G4YSS Activation Report G/LD-012 & G/LD-036 on 05-03-12
G/LD-012 High Stile
On 160-80-40m QRO
(Red Pike WOTA on 2m-FM)
All times GMT on 29-02-12. G4YSS - with Will & Jess (Spaniel).
IC706-2G. Adjustable link dipole; 5m mast; 160m loading coils (at halfway points in each leg)
One 13.2 Ah Li-Po for LD12 & LD36 - 99% depleted. (3 x 4.4 Ah in parallel)
2m-FM: IC E90 4-Band FM, 0.5W into half-wave J-pole and 1.3 Ah integral battery (Red Pike.)
4m-FM: IC E90 4-Band FM, 5W with extended duck & counterpoise. 1.3 Ah Batt. (Nil QSO’s)
QRO pack: 12kg ( 26.4 pounds).
In the past, I have never been overly interested in 2 pointers, but this expedition was mainly about Mellbreak. I noticed that LD36 had less than 200 QSO’s to its name since 2004 and no history of 160m ops at all. In general the record makes it look a little neglected. I haven’t been there since 2005 - up from Loweswater for a few QSO’s on 60, 40 & 2m. In 2004 it was 2FM only with 5 or 6 contacts mainly just into the local Irish Sea coast. A route for Mellbreak combined with High Stile has been in my computer for a few years now so it was long overdue for use. Will, probably fed up of going back to the same summits with me time & again, was keen to bag anything new so after some extra work on the route, off we went.
LD12 & LD36 ROUTE:
My first mistake was to specify the Burtness Wood & NE ridge route up High Stile. Will & I had done this once before and marked it with the GPS but sadly as it turned out, the waypoints, though accurate, were too infrequent. There was no 2005 track but I had one for 2009 when I used it to descend. That could easily have been used to manufacture some more waypoints and I regret not taking the opportunity. In the event I only had three points to get us up the critical part from the end of the wood to the summit and that combined with other factors is why we got lost.
From the Buttermere lower P&D car park at NY 1739 1693 you cross the flat valley to a pair of footbridges (one is at NY 1727 1628) and to the shore track. Turn left and walk as far as NY 1735 1621 after ignoring the stepped path which is the start of the Bleaberry Tarn - Red Pike route. There you take a right fork uphill through the trees via NY 1747 1606 and NY 1771 1581 to a stile which exits the wood at NY 1785 1558. A narrow terraced path goes via NY 1801 1539 to turn right at NY 1811 1519 and reaches a wall ladder at NY 1805 1494. The path bends right again at NY 1800 1489; NY 1778 1498 and NY 1750 1516. It’s leftish at NY 1738 1518 to a cairn at NY 1711 1498. After that it’s an easy walk along the top of the ridge to LD12’s summit cairn.
The rest of the route was planned via Red Pike, Lingcomb Edge (the latter a scenic luxury that takes longer than the new direct path) and a path marked on the 25k map from Scales Beck at NY 1491 1656 to a crossing point of Black Beck at NY 1465 1733. The latter path was going to deliver a planned saving of 300 feet of ascent but all attempts to find this path on the ground failed and I doubt if it exists. There is just rough ground and long heather and we were forced to walk down past Scales Force to the footbrige at NY 1505 1713 and then west up the main path to get to the Black Beck crossing point beside a fence. All this plus a minor detour to avoid a landslip at NY 1494 1714, added time and extra effort. We then went to LD36 Mellbreak via a good grassy path - NY 1464 1752; NY 1484 1785 and NY 1479 1818, steep in places.
The retreat down Mellbreak to Buttermere was via another grassy path, which leaves the ascent path at NY 1484 1785, going via NY 1486 1773; NY 1496 1755; NY 1481 1740; junction at NY 1481 1734 then NY 1512 1740; NY 1535 1744. There’s a gate at NY 1542 1747; footbridges at NY 1548 1751, NY 1561 1749 and NY 1583 1743 and then it’s back along the boggy path beside Crummock Water. The path down the southern slope of Mellbreak looks very doglegged when displayed on a screen but it’s actually an efficiently graded way of getting down (or going up if so desired.)
Left Scarborough at 03:15, arriving via the A66, at Buttermere in daylight sometime around 06:10am. For one reason or another it took us until 06:50 (I’d planned for 06:30) to get underway from the car park, which we somehow independently and simultaneously managed to pay for twice, at two widely spaced pay points! Lakeland National Park funding thus increased by £14 this year but on the plus side, we did have two tickets to proudly display. I hoped this was not the start of a bad morning but I was wrong. More was to come.
We missed the turn up from the foreshore path necessitating ‘beating up’ through the wood on bad ground to relocate the correct track, but that was minor. After reaching the snowline at 425m ASL all semblance of a path disappeared under the white stuff. With marked GPS waypoints too infrequent to be of use on a path that is little used and indistinct at the best of times, we ended up floundering up steep ground in snow-covered deep heather with rocks and depressions lurking beneath to catch the unwary. Eventually that gave way to boulder fields and crags which further dampened the spirits.
This was distessing enough for two men with heavy packs but the poor little black Spaniel, wearing a look of fear and desperation on her face, had insufficient leg length to get much of a purchase to make headway. Will pushed and pulled her as best he could while I scouted ahead and called them up. Before long Jess had an array of small snowballs dangling from her underbelly. The quest, once we realised that we had little hope of relocating the path any time soon, was to travel directly to a known waypoint and try again. As these were all a few hundred metres apart and given that we’d set off late, we began to fall significantly behind schedule. In a fleeting moment of phone coverage I managed to bang off a text to Hazel, ‘Please post on Sotawatch - 90 minutes late.’
High up on the mountain, arriving at a ‘good’ waypoint, I spotted some crampon marks on a nearby rock. This must be the way! Since this was near vertical in places with snow on it, we were further delayed and getting the dog up approached comedy. I feared that if we came to an impasse, we would not be able to reverse it but despite entering low-cloud, after further scrambling we were over the worst.
G/LD-012: HIGH STILE, 807m, 8 pts, 09:55 to 11:42, 0 deg.C. Wind: 5 mph. Thin, patchy low-cloud at first - lifted later. Some sunshine. 1 to 2 inches of fresh snow. IO84IM, WAB NY11. (Useable Orange phone signal.)
We both sent text messages home then I set up the mast on the large cairn, tuned the coils and was calling CQ within 20 minutes. Exciting but fleeting views came and went. Will seemed quite pleased that we’d arrived safely and he was not the only one. Now if the cloud would only lift.
1.832 CW – 5 QSO’s:
With 100 Watts to the inductively loaded inverted-vee at 5m (plus the 1m cairn) and 1m at the ends, incoming reports ranged from 319 to 549. Stations worked were: G4RQJ; EI2CL; G4OBK; GW4ZPL and EI7CC. Despite Hazel’s message, we were now running 80 minutes late and there was no telling exactly when we’d show up, so thanks to Rob for his vigilance and that all important opening spot.
7.022 CW – 3 QSO’s:
Before going up to 80m I wanted to try to work G4SSH/A on sked in Southern Cornwall. This would be Roy’s only chance of a contact. The indoor vertical with counterpoise that he uses at his Daughter’s house, covers from 7 MHz upwards but doesn’t do 3.5. There must have been a good tipoff process in operation; within 5 minutes, I’d worked the Scarborough trio of G4SSH/A; G0NUP and G4OOE!
3.557 CW – 5 QSO’s:
The same number of stations were worked here as on Top Band. These were G4OBK; EI2CL; G3RDQ; G4BLH and GI4ONL. 50 Watts was the power used and signals ranged from 529 to 569 with G4OBK 599. It was clear that conditions on 80m were not as good as they were on any of the four NP SOTAs of last week. I thought about going on 40m but rejected it because of the time it would take in absolute terms plus the fact that I would still feel duty bound to do 80m SSB as announced. Will had been asking me, ‘How many bands to go’ from the first 10 minutes and the dog looked cold. My companion announced that he would carry on the walk to Red Pike but set off in completely the wrong direction; in fact the way we’d come up! Even the sight of a compass didn’t dissuade him but it wasn’t long before he was back at the summit again with the dog warmed up. By then it was SSB time.
3.724 SSB – 12 QSO’s:
With Will & Jess in mind, I worked through twelve chasers in 15 minutes; all G’s except for an MW & a GW. Power was 100 Watts and reports ranged from 56 to 59, apart from a ‘31’ from Nigel 2E0NHM which later became a ‘53’ and a ‘47’ from Don G0RQL. I think the reports on my signal were quite generous as one or two were having trouble from noise and QSB. Again it appeared that condx on 80 were somewhat down but I ended up with a similar summit total as for each of last weeks NP’s activated on 80 and 160m.
70.450 FM – Nil QSO’s.
After a call on 4m FM which wasn’t successful, we were ready for departure for Red Pike and later Mellbreak by 11:42. The total for LD12 was just 25 QSO’s.
DOWNHILL FOR A WHILE:
Wayfinding from now on was straightforward and visibility excellent. We could see windmills near the Irish Sea and beyond. There was no ice and minimal amounts of fluffy snow underfoot didn’t impede progress. After a while I went ahead to set up on Red Pike but Will soon arrived.
LDW-062: RED PIKE (Buttermere) 755m, 12:08 to 12:39, 3 Deg.C. 10 mph wind. Hazy sun. IO84IM, WAB NY11.
145.400 FM - 4 QSO’s:
Phil G4OBK recommended we try this one - as far as I know, my 1st ever (non-SOTA) WOTA. After a CQ on 145.500 and using just 500 mW from the IC-E90 to a half-wave vertical J-Pole, the following stations were worked: G3ZPD; M0XSD; G0ORO and M0XAT. (Jim - Cockermouth, Colin - Frizington; Dennis - Workington and Malcolm - Seaton.) All eight signal reports exchanged were 59 with Jim reporting my half Watt at 60 dB over 9.
Activating Red Pike reminded me of an S2S I’d had with M5GUY/M did it some 10 years ago. This was the day on 26th August 2002, when I ‘thought’ I was activating Scafell. It was Guy who informed me that G/LD-002 had only been a SOTA for 4 days and today wasn’t one of them! Oh dear - a lot of effort and danger under a newly fallen rock in Lord’s Rake and 12 QSO’s wasted! Thinking I’d made a real ‘killing’ with 28 points, I’d had to be satisfied with the 18 gathered from LD1 & LD5. Happy days.
Red Pike is a meeting of paths so there were a few other walkers about. All had smiles on their faces; having chosen a good day with great views. One lady had some icegrips which I found interesting for emergencies because of the weight. If George Fisher sells them they must be good but they probably couldn’t be trusted in any serious situation because of the fastenings. While I photographed her feet in closeup, she and the man with her, asked about the station, ‘How far can it reach.’
RED PIKE to MELLBREAK:
In hindsight, I don’t think I really thought about how long this would take. We had started the walk 20 minutes late. That turned into 80 minutes at High Stile and now that Red Pike was added we were now 2 hours behind what I’d posted as our LD36 QRV time.
There were to be further delays. The path down Lingcomb Edge is rough after it turns west and away from the drop. Then I found that the ‘miracle path’ that was going to cut out Scales Force to the west and save 100m of ascent, didn’t exist except on a map. This discovery was made only after stumbling through tall heather on ankle breaking ground past the first two waypoints. Radioing Will on the PMR - he was about to cross Scales Beck to join me - we decided that there was no choice but to go down the waterfall path which meant that I had to stagger back down and recross Scales Beck.
The plan was now for me to go ahead and try to make up time, find the route and radio it back to Will. It was all very well descending to the waterfall in breezy, shaded sunshine but by the time I was sweating up LD36’s south facing end in its full rays with all this radio junk, I got to thinking the idea was rubbish. When I was almost up it seemed that Will agreed. He had crossed Black Beck OK climbed a bit then found himself locked in by a fence whence he retraced his steps and tried another way. From the PMR came, ‘Think I’ll make my way back now John.’ He later admitted that he was pleased I’d talked him out of it. When he did get to Mellbreak, the experience was a good one with stunning views of the snow-capped biggies - all recognizable and bathed in sunshine.
G/LD-036: MELLBREAK, 512m, 2 pts, 14:58 to 17:33, 9 deg.C. Wind: 15 mph. Sunshine at first - overcast later. No lying snow. IO84IN, WAB NY11. (No Orange mobile service when I tried it. Will had success later)
I couldn’t phone Roy so I called him on 7.022 at 15:13 hoping for a spot. When that failed (even Roy has to have a break from SOTA sometime) and despite alerting 3.557 the night before, I thought it prudent to change tack. 80m didn’t seem to work too well in the morning so how about 40? I might get inundated with callers but it would be some time before Will arrived and I could stay a while after he left. Besides, the SOTA world would benefit. With exactly 100 QSO’s to its name on all bands HF, LD36 must be on the wanted list of 95% of unique chasers, especially to international ops. The decision was made. Bite the bullet on 40m then off to 160m to recover!
7.033 CW - 43 QSO’s:
There was slow CW on 032. Just a couple of CQ’s on .033 was all it took. Things started slowly with G4ZIB Tony, G4WSX John and G4SSH/A Roy who had been waiting on the frequency for a HuMP station. After that it was nose to the grindstone. I gave everybody 599 but that was mostly because they were all very strong. Using around 50 Watts and later 100 for the stragglers, I worked my way through 43 stations in 50 minutes, from the following countries: G; DL; GI; OM; EI; OK; OZ; PA; HB9; F; OE; LA; GM and HA.
With gritted teeth I worked the toggle switch. Five minutes in it got really bad but if I latched onto part of a call I didn’t let it go until he was in the log. Thankfully everybody was well behaved; recognizing the situation and allowing each QSO to complete before calling. Maybe I was lucky but I needed that. Sometimes with CW my brain freezes with anything untoward (like someone sending a question mark for instance!) How I got through and what Will thought I don’t know. In the middle of this mayhem he was chewing a sandwich and asking a string of important questions such as, ‘Do you think Lucozade or orange juice is best for walks?’ ‘Is that Great Gable over there?’ My mouth was opening to reply but nothing but grunts came out.
By 16:05 near the end of this session Will and Jess were on their way. ‘Take your time Will, I’ll be along in a few minutes.’ I lied! ‘See you at the car.’
7.081 SSB - 26 QSO’s:
Roy must have listened to most of the CW session as he came straight back with ‘R R 73’ in response to ‘Now SSB SSB QSY 7081.’
Roy’s spot was essential at this point. Apart from ON7KJW and DK2RMP the 26 stations worked on here between 16:12 and 16:40 were all UK based. The power was set to about 50 Watts initially but the final 15 QSO’s were done with 100W. Everybody was patient and cooperative but I had good reason to rush. It was quite a long way back to Buttermere from here and there was still Top Band and a try on 4m FM after this. I made lists when six called at once. It seemed to work and reports were good; 40m was supporting excellent communications inside the UK and out to the Continent. I was getting ‘59 plus 10’ and ‘59 plus 30’ at times.
1.832 CW – 9 QSO’s:
These turned out to be the last few QSO’s. With the final dregs of the battery (as I later discovered) and with power at 100W the following stations were worked between 16:46 and 17:12: G4OBK; G3RMD; M1EYP; G4BLH; EI2CL; GI4SRQ; G3RDQ; G0NUP and G4EIM. That is the order in my log but not the order in which they were worked as I had to keep going back to try to get reports out to about half of them. As usual I could hear everything apart from noise but the chasers were experiencing the opposite and could only hope they got called in on a QSB peak. It was that or gamble an improvement in conditions as dusk approached, against my final QRT. In the end it sounded to me like all the stations who had called me were now safely in the log.
70.450 FM – Nil:
A few calls on 70.450 FM with 3 Watts did not produce any QSO’s. I would have been amazed if they had from this little hill surrounded by bigger ones. Almost the only way out for RF was to the local coastal area, though somehow I have worked Walney Island on 2FM with simple gear from here in the past. The total for this hill was 78 QSO’s.
It’s sometimes hard to leave these places when you have put so much into getting there and I quite often feel like that. This had been like visiting an old friend not seen for ages but at 17:33, an hour and a half after Will and Jess left, the descent just had to be started. The path (described at the start) was easy to walk on and to navigate all the way down to the valley, whence it becomes boggy in places. I had intended to take a direct line to Crummock Water; down by a fence at NY 1518 1766 until I happened on this path. It went some 600m further west but it was a less demanding way to loose height.
Partly because I missed the short-cut via Scale Bridge, it was dark when I reached Will’s car at 18:46. Will & Jess had found the correct route, arriving back at 18:30 and were now ready for off. To me the stone bridge with a gate on it looked private and that put me off. In fact this was Scales Bridge.
We were destined to be late home and the journey via Newlands Valley, A66, A1 A168 & A170, took around three hours to 21:55.
Total: 103 QSO’s, comprising:
14 on 1.8-CW
5 on 3.5-CW.
12 on 3.5-SSB.
46 on 7-CW.
26 on 7-SSB.
QSO Breakdown: 25 on LD12 (160/80m) and 78 on LD36 (40/160m).
(In addition to the above: 4 x WOTA QSO’s on 2m-FM from Red Pike.)
BATTERY UTILISATION (HF):
13.2 Ah Li-Po (3 x 4.4 Ah) - 99% discharged.
‘Round Trip’ Ascent & Distance:
Buttermere to LD12: 715m (2,346ft) ascent, 4.2 km.
LD12 to LDW62: 45m (148ft) ascent, 1.4 km.
LDW62 to LD36: 322m (1,056ft) ascent, 4.5 km
LD36 to Buttermere: 20m (66ft) ascent, 5.1 km
Total ascent & distance: 1,102m (3,616ft) ascent 15.2 km (9.5 miles) walked.
Buttermere-LD12: 3h-5min! LD12-LDW62: 30min. LDW62-LD36: 2h-19min. LD36-B’Mere: 1h-13min. Total: 7h-7min.
Summit time: LD12: 1h-47min. LDW62: 31min. LD36: 2h-35min Tot: 4hr-32min.
Home to home: 18h-40min.
Distance driven: 292 miles.
Activator points: 16.
Drive 146 miles: 03:15
Arr. Buttermere: 06:10 approx.
Walk for LD12: 06:50
LD12: 09:55 to 11:42
LDW62: 12:08 to 12:39
LD36: 14:58 to 17:33
Drive home 146 miles: 19:05 to 21:55.
A few things did not go according to plan today. We left Buttermere 20 minutes late. The initial ascent to High Stile LD12 took far longer than it should have done because the ill-defined route (Burtness Wood/ NE ridge) chosen by me was not suitable on snow and I hadn’t put sufficient waypoints in the GPS. We lost the path above 450m ASL and ended up on bad ground. (Something that is routine in GM as many of the remote mountains don’t have paths.) I usually go ahead of Will to set up the station but not this time. The direction of doing this round was chosen almost randomly. I am just thankful we hadn’t reversed it leaving the climb down LD12 until last but we really should have gone via Bleaberry Tarn.
The path down Lingcomb Edge took us out of our way and was rough lower down. Next, the path on the west side of Scales Beck, which was going to place us well for LD36 didn’t exist. It just seemed to be one of those days of swimming through treacle but we got round, albeit in what seemed like a very long time.
The weather was great, the views were inspiring as were some of the photos and we met some friendly people along the way. Mobile phone comms were either poor or non existent for most of the round after Red Pike.
The new experience of putting on a Wainwright just done on 2m-FM in a short stop, turned out to be pleasant and undemanding.
Band conditions on 80 were not as good as they had been on the 4NP’s expedition of 29th Feb but 160m conditions were similar. The success rate on 160 was better than average and one or two stations who we haven’t heard for quite a while got QSO’s. Not worked on 160m for 3 years was Tom M1EYP. It amazed me how good he has become at CW and pretty fast too. Self taught about 3 years ago, he has long surpassed my standards (licenced 1984) which seem to stay the same or get worse! Though no expert I love CW and have always rated it at the centre of amateur radio but it took me 6 months of real struggle to pass the 12 WPM test. When I witness people learning it for no other reason than wanting to use it to enhance their amateur radio experience, I feel a lot of admiration. So, well done to ops like Tom M1EYP, Quentin GW3BV, Helen M0YHB, Andy MM0FMF and a few others.
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and to the spotters: M6YLH; G4RQJ; G4OBK; 2E0HNM; G4SSH/A; G0TDM and G3RMD. Thanks to the SMT for providing the technical wherewithal and its ongoing support.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)