G4YSS: Activation of G/NP-004 & Blackpool Rally, on 10th April 2016
Issue-2 (Added G1FOA Peter to meet list)
Part 1: ACTIVATION of G/NP-004.
G/NP-004; WHERNSIDE on 2m-FM QRO & 4m-FM QRP
G4YSS - unaccompanied
All times BST (UTC plus 1 hour)
Moonraker MT270M; 2m/ 70cm, 25/ 10 Watt Mobile (0.5kg)
3-Ely SOTAbeam (modified driven elements)
Lower two sections of 5m Ali/ CFC dipole support mast
Mast extension tube (PVC) used for vert. Pol)
One 11.1V - 5Ah Turnigy Li-Po Battery (Tested afterwards at 49% depleted)
Icom IC-E90 4-Band, 5W V-UHF H/H with IC-BP217 (1.3 Ah Li-Po) battery.
J-Pole vertical antenna (home-brew) for 4m-FM
Reserve 2m-FM/ PMR rig: Baofeng UV-3R; 2W VHFM/ UHFM, 5oz H/H (not used)
J-Pole for 2m (not used)
Pack Weight: 7.7kg (17 pounds) inc. 250ml water.
Looking back at old photos, I was surprised to find that starting in 2006, I had attended Blackpool Rally on five previous occasions but not since 2013. Long past buying shed loads of equipment and bits that I would probably never need or use, the attraction nowadays is simply meeting the many like-minded people at the SOTA and WAB stands.
Scarborough and Blackpool, towns which compete in the holiday trade, are at opposite sides of England so if I had to go that far why not get in an activation on the way? That strategy had worked well in 2013 when Whernside was slotted in to the morning.
Why Whernside? Because it overlooks a lot of the routes taken by mobile ops on their way to the Norbreck Rally, thereby increasing the stations workable to well above the average. What could be finer than to work them on VHF in the morning then meet them in person in the afternoon? Considering a height of 2,415 feet and it’s 6 point status, NP4 is quick and easy to put on provided you climb from the 1,500 foot Ingleton to Dent road at the top of Kingsdale. This is especially true if you don’t take HF. Whernside it was then!
My third quest was personal. I wanted to trace a couple of friends who live in Bispham and who I had slightly lost touch with.
The weather forecast was for a morning of sunshine, an easterly wind of less than 15 mph and a summit temperature of minus 1C and rising. I didn’t realise at the time however, that the mountain would be covered in snow right down to the road.
The 111 mile drive from Scarborough via A64, York, Harrogate and Settle, took from 04:53 to 07:28.
The Whernside path starts from SD 7219 8184 on the four-gated Ingleton to Dent Road, which runs west of NP4. Only 2km of walking (one way) with a height gain of 280m is required. Waypoints are as follows: SD 7244 8173, dog-leg right at SD 7310 8163 then SD 7316 8150 and up a steep section at SD 7354 8143.
As I arrived apart from a few icy puddles, the tarmac was clear but the reeds on each side of the road where individually coated in white fluffy snow. In the sunshine it really looked a picture. Start time for the ascent was 07:40.
After completely clearing in early April, all the NP peaks were again wearing their winter coats. The snow on Whernside was powdery in nature and offered little resistance to walking. Depths were variable from a couple of inches lower down to double that at the summit. The snowfall must have happened overnight because it was pristine and devoid of footprints.
The ascent took 36 minutes which was a bit quicker than 2013. Half way up I elected to cut the corner but ended up walking through bog and tussock which saved little if any time. Arriving at the trig point not long past 8am, I was surprised to find three tents pitched either side of the wall. The occupants were standing around a gas stove awaiting their brew up. We had a brief word as the camera recorded the stunning scenery over Ribblehead and the Howgills but it was the white-over Ingleborough that really commanded the attention.
Not wanting to disturb the campers, I walked a little way south to set up the station, kicking away some of the snow to do so. The next job was to don a warm jacket to protect against the light but cold east wind.
The 3-element, 2m sotabeam and 4m-FM vertical were set up on their own short masts about five feet apart. I would be using up to 25 Watts on 145-FM and was therefore quite optimistic about putting out a good signal. The 4m setup was more modest; just 5 Watts from the handheld to the vertical.
G/NP-004 WHERNSIDE, 736m (2,415ft) 08:16 to 10:41. 0 Deg C at first, rising to about 5C later. East wind at 5 mph, increasing to about 10 mph later. Sunshine and magnificent views. 3 or 4 inches of snow, melting fast by the time I left. WAB: SD78. IO84TF. (Trig not listed?). EE phone coverage normally (but my phone latched up today).
Before firing up the 2m rig, a CQ on 70.450-FM was put out without success. After all, it was a bit early and a Sunday morning to boot.
145.400/ 145.300 FM - 15 QSO’s (2m-session-1):
2m was the main attraction and this proved a busy session starting with G0VOF/M. Having stayed there overnight, Mark was already at the Norbreck Hotel, waiting for the Rally to open. He was just using a handie with attached telescopic whip but the exchange was 59 both ways. We were to meet face to face for the first time later in the day. Power for this QSO and the rest of the session was 10 Watts.
Terry G0VWP was worked next; he was also at the Norbreck but I must have missed him in the afternoon. Whernside to the Norbreck is 59km (37 miles) on a 226 degree bearing.
Derek 2E0MIX/M; Heather M6MIX/M were on the M6 on their way to the Rally. Walt G6XBF called in from north Leeds but he failed to be persuaded to set off for Blackpool. There followed a steady stream of chasers, many calling in threes or fours: M1CEM Brian - a Yorkshireman living in Oswaldtwistle; M6MZM Chris at Blackpool; M0RSF another Chris this time in Leeds; G7LUN/M Jim, admiring the snow-covered Howgills from the M6 at Tebay; M0SGS Stuart - Pudsey; M3CTW Fred in Holmfirth and following a channel change to S12 in order to accommodate Fred’s sked on S16, M0SSD George in Dalton who patiently waited for his QSO.
Around this time I had to delay proceedings when the group of campers, having packed up their tents and made ready to go, came over with a request that I act as photographer for them. After fumbling their smartphone a couple of times I managed to capture three images of them with Ingleborough in the background. It was fortuitous, as they returned the compliment. That was good as I’m fed up with close up ‘selfies’ taken to prove I was there. Their photo showed the aerials as well as me.
Next in were: M1AVV/M Simon; M6TOB - a YL op in Holmfirth who’s name ended in ‘a’ (I could get nothing further) and finally G0RFM - John using a colinear in Warrington. QRZ could not help me with a name for M6TOB but my excel log didn’t let me down. I’d worked her station a couple of times before and her name is Joanna.
By this time I was having trouble with signals cutting off abruptly. I lost Joanna’s name despite umpteen repeat requests (she must have thought I was deranged - my signal to her was 59) but I don’t think it was receiver intermittency on the Moonraker. Possibly it was down to the number of stations using the 2m band that morning and something that CB’ers used to call ‘bleedover.’ Either that or simple FM signal capture (if that’s the right term or concept?) Anyway at this point the frequency dried up. Since I’d heard voices coming out of the IC-E90 from time to time, I took this as a sign to try 4m-FM.
70.450/ 70.425 FM - 4 QSO’s:
Using the maximum available power of 5 Watts to the home made end-fed vertical - an antenna that has proved itself in the past, I worked the following stations: Tim G4WIM, mobile in the centre of Lytham St. Annes; 2E0JQY/M - Jackie on the M6 rally-bound and just crossing the River Ribble; MW1FGQ - John in Hollywell at 600ft ASL and finally G6XBF Walt in Leeds who was using, in his own words ‘a poor antenna’ which was only pulling me in at 33. After neglecting the band for some time it was good to be back on 4m, especially with a decent antenna but when nobody else showed up I got straight back onto 2m-FM.
145.400 FM - 23 QSO’s (2m-session-2):
Power for this session was set at 10 Watts for the first four QSO’s and 25 Watts thereafter. After aiming the beam in the direction I hoped to find him by this time, I first tried calling G4OOE/M. Nick was bringing Roy, G4SSH; Dave G3TQQ and Pete M0HQO from Scarborough to the rally. On hearing nothing, I was slightly concerned but fortunately they were all logged later on.
A CQ was answered by G0PEK/M. If I remember correctly, Kevin was on the M6 on his way to the rally and he had his daughter M6HLR (Lauren - 10 years old) with him. They are an accomplished pair; having activated a few dozen Wainwrights over the Easter holiday! The exchange was 59/ 57. I must try to remember to send Lauren a QSL card to encourage her, despite the obvious fact that she needs little motivation.
After Kevin & Lauren: G4MYU Art in Briarfield (Nelson); 2E0DHN John - Wirral; GW3XRM; G6HMN Ray in Winewall; MW3YNK Dave - Anglesey; G0BSD Gerry using 1 Watt from Colwyn Bay (59 both ways!); G4WHA/M & G0TDM/M - Geoff & John on their way to Blackpool and G1FOA/M Peter in Clitheroe.
At this juncture, Mark G0VOF came in to ask if I’d heard from Nick G4OOE and the boys. After replying in the negative I suddenly heard Dave G3TQQ/M calling me. He quickly passed the handheld around the group in Nick’s car and we were able to successfully exchange with Pete M0HQO; Roy G4SSH and Nick G4OOE (all /M). Signal reports passed between us were mostly 59 but that was when I could hear them. Their signals were being chopped up something rotten (as were to be fair, many of the others) but they were now all in the log and that’s what matters. I think they were using Dave’s VX7 with 5 Watts to a roof antenna. They had been hearing the activation for almost an hour before managing to get in.
After passing info to Nick and his passengres a CQ brought in G0OXV/M. Keith is well known for being SOTA’s leading chaser many years ago. Next: M0VHG and at a 7 mile range giving me a 59 plus 60dB report. This was Vince in Long Preston. Now 2E0RWB Ron called in from Nelson followed by G4YLB Jim at Darwen; M0MOL/M Gareth on the A590 Ulverston; M6VGU Kevin - Burnley; G4ZJO Doc - Hestbank and finally GW4ZPL/P John, from his caravan near Bangor.
At 10:30 BST, time was getting short if I was going to make the rally by 1pm, so packing up had to be quick. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist going through the wall stile for one final look over the east side. The scene had changed noticeably. The sun had been to work, turning much of the white lower down to green.
Walking quickly but not without some slipping and sliding on the steep bits, the descent took 24 minutes until 11:05 which gave me a slight time advantage on last time. However, like 2013, I was now faced with changing from walking kit to something slightly more respectable for the rally. That included socks which were wet due to snow overwhelming the boot tops when going down steep inclines combined with boggy ground that snow is renowned for concealing. I know where most of these traps are but was still caught out.
The scene at the car had completely changed from three hours before and it was not nearly as magical. A lot of snow had melted in the sun and that was very evident on the hills opposite, with green grass now showing up to a significant height. Ingleborough looks very different as I write this 24 hours later, the webcam shows an almost complete absence of snow.
Since a couple of people were preparing their kit for an ascent at the parking place, I drove down the road half a mile to get changed there. The drive from Kingsdale to The Norbreck Hotel via Burton in Lonsdale, Hornby, M6/J34-M6/J33-A6 and Potters Brook; a distance of 51 miles, took from 11:20 to 13:00. Arriving in early afternoon, I was lucky enough to park on the road right outside the entrance. The rally is detailed in part 2 below.
Distance: 4.2km (2 x 2.1km).
6 SOTA points.
Total: 42 QSO’s
38 on 2m-FM
4 on 4m-FM
In Conclusion (NP4):
The WX was perfect and though I’ve seen it all before so many times and used the cliche, the views were truly breathtaking. Working some of the chasers I was to meet again later at the rally made it even better and just when I thought I was going to miss working the Scarborough lads, in they came. All in the log.
Releasing the pressure associated with the comprehensive multi-band, multimode and sometimes multi-summit HF QRO style of activating put me in a good mood and left enough energy for the rally in the afternoon.
Incoming reports on the two metre band ranged from two or three 55’s with the rest either 59 or 57. I was spotted early on by G8MIA - Andy in Rugeley Staffs but he didn’t work me. Perhaps he tried but with so many calling didn’t manage to get in. Apologies but also thanks go to Andy. Judging by the way that 59 signals were instantly disappearing, I’m afraid there might have been a lot like him. The band was as busy as I’ve known it for some time but it was certainly a good day to activate on VHF.
4m-FM is still a fairly quiet backwater, so to qualify NP4 on there was encouraging. I must try to use it more from summits. It was nice to hook up with John MW1FGQ again on 4m, plus Walt G6XBF and the two ‘new ones.’
Meeting the summit campers was a surprise but not an unfamiliar one to me. It reminded me of the time I camped out on this very hill from 31st December 2007 to 1st of January 2008. It rained almost non-stop then but there was no snow. Happy days and I’d love to do it again. Unfortunately since then the weather at New Year has been (more often than not) too poor for a safe or comfortable overnighter.
What I regard as the season of easy, one SOTA activating is coming round yet again so I hope there will be a few more like this one to look forward to. Taking ‘rent-a-dog’ (Sasha) is another thing to look forward to too.
The UTC/ BST thing has caused me trouble in the past and today was no exception. Only alerted afterwards by Nick G4OOE in an email, I found I’d logged the whole activation in BST, completely forgetting that the clocks had changed.
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and to the spotter Andy G8MIA. Also thanks go to Mark G0VOF for monitoring the activation in case another spot was needed. At one point he was sitting on a bench on the sea front admiring the view while listening in. He had brought his FT817 in case there should be some CW but I only had FM.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call).
Part 2: BLACKPOOL (NORBRECK) RALLY, 10-04-16
The drive from NP4 to Blackpool’s Norbreck Hotel, a distance of 51 miles, took from 11:20 to 13:00. To prevent the satnav developing a life of its own (as they can) I programmed two waypoints into it. The first was at Hornby on the A683 and the second a place called Potters Brook on the B5272. Last time I made the mistake of going down into Dentdale and over to the M6 near Sedburgh; a route that was further but on arrival at Blackpool, I found that it had taken the same 100 minutes as it had then.
On the same day in 2013 in Kingsdale, I had encountered about a dozen 1950’s and 1960’s sports cars; part of a car rally. It happened again but this time it was just a couple of cars, both beautifully restored MGB’s. The passenger from one of these kindly held one of the gates open and waved me through.
Arriving when the first of the punters were leaving, I was able to park outside the entrance again. Inside the main doors and looking for the pay desk, I met Paul G4MD and we had a chat. Gerald’s name was mentioned but he wasn’t attending which was a pity as I would have liked to meet him. Meeting people in passing was a sign of things to come and it was quite a while before I managed to get all the way to the SOTA stand.
At the pay desk they were giving out arm bands and that’s the first time I’ve seen them at a rally. Soon after this there was a tap on the shoulder by a fellow who introduced himself as Mark. This was our renowned SOTA Top Band news correspondent G0VOF. I had been looking forward to meeting Mark for the first time. Two ‘160m wallahs’ together at last! It was a pity that Phil G4OBK wasn’t there too but there were a handful of people at the rally who appear on that band from time to time.
Eventually I met up with many of the SOTA fraternity listed below and there were 25 or more.
G4MD Paul; G0VOF Mark; GM4WHA Geoff; G0TDM John; G3TQQ Dave; G6MZX Geoff; M0HQO Pete; G4SSH Roy; M0HGY Jimmy; M1EYP Tom; MM0FMF Andy; G0EVV Dave; G1FOA Peter; M0BUU Colin; G6WRW Carolyn; M0YHB Helen; G6LKB Dave; G4OOE Nick; G1OXV Keith; GI4ONL Victor; a second Victor who’s callsign escapes me but was this MI0JST? Next 2E0YYY Mick; G3CWI Richard & XYL; GM4TOE Barry; M1MAJ Martyn; M3ZCB Caroline; G4RQJ Rob & XYL Audrey.
There were one or two others and I apologise if they are not included above but my brain is a 1949 model with a few million cells lost since then. (Excuses!) Despite the fantastic morning on a snow-covered Whernside, this was surely the pinnacle of the day and notwithstanding my age, I fear I got a bit too excited at times. If you are traditionally a shy or nervous person, it’s easy to show yourself up by talking too much but the afternoon passed too quickly.
I’m not complaining, I have been one for the past three years, but there were plenty of absentees. Just a few I can think of off the top of my head. Some of them could have left before I arrived of course and I think Terry G0VWP from York was one such. Other candidates are 2E0XYL Karen; G4ZRP Brian; G0CQK Jim; G1OHH Sue; G6ODU Bob; Jack GM4COX all of whom I would have enjoyed chatting to, along with another dozen or so I’ve come across there in the past. In the confusion I’m not sure now if I met 2E0MIX Derek and M6UXH Heather or not but I certainly worked them earlier on from Whernside.
Ones who should be remembered but who couldn’t possible be there were MW0YLS Shirley; G4OWG Roger; G4UXH Colin and G4ASA Dave. Just four of the key SOTA ops who are badly missed.
At the WAB stand I renewed acquaintances with Judith & Dave G4IAQ & G4IAR. My son Phil, G0UUU asked me to obtain some WAB mugs and pens but there’d been a run on both forcing Dave back to the car to restock.
Talking to Richard G3CWI at the SOTABEAMS stand was a pleasure too. Richard was wearing a rather striking Nuclear Physics tie which I assume (hope) was not radioactive. Richard was able to supply some of that black liquid rubber for covering wire joints etc. but I asked why he doesn’t sell the beam antennas any more. Apparently and I can readily understand this, they were never economically viable. I had been using one of his original 3-ely’s on NP4 earlier and they work surprisingly well. A clever yet simple design but Richard understandably moved onto higher tech items with greater value added. It’s always a privilege to meet a SOTA founder member and also Richard’s XYL too. Yet another photo for the album.
I didn’t take note of which traders were in attendance but I did notice Waters & Stanton, Radioworld and Moonraker. I would have liked a 4m band HB9CV kit but only had time to glance at them as Mark and I left the building a few minutes before the rally closed at 4pm. Mark and I parted with a hearty handshake outside and as I drove away I saw him heading for the tram stop.
An old friend of mine who I’ve known since junior school in Bradford now lives in Bispham; or at least he did a year or two ago. I’d slightly lost touch with him so off I went to see if he was OK. Though neither are in great health I found Colin & Jean at home and we had a good catch up for an hour or so. For me, it rounded off a perfect day.
In 2013 the satnav side-tracked me onto the A59, thence via Skipton, Harrogate and York but I wasn’t going to be fooled this time. Like wayward children these things need strict supervision. I set the thing for Manchester airport and it took me down the desired route of M55-M6-M61-M62. Chasing is rare or almost non-existent for me but I couldn’t resist working Jimmy - M0HGY and his friends from somewhere along the M61. It’s a credit to them that they managed to get up to Billinge Hill G/SP-017 so quickly having so recently quit the rally.
Once I thought it safe to do so, the treacherous machine was set for home via the M1 and A64. The journey back to Scarborough took a total of 2 hours and 50 minutes and it was a lot less stressful than the alternatives, getting me home by 20:00.
Nick and friends left at 14:30 and it was pure irony that the very person who recommended the motorway route was succoured onto the A59 this year. It took them nearly 4 hours to get back to Scarborough. That may have been partly due to heavier traffic at the earlier time of course but that’s satnavs for you. I have three of the things and they all go loopy at times.
Best 73 to everybody I met and enjoyed talking to but also to those missed in person or have omitted from this account. Apologies to those who’s names or callsigns I have got wrong; the ones I met but thought I didn’t and the ones I said I met but was merely dreaming.
Thanks again to all stations who called me on NP4 in the morning. Thanks to the SMT and other volunteers for the impressive and friendly SOTA and WAB stands and thanks to Audrey for her home made cakes; the last example of which I just managed to enjoy. Everybody I spoke to seemed to be enjoying their day.
Finally, many thanks to the NARSA organisers for all the hard work in putting on what looked like another very successful rally. A very well spent £5! It was quite a day and very memorable. Out of all the rallies I’ve had experience of, I like Blackpool the best by a margin.
G/NP-004 & Blackpool Rally on 10-04-16
(Norbreck: 2006-07-08-09-13 & now 16)
04:53 to 07:28 Drove to Kingsdale (White Shaw Moss): (111 mls - A64-A59-A65)
07:40 Walking from White Shaw Moss
08:16 to 10:41 WHERNSIDE NP4
11:05 Return to White Shaw Moss
11:20 to 13:00 Drove for Norbreck Rally-Blackpool (51 miles)
13:00 to 16:00 Norbreck Rally
Bispham: 16:10 to 17:10 (Fernleigh Close)
Home: 20:00 (2hr-50min for the 153 miles via M55-M6-M61-M62-M1-A64)
Mileage for day: 315.
Route: NP4 to Norbreck 2016 (51 mls):
NP4 - Back to A65 & Thornton in Lonsdale
Take A687 for Burton in Lonsdale
Left on A683 for Hornby (SD5844-6875) and M6-J34
Leave at M6-J33 - Join A6 south
Turn right for Potters Brook (SD4901-5245)
Right onto B5272
Left on A588.
Continue to Norbreck.
NP4 Photos: 6-9-11-19-26-32-41-59-71-86:
Above: Pregnant? Ewes in Kingsdale on the Ingleton-Dent road.
Above: Snow scene at the parking spot. Top of Kingsdale on the Ingleton-Dent road.
Above: Looking up NP4 from the Ingleton-Dent road
Above: A view of the unmistakable Howgills (which include G/NP-013 The Calf and G/NP-019 Yarlside) from part way up Whernside. The long hill in right of shot is Aye Gill Pike G/NP-023 and the distant mountain peeping over it’s top is Wild Boar Fell G/NP-007.
Above: Approaching the summit of NP4
Above: Summit of Whernside. An unexpected encampment.
Above: Summit of Whernside. Ribblehead and Ingleborough
Above: View of Ingleborough (G/NP-005) from Whernside (G/NP-004).
Above: Activation of Whernside G/NP-004. Vertical for 4m-FM; John G4YSS and 3-ely SOTABEAM for 2m-FM
Above: The diminutive Moonraker MT270M; 2m/ 70cm, 25/ 10 Watt Mobile Rig (0.5kg)
Norbreck Rally - Blackpool - SOTA photos: 127-129-130-132-134-140-141-143-146-148-149-150-155-160-162.
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Norbreck Rally - Blackpool - WAB photos: 147-156-157.