G4YSS: Activation of G/NP-001 on 14-07-16
CROSS FELL: QRO on 160-80-60-30-20m & QRP 2m-FM.
Accompanied by Sasha - Greyhound/ Staffy Lurcher on her sixth SOTA.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P.
All times BST (UTC plus 1hr) UOS.
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Multimode Transceiver
MX-P50M 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 11.1V; 5 Ah Turnigy Li-Po battery. No reserve
IC-E90 Quad Band VHF-5W Handheld for 2m-FM
Pocket Rig: Baofeng UV-3R; 2W VHF/ UHF, 5oz H/H
Packweight: 11kg (24 pounds) inc 1L water, dog coat, food & bowl
To my mind summer is the season for single activations done more for pleasure than for statistics or targets. Good company that she is, this was Sasha’s sixth SOTA and we have done NP1 together twice before. Cross Fell is relatively benign and hopefully would not contribute to possible injuries to the dog who can suddenly take off at great speed. Though minor, she’s had a few too many cuts of late. Lurchers have thin skin and not much flesh.
The forecast stated that Thursday would be the best day of the week with less than favourable weather either side of it. It wouldn’t be hot either with 10C maximum at the summit, partly sunny and a cool breeze.
Quicker and easier than 2 hours up from Kirkland in the bad old days, the NATS Radar Station access road which leads up to the ‘CAA’ radar of Great Dunn Fell was the start point again today. As far as I know it’s long been the standard SOTA approach. As this is basically a private road, there’s always the remote possibility of show stoppers such as locked gates or authority on two legs. If officialdom was to stop us, NP7 was to be the secondary target.
I picked Sasha up from home at 07:20 and we set out from Irton at 07:35, clocking 116 miles via the A170; A1, A168 & A66 and arriving at the small pull-off (NY 7163 3160) immediately short of the barrier at 10:25. This is where the Pennine Way leaves the road. The journey was far less boring than normal owing to some good conversation with Dave G4DAX and his friend Kevin G0EBL (both mobile) on Harrogate repeater GB3HG (145.625-FM). I think this must have continued for something like 45 minutes. Dave was on his way through Malton and Kevin was on a journey to Ripon.
Much later, whilst driving up the steep radar road, I heard a strong CQ on S20 from a /P station in Wales. Looking at the spots this could possibly have been GW4TQE/P on a three summit round. I wasn’t to know that at the time but thinking I might be helping out a possible SOTA activator, I answered his call. Just seconds later he rapidly faded out as I moved position. I tried to re-establish contact with him but as can happen with radio, a misunderstanding developed and I was called by a fixed station in Kendal. To cut a long story short I ended up working two stations which delayed proceedings a little and it wasn’t until 10:44 that we finally got underway.
Lower down the radar road at a gate, we passed a large corral full of sheep and recalled last year that all the sheep had been rounded up on 14th July 2015; the day before our activation. Today was the 14th July 2016 and the same process was being carried out. This meant that the dog would not have to walk on the lead all the way to the summit for fear that she might chase sheep.
Great and Little Dunn Fells must first be climbed before Cross Fell can be tackled. The final stretch has two tall stone stacks; the second of which (NY 6902 3425) has a nearby sunken trig point and is in the activation area. As always, it was a bit wet in the cols between the hills and worse still on the initial slopes of Cross Fell where a stream runs amok.
CROSS FELL, G/NP-001, 893m, 8 pts. 11:42 to 16:03. 10 Deg.C. A cold breeze of 5 mph or so. Sunny and overcast in roughly equal measure. No low-cloud or rain. Bees and wasps. Orange (EE) mobile phone coverage 50% of the time this year. (LOC: IO84SQ – WAB: NY63 - Trig: TP-0695)
I selected a spot just SE of the trig point which was overlooking the southern aspect. The grass looked OK for masts and end sticks but I quickly found that the soil there was barely an inch deep in most places. In the end the dipole went up OK but not without the help of a large rock or two used to anchor one of the end sticks. It’s no use bodging it up any old how, only to find later that the whole thing collapses when the Top Band Coils are added. It was therefore, worth spending the extra few minutes. The wind was pretty cold so before sitting down I put Sasha’s coat on.
3.557 CW - 3 QSO’s:
Calling G4SSH at 11:10z on a quiet band brought immediate results. The exchange was 589/ 559 and Roy obliged with a spot. Next caller was G4OBK Phil (599/ 579) followed by GI4ONL Vic (589/ 599). Power was 30 Watts for these but there were no further answers to CQ’s.
3.724 SSB - 5 QSO’s:
Even in daylight, 80m has been surprisingly good for SOTA of late and I was hoping more chasers would hear me than did today. One draw back is domestic noise levels and the other the requirement for long antennas but today the time of day was a major obstacle.
With 30 Watts later upped to 50, the following stations were logged: G8MIA; G8VNW; G3RDQ; G0FEX and M0JLA. Ken G0FEX only just worked me. His noise level was very high and he got the idea that the QSO was in the bag. Just when he was about to go happily on his way, I got him to repeat his RS to me. EI9GLB called in. After several tries, I was unable to get back to him but that would be remedied later on 60m. With the exception of Nick G8VNW, all incoming reports were 56 or below.
1.832 CW - 2 QSO’s:
Mark G0VOF had made a late decision to climb G/SP-007 Fair Snape Fell in the hope of making a rare 160m S2S. Unfortunately he wasn’t on 160m when I called on this occasion but we were to work later.
On the 2nd and 3rd of July while overnighting on NP8, I had found to my surprise that Roy G4SSH (Scarborough) was much stronger on Top Band in daylight than over the same path (102km) a year ago. Those QSO’s were early and late in the day but despite it being 30 minutes past noon, it happened again today. Roy and I exchanged at 549 both ways; an easy copy at 40km greater distance! Fact stranger than fiction.
No 160m session would be complete without G4OBK in the log. Phil has been working me on a regular basis since just after I started specializing in 160m SOTA back in 2004 and the exchange this time was 599/ 559. With Phil’s Beverage out of action, receiving my modest signal on an inverted L was much more difficult. Power for the 160m CW and SSB sessions was 50 Watts - the maximum available.
1.843 SSB - 2 QSO’s:
As well as reworking Phil G4OBK, this change of mode got me an extra station in the form of G8VNW in Threshfield. Lately Nick seems to have become quite enthusiastic about Top Band SOTA chasing but this time the exchange was down at 51/ 35, indicating a difficult path (77km) over intervening high ground.
Phil could only give me a ‘difficult 44’ in SSB due to the Beverage being non operational. Running 100W into an inverted L, he was 58 to 59 on the FT817’s meter.
Alternating between the CW and SSB frequencies, I called CQ for a further five minutes but sadly there was no sign of Mark G0VOF/P nor any other stations. I tried to phone Roy G4SSH to see if he knew anything and I got luck the third time. I gathered that Mark was running a bit late but was ‘ready to transmit.’ Roy gave me Mark’s phone number but that was just telling me, ‘Leave a message.’ I tried a bit later with the same result. Maybe I would find Mark on 2m-FM so abandoning the next HF QSY to 60m, I tried to locate him on 2-FM. (Apologies to anyone waiting for me on 60m at that time but I did get there later).
145.400 FM - 2 QSO’s:
After a scan of the band, a very brief call on 145.500 brought not G0VOF but an immediate reply from Geoff G4WHA/M who told me that he’d worked Mark on 2m-FM S2S from Skiddaw about 30 minutes before.
John G0TDM followed Geoff into the 2m-FM log but there was still no sign of Mark. These two QSO’s were worked with the J-Pole held in one hand and the rig in the other; the required mast section being in use for the HF dipole. In these circumstances it’s impossible to log and without this important real time aid, I feel quite exposed. Had a pileup ensued, there would have been a delay. Next I refitted the 160m coils and tried for Mark there.
1.832 CW - 1 QSO:
Finally at 12:37z, Mark G0VOF and I made our 160m S2S from G/NP-001 Cross Fell to G/SP-007 Fair Snape Fell. The exchange was 559/ 599. Mark was using just 5 Watts compared to my 50 which explains some of the discrepancy but not the entire 24dB. He also mentioned later, on 160m SSB, that he was having antenna problems but at least we made the contact. The distance was 88km along a path over the 2,000 foot Howgill Fells. A success.
1.843 SSB - 1 QSO:
Mark G0VOF was reworked on here but in SSB it was difficult to make out a lot of what he was saying (41/ 59). I did gather the bit about the antenna fault however and the planned further investigations.
145.400 FM - 1 QSO:
Another call on 145.500 was answered by GW4ZPL/P; John in Caernarfon but the response to my basic station of IC-E90 and 5 Watts to the J-Pole was a 33 report. John was 51 to me. There was nothing further but that didn’t surprise me. I mention this every time but Cross Fell is not the greatest place for VHF propagation considering its 2,930 foot height.
10.118 CW - 1 QSO:
This was fast degenerating into a one QSO per band activation. I had put an alert on SOTAwatch for this frequency. It was 25 minutes before the announced time but I thought I would give it a go. Roy was at the barbers at the time so I couldn’t phone for a spot. Furthermore, on the several times I’d tried it, the phone the results weren’t too reliable. Often the machine would announce, ‘No Coverage’ or ‘Emergency Calls Only.’
I called CQ for a while before getting a reply. This was OK7TK and we exchanged at 579 both ways. However, this didn’t have the true feel of a SOTA chaser QSO and checking later, Libor’s callsign is not to be found anywhere in the database. No chance of a spot I thought and I was right. Despite alerting with the club call, not even the RBN found me. After a while I decided it was not worth the battery power and gave up.
Bees and wasps were making regular visits, often on pairs and I had to keep removing them from the rig and food bags.
7.032.3 CW - Nil QSO’s:
Adjusting the dipole links, I found myself in ‘Chaser’s Alley.’ Surely I would now find success but 10 minutes of 50 Watt CQ’s later, I still had nothing to show for it. Gone are the days when a single call on here was like waking up a nest of hornets but that said, conditions on 40m have been consistently abysmal of late. Once again I gave up the quest and stroked the dog instead.
14.265 SSB - Nil QSO’s:
This time I gave it just five minutes but again there was not a single nibble let alone a bite. Looking at my watch I could see that G4SSH would soon be back at home. If I could get the dratted phone to work, a spot from Roy would make all the difference.
'OK’s at the summit:
Around this time Sasha took off at high speed heading for the summit shelter. I could see a couple with a large collie dog which was about to get some unwanted attention from an over energetic Lurcher. Running across, I apologised but in fact the dogs didn’t fight, mainly due to theirs being exceedingly passive.
On holiday from the Czech Republic, they were climbing Cross Fell from Kirkland where they were renting a cottage. We had a good conversation and I told them that I had been ‘speaking’ to one of their countrymen on the radio. Their English was good and no doubt from the equipment laid out a few metres away, they had already worked out that I was a radio amateur. Off they went hoping to find an alternative path back to Kirkland further east but 90 minutes later they returned having lost their way. I asked if they had a map? ‘Only a picture of one’ was the reply.
14.052.6 CW - 8 QSO’s:
Now we were finally ‘cooking with gas.’ G4SSH was in his shack again no doubt sporting a new haircut. Again after three attempts, the phone indirectly got me a spot from Roy. With 50 Watts to the dipole I worked: OK2PDT Jan; KA1R; DL2YBG; SP9AMH; OK1KT; G0TDM; S52CU and EA2DT. All reports, incoming and outgoing, were in the range 559 to 599. It was a pleasure to work transatlantic with 559 both ways and SP9AMH/ QRP and I exchanged the same 559 reports. Much closer at hand, I was 599 into Penrith.
Apologies for calling S52CU ‘Marko’ instead of Mirko but he got the idea. I had hoped for a few more in the log but at least now we were moving closer to the foot of page one.
14.265 SSB - 5 QSO’s:
After another phone call and spot from Roy, the following SSB stations were logged: OK3KW; EA2CKX; SA4BLM; EA2DT and OK1SDE who gave me a 44. I got a 51 and a 52 from Spain and the remaining two stations gave me 599. Power was 50 Watts again.
Manuel EA2DT tipped me off that he had just worked LA8BCA/P on 14.285 (SOTA LA/OL-360.) After further CQ’s on 14.265 weren’t answered, I QSY’d there but could not cut through the chasers long enough to hear whether the LA was coming back to me or not. This went on for a couple of minutes but though the timings seemed right, the chasers could not be parted. I think he may have been coming back to me but every time he came to the callsign part, it was wiped out. Also he was very weak about 33 to 44; possibly using 5 Watts. If so he may well have been replying to me but I may never know.
5.400 SSB - 3 QSO’s:
After working a few Europeans, thoughts turned once again to my fellow countrymen. 80m hadn’t really delivered at any useful level, 2m-FM was poor too and I’d already had a nil result on 40 CW. That left 60m but I must remember to use my own callsign.
Following more help from Roy and promising that it would be the last that I needed, he kindly spotted me for 5.400 - the old USB channel ‘FE.’ The full power of 50 Watts was retained for this session. Propagation had been far from great on the other bands so I was hoping for a better response on 60.
I knew Don G0RQL wasn’t yet in the log and hoped he’d see Roy’s spot which he did. Before Don I worked GM3GUF Robert in Biggar - 57 both ways and EI9GLB Jim in Ballycanew. Jim had called me on 80m three hours prior but I couldn’t get back to him then. Here we worked 58/ 44. Don G0RQL was his usual cheery self and the exchange was 58/ 59.
145.400 FM - 3 QSO’s:
Now playing in ‘extra time’ I went back to 2m with 5 Watts to the J-Pole and called CQ on S20 for the final time. Back came a YL voice which turned out to be 2E0MDY/P - Judith but also a mobile with callsign 2E0DIJ/M. Since both stations were 2E’s and I didn’t initially get their full calls, some confusion arose; made worse by Judith not hearing me well and neither hearing the other. Not only that but when I QSY’d them down to my ‘pet channel’ of S16 there was a QSO on it. Fortunately S15 (145.375) was free but would they both follow?
In a former life as a WAB’er it was instilled in me to prioritise mobiles but in SOTA other summits take precedence. Here was a /P and therefore a potential S2S but mobiles can very rapidly go out of communication. Was it to be Duane on the M6 or Judith possibly on a hill? Thrown into the mix was a strong sense of ‘Ladies First’ as I am of that age group.
In the end the dilemma was worked out for me. Duane, who was just approaching Shap Fell on the M6, came strongly onto the frequency and we exchanged at 59 both ways. After a short while he had my callsign and QTH details but having a rig in the car myself, I know how difficult it can be when nothing can be written down.
After Duane it was time to move on and see if I could work the 2E/P and I was relieved when my call was answered. Not only that but there was a bonus of ‘two for the price of one.’ Judith 2E0MDY/P was with her husband John M0VCM/P and they were both on Cracoe Fell, G/NP-032. The exchange was 55/ 51 with Judith and 59/ 56 with John, who was using a beam ‘a little further down the wall.’
By now it was after the planned departure time so clearing up was done as quickly as possible. Once this was in progress, Sasha sensed that at last there might be some action and started running around the summit like only a greyhound can…well half a greyhound at any rate. At this point the ‘OK’ couple showed up again and while we exchanged a few friendly words, Sasha annoyed their dog for the final time. Back on the lead lass!
Unlike last year when it was too warm by half, the cool breeze and occasional overcast made the return journey more bearable. The vast majority of SOTA’s, in the words of NASA when referring to the Apollo Moon missions, allow a ‘free return’ but this is not one of them. Having to re-climb the two intervening hills of Little & Great Dunn Fell goes right against the grain. The last vehicle of the day drove away from the radar site as we passed, locking the barrier behind him.
Because all the sheep were in the sheep pen we’d seen earlier on the way in, the dog was off the lead most of the way and we arrived back at the car by 16:59.
Allowing for a 10 minute stop for rocks, the 118 mile drive home via A66; A1; A1M; A168; A19 and A170 up Sutton Bank took from 17:15 to 19:45 but I still had to take Sasha home; another 15 minutes. She was ready for her food and a good rest.
Total: 37 - comprising:
3 on 80m-CW
5 on 80m-SSB
3 on 160m-CW
3 on 160m-SSB (Qualified)
1 on 30m-CW
8 on 20m-CW
5 on 20m-SSB
3 on 60m-SSB
6 on 2m-FM
414m (1,358ft) ascent, 9.3 km (5.8 miles). 58U, 56D.
Walking time: 1hr-54min
Summit time: 4 hours - 21 minutes.
Miles Driven: 234 (home to home)
Eight SOTA activator points.
Sasha’s Point Tally: 41 (6 summits)
HF: 98% of a 5Ah Li-Po
IC-E90 H/H part discharged
Stations worked on the drive to NP1:
G4DAX Dave on GB3HG
G0EBL Kevin on GB3HG
G3VTT - Bob in Kendal on 145.400 and
M0TLX - David in Whitburn (Sunderland)
Qualified by working four different stations, albeit in two different modes, 160m went better than could have reasonable been expected right on noon but after some recent successes, 80m was a disappointment. Apart from 20m (13 QSO’s), spotted for me by Roy, this was a ‘swimming through treacle day.’ Not that I minded. The weather was perfect with a mix of sunshine, overcast, a cooling breeze and great views, plus there was ample time to just enjoy being there and to talk to people.
Like 80m, 60m was a bit of a let down with just three contacts but it was still better than 40m CW which produced nothing. Logging just six on 2m-FM was probably down to a combination of the time of day/ weekday (chasers at work) and unannounced reliance on 145.500. The modest 5 Watts to a J-Pole from a summit with no big VHF reputation added to these but it did deliver S2S QSO’s at the end. Maybe I tried to spread myself too thinly over the available spectrum.
Sasha is very good company and apart from several ‘unauthorized’ visits to the summit shelter when dogs appeared and after they’d left, she behaved very well. I am easily concerned however. She’s not my dog which means I must take extra care of her.
As far as sheep are concerned, we picked just the right day for the second year running. Apart from three which had possibly been overlooked on Great Dunn Fell the entire flock was enclosed in pens for the purpose of shearing.
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and to the spotters: G4SSH Roy and G4OBK Phil.
Special thanks to Roy G4SSH for telephone spots, to Sasha’s owner Hazel and to Sasha for her good company today.
73, John G4YSS
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)
Above: G/NP-001 Cross Fell from Little Dunn Fell shelter
Above: Cross Fell stone stacks
Above: Cross Fell stone stack-2 in activation area. Underground Trig Point.
Above: G/NP-001 Cross Fell summit trig and new shelter
Above: G/NP-001 Cross Fell. Thin soil brings extra work
Above: G/NP-001 Cross Fell. NATS Radar on Great Dunn Fell in background
Above: Marauding wasp and sunbathing canine
Above: Leaving Cross Fell. The couple from the Czech Republic and their collie dog
Above: Just about to leave the activation area. The rock stack way-markers with Cow Green Reservoir in the far distance. The seldom visited Mickle Fell - G/NP-002 is top right
Above: The radar site road with car parked just short of the padlocked barrier