G4YSS:G/NP-001 With Sasha Dog, 24-Aug-14

G4YSS: Activation of G/NP-001 on 24-Aug-14

CROSS FELL on 80m; 40m CW/ SSB & 2m-FM.
Accompanied by Sasha; Hazel & Jack’s Lurcher, borrowed for the day.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P.
All times BST (UTC plus 1hr) UOS.

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver for HF & VHF.
SainSonic MX-P50A HF (80 thru 10) 50 Watt Linear Amplifier.
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20.
Half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m-FM.
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
One 6 Ah Li-Po battery.
Reserve rig/ PMR: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHF/ UHF, 5oz H/H (not used).
Packweight: 11.48kg (25.32 pounds) inc 1.5L water, dog food, bowl, fleece cover & carry mat.

This was just another ‘summer special.’ The latest in a series of stress-free summer SOTAs done purely for pleasure; unlike winter activating which is done on what better resembles a business footing. After Nicky (our visitor from the USA in early August) and some Bradford nostalgia combined with NP28 on the 13th, my companion on this trip would be a four legged friend.

My Daughter-in-Law Hazel got Sasha from a rescue centre in May and she has settled into the family extremely well. A Lurcher ‘manufactured’ from Greyhound/ Staffy stock, at the outset she was desperately thin with a patchy, coat, flaky skin and rather sad demeanour. She has improved markedly since then and is much fitter since I started taking her along the 4.5-mile walk to or from Scarborough several times each week. Some people think I don’t like dogs but I love them. So long as they belong to someone else I can enjoy walking them. It’s a bit like having Grandchildren. You can take them back afterwards.

With the majority of NP’s in the 2014 log there wasn’t a lot of choice left but Cross Fell, the only 8 pointer NP, was still available. It is not the easiest summit but the ‘radar route’ helps a lot in that respect. Even short-cutting through the rock band, the walk up from Kirkland used to take me the better part of two hours.

Yet again I had to wait for the right weather conditions to take Sasha on her first mountain. She is a thin dog with a thin coat and can ‘shiver for England’ without much excuse. Considering my reputation for lengthy activations there would be a lot of waiting around which would make the wind-speed and temperature predictions critical. That was especially important on a Bank Holiday weekend, as the intention was to leave the main summit shelter to the rest of humanity and find somewhere less well appointed to activate from. The forecast was for a 10 mph wind and some sunshine in the morning. Unfortunately 5C rising to 9C is cold for August but if we could find a good place to set up and took along some protection for the dog, we should be OK. Also the 5C referred to dawn and mainly because I didn’t want to get Sasha’s family up at 4am, we would not be starting the walk until 10.

Another consideration was security, so I prepared a rope tether and just in case it couldn’t be tied to anything solid, a section of beach-combed trawl net (plentiful in OV00 and elsewhere) which could be filled with large rocks to form a ground anchor if necessary. After my friend lost his Spaniel for two hours when we were doing, Pillar, Kirk Fell & Gable in 2010, I was terrified that Sasha might want to run after other dogs or chase sheep. On that past occasion, Jess was spotted by a walker with her lead caught in rocks at the summit of Kirk Fell and it was only by chance that we got her back so easily. Phil G4OBK also panicked when he lost his wife’s dog Treacle on Hartsop Dodd for a full hour, so there were enough warnings that I needed to take care.

From a walking viewpoint, Cross Fell is not difficult if you set off from the NATS Radar Station; the ‘golfball’ on top of Great Dunn Fell, which is visible for miles around. That said, access cannot be taken for granted. At any time the private road up to the station could be closed behind locked gates or the wording of the notices strengthened. If that happened the plan was to back off and climb Wild Boar Fell instead.

I picked an excited Sasha at 06:50 and we set out from Irton at 07:10, driving the required 112 miles via A170; A1 & A66, arriving at the small pulloff (NY 7163 3160) near the barrier at 09:33. The A1 north of Leeming has a 50 mph limit with average speed detection until 2017 due to an upgrade to M-Way standards.

The two of us set off up the radar road at 09:56 soon passing the Radar Station after turning right immediately before the entrance. After that the path is paved up to the part boggy, part 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.

Since I wanted Sasha to ‘bag’ the summit we carried on from here and I’m glad we did. An unexpected sight greeted us in the form of a brand new summit wind shelter replacing the old dilapidated one, in the same position. No doubt thinking that this was a building where she could find, food, rest and comfort, Sasha bounded forward almost pulling me over. On discovering the reality, she seemed somewhat crestfallen whilst I gazed open mouthed at this fabulous, and beautifully constructed replacement of what was fast becoming a mere pile of rocks.

Considering that we had wasted a few minutes seeing to the dog’s toileting requirements, we had made good time, arriving at the trig point in 62 minutes. There had been sheep and lambs on the way but thankfully her reaction was minimal. In fact she seemed to want to avoid them.

CROSS FELL, G/NP-001, 893m, 8 pts. 10:58 to 14:48. 8 Deg.C on arrival - 12C later. Wind 10 mph falling to 5 mph. Mainly sunny at first with increasing periods of overcast later. No low-cloud or rain. (LOC: IO84SQ – WAB: NY63). Orange (EE) mobile phone coverage at the activation site and at Gt. & Little Dunn Fell summits.

A 200 metre walk to the NNW got us out of sight of summit ‘traffic’ whilst still providing us with a minor windbreak in the form of an old tumbled-down shelter at NY 6865 3449. I can’t remember seeing this before. We took our time setting up and made ourselves comfortable. Sasha was tethered to what was left of the stonework and given half a carry mat to lie on. I made a crazy paving of flat rocks to put it on. An old fleece of mine would come in handy for her later when the sun went in. For now she sunbathed while I erected the dipole unhindered.

Phone coverage was a bit patchy down this northern slope but standing on the stonework enabled a phone to Roy G4SSH for an advanced spot on 3.557MHz… I sent a few dashes and Roy confirmed I was weak but audible.

3.557 CW - 2 QSO’s:
With 50 Watts to the dipole Roy gave me a 339 RST and was immediately followed by Mark G0VOF offering a 579. Both these stations were coming in at a true 589 but there was QSB on the band, more of which we would detect later. CQ’s brought nothing further but just as I was about to QSY, Mike EI2CL called in. Unfortunately despite a few calls, this turned out to be one way only. I wasn’t unduly concerned as this was not Top Band and he would surely hear me on 40m.

3.724 SSB - 6 QSO’s:
A CQ on 3.724 with 50W evoked no immediate response so Mark G0VOF came back in to give me a report. Due to changing conditions of five minutes ago, it was only 55 each way. Next was Don G0RQL from Devon who struggled with his report at first, giving me a 25 later a 35 RS. Mick M0MDA was a strongly modulated 57 to me from Leeds, followed by Brian G0HRH operating an FT757 in Axminster (52 both ways). Perhaps the strongest station worked on 80-SSB was Jonathan 2W0KGQ (58/ 58) near Wrexham, which must have been the perfect skip distance. Last to call in was Roy G4SSH who’d dusted off an old desk mic for test on his brand new FT5000. (55 both ways.)

Roy’s microphone was not the only thing getting tested. This was Sasha’s first experience of SOTA activating and I was unsure how she would react. There were any number of ways that she could have wrecked the session but I was thankful that she sat on the grass as good as gold.

Now came a break for sandwiches and a well earned handful of dog biscuits for Sasha. With hindsight this may not have been the best thing to do. It was now clear to the dog that my rucksack contained food as well as boring radio equipment. From now on I had to take precautions before going away to change the links on the dipole. When it comes to anything edible, Sasha has proved herself to be an unashamed thief.

7.034 CW - 10 QSO’s:
Roy spotted me as I was heading for 7.033 but I am not used to weekend activating and when I got there it was busy. In fact the first clear spot I could get was at 7.034.5, and that was kindly posted by Mark G0VOF. Stations worked on 40-CW were G4SSH; EI2CL (Mike succeeding this time); M0IML/P Barry S2S on G/SE-001; G0VOF Mark; GM0TIX; DJ5AV Mike; DL1AIW/P (with the benefit of doubt); PA7ZEE Geert; PB2T Hans and DL8WJM/P Lars (Flora & Fauna 251). The last station took some working but many of the remainder had strong signals. As before, power was 50 Watts from the linear.

By now there was less sunshine and at 11 degrees C with a cool breeze, the dog began to shiver. An old fleece brought along for the purpose saved the day and by now she had moved onto the carry mat. Some dogs won’t have anything put over them but this one seemed grateful for the extra insulation.

7.129.5 SSB - 11 QSO’s:
G4JZF was first in for ‘a new one on 40m.’ Graham was referring to the WAB square but was equally grateful for the eight SOTA points. His Dog (Max) was also sitting beside him. GM4NFI Dave in Fort William got me thinking of Ben Nevis and the fact that I haven’t climbed it for four years. Exchanges for these two were 59 both ways. After that: M0JLA Rod; G4WSB/P Bill in South Wales who told me he had worked an amazing eleven VK’s from a SOTA that morning; G0HRT Rob; M0VCM John; G0TDM John; ON5SWA Francois; G0RQL Don; M0JZT Martin and finally G8ADD Brian just as I was reaching out to hit the off switch.

Apart from one or two occasions when I caught her with her snout in my rucksack, Sasha was behaving impeccably which made it possible to stay a little longer to do some FM. Since Cross Fell is poor for VHF despite it’s almost 3,000 feet, added to the fact that we were a few metres down the slope, it would be necessary to pack up the HF kit and walk back up to the top.

145.525/ 145.400/ 145.550 FM - 10 QSO’s:
On a fine and frequently sunny Bank Holiday Sunday, there were quite a few people enjoying the new summit crossed-wall shelter; many of them had dogs. Being built of newly cut stone, the new shelter has a much paler colour and reflects the light more efficiently. Wishing not to incite a dog fight, I trapped Sasha’s tether under one of the big rocks which surround the trig point. After re-deploying her mat and pouring her a drink in the folding dog bowl, we were ready to call Roy for a spot.

With the HF linear eliminated from the RF path and 5 Watts from the FT817 to a vertical half-wave, the following stations were logged: M0AYB/P Phil S2S on Place Fell G/LD-027; G0TDM John in Penrith; G1OHH Sue in Lancaster; G0OEX Peter S2S on Lambrigg Fell G/LD-046; G6XBF Walt - north Leeds; G2ARY & M0BQD George & Lesa in North Shields (a long time since I worked them); G4YTD/P Tim S2S on Pillar G/LD-006 (making me jealous!); G1OAE Tony in Workington and G4NMD/P Graham S2S on Lords Seat G/LD-033.

Frequency Dependant Signals:
At switch-on, M0AYB/P was found on S20 calling for final QSO’s and we QSY’d to .525 where John G0TDM heard me. At this we nipped down to 145.400 but found that signal strengths both ways had dropped dramatically. On .400 I was not troubling John’s ‘S’ Meter whereas on .525 I was 54 to him! John was weaker to me also; 57 as against 59 plus. I waggled the antenna and hit the 817 but it made no difference so I have no idea what caused this quirk. Just to make sure we tried again and it was the same. A third QSY up to 145.550 restored communications to their former level. I should have tried this with another station but time was passing and I wanted to get home for tea.

A couple with a Labrador offered to take our photos and we reciprocated. The lady commented that it was unusual to see a ‘Greyhound’ on a mountain because they are built for short bursts and fast action. Indeed that is true; Sasha can move like you wouldn’t believe but today she showed no sign of sprinting off today. Neither of fatigue.

Descent and drive:
After eating the remainder of our respective picnics; sandwiches and dog biscuits, I packed away the station and we got going. The return was uneventful and non stop apart from the usual ‘doggy driven’ pauses and some photos at the rock stacks etc. I recovered the well weathered dog lead that we’d found earlier on Great Dunn Fell. It would come in handy as a spare. The undulating return was made in 57 minutes. Sasha was glad to see the car, climbing immediately into the rear seat without invitation.

I will admit to collecting two large rocks from a rock-field at the side of the radar road on behalf of a friend who collects these items. While thus engaged and on return to the car, I found that a bag containing the rest of our food had magically migrated from inside a cardboard box in the front footwell and onto the rear seat! This was confiscated before any thieving could begin.

The distance back to Irton, Scarborough was 112 miles but I went slightly wrong trying to get onto the A66. Nonetheless, the 118 mile drive home via Sutton Bank was completed from 16:00 to 18:35 which was not bad for August Bank Holiday Sunday. After unloading at our house I asked Sasha if she would like anther walk. Enthusiasm seemed to tell me ‘yes’ so we set off to walk her home the three miles to Cayton. We were late for tea but with a bit of running we were there in 38 minutes for greetings all round!

Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and to the spotters: G4SSH Roy, G0VOF Mark and G0TDM John. Special thanks to Sasha who took all of this in her stride and to Hazel & Jack for parting with her for a whole day.

Total: 39 comprising:
2 on 3.5-CW.
6 on 3.5-SSB.
10 on 7-CW.
11 on 7-CW.
10 on 2-FM.

Battery Utilisation (Tested):
11V; 6 Ah Li-Po - 79% discharged.

Walking/ Times:
414m (1,358ft) ascent, 9.3 km (5.8 miles). 62U, 57D.
Walking time: 1 hour - 59 minutes.
Summit time: 3 hours - 50 minutes.
Miles Driven: 230 (+6 to Cayton & back in the morning).
Eight SOTA activator points.

Yet again the 80m band did not fail. Eight QSO’s into SW England, N.Wales and closer in was a worthwhile result. If I had only had 5 Watts I wouldn’t have completed more than two of these QSO’s.

40m did an average job. After being spotted by Roy, I perhaps expected more QSO’s but being 2.5 kHz up from the ‘accepted’ channel possibly didn’t help. Nor did the deep and fast QSB encountered today on both 80 and 40.

I had no coils for 160m and the linear doesn’t cover it; at least not with a filtered output. 145 MHz was certainly worth doing and considering the antenna, power and location, ten QSO’s was at least par. When I put 2m-FM on from the NP’s, I always have in mind the Lancashire chasers. The trouble is, from here the LD mountains get in the way.

The new shelter was a pleasant surprise and long overdue if I can say that. We cannot expect someone to repair or provide shelters. Apparently it took a month to build but it is very substantial and will be even more so when the stones from which it is made settle together more fully. Info can be found at: New shelter UKH News - Cross Fell Shelter Rebuilt A shelter is a bonus but more often than not, I fight shy of using one if someone else might want some peace and quiet.

Sasha proved to be a good SOTA dog today, not least as there was quite a lot of sunshine which she loves. The quip to her owner on returning was that she is not actually a Lurcher but a ‘Pointer.’ When I was challenged on that, I added ‘Eight Pointer.’ So well done to her for putting up with me for twelve hours or so. I think she enjoyed the walking but had it been much colder, she would have needed a thicker cover when stationary. I certainly enjoyed her company and I hope we can repeat the exercise sometime.

73, John G4YSS
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)