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G4YSS: G/NP-008 VHF-NFD on 02-07-17

Gt.WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008-SOTA/ VHF-NFD-IO94AD, 2nd July 2017
Issue-1

G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P)
VHF-NFD on 2m, 4m & 70cm (15th consecutive year for VHF-NFD on NP8)
SOTA on 160m-80m-20m-2m
One Day Only - Unaccompanied

TIMES:
Non-radio: BST (UTC plus 1)
Radio ops: UTC (‘z’)

EQUIPMENT:
IC706-2G HF-100W; VHF- 50W; UHF-20W Transceiver with CW key (toggle sw.) in mic.
3-ely modified SOTA-Beam for 2m SSB
7-ely ZL-7-70 (ZL Special) for 70cm
Single 19mm dia x 3.5m aluminium alloy mast for beams

Vertical J-Pole for 2m-FM on 7mm dia x 1.32m lg carbon fibre composite mast
Vertical half-wave for 4m-FM on 7mm dia x 1.32m lg carbon fibre composite mast
80-60-40-(30)-20m link dipole on 5m aluminium alloy/ carbon fibre composite mast
Loading coils with slug tuning for 1.8 to 2.0 MHz at 40m link points

IC-E90 Quad-band 5W H/H powered externally.
(Integral 7.2V / 1.3Ah Li-Po battery was not used)

Batteries - Li-Po 11.1V (nom):
2 x 5Ah (Turnigy) with paralleling harness for IC706 (fully depleted)
2 x 5Ah (Turnigy) with paralleling harness for IC706 (fully depleted)
2 x 2.2Ah (Turnigy) with paralleling harness for IC706 (68% depleted)
1 x 2.2Ah (light-load) battery for IC-E90 H/H (39% depleted)
Total 26.6Ah (The four 5Ah batteries were new for this expedition)

Pack weights:
85 litre rucksack with 3.8kg of antennas, poles & flysheet on outside, included in figures.
Ascent: 16.8kg (37 pounds) inc. food, 0.25 ltr. water; 0.5 ltr. Pop; 0.5 ltr. electrolytes; 0.5 ltr. Ice.
Descent: 14.5kg, (32 pounds).
Mast for VHF & UHF beams and twelve 18 inch canes are hand-carried (mast 500gm).

Introduction:
This was the fifteenth consecutive G4YSS/ GX0OOO/P VHF-NFD on Great Whernside. Of these there have been five summit camps; 2011; 2013; 2014; 2015 and 2016. A 2-day stay was meticulously prepared for this year but for personal family reasons, this had to be reduced to a single day at the last minute.

WX forecast:
Because of the extended summit time required, the decision to do NFD from a SOTA, cannot easily be made due to the weather in general and the lightning risk in particular. However the MWIS forecast for Sunday 2nd was for winds up to 20mph, 10C to 12C at 600m ASL and mainly dry. Hill fog would clear quickly and there would be some sunshine. Had I gone on Saturday evening, I would likely have been faced with putting up the station in driving rain and low-cloud.

Packweight:
Last year the rucksack weighed in at 46 pounds but this time I was faced with carrying 50 pounds until I cancelled the overnight stay. After an hour spent re-packing to make it into a one-day event, the rucksack weight came down nicely to 37 pounds (16.8kg), which is within the bounds of reasonable for that particular summit.

EXECUTION:
Set off from Scarborough at 04:10
Drove via Masham (73 miles), arriving at the Top of Park Rash at SD 9861 7567 at 06:07

The top of Park Rash hill, north of Kettlewell at a feature called Tor Dike (SD 9863 7573) is the highest place you can start NP8 (495m - 1,624ft ASL). On the drive in, it took a few minutes of nudging with the car to displace the herd of Highland Cattle from the road sufficiently to pass so I was not about to take chances regarding parking. Twice I have had to repair damage to door mirrors, both of which were found hanging by their cables, so again I parked in the nettle bed at the Kettlewell side of the cattle grid.

Despite the sunshine, while removing the mast from the roof rack I noticed a cold wind which caused me swap the polyester walking shirt for a fleece base layer. The SOTA QTH is a couple of hundred metres NE of the trig point and I was there by 07:17. Because of the reduced weight of a 1-day event this year, the ascent comprising 211m (692ft) and a 2.75km (1.7 mile) walk to the trig point, took a shorter time of 42 minutes.

Setting Up:
Once the flysheet was up, the new UHF 7-ely and old VHF 3-ely horizontal beams were positioned near the front on the single hand-carried mast. A vertical line is painted down one side of the mast to assist blind aiming and a 2BA through-bolt helps with grip.

The full length of the alloy mast with a plastic extender in place is just under 3.5m. However around half a metre of the mast ends up in the soft, peaty ground. Because of this the 2m beam ends up at around 3m AGL with the 70cm one at 2.3m. The coax of the 2m beam runs through the 70cm one close to the boom but this seems to have no detectable effect.

This arrangement is a new departure from previous years when each beam had its own mast. To facilitate it, a PVC extender has been added above the alloy. This allows a beam separation of 66cm. Research showed that the apertures of the two antennas should not overlap if interaction is to be avoided. Prior VSWR tests at home reassured me that neither beam ‘knew’ of the presence of the other.

A pegged-down groundsheet covers most of the grass but wild life; in this case spiders, tiny green caterpillars and the odd beetle, can enter at will. This and the increased draught are the prices paid for saving the weight of an inner tent but it matters little if you are not overnighting. There is also far more room without the inner tent.

The link dipole on its 5m mast is positioned roughly east-west and to one side. The 2m & 4m verticals go either side but further down the flysheet to clear the beams. With no airbed to inflate etc and only one mast, setting up this year only took an hour or so.

Since last year a separate log sheet for SOTA and each of the VHF-NFD bands with serial numbers pre-inscribed, helps to avoid confusion. Apart from the usual cold wind which was a bit stronger than forecast, the weather was cooperative. Until about 09:30 there was sunshine and just after this a short period of light rain. The rest of the day was mix of overcast and sunshine. If I’d come the previous evening I would likely have had to face wind-driven rain and low-cloud to erect the camp in.

GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008, 704m (2,310ft), 6 pts. 07:12 to 17:23. 12C, 20 mph NW wind. Mix of overcast & sunshine. Short period of low-cloud and light rain, morning. Non existent EE phone coverage. 50% Vodaphone coverage. DAB radio coverage on summit and route. WAB: SE07. LOC: IO-94-AD. TP-0703 invalid (outside 30m rule).

Index to operating 2017:
Times: UTC

SOTA (am):

  1. 1.832 CW - 4 QSO’s from 07:26z
  2. 1.843 SSB - 3 QSO‘s from 07:38z
  3. 3.557 CW - 4 QSO’s from 07:51z
  4. 3.726 SSB - 15 QSO‘s from 08:05 to 08:30z
    Sub-total SOTA: 26 QSO’s

VHF-NFD:

  1. 144 SSB - 60 QSO’s from 08:33 to 13:55z
  2. 432 SSB - 9 QSO’s from 11:02 to 11:30z
  3. 70 FM - 5 QSO’s - 08:40; 10:02: 10:05; 10:07 and 11:36z
    Total VHF-NFD: 74 QSO’s

SOTA (pm):

  1. 14.052.6 CW - 15 QSO’s from 14:19z
  2. 14.273 SSB - 1 QSO at 14:39z
  3. 7.032/ 7.033 - 50W CQ’s from 14:55 to 15:02z Nil.
  4. 145.400 FM - 8 QSO’s from 15:04 to 15:33z plus one at 14:09
    Sub-total SOTA: 25 QSO’s

TOTAL for Day - SOTA & NFD: 125

SESSIONS in DETAIL:

SOTA - Morning Sessions:

  1. 1.832 CW - 4 QSO’s from 07:26z
    Without an overnight stay this year, I wasn’t expecting great things on 160. However, it was a pleasant surprise and I owe it to the four ops who got up early and called in. The loading coils tuned second time lucky and QRV time was a few minutes earlier than alerted. After seeing a signal on the Vodaphone mobile, I quickly called G4SSH finding that he could hear the few dots I sent. Roy was surprised by their strength.

Stations worked with 100 Watts to the loaded 80m inv-vee dipole at 5m AGL centre ht:
G4SSH Roy near Scarborough; G4OBK in Pickering; G4IPB Paul above Middleton-in-Teesdale and G3RDQ David in Hampshire. Exchanges were 519/ 339; 579/ 549; 529/ 559 and 529 both ways respectively. With no expectation that 160 would propagate as far as Hampshire four hours after sunrise, what a great start this was.

  1. 1.843 SSB - 3 QSO‘s from 07:38z
    G4IAR - Dave answered the initial 100W CQ and we exchanged at 51/ 35. I remembered to thank him for the glossy certificate awarded by the WAB organization for a recent sortie into OV00. The fact that he heard this is testament to how well 160m was working as far as Leicester.

G8VNW Nick called in from Threshfield, a village just down the Wharfe valley from Great Whernside, at approx. 6 miles range and almost line of sight. The reports were both 59 plus.

Finally Phil G4OBK reworked me in SSB with good signals (57/ 53) both ways and a trial of a new boom microphone that he was using.

Phil has been busy putting up aerials at his new QTH in Pickering, including an 80m band Windom (OCF dipole) which he tuned for the 160m QSO using a 40-year-old Dentron MT-3000A. He has also erected a 2m band - WIMO 144 MHz 7+7 Cross Yagi, 4m above ground but more of that later.

Several ops (e.g. G3RMD & G0RQL) told me later that they had listened on 160m but heard nothing. Thanks for trying.

  1. 3.557 CW - 3 QSO’s from 07:51z
    Stations worked with about 40 Watts were G4SSH 579/ 339; G4OBK 59 plus 40dB!; GI4ONL Victor (Bushmells) 599/ 579 and DL1FU Frid who did well to make it through at 559/ 229.

  2. 3.760 SSB - 15 QSO‘s from 08:05z
    All stations were located in the UK as follows: G4IAR; G0RQL (furthest away Don in Devon); M3FEH; M0JLA; G4OBK; MM0XPZ; G3RMD; G4IPB; G7BGA; G0GWK; GI0AZA; GM4WHA; G8MIA; G4BYY and GOTDM.

With powers ranging from 40W to (most of the time) 100W, the session took 25 minutes. The majority were worked without too much difficulty at 58 to 59. Three QSO’s that took a bit of extra effort were: M3FEH Karl 55/ 33; GI0AZA Esther 57/ 33 and G0TDM not too far away in Penrith but well screened by hills, 55/ 41. After a good showing on 160m, I thought 80m was not going quite as well as it should.

VHF-NFD:

  1. 144 SSB - 60 QSO’s 08:33 to 13:55z in several sessions:
    With power set to 50 Watts for almost all 2m-ssb contacts, the first station worked was EI9E/P in IO62OM on 144.227 MHz. The op told me where to find them on 70cm but despite looking on 432.206 later, I heard nothing. Subsequent stations pounced on were G3YDD/P - IO82QL; G0HDV/P - IO93QN.

144.345 MHz fixed-1 from 09:00 to 10:13z:
By now it was 09:00z and time to show up for the first session on a fixed frequency of 144.345 MHz, for which I’d alerted at 09:00; 10:00; 11:00 and 13:00z. Having rarely managed more than about half a dozen stations via this method in the past, I wasn’t holding my breath. Trade was steady but in the end I logged an astounding 36 NFD exchanges on this single fixed channel.

Stations Logged: M0NFD/P - IO94MJ (Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge); G1EZF Mick - IO93FT; G0HRT Rob - IO83NQ; G3RLE - IO83VO; G3RCW/P - IO93CE; M0OSA/P - IO93AO; M0XLT/ MX0YHA/ GB4SUM - all from Kevin in Gargrave - IO83WX; G4OBK - IO94OF (Phil in Pickering with his new 7-ely. 59 plus 15dB both ways, beam to beam).

Continuing on 144.345: M0MDA Mick - IO93FS; G0RQL Don - IO70UV (Devon); G6XBF Walt; IO93FU; 2E0SVN/P - IO93EI; EI7GY/P Joe - IO62UX and SOTA S2S EI-035; 2E0WDX - IO94FW; GD0AMD/P - IO74SD; G7BGA Geoff - IO82MT; G3RMD Frank - IO81XV; G3CKR/P - IO93AD; G2OA/P - IO83NO; G3PUO - IO83TS; GW4VPX Allan - IO82VA and finally on 80m, M0HOM Martin in IO93QO.

By 10:13z further CQ’s went unanswered so I took to hunting up and down the band again. The more you log, the harder it is to check whether you’ve already worked them but I’m glad to say, I only made that mistake once, realizing before having to be told. From 10:17 to 12:16z, I worked the following stations on their own frequencies: MM0HCE/P - IO75IU; G2BQY/P - IO81RF; G3PIA - IO91IN; G3ZME/P - IO82NN (on Pole Bank GW/WE-005 but using a generator); G5LK/P - JO01QD; G3PYE/P - JO02CE (‘Try us on 432.156’); G8OHM/P - IO92GB AND GW3SRT/P in IO82LQ.

At this point (11:00z) I took a break from 2m in favour of a session on 70cm. After this and a lunch break, a return was made to 2m where the following stations were worked: G4LOH - IO83NU; G0SAC/P - IO91XG; G4RFR/P - IO80ST and M0HRF/P - IO91GI (another potential S2S thwarted by a generator but this time G/SE-001).

144.345 MHz fixed-2 from 12:30 to 13:06z:
Back on the fixed QRG for the second time, I worked the following: G0EHV/P - IO84XT; MW0GCT/P - IO73LA; G8PNN/P - IO95AF; GW4TJC/P Simon - IO82HV and S2S GW/NW-012 Cadair Berwyn (830m/ 8 points); G4PDF - IO93VH; M6HMK - IO93AK (Helen took some working but she persevered); G8FLV - IO94GI; G7CRV - IO94LE; G1PPA - IO93OJ; GW8ZRE - IO83JF; G4BLH/M Mike - IO83TU and 2E0WHN - IO93GP.

One good thing about calling CQ on you own channel is that you feel less pressure to rush. It means that you can give out other details besides the RS, Serial No and LOC, such as the SOTA ref and WAB square. I tried to do this quickly for most QSO’s regardless of whether I ‘owned’ the frequency or not but for marginal contacts it was inadvisable to try. Nevertheless, a small proportion of the NFD ‘big boys’ took interest in the SOTA. Some knew my location and two or three had actually climbed it.

There were one or two who knew that I was operating on behalf of ‘The Scarborough Group’ and quite a few remembered the callsign and location from previous years. There were perhaps ten comments regarding the callsign, some slightly frivolous. My stock reply is, ‘You should try sending it in CW.’

Between 13:14 and 13:55z it was back to search and pounce: G3SVJ/P - IO91SX; F6KCP/P - JN18OU; GW1YBB/P - IO81KW; G4ZAP/P - JO01PU; G0OLE/P - IO93PX (Goole Radio Club); G4NPH/P - IO92TH; G5TO/P - IO93FL (YL op) and finishing with just 3 minutes of contest remaining, G0IVR/P in IO91HB.

F6KCP/P turned out to be ‘best DX’ of the day at 688km square to square. JN18OU is to the east of Paris.

Up until 11:00z, I had been using the first set of two 5 Ah Li-Po’s in parallel but soon after the QSY to 70cm, they quickly became exhausted.

  1. 432 SSB - 9 QSO’s from 11:02 to 11:30z; Trying the new beam:
    Partly because the 70cm aerial I usually bring, a 10-ely parabeam, (half of a beam purchased by my son Phil G0UUU/P at Elvaston Rally when he was 12) and partly because I was damaging it by continually carrying it strapped to a rucksack, I bought myself a beam from Moonraker.

I chose a 7-ely ZL Special designated as ZL7-70.
http://www.moonraker.eu/zl7-70-70cm-7-element-special-yagi-antenna
Costing 50 GBP, the specified boom length is 70cm and it has a claimed gain of 11.5 dBd. For an extra ten quid I could have had a ZL12-70 (12-ely) with a claimed gain of 14 dBd but that has a boom length of over a metre.

These beams are designed for end mounting but by centre mounting mine with a pipe clip, I was able to cut off 12cm of spare boom, bringing it down to 58cm. With 4.2m of RG58CU coax the total weight is a modest 710 grams and it’s compact enough to strap to my 85 litre rucksack without overhanging top or bottom.

The IC706-2G runs a maximum of 20 Watts on 70cm. A quick whiz up and down the band revealed a dearth of stations; only two or three could be heard active.

The first 70cm station I came across was GW3ZTT/P on 432.250 and in IO82KW. At the end of this QSO battery number one, comprising two 5 Ah Li-Po’s in parallel, failed and had to be replaced by an identical pair.

Since the time had come to migrate to a fixed and pre-alerted frequency, I set up on 432.200 MHz merely because (for reasons lost in the mists of time) it was in my IC706’s memory. I was soon to find out about this frequency.

Using my little home-brew box of tricks to call CQ better than the finest ventriloquist, I was called by the following stations: M0NFD/P - IO94MJ (Blakey Ridge - North York Moors); G0OLE/P - IO93PX operating from Bishop Wilton Wold; M0HFC/P - IO93VR; 2E0WDX - IO94FW (thanks for the spot Vin); G0JRB/P - IO93QN and G3ZME/P - IO82NN.

The latter station acquainted me of a relevant contest rule. ‘No contest station shall work within 5kHz of a calling channel or centre of activity.’ Apparently my conveniently memorized channel of 432.200 is just one such. Embarrassed, I thanked him and immediately moved up to 432.208 where I netted M1DDD/P in IO93CH. The fact that I had broken contest rules wouldn’t have mattered to me because there’s no way I would consider putting in an entry but you have to look a little deeper than that. The rules are there to keep these useful calling frequencies clear and I entirely agree with that.

The final station worked on 70cm was G2OA on a frequency of 432.231 MHz and he was in IO83NO. Swinging the beam, I could find no others to work and since I normally work fewer than ten QSO’s, I called it a day as far as this band was concerned. At least my new investment had been tested and I was quite satisfied with it.

  1. 70.450/ 70.475 FM - 5 QSO’s - 08:40; 10:02: 10:05; 10:07 and 11:36z:
    Using 3 Watts to the home-brew 4m vertical, all the following FM QSO’s were credited to VHF-NFD and logged accordingly. 70.450 MHz was monitored for most of the day but this band was necessarily low-priority and only visited when I heard someone calling. High power HF upset the IC-E90 so it had to be switched off for the 160m and 80m sessions.

Spanning a period of three hours, I worked MW1FGQ John in Flintshire - IO83IG; M3RDZ Roy in Burnley - IO83US; G6XBF Walt in Leeds chasing the SOTA from IO93FU; G4MYU Art in Briarfield - IO83VT and G4VFL/P Andy using a transverter and 25 Watts in IO84IH.

The middle three stations were worked in a 5-minute run from 10:02 on 70.475 MHz. All reports were 59 apart from the one from Walt which was 57. The rig was switched off at 3pm local time when the contest ended.

SOTA - Afternoon Sessions:

  1. 14.052.6 CW - 20 QSO’s from 14:19z
    Before deciding on 20m I called G4SSH on 145.400-FM. If I put 50 Watts up the vertical half-wave from the IC706, Roy can hear me from NP8, at 55. This also applies to NP9. This was a contest between 20m and 40m and 20m won. Roy spotted me for 14.052.6 and while the spot was being processed, I was outside adjusting the dipole links. In the short while it took to do this, ops were assembling on the given frequency and I could hear them ‘clearing their throats.’ The odd question mark was being sent.

After setting the power to about 30 Watts, I called CQ and logged the following stations: F6EAZ Chris; DJ2MX; EA2DT Manuel; S52CU Mirko; F6FTB Christian; EA2IF Guru; G4SSH Roy; OK2PDT Jan; SP9AMH Mariusz; HB9AGH Ambrosi; DL2DXA Bernd; IK2LEY; F8FKK; SA4BLM Lars and finally a callsign that confused me at first, 9A3ST. I’m often bamboozled when the first character is a figure.

I had to increase power to maximum half way through as some ops were having trouble hearing me. Perhaps the skip was a bit too long for some of them. I was surprised when Roy G4SSH called in from 100km until I remembered the near line-of-sight situation and we exchanged at 559/ 449.

Reports from me were all in the range 559 to 599, as were incoming ones with the exception of Roy’s. Fifteen QSO’s was a pleasant surprise and the session spanned 18 minutes. My message of ‘SSB, SSB’ was picked up by Roy G4SSH as I went off to check for a clear channel. I had hoped for 14.285 but it was busy.

  1. 14.273 SSB - 1 QSO at 14:39z
    Despite a spot from Roy, the only station I could raise in SSB was a Brit in the form of G6PJZ, Andy in Yarm, North Yorkshire (57/ 54). Power was 50 Watts. I expected a dozen more but no further stations answered my CQ’s.

  2. 7.033/ 7.032 CW from 14:55z
    Despite 7 minutes of CQ’ing on both frequencies, no QSO’s were made on 40m this late in the afternoon.

  3. 145.400 FM - 9 QSO’s from 15:04 to 15:33z:
    Long before now, the discomfort of a lumpy surface under the groundsheet had got to me more than a little but with some battery power remaining, I was determined to stay and pick up a few more stations, this time on 2m-FM. With 25 Watts from the IC706 to the vertical J-Pole, I put out a couple of CQ’s on S20.

M6VGU Kevin in Burnley was the first to answer, giving me a 59 plus 30dB report. Next in was M0RSF Chris in Leeds – 59 both ways followed by a familiar callsign G8YQN/M near Filey, initially coming in at 55. This was Stewart who is (like me) a current member of the Scarborough Special Events Group. He is also a military radio enthusiast who runs a Clansman and No19 sets. Unfortunately, this QSO was somewhat curtailed by mobile flutter.

It didn’t help that my second battery pair (2 x 5Ah) chose this moment to go flat. An advantage of EC5 connectors which are now standard fit on all of my batteries and rigs, I was able to quickly attached the reserve comprising two 11.1V, 2.2Ah Li-Po’s in parallel. Roy G4SSH, who must have been listening, came in to explain the reason for the abrupt disappearance.

Another station called from the East Coast. G1RSK/P, Chas was from Immingham and on holiday at Crows Nest just south of Scarborough. He gave me 59 plus 20dB and running 10 Watts to a vertical on a caravan, he was the same strength to me. M0KLM Bryn was another 59 plus signal from 3 miles west of Selby.

This was turning out to be a real ‘East Coast Fest’ when a third station, G0OII Richard called in from there. Again this was someone I knew well and a fellow SSEG member. Mobile near Flixton, Richard turned out to be in the car with Stewart who had been trying out his Clansman portable. Sadly Richard was 44 at best and faded out quite quickly.

M0LUS/M - Colin called in from a 1,300ft ASL location near Holmfirth and we exchanged at 55/ 53. Next I tried hard to bring in G4NTA but he faded out to nothing and was lost prior to validation.

The final station of the day turned out to be MW1MDH/M calling weakly from Halkyn Mountain in North Wales. I gave him 33 but that was optimistic. All I could hear were a few phonetics from which, after many repeats, I just managed to make out his QTH and nothing else except a report of ‘33 also.’ Looking up his particulars on QRZ.com, I see that his name is Mark.

The tally of nine stations worked on 2m-FM includes an earlier QSO with G4SSH at 14:09 (56/ 55).

QRT:
At 15:33z, that was that. With very little battery power remaining, I had also run out of time. After eight hours of operating on the lumpy surface, with only a 1cm thick carry mat, every bit of me seemed to be aching and I was so stiff I could hardly stand.

Descent:
Dismantling the station and packing up the rucksack took under an hour; 20 minutes quicker than for a campover. After strapping all the externally carried items together and fastening them to the rucksack, I realized that the tent was still up! How could I miss that? Weariness probably; I’d been up since 03:30.

Impossible to roll up neatly with its fixed poles and pegs while flapping in the brisk wind, I bundled the flysheet up as best I could and strapped it to the back of the rucksack adjacent to the antennas. At least this year it was dry. My final act was to depot an unopened 500ml bottle of Ben Shaw’s Dandelion and Burdock in case I get thirsty next year.

I was walking off the summit at 17:23 BST and back to the car by 18:01. The 74 mile journey home via the A648 and Sutton Bank took from 18:15 to 20:11 but it wasn’t pleasant. The Fiesta’s heater is stuck on full!

QSO’s:
VHF-NFD Contest:
2m SSB: 60
70cm SSB: 9
4m FM: 5
Total Contest: 74

SOTA:
160m CW: 4
160m SSB: 3
80m CW: 4
80m SSB:15
20m CW: 15
20m SSB: 1
2m FM: 9
Total SOTA: 51
Grand Total:125

Ascent/ Distance: 211m (692ft)/ distance 5.5km (3.4 miles up & down).
Times: Up: 42 min. Down: 38 min. Summit time: 10hrs-11min.
Distance Driven: 147 miles

Pack weight:
Ascent: 16.8kg (37 pounds)
Descent: 14.5kg (32 pounds)
Mast for VHF & UHF beams, hand-carried (490gm)

Chronology:
Walking: 06:30
Arr. Trig Point/ photos: 07:12
VHF-NFD QTH: 07:17 to 17:23
Descent to car: 18:01
Drive home: 18:15 to 20:11

Continued below…

5 Likes

COMMENTS:
This was SSEG’s 15th successive VHF National Field Day on NP8, Scarborough’s closest 2,000 footer at 63 miles.

After spending 2 days preparing every last detail for another overnight stay, this year’s expedition to NP8 for VHF Field Day had to be trimmed down to one day only. This was 90% down to a family problem and 10% because of a poor forecast at the critical time (between 7pm and 9pm) needed for building the QTH on Saturday evening. I am pleased to say that the problem resolved itself just about 30 minutes after I cancelled Saturday.

WX:
The weather was conveniently good on the Sunday with just a brisk wind and half an hour of low-cloud to trouble me. Lightning has all too often been a factor at the time of VHF-NFD but there was none this year.

VHF-NFD discussion:
74 serial numbers were given out for VHF-NFD contacts. 60 were on 2m SSB, 9 on 70cm SSB and 5 on 4m FM. There were no contest stations worked on 2m-FM. 6m was restricted to Saturday and I have no equipment for 23cm. Best distance worked was F6KCP/P in JN18OU square on 144.295 MHz at 13:19z (688km between squares).

Like the majority of previous VHF-NFD expeditions to NP8, band conditions seemed fairly flat but there must have been some enhancement albeit with little QSB.

Once again I used a separate log sheet for each VHF band and another for SOTA. There are a few reasons why I don’t officially enter the contest. One is that you must pre-advise your intentions and another is the club callsign, which would not be acceptable containing an 'X.’ Also the extra work required, over and above the SOTA aftermath, might just ‘break the camel’s back.’

70cm is never a resounding success for me. I usually get less than a dozen and this year there were only nine in the log. That said, the new ZL7-70 beam was tested and deemed a good compromise between weight/ bulk and performance.

I only have FM on 4m but it was worth leaving the rig monitoring for an extended period. Using just 3 Watts to a vertical, this ploy netted me five VHF-NFD contacts, also qualifying the summit on that band.

This year I exploited the SOTA alerting system more thoroughly and the result was more VHF-NFD contacts in less time with less effort. On fixed frequencies of 144.345 MHz and 432.200 MHz, I managed long runs of contacts for the first time. The totals worked via this method were 37 on 2m SSB and 6 on 70cm SSB. In years gone by I only managed a handful of contacts by calling on fixed frequencies even after someone spotted me. I’m told that my callsign appeared on the DX cluster this year, which must have helped the cause.

My home-brew voice module (180 gram) placed onto the microphone with its short call, ‘CQ CONTEST; CQ SOTA - GX0OOO/P’ only got me three or four replies last time but saved significant effort this year.

160m SOTA:
I wasn’t expecting much to come from the 160m session at 08:30 BST in July, despite band conditions being quite good last year at the same time of day. Once again a pleasant surprise awaited when the summit was qualified with four CW QSO’s, one as far as Hampshire! 160m SSB gathered a further two ops; one as far as Leicester. No complaints re Top Band but at least two stations heard nothing but noise.

80m SOTA:
Just four ops made it through in CW with best distance Germany. I wasn’t expecting that many but fifteen chasers followed in SSB. Only two or three of these struggled with my signal, the rest were easy to log.

Dave G4IAR commented that 80m wasn’t much better for him than 160 had been. I tended to agree to some extent. 80m is more often than not, dozens of dB better than 160m in daylight but 80 turned out to be a good choice for UK SOTA and WAB chasers. Thanks again to Dave for posting the activation where WAB members could see it.

20m SOTA:
This was an option that the European stations seemed to appreciate, though I also hooked G4SSH with a semi L.O.S. path. Looking at the log, 20m seemed behave much like 40m used to and there was no DX this time.

40m SOTA (Nil):
I tried calling CQ in CW for more than 5 minutes on the SOTA channels with 50 Watts but nobody came back. Gone are the days when a single ‘V’ or ‘QRL?’ gets immediately jumped on. You need a spot or at least an alert these days and I had neither. I don’t like to alert if I think I might not be able to deliver and it was also a bit late in the day for most chasers.

Phone:
Vodaphone mobile phone coverage using an old Nokia was more reliable than last year with a half or full-scale signal 50% of the time. The smart phone, which uses the EE network, was switched off due to lack of any kind of meter deflection, though it did once announce, ‘Emergency Calls Only.’

Battery utilization and the IC706-2G:
A total of 24.4 Ah was available to feed this thirsty beast for 120 QSO’s and only 1Ah was left unused at the end. The four new 5Ah Turnigy Li-Po’s (26 GBP ea), purchased for the purpose and bench tested the week before, did sterling service. Since I changed from the IC706-2G to an FT817ND / MX-P50M linear amp combination for HF QRO, many of my batteries have been damaged by over-discharge.

The IC706-2G cuts off at about 9.6V which is above the 3V per cell recommended limit for Li-Po’s. However, the FT817 still runs at 7.3V, which is below the safe level. Three 1N5404 series diodes, recently installed in the 817’s positive power line, should prevent future problems of this nature by dropping just over 2V. This will ensure that the new batteries never see less than 3.1 to 3.2V per cell. Storage issues (voltage and temperature) will also need to be addressed.

One thing to remember about 100W HF rigs is not to use them for QRP. They can produce 100W with approximately 250W DC input but for 5W of RF out, you still need about 60W in!

The IC-E90 handheld coupled to an externally wired 2.2Ah Li-Po, was only used for 4m-FM. Monitoring 70.450 for a few hours and five QSO’s ‘cost’ less than 1Ah.

S2S’s:
Over the years NP8 has been the highest VHF-NFD QTH of anybody I’ve worked but it cannot claim that honour in 2017. Cadair Berwyn is 100m higher so well done to Simon GW4TJC/P and thanks for the S2S. The other genuine S2S of the day was with Joe on EI/IE-035, Trooperstown Hill.

Talking of S2S’s, two of the VHF-NFD contest stations were operating from SOTA summits. G3ZME/P was on GW/WB-005 Pole Bank (Long Mynd) and M0HRF (Drowned Rats Radio Group) was on G/SE-001. In both cases, this information came to light when I gave my SOTA reference but both ops replied ‘Yes’ when asked if a generator was in use.

G3ZME ‘got his own back’ later in the day when he reminded me that I was calling ‘CQ contest’ on 432.200 MHz, a centre of activity. I apologized and of course immediately moved off. It wouldn’t matter to me as I never enter but I’d be mortified if it got anybody else disqualified.

Misc:
Year on year I mention the pain and discomfort of ascent with a weighty 2-day rucksack but having repacked and reduced it by 13 pounds, this year’s single day approach seemed quite easy by comparison. However there’s still the agony of lying around with tussocks poking you in all directions even if it’s only for 8 hours rather than 20. This really is the worst part of it. I have tried taking a stool in the past but then there’s the weight penalty.

Once again no trig point could be offered to WAB collectors. The QTH chosen is well out of the way of walkers and the summit. If anybody gets thirsty while on NP8, there’s a new bottle of pop under three small rocks at SE 00372 74058.

The 18-inch canes, intended for lifting the rear of the tent for ventilation in warm weather or for insurance in high winds, were not needed this time.

The mast supporting the two beams bent in the wind at a point where two sections of ¾” tube are joined by means of internal tubing and rivets. This will be externally reinforced using glass or carbon woven cloth and resin.

From the 1.75 ltr. Ice

Thank you to: G4SSH; G4OBK; G8VNW and 2E0WDX for spots, and thanks to Roy G4SSH for phone and 2m-FM liaison. Thanks to all SOTA chasers and contest stations for contributing to yet another enjoyable VHF-NFD on Great Whernside.

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

Photos: 2-14-18-24-31-38-41-47-50-51-53-62-69

Above: NFD car vandals of the past. Approaching the start point; mast on roof rack or cattle prod?? But they refused to move.

Above: G/NP-008 from near the start point. Ascent path at extreme left of photo.

Above: G/NP-008 summit cairn in sight, looking south. QTH is other side of fence to left.

Above: Looking south from G/NP-008 summit. Four WW2 aircraft wrecks lie on the slope in shadow to the right.

Above: At the QTH. Rucksack with 37 pound load. Light this year.

Above: G/NP-008 VHF-NFD QTH, 270m NE of summit cairn, looking NE.

Above: G/NP-008 VHF-NFD QTH, 270m NE of summit cairn (centre distance). Five minutes before QRV on 160m CW.

Above: G/NP-008 VHF-NFD QTH. Low-cloud and rain for a short while.

Above: Mast with 3-ely Sotabeam for 2m & 7-ely Moonraker ZL-7-70cm (ZL Special beam)

Above: 3-ely Sotabeam for 2m & 7-ely Moonraker ZL-7-70cm (ZL Special beam)

Above: G/NP-008 VHF-NFD shack. About as tidy as the one at home!

Above: G/NP-008 VHF-NFD activation. IC706-2G; home-brew voice keyer, IC-E90 Handheld set to 70.450 (FM Calling frequency).

Above: Free drink! G/NP-008 QTH at SE 00372 74058

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Good stuff John. It took us an age to set up 3 stations with 12 people for VHF NFD.

Though our antennas were a bit bigger…

6m 9ele long Yagi, needs at least 8 to erect!

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Wow Andy!!

Makes me look like a kid with a walkie-talkie in comparison. Wish I could lug that to the top of Scafell Pike. I am full of envy.

Judging by the scout tent, that may not be too far from a road. I certainly hope not anyway. Surely this wasn’t the weekend in question. If so it’s a pity I didn’t realise you were up and running, presumably on the Sunday with 2m as well as Saturday the 1st on 6m, or is this what it looks like - a nostalgic photo of a bygone age?

Answer - Yes. That cotton canvas tent would have rotted by now.

Wild guess - 1980’s?
73, John.

No, last weekend! Those tents last if cared for! Treated with sealant every 10years I’m told. It’s not light with 2 of us having lugged it and the poles from there to the car it came down in.

Probably about 40m from the private road John. But despite the rain, the ground was firm, no problem for FWD cars on summer tyres. We had 4x 4wd vehicles as well, just in case. We’ve been here when the ground has been like chocolate sauce. But that is normally when there are cattle in the field. It’s cattle free now and has been for 10months and that makes a huge difference to the ground quality.

Apologies that I missed you for NFD John but nice to have a QSO on 2M FM even though you were struggling for battery power after your tremendous effort on the summit. I heard you go QRT quite sharpish not long after our QSO as a couple of stations local to me stole your frequency. Poor form but perhaps they did you a favour as you had spent long enough up there!

73 Chris M0RSF

Goodness knows how you manage to remember all this stuff! A pleasure to read. Cheers, Mark. 2E0KMN/M6VMS

Here is the picture from IO84ih.

23cm & Xverter at the masthead, 4m lower.

73 de Andrew G4VFL/P

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Hi Andy,
That’s even better then. Hope you and either a group of friends or your radio club, got plenty of contacts. We ‘southerners’ need to beam north more often.

Certainly the tent looks in perfect nick and has never been put away wet. I too am fastidious about attention to detail when it comes to tentage, post expedition. The only time I loaned a tent to a ‘friend’ it came back weeks later and was beyond redemption.

Love the setup and where you put it, presumably with a goodly bit of ASL. Maybe work you next year.
73, John.

Hi Chris, Thanks for your reply.
You are right. Though there was still a bit of battery, I had run out of time by then. I vaguely remember somebody jumping on but it didn’t upset me. It can happen on VHF, especially when squelch controls have a bit too much right hand down.

Thanks for this QSO and all the others on 2m since 2012 including our first; an S2S Blisco to Whernside.

73, John

Hi Mark, Thanks for your reply. I’m afraid, you are crediting me with something I don’t have much of these day. Memory! I have to rely on the paper log and a few comments in the margin. My reports are mostly based on the last time I did a summit and altered to suit, so route info and the framework is already there.

Thanks for the June QSO from Skiddaw which is not that good for VHF going south.
73, John
G4YSS/ GX0OOO/P

Hi Andrew, Thanks for the reply and another informative and ‘make me jealous’ photo. Looks like a 6-ely if that’s a folded driven element or maybe a 7-ely. Seems we were cross polarized but still good signals. Lots of heavy looking kit near the Peugeot Partner and looks like the blue box is a geni?

I can only dream of 23cm kit and wish I had 4m-ssb but that would mean even more weight. Thanks for our 4m-fm QSO (3W) which is all I can manage.

See you next time,
73 John

The SG-Lab 144<>1296 transverter is about £150 and is plug and play with an 817. Adrian @G4AZS will tell you how well his works. There are others using this for SOTA. In addition, a number of mainly GM SOTA ops have bought the 432<>2320 transverter which is also plug and play with an 817.

http://www.sg-lab.com/amateur.html

For 4m, the Ukrainian kits work very well and are cheap.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l1313&_nkw=4m+transverter&_sacat=0

I’ve dealt with both companies and had no problems dealing with either Bulgarian or Ukrainian companies, paying for items was easy and delivery speed was excellent.

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Thanks Andy,

That information will be invaluable if we (my son or I) decide to go higher in frequency in the future. I had no idea about these equipments. I am all for plug and play but after home brewing rigs in the past including a 3 band 10W, CW/ SSB lightweight rig for WAB, I no longer have the patience for kits. Sometimes you can get them ready built and that would be my aim.
Thanks again & 73, John.

The Ukranian transverter is available as ready built and boxed or as ready built boards that you need to wire up in the case. The SG-Labs stuff is built.

Thanks Andy. That 4m eqpt. is of real interest. Good price too!

Chaser LOGGING ERRORS:

02-07-17: Worked by GX0OOO/P from G/NP-008 logged in error as G/LD-008
12:56z M6HMK G/NP-008 Gt.Whernside 14MHz SSB Correct to: 144MHZ
14:21z EA2DT G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008
14:23z F6FTB G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008
14:25z EA2IF G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008
14:27z OK2PDT G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008
14:29z HB9AGH G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008
14:33z SA4BLM G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008
14:33z F8FKK G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008
14:38z 9A3ST G/LD-008 Blencathra 14MHz CW Correct to: G/NP-008

Thanks, John, for letting me know of this error.
It’s now corrected.
73,

Guru

Hi Guru,
That’s OK. It’s not life or death or anything but it might as well be right as wrong. I can’t find a rogue spot for that day so it was probably caused by my sending as there are quite a few who got it wrong. Serves me right for sending on a toggle switch - HI. Either that or I actually sent LD8 in error after a hard day at the office. Who knows?

Thanks for the QSO and CUAGN,
73, John

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I thought you might like to see the drone photos taken of setting up the 6m and 2m antennas. This scale of operating is only possible because we had 12 people to do the various jobs. (4 4x4’s 5 cars, 1 camper van, 9 personal tents, 3 station tents, 1 social tent, BBQ, fridge, kettle, 3 rotators, 3 masts, plus guys, radios, keys, computers, lights, plus spares plus many metres of LDF4-50, 2x generators)

Checking 6m before fist attempt to hoist it up.

2m antenna nearly in position (18ele Yagi)

4 4x4’s 5 cars, 1 camper van, 9 personal tents, 3 station tents, 1 social tent, BBQ, fridge, kettle, 3 rotators, 3 masts, plus guys, radios, keys, computers, lights, plus spares plus many metres of LDF4-50, 2x generators…

AND DRONE PHOTOS TOO!
Talk about feeling inadequate! Certainly the higher end of ‘Amateur.’

Great photos to say nothing of the setup,
73, John