G4YSS (GX0OOO/P) Activation of G/NP-009, 25-03-16
G/NP-009 BUCKDEN PIKE on 160m-80m-40m QRO and 4m & 2m QRP
With Sasha (My Grandson’s Lurcher)
G4YSS - (Using GX0OOO/P)
All times UTC
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF (80 thru 10) 50 Watt Linear Amplifier with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20 with loading coils for 160m
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One 5 Ah Turnigy Li-Po battery (fully discharged)
One 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery in reserve (not used)
2m-FM & 4m-FM:
Icom IC-E90 4-Band, 5W V-UHF H/H with IC-BP217 (1.3 Ah) battery.
J-Pole vertical antenna for 2m-FM
Extended rubber duck for 4m-FM
Dog bowl, food & treats
Dog coat (and fleece - worn)
My Thermoball jacket for use as cover
Packweight: 11.8kg (26 pounds) inc. Primaloft jacket and 750ml water
NP9 ROUTE (since 2011):
Described in previous reports, the route is repeated here for completeness.
From the quarry parking place at SD 9455 7996 (413m ASL) in Bishopdale, the way goes initially up the tarmac road, through a gate at SD 9454 8000, across fields then through a second gate at SD 9475 7979. A path across pasture land connects the two. A hundred or more sheep were grazing here today so the dog lead was in use.
Follow a poor sort of path via: SD 9479 7975, SD 9486 7977 and SD 9507 7981 (at the latter point it is a quad track). Go up to a wall corner at SD 9516 7975 and then on to SD 9521 7966. Pass through a gateless gap in the wall at SD 9534 7954 and up steep ground to SD 9539 7951. Cross Cow Close Gill beside by the wall at SD 9546 7947, loosing a few metres here.
From the stream crossing, swing right (south) to pick up the meagre path again at SD 9547 7936 and SD 9551 7933. Less than 300m later this wall-path joins the ‘main drag’ coming up from Cray, at SD 9565 7921. The Cray path now takes you all the way to the top, via SD 9609 7885.
After picking up an excited dog in Cayton, we left Irton (Scarborough) at 07:08 for the 80 mile drive to Bishopdale arriving at the start point by 09:18. Traffic was very light. Roy was never going to be up when we passed his house at ten past seven was he? I threw my callsign into 145.400 as a matter of habit. This is the Scarborough SOTA chasing net frequency and to my amazement Roy answered the call! We were able to exchange thoughts about the forthcoming day’s activation until we ran out of signal at Thornton-le-Dale. It was a useful excercise, since Roy was reminded that neither phone nor 2m-FM work reliably between NP9 and Roy’s QTH in Irton village. With this in mind we made 3.557-CW the contact frequency for info and spotting.
There is extra to do when you have an animal as company such as ensuring they drink and are wearing the right coat for the conditions, in this case a fleece. There were no real issues on that score, it being a sunny morning with a light albeit cold breeze. Since summit conditions can be very different, Sasha’s warm overcoat was added to the rucksack.
From the quarry, the ascent distance is only 2.4km with a required height gain of 297m, which includes minor re-ascent at the beck crossing and we got started at 09:42. There were one or two Lapwings and some skylarks overhead but in the second field a massive flock of sheep.
Buckden Pike is also the home to thousands of rabbits and with the dog on a lead, it was slow progress. Each borrow had to be systematically sniffed. There were strips of snow beside the walls on the top third of the ascent but at least this area was sheep free. Apart from two people, we had the summit to ourselves on arrival but that was to change dramatically during the course of the day; it being the Good Friday bank holiday.
Due to the cold west wind, the station was set up on the east side of the north-south running wall, albeit with a draught penetrating through. To get to that point we had to climb the ladder stile requiring a technique not readily understood by a dog. Orange mobile phone coverage is terrible on NP9 and once again there was an absence of any signal for the whole time we were there. With no other way of contacting Roy G4SSH for spots, we would have to rely on 3.557 CW.
BUCKDEN PIKE, G/NP-009, 702m, 6pts, 10:26 to 15:54. 6C. Wind from W at 15 mph - increasing. Almost constant sunshine. Minimal lying snow on north side of east-west running wall. Zero EE mobile coverage. LOC: IO84XE, WAB: SD97/ Trig: TP-1744.
3.557 CW - 8 QSO’s:
Using 30 Watts to the full sized dipole the following stations were logged: G4SSH (spotted the QRV); G4OBK; PA9CW; G0BPU; HB9CYV; DL1FU; GI4ONL and G3TJE. (Roy, Phil, Tonnie, Mike, Christian; Frid, Vic and a ‘long lost’ Peter). Most incoming reports were 559 with 599’s from Phil & Vic. 339’s were incoming from Roy G4SSH and also from Germany and Switzerland. Apart from the latter two countries (559 to me), nobody was logged at less than 579. A good start and the mode change was picked up and spotted by Roy.
3.724 SSB - 13 QSO’s:
Again with 30 Watts applied on a quiet band, I worked: G6TUH - Mike was there waiting; G0VWP; G8VNW; ON4TA; GI4ONL; G3UNC; GW4BKG; G0FEX; G0RQL; M0MDA; G4SSH; G4RQJ and PA0SKP. Signals were mostly around the 57 to 59 mark, apart from a 52 exchange with Belgium; a 33 from Roy; 55’s from PA and M0MDA - Mick in Leeds, the latter struggling with urban noise. G4RQJ was the worst affected by the QSB giving me a 51 as the low-value.
7.033 CW - 22 QSO’s:
Just after calling Roy G4SSH on here to ask him for a spot, there was an incident with another dog at the other side of the wall. Actually to blame the other dog would have been unfair as it was quietly going about the business of walking along the boggy path with its owner. Sasha was the problem and she was tearing along the wallside at great speed, trying to find a place to get over. As this was a substantial wall, in a questionable state of repair and with rusty wire along the top of it, I had little choice but to drop the CW key and sort out the situation.
It took some time to capture and secure the recalcitrant animal using her lead tied to a stout fence post and in the meantime, Roy must have wondered where I’d disappeared to. A second attempt to make contact was successful and despite my sitting down a little flustered, the session was now able to start. However, after resetting the filter on the linear to 40m, I forgot to switch it back on. Thinking I was using 20 and sometimes 30 Watts for this session I was mostly putting out 1 to 2.5 Watts without realising it!
Halfway through I noticed the lack of a glowing power LED on the amp but after great success with QRP, I continued with the FT817 barefoot but this time at 5 Watts. This way I might get away with one 5000 mAh battery for the entire activation and so it transpired. Nevertheless, 50 Watts was required for at least one station - EA2DT. Manuel was really struggling to hear my signal even with the max power available and he later came in on SSB to check I’d logged him properly; which I had at 599/ 339 and later 599/ 559. We had a brief chat and he seemed relieved that he was in the CW log.
Stations worked: G4SSH; G3RMD; PA0SKP; EA1DFP; G4OBK; GI4ONL; EA1CVZ; PA1AT; G0NES; M0IML; G4AFI; EA2DT; DF5WA; G4TJC; G4ZIB; DL6MST; SM6CNX; PA0RBA; G0RPA; F6EAZ; DM3SWD and G4HZJ.
The band was working superbly with the vast majority of reports 599; a remarkable result considering the ‘mouse power’ being used; at first unknowingly. This took us up to 12:31z and once again Roy posted the mode change for me. My mistake was not trying to find a spot first and then report it back in CW and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find a free channel on 40m SSB on a bank holiday.
7.122 SSB -33 QSO’s:
This was the only QRG I could find and it put me 10 kHz down from the pre-planned one announced. I checked the phone - still no signal. Hoping not to loose the channel, I nipped back down to 7.033 to send the QSY and callsign in case anyone should be listening. Luckily when I got back, the frequency was still ‘clear’ which is maybe not the appropriate description on a bank holiday.
A few CQ’s resulted in a QSO with a random (that is to say non-SOTA) station G4LMZ; Martin in Manchester. The trick now is to keep the QSO going for the optimum time. Too short and the SOTA chasers don’t have time to scan up and down to find you. Too long and I can imagine the ones that are lining up beginning to get a bit frustrated when they have so many other SOTA’s to chase on a busy day. With the power level around 20 Watts throughout, this turned out to be the top scoring session, lasting just over an hour.
After Martin I logged the following chasers: PD0DCW; G0RQL; G0VWP; M0MDA; G0BFJ (Brian - WAB); G1HZR; G4ZRP; G0FEX; PA7ZEE; G8MIA; M6RUG; G1BLJ; M3ZCB & M1MAJ (Caroline & Martyn); M3FEH; GI3SG (Martin - Belfast; his Grandfather’s Callsign); G8ADD; EB2CZF; EA2CKX; G4SQA (Dave for the square & Trig); MM0FMF/P (S2S); DL2EF; GM8GIQ; G0NKK/P; EA2DT (to confirm his CW log entry); HB9BQR; MM3PDM/M (Peter in Peterhead for my WAB square and trig point); MW0MXT; G4SSH (what plans?) then 2E0KVJ, and tagging on at the end - SP8RHP/ QRP.
Reports were mostly 59 both ways apart from a few 57’s. Not in that category were: 48’s from Caroline & Martyn who likely have high local noise (just like at my home QTH). From Spain I received a 56, a 53 and a 55. From Frank DL2EF - 56 and a 54 from SP8RHP. Dave G6LKB was a complete ‘gotaway’ due to QSB which entirely removed my signal from his receiver. No worries though, he caught up with me on 2m-FM later in the day.
The single S2S of the day was Andy MM0FMF/P who had climbed GM/SS-234, a hill called Dumglow. With 59 both ways, we were able to have a short chat and thank him for all the complex I.T. work he so ably carries out on our behalf. Before QRM all but wiped him out, I gathered that he was planning on doing a second summit in the afternoon. Not so I. This was always going to be an easy day, at least from a physical viewpoint.
Robert SP8RHP, who if I’m right is a QRP op, was ‘underneath’ most of the other callers. I heard him calling in CW just before QRT. I was about to swap modes but he saved me the trouble and a real danger that I would select CW and move off to the wrong side of him. He called me quite audibly in SSB on the now ‘emptied out’ frequency. We exchanged 55/ 54 and he seemed pleased but I dread to think how long he had been trying to get in. I wouldn’t be a SOTA chaser for all the tea in China, let along doing it with QRP. I just don’t have the skills required, nor the low-noise QTH.
145.400 FM - 8 QSO’s:
The first thing I did on arrival was to set up the omni-vertical and plug it into the IC-E90. With 145.500 selected, this was for the express purpose of working our friends Dave & Pete (G3TQQ and M0HQO) who were due on NP1 Cross Fell at 13:00z. During the busy multi-band HF sessions with all the distractions they entail to say nothing of the antics of the dog, I regrettably must have somehow missed them. I had heard people calling from time to time but not managing to contact the lads for an S2S was one of the disappointments of the day.
By now it was 13:44 and the Pickering team would be long gone. A CQ on 145.500 brought in a handful of stations in FM but progress was far from brisk compared with some VHF sessions I’ve been involved with from this summit in the past. I’d hoped for a few more chasers, despite using only 5 Watts from the ICOM handie to a J-Pole.
The 145 MHz log reads as follows: M3LIU; M3RDZ; M6VGU (Ian; Roy & Kevin all in Burnley); G6XBF Walt in north Leeds; G6LKB Dave in Ulverston (SOTA, WAB square and Trig); G8XQS Martin in Darlington and G4OBK Phil in Pickering using an FT1802 like the one in my car. I also heard Roy G4SSH (51) talking to Phil on 145.400 after the activation but when we’d tried earlier, Roy could not hear me at all. Thanks go to M6VGU Kevin for spotting the 2m session.
70.450 FM - 1 QSO:
After working Roy M3RDZ on 145.400, we arranged a quick QSY to 70.450 MHz FM. Roy had to climb the stairs and manually turn his antenna through 90 degrees to make it vertical after which we exchanged easily, despite reported wind noise. Using the IC-E90 4-band handie with 5 Watts to an extended rubber duck for 2m on an eastern Pennine summit, I didn’t expect any further QSO’s. That was confirmed by a nil response to a CQ. I don’t just sit down to do this, rather I stood as tall as possible to clear the wall and its rusty wire top, holding the rig above my head and shouting up into it.
4m seems not so well populated as it was say 5 years ago but I for one am guilty of not using it very frequently. There’s also the issue of an inadequate antenna due to weight considerations. I would dearly love to get onto the band in SSB during VHF-NFD but I only have FM.
What next? There was the option of a WAB net to run down on 7.160 but by now they seemed to be just chatting. Presently a mobile called in so I left them to it. Besides, a few had already come onto my QRG and worked me. I think it had been well publicised in the morning, possibly by Dave G4IAR or Ken G0FEX. I regretted not informing Phil during our 2m-FM QSO that I would go to Top Band immediately but it was fortunate that Roy G4SSH had offered to do a listening watch on 3.557 CW. With the phone still useless and no VHF path back to Scarborough with QRP, 80m-CW was the only chance of getting a spot.
After a late lunch break, I tried calling Roy on 80m but a powerful printer signal had appeared bang on the chosen spot of 3.557. Reasoning that Roy would be listening with a wide filter, I moved up 600 Hz and called him. With 599 both ways, he was then able alert a time of 15:00z for the Top Band session as well as giving Phil three rings on his phone.
1.832 CW - 2 QSO’s:
3.5 MHz had worked pretty well in the morning but what could we expect from 1.8 at 2:30 in mid afternoon? G4OBK Phil in Pickering broke off his lawn mowing duties to work me with a 599/ 579 exchange, this contact being almost line of sight. Next and as it turned out, the last CW station in the log after Phil was G4SSH. In stark contrast to Phil, Roy was giving me 229 but was a clear 519 to me. The QSO was a good one.
I heard Rob G4RQJ sending ‘Nil’ on the frequency and try as I may, I could not coax a response from him. Rob was coming in at around 559 to 579 to me. As it turned out, this was a disappointment. With Rob in the log I would have ended up qualifying the summit on Top Band. Never mind; that’s a ‘nice to have’ but not essential; the aim being to offer the summit on 160m in the hope of logging a minimum of one QSO.
1.843 SSB - 2 QSO’s:
Phil G4OBK was reworked in voice mode and an informative chat about his Beverage antenna which is 475 feet long and resides inside a hedge, ensued. It lies east-west and is terminated at the east end with a 550 Ohm carbon resistor to ground. The latter doesn’t need to be a power item on this the receive only aerial.
Phil was a full 59 to me and my signal was reported at strength 6 on both aerials. The difference was the noise level of almost zero for the Beverage but around S6 for the inverted ‘L’ transmitting aerial. For that reason, Phil gave me a 56 on the Beverage and 36 to 46 on the inverted ‘L’ saying it would only have been possible to log the bare QSO had the Beverage not existed. In the event we had quite a few overs and he was copying every word.
Next in was G8VNW in Threshfield which is 15km SSE of NP9 and more or less line of sight. Nick, who was 59 to me, lives at 200m ASL which must also help the cause, though he is in the Wharfe valley. He gave me 57.
A chance remark from me while talking to Phil about my old work QTH of Slingsby Engineering in Kirkbymoorside, had been picked up by Nick who had also worked there in 1990 as a software engineer on ROV’s (remote operated submersible vehicles). He was involved with first building and the subsequent testing of a vehicle called Scarab in the Bay of Biscay of all places. It turned out we had a few things in common to talk about but after 5 minutes the rig cut out. Switching off the linear bought us another couple of minutes but by the time we said our 73’s, I was down to half a Watt for which Nick gave me a 53 report.
Sunset was still three hours ahead and there really wasn’t going to be anybody else, so here ended the Top Band session and with it the day’s activating.
After many false alarms as far as Sasha was concerned, caused by the many QSY’s requiring dipole link adjustment, a certain excitement accompanied the packing of the rucksack. With much gear spread around that task took up a further 20 minutes.
The first issue was getting the dog over the ladder stile but this time I lifted her 27 kg onto the flat top from which she jumped. After a few parting shots at the trig, we started down at 15:54, meeting a few walkers on the way and arriving at the car by 16:31.
There was one further problem deriving from Sasha. On the way up she had been attracted by something to the south of the path as it passes Cow Close Gill. I had her on the lead then but this time she was free to roam. She darted off at speed to investigate the cause of the, in her opinion, attractive scent which undetected by me, must have been carried by the wind. She went down the ravine, and crossed the beck, pulling out what looked like a dead rabbit. Despite my shouts, threats and promises of dog treats, she picked a sizeable piece of the rotting animal up and downed it in one reminding me of a sword swallower.
It’s fortunate that dogs seem equipped to digest the unspeakable with impunity and she did return to me after further entreaty. After that the lead was in use all the way down. You can never ultimately trust an animal descended from a wolf. Training goes out of the window to be replaced by raw instinct and complete blindness to authority.
Her eating habits weren’t my main concern however. Much worse that she should run off a greater distance and chase sheep or get lost altogether which is what happened to both Phil’s dog and also Will, my walking friend’s dog, both on SOTA’s. Sasha is half Greyhound and capable of covering the rough tussocky ground found on Buckden Pike 30 times faster than anything that I could manage in pursuit. Furthermore, I am not the owner so I have to be even more cautious. I have been searching ebay for some time, looking for a small short-range transmitter to attach to her should she wander out of sight. It might only give me half a chance but that’s better than no chance at all.
We reached the car at 16:31. The drive home on busy bank holiday roads took from 16:50 to 18:40, then I had to run Sasha home.
NP9 - Buckden Pike: 297m (974ft) ascent / 4.8km (3.0 miles) up/down.
Distance driven: 160 miles (+12 miles Cayton/ Cayton)
Battery utilisation: One 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po - 100% depleted
6 SOTA points
Car to Trig: 44 minutes
Trig to Car: 37 minutes
Summit: 5hrs-24 minutes
160m CW: 2
160m SSB: 2
80m CW: 8 (+1 later)
80m SSB: 13
40m SSB: 22
40m CW: 33
4m FM: 1
2m FM: 8
After recent efforts doing the Helvellyn range, an easy summit was called for. Buckden Pike is a firm favourite of mine and one I could take the dog on.
The 160m band is the headline act for me but in the middle of a March day it wasn’t surprising that all three stations worked were (more or less) in line of sight. To come within 1 QSO of qualifying on 160m was a slight disappointment, especially when that 1 QSO so nearly happened. When the days get longer it becomes more and more inconvenient to be on a summit when Top Band is propagating via sky wave; the ‘D’ layer keeping it well clamped down during daylight. One option of course is to do a summit camp but that’s a big workup too.
I was left feeling that 145 MHz FM could have yielded a few more contacts but NP9 does not overlook the populated areas of say the Three Peaks. That, coupled with the fact that quite a few of the closer-in chasers had already worked me on 80m, limited the QSO count to eight.
The one QSO on 4m-FM was a pre-arranged token effort which will add to my 4m tally in the database band filters. If 4m is to be a serious proposition it has to be well advertised beforehand and preferably requires a decent antenna. I have a home-brew 4m band end-fed half wave vertical but didn’t feel I wanted to carry the extra weight, with the result that 4m became an afterthought.
The day’s winner by a margin was the 40m band. It was wide open to the UK and much of Europe too. In fact it was so good that many of the tally of 55 QSO’s were easily worked on there with QRP. I was able use 40m because with just one summit, there was still plenty of time available. Though the strategy didn’t work on this occasion, there was also the advantage that the 160m session was pushed to later in the day.
80m was a somewhat dimmer star but nevertheless a useful source of nearly 20 QSO’s from near in and out as far as Switzerland. Frid DL1FU worries not a bit about whether he’ll work me on 80m or not. He just gets ‘stuck in’ and logs me every time. As I have observed before, I can’t see why more of the EU don’t do the same, particularly when no one knew for sure whether I would appear on 40m afterwards or not; not even me.
Meticulous arrangements to ensure 2m-FM S2S’s with Dave and Pickering Pete on Cross Fell came to nought due to distraction with HF but I was pleased to log MM0FMF/P on a Scottish mountain. Andy was my only S2S of the day.
The new Turnigy 11.1V/ 5000mAh Li-Po was responsible for 81 CW & SSB QSO’s with power levels up to 50 Watts. It did very well. The other 9 QSO’s were via the IC-E90 in FM.
I love taking Sasha with me on SOTA’s. She is not my dog but I walk her every day covering between three and the odd time, ten miles around Scarborough. Once again she was good company and well behaved apart from when other dogs showed up. A blind refusal to return to me on the way down; preferring to eat part of the rotting corpse of a rabbit, also had me worried. Maybe she has more knowledge than I give her credit for, namely ‘Only eat Rabbit when there’s an ‘R’ in the month.’ There were no ill effects but I did feel a bit guilty with regard to the boredom of a long activation. Any dog with Greyhound in it is an expert sleeper however; my job being to ensure that she was warm and comfortable throughout.
I know that it’s traditional after the winter to get out and do some walking at Easter, but the sheer number of people walking up and down the spine of the hill surprised me. I wasn’t counting but 50 must have passed and one party, though strung out, appeared to have about 20 members. In addition to the ones going along to the memorial end of the mountain, there were plenty of others who just visited the trig.
Almost everybody remarked about the antennas and many about the dog. More often than not I was able to explain things from my side of the wall but when I was too engrossed, I did overhear some strange assumptions. One man told his son that I was the mountain rescue and another group’s conclusion was that I was surveying. I’m afraid my Morse is not good enough to allow distraction and the result was even greater number of sending errors than usual.
When two young men walked past ‘effing and blinding’ loudly while I was transmitting on 2m-FM, all I could do was to drop carrier for ten seconds until they past. I haven’t experienced too much of this on the hills and I feel it rather spoils the ambience. Perhaps an array of antennas and the sound of a pileup (though I normally used phones) may fall into the same category for some people but with hundreds of summits in the log thus far, I have yet to detect anything but friendliness and/ or mild curiosity. Everybody to their own of course.
I don’t know what I would have done without Roy’s (G4SSH) help today. With nil phone, no direct 2m-FM link and an hour earlier than alerted, there might have been no 80m session and possibly no 40m SSB or 160m either. Roy earned his 6 points several times over.
THANKS TO ALL STATIONS WORKED and for spotting: G4SSH, G6LKB and M6VGU. Special thanks to G4SSH for co-ordination via HF link and phone messaging G4OBK for 160m.
73, John G4YSS.
Using GX0OOO/P SSEG Club Callsign.
Above: The second field - dog lead required!
Above: After meeting the path from Cray. A little snow remaining.
Above: The summit of G/NP-009 Buckden Pike.
Above: Activating on 80m SSB - GX0OOO/P (G4YSS).
Above: VHF vertical & HF linked dipole on mast in a strong wind.
Above: Starting the descent on the Cray path at first.
Above: Where the Cray path bends left, we carry on following the wall back to the old quarry.
Above: The headless dog of Buckden Pike. Just one of the many rabbit holes.