G4YSS: Activation of G/NP-005 & Blackpool Rally, on 23rd April 2023
Issue-1 (pse rprt errors)
Part 1: ACTIVATION of G/NP-005, morning
G/NP-005; INGLEBOROUGH on 2m-FM QRO/ QRP
G4YSS - unaccompanied
All times BST (UTC plus 1 hour)
(Past Norbreck Rallies attended: 2006-07-08-09-13-16-18)
Icom IC-E90 4-Band, 5W V-UHF H/H
Home-brew 12V adaptor for IC-E90 (three series diodes)
RM TC-150V Linear Amp, 50W out/ 5W in with pre-amp
J-Pole omni-vertical antenna with 3m RG178 coax on short 2-section mast
Two HRB 11.1V - 5Ah Li-Po batteries in parallel (Nos 7 & 8)
Baofeng UV-5R; 5W VHF/UHF FM/ PMR /Handheld
Baofeng UV-3R; 2W VHF/UHF FM/ PMR /Handheld (top pocket)
Sotabeams 145 MHz QRP BPF Filter
Pack Weight: 7.7kg (17 pounds) inc. 500ml water
At one time I used to attend radio rallies to pick up bargains and satisfy my life-long fixation with batteries. Now that the shack, loft, garage and shed are filled almost to capacity and badly in need of emptying, the object is mainly to socialise at the SOTA and WAB stands.
Competitive seaside towns in their quest for holidaymakers, Scarborough and Blackpool are far apart at opposite sides of England. In the UK, travelling across country is notably more difficult than travelling up and down it, so to save going back why not slot in an activation on the way? The strategy had worked well in 2013 and 2016 with G/NP-004 Whernside and again with G/NP-022 Calf Top in 2019. Why Ingleborough this time? Like the other two, it overlooks a lot of the routes taken by mobile ops on their way to the Norbreck Rally in Blackpool and unlike Whernside, there are no gates to open on the way.
The weather forecast was for an overcast morning with a northerly wind of around 15 mph. Summit temperature was predicted to be 4C and rising, with rain showers later in the day.
ROUTE from the South:
Key waypoints for the ascent are: Start point at Newby Cote Farm cross-roads SD 7319 7053, 216m ASL. Then up the farm track SD 73334 70846 (bear left); SD 73375 70968 (pass a wall corner); SD 73366 71003; SD 73432 71208; SD 73762 71791; SD 74019 72623 (cross a minor beck); SD 74137 73091 (cairn); SD 74249 73419 (ruin); SD 74276 73432 (join the path from Clapham) and SD 74284 74015; SD 74291 73517 (Little Ingleborough shelter). The trig point was GPS’d today at SD 74120 74562 and the shelter is 40 metres to the North at SD 74130 74600. As I remember it, there’s a second minor shelter at SD 74100 74619.
For the most part, the path is evenly graded and passes over grass until Little Ingleborough where it joins the popular path coming up from Clapham via Trow Gill and Gaping Gill. The latter is a 365 foot deep hole in the ground that I stood at the bottom of in 1968. Compared to some of the steep approaches to this mountain, it’s a relatively painless way to ascend the required 500m but as the optimistic sign reveals at 2.5 miles (4km), it’s still a fair distance.
When descending it’s worth noting that the marker cairn for the path off the summit plateau (important in cloud), is at SD 7438 7453. If you miss this right fork on the way down you’ll end up in Clapham. Look for a minor path which passes to the right of the ruin at SD 7425 7342.
Though this path is reasonably well defined, it is possible to lose it especially with snow cover, in the dark or in fog. I can testify to all three or a combination thereof so I now have 23 marked waypoints in the GPS.
When you consider that Ingleborough is a mountain of character, this route doesn’t really do it justice. If you want the real flavour, choose a different way such as the one taken by my niece Nicky and I from the B6255 at the Hill Inn, Chapel-le-Dale. However if you prefer a benign, albeit fairly long walk, which is never steep, this is it. As stated in the past, when it comes to SOTA routes I don’t look for anything fancy; just the quickest and easiest way possible of getting radio equipment onto each summit and down again. There’s also vehicle access to consider and the quickest departure for Blackpool afterwards if from the bottom of this route.
Left Scarborough at 04:20 driving 98 miles via York, Harrogate, Skipton and arriving at Newby Cote Farm cross-roads. This is on the ‘C’ road that runs NW from Clapham and I parked on the grass verge at 06:40. Here a wooden sign reads ‘Ingleborough 2.5 miles’ but I make it nearer three.
The planned target was another path shown on the map in black (not a R.O.W.) a mile further along near Cold Cotes (SD 720715) but when I got there it was unclear where the path started. Also my intention was to use a 3-ele Sotabeam but that was removed from the rucksack before starting due to the wind at the parking spot being stronger than forecast. As it turned out the wind was barely any stronger on top, which is most unusual but I wouldn’t have had time for the beam anyway.
The ascent started at 07:13 walking directly into a significant breeze – strong enough to affect progress; or at least that’s my excuse. The wall stile in the farm lane had to be used as the gate beside it was padlocked. I contemplated bringing Finn but could I have lifted his 28kg over this awkward obstacle? I tried it with Sasha on Cracoe Fell and failed. Furthermore the Norbreck Castle hotel doesn’t allow dogs. Low-cloud was entered at 600m ASL and that stayed for almost all the activation.
The route and on arrival the summit were deserted but within 10 minutes people started arriving from various directions. Two mountain bikers had come up the Cold Cotes path that I’d earlier failed to find the start of, thus proving its existence. We had a chat.
INGLEBROUGH HILL, G/NP-005, 724m, 6 pts. 08:37 to 10:26. 4C (39F) rising to 9C (48F). 10 mph northerly wind. Low-cloud until 10:15. (LOC: IO84TD, WAB: SD77, Trig: TP-4102). Vodafone mobile signal.
Some of it was pre-assembled but connecting up the rest of the station took some time. Handheld radio with its H/B 12V adaptor, band-pass-filter, amplifier, coax and two batteries via a paralleling harness. At least the antenna was easy – not a beam as planned but just the J-pole stuck in the top of a large pile of stones which hardly warrants the term ‘cairn,’ half way between the trig and the shelter.
While thus engaged I noticed two female fell runners passing by and several couples with dogs. As I was getting comfortable after repositioning two flat rocks for a seat, I was startled when the muzzled snout of a Rottweiler appeared two inches from my nose. He was friendly enough as those dogs usually are and obedient too when his owner called him. I just hadn’t seen him coming but before I could fuss him, he was gone. After all this was Sunday on a popular mountain and we should expect anything. The main thing is that everyone was friendly as they invariably are.
145.575 FM - 8 QSO’s (eventually):
Using the ICOM IC-E90 and starting at 08:10z with power from the amp at 50 Watts, I called ‘CQ SOTA – listening 145.575.’ There were several responders who’s callsigns were written in the log and I worked 2E0XLG/M first. Chris was on his way up to the ‘Yorkshire Dales Shack.’
By way of explanation and quoting the internet: ‘The Shack is in the Yorkshire dales high above Settle at 1,600ft ASL, looking over Skipton, Settle, Clitheroe, Barnoldswick, the Howgill Fells and the Lake District.’ What a brilliant place to do VHF! At first he was somewhat screened on the wrong side of the hill but once nearer the shack we exchanged 59’s.
A Burning Smell:
Next in was 2E0VRX Craig in Skipton 59/ 58 followed by M0NWT/P James at the Norbreck Hotel in Blackpool (59/ 55) but then my signal abruptly vanished from the air. I was later told that it had cut off in mid sentence. What disaster had befallen me I wondered? After extensive and recent pre-testing of the IC-E90/ TC-150C combination at home, this was not how I’d planned things to go. Calling with the amp on or off had no effect but I could still receive OK. I’m used to the three 6 Amp series diodes in the home-brew power adaptor getting hot on the back of the handy but this was a different kind of electrical whiff.
With just the rig, its supplied battery and the antenna there was no response to transmissions which led me to believe that the PA on my best and most expensive handheld, veteran of countless SOTA’s since 2008 had blown! It took a while to screw everything back together but with the reserve rig, a UV-5R in place, I was able to re-establish contact. However by then, most of the ‘list’ of callers had got fed up and gone. Who could blame them?
Chris was still listening from the high shack and after a number of tests we concluded that the station centred on the UV-5R was working sufficiently well to continue but he could hear nothing from me on the IC-E90. I had also lost confidence in the amplifier. If a mismatch there had caused the failure it could easily cause another in which case I’d be down to the 2-Watt UV-3R currently residing in my top pocket. Nevertheless I did risk using the amp later.
With time rolling by I worked the following stations:
M1DHA Alan at Barnoldswick (59/ 59); G6XBF Walt in Leeds (59/ 56 to my 50W and 59/ 53 with just QRP); G6LKB Dave collecting the SOTA and Trig Point 4102 from Ulverston (2 x 59); G6WRW/M Carolyn Geocaching ‘in a van’ and with Helen (M0YHB) near Knott-End-on-Sea (59/ 55). Carolyn and Helen went on to the rally after their geocaching but I arrived too late to meet them.
M0NWT/P James called back in from the rally venue but my 50W 55 report was now down to 42 running just 5W. I think James was using a handheld and presumably a rubber duck.
I don’t know how current the news was but Walt came back after his QSO to tell me that G4OBK was trying to call me from Pickering. Try as I may and risking it with the amp switched on, I could hear nothing from Phil but to you Walt – ‘Thanks for trying.’ Walt couldn’t hear Phil any better than I could at that time so maybe he had given up.
When I saw Phil at SARS the following day doing his informative talk on overseas SOTA operating, he told me that he rarely hears anything from Ingleborough on VHF. However he did hear my ‘scratchy signal’ on this occasion. I must have been using 50 Watts at the time but no doubt embroiled in the fault testing into which Phil couldn’t break. I tried calling a few more times but the channel was clear. That was a pity. It would have been good to give Phil a rare VHF QSO from NP5.
What turned out to be the final contact of the day was with G0KUY/P. Steve was ‘at 1,500ft ASL on Marsden Moor.’ Steve, who does regular VHF contesting, gave a detailed description of where he was, some of which I jotted down in the log. ‘Beside the A640, 1.5 miles west of Scammonden Dam and 1.5 miles south of the M62 in IO93AO.’ Also mentioned was somewhere he called ‘Moss Moor.’
Looking at the 1:25k OS map (OL21) my best guess for Steve’s location is at or near the junction of the A640 and the B6224 on Foxstone Moss around SE018137. The spot height there is 453m which is 1,486 feet ASL and there’s more or less a clear take-off all around if you have the antenna high enough above ground. Steve mentioned a mast beside the car and ‘The Armstrong method’ so he must have had a beam.
As usual time had flown but too much of it had been wasted on the rig failure. Maybe if I’d self-spotted and tried again I might have added to this disappointing QSO count but with a few minutes to go before the rally opened its doors and the majority of my potential contacts in the queue by now, I pulled the plug after two more 50W CQ’s on 145.500 went unanswered. With the ICOM broken, I couldn’t even give 4m-FM a try, or so I thought at the time.
Finally the low-cloud dissipated – a prelude to some weak sunshine on the way down and at least none of the forecast showers had come my way. I saw more people on this unpopular path than I remember ever seeing before and I had a word with all two of them. A man ‘recently diagnosed with heart failure’ but still going slowly up with a Basset Hound and a lady on her own, slightly unsure of which path she was on and whether it went to Ingleborough? I managed to reassure her on that score but after pointing it out to the north she seemed mildly disappointed when I mentioned we were looking at Little Ingleborough; her target destination being further on.
It was pleasant in the sunshine moderated by the cold northerly breeze and the amble down got me to the car by 11:41. After swapping the walking outfit for radio rally kit complete with callsign badge, I was driving again around noon; destination Blackpool.
Ascent & Distance: 510m (1,673ft) ascent, 10 km (6.3 miles). 84U, 75D
8 QSO’s on 2m-FM
6 SOTA points
Well, it could have gone better. I can’t blame inexperience as this is my fourth time of doing an activation in the morning and Blackpool Rally in the afternoon. The previous three; two from Whernside and one from Calf Top, had won me a total of 100 QSO’s on VHF so 2023 rates as a pathetic effort.
With my 50W linear I was going to set the World on fire but somehow only managed to reach the low total of eight stations worked! Of course it doesn’t help when you have technical difficulties such as blowing the PA in the driver handheld but maybe my timing was wrong too. I should have set off earlier as Ingleborough takes longer to climb than either Whernside or Calf Top. Whilst on the subject of times, an 84 minute ascent compares badly with past efforts which have been steady at around 71 minutes for this route and once closer to an hour, so I must be unfit, getting old or both.
Bench tests on the IC-E90 at home clearly show that there is barely any TX output on 2m. Yes you can just about reach the lay-by across the road but as for needle movement on the power meter – zilch. Unexpectedly all three of the other bands - 6m, 4m & 70cm show the normal output.
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and my apologies for a suddenly disappearing just after the start.
73, John G4YSS
Part 2: BLACKPOOL (NORBRECK) RALLY, afternoon
Drive to Blackpool Rally:
The obsolete Garmin Nuvi-250 Satnav was trusted for this drive. It took from 12:05 to 13:25 via the B6480 to Bentham and A683 to the M6 South from J34. I expected to drive down to the M55 but it took me off at J33 then to Garstang on the A6 and the A586. Not long after that I ran into extensive road works. As a result the journey took 1hr- 20min.
Arriving late, I was able to park right outside the hotel again. On my way to the entrance, I met Victor GI4ONL and we had a chat. I was surprised when Victor told me he had flown in from his home in Northern Ireland for the day. What impressed me further was that we’d both set off at a similar time of morning.
First spotted was the WAB stand. I needed 15 pens and 3 mugs and Dave G4IAR had plenty of both. To hang onto one pen it seems you need 14 waiting in the background otherwise the gremlins hide it and won’t give you it back! If you have reserves they realise it’s not worth the bother. The mugs are bone china with WAB’s 50th Anniversary emblem on. Unlike my RSGB mugs, they are less liable to stain from tea and coffee and easier to get clean if they do.
Dave’s XYL Judith G4IAQ was there too along with Paul M1AIB - the WAB mag editor. We had a good old chat; Judith even asking me if there’d be another activation of OV00 at the bottom of Beast Cliff. As things stand, that would be some tall order but never say never. It would be great if some younger person came along to try it? Any volunteers? It’s much the same as SOTA but in reverse. You first go down and later come back up. Email me and I’ll send you the tide tables.
I foolishly enquired of WAB where I could find the SOTA stand received the reply, ‘It’s about ten feet behind you!’ First to appear there were Gerald G4OIG and Paul G4MD, no strangers to driving many miles for SOTA and the same for the rally; in luxury motor cars I might add. I’m afraid Gerald blinked at the wrong time. I should have taken two pics.
Andy MM0FMF was looking after the stand at the time so I probably talked to him most and bought a nice red SOTA hat at the same time. Andy showed me his latest trick which was finding discarded electronic cigarettes and taking the batteries out of them. He can stack two series banks of three in parallel and power his tiny QRP rig for hours at a time with them for free. A great dodge I must admit. Wish I’d thought of it myself! It’s so very ‘Yorkshire.’ Thus alerted to Andy’s antics I spotted my first one on the pavement while walking from East Ayton to Irton with Finn but after I forced the battery out I found it was slightly oval. Seemingly the device had been chucked out of and then run over by a car which was rotten luck.
Andy also said he had the dimensions for an SB5 SOTAbeam for 2m. I bought a-3 ele early on and have copied it successfully for 4m and 6m but by the time I got around to ordering the 5-ele version they had both gone obsolete. Richard G3CWI once told me that they were discontinued because they were fiddly to manufacture and made almost no money.
On display was an example of the new glass SOTA award which in this instance happened to belong to our friend DL1FU. By the looks of it, Frid has reached 250,000 chaser points all on CW. Congratulations to Frid. That’s dedication! The new award looks really impressive; probably even better than the original one so well done to Barry and whoever else had a hand in sourcing it.
After a while the radio, music and Maths man, Tom M1EYP appeared. Tom mentioned that he’d been 6-weeks on a cruise ship doing live music. He was lucky in his selection of skipper too. Having been allowed to use his radio equipment while on board, he had a /MM QSL card to prove it. On the stand and compiled by Tom was an album full of SOTA QSL cards. Thumbing through it, we spotted quite a few of the GX0OOO/P ones which Roy G4SSH used to produce for my activations. I must mention Roy of course. How could we forget him?
Chatting at the back of the stand were G3WGV John, founder of SOTA and G4TGJ Richard who I have worked when I was on the Isle of Man in 2018. I asked John if he could have predicted just how SOTA would develop when he invented it in 2002? A kind of ‘What hath God wrought’ moment. ‘Not in my wildest dreams,’ came the answer. Apparently in the intervening years it has become one of the biggest amateur radio sub groups. Other than saying, ‘It changed my life’ it’s hard to put into words the sheer magnitude of positive effects it’s had on me for one but we all agreed that a great deal was owed to John. I had a look at John’s QRZ page which is certainly worth a visit and not just for SOTA either, which is barely mentioned but for John’s list of DXpeditions.
When I worked Carolyn from NP5 in the morning I had hoped to see her at the rally but when I enquired she’d already left. The same went for Richard G3CWI – ex seller of that excellent liquid rubber tape that I keep on the shelf in my garage, but he’d scooted off also. In fact the people that I managed not to see through my tardiness were too many to mention so for me this wasn’t like the Blackpool rallies of the past. Audrey’s home-made cakes, featured on the SOTA stand for all to enjoy in previous years, were sadly absent along with their creator and I’m told Rob G4RQJ is not so well these days. Get well soon Rob if you read this.
Other than Lamco, which Andy pointed out in response to our conversation about my having blown the IC-E90’s PA on NP5 that morning, I can’t comment on which traders were in attendance. In fact due to time constrains, I barely looked but the rally seemed sparser than I remember it. As for the visitors, they seemed fewer in number but judging by the Reflector photos taken earlier in the day of SOTA ops near the stand, that would have been due to my late arrival less than 2 hours before the end.
Right on cue at 3pm, the UK government’s emergency phone trial alert sounded out of countless phones except mine, which went off one or two minutes later. As well as evoking dark thoughts of terrorism, mass flooding or nuclear war, this also seemed to be the signal to pack up the rally. I phoned my friend. ‘Yes’ I’m at home – drop in and see me.’
Best 73 to everybody I met and those I missed. Apologies for any names or callsigns I have got wrong – the cardinal sin. Thanks again to all stations who worked me on NP5 in the morning. Thanks to the SMT and other volunteers for the friendly SOTA and WAB stands. Out of all the rallies I’ve had experience of, I like Blackpool the best so many thanks to NARSA for organizing it. A fiver well spent.
A Visit to an Old Friend:
My friend, who I have known since he was in my class at junior school in Bradford, lives in Bispham just a mile away from the Norbreck. Colin lost his wife Jean in 2022 so it was especially important to pay him a visit before going home. Having broken his leg gardening last year and various other long-running problems he is not so well but we had a great catchup for an hour or so on all the crazy things we got up to long ago. What a shame we now live at opposite sides of the country.
At just over 3 hours, the drive home to Scarborough via the motorways took a little longer than in the past. At 22 years old, I don’t feel it’s fair to ‘thrash’ the old Ford Fiesta any more. After all, it’s lately the only old car I possess; my 1966 Austin Healey Sprite Mk3 has just gone to a friend in Chesterfield. I don’t like modern cars – my wife has one and it treats me like an imbecile. In fact they’re all the same – laptops with the wheels added as an apparent afterthought. You see them at the side of the road with their bonnets up or some bemused person searching for the spare wheel. Not for me. NEVER! I plan to enjoy the final few years where humans are still in charge.
04:20: Left Scarborough: 04:20
06:40: Arr. Newby Cote Farm (96 miles)
07:13: Walk for NP5
NP5: 08:37 to 10:26
11:41: Rtn. Newby Cote Farm
12:05 to 13:25 Drove for Norbreck Rally-Blackpool (44 miles)
13:25 to 15:20 Norbreck Rally
15:30 to 16:46: Bispham (1 mile)
19:52: Home (3hr-6min for the 150 miles via M55-M6-M61-M62-M1-A64)
Mileage for the day**: 291**
G/NP-005 Inglebro’: 1-4-6-11-15-22-3p-27-28-32-39-4p-6p-7p-54-56-59
p = phone photo
Above: Start Point for Ingleborough at Newby Cote Farm
Above: Newby Cote Farm. Ingleborough 2.5 miles (nearer 3)
Above: Newby Cote Farm track. Exit to open fell
Above: Half way up the path. Little Ingleborough showing its head
Above: Making slow progress.
Above: Having joined the well-defined path coming up from Clapham
Above: The NP5 shelter. I showed this photo to my friend in the village. His reply: ‘That wasn’t there when I went up in 1958.’
Above: The two cyclists who’d come up from Cold Cotes - the path I failed to locate.
Above: My IC-E90 with PA still intact. The TC150V amplifier
Above: 2m-FM activation at summit of G/NP-005
Above: G/NP-005’s trig point TP-4102
Above: The op
Above: Looking NE from the summit plateau
Above: Looking NS from the summit plateau and the path to Clapham via Trowgill & Gaping Gill
Above: Looking back (N) to the summit plateau
Above: Looking back (N) to the summit plateau. The marker stones. Fork right on the way down (see below).
Above: Looking S from the marker stones. Fork right onto minor path back to Newby Cote.
Above: Man with Basset Hound cross
Above: Bumped into Victor GI4ONL in the Norbreck Rally car park
Above: Rally Prog-p1
Above: Rally Prog-p2
Above: Paul M1AIB - the WAB mag editor and Dave G4IAR at the WAB stand
Above: Gerald G4OIG and Paul G4MD
Above: A preview for Frid. DL1FU’s 250k Chaser Award. Congratulations!
Above: SOTA MT MM0FMF Andy manning the SOTA stand
Above: SOTA MT M1EYP Tom at the SOTA stand
Above: M1EYP Tom’s /MM QSL Card
Above: G3WGV John, founder of SOTA and G4TGJ Richard
Above: SOTA stand.
Above: SOTA stand. Another successful Blackpool Rally