G4YSS Activation Report: G/LD-013 & G/LD-019, 22-04-11.
OLD-MAN-OF-CONISTON & HIGH RAISE.
G4YSS accompanied by Will & Jess (Spaniel Dog).
QRO HF & QRP VHF, using SSEG Club-call, GX0OOO/P.
All times: BST (UTC + 1 hr) UOS on Good Friday, 22-April-2011.
IC706-2G. Adjustable dipole, 5m mast, 160m loading coils (at halfway points in each leg)
Battery power: LD13: One 9 Ah Li-Po 38% depleted. LD19: One 9 Ah Li-Po 1% depleted.
IC-E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with extended ‘duck’ and 7.4V /1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery.
QRO pack: 11.4 kg (25 pounds).
These two mountain ascents were at the request of my walking friend William Hall. Will had already done Old Man of Coniston but seemed to have had a long running fascination for High Raise and a yen to conquer it. Having already activated LD19 five times, I do not share his feelings about it but I do like LD13. One interesting thing about High Raise is its lack of activations and a dearth of HF QSO’s from it which was something I was hoping to put right today. The reason for this is probably its remoteness and if LD13 is the easiest 8-pointer in England then High Raise is a good candidate for the hardest 6-pointer. However, my plan to offer LD19 to European chasers would be in tatters by the end of the day.
These two are further away from Scarborough than some of the ones we normally tackle so an early start-time of 03:00 was necessary. By necessity, the journey was made in Will’s car but there is progress to report on that front. After 35 hours of painstaking major repairs, my old Fiesta finally has an MOT again but you should see the state of my hands!
After driving the required 149 miles via the A65, we arrived at the Walna Scar road (west of Coniston village) by 06:20 but it wasn’t until 06:47 that we were booted-up and walking.
ROUTE TO LD13:
If LD13 is to be efficiently ‘knocked off’ the Walna Scar Road is the place to start from and there was no sign of the ‘vehicular access restrictions’ of bygone years. That enabled some careful ‘dirt-tracking’ along to the start of the OMC path at SD 2827 9685. When considered against the (free) car park just through the gate at SD 2889 9704, this short drive saves 50m of ascent, 2 x 10 minutes and 1.4 km of walking, leaving only a 2 x 2.2 km walk and 531m of ascent. With summit times regularly hitting the 2 hour mark, every minute saved is significant on a full day such as this and those statistics have got to be a snip for an 8-pointer.
The status of the Walna Scar green road has been in doubt for some time and I am afraid we will lose the facility if we are not careful. As far as I can ascertain it is currently back to the status of Bridleway with a ban on motorcycles and 4WD’s. Today there were quite a few vehicles parked along it, some seemingly with sleeping occupants.
The quiet and direct southern route for LD13 is mostly grassy whereas some of the alternatives use rocky paths through heavily mine-worked areas. It’s not marked on my map but once again here it is: SD 2827 9685 - SD 27954 96946 - SD 27795 97048 - SD 27352 97075 - SD 27463 97307 - SD 27297 97547 - SD 27234 97698. There is just a little re-ascent involved but I found last time that it takes nicely under 45 min up and less than 30 down, if lightly laden in good daylight and clear conditions. In mist or in the dark, it can be quite difficult to follow as it weaves around unexpectedly and is not too well defined in places.
OLD-MAN-of-CONISTON, G/LD-013, 803m (8 pts), 07:57 to 10:18. 14 deg C. 15 mph cool East wind. Sunshine, IO84KI, WAB: SD29. (Orange phone coverage).
Because it was Good Friday, I set up on the grass about 30m SW of the summit cairn & trig point. Sure enough a man arrived before the dipole was up and quite soon Will arrived to field the visitor’s questions.
1.832 CW – 7 QSO’s:
As before on LD13, it took some fiddling to get the VSWR right. Being high Q and critical, the Top Band coil-slugs demand a different setting over rock and at differing AGL’s. For this reason and because Will requested summit photos, I missed the announced time of 07:20 UTC by over 10 minutes. At around that time there’d been signals on 1.832 so I moved up to 1.832.6 to start the activation. It turned out that what I’d heard while I’d been running up and down the aerial adjusting it was a QSO between Mark G0VOF/P on SP12 and Phil G4OBK.
Stations worked on here with around 40 Watts output were as follows: G4OBK, G0TDM, G4CPA and at 07:40z, an interesting S2S (because it’s a rarity on 160) with Mark G0VOF/P on Easington Fell. Mark had engineered this minor miracle – to the best of my knowledge, only the third Top Band S2S made for SOTA – by getting up early. As I remember it, there were no more callers after this memorable QSO so the RF power output was increased to full for a CQ. This brought in G0NES, G4SSH and G4OOE. I can’t remember hearing weaker signals than Roy’s and still be successful but into the log he went. It would have been nice to hear the Dubliner’s, G3RMD and one or two others but dawn was now about 3 hours behind us plus the fact that noise would be building in the cities. Nevertheless, a good start and the S2S was icing on the cake!
3.557 CW – 12 QSO’s:
Roy keen as ever, had my tuning vee’s reported in an instant! Using 40 Watts for most QSO’s I worked some regulars and one station with an out-of-the-ordinary callsign – M/HA5CW/P. The QRP station G4WSX is almost always successful because of my low noise and John’s good operating skills – the latter being something you really need with only 5 Watts to play with. 100 Watts was needed to get back to PA0WDG in QSB and that level was kept for the last two stations G0NUP and G0BPU before ‘QSY to SSB’ was received from me by Roy G4SSH.
3.724 SSB – 19 QSO’s:
It was Mark G0VOF/P on SP12 who picked up the CQ this time. Next Jeff G4ELZ called but even with full power, I couldn’t get his signal report over and it wasn’t until a while later that I worked him. Graham G4JZF was strong as always and EI7CC Pete relied uncharacteristically on SSB today. There followed mostly familiar callsigns and a few ‘visitors.’ Power was around 70 Watts for this session and for the most part signal reports were good considering the depth of QSB around at the time.
It was at the beginning of the SSB session that I noticed a strange feedback of my own voice distorted in the headphones during transmit. This usually comes immediately before a fully discharged battery. The battery was later proved good so was this the antenna wire in the process of breaking and going open-circuit? There seemed to be a lot of RF going into places it shouldn’t – like my fingers. The antenna failed completely on the next hill so was it hanging by a thread here or was there perhaps a small possibly sparking gap?
70.425 FM – 3 QSO’s:
In fact G0VOF/P was the first station worked on .400 before a QSY to .425. This made 3-bands S2S with Mark - LD13 to SP12. Well done to Mark. The other two ops worked on here were John and Bob – MW1FGQ and G6ODU. 3 Watts from the IC-E90 fed to an extended 2m R-Duck with counterpoise did the work.
Will and Jess left for the car at 09:00, taking the slightly longer route via Goat Water which is easier to follow. I reversed the ascent route and was back at the car by 10:52, some 15 minutes after Will but we were still ahead of schedule.
Drive to the LD19 start point:
This was done using satnav but these things need a bit of supervision in my view. Anyway it got us there in half an hour. For parking we selected the Dungeon Gill (New) Hotel grass car park. A ticket costs £4 for all day from the cocktail bar with 10% off food purchased later (not that we did). This was against £4.50 for 4 hours or £6.50 for 12 hours, just across the road. I don’t believe in paying for parking but am gradually softening but only when it’s SOTA with tight time scales. After a battery change, we dispatched ourselves from the car park at 11:56.
ROUTE TO LD19:
My 6th activation of this remote 6-pointer, I have done High Raise from all sorts of directions. The long walk in from Grasmere to Greenup Edge then back via Easedale Tarn took much time closely followed by the Steel Fell, Calf Crag way in. Another epic was the Eagle Crag, Sergeant’s Crag (not Sergeant Man) route from Stonethwaite with a return via the C2C.
The preferred route if you just want to ‘knock it off’ is probably via Stickle Ghyll and Stickle Tarn. I have done this before but usually go past the east side of the tarn and up via Sergeant Man. Though it still takes me over an hour and a half, it’s a relatively short route but I can’t find the path up NE from the Tarn until reaching the ridge path. Also Sergeant Man bars the way on the way back so when Will suggested Harrison Stickle, I said yes. The route we eventually walked on was not exactly what he had in mind but there was probably too little time for anything longer. Will planned to return via Pavey Ark but in the end we scrubbed that idea through lack of time, coming back the same way.
From the Dungeon Ghyll (New) Hotel car park (NY 296065), walk up the hotel road. Cross the beck west to east on a footbridge at NY 2922 0678. The path is well defined, steep in places and the waterfalls lovely if there’s been rain. (Not today it was sunny - unfortunately). Re-cross the beck east to west on rocks at NY 2887 0731 or continue to the tarn if Stickle Ghyll is in flood. All this can be done on a path west of the Ghyll but it’s not so well appointed though quieter. Even on the east side you need to use your hands in places but there’s nothing onerous if it’s not icy. There were hoards of all types of walkers, all good natured, today and no one had trouble with the path. Will & I took a long time to get up to the tarn today in sunshine but there was a cool breeze which increased in strength higher up. Jess seemed glad of a paddle in the tarn where quite a few groups of people were having picnics.
You leave the crowds behind at the Stickle Tarn – that’s the target for most people – and climb a good but steep path towards Harrison Stickle passing via NY 2836 0757 and NY 2820 0760 where I went ahead of Will. We both separately left this path where it turns south near the top of the ridge. I went via grass at NY 2814 0755 to try and find the main path to Thunacar Knott. Where Will succeeded on that front, I failed so ad-libbed across to the col close to a path junction at NY 2793 0832. Then it was via NY 2802 0882 but I was not really sure whether I was on the right path until NY 2811 0912. From there it’s another half km to the flat, grassy summit with plenty of room to erect the largest of antennas. I set up and got on the air ASAP. Will arrived 55 minutes later as he’d stopped for lunch. His dog looked quite tired.
HIGH RAISE, G/LD-019, 762m, 6 pts, 14:16 to 16:20. 15 deg C. 25 mph easterly wind. Sunshine. IO84KL, WAB: NY20. (Orange phone coverage).
7.032 CW – 3 QSO’s:
Radio wise, 40m CW from LD19 was to be one of the major targets of the day. It had been pre-announced and because the LD19 history showed only 23 QSO’s on 40m and even fewer on 80, I assumed that a lot of the further UK and European chasers would be keen to work it. The WX was good, I had a QRO rig with 9 Amp-Hours to go at and a couple of hours to spare. What could be better? The only thing that worried me was extrication should I be overwhelmed with callers! What a disappointment when it all went wrong.
I called CQ on 7.032 with 30 Watts and quickly got back PA0WDG, OE7PHI and SM1CXE. After that I heard ‘G4SSH’ at a good 559. Great – no need for 80m; the closer stations were getting in on 40. I gave Roy his report – BK – nothing. It was then that the VSWR reading came to my attention. Full scale! Was it set to power out? No; the antenna was bad! The weird antics on Coniston’s Old Man in the morning had come to fruition this afternoon and I now had a complete HF failure on my hands.
To cut a long story short, I messed about for some time but failed to detect the location of the break. RF was going anywhere but where it should be and I tried 20m in the hope that the fault was outboard of that. I had no test gear but tried using my maglight as a continuity tester – too fiddly in the strong wind. Resorting to pull-tests at likely places, I thought I’d cracked it when the hot wire separated from the coax but maybe I just created another fault; it still didn’t work after twisting it back together or was I just to tired to do the tests right?
At this point three ladies came over to ask questions and they wanted detail. Soon after that, Will arrived but nobody had a multimeter in their rucksack. Fancy walking the hills without one. Despicable! Will wanted summit photos again so I gave up, phoned Roy to say no more HF and made my way over to the shelter to set up with VHF.
70.425 FM - 1 QSO.
A CQ on 70.45 at 14:42z brought in an immediate S2S with G7RNX/P – Alex on Kirby Moor (G/LD-049). This should have cheered my up but the realisation that I’d lost Top Band as well as 40 really hurt. At least Alex had now qualified me which in the circumstances was something. Again it was 3 Watts from the IC-E90 and extended 2m RD with counterpoise.
145.400 FM - 12 QSO’s:
Why don’t I go on 2FM more often? Faithful chasers helped to turn the situation around somewhat. First up was GW0WHA in Annan. I gormlessly asked Geoff what he was doing in Annan. ‘I live here’ was the reply. Without oblique stroke anything after his callsign that should have been obvious but I am so used to working him in Penrith. Others followed: G1KLZ, G1CCL, 2E0XSD, M0MOL, G0ORO (Nice to work Denis after so long) G4PF (Alan inherited this one from his father) G1PJW, G0TDM, G6ODU, G4RQJ and G4UXH. English stations were located in Barrow, Morecambe, Lancs, Whitehaven, Workington, Penrith & Milnthorpe. The IC-E90, 5 Watts and a J-Pole for 2m on a short mast formed the working conditions.
Will set off a little before me and I caught him at Thunacar Knott after which we walked half way down to the tarn together. I was back at the car for 17:50 and Will for 18:05. The journey home took from 18:20 to 22:00 but we did go a bit wrong near Thirsk.
Ascent and Distance:
LD13 (O.M.Coniston): 531m ascent / 4.4 km (2.8 miles)
LD19 (High Raise): 728m (2,388ft) ascent / 8.8km (5.5 miles).
Total: 1,259m (4,131ft) ascent / 13.2km (8.3 miles).
12 on 3.5-CW.
19 on 3.5-SSB.
7 on 1.8-CW.
3 on 70-FM.
LD13 – 41.
3 on 7-CW.
1 on 70-FM.
12 on 145-FM.
LD19 – 16.
Total for both summits: 57.
14 activator points – oh how hard it is in summer!
LD13: 9.0 Ah Li-Po, 38% discharged
LD19: 9.0 Ah Li-Po, 1% discharged
Plus Handheld for VHF.
Gross time (home to home): 19 hour.
Distance driven: 298 miles (Will’s car)
Weather with temperatures into the teens of degrees C is not a situation I relish but even with a sore throat & headache which developed overnight added to equipment failure, this was more or less an enjoyable expedition. We were certainly off to a good start with LD13. OMC rarely disappoints and the S2S on Top Band was exceptional thanks to Mark’s efforts. It was Will’s second ascent and his first by this route, which he liked. One of the few advantages of doing your walking with a SOTA activator is a certain amount of flexibility and thanks to radio he had the time to take a different route back down via Goat Water. It was good that we were able to drive along the Walna Scar Road, hopefully not for the final time!! To gain distance and to face less ascent with moderately heavy loads are major advantages to say nothing of avoiding the crowds in the car park afterwards.
Will’s main motivation of the day was High Raise in the afternoon. This has been something of an obsession since he got fairly close a year or two ago but didn’t make the summit. He enjoyed this walk at one level but I think we both found it a little tedious in the crowds and the sunshine. It’s certainly a long way from anywhere and it involves about half the ascent and distance of the 4-SOTA Patterdale round on its own!
The day was a 19 hour one and after it, Will stated that he would never set foot on High Raise again! I must say I can’t disagree with some of his sentiments. The very fact of its history seems to support a lack of enthusiasm. It has been troubled by only 31 activators since G3CWI in 2002 and only three have gone back more than twice and there hasn’t been that much HF operation either. Certainly with so many easier and more lucrative LD’s to pick from, I would not easily choose this one again unless it was incidental to a walking group sortie or by request again.
I still don’t know where the break in my antenna is. I repaired the break near the coax but that may have been self inflicted in a panic to find the fault. Now I need to fault trace the rest of the wiring after spreading it out along the drive, preferably while my Grandson is at playschool! Knocking up a tiny continuity buzzer seems like a good way forward. Making the antenna system more modular (and thereby heavier) is another approach which to be honest I probably don’t have the enthusiasm for.
I keep on coming back to the fact that this aerial gets to some very remote places and it and its associated kit, has to be light if certain activations are to take place at all. Lightweight often means weaker and weaker means less reliable. So far I have accepted that fact but at the same time it is galling and somewhat embarrassing to have to let chasers down. Fortunately there were lots of other activators out that day.
THANKS to ALL STATIONS worked and to G4SSH, G4OBK, G0VOF & GM4WHA for spotting. Thanks to Roy G4SSH for telephone liaison. Thanks to Will for the use of his car and to Mark for a super 160m S2S. Also for the other S2S’s with Mark & Alex.
73, John G4YSS
(using SSEG Clubcall, GX0OOO/P)