G4YSS: G/NP-006 with Finn, 24-07-20
G/NP-006 Gt.SHUNNER FELL on 20m/ 80m QRO & 2m-FM QRP
G4YSS using SSEG Club Call GX0OOO/P
Accompanied by Finn (my Grandson’s second Lurcher dog)
24th July 2020 during Covid-19 (coronavirus) restrictions
BST (UTC+1hr) for walking etc.
UTC for radio operations (denoted ‘z’)
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier 80m thru’ 10m
Home-brew 24AWG link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20 on reel
Home-brew 5m/ 4-section Ali/ CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po battery
2m Band Vertical J-Pole
Reserve: IC-E90, 4-Band VHF/ UHF Handheld with 1.3Ah battery (not req’d)
Pack-weight: Approx 10kg (22 lbs)
inc. dog coat, 1 ltr fluids and fleece strapped to outside
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
DAB Radio for Eng-WI Cricket Test Match
Great Shunner Fell was Sasha’s final SOTA before she died. Emotional as it is, why not make it Finn’s first? Finn is my Grandson’s latest Lurcher, coming from a litter at Low Marishes near Pickering but at 8 months old, he’s still very much a pup. Finn’s mum was a Scottish Deerhound and his father a Saluki so he’s already close to the size that Sasha was as an adult. One dog can never replace another but he is helping to ease the pain of loss.
Dogs of this age think almost everything that happens is for the benefit of their play, a trait which obviously influences decisions when it comes SOTA. I knew he’d be likely to interfere with the deployment of an HF antenna system so the plan was to take it anyway but start on VHF to see how he’d react. The presence of sheep was another thing to be aware of. It took a few years of training before Sasha started to ignore them but though his training is coming along quite well in certain directions, Finn has his own set of chase instincts.
The weather was forecast fine for just one day; a high between two low pressure systems producing light winds and 12C at the summit with some sunshine. Unlike the famous three peaks of Yorkshire, Great Shunner should not be very busy, especially in the current situation, or so I thought.
A ‘lazy’ start time of 8am was set; no getting up in the early hours for this one summit/ one day expedition.
These are intended to be stand-alone accounts so here’s the route from Buttertubs Pass yet again! Follow the quad track all the way. Though it’s ill-defined in places, it loops round via Coal Pit, Grimy Gutter Hags, Grainy Gill Moss and Little Shunner Fell. From SD 8688 9570 on Buttertubs Pass, the track goes up via Coal Pit to the fence corner at SD 8694 9639. Turn left and follow the fence as it bends again at SD 8680 9653 at Grimy Gutter. There’s another direction change - left (WSW) at SD 8586 9707. Pass the end of a wall at SD 8542 9687 and after some steep sections you eventually reach a stile (optional) at SD 8503 9723 not far short of the summit. As of 2019 (& 2020) the latter has fallen apart so it’s worth continuing to the Pennine Way, turning left there and passing through a gate a short distance from the summit. There’s only 200m of ascent but it’s a longish slog (2.2 miles) considering the wet ground and three moderately steep sections. Allow an hour.
I was told when I picked him up that it had taken 10 minutes to get the dog out of bed. He must be a teenager! Leaving Scarborough at 8 o’ clock, Finn and I arrived at Buttertubs Pass at 10:40 (94 miles via A170, A168, A1M, Bedale, A684 a longer way but with fewer ‘slow coaches’). Most people park near the cattle grid but I don’t believe in walking one unnecessary step on SOTA expeditions. There’s enough space to park on the verge at the start of the quad track - SD 8688 9570.
The poor hound had been sick in the final 5 minutes of the journey, requiring an unscheduled stop. Partly because of this, my error was to let him get out of the car immediately on arrival. It resulted in the tricky tasks of putting my boots on and strapping the mast to the rucksack while holding him on the lead.
After he’d finished a late breakfast, we got walking at 11:02, in pleasant conditions. Less than a minute later he’d caught a mouse, almost pulling me over in the process. After getting him to drop it (unhurt it would seem) we were off again, walking at least a quarter mile from the road before I dared let him off the lead. He ranged around at speed while I lumbered slowly behind breathing deeply but keeping a sharp lookout.
About half way up I spotted some sheep so Finn was on the lead for the remainder of the climb. The shelter wasn’t deserted as I’d wrongly assumed. In fact there were at least 4 people there. Partly for that reason and to put a barrier between Finn and any other visiting dogs, we settled only yards from the trig but on the NW side of the fence. Despite 18 annual activations of this summit, I noticed something I’d never spotted before; a rusty, galvanised steel box partly covered by rocks. A pre-Tupperware geocache perhaps? The climb took 57 minutes, always a little longer with a dog due to ‘sniffing pauses’ and toilet stops.
Once Finn was securely tied to the fence using a storm guy to extend his lead, I erected the 2m-FM vertical, ‘weaving’ two sections of the mast in and out of the pig wire, while expecting but not really getting a reaction from my companion. So far so good but would HF be possible later on? Hoping to buy more time I put Sasha’s old coat on Finn to mitigate against the cool breeze. Not really his colour but it’s pointless buying new coats while he’s still growing.
G/NP-006 GT. SHUNNER FELL, 716m, 6 pts. 11:59 to 15:33. 12C, wind 10mph southerly. LOC IO84VI, WAB SD89. Trig: TP-3468 (integral with shelter). Weak but reliable Vodafone signal.
145.550 FM – 6 QSO’s:
With 5 watts selected and the j-pole plugged into the front BNC, the FT817 was switched on. Flicking through the channels revealed a familiar and distinctive voice. 2E0NAS Neil in Whitby ‘Listening through GB7RW’ which is the local repeater at my home QTH. We mainly go by names rather than callsigns at Scarborough club so I don’t think he knew me from Adam. Neither was he copying more than half my transmissions but Fylingthorpe near Robin Hoods Bay from Great Shunner is not bad with 5W. The 109km path is not L.O.S. and the received signal was only 52.
A check of 145.550 followed by ‘CQ SOTA’ on S20 got results right away. In the log: M1FHM/P Alan S2S on Boulsworth Hill (Lad Law) G/SP-008; 2E0VZZ Alan in Sessay near Thirsk using 25W to a Diamond Collinear; 2E0RYA/P Ryan on a non-SOTA summit close to Waskerley Reservoir (Co.Durham) and an S2S with 2E0FTU/P Mark on Guisborough Moor G/TW-003.
After the S2S: G6LKB Dave in Ulverston (a nice catchup chat with him & Marjorie) and M0TRI Andrew at Clifton, Penrith. All reports were 59 both ways apart from Ryan who was using a handheld with set-top antenna - 56/ 57.
14.052.6 CW - 12 QSO’s:
Assembling the two upper mast sections was achieved with little interference but after an hour of lying quietly by the fence, Finn interpreted the unreeling of the dipole as ‘fun at last.’ With a ‘rats nest’ firmly around and under his front paws, first the coax then the wire went into his mouth. Apparently it wasn’t to his taste and no damage was done but it took a while to calm him down and continue. However he must have worried that I was leaving him when I went to fix the ends of the aerial. An 80m dipole is quite long and a separation of twenty metres to a young dog must seem like imminent abandonment. Seemingly he wanted to join me and ‘help’ but try as he may, the fence wasn’t allowing it.
Thankfully a few high-value treats in the form of slices of sausage, some vigorous stroking and verbal reassurance, allowed me to complete the job. A family having lunch in the shelter, were duly entertained by Finn’s antics with a mixture of smiles for him and sympathetic looks for me. I assume that they had little idea about what was now spoiling their view of Wild Boar Fell but they were too polite to ask and I was too busy to explain.
Success on 14 MHz was dependent on a self-spot but after three tries it was evident that the latter wasn’t working. Though miniscule, there was signal on the phone and I had managed to get messages off to my XYL so what could be wrong? Now with spectacles on, some tiny writing suggested that I must choose some method of linking. As I remember it, something described as a ‘gateway.’ Success! I was in business; ‘jug handles’ on the somewhat obscure frequency could be heard, which is always an encouraging sign.
It was a bit weird, yet a pleasure to be sending Morse again and there were certainly a few taking an interest in the 50W signal from Great Shunner. In the 20m log: OE6GND Gerhard 599 both ways; SN5LNE Jan 579/559; YO6CFB Lacy 579/ 559; DJ5AV Mike 599/ 579; CT1DRB David 559/ 529 and ‘genial high flyer’ EA2DT Manuel 579/ 339.
Next in were: OK1DPU Jan 599/ 559; SP1MVG Chris? 599/ 559; VE9MY Kevin in New Brunswick 579/ 559; KD1CT Robert in New Hampshire 579/ 559; G4OBK Phil - 579/ 449 from Pickering, North Yorkshire and OH3GZ Jack 599/ 599. The one that ‘got away’ was F8DGF (I tried hard but to no avail). There was quite deep QSB throughout.
The callsigns and therefore with a few exceptions, the names given here are dependent on my reading of CW well. A few of these were coming at me at a goodly speed, so apologies for any inaccuracies. It seems that the higher up you go in frequency the faster the CW but at least my renewed keying switch worked faultlessly. Nice to get Phil in the log at 96km line-of-sight and happy to get into North America too.
With the exception of trying to tie me to the fence several times, I’m pleased to say the dog behaved well enough to get the job done but could I push my luck further?
3.557 CW - 3 QSO’s:
Slowly so as not to ‘raise the alarm’ an attempt to reconnect the 20m links was made but my friend got a little upset again. The two sheep were still grazing no more than 100m away. The mere sight of a dog is not enough to make them clear off, so Finn had to remain constrained for now. It’s quite surprising what wonders a tin of sardines can work with a canine and we were soon settled, self-spotted and ready for 80m-CW on the old familiar QRG of 3.557.
I heard Frid DL1FU calling just after my spot but this was a failed QSO. First to answer a ‘CQ SOTA’ at 13:06z was our good friend G4OOE and I was intrigued to hear him signing ‘/P.’ It turned out that Nick was up at Ravenscar (nr. Scarborough) with Dave G3TQQ. They were putting on a HuMP, namely Brow Moor G/HTW-003. Reports were 599 both ways for the 112km separation.
A good start but now came the difficulties which were entirely my fault and the reason Frid couldn’t hear me. I had omitted to switch the linear on. A GW called but was unworkable after several tries with my QRP. This turned out to be Allan GW4VPX who I worked later in SSB.
Two other callers went the same way before I realised and corrected my error. To be fair I was a bit distracted by the dog who was getting restless again. More sausage treats! With 50W restored it was a lot easier to work GI0AZA and M0BKV. Esther and Damien were 479/ 439 and 559/ 599 respectively but going by the timings, QSB tried its best to disrupt the process. Because of the power error the session took up 20 minutes for just three stations and there were no further takers. I thought of spotting again with the note, ‘Listening for DL1FU’ and GW’ but with the time factor in mind, decided against it.
3.760 SSB - 11 QSO’s:
Usually there are people monitoring this the WAB frequency but not at that time. A self spot got me some callers starting with Nick’s companion Dave G3TQQ up at Ravenscar on G/HTW-003 - 59 both ways. Dave explained that they’d put on Barns Cliff G/HTW-001 in the morning while suffering drizzle, fog, flies and ants but were now enjoying sunshine and clear views. Barns Cliff is not really a cliff as such but a place in Broxa Forest where there are plenty of ant hills.
After a chat with Dave, in came Ken and Don G0FEX (2 x 59) and G0RQL (58 both ways but only at the top of QSB) full of light-hearted banter. Next to call was MM0XPZ Steve in Greenock 2 x 55 followed by Bill G4WSB 57/ 47 and asking about the ‘new’ dog.’ Bill explained that he’d lost his dog three years prior and ‘I can’t get over it.’ I can readily see why; I’m the same with Sasha. We’d had a deep mutual understanding, were very close indeed and I have my ‘moments’ regularly. So Bill, you’re not alone. There are all manner of dog breeds and it’s a shame we can’t have some that live a bit longer?
GW4VPX Allan made it through in SSB 59/ 44 after failing earlier in CW due to my mistake with the power. Sorry about the ‘GW0’ Allan; you are now restored to your former status of GW4 in the log. Just my scatter brain and sadly we can expect more of the same or similar.
Dave on G/HTW-003 Brow Moor, handed the mic. to Nick G4OOE/P and we exchanged on this new band/ new mode at 59 both ways, as it’s just about line-of-sight.
The final stations were G8VZT Dave in WAB square SJ61 (Telford) swapping it for SD89 and the trig with 59/ 58 reports; G0GWY Geoff 59 and ‘44 to 59 QSB – take your pick’ coming back from Scunthorpe. Next a ‘Top Band pal’ - EI3GYB Michael in a rainy County Mayo 59/ 57 and 2E0FEH - Karl in Cornwall 2 x 55 weak but workable.
After 3 hours of relative patience, Finn seemed happy enough but this breed like to run free and at great speed. Now that the sheep had gone and all the people too, he was released to do just that and with considerable gusto, his overcoat filling like a sail as he ran into wind. Round and round in great circles he went and straight through a 3m long pool, water flying everywhere. Oh to be young again!
Free at first, Finn was put on the lead to pass through the ‘sheep band’ half way down and then again as we approached the road. When just 50m from the car, which we reached at 16:27, a rabbit ran out and was duly chased with me dragging behind at the other end of the lead.
If I could now manage to drive home without incident, the day could be deemed a success. The back road to Leyburn via Askrigg has very little traffic. From there it was A684, A1M, A168 and A170 Sutton Bank – a retrace of the morning’s route. At 94 miles (to Finn’s home in Cayton) it’s a bit further but avoids the tedium and frustrations of driving through the middle of Thirsk; something that I don’t think I can take much more of after 18 years of SOTA. Finn’s owner suggested we stop half way but he seemed content and we did it in one.
There was some cricket to entertain us on the way too. Well done to the quarantined West Indies team for coming over here to play three test matches in the current restrictions, without a single live spectator present.
QSO’s - 32 comprising:
6 on 2m-FM
12 on 20m-CW
3 on 80m-CW
11 on 80m-SSB
5Ah Li-Po used from 12.6 down to 11.2 VOC
Ascent & Distance:
200m (656ft) ascent, 7.1 km (4.4 miles) 2.6mph
6 SOTA points
Walking Time: 1hr-51min.
(57 min up/ 54 min down)
Summit Time: 3hr-34 min
Distance driven: 188 miles
(inc. 4 x 3 miles between Irton-Cayton)
08:10: Left Scarborough (Cayton)
10:40: Arrived Buttertubs Pass (A170/ A684)
11:59 to 15:33: G/NP-006
16:27: Rtn’d to car
16:37: Drove for home
19:00: Arrived Cayton (via Askrigg, Masham, A1M, A168 & Sutton Bank)
This was an easy going, summer season, fair weather SOTA activation; the sort I grow more fond of as the years slide by. That aside, taking an 8 month old dog was a risk. Finn is not an unknown quantity to me as I walk him 4 or 5 miles daily but SOTA is a different proposition. He’s a playful lad but contrary to expectations, he did allow HF to be used and he showed a lot of patience considering his young age. The biggest risk was sheep and it’ll take a long time before he can be fully trusted in that scenario. Meanwhile vigilance and use of the lead will be required anywhere near sheep or roads.
It was a real pleasure to link up with radio friends again and it’s especially good when they tell you they’re OK in the current crisis. I was coming across new stations too, especially on 14 MHz. Both North American stations were new to me. I’m almost sure I heard several chasers signing ’73 vv’ at the end of 20m QSO’s but I haven’t ‘twigged on’ to the reason yet. It might have been a commemoration of some sort or could one of the V’s stand for virus perhaps? If so it would be topical.
There were three other summits worked; two SOTA and one HuMP. I did have thoughts of revisiting Lovely Seat; across the road from Great Shunner. I haven’t been up there since it lost its SOTA status. I believe it’s now a HuMP but we ran out of time. I did in fact activate my local HuMP Seamer Beacon G/HTW-008 with 40W of FM to a 3-ely on 70 MHz on 12th July but only managed 2 QSO’s.
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and for the SOTA phone-spotting service. It worked very well from NP6 if not from NP8 earlier in the month. Thanks to Finn for mostly good behaviour, his companionship and to his owner for ‘risking it.’ Can he can come again? Yes, of course! Maybe one day we’ll do an overnighter together? It’s about time we had some more Top Band.
Good luck to everyone in the present situation and above all stay safe!
73 John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club station callsign GX0OOO/P)
Please report errors…
Above: Parking on the verge at Buttertubs Pass. Cattle grid in the background.
Above: First part of the quad track up to Coal Pit.
Above: At the fence corner, turn left.
Above: Negotiating part of Grimy Gutter Hags. What better name?
Above: Looking back towards Buttertubs Pass start point with the now ‘defunct’ SOTA Lovely Seat NP30 in the far distance. Another interesting name.
Above: G/NP-006 summit shelter showing the paved Pennine Way coming in from the Thwaite village direction.
Above: G/NP-006 summit looking down the Pennine Way towards Thwaite. Not the way we came.
Above: Finn having a sit down after his climb.
Above: The mysterious half-buried metal box.
Above: G/NP-006 activation part-1 on 145.550-FM/ QRP
Above: Bribery helps. Sardines smell great and taste even better. Please can I now erect the HF antenna system?
Above: G/NP-006 activation part-3 on 3.557-CW/ QRO. Dipole showing 20m link closed circuit.
Above: NP6 shelter seat. ‘Please Take Litter Home.’ Hill walkers are very good at this. In fact it comes naturally. I wish beach visitors were too!
Above: Spot the trig point. You could be forgiven for saying NP6 hasn’t got one.
Above: Ah, there it is!
Above: Trig ID plate but WAB call it TP-3468.
Above: A dead and partially decomposed grouse. Finn approaches warily at first.
Above: Road and car in sight. An enjoyable day out in the Yorkshire Dales.