and sometimes the night before that. Sets you back before you start. I certainly did enjoy helping to introduce Nick to LD activating & seeing his expression as he topped out on LD3. It made the day far from Run of the Mill.

I meant to ask you about separation and crosstalk before we went but didn’t get around to it. We had none HF to VHF but I guess if you landed on a harmonic, it would be impossible. All the best, John.

MM0FMF: Hiya Andy,
No plans for Blackpool as yet. I think Nick, Roy & Kevin are going (G4OOE, G4SSH & G0NUP). If I go it will be a last minute decision. I do love it though – meeting all the SOTA ops is the highlight of the day ‘cos I’m OK for batteries just now (which is the only other thing I get excited about!) I know what you mean about the ascents. Chatting can be a bit staccato! Keep up the good work with the database & thanks for doing it. 73, John.

Thanks to all who replied here & all who read the report.

In reply to G4YSS:

Sorry to miss you & Nick on these summits John, work does get in the way at times, but it does pay the bills…just! Hi!

PS I now have an 11 metre carbon fibre pole & the antenna extension pieces I made several months ago to make my 80/60/40 link dipole into a 160/80/60/40 link dipole. For QRO, I would have had to use my FT897, but a new licensee, Ken M6DLT, wants to have a go at activating & has just aquired a FT857. As his interests are primarily VHF I am sure he wouldn’t mind letting me use his radio for 160m QRO CW & while he used my FT817 for VHF/UHF then resuming normal operations afterwards. Whether my 160m dipole will actually stay up is something I have yet to find out.

Until next time…

Best 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0VOF:
That sounds interesting Mark,

You would potentially put out a much better signal than I could. You might even get into Dublin at noon!! Good luck with it but I should pick a still day! In my experience the size of a 160m full size dipole is a real eye opener. The main problem you will encounter is the catenary / ground proximity despite the huge mast. You will need light wire. I have a home-brew 11m CFC mast and it’s solid not tubular. This one is not the sort of thing you would carry more than 100m on the flat though. Believe it or not it got broken once! CFC doesn’t warn you like glass.

Roll on our 160m S2S!!

As for work. I have no regrets about letting go of that 6 years ago but thanks for keeping the country going!

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

I meant to ask you about separation and crosstalk before we went but didn’t get around to it. We had none HF to VHF but I guess if you landed on a harmonic, it would be impossible.

I think you’d be very unfortunate to land on a harmonic. Paul and have done 182 activations together and the only issue we’ve ever had between us is when we are on the same band: 2m SSB and 2m FM - just the expected desense issue. I can run 70cms while Paul is on 2m when we do a VHF/UHF activation. I’ve been on 10MHz when he’s been on 5MHz and there’s been no bother. Sometimes when shelter has been at a premium (Tarn Crag G/LD-026 springs to mind), we’ve sat side by side and operated.

I did cause Carolyn G6WRW a bit of a problem when running 10MHz and she was on 7MHz SSB on Tarrenhendre GW/NW-036, but that is really the only notable case of interference I’ve experienced. Oh, she did get me back on Mynydd Enlli GW/NW-072 when she ran 14MHz SSB with an amp and I was on 10MHz CW, but it was still workable. Take it as it comes as they say!

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4OIG:
Thanks for that Gerald. I am pleasantly surprised by the lack of inteference that you have experienced. I thought that there would be many more instances and you would have had to plan to go on summits where there can be a lot of separation. Also manage the band versus time issues closely. I was thinking that the fact that I was able to operate on 4m & 2m FM while Nick QRO’d 80m closeby was a bit of a fluke. Obviously we still have to watch out for harmonic situations but the way seems clear for two lots of RF at one time on one summit.

Great that I can get this onfo without having gather it via experimentation. Thank you, it’s useful. (No more SOTA for a while. The MOT failure is tomorrow!)

Take care on the hills & 73,

In reply to G4YSS:

The usual MO for Paul and myself is to run concurrently 60m SSB followed by 80m SSB against 2m SSB followed by 70cms SSB/CW. That’s never failed to work - we couldn’t have coped with interference when we were rushing around 5 summits in a day and fortunately we haven’t had to. Now we are somewhat more leisurely minded, but still I rarely manage to get onto 30m CW. I always seem to run out of time and so far I’ve been unable to persuade Paul onto 40m SSB to extend our summit time. Quite often the weather is the limiting factor!

Sorry to hear about the impending vehicular-doom. Hope that it is not that serious. Mine went through without a hitch, but now needs a service which will cost. I’ve got a feeling it’s a big one. Well you will drive such a complex vehicle I hear you say - yes, but the joy of driving it makes it worthwhile. :slight_smile:

Hope your QRT period isn’t very long.

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John

John (GW4BVE) and I regularly do simultaneous HF activations together and now have very few problems. By careful (mis)alignment (and seperation) of our antennas we are both able to run amplifiers without causing mutual interference. We have been mainly using 80, 60 and 40m in various combinations into inverted Vs. I have also used my 40/20/17m vertical with John on 80 or 60m without major issues.

There is always a possibility of interference but as Gerald said its not usually so bad that contacts can not be made.

Carolyn (G6WRW)

btw we both use FT-817s with amplifiers operating between 25 and 40-ish Watts

In reply to G6WRW:
Thank you for that Carolyn,

This is all encouraging if joint activations are to be planned. I am not used to them so felt that it was worth asking. Good of you to volunteer the information including the levels that you run the linears. That in itself sounds like a worthwhile and possibly more flexible alternative to a built-in QRO HF radio.

Thanks for the S2S the other week by the way,

All the best, John.