G4YSS: Activation of G/NP-001 on 15-July-2015
CROSS FELL on 40m CW/ SSB; 10m CW & 2m-FM.
Accompanied by Sasha the Lurcher on her third SOTA.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P.
All times BST (UTC plus 1hr) UOS.
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver for HF & VHF.
MX-P50M HF (80 thru 10) 50 Watt Linear Amplifier.
Adjustable link dipole for 80-40-20-15-10-2.
Half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m-FM.
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
One 6 Ah Li-Po battery. (2.2 Ah reserve - not used).
IC-E90 Quad Band VHF-5W Handheld for 2m-FM.
Pocket Rig: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHF/ UHF, 5oz H/H (For monitoring on the walk in & Radio Cumbria on the return).
Packweight: 11kg (24 pounds) inc 1.25L water, dog food, bowl, spare fleece.
This was more a dog walk than a SOTA. If I didn’t know that before I started, I certainly did at the end. Band conditions continue to be volatile.
Sasha the Lurcher kindly ‘agreed’ to come along for her third SOTA. With many NP’s activated so far this year, I scanned the list to find maximum points for the chasers. Cross Fell is the only 8 pointer and I hadn’t been there since August last year; Sasha’s first SOTA.
MWIS indicated a summit temp of 7C rising to 11C with a brisk north easterly breeze and sunshine. Not far off ideal except that the dog has a thin coat and would likely shiver after half an hour sitting in the open in single figure temperatures. Her red fur-lined waterproof sorted that problem though someone did ask if she’d nicked it from Royal Mail.
The plan was identical to that of last year with an intended start point on the NATS Radar Station access road which leads up to the golf ball style radome on top of Great Dunn Fell. This is basically a private road where nothing can be taken for granted. At any time the road could be closed behind locked gates or the wording of the notices given legal clout. Worse still, if you drive past the open barrier you could get locked in as happened to me on a dark winter’s evening a few years ago. If there were any problems the intention was to back off and climb Wild Boar Fell instead.
Up as far as the radar station the choices are either the metalled road or the alternative which is the Pennine Way. This is signed from the parking place and runs roughly parallel with the road. After the radar station it’s the PW all the way to NP1’s summit trig. If the radar road did not exist, it would have to be a full assault from (for instance) Kirkland which used to take me nearly two hours.
I picked up Sasha from home at 06:50 and we set out from Irton at 07:00, clocking 118 miles via the A170; A1, A168 & A66 and arriving at the small pull-off (NY 7163 3160) immediately short of the barrier at 09:38. The A1 north of Leeming still has a 50 mph limit with average speed cameras and it was jammed almost to a standstill near Catterick today. This will go on until 2017 after which the A1 here will become the A1M.
Start time at the radar road was identical to last year - 09:56. Three vans loaded with people drove past as we parked. They evidently had permission to park right outside the radar station gate. Later we saw that some of them had rucksacks with poles sticking out. What’s this, I thought? Some kind of mass SOTA activation? I need not have worried. The equipment was merely required to mark out areas of grass on Cross Fell’s summit so that botanical surveys could be carried out. With Sasha orbiting them at vast speed as they walked along the paved way, one couple told me that the sheep had all been herded off the day before for shearing.
After the radar dome, the path is mostly paved as far as the rocky incline leading to Cross Fell’s summit plateau. A switchback journey, which must be repeated on the return, gets Great and Little Dunn Fells out of the way in readiness for the final push via two tall stone stacks; the second of which (NY 6902 3425) is in the activation area.
The complete lack of sheep was an advantage. My canine companion was allowed the freedom to run around at will; until she hit the first peat bog that is. You have to gain experience one way or the other. All I needed to look out for now were other dogs but in contrast to last year, there were none. Due to the dog’s freedom to stop and sniff while I carried on combined with the cold breeze, we beat last year’s 62 minute ascent time by a good 5 minutes but the return in the warmth of mid afternoon would be slower.
CROSS FELL, G/NP-001, 893m, 8 pts. 10:53 to 15:08. 7 Deg.C on arrival - 11C later. A cold breeze of 10 mph plus. Mainly sunny with short periods of overcast. No low-cloud or rain. Orange (EE) mobile phone coverage at Gt. & Little Dunn Fell summits but mostly absent on NP1 this year. (LOC: IO84SQ – WAB: NY63)
We settled down in a slight hollow just NE of the summit proper. After erecting both dipole and a 2m-FM vertical, I switched on the IC-E90 to monitor 145.400 in the hope of an S2S with Pete M0HQO on NP13. There was also a chance of hearing Nick G4OOE and Dave G3TQQ both on LD8. NP1 was needed for a completion and the LD8 Blencathra party were not long in coming up.
145.400/ 145.375 FM - 5 QSO’s:
Whilst readying the HF station, I heard activity on the handie. This was John G0TDM and he was in contact with Nick G4OOE on Blencathra. After first working John, a quick S2S was arranged with Nick after which Dave G3TQQ came on the mic for his ‘complete.’ Next came Rob G0HRT/P for another flurry of S2S working. Rob was on Fair Snape Fell - G/SP-007. What a good start! Finally I heard a request of ‘down one’ after which I worked G4BLH/P on 145.375. Mike was out portable at a high point near his home enjoying a low noise environment.
Working conditions were 5 Watts to a half-wave J-fed vertical, which was ground mounted at the time; the mast being employed in supporting the HF dipole.
7.033 CW - 10 QSO’s:
It was fortunate that Roy G4SSH was listening on 7.033 because the phone signal was zero most of the time. I think if I’d been overlooking the south side it might have been better. Just 142 km apart, we hadn’t expected to make it on 40m given its characteristics of the recent past but we exchanged easily. RST’s were 599/ 579 with 30 Watts at my end but there was noticeable QSB about. Roy later informed me that my 7 MHz signals had disappeared quite abruptly ten minutes later, never to return.
Due to starting the activation before I was actually ready, there was a bit of catching up to do with regard to the log. After a while I heard G0WUX/P in the back of the box. I sent 339 and all the particulars then promptly lost him. QSB was the culprit and it gradually became evident that the band(s) were highly unstable. It had been like this for a week or two. A good guide to conditions on 40m is the WAB net on 7.160. This was conspicuous by its absence today.
Bill G4WSB called me and an easy QSO ensued. GI4ONL Vic was next followed by ON4FI Karel and an unsuccessful call from HB9AGH Ambrosi who made it about 10 minutes later. PA0B was quite strong to me but like Ambrosi’s first attempt Rob got off the hook due to QSB.
Next in was Paul DL6FBK/P; an S2S on DM/HE-542. The exchange was 529 both ways but Paul’s Morse was a bit fast for me. A good QSO nevertheless.
Frid DL1FU used his skills to make a QSO in difficult circumstances but just as I was straining for further callers, the IC-E90 handheld sprang into life. This was the expected sked with Pete M0HQO/P on NP13. See below:
145.300 FM - 1 QSO:
During a lull in the 40m CW operation, I heard Pete M0HQO/P (home QTH Pickering) calling me from G/NP-013 - The Calf. Pete had emailed me with a list of completes he needed and NP1 was top of the list; the reason I was monitoring. It was a pleasure to give him the complete and work yet another S2S to add to the collection. The exchange was 59 both ways. Pete told me that he and his two dogs had enjoyed a pleasant walk up in good WX. We were able to compare notes. Currently Sasha was flat out on the grass getting some well earned shuteye. As far as working my North Yorkshire friends and Scarborough Radio Society Members was concerned, the targets had been fully met.
7.033.5 CW - QSO’s
Since the channel I had been using earlier seemed occupied, I nudged up half a kHz and called CQ. Immediately I logged a further three stations as follows: DL7VKD/P (Dieter - Flora and Fauna D/FF-294); MW0RSS/A Peter and finally Jack GM4COX/P; yet another S2S on GM/SS-165. For these the power was increased to the maximum available 50 Watts.
7.130 SSB - Nil QSO’s:
The alerted frequency of 7.132 was occupied so I called CQ on 7.130 with 50 Watts for about 10 minutes without result. It was frustrating that the phone didn’t work when I needed it.
Now came a break for sandwiches and a handful of dog biscuits for Sasha. A sneaky thief last year, Sasha has gone some way towards learning better manners. She is also more disciplined; returning when called most of the time. Directly my sandwiches were extracted from the rucksack, the dog biscuits were temporarily forgotten.
7.160 SSB - 14 QSO’s:
This was a planned inclusion and brought forward after the SSB SOTA channel had dried up. Since the latter never got going, 7.160 became the SOTA/ WAB session with a trig point thrown in for good measure.
The channel was initially quiet and after checking it with 50 Watts, I worked Ken G0FEX - the WAB Mag editor in Leicester with 58/ 57. At least some one had heard me in SSB and it was such easy copy that we were able to have a short chat. After working me for the trig point, Ken looked up the reference which was TP0695. In the short time it took, he could no longer hear me and the TP number had to be relayed to me via M0IML/P.
There followed some familiar callsigns: G7BGA Geoff; DL7UCW Ben; MM3PDM/P Peter in Peterhead; EI2KD Rod; GM0VWP/P Terry S2S on GM/SI-006 Isle of Arran (55 each way); G0GWK John in Lambourne; G4WSB Bill in Swindon; M0IML/P Barry; home QTH Dover but currently S2S on G/SE-015; PA0SKP Sake - SOTA chaser; G0RQL Don in Holdsworthy, Devon; GI4ONL Vic; MM6TNM Paul on South Uist and G0TDM John in Penrith who’d come on to tell me that Nick G4OOE was operating on 7.118.
Apologies to Ben for getting his name wrong. I must have worked him 30 times from different WAB squares this spring and still managed to call him ‘Dan.’ Such is the ageing brain. Despite there being no WAB net running, their frequency had yielded more contacts than any other single session today. There are almost always people monitoring 7.160 while they go about their daily business. Well done the WAB’ers.
7.118 SSB - 1 QSO:
At 12:20z and thanks to John G0TDM, I found Nick calling CQ from LD8 and now on 7.118. We exchanged at 59 both ways. Nick seemed concerned about the performance of the vertical ground plane he was using. People with good signals themselves were not always hearing him. My dipole was also under suspicion also for the wrong reasons. It was band conditions that were letting us down. Nick went off to try 10m-CW and I wasn’t far behind him.
28.032/ 28.035 CW - 2 QSO’s:
After hearing Nick calling CQ on 28.032 with no one apparently replying, we exchanged on this band too, once again with 599 both ways. After all we could almost wave to each other. I left Nick to it but he didn’t stay long. Managing to finally get a text off to Roy G4SSH, I was thankfully spotted on 28.035 where I worked Mike G4BLH, no doubt boosting his 10m challenge score. With 50 Watts and a horizontal dipole at NP1 to Mike’s chosen high ASL/ low noise portable location, the ground-wave exchange was 549 both ways.
145.500/ 145.550/ 145.570/ 145.400 FM - 7 QSO’s:
Considering its almost 3,000 foot stature, Cross Fell has a shockingly poor VHF takeoff and I only had 5 Watts to a half-wave. To optimise what little signal I could muster, I packed up the HF kit and repositioned just to the south of the trig point and shelter overlooking the A66, this time erecting the J-Pole on the base section of the HF mast. There were a few people about but no dogs. A lady, who was quite taken with Sasha came over to befriend her, which took a little time. She also obliged with the camera.
The beautifully constructed summit crossed-wall shelter, now a year old, was worth a few photos too. Bill G4WSB commented on it when we’d worked earlier and I could confirm his own first hand observations that no cement had apparently been used to stick it together. Bill was impressed with the quality as he knows a thing or two about building. http://www.ukhillwalking.com/news/item.php?id=69089
With the dog returned to sunning herself, we tried a CQ on S20. The ubiquitous John G0TDM was there again and seemed to be keeping tabs on all SOTA activity on 2m-FM as well as 40m. We exchanged at 57/ 53 before I went off to work S2S’s on John’s suggested channels.
First were G4MWA/P and M6AJN/P on 145.550. These were Fred and his son Andrew having a great day out on LD7 Fairfield; another S2S. They were using just 500 mW to a vertical dipole but nevertheless four 59 reports were swapped. We chatted for 5 minutes before I QSY’d to 145.400 to work G6XBF Walt. Walt was 54 but only hearing me 41. Still something of a miracle from Cross Fell to north Leeds I thought but Walt does use a decent vertical.
Following another alert by John I moved up to 145.575 for S2S’s with 2E0TDX/P and 2E0XYL/P. Niel & Karen were on Scoat Fell; a Wainwright with the ref. LDW-023. Considering the sunshine we were getting today, I was almost shocked to discover that this was their forth summit from five planned in the day; the next and final one being Pillar. Personally speaking, I just can’t operate like that in summer; always going for the lazy option. They said that LD6 would take a further hour to reach. They also sounded completely relaxed but I was full of admiration for their efforts and I hope they made it off Pillar, preferably not down the scree run where rocks the size of suitcases can overtake you or worse.
A final return to 145.400 via S20 brought in the final station of the day in the form of Bob G6ODU/P and the final S2S! Bob was on G/LD-050 - Gummer’s Howe. G1OHH - Sue called in but was only heard by Bob. De-squelching brought her in to me at 51 but she couldn’t hear my report in QSB. I tried a few times but I had no recourse as far as power was concerned and it was past the time we’d planned to move off.
Descent and drive:
So as to lighten the load, we ate the remainder of the food and after offering it to the dog, dumped all but a little of the water. We stopped for photos at the first (highest) of the rock stacks (NY 6902 3425.) Close by we found that stones had been recently removed to reveal a curious construction about 30cm below ground level. It looked like the end of a concrete sewer pipe set vertically. Perfectly positioned in the centre there was a small raised dome rather like the spinner at the intake of a jet engine. I couldn’t tell whether this was made from concrete or steel and there was no time to investigate further. Just what this was, why it was there, the reason for its burial and sudden exposure, I really couldn’t guess.
Both Sasha and I started to overheat on the ascents that are mandatory on the return so we stopped to fasten our coats to the rucksack. The poor dog, who had been sprinting across path, grass and quagmire alike, was thirsty so we found a clear stream in preference to the bog water she would have consumed had I let her. By the time we reached the road, she’d adopted the hang dog look but perked up nicely when the car hove into view, arriving there at 16:11.
The 118 mile drive home via A66; A1; A1M; A168; A19 and A170 up Sutton Bank took from 16:16 to 18:50. I have started going this way to avoid the centre of Thirsk. It’s about 6 miles further but significantly faster. Besides, there is no longer much choice; the route is now determined by motorway exits or more precisely the absence of one where the B6267 road to Wensleydale intersects the A1M. Soon after returning Sasha to her owner, she was in her bed fast asleep, even forgoing the bedtime treat ritual.
Total: 40 comprising:
10 on 40m-CW.
15 on 40m-SSB (inc 14 on 7.160 - WAB QRG).
2 on 10m-CW
13 on 2m-FM.
414m (1,358ft) ascent, 9.3 km (5.8 miles). 57U, 63D.
Walking time: 2 hours.
Summit time: 4 hours - 15 minutes.
Miles Driven: 236 (home to home)
Eight SOTA activator points.
Sasha’s Point Tally: 20
Propagation on 40m was plagued with QSB but the WAB frequency of 7.160 MHz saved the day with a top score of 14 QSO’s. 145 MHz FM was the next best meeting place for chasers though NP1 is a total disappointment from the coverage viewpoint, especially for the Lancashire chasers, due to interposing LD mountains.
I don’t know how Nick found it but 10m didn’t seem very open to anywhere. I did hear a signal or two on there but didn’t stop to read the callsign areas. Evidently it wasn’t open to SOTA chasers apart from line-of sight to G4OOE Nick on LD8 and G4BLH Mike.
I think I logged about a dozen S2S QSO’s which boiled down to contacts with nine different SOTA summits. As I don’t go looking for other summits, that must be close to a personal best.
Sasha on her third SOTA has perhaps become a summer regular. She is very good company, behaved very well and is more obedient than when we first knew her. All the chasing around at breakneck speed did worry me slightly in case she succumbed to an injury but she is certainly built for speed. Unfortunately not many SOTA summits resemble the surface found at dog tracks.
Her reaction to sheep has not yet been put to the test but an absence of them today helped to put my mind at rest as far as letting her off the lead was concerned. It’s the first summit where I have dared do that. She’s not my dog which means I must take extra care.
We met many of the sheep which would normally have been on Cross fell blocking the road on the drive out. There was a hundred strong flock, now almost completely ‘naked’ with a large ‘H’ stenciled on each. A black and white Collie dog plus the farmer on his quad bike were driving them back towards the hills we’d just vacated. It seems like we picked the right day!
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and to the spotters: G4SSH Roy and G4WSB Bill. Also to John G0TDM for organising several S2S’s and the ops who provided them. I don’t make a habit of actively pursuing other summits but with HF in a depressed state resulting in fewer QSO’s, there was ample time today. To me it’s more about a chat and to compare notes but without the S2S’s the QSO count would have been even poorer.
Special thanks to Hazel who owns her and to Sasha who was such a good companion.
73, John G4YSS
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)
Above: Driving up the radar site road to Gt.Dunn Fell.
Above: Park beside the radar site road just short of the barrier.
Above: Trig TP0695, the new shelter and Sasha on arrival.
Above: Sasha adopting the Cross Fell Position.
Above: HF QTH with VHF half-wave for monitoring.
Above: VHF QTH with home-brew half-wave J-Pole on short mast.
Above: Mystery hole in ground near top stack at NY 6902 3425.
Above: Mystery hole in ground and unknown structure at NY 6902 3425.
Above: Lower Pennine Way rock stack at NY 6938 3411. Gt.Dunn Fell Radar behind.