GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008. VHF-NFD & SOTA on Sunday 03-July-22
Issue-2 - Corrected 4(c)m & Starbotto(m)-n tnx!
Pse Rprt Further Errors?
Using own call - G4YSS/P
VHF-NFD Contest on 2m SSB/ CW/ FM & 4m SSB (All QRP)
SOTA on 160-80-20m (QRO)
20th Consecutive VHF-NFD from NP8
This VHF-NFD report is based on previous ones as they’re all much the same!
Non-radio: BST (UTC plus 1)
Radio ops: UTC (‘z’)
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier
Link dipole for 80m thru’ 20m
5m CFC mast with 1m end-sticks for HF dipole
(4m CFC mast sections from above for VHF)
Home-brew tunable loading coils for 160m
5000mAh Li-Po battery
3-ely Sotabeam (Double-Size) for 4m band, converts to…
4-ely Beam for 2m band (home-brew)
2.2 Ah Li-Po battery (not used)
ICOM IC-E90 4-band/ 5W H/H (used for 2m-FM)
Packweight: 16kg (35.3 pounds) including 2.25 litre drinks and a light down jacket
Lichfield Viper-2 ridge tent flysheet with pre-attached poles & pegs
Groundsheet – polythene, approx 2m x 1m (260gm) with 4 ali pegs
Dog food, treats, milk & 8m dog lead
Dog coat (worn 100%)
Garmin GEKO-301 GPS
This was the twentieth consecutive G4YSS VHF-NFD on Great Whernside G/NP-008, seven of which have been overnighters. This contest runs from 14:00z on Saturday through to 14:00z on Sunday. 6m is on the Saturday, 2m & 70cm run throughout and 4m is reserved for Sunday from 08:00z. There are other VHF bands but I know nothing of those.
My son Phil G0UUU usually puts in a couple of hours for VHF-NFD in which we arrange a sked. However this year it was his XYL’s birthday so we agreed it would be prudent to forget NFD and gain ‘Brownie Points’ instead. Though having no interest in matters radio, Bev is very loyal and uncomplaining; going along with Phil four evenings a month winter and summer for VHF contests, unless occasionally I step in to take her place. So she earned her break!
WX for Sunday 3rd July-22:
The MWIS mountain weather forecast for the Yorkshire Dales 03-07-22: Temp 9C, 20mph westerly wind, showers, 40% cloud free summits. Cloud base 500m to 650m max from noon. The Met Office and BBC forecasts for Kettlewell showed showers from about 09:00 to 15:00 but none of these forecasts totally agreed with each other. Showing a departure from my usual pessimism, I chose the best option with a decision to go on Sunday and limit the contest to just 2m & 4m plus HF for SOTA. I was dog sitting my Grandson’s Lurcher Finn all weekend which meant if I was going he was too, so I prepared accordingly.
The alarm went of at 04:15 but after time spent loading the car, we didn’t get away from Scarborough until 05:30. I got my own back on Finn from the night before when he woke me up at 04:00. After the 73 mile drive via the A170 & A648, we arrived at the top of Park Rash for 07:40 and it was encouraging to see the mountain clear of cloud with no rain yet. After two bad experiences with cow damage, I always park on the Kettlewell side of the cattle grid (SD 9861 7567). Evidenced by my cow-clapped car doors and sills, the cows were a mile back along the road today but they tend to end up at the parking place by late afternoon.
As per last year I took the 25 litre rucksack with mast, tent and beam tied to the outside. At 16kg (35 pounds), pack weight was up on last year due to extra items and water for Finn but it beats carrying 50 pounds or more for a multi-band QRO overnight stay.
The walk started at 08:04 with me carrying a 27kg Finn over the cattle grid. I didn’t want a repeat of the past where Sasha thought she could cross it on her own, injuring her knees. The climb was slower this time due to hesitations and diversions by Finn who was on the 8m lead. We were delayed for over five minutes at the stile until finally he was persuaded to jump the fence for a small piece of pizza.
We clocked a slow 51 minutes to the trig and after some photos, a further 6 minutes to reach the usual QTH, 270m northeast of the summit. To get there I had to lift Finn over the padlocked steel gate before climbing the stile myself. It was a bit breezy but there was no low-cloud or rain on arrival. However the sky was looking a bit dark over Pen-y-Ghent to the west, so no time was wasted erecting the flysheet.
Park south of the cattle grid at SD9861 7567. From there: Gate SD 9891 7558; Stile SD 9963 7522; 1st marker post (yellow top) SE 0005 7468; 4th marker post SE 0022 7414; Summit cairn SE 00205 73905.
Note-1 The 100km grid letters change from SD to SE part way up.
Note-2: Buckden Pike G/NP-009 can also be accessed from this parking place.
GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008, 704m (2,310ft) 6 pts. 08:55 to 17:07. Temp: 15C. Wind: 20mph increasing 25 mph. Clear on arrival, showers & low-cloud every half hour for 5 hrs, sunny on leaving. WAB: SE07. LOC: IO94AD. Trig: TP-0703. Vodafone coverage – variable from one bar to FSD and 4G at times .
VHF-NFD Contest 144 MHz SSB (1xCW) - 14 QSO’s between 09:07 and 10:50z. 5W:
Twenty years ago the band would have been evenly and quite densely sprinkled with activity. Not so today so I decided to spot the SOTA on 144.132 and hope they’d come and find me. After all I wasn’t entering the contest – just giving away points as usual.
M0NFD/P on Blakey Ridge IO94MJ did just that in quick time but I suspect a waterfall display was the reason rather than the SOTA spot. As in previous years Chris and I had a friendly chat but he warned me that I was too low in frequency for NFD contacts. I had merely plucked a figure out of the air adding ‘32’ at the end in deference to the well known SOTA channel on 40m-CW. As is their habit, the group had been enjoying the hospitality provided by the Lion Inn the evening before. I have heard Chris many times when helping my son with VHF evening contests, as he runs an excellent station up on top of Sutton Bank.
Chris tipped me off to a French station TM5R operating on 144.310. Though he was audible most of the time and despite several tries during the day, he never responded to my QRP. Also he had a steady stream of callers.
After announcing a QSY ‘up 20kHz’ to 144.152, a further seven stations were logged as a result of calling ‘CQ Contest; CQ SOTA.’ The first of these was G6XBF Walt in IO93FU Leeds then G7SXR Mark in IO93ES (also in Leeds - thanks for the spot Mark). G0OLE Goole Radio Club, located up on Millington Heights near SOTA G/TW-004 in IO93PX, followed and finally G6LKB Dave in Ulverston IO84KE, before this run ended.
G4YTD/P Tim (ex Gt.Driffield) called from 900ft ASL nr. Penrith IO84PP, then M0XLT Kevin in Gargrave IO83WX, who I haven’t worked for a year or two and G0TDM John in Penrith IO84OQ, who I wasn’t expecting. John was only hearing me 31 which made for a tricky QSO.
G7SXR Mark asked if I’d be on FM later as all his SOTA chases are in that mode. ‘Yes and I will try to pre-spot it.’ With the exception of the Goole Club, who incidentally are always up for a friendly chat, these ops were primarily chasing the SOTA. Nonetheless, all obliged with a contest style exchange comprising report, serial number and Maidenhead locator.
Expanding on the aforementioned locator, a search revealed that: ‘John Morris G4ANB originally devised the system and it was adopted at a meeting of the IARU VHF Working Group in Maidenhead, England in 1980.’ That was only four years before I was licenced. I had no idea ‘LOC’ was so recent. The inventor is not to be confused with another John Morris - G3ABG who thought of Worked-all-Britain.
When 144.152 dried up I went ‘a hunting’ and logged the following callsigns: G0SAC/P in IO91XG (This was my only CW contest QSO in answer to his CQ); GW3ZTT/P in IO82KW (I was his 160th 2m contact at 10:20z); G3ZME/P in IO82NN (Shropshire); G8SRE/P (Swindon Radio Club) in IO91CL; G5FZ/P in IO93RH and MM0CPS/P in IO85SS who turned his beam for me. As for turning my beam it was painful for the hands and it was also being blown out of the horizontal by the increasing wind.
After checking the band for further contacts and trying the Frenchman again without success, I decided it was time to give 4m a chance but not quite yet. Rain was drumming on the flysheet and it was foggy outside. Now was the time to take lunch which is something Finn quickly got interested in. We shared two scotch eggs and some tuna sandwiches. He doesn’t always get human food but today was the exception. I had also brought some milk up for him, kept cool due to a bottle of ice in the rucksack. It keeps the food fresh too.
VHF-NFD Contest 70 MHz SSB - 10 QSO’s between 11:15 and 12:48z. 10W:
It took a while to reconfigure the system for 4m using the excellent Ukrainian transverter linked to the FT817. That’s when I found a broken wire; the 12V neg supply to the 817. The rig was only working due to picking up a neg from the HF amp via the outer on the coax patch lead. Now the neg was provided by the transverter but it was working so I left well alone. I had nothing but a small penknife anyway but I would have found a way of bodging it if I’d had to.
Once the rain had stopped I went out to reconfigure the aerial for 4m. It’s a case of removing the 2m elements and screwing in the 4m ones. It’s a bit of a delicate job as the elements are only soft ali welding rods with 4BA threads. Of course Finn wasn’t about to sit in the tent and wait for me. He had to be out which was a distraction so I was glad I’d brushed up on the assembly technique of this bit of kit, despite being its builder. I can’t claim anything regarding the dimensions however. On 4m it is just a double-sized Sotabeam with elements capable of storage in the 2-piece boom and for 2m I added an extra element to the Sotabeam configuration ‘for luck.’ Last winter I knocked up two triple-sized Sotabeams for 6m.
While thus engaged, three chaps wandered towards us shouting, ‘Where’s the path?’ This made the dog bark and I had to shout loud due to the wind ‘There’s no path here’ then asking where they wanted to go? ‘Starbotton’ was the reply. They were proceeding east and Starbotton is west. I directed them back to the main path hoping they’d find their way from there. They waved when they got there then headed off north. Hopefully they would find their way to the cattle grid and take the path to Starbotton from there.
First in the 4m log was GM3HAM/P in IO74WV – a great start. Scotland already! After the QSO I thought I heard Andy’s voice MM0FMF giving out the CQ’s but dare not call them back to say ‘hello’ in case it was just a voice keyer?
Next some time off for cramp. A very painful condition as we all know but only Finn heard the screams and cursing – one reason why we operate a goodly distance from the path. This is bad enough with a one-day stay like today but much more of a problem with an overnighter involving 18 hours ‘folded up.’ I use ENO’s to combat loss of electrolytes and I find it to be excellent for sorting out cramp.
Continuing in hunting mode: GM4ZUK/P in IO86RW; EI9E/P - IO62OM; GW3ZTT/P in IO82KW; M0NFD/P in IO94MJ at Blakey; G3CKR/P in IO93AD; G0OLE/P – IO93PX and last but not least MM0CPS/P in IO85SS. That was Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. 4m seemed to be working slightly better than 2m.
I heard OH6RM who was 55 with big power and a 7-ely at 12:05z on 144.480 MHz but not a hope of working him! He was complaining that he hadn’t heard a single DX station all day – only Europe. Two different Worlds!
Spotting myself on 70.152 and calling CQ got me the final two 4m QSO’s: M0XVF Jeremy in IO94EQ Co Durham - 50W to an HB9CV from a poor location (according to QRZ) and GM4NFC/P in IO75PJ. I assume neither of these ops saw the spot, merely responding to my CQ’s.
The kit worked well again after an early scare due to forgetting one connection. The box from Ukraine is a magnificent item and lightweight too. With 2.5W input on 10m it produces 10W out on 4m.
VHF-NFD Contest/ SOTA 145.575 FM – 6 QSO’s between 13:00z and 13:30z. 5W:
In order to save the main battery, I connected up the trusty IC-E90 handie to the 2m-FM J-pole mounted on the tent’s front pole for this session . It was meant to be vertical but it never is when I slant the pole at an angle to ease access through the tent door. No matter, if anyone was to point a horizontal beam at me it might help a bit. Unlikely I know but when activating Snowdon a long time ago, I was asked to uproot my vertical and hold it horizontal at right angles to Birmingham! If I remember right I think worked too.
After a slice of bread dropped jam side down on my trousers the day before, Murphy’s Law was proved again here. I checking 145.550 and self spotted but what should happen while my back was turned? A QSO sprang up. A re-spot on .575 and a quick CQ on S20 beforehand, brought more success and I soon had a couple of stations calling.
Chris 2E0XLT/P was first in and he was up at the famous high shack in the Dales in IO84VB. We usually stop for a chat but with one or two others in the queue, I had to move on. Then an urgent sounding voice, ‘Summit-to-Summit.’ The traditional priority was given to Tom M1EYP who was on a hill called The Cloud. Tom gave me a 55-001 report from IO83WE and the ref of G/SP-015. I enquired whether Jimmy was there too? ‘Still in bed, I imagine after our Scotland trip,’ came the reply.
Next: M1DHA Alan - Barnoldswick in IO83VW; M7MCG/M Mick working SOTA stations from ‘above Skipton’ with quite a grand setup in IO83XV and the penultimate VHF contact of the day G8YDC - John in IO94JM at Nunthorpe near Middlesbrough.
Just as I was about to switch off, Mark G7SXR called from Leeds for his follow-up FM QSO. We exchanged 59/ 53. A further serial number was not required after working in SSB in the morning. There was still half an hour of contest to run but HF beckoned.
END of VHF-NFD
SOTA QRO on HF:
14.061 CW - 11 QSO’s from 14:08z
With the power set to 30W (2.5W into the MX-P50M) these stations were worked on 20m following a self spot. F8DGF Nic; HA5MA Laszlo; DJ5AV Mike; OK1ZE Vaclav; DL/OK1CZ/P Petr S2S on DM/BM-373 ; G4OBK Phil in Pickering at 50 miles and just about line-of-sight; OE5ARN Roland; F4WBN Christian; EA2DT Manuel; HA7WA Viktor and SM0GNS Peder.
The session took 16 minutes and reports were mainly 599 down to 559 with the S2S the most difficult due to QSB. Manuel also seemed to be having a little trouble with my signal… Conditions were not as good as a year ago when I worked 25 on this band and mode.
7.160 SSB - 10 QSO’s from 14:40z WAB SE07:
Much of the time WAB members monitor this frequency but there was no response when I called. The reason later became evident – long skip was taking signals out of the UK but a self spot got the process underway.
Using 30 Watts to the dipole the following stations were logged: HA7WA – Viktor saying hello in voice mode, after our CW QSO on 20m; ON3UA Jurg; G8VNW Nick in Threshfield (10km south of NP8); LX1CC Mill; DL1MP Martin; 9A4FV - a very difficult contact; DK3RV Walter and DK0NL - DARC Club in Nettetal; OK2ECC Carlo and DH4PSG Peter.
Everybody except 9A4FV were between 57 and 59 to me and I got 55 to 57 coming back. 9A4FV was a minuscule signal with QSB but I was determined he was going into my log even if it did take over 5 minutes of repeats, questions and ‘Rogers’. It’s important to ‘dig out’ weak signals unless time or the weather don’t allow it. The person at the other end might attach a great deal of significance to the QSO; he may be a QRP’er or a beginner. I hope I have his callsign correct. I tried my best but I can’t find anything on QRZ nor is this callsign in the SOTA database.
Everyone was ultra polite which made this a real pleasure. That doesn’t imply they are not polite normally but hearing their voices and various accents, as against a CW signal was far more personal with a few names exchanged. With no more takers, I announced, ‘QSY to 160m in 10 minutes.’ Finn and I went out to fit the coils then twice again to adjust them to around 1.84MHz.
1.846 SSB – 1 QSO at 15:17z:
In an exact repeat of last year, during the 80m session Nick G8VNW expressed an interest when Top Band was suggested. I self spotted beforehand in case anybody else wanted to try their hand. G8VNW came straight back to my call and we swapped 59 reports over the 10km path. Nick reported a noise level of S7 but as is usual on a summit, my ‘S’ meter was on the left hand stop when no a signal was present.
Despite the ‘adverts’ on Sotawatch, further calls in SSB plus two or three different CQ sessions in CW on 1.832 brought nothing further. Time to go.
Packing up and Descent:
It took about 45 minutes to pack up the station and accommodation in the first sustained sunshine of the day. Because there were no sheep on this mountaintop, Finn was allowed to run around and roll in the grass. He never strayed more than about 50m away.
Once we got over the gate near the cairn he was on the lead again but the danger is getting pulled over by the excited dog especially on the steep rocky gullies. Finally I was carrying him over the cattle grid once again but an hour later than planned at 17:56 . There’s no hope of sending a message from there, saying you’re going to be late. For that you have to drive almost to Masham.
Drive Home & QSO with G4VUN:
This was a reversal of the morning drive via A684 and Sutton Bank, which took until 20:15. On the way home, between Leyburn and Thirsk, I answered a CQ from G4VUN. Peter is located in a tiny village called Thirn and he was using a very old crystal channelled FM transceiver with a ‘punchy’ tone. He had a crystal for 145.475 so that’s where we went. Like me, he has an affinity for Top Band which came up in the conversation when I mentioned the recent QSO with G8VNW from NP8.
Peter thought he’d heard me on 2m-FM while I was on the summit. ‘Were you the man with wet feet?’ This was a reference to my leaky Goretex boot liners that I’d been using to walk around on wet grass. It’s to avoid donning boots for every QSY. The liners are well over 30 years old and cost a tenner new from the Survival shop in Kendal. I bought two pairs at the time so I will now commission the spares; the holey ones already consigned to the bin.
We had a good conversation which helped to relieve the boredom of a tedious route and one that I’ve repeated countless times. I got a QSL card from Peter two days later.
VHF- NFD Contest:
TOTAL (Contest): 29
(VHF-NFD Checklog submitted to RSGB by G0UUU)
Total (SOTA): 23
Overall Total: 52
95% of 5000mAh HRB Li-Po (Plus IC-E90 for 2-FM)
Ascent/ Distance (round trip):
217m (712ft)/ distance 5.5km (3.4 miles up & down) plus 2 x 270m
(to/ from QTH position.
Up to trig: 51min. Down: 49min. Summit time: 8hr-12min
Drive to Start: 05:30 to 07:40 (73 miles via Thirsk and A684)
Walking from SD 9861 7567: 08:04
Arr. Trig Point: 08:55
Left QTH: 17:07
Arr. Car: 15:56
Drive home: 18:05 to 20:15 (80 miles via A684-A1M-A168-A170)
Distance driven: 153 miles
Total driving time: 4hr-20min
A fixed date clashing with the weather is the primary issue every year but there is some choice. Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning or both with an overnight summit camp and Top Band in between. This year Sunday seemed like the best option but it wasn’t without its troubles. Although there was no threat of lightning, there were showers every half hour or so between 10am and 3pm. As luck would have it, we didn’t get wet due to the flysheet and it never rained during the climb or the retreat. When it comes to camping and the big carry it involves, an ‘enthusiasm deficit’ was a factor. Finn’s requirements further add to the weight which must be carried and an increased risk which must be accepted.
My 5W only managed to get as far as G0SAC/P in IO91 square on 2m with four elements, which is 345 km. On 4m, IO62, IO74 and IO75 squares were the furthest worked with 10W and the 3-ely. EI9E/P was the furthest away at 369 km and the Scottish stations 170 km & 225 km respectively. Nothing to write home about but it won’t affect points accrued because I never claim any for NFD. Having to do things in advance puts me off, though I’d love to enter if only to see if anybody would take the trouble to inspect my station!
20m-CW, 40m-SSB and Top Band were the choices which I’d hoped would give people a reasonable chance of collecting NP8. However, the 20m log looks very much like a 40m one from past activations. Europe featured exclusively combined with an absence of any DX such as North America.
The 40m-SSB WAB frequency, which should have added some Brits at that time of day in July, comprehensively failed to do so. In fact the 40m log looks just like a continuation of the 20m one! The only UK stations worked on HF were Phil G4OBK 50 miles away on 20m and Nick G8VNW on 160m, about 6 miles south of me.
2m-FM was targeting SOTA chasers but I hung onto the NFD exchange, making it dual purpose. It was not worth reconfiguring the mast and beam for a second time and mounting the latter vertically, so I stuck with the easy option of the J-Pole.
With a lack of evidence to the contrary, it seems like I was manning the highest station in the contest and that seems to have been true for many years. Nonetheless, Great Whernside is not the best place for VHF propagation, mainly due to a lack of population centres in its immediate line of sight vicinity, unlike some of the SP summits or NP4 Whernside for example. It’s just a favourite, familiar hill, the closest 6-pointer to my home QTH in Scarborough and easy to climb because of a high start point of more than 1,600ft. That’s how it all started and it’s not about to change now.
Excluding some pre-SOTA activations on 4m-FM in the 1990’s, I first activated this hill for points in December 2022. That was a ‘standard’ 2m-FM affair but then my son told me about VHF Field day. The rest is history and I’ve been there without missing the event for twenty field days now. There were four times in the early days when my son Phil G0UUU came along too. Activity has gradually declined over the years but it still attracts a lot of interest.
Whether I’ll have sufficient motivation to carry on beyond twenty years remains to be seen. For the past few years my wife has asked, ‘Why don’t you just go up on Seamer Beacon?’ That’s a high spot near my home. I have been rejecting her advice because I want to be on a SOTA summit.
Taking an FT817ND with a linear that only covers HF, ties you to QRP for the contest. That combined with antennas of no more than four elements this year is quite limiting but as stated many times, I’m only there for the love of it and the tradition which it has become.
For NFD, I used to take a 100W rig which runs 50W on 2m and 20W on 70cm but it wastes an awful lot of energy when you need it for a long period of time; particularly if you rely on CQ’ing. The 28MHz input/ 70MHz output unit from Transverter-Store in Ukraine is a marvellous bit of kit and perfect with the 817. However, when using it with an IC706-2G you have to remember to reduce input to the ‘L’ setting (or at most 5W). The trouble is, the 706 still needs 5A to produce that meagre power! Added to a receive current of 1.1A, even with the lighting switched off, it’s easy to see why you need to take a lot of batteries – up to 34 Ah on past NFD’s as I recall. Unfortunately Transverter-Store haven’t been able to ship anything since 23rd February. The owner’s home city is under occupation.
I should again acknowledge the importance of the SMS spotting service. The NP8 (NP9) phone signal is gradually improving year on year from just about absent a decade ago to fairly reliable now. However, there was still nothing this year on NP31 which is just across the valley.
Thanks to all SOTA chasers, VHF-NFD contest stations and to Mark G7SXR for a spot on 2m.
73, John G4YSS
Photos: 2-3-9-14-20-30-37-40-45-47-56-73-76-78-81-95-107. VHF-NFD 2m and 4m Maps
Above: All packed up and ready to go
Above: Finn saw the danger. Sasha didn’t and injured her knees a few years ago. Dogs must be carried across
Above: On the first section to the rocky gullies
Above: Steeper than it looks here
Above: The character changes after the stile
Above: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Finn has both good and bad in him. Bad when there are Hares or Deer around. (Trig Point TP0703)
Above: Looking back at the summit. Gate with stile.
Above: A way of restraining Finn while erecting the flysheet. Three 600mm carbon rods spaced 120deg, in the peat at 45deg. Worth the extra 90gm
Above: Low-cloud with rain on the way. Finn needed the coat against a cold wind. Ready to start on 2m-SSB.
Above: 3-ely for 4m OR (in this case) 4-ely for 2m. Two AAA batteries were used as weight balance on 2m
Above: Finn suddenly attentive regarding my sandwich
Above: Greyhound/ Salukis are very fast but good at resting too. The 4m/ 10W Transverter-Store unit from Ukraine (on top of the 817) as recommended by MM0FMF
Above: Wet feet due to ancient worn-out Goretex boot liners
Above: A special treat. Fresh, cool milk straight from the ‘fridge’
Above: The beam in 4m-band format. Dimensions as per G3CWI’s original Sotabeam x2.
Above: Much improved weather for HF. No more showers every half-hour
Above: At the stile. Finn about to jump the low fence
Above: Back at the car and the reason we park south of the cattle grid
Above: VHF-NFD 2m-Band Contest Map
Above: VHF-NFD 4m-Band Contest Map