G4YSS: G/NP-005 with USA Guest; 05-08-14

G4YSS Activation of G/NP-005 Ingleborough on 05-Aug-14

INGLEBOROUGH on 80m & 40m CW & SSB.
Accompanied by Nicky; my long lost niece from Maryland.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P.
All times BST (UTC plus 1hr) UOS.

IC706-2G HF-V/UHF QRO Multimode
Link-dipole for 80-40-(30)-20-17-15-(12)-10m
5m H/B CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
Two 6 Ah Li-Po batteries in parallel.
Reserve rigs/ PMR: Two Baofeng UV-3R (VGC UV-X4) 2W VHF/ UHF H/H.
QRO pack: 12kg (26 pounds).

This was primarily an introduction to an English mountain for my niece Nicky, over on a visit from Baltimore, Maryland and who I haven’t seen for 41 years. Today, SOTA was merely the by-product. After careful thought about which mountain to tackle, I decided on Ingleborough. It is well known, has an abundance of character, well defined routes and great views over limestone scenery. Also considered were Wild Boar Fell, Cross Fell or one in the Lakes; perhaps even Great Gable.

More than a week had passed as we waited patiently for the right weather conditions to allow Nicky to enjoy the experience with the minimum of discomfort and with all important good visibility. For much of that time, the mountain forecast had used the word ‘uncertainly’ in its predictions. What started out as medium term weather windows would be snatched away by updates the evening before and plans would be thwarted. Finally the weather improved sufficiently to offer a choice of the 4th or 5th of August.

By Yorkshire Dales standards, Ingleborough is a significant walk-in from any start point and in recent years I have favoured the Southern approach. Though it follows a well graded grassy path, it does not show the true character of the mountain. Apart from a rocky section near the top after it joins the path from Clapham via Trow Gill, this little used route is pleasant but truly benign. When doing SOTA, I am prepared to sacrifice excitement in favour of operational expediency but today I wanted to show off the real Ingleborough to my companion, whilst at the same time keeping the effort required within reasonable bounds. With those things in mind, I opted for the path from Philpin Sleights just NE of the Hill Inn at Chapel-le-Dale on the B6255 road.

We left Scarborough at 05:37, driving the required 108 miles via York, Harrogate, Skipton and arriving at Chapel-le-Dale close to 8am. Parking is on the roadside or there is a pull-off for about 8 cars at SD 7454 7778 (310m ASL). A gate at SD 7444 7772 marks the start of the path which initially follows a bridleway past Braithwaite Wife Hole to SD 7429 7609. After a gate the character changes to paving slabs followed by a wooden boardwalk. This combination takes you safely over the boggy ground of Humphrey Bottom.

The real work begins at around SD 7468 7499 where the gradient increases to 1.45:1 but only for about 110m. The path here has been rebuilt with extra zigzags and stabilised with rocks in recent years. After another gate at SD 7469 7482 the going eases somewhat, passing via SD 7441 7466 to the substantial wind shelter near the trig point. A board by this final gate gives details of the ancient structures on the summit. One could be forgiven for thinking that this notice had been cynically placed directly in front of a boggy spring. When Nicky made a detour to read it, she found herself up to her ankles in bog water and the brand new boots didn’t look quite so good any more. She saw the funny side of it and fortunately we were carrying a spare pair of socks which restored some comfort for the activation.

INGLEBOROUGH HILL, G/NP-005, 724m, 6 pts. 11:00 to 14:31. 18 Deg.C on arrival - 20C later. 10 mph wind rising to 15 mph. Mainly sunny with periods of hazy sun or overcast. No low-cloud or rain. (LOC: IO84TD – WAB: SD77). Good phone coverage (Orange-EE) on and adjacent to the summit.

With a Southwest wind in charge we elected to set up the dipole overlooking the northern aspect of the hill beside a broken down wind shelter at SD 7405 7459. Thinking on the lines of ‘the more comfortable I can make my niece, the longer she is likely to want to stay’ I indicated a nice level rock to sit on, then deployed the secret weapon. Actually by now it was no secret. The pink cylinder strapped to the outside of my rucksack had attracted her attention on the ascent. This was a self inflating kneeling mat from my local garden centre in Scarborough. Compared with my map case with it’s token 3mm of foam, it was the height of luxury and I hoped to get at least a couple of hours activating from this ploy alone! This item is well worth its 185gm if you are contemplating taking a guest.

Another big plus was the weather. You couldn’t have wished for a better environment. Sunshine with temperatures in the 20C region and sufficient breeze to eliminate flies was most acceptable. That should be good for another hour at least, thought I. After placing our bag of food within her reach, the last little sweetener was an 8 x 25 monocular which I handed to Nicky in case boredom should set in. Though there was a bit of heat haze, the views were excellent today. Short of lugging up a sun lounger, I felt I’d done all I could. HI.

While I was erecting the antenna, a man came over to ask whether it was data gathering equipment and would I be leaving it there? After some explanation I think he understood but it certainly helped that he knew a radio amateur. He had an English sounding accent but it turned out that he was a resident of Seattle. Though Washington State is an awful long way from Maryland, he and Nicky got along swimmingly after that, giving me the opportunity to return to the job in hand.

Just about then my phone rang. This was Nicky’s husband Tony and son Nick phoning from Maryland at 06:30 local time. ‘We are looking at you via a webcam in Ingleton.’

The next job was to contact Roy for a spot but his phone line was busy. I tried calling him on 3.557 but to no avail. Presently a phone call got through to enable the all important spot. I sent a few ‘Vs’ and Roy confirmed I was weak but audible. His spot came before our QSO which is standard procedure in these cases. Touching the CW key takes out his internet router for two minutes.

3.557 CW - 4 QSO’s:
Roy G4SSH was only hearing my 100 Watt signal 339 but he was soon in the log followed by Phil G4OBK who gave me a 579. After these my CQ’s were heard by G4ELZ Jeff (Newton Abbot) and GI4ONL Vic. Reports for the latter two were 579/ 559 and 579/ 449 respectively so 80m was working after a fashion and the hill was now qualified.

Thinking that I’d get many more chasers later on 7.032, I didn’t call CQ many more times before announcing a QSY to SSB; a fact just barely picked up by Roy due to QSB. To be honest in deference to my niece, I wanted to minimise CW (or Morse Code as she referred to it) as much as possible. A short demo was enough.

3.724 SSB - 7 QSO’s:
A CQ on 3.724 with 100W brought in Bob G6ODU (Ormskirk) almost immediately and I got a 53 RS from him. After Bob came: G3EGC - John in Bolton; G8MIA - Andy in Staffs; GI4ONL (Vic came onto SSB to report on the improved path between us - 57/ 57). Then there was G8ADD - Brian in Birmingham; M0JLA - Rod in Hereford and G0RQL - Don in Holdsworthy, Devon. Incoming responses to my full power output came in the range 47 to 58 with one 35. As I wrote the callsigns in the log, Nicky was kept busy looking up the names on a sheet that we had brought along for the purpose.

7.032 CW - 2 QSO’s:
Normally this would have been a very disappointing session but today I wasn’t upset that only two stations responded to my 60 Watt CQ’s. The first (on 7.032) was SOTA activator Kurt HB9AFI - QTH Renens (VD). After this I was not certain that the frequency had really been clear when I’d checked it earlier so I ‘nudged’ up 500Hz to try again. This brought in DL6WT - Juerg in Windesheim but nothing further. Probably if I’d stayed longer than the ten minutes that this took, there would have been more callers and I would have been spotted. As it was I am relieved that I didn’t press on as the next session took up more time than I’d bargained for.

7.160/ 7.165 SSB - 27 QSO’s:
My first port of call was the 40m band WAB frequency but there was no net running today on 7.160 SSB. However, a CQ on there brought in M6KVJ - Dave in SY09. I asked if he was a WAB’er but he said that he also collected SOTA and thanked me for the six points. He than offered a Sotawatch spot but I was not brave enough to start a SOTA operation on the WAB frequency. What cheek that would have been! I asked him to spot me on 7.165 which he duly did but then said something about another kind of spot mentioning the word ‘cluster.’ I did not catch it fully but most likely it was the ‘DX’ Cluster. Since Roy G4SSH had no copy on me on 40m, I was grateful for Dave’s help. I just hoped I would not have to work my way through a whole bunch of non SOTA or non-WAB chasers.

The spot worked quickly and ON4TA - Phil in Geetbets, Belgium responded to my CQ within three minutes. After Phil came Mike G6TUH (Sussex) who passed greetings on to my companion; a process which judging by her broad smile, seemed to please her greatly. This was repeated later. After OK1AY - Josef; G4LDS - Chris and ON6ZQ - Christophe, came G1PIE.

Mark G1PIE is a keen WAB collector and he was in pursuit of our SD77 square. We also discussed the latest OV00 expedition of the previous week by David 2E0EDL. Thanks also go to Graham G4JZF for details via email. Despite very poor band conditions, the activation of this rare Worked All Britain square had been a success. Access was seemingly from Hayburn Wyke with the retreat up Ravenscar cliff. Having walked that foreshore in the 1970’s, I happen to know that it involves a lot of work. Furthermore, Dave had warned of severe cliff erosion, live rock-falls and dangerously slimy rocks. Par for course I thought but that is an aside, so more of the SOTA.

After Mark the following stations were logged: GM0IQI - Paul on the Isle of Lewis; G0RQL - Don in Devon; EB2CZF - Jose; DJ5AV - Mike; MM3PDM/P - Peter in Peterhead (collecting the WAB square); DL/PA0DDB/M - Chris apparently using a home-brew, 2.2m long, bumper-mounted, centre-loaded mobile whip; G6LKB - Dave (see below); G0HRT - Rob in Southport; ON5MF - George; G4CPA - Geoff in Crosshills; G0VWP - Terry in York; EI4CN - Mike in County Killkenny; ON7KC - Chris; GI4FUM - David in Antrim; EI5CYB - Joe in Wicklow; Club station G5MW/P - Brian in Kent; GM0RVM/P Andrew on the Isle of Harris; G4EOB - Joe in Ulverston; GI8RQI - David in Banbridge and finally ON5WA - Frans in Zandhoven; 20km east of Antwerp.

Dave G6LKB is normally located in Ulverston, Cumbria but today was signing F/G6LKB/P on holiday in the south of France (58/ 58). 100 Watts was used throughout and almost half the stations worked gave me 59 reports. The ones in Europe averaged 55 with the poorest report coming from the closest station G4CPA about 30 miles to my SE. Geoff was inside the skip zone but at the limits of LOS.

This session had taken a full hour which was too long for my liking having with me a non-amateur. That said, Nicky showed quite a lot of interest but I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end she wasn’t in a ‘different time zone’ to me. My intention at the start was to finish on 2m-FM with 50 Watts to the vertical but why spoil a good day for my niece by overdoing the ham radio. I was more than satisfied with the activation and would have settled for a good deal less.

The Higher HF Bands:
Working or even hearing a USA station, particularly from callsign area three would have been of interest to Nicky who is from Sykesville near Baltimore. Admittedly with the dipole selected to 40m, I could find nothing of interest on any band right up to 10m. In fact most seemed to have little or no activity. Apparently the summer doldrums continue.

Descent and drive:
After pulling the big switch we ate the remainder of our picnic. By now there were 30 or more people on the summit at any one time. Three girls asked Nicky to act as their photographer and a group of a dozen young adults were admiring the view of Whernside whilst standing under the dipole, just at the time I needed to pack it away. A few small Ingleborough stones will be going to the USA and I recovered a nice 8-pounder from just down the side. Before a reluctant departure we did a circular walk around the flat top of the mountain; taking in the views on all sides. The overly warm and humid descent was leisurely but we had sufficient time to spare and the car was regained at 16:07. Just before reaching the road the path was blocked by a herd of around 30 cows and their calves. Fortunately these proved harmless including the one accompanying bull.

The 114 mile drive home preceded by refreshing canned strawberries and lychees packed in ice, was paused for 50 minutes at Menston, where I dropped Nicky at my cousin’s house. She returns home in a few days time. I was home for 20:30.

Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and to the spotters: G4SSH Roy and M6KVJ Dave. Apologies to any ops who may have been listening for us on 145.500 FM. Special thanks to my niece Nicky for agreeing to come along and for her patience.

Total: 40 comprising:
4 on 3.5-CW.
7 on 3.5-SSB.
2 on 7-CW.
27 on 7-CW.

Battery utilisation:
64% discharged 11V, 12 Ah Li-Po (2 x 6 Ah).

Walking/ Times:
432m (1,417ft) ascent, 8.6 km (5.4 miles). 135U, 96D.
Walking time: 3 hours - 51 minutes.
Summit time: 3 hours - 31 minutes.
Miles Driven: 222
Six SOTA activator points.

Strong D-Layer ionization can be expected on the 80m band during the day but it still delivered 11 QSO’s and was working into SW England and Northern Ireland. It was also the only band/ mode that Roy G4SSH at a distance of 80 miles, could be worked on. Though the CW session was a major disappointment, 40m SSB did a reasonable job in giving both continental and G’s a chance in roughly equal numbers. 100 Watts and no battery worries certainly helped.

I had with me coils for 160m and a 2-FM antenna but didn’t use either. Had 40m SSB gone a bit quicker, there might have been time for one of these. All the bands that I tried above 7 MHz seemed to have low occupancy and I did not hear a single USA station on any of them.

Overdoing the radio part of proceedings was constantly in the back of my mind. On the face of it we seemed to spend a long time activating the summit but in fact the operating only spanned an hour and forty minutes from a total of three and a half hours. The rest of the time was used in setting up, looking round the summit, the long derelict hill fort (or are they Bronze Age ruins?) photography, talking to other walkers, eating, finding stones and admiring the view. Nonetheless, whilst it is nothing compared with what I personally am used to, a hundred minutes filled with something you know little about could seem like a long time.

Despite fears to the contrary, I don’t think niece Nicky was just being polite when she told me afterwards that she had enjoyed her conquest of one of Yorkshire’s best assets; it was evident in her demeanor. Some of it was within her experience as she compared the steep paved ascent of Ingleborough to Cadillac Mountain in Maine but the terrain was all Yorkshire’s. The subtle blend of grass and rocks seen together and sheep precariously balanced on grass ledges were some of the things that caught her eye along with the barren rock-strewn summit plateau and limestone scenery.

I think we exchanged a few words with everybody we met both going up and coming down. A bonus was that three or four of the stronger SSB stations sent a welcome to our guest over the airwaves. Had conditions been better still and our channel not so busy, I would have invited Nicky to speak to one or two chasers.

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

In reply to G4YSS:
Hello John,

Thanks for another fact full report. I should have asked at the time but has Nicky the slightest interest in getting a licence? I guess not as she would have by now :wink:

We have an old friend, Maggie, who lives in Virginia, coming to stay with us at the end of September. She is British but married an American (no longer)- interested in walking but no radio!

Bye for now

In reply to G6TUH:
Hi Mike,
Thanks for the comments.

Nicky is similar in that she does some mountain walking but not radio. A few days before we went to do NP5 she did ask me if I thought she was capable of obtaining a licence and how easy it would be. I told her about the UK Foundation Licence and advised her to check if there is something similar in the USA. I know there are several licence classes there; some of them basic but I know nothing about what the exams are like. When I took into account that she is a Maths teacher in a school and has a Chemistry degree plus a lot of physical science knowledge, I’m sure she would have no difficulty and could go right up to advanced level if she wanted. Her father is an electronics engineer who was a ship’s radio operator in a past life and her Mum was science educated too. It runs in the family.

After that what is required is desire and interest. I just hope that I have helped and not hindered the process if indeed a process exists? Thanks for sending her a greeting; it was well received! It was a good day.

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:
I recommend she try for the tech license in the US. Tests are given many times per month by volunteers, and prep using QRZ.com is ultra easy…just keep clicking the 4 proposed multiple choice answers until you hit the right one. It eventually sinks in. The actual FCC questions and answers are used. No code required.

If you fail the test, hand over a few more USD and take it again…right on the spot. Can she use her US license in the UK? I think she has to upgrade to do that.

Elliott, K6EL
Code Required

In Reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

Thanks for the interesting report & I’m very pleased to hear that Nicky enjoyed Ingleborough. It must be over 20 years since I last climbed those steps on the North face but I remember them quite well. I don’t suffer from Vertigo, but with them being quite a strenuous climb (for me at least), certain parts did make me prefer not to look down :wink: Strangely, not a problem on the descent although more tiring on the front of my legs. It was early in the morning & there were only two people at the summit, me & a chap with a radio waving a small Yagi around. I assumed he must be a radio amateur, but he was actually using 834MHz CB, whilst that was still available in the UK.

After reading Elliott’s comment about US Exam test questions being available on QRZ.com, (which I wasn’t aware of), I had a go myself at the Technician class practice questions & I am pleased to say that I passed, Phew! Hi Hi.

In all seriousness, if the actual exam is the same then Nicky could probably pass with very little practice, although running through several practice sessions would definitely improve her chances of passing first time. Assuming she did acquire her own US Amateur Technician class licence, whilst she may not be able to operate as M/hercall/P, she should still be able to operate your station (G4YSS or GX0OOO) in your presence which would give more flexibility in who she could work than the “greetings messages” system can. Nicky certainly has some Radio pedigree in her family so I see no reason why she shouldn’t have a callsign of her own, if she wants one of course :wink:

Thanks again & very best 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to K6EL Elliott & G0VOF Mark

Hi Elliott,
Thanks for the comments and information on the USA licences. I don’t get many replies from over the Atlantic so these are most welcome. I have heard of the tech licence but thought there might be a stage before that. I think you are right. There are three ways to pass multiple choice exams:- Study and understand. A random letter generator over several attempts. Or just learn the answers to every question. I too had no idea that you could practice on QRZ.com either. Nicky is home now so I will email her with your comments.

Hi Mark,
Congrats on your tech licence. Now you could make it real and go activate SOTA in Colorado! I can tell you it’s great there.

Yes, I remember that old UHF CB band which I think they rescinded in favour of mobile phones. I have never seen any gear for it. I assumed it was low occupancy but maybe not. At least the antennas would be nice and small. I should think a modified TV ant may work.

Ingleborough is quite steep there. About 80m ascent in 110m horizontal axis. I would say 20 years ago the old path would be the way you went. It’s a bit easier now though just as steep.

I don’t know for sure if an overseas non full licence holder can operate under supervision. As far as I know, the last time I checked up with RSGB, an M6 (for instance) could not transmit using G0VOF abroad - only in UK. It may be different in other countries of course. I think it’s being a bit harsh but then again, it is another incentive to upgrade.

All the best to both.
73, John.