G4YSS: Activation of G/NP-008 & G/NP-009 on 30-12-14
Great Whernside on 40m CW/ SSB & Buckden Pike on 2m-FM
G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P).
All times: UTC (‘z’).
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver.
SainSonic MX-P50A, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier.
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20.
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
One 6 Ah Li-Po battery (part used).
Packweight: 10.1kg (22.3 pounds) including 0.25 litre drink (not required).
Kenwood TM702-E; 25 Watt 2m/ 70cm Mobile.
Half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m-FM.
One 6 Ah Li-Po battery (part used).
Reserve rig/ PMR: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHF/ UHF, 5oz H/H (not used).
12v to 5v USB Voltage converter for above (not used).
Most people see these two summits as an obvious pairing but the use of NP8 for VHF-NFD every July since 2003 has eliminated that for me. 2014 was no exception as far as NFD is concerned and 6 ‘summer points’ had been won for NP9 during May. Today would be about the winter bonus still to be collected but as far as I can recollect going back a second time in one year would be a first for me.
I set off from Scarborough at 07:15 on a typically frosty morning. Nothing out of the ordinary happened until I got within a mile of the parking place whereupon the car failed to get up Hunters Stone Hill at SD 9948 7721 (1,500 feet ASL) on hard packed snow and ice. I went to get the shovel from the boot but even with all four wheels locked, the car slipped downhill and ended at a skew angle across the road. I blessed the council who had kindly placed piles of grit at the roadside. The fact that there was only a 15 minute delay was completely down to them. Eventually the grit did the trick; I got going again and just crept to the crest, arriving to park at the top of Park Rash above Kettlewell (SD 9863 7573) around 08:30.
There were no door mirror ripping Highland Cattle today; only sheep so it was safe to park anywhere. After the earlier experience of climbing the slippery hill, ugly thoughts of descending it combined with a complete absence of vehicles parked or travelling the road, made me think I’d made a big mistake coming here. Would I get back again?
Route to NP8:
I set off walking at 09:48. The route is documented in NP8 VHF-NFD reports so I won’t repeat it. Normally, ascent is 211m with a round trip distance around 5.5km. There was no need to go to the summit proper today as I was carrying HF, whereas on VHF Field Day it is essential. This saved a significant distance walking and a few metres of ascent. It goes against the grain and I do this only on rare occasions but it was to be repeated on a lesser scale in the afternoon.
Leaving the path a few hundred metres after the top stile at the wall, which like everything else on Great Whernside these days is new, I turned left going uphill. There are frequent stiles in the new fence and I crossed one to gain a fleeting view of Angram Reservoir to the east.
Uppermost in my mind now was how on earth would I get the car safely back down the ‘Cresta Run’ at the end of the day and I did think of doing VHFM only to save time. 2m-FM with 5 Watts to a vertical wouldn’t have been a success; my current location short of the summit was only good for HF. It was also a wild place with no respite from the brisk wind scudding over the summit; apart from my small umbrella. I stamped out a place in the snow for the sit mat and erected the mast and dipole.
GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008, 704m, 6 pts. 10:27 to 11:51. 0 Deg.C. 15 mph SW wind. Overcast with intermittent clearances of low-cloud. 3 inches (8cm) of lying snow over grass. WAB: SE07. LOC: IO-94-AD. No phone coverage (Orange-EE).
7.033 CW - 25 QSO’s:
Using 25 Watts, I made easy contact with G4SSH at 09:22. Roy was there listening and heard me 559 so I told him I would review the situation regarding NP9 once I got back to the car; meaning I might not show up on the second one.
The umbrella windbreak improved things but the activation seemed to drag. The view kept appearing briefly but I was mostly in mist. Stations worked were: G4SSH; G3RMD; G0VOF; DL8DXL; F8CZI; DL1NKS; G4WSB; G4AFI; PA0B; DL6WT; PA0ALW; ON4FI; F5UBH; G4DZE; M0IML; G4RQJ; G0TDM; G4CMQ; G3VQO; EA2IF; DL1FU; LA1ENA/P - Aage S2S on LA/TM-047; ON6ZQ; G4ASA and G0NES.
About 40% of incoming reports were 599, the rest ranging from 579 down to 539 with a 339 from Spain. There were no readability problems for me apart from the usual for 40m CW; a mish-mash of simultaneous callers following each ‘dit-dit.’ These take some sorting out early in proceedings but it gets easier. Because of this, I fear I may have kept Aage waiting a while for his S2S as I only heard him 559 late on.
When the frequency dried up I sent ‘SSB; SSB; SSB’ which was picked up by Roy and spotted. One could be forgiven for thinking this is a signal for up to three more stragglers to call me in CW but today I got away cleanly.
7.135 SSB - 20 QSO’s:
Unfortunately the pre-announced QRG of 7.132 was occupied but I was quickly found calling 3kHz up by G0VOF. Having a brief chat with Mark no doubt helped other stations to net but I think in addition, he altered the spot to suit.
Stations worked in SSB with 25 Watts were as follows: G0VOF; G0HRT; G6TUH; G0RQL; M0MDA; GI4ONL; G0VWP; G6ODU; G3XQE; GM4WHA; G0TRB; M6KVJ; MM6BJJ; ON5WA; EA2CKX; M3FEH; G4ZRP; G4WSB; G8VNW and finally EI7GEB. The vast majority of incoming reports were signal 9 with readability reduced to 4 or 3 for a handful due to QRM from an adjacent channel, which was mainly due to my poor choice of frequency.
Vic GI4ONL gave me a 59 plus 10dB so he must have been at the optimum skip distance. Another explanation is that an inverted-vee dipole this low (5m AGL) is likely to spread lobes of RF in unpredictable directions.
Bill - G4WSB did little to allay my fears when he told me he had ended with his car in a ditch in a similar situation and on a SOTA too. This is when the imagination runs wild. Yes, this was going to happen to me for sure now. In a ditch, in a hole where no VHF or mobile phone can penetrate. What sort of an angle would the car be at. Could I even sleep the night in it; my only shelter? I tried not to dwell on fears but to concentrate on the final chasers instead.
Walking off the summit at 11:51 got me back to the car at 12:20. I caught up my first walker of the day on the way down. We had a brief chat but conversation soon came around to my main concern which was, ‘How did you get here?’ I was hoping he had driven the way I had come and parked at the same spot but much to my disappointment, he had walked all the way up from a snow free Kettlewell via Hagg Dyke.
Another lone walker who had just come off Buckden Pike warned about the iced-over bogs there, some of which would not support his weight. A little further down I spied a family of six coming up. To be more accurate I heard them long before seeing them. Again I was disappointed. All they could do was to suggest going down the ‘ice slide’ to Kettlewell slowly with one wheel on the grass. They had come up Park Rash by Land Rover which made me curse the day I sold mine. There it was, mocking me at the parking spot; a nice SWB series-2 ragtop from about 1962 with tyre treads you could get lost in. Oh, what I would have given for an on-the-spot swap!
NP9 - Yes or No?
I was now torn between common sense and risk. The sensible option would have been to cancel NP9 and concentrate on getting the old Fiesta back down the dangerous hill, up the next steep one and back home. I wouldn’t say caution is not in my nature but I am open to calculated risk. If I could tackle the road problem before dark there would be a better chance of success even if I was looking at gritting a couple of hundred metres of road by hand!
‘NP9 it is then’ but on 2m-FM only and as quick as possible. Out of the rucksack went the HF gear to be replaced by the Kenwood TM702-E Mobile rig along with a fresh 6 Ah Li-Po.
Route to NP9:
Buckden Pike was my first ever 2,000 footer in about 1962 but in all the years I have walked the Pennine hills, I have never before been on the path I was about to follow. It is well documented in SOTA circles that it is about as boggy as paths can get but I was not about to drive around to Bishopdale on this treacherous road, just to walk my ‘normal’ route.
From the parking spot at SD 9863 7573, cross a fence stile at SD 9834 7584 and follow the wall up from SD 9787 7607 to Tor Mere Top at SD 9709 7632. Bearing right (NE) walk over the 628m high spot to a place where water seems to collect at SD 9680 7698 (614m). This is where I broke through ice and got a soggy sock for the second time today.
The wall turns NE via SD 9683 7709, then NW to SD 9675 7724. Further direction changes are required at SD 9650 7749 and SD 9654 7766. Just around the latter wall corner there is a gate. It is advisable to pass through it and walk the rest of the way to the Wellington Memorial at SD 9624 7786, along the wall’s south side. I didn’t do this and the cost was further boggy and broken ground. The somewhat tedious ascent took up 61 minutes.
BUCKDEN PIKE, G/NP-009, 702m, 6pts, 13:35 to 14:23. 0C Deg C. Wind from SW at 18 mph. Sunny periods. 3 inches (8cm) of lying snow over grass. No phone coverage (Orange-EE). LOC: IO84XE, WAB: SD97.
The simple VHF station comprising the Kenwood TM702-E 25 Watt 2m/ 70cm FM Mobile and half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m, was set up on the east side of the wall just north of the memorial. Not going to the summit end of the mountain saved a 2 x 1km walk and the last of the bogs.
145.400 FM - 13 QSO’s:
An early thought was to check for a radio link to Roy G4SSH (105 km) but there was no response at 13:45. Normally this should have worked even with 5 Watts but Roy’s temporary 40m dipole coax touches his 2m Slim Jim. Maybe my position 800m south of the normal operating place made a line-of-sight difference too.
A call on 145.500 brought two stations in immediately and others followed: 2E0LKC - Peter near Manchester Airport; G0GXI - Andy at Ampleforth; G3JDT - Brian near Warrington; G6XBF - Walt in Leeds; 2E0WJC - Bill in Pudsey; M6LFB - Les on Walney Island; 2E0HPI/P - Karl S2S on G/TW-001 - Round Hill (Urra Moor); G0HRT - Rob in Southport; G0VOF - Mark in Blackburn; G4BLH - Mike at Briarfield (who kindly spotted me); M0MDA - Mick in Leeds; G8VNW - Nick in Threshfield and G6ODU - Bob in Ormskirk. Incoming reports ranged from 57 to 59 plus 30dB and one 52 from Warrington.
I had a nice chat with Mike G4BLH and also with Mark G0VOF who I asked to monitor 3.557 CW in case I got the car in a ditch later! It sounded far fetched I know and so it would turn out to be. Power was 25 Watts throughout.
I later discovered that Phil G4OBK had heard me in Pickering but couldn’t get back to me. That was despite de-squelching at the end and listening carefully. I heard something ‘in the back of the box’ but that was soon identified as a far away QSO. Subsequent to this, Phil was so worried about his beam that he carried out tests to Roy G4SSH. It might just have been my position near the memorial and not along near the summit trig that caused me not to work Phil. With the slight change of angle (less than 1 degree) a minor hill may have interposed? Nevertheless it’s a mystery as the range is only 83km and I worked Phil on 26th May 2014 with the same 25 Watts and vertical antenna, from a position 800m north of the memorial on 145.400 FM with 59 reports.
Descent and drive home:
Now was looming the moment of truth. How would the road be? I walked off as quickly as possible but this was not fast country and much time was wasted circumnavigating bogs. I met a couple of people on the way down and much later, just before the road, a couple walking their dog. Better still when I saw their 2WD car there, my spirits lifted. They assured me that their journey up the steep hill from Kettlewell had been mostly trouble free and that they intended going down by way of Hunter’s Hill in search of a pub which I hadn’t heard of. I hope they got there.
After an exchange of information we went our separate ways and I found that most of the snow and ice had melted during the course of the day, which had at times had been sunny. What a relief to be off safely and not the way I’d come up but down the even steeper hill into Kettlewell. What had I been worrying about all day?
I set a route via Grassington, Blubberhouses, A1, Thirsk and Sutton Bank. This avoids the big centres and in theory most of the traffic. The walk down NP9 took until 15:15 and the drive home from 15:20 to 17:51.
For more than a month now, I had been planning to place a SOTA station on NP9 over the New Year. Since the last time; New Year 2007-08 (Whernside) similar intentions have been mostly thwarted by the weather. This year was no exception; high winds being the main danger. The MWIS mountain forecast predicted SW winds of 35-50mph on New Year’s Eve and 60-80mph on New Years Day. Despite a substantial dry stone wall on Buckden Pike, an overnight stay in a small tent there was obviously inadvisable.
As late as 10pm on the evening of the 29th December I clung to the plan, eventually relenting to make it a one day sortie on the 30th. In some ways I was relieved that I didn’t have to face the down sides of a winter overnighter on a mountaintop and 18 hours in a tent on snow. This was especially true after I saw the state of the 1,600 foot ASL road on the 30th.
The day was a short and easy one with just these twin summits activated. Home to home was under 11 hours instead of the more usual 14 or 15 hours. This was partly because of a lack of suitable targets as well as waning enthusiasm and disappointment with the weather. It was a real pleasure to be home for tea and greeted by the family.
This was no more or less than a winter bonus quest but it was 90% ruined due to constant worry about driving on slippery roads. In the event as they often do, all concerns evaporated.
I have always made a point of going to the top of SOTA’s even though I might want to backtrack a little to operate but for once I used the SOTA 25m rule to my advantage. No doubt the rule is not intended for blatant ‘skiving’ but I saved significant walking time by employing it. In the past, I could not do this on NP8 because I traditionally use it for VHF-NFD and therefore must be as high as possible.
Apart from the 1-pointers (none of which I have activated) there is not much that is new to me in the NP hills but today’s route up Buckden Pike certainly was. All I can say is that it took longer to ascend (despite my stopping short at the memorial) and was much more boggy than other options. I will revert to Bishopdale and the old quarry in future.
Conditions on 40m did not disappoint. I could have managed with the FT817 barefoot. Instead I used 25 Watts which in my estimation might have got me 10% more contacts in the log but there is no way of guaranteeing band conditions before the event. It would have been nice to put on 160m but that thought was soon rejected due to time factor worries caused by road conditions.
Orange EE mobile phone coverage continues to be negligible on both summits though I did manage a fleeting connection long enough to send one text from half way up NP8. That was the only time I saw signal bars on the screen. I didn’t try the Vodaphone.
On the way home I phoned Roy to ask him to pass on a message to Mark G0VOF, that I was now safely out.
Well, that’s it for another year of modest progress; my 13th year in SOTA.
Stats for 2014 are:
Summits Activated: 50
Total Ascent: 19,848m (65,117ft)
Total Distance Walked: 350km (219 miles)
Total Distance Driven: 8,087km (5,023 miles)
Overseas Sota: 3 (EA8)
Activator Points: 245
Bonus Points: 90.
80m CW: 25
80m SSB: 20
2m FM: 13
Activator Points for the day: 6
Summits: 8 down - 16 to go.
NP8: 188m (617ft)/ distance 4km (2.5 miles up & down into 25m zone).
NP9: 238m (781ft)/ distance 7.7km (3.4 miles up & down to Wellington Memorial).
TOTAL: 426m (1,398ft)/ distance 11.7km (7.3 miles walked - Reduced Distances).
Distance Driven: 140 miles. (From Scarborough via A684; return via Kettlewell, Blubberhouses, A1, Sutton Bank).
A big thank you to Mark G0VOF for monitoring 3.557-CW just in case of accident in a non-VHF, non-mobile phone area and to Roy G4SSH for liaison & messaging. Thank you to spotters: G4SSH, G0VOF and G4BLH. Thanks and a Happy New Year to all SOTA chasers, activators and their families - not forgetting the hardworking SOTA management team including Roy G4SSH for the SOTA news. Thank you all for another year of hard work and your time given freely to keep us all happy!!
73 John G4YSS
(Using Scarborough Special Events Group callsign; GX0OOO/P)
Great Whernside G/NP-008 & Angram Reservoir
Buckden Pike G/NP-009. Wellington Bomber WW2 Memorial Cross