GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008. VHF-NFD & SOTA on 04-July-21
Issue-2. Corrected callsign to GI0AZA (thanks Victor & Adrian)
Using own call - G4YSS/P
VHF-NFD Contest on 2m & 70cm SSB (QRP)
SOTA on 160-80-40-20m (QRO)
19th VHF-NFD from NP8
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 on a 5m CFC mast with 1m end-sticks
Home-brew tunable loading coils for 160m
5 Ah Li-Po battery
3-ely Sotabeam for 2m band
7-ely Moonraker ZL beam for 70cm
2.2 Ah Li-Po battery (not required)
ICOM IC-E90 4-band/ 5W H/H (not used)
Packweight: 13.1kg (29 pounds) including 1.25 litre drinks.
Lichfield Viper-2 ridge tent flysheet with pre-attached poles & pegs
Small poly Groundsheet approx 2m x 1m (260gm)
Garmin GEKO-301 GPS
This was the nineteenth 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. In 2020 it was restricted because of Covid-19 but this year it was back to normal with 6m on Saturday, 2m & 70cm running throughout and 4m reserved for Sunday.
WX for Sunday 4th July-21:
The MWIS mountain weather forecast for the Yorkshire Dales was for 14C with a wind speed of 15mph and low-cloud. No problems so far. However what really bothered me was precipitation. ‘Bursts of rain from dawn with a risk of thunderstorms from late morning onward. Frequent heavy rain over several hours.’ Not so good.
The Met Office and BBC forecasts for Kettlewell had been changing every couple of hours for the past three days but more often than not the lightning symbol and yellow weather warnings would be present for either Saturday, Sunday or both days. I found this very undermining, not knowing what to pack, which day to go, whether I could get away with taking the dog or even if I should cancel it altogether for obvious reasons.
Radio and metal up in the air at 2,300 feet can be an unhealthy pastime in the presence of thunderstorms. 200,000 Amps for 6 microseconds down a mast, coax or tent pole is likely to ruin anyone’s day. Even if I was lucky and missed the lightning (or more to the point it missed me) there might well be static linked to precipitation. Of course I’ve had this issue to deal with about every third field day since 2003 but the older I get the more I worry. Steve G1INK and Mick 2E0HJD got badly caught out by the NP8 weather on 2nd July 2006, after we left the summit.
Eventually it emerged that a weather window might exist from dawn to the late morning of Sunday but to stay any longer I’d have to make the potentially dangerous assumption that the weathermen were exaggerating. MWIS routinely err on the side of caution and experience from previous years tells me that it’s rarely as bad as forecast.
The decision was made to go up on Sunday morning but earlier than normal and to limit it to just 2m & 70cm plus HF for SOTA. After a discussion with his owner it was decided not to risk taking Finn. When it’s chucking it down you can’t get him out of the car but who can blame him? He certainly has more sense than some of us humans.
The alarm went of at 03:40 and I set off from Scarborough at 04:05 arriving at the top of Park Rash for 06:05. It was initially a foggy drive of 73 miles via Thirsk. To avoid more cow damage, I parked on the Kettlewell side of the cattle grid again (SD 9861 7567) and at the time Great Whernside was clear of cloud.
As per last year I took the 25 litre rucksack with mast, tent and beams tied to the outside. Weight was under 30 pounds again rather than 50 or more for an overnight stay. To the apparent loud objection from several pairs of nesting lapwings and intense stares from cows, the walk started at 06:20 but by then the cloud was down.
Half way up a heavy drizzle started which is when I realised I hadn’t picked up the umbrella, so a two minute stop to root out a rarely-used rain jacket was needed. The trig was gained in 41 minutes with a further 5 minutes to reach the usual QTH, 270m northeast of the summit.
By now the rain had stopped and with almost no wind the roomy 2-man flysheet was soon up as was the 2m SOTA beam. Thinking I might need to leave in a hurry, the HF dipole was left until later.
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. 07:01 to 13:28. Temp: 14C and rising. Wind: 1 to 3 mph. Overcast at first them mostly sunny! WAB: SE07. LOC: IO94AD. (TP-0703 was not valid, being non-compliant with the WAB 30m rule).
144 MHz SSB - 11 QSO’s between 06:55 to 09:44z NFD/ 5W QRP:
Scanning round the band I was disappointed to hear only one station – G4ZAP/P but he couldn’t hear me. Fortunately someone else did and I was invited to move down to 144.206 for a 59/ 59 exchange with G0NFD/P on Blakey Ridge IO94MJ. In a friendly chat with the op Chris, I asked if they’d been enjoying the Lion Inn the evening before. Sure enough the meal was as huge as normal but they’d had to lower the aerials overnight due to lightning.
8am local must have been in a lot of schedules for starting up because I was now finding other stations. Hunting up and down the band over the next hour, I worked the following contest callsigns: M0BAA/P in JO01KJ (at ‘377’ the highest serial number I came across); G3CKP/P in IO93AD; G0ARC/P in IO91EH; G6IPU/P in JO02QV; MM0CPS/P in IO85SS; M0RTQ in IO93OM; G0OLE/P in IO93PX; G0SAC/P in IO91XG and G0FBB/P in JO01LD.
In a repeat of last year, my son Phil G0UUU was /P in IO94RJ at Ravenscar, a familiar high spot of 266m ASL, 10 miles N. of Scarborough. Naturally we’d arranged a sked. While awaiting that I worked five stations on 2m-FM (see below). Well before 10am BST Phil had his Innov 7-ely wide-spaced beam for 2m set up and ready to go. We worked with 59 both ways and after spotting me on Sotawatch, he left me the frequency. Unfortunately when I turned the beam there was a strong station on 144.345 so I had to vacate.
After self spotting on 144.340 I was called by M1DHA - Alan in IO83VW Barnoldswick and G4EHD Bill in Halifax IO93BS. Alan had tried to work me during the intervening FM session but had failed due a lack of any modulation. He explained that he’d been doing data and had forgotten to reset the rig.
During this session I was also called by Don G0RQL in Devon but he was readability ‘1’ much of the time occassionally coming up to ‘2’ then disappearing back into the noise once more. He would be using power so it’s unlikely he’d hear me. That was a pity but it’s doubtful I could have got a report from him. My final contact on 2m-SSB was with GM3HAM/P in IO74WV - ‘100W to a 17-ele.’
145.550 FM – 5 QSO’s:
While waiting for the sked with G0UUU/P, I filled-in the time on FM. I could have made these into contest exchanges but it was too much like hard work. With three coaxes feeding under the tent side, I was initially using a beam lying on the grass but when Phil G4OBK came back to my self-spot right down in the noise, I realised I was not on the vertical J-Pole. Power was 5W.
With the antenna error sorted we had a chat for a few minutes, Phil telling my that his foot injury was getting gradually better which I was pleased about. After that it was back to logging a run of stations: M0KOM Lenny in Middlesbrough IO94JN; M0AKB/M Dave up on Holme Moss with a 2 x 5/8 and mag-mount; G7SXR - Mark in Leeds and M0BIU Steve in York. One op reported that he’d heard me weakly going back to G4OBK from ‘wet grass level’ and that Phil was ‘very loud’. That was unsurprising as he initially came on with 180W before ‘throttling back.’
432 MHz SSB - 2 QSO’s 08:13z and 11:57z for NFD/ 5W QRP:
Last year 70cm was quite lucrative considering the low power I was using but not this time. There were cracks and crackles on here both times I tried it but very few stations. I wasn’t getting that on any other band – at least not at that level but earthing the rig with a clip lead and spike, made the day before, gave no improvement. I removed the lead and touched the rig – no shock. A mystery?
I managed to log G0OLE in IO93PX 59 both ways and nearly 4 hours later MM0CPS/P in IO85SS. Not that I ever put in an entry for NFD but both of these were what are called multipliers. Trying for a third station in the form of G5LK/P I found he couldn’t properly hear my 5W signal. 70cm was a big disappointment.
3.760 SSB - 12 QSO’s from 10:00z WAB SE07/ SOTA QRO:
Much of the time someone is monitoring the WAB freq. Not today but after a self spot things rapidly livened up. Using 30 Watts to the dipole and upping it to 50 half way through, I worked: 2I0FIP John in WAB K56; Ken G0FEX in Leicester; GB250CC – Captain Cook’s 250th anniversary station - op Nigel in Pontefract; EI3GYB Michael in Mayo and MM0XPZ Steve struggling with noise and QSB in Greenock.
Calling from nearby Threshfield was G8VNW Nick (59 both ways) then 2E0AGB Allen in Dewsbury. After these G4WAB - (op Dave G4IAR); M0BKV Damien in Cornwall; G4IPB Paul in Teesdale (2 x 59); 2E0FEH Karl – Saltash Cornwall and finally G3YED Richard - Stratford-upon-Avon. Everybody got at least 57 from me; most were 59 but there was QSB. UOS above, the majority of incoming reports were 57 with a 55 from Michael, a 33 from John and 44 from Richard. With no more takers, I announced, ‘QSY to 160m in 5-10 minutes.’
1.846 SSB – 1 QSO at 10:27z:
During the 80m session both nearby stations G8VNW and G4IPB, expressed an interest when Top Band was suggested. I self spotted beforehand in case anybody else such as Phil G4OBK 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 nearly up to my signal level but in contrast my ‘S’ meter was on the left hand stop when no a signal was present. We were both hearing the static crashes however. Nick mentioned that Wharfedale had suffered a very violent thunder storm the evening before when the lights had gone off numerous times. At this news, I poked my head out of the tent door to check the clouds. OK; and it was still sunny.
G4IPB is more like 60km from Great Whernside which would make it quite a bit harder in daylight. Nothing heard from Paul but I did hear a very weak signal coming up out of the noise now and again. All I got from this was ‘2E0…’ Could this have been Karl 2E0FEH in Cornwall? Impossible in daylight I would have thought but stranger things have happened. I tried several times without reward but it certainly sounded like Karl’s voice.
I also tried 1.832-CW just in case but didn’t spot it. After more CQ’ing on 1.846-SSB, I finally gave up at around 10:40z but at least we’d had some success which made it worth the effort. Power was 50W to the coil-loaded inverted-vee 80m dipole at 5m centre height. Great for warming up the ground and the ‘D’ layer – not so good for sending signals out horizontally.
7.032 CW - 11 QSO’s from 10:45z SOTA QRO:
Now to offer NP8 overseas and what better mode than CW for this. Much of the EU SOTA traffic seems to be in that mode. Unexpectedly two thirds of the stations worked on 40m were UK ones. Of course! We are coming out of the trough as far as sunspots are concerned.
Using 30W to the dipole I logged the following callsigns: PI4EME Veron Club; G4YIL in Cambridge; ON4GO Phil; G4OOE Nick in Scarborough; EI5HJ Gary; GW4VPX Allan - Pencader; G0FVH David in Poole; G4TGJ Richard - Ilkley; G0HRT Rob - Southport; GI0AZA Esther - Londonderry and M0BKV Damien in Cornwall. Esther makes rare appearances in my log with CW. This was the second.
14.061 CW - 25 QSO’s from 11:03z SOTA QRO:
With the power still set to 30W (2.5W into the amp) I had great success on 20m following a self spot. In fact the pileup was so big I was starting to suffer from fatigue by the end! The lack of physical comfort doesn’t help and that added to the now hot tent made concentrating difficult. I don’t always get callsigns the first time and have to ask for repeats but this was utterly ridiculous. They were all running together to produce that old familiar continuous tone which was a feature of 7.032 ten or more years ago. I did question my decision to go on here but in the end I didn’t regret it. There were far too many stations to mention by callsign but I did work the following countries:
F; SM; OE; EA3; HB9; DL; OH; I; GW; GM; G; SP; UR3 and Z35. Signal strengths were well up and all but two got 599 from me. Almost half returned the ‘compliment’ and the rest were all between 559 and 579 apart from two 539’s and a 339 from Spain. Sorting out individual callsigns was a slow process and the session took around 30 minutes – though I say it myself not such a bad performance considering the op. However I was left with my ears ringing after the channel eventually dried up.
At least four ops sent ‘44’ at the end of their QSO’s. I tried sending it back once or twice but I need to look up what exactly what it means for the future.
Badly needing to stretch my aching legs I went out to have a final try on 70cm but with only one more station was added (see above). While I was out changing the antennas, I lifted the rear end of the tent for a through draft. It was something I should have done two hours before and now too late to make a difference but I sat in the tent for a few minutes eating and drinking everything I didn’t want to carry down.
Packing up and Descent:
By 1pm local cloud could be seen approaching from the south and it mizzled for 10 minutes wetting the tent, which was a shame. I set about the job of packing up; something I usually allot an hour to but because of the reduced operation this year and no camp-over it was achieved in 25 minutes, albeit without much finesse.
The threat of rain didn’t materialise and neither was there any low-cloud. I met a man climbing up and a couple in a car by the road who said they had watched me walk all the way down. It was mentioned by the man that he was after bagging Great Whernside in the coming days, so pointing out the cows, I advised him to park at the south side of the cattle grid. On reaching the car at 14:08 the thought was, ‘I’ve been lucky today – I got away with it!’
This was a reversal of the morning drive via A684 and Sutton Bank, which took until 16:36 but torrential rain started just after Horse Head and lasted nearly to Thirsk. There was a bit of lightning with it too. At one point it was so bad that the wipers were not coping on fast and one rubber came partly off. A camper van coming the other way, launched a massive wave of brown water, blocking all vision for a few seconds. Some people were pulling over. I was just thankful that I was not still up on Great Whernside. Very thankful! A 10 minute stop before Helmsley was required to fix the wiper with a tyrap.
VHF- NFD Contest:
TOTAL (Contest): 16
(VHF-NFD Checklog submitted to RSGB)
Total (SOTA): 54
Overall Total: 70
One 5Ah Turnigy Li-Po, 95% discharged
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: 41min. Down: 40min. Summit time: 6hr-27min.
Drive to Start: 04:05 to 06:05 (73 miles via Thirsk and A684)
Walking from SD 9861 7567: 06:20
Arr. Trig Point: 07:01
Left QTH: 13:28
Arr. Car: 14:08
Drive home: 14:16 to 16:36 (reversal of above route inc. 10 min stop)
Distance driven: 147 miles.
Total driving time: 4hr-20min
In spite of what proved to be pessimistic warnings about the weather – BBC, Met Office, MWIS – you name it, the risk paid off and my personal record of 19 consecutive NFD’s on NP8 was not ruined after all. Going early proved not only prudent but pretty well essential and apart from a wetting that Finn would have had to endure on the way up, it would have been OK to take him. Granted, I wouldn’t have ended up with 70 QSO’s due to play breaks with the tennis ball I’d packed for him, but I would have enjoyed his company and there were no sheep above about 1900ft.
Compared to my son and many others I didn’t exactly set the World on fire with my VHF DX, the furthest being IO74, IO85 and JO01. With just 5 Watts it was a bit of a struggle on 2m and 70cm seemed pretty dead most of the time. Phil reported that 70MHz wasn’t much better either so I’m glad I didn’t load myself up with the 10W transverter and 4m beam.
I also failed to get out of the UK on VHF, though I did try calling OR6T on 144.243 several times through an apparent pile-up, without success. Neither did I manage to work the A1 Contest Group G4ZAP/P after two revisits but it was explained to me by Chris – the op at G0NFD on Blakey Ridge - that this was a very high powered station. I heard one EI station but he faded away before I could attempt a QSO as did Don G0RQL on 144.340.
As I remember it only one or two NFD ops (eg M0RTQ) acknowledged the SOTA ref but quite a few were not hearing me too well. For those I didn’t complicate matters by offering it.
I am usually the highest station in the contest and had no reason to doubt that this year. However Great Whernside is not the best place to do VHF from. Whernside for example is much better because of what it overlooks. In other words a combination of take-off and population centres spread within its line of sight. Though not so high, many of the SP summits would out perform NP8 too but this is more about a favourite and familiar hill plus it’s the closest 6-pointer to Scarborough and not too difficult to climb.
Using QRP in the contest left lots of battery power for HF later on and even with 30 and sometimes 50 Watts of HF, the 5.5Ah didn’t quite run out, which was quite surprising. Had I taken the IC706-2G I’d have needed two or three times the battery capacity for the 70 QSO total. The FT817ND/ MX-P50M 50W HF amp has proved an efficient combination. Yes the PA device blew once but it was easy to replace. Another issue is remembering to manually set the LPF for each band. Experience has shown that if you work on 20m with the filter set to 80m you will not have a good day (Ben More).
After a very poor showing last year, HF greatly exceeded my expectations with 54 QSO’s logged but I wouldn’t have had 20% of the success had it not been for the self-spotting facility. Last year when the phone didn’t work at all, I was hiding from very high winds in a slight dip whereas this time I was back in the usual place with a clear take-off.
20m was only just short of astonishing but there again I am not that often on there. 40m was behaving more like 80 and 20m, as well as QSO’s all around the EU, actually delivered an extra seven UK based stations. There was no DX but it was perhaps a bit early on a Sunday morning in the USA.
What about 160m – my favourite band? I had no plan to be on there. In fact I removed the coils from the antenna bag before packing the rucksack on the Friday. When I realised that Finn wasn’t coming, I removed his dog biscuits etc and put the coils back in. It was only when I worked a 160m SOTA stalwart, Nick G8VNW that I even though about Top Band.
After more than three days of misgivings due to the weather forecasts, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and surprise surprise, after all the anxiety it was sunny for three hours.
Thanks to all SOTA chasers, VHF-NFD contest stations and to Phil G0UUU/P for our sked on 2m-SSB. Many thanks for the spotting service which paid dividends.
73, John G4YSS
Above: Early fog near Sutton Bank. Peter Chicago - Radio Caroline 1973 on MP3
Above: 6am at the old familiar parking spot
Above: Signpost to NP8
Above: Low-cloud but NP8 ridge just visible
Above: The path higher up
Above: The author. Apprehension about the weather
Above: Knowledge of the combination would have saved me lifting a 27kg dog over this gate in the past
Above: Arrival at a damp QTH
Above: The original but slightly modified SOTAbeam for 2m-SSB
Above: 70cm but the performance of this ZL beam is questionable
Above: 2m beam pointing east over Angram reservoir for sked with G0UUU/P at Ravenscar
Above: HF dipole and 2m-FM ‘not quite’ vertical due to tent pole positioning for better access
Above: Activation of G/NP-008 on HF in bright weather. Angram reservoir, built for Bradford’s wool trade, is just visible
Above: FT817ND meter responding to quite severe noise on 70cm. Note ground spike and (yellow) wire which made no difference
Above: Packed up and ready for the off
Above: Overlooking the road from the stile. G/NP-009 Buckden Pike is top-right of photo
Above: Thunderstorm but this wasn’t the worst of it. I was lucky today!