G4YSS:G/NP-009 NEW YEAR Campover 2019-20

G4YSS: G/NP-009 NEW YEAR Summit Camp, Tuesday 31-Dec-19 to Wednesday 01-Jan-20

Double Points plus Bonus

G4YSS using SSEG Club Call GX0OOO/P on 160-80-20m QRO and 2m-FM QRP
Sun times: 08:28 and 15:55
All times UTC

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier (80 thru 10) with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20 with loading coils for 160m
6m (5 section) home-brew CFC/ Alloy mast with 1m end sticks
4 x 5 Ah and 1 x 2.2 Ah Li-Po batteries (22 Ah)
IC-E90 5 Watt, 4 Band VHF-UHF Handheld & power adapter
UV-3R Handheld pocket rig
Viper-2 Ridge tent (1988. Fly, inner, pegs & poles - 2.2kg)
Mountain Eqpt. Nova-II, synthetic sleeping bag 1.2kg
Foam mat (Green - 72 inch)
Petzl Zipka Headlamp
85 Litre Rucksack

Pack-weight: 17.1kg (37.7 pounds) inc 1.75 Ltr fluids

After the loss of a loyal dog in November I had little enthusiasm for another New Year summit camp. But what else am I going to do? Sit in a comfy chair in a nice warm house watching the telly. It’s not really me and despite fears, rational and irrational, even at my age I still get these urges.

Good weather is paramount when it comes to summit camps in winter and by my reckoning and experience, you are very lucky if the UK climate will allow this kind of activity any more often than one year in three or four. Add coughs and colds to that and it’s even harder, when in my case, they can easily end in bronchitis. I’ve pushed my luck a time or two but it’s high winds, heavy rain and deep snow that have put me off in the past.

The anxiety associated with trying to decide in advance what the weather will do can be debilitating and if I’m being honest, it can be a tremendous relief when a good excuse NOT to go, lands in your lap. I find that it’s no use trying to plan more than 3 days ahead but what an easy decision it was this year – to go that is. Two reasonable days falling just right. All I needed to do was to shelve my own internal demons and make plans.

Nowadays planning is actually minimal. I have detailed checklists for this and most situations and tried and tested equipment – albeit some is quite old, to carry it through. The large rucksack I use exclusively for summit camps has many of the required items permanently in it.

That said, of course this is not without its risks. You are very much out on a limb hoping that nothing major will go wrong, the biggest risk being a medical emergency. It’s perhaps obvious that this op is not one who approves of the risk adverse World we live in today where common sense has been insidiously replaced by rule books. Fortunately for me, I enjoyed a misspent youth, much of it centred on a dozen 100 foot deep and shear disused sandstone quarries near my home in Wrose, Bradford. If my mother had ever realised what went on using nylon cord salvaged from an old army parachute and tied together, I’d have been grounded.

Previous New Year SOTA Summit Camps & Double Points:
2004-05: G/NP-018 Nine Standards Rigg
2007-08: G/NP-004 Whernside
2016-17: G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent
2018-19: G/NP-032 Cracoe Fell (with Sasha)

WEATHER – MWIS Mountain forecast at 700m ASL for the Yorkshire Dales:

Monday 31st December 2019:
Wind southeast or southerly 15 to 20mph, sunshine, no rain or low-cloud. Temp at 700m: 1C to 4C and 5C to 6C in the valleys.

Tuesday 1st January 2020:
Southwesterly 25 to 35mph, rain unlikely, 60% chance of cloud-free summits. Temp at 700m: 3C to 5C and 2C to 6C in the valleys.

MWIS forecasts often err on the more severe side so this was looking quite good. The above takes no account of overnight temperatures however.

Choice of Summit?
With a decent weather forecast and having neglected to activate more than a handful of NP’s thus far in 2019, I was spoiled for choice. Why NP generally? Because my tent pegs won’t go into rock. It wasn’t difficult to opt for Buckden Pike G/NP-009 as it’s nearer to my QTH than any of the NP summit over 1 point, except perhaps NP8. Furthermore it has big dry stone walls on its top, plus being the first mountain I climbed aged around 14. A six pointer would render 18 points for the camp-over Easy pickings if you’re after a points tally, which I’m not nowadays. Those days have long gone.

Route (Repeated Here):
From the quarry parking place in Bishopdale at SD 9455 7996 (413m ASL) the way is initially north up the tarmac, through a gate at SD 9454 8000 then through a second gate at SD 9475 7979. A level path across pasture land connects the two.

Follow a sheep 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 Gill crossing, swing right (south) to pick up the meagre path again at SD 9547 7936 and SD 9551 7933, following the wall. Less than 300m later this wall-path joins the main path from Cray, at SD 9565 7921. Follow this stepped and surfaced path to the top, via SD 9609 7885.

I left Scarborough earlier than scheduled at 10:10 on Tuesday 31st December, for the 77 mile drive to Bishopdale via A170, Thirsk and A684, arriving at the start point by 12:25.

The elapsed time for the 2.4km ascent, starting at 12:40, was 47 minutes, significantly slower than usual due to a heavy pack and brief pauses to exchange new year greetings with two groups in their way down. Height gain, including a little re-ascent is 297m and distance is under 2.5km one way.

The tent and station was set up on the north side of the east-west running wall and this was achieved in about an hour. For this process a thermoball jacket came in handy in fending off a cold wind though its intended purpose was for use as a pillow. It would have to be the inflatable one as I had no intention of taking the jacket off for the duration. This was looking like being a cold night. It took a little longer to sort everything out but by 14:30 all was more or less ready to try 20m, whose pre-alerted time was actually 16:00 That was risking it being closed so time saved in getting to this point proved to be an advantage.

BUCKDEN PIKE, G/NP-009, 702m, 6pts, 13:27 on 31-Dec-2019 to 10:46 on 01-Jan-2020, 3C on arrival and dropping. Minus 2C by 8pm and milder again from 3am. Wind 20 mph, 15mph or less overnight then increasing again. Overcast with thin low-cloud on arrival. Clear skies overnight and in the morning. Just usable Vodafone coverage. LOC: IO84XE, WAB: SD97. NP9’s Trig ref is TP-1744.

14.061 CW – 7 QSO’s from 14:55:
The dipole was first VSWR tested on 80m, indicating that all sections were working, before pulling the 20m links. I tried the self spotting system at this juncture and for most subsequent sessions also. The spot worked with only a short delay – a good indicator of how this, almost essential facility, might perform on a summit not known for its ‘phonability.’

A 30 Watt CQ brought in IK6NHA/P Tolentino with a 559/ 579 exchange. Next was EA7GV Jose 599/ 559, followed by N4EX Richard in NC with 579/ 539, an early DX contact. Though weak at first, Phil G4OBK easily succeeded with 529/ 559 though he was much stronger by the end.

The greeting ‘GM’ came in handy again for KF9D Roger (IL) 579/ 559; N8HN 559/ 229 Stan in MI (50W needed at my end) and finally KB9ILT Paul - NC, 589/ 319. Cold feet were by now a distraction but a third pair of socks and the sleeping bag eventually fixed that problem.

14.316 SSB - 10 QSO’s from 15:27:
Stations worked on 20m SSB with 50 Watts: EA1DHB 55/ 55; AC1Z Robert in NH 57/ 55; K3TCU Gary in PA 55/ 44; EA5JN Angel 57/ 57; NO3K 55/ 55 Rick in Georgia; EC5KY Jose – Nr. Barcelona 57/ 59 plus 20dB; VE1WT Phil – 100 miles W of Halifax, Nova Scotia 2 x 59; NF9V Rudy – Wisconsin 59/ 55; W1OW Bill – Mass 57/55 and finally PY1FC Eduardo in Rio 2 x 59.

This was a pleasing result. The band was covering some of Europe, North America and at the end I was very surprised to be called from Rio de Janeiro, thinking for a fleeting moment that PY was a version of a PA call like PE is. I am getting a bit rusty on international callsigns it would seem but South America was totally unexpected.

Someone from over the ‘pond’ (it may have been VE1WT?) asked me for my working conditions and seemed quite surprised by the signal that such a modest setup was putting out. I think it was mostly down to good propagation however, so I was very lucky with the timing.

3.557 CW – 3 QSO’s from 17:05:
Boots on and out to change the dipole links revealed a beautiful afterglow from the setting sun; the low-cloud having gone away. The camera, well my camera at least, rarely does justice to this kind of subject but I took a few snaps anyway.

Power was set to 30W with 50W at the end of this session but it took 10 minutes to log three stations. I should have been on 80m earlier but instead was busy with 20m. I’d heard two stations on the 3.760 WAB net talking propagation. Apparently the 80m band had taken a serious ‘nose dive’ about an hour before I wanted to use it. I was therefore grateful for the three stations that did call in: M5EVT Matthew – ‘South Cumbria’ 599/ 559; G4WSB 2 x 559 Bill in Swindon and SM5LNE Jan 2 x 59. All the regular WAB’ers were absent.

3.760 SSB - 1 QSO at 17:25:
Just Bill on here - G4WSB (Swindon) at 44/ 33 despite my 50 Watts.

145.550 FM - 1 QSO’s at 18:05:
With the maximum 5 watts set on the FT817ND and connected to the J-Pole, I only managed to raise John MW1FGQ on 2m at this time. I must say he didn’t sound ‘normal’ and I remarked about it. He told me that he’d been almost on death’s door with a bad dose of proper influenza and had been through a very rough time. This was the first day he’d been able to get up and work the radio. This makes me think I should be having flu jabs. Get well soon John.

1.832 CW - 7 QSO’s from 18:28:
It was now time for 160m so it was back out into the dark to fit the 160m loading coils at the 40m break points. I didn’t see anybody out there and I’m pretty sure I’d have seen a tent had it been there then.

Going back to the radio for VSWR checks with the amp switched off, I noticed that there was a lot of QRM on 1.846, my intended SSB freq. after CW. For this reason I made a minor tweak of one of the coils to bring resonance slightly further up the band. This way if couldn’t clear the data interference, I could go a little way above 1.850 if required.

In the log after a self spot: G3RDQ David 579/ 449; G4WSB Bill 2 x 559;G0HIO Mike 559/ 339; DJ5AV Mike 579/ 569; F6GCP Patrice 599/ 569 and G4OBK Phil 599/ 579. Finally I worked UB1CBK 2 x 599 (initially logged in error as U61CBK). ‘Den’ was in Leningradskay, Russia near the Finish border at a range of approx 2,100km, so he must have had a really good 160m band antenna, ‘cos I hadn’t!

Mike G4BLH/M tried for a QSO but parked as he was too close to his house, made it impossible to hear the report I was giving him. I tried quite a few times but to no avail. This situation was repeated for the SSB session but he did manage a QSO later in the evening after driving to a quieter spot.

1.852 SSB - 13 QSO’s from 19:10:
The alerted frequency of 1.846 was still overwhelmed by loud penetrating tones. A year or so ago the spot I’d been using for SSB for ‘donkey’s years’ – 1.843 had been taken over but now the problem has moved further up the band. Forced to move above it yet again, I chose 1.852 but if I am to continue with 1.832 for CW, trying to cover that and 1.852 is getting close to a VSWR problem. It would be bad news if I had to go out and re-tune the coils before moving to SSB, then I couldn’t alternate between the two modes any more.

This ear splitting interference is certainly putting my style of Top Band SOTA in jeopardy. Another problem is that if this continues, we are going to be left with the UK low power section above 1850 for SSB and there we must drop to 30W. It’s even worse for EI stations who I was told by Michael EI3GYB, must drop to just 10 Watts! QRP and Top Band do not easily go together unless you’re in a nice warm shack with a large and wide band antenna. I heard this interference on 1.832 too, a few minutes before I wanted to use it.

Anyway I digress. With 30 Watts on this quiet frequency albeit with SWR approaching 2.5:1, I logged the following callsigns: 2E0FEH Karl 57/ 44 in Cornwall; G1YFF 59/ 57 – Jake (nr. Cambridge) is mad keen on 160m he worked me with G4WAB and G7WAB also. Jake was followed by M0BKV Damien in Cornwall 58/ 48 with QSB; G8ADD in Birmingham with 56/ 36; GI0AZA Esther in Londonderry 59/ 55 and G4OBK Phil 59+/ 57 from Pickering, 85km east of NP9.

Next came Esther’s other half - GI0AZB Ian 59/ 33 in QSB and M1TES James in Suffolk 57/ 33. Then a difficult one in the form of GB50ABG – WAB 50th anniversary station operated by Graham G4JZF in Birmingham, an extremely tricky ‘33’ both ways. After Graham came YO8WW Gabi 56/ 33-55 QSB and our friend Dave G3TQQ, also in Pickering, North Yorkshire with a 55/ 44(QSB to 33) exchange.

Leaning on one elbow most of the time made me feel like my humerus and collar bones were about to crack – agony, so I was forced to adopt a lying down position with the log on its side. This made writing even slower than normal and some ops had called in two or three times before I was able to reply. In the light of the headlamp and that combined with the focal length of my reading glasses, the log was tricky to see and I read one or two callsigns back wrongly which makes one feel a fool. At least I was under cover but lying in a low tent is not as convenient or comfortable as sitting with your back to a wall for example.

145.450 FM - 3 QSO’s from 20:05:
With 5 Watts from the FT817ND to a vertical half-wave, I worked: 2E0XLG Chris in Thornton-in-Craven 59/ 53. Chris has a shack at 1,600ft - The Shack in the Yorkshire Dales – a 1940 comms hut – now well appointed and which Chris offered me the use of. Great VHF and low-noise HF.

Next - G1OHH Sue at Lancaster 59/ 55 and G4BLH/M Mike - now at a quiet place in the countryside near Clitheroe 59/ 54. Sue told me that Doug G1KLZ (High Bentham) had died in November. I used to work Doug regularly when he was chasing SOTA and that’s another sad loss!

I had a chat with Mike and I congratulated him on his efforts to get the HEMA website off the ground a few years ago. It has now been taken up by another team. It’s useful to have HuMPs as a fallback in case SOTA becomes too difficult. For me the main advantage is distance driven or the lack of it. To get to my nearest SOTA I have to drive for at least 30 minutes and that’s only a 1-pointer. I can walk from my home to the nearest HuMP (G/HTW-008 - Seamer Beacon) in 33 minutes. HuMPs are generally more likely to be local.

1.846 SSB – 1 QSO (G4BLH) at 20:50:
Since Mike had failed to log a Top Band QSO with me thus far and considering all the trouble he’d gone to, I thought it only fair that we should go back there briefly to try again, especially since his 160m noise level had gone down from S9 to S4 after getting away from the buildings. We exchanged our 73’s and HNY’s on 2m-FM before QSY’ing, just in case we couldn’t make it on 160 for a third time.

Before this could happen I had to remove the second 5Ah battery, which was unwilling to support the 50 Watt combination. No worries I had two more so while I was swapping Li-Po’s Mike was swapping mobile whips. ‘See you in 5 minutes.’

With all the squeaking noises gone from 1.846 it was now usable which was fortunate. Mike had an even higher Q antenna than my loaded dipole and he could barely reach the previously used 1.852. Fortunately with Mike’s much reduced noise conditions, we made the QSO first call with 58 both ways.

With power reduced to QRP levels at both ends we still enjoyed readable communications at 55/ 55. Mike was more than happy with this as he hadn’t wanted to come out in the cold and dark again for the ‘Top Band stragglers’ session later on. I was happy too. Like anybody I don’t like to fail and rarely give up easily but try as I may earlier, Mike never got his report.

A Welcome Break:
There was now the opportunity for an hour’s rest. Much needed it was too, what with the pain of the position I was in and a tendency to chill, I ate my tea, got down into the sleeping bag and listened to some music while warming up. I wasn’t supposed to fall asleep however but luckily I just made the 10 pm alerted time for a repeat performance on the 160m band. After all, Top Band was mainly what I’d come for and we didn’t want anybody missing out. See below…

1.832 CW – Nil from 22:00 to 22:07:
If you were unable to make the first Top Band session, this one was for you. With a self spot, power set to 50 Watts and calling CQ for 5 minutes, I got – well nothing. That’s a good sign I thought. Those who wanted it have already got it.

1.852 SSB - 1 QSO (EI3GYB) at 22:13:
There was only one station worked in SSB but what an appreciative op Michael turned out to be once again. The exchange with EI3GYB in Co. Mayo was 55 both ways despite only 10 Watts coming from the Emerald Isle.

This was when I found out about the power limit above 1.850 in Ireland. Apparently more power had been applied for but it had been refused. All about the shared nature of the band I suppose but 10 Watts is more than a little stingy. I think even we are allowed 32. Propagation must have been good as we managed a 5-minute chat without difficulty. It was 7C where in Mayo and overcast. Michael announced that the path distance was 443km and after some daylight struggles between us in the past, I think he was more than satisfied with his six 160m SOTA points from the east side of the Pennines.

145.525 FM – 2 QSO’s from 23:45 to MIDNIGHT:
With just half an hour left of 2019, it was time for the run up to midnight; a time when I’m usually to be found on 2m-FM. It’s much less fickle than HF where many more things can go wrong – or so I thought.

After checking for a clear channel, I was just about to put out a CQ on 145.500 when I heard Walt G6XBF calling his mate Alan from north Leeds. Walt was about 55 to me with Alan in or near the noise level. When I think about it, 2m-FM had seemed noisier than usual all evening and at one time I suspected that my 817 with its superior filters (compared with a H/H at least) were letting something unwanted in. Walt and Alan QSY’d to their ‘usual’ which turned out to be 145.450 and I followed.

I spent the next 10 minutes trying to break in between overs without the slightest success. What made it even more frustrating was Walt telling Alan all about my overnighter on a 6-pointer and the fact that he was actively seeking me but had never heard my signals on HF. My max available 5 Watts just wasn’t cutting it and assuming that my ‘targets’ were using a lot more power with possibly the squelch turned up, I finally admitted defeat at 23:40. It was a shame and I wished for more power. All I wanted was to give Walt a mild surprise and get two more in the log, preferably both sides of midnight. It was just one of those things as they say but Walt has been a faithful ‘customer’ for years now and he deserved the 12 points available, especially after listening several times on HF without success. Afterall, us ‘Wessies’ must stick together!

First in this session was M1DHA Alan in Barnoldswick, the far side of Skipton, giving my 5 Watts a 59 plus 20dB! We worked last New Years Eve when I was camping up Cracoe Fell with Sasha. Next came MW1CFA Kevin in Holyhead 57/ 51 but this was only after a lot of fruitless CQ’ing on S20 and S21. By the time our 3 minute QSO had ended there were just 20 seconds of 2019 remaining and Chris went off to be with his family. I returned to S20 just in time to hear someone relaying the TV with the chimes of Big Ben and the first ‘DONG’ of 2020. That’s it then – a new year and a new decade. The Roaring Twenties have come round again!

1st January 2020
In the past I’ve heard the sound of fireworks drifting up the sides of the mountain at midnight but there were none this year, in this part of the Dales at least.

145.525 FM – 1 QSO’s (G4OBK) at 00:06:
After some more toing and froing between S20 and S21, I heard G4OBK call. Phil was 59+ to me and I think he’d warned me of his return at midnight after adding a little whisky. A ‘wee dram’ is the way he put it. …’Doctor Finlay’ I added. Sober as I was, I could just barely detect a difference in Phil delivery and he was slightly more animated.

We had an extended chat and at some point Walt and Alan joined us. Unfortunately they couldn’t hear me and my end of the story about ‘The two that got away’ had to be relayed via Phil, who tried without much success to come up with an explanation. Undoing three tent zips in the process, the outer one quite frozen, I poked my head out to see if my vertical had fallen over in the wind but it was intact. This was a possibility however and I had to check. Phil was using a 7-ely which, in his own words, ‘Might have compensated for it.’

After some investigation after the event, I came up with a possible solution. Walt gives his QTH as ‘North Leeds.’ Un-stapling a road atlas and laying on a ruler revealed that the line between Buckden Pike and north Leeds passes through Great Whernside (NP8), hitting it almost bang on. The latter SOTA is a few feet higher than Buckden Pike which might explain the attenuation of my 5 Watt signal.

An analysis of the 67 times I’ve worked Walt since 2012 (plus one HF QSO in 2009), we have succeeded over the 50km path from Buckden Pike five times – all on 2m-FM. On three of those occasions I was using 25 Watts and on the other two 5 Watts. However of the latter two, for one of them, according to my report of the time (01-06-12), I was using a 3-ely vertical beam.’

For the remaining QSO (25-03-16) I was using precisely the same equipment that failed to raise Walt this time but there were two significant differences. For one thing I was set up some 50m away and for another my vertical was mounted in a 1m carbon rod up on the wall top there, whereas this time it was set up an a 1m rod in the ground near the tent, there being insufficient coax to reach the wall. In fact the wall was between Walt and the antenna position. Add some extra noise that I’d noticed earlier and there we have it!

1.832 CW - 5 QSO’s from 00:25:
Phil mentioned on 2m that I’d have to get on Top Band early the next morning to avoid the ‘160m daylight curse.’ Said I, ‘You’re in luck because the New Years Day 160m session is scheduled for five minutes time’ at which point we QSY’d to 1.832 and worked 599+/ 589. Phil’s 160m signal continues to improve as he makes changes and additions to his antenna systems.

With Phil in the log, further stations called in as follows: G3RDQ David in Hampshire 2 x 579; G4WSB Bill – Swindon 579/ 559; G0HIO Mike at Burton-on-Trent 589/ 449 and G4IPB Paul, not too far away at Middleton-in-Teesdale with 599 both ways. I was surprised to work Paul as I knew he’d be up early for NP3 the next day but I was equally surprised not to hear Nick G8VNW, a stones throw away at Threshfield. Power was 50 Watts and the session took 8 minutes.

1.846 SSB - 4 QSO’s from 00:35:
A 50 Watt CQ brought in Brian G8ADD again with 55/ 55 from Birmingham but by the end of the QSO, conditions had changed a lot and the reports were revised to 2 x 58. Bill G4WSB claimed his second lot of points with 57 each way. Jake G1YFF followed for his ‘bonus chase’ with 58/ 47 and later he was 59 plus. I think apart from Phil and Paul, neither of whom were very far away from me, Jake had been just about the strongest 160m signal with his 180ft end fed. He has a new-found interest in activating trig points below sea level which is a novel thing for a SOTA op to hear about when we usually arrive at them breathless.

Exactly a year ago Karl was changing from M3FEH to 2E0FEH. Today he got his second SOTA chase of 2020 at 57 both ways.

QRT for Now:
By 00:48 the session was finished and it was QRT until the next scheduled item, 80m at 08:30. The time for sleep had arrived and the 160m coils could wait until morning. I just couldn’t work up enough enthusiasm to crawl out of the warm sleeping bag, remove sufficient pairs of socks so as to get my feet into my damp boots, undo three zips and brave the cold wind. If I had, I might have solved a mystery which came up later.

01:15 – Sleep Time:
Last New Year I managed 3 hours sleep in place of the an hour one time in the past. This time I was hoping that the three Valerian Root capsules I’d brought up with me would increase the chances of some sustained rest. Against this was the fact that this was a sub-zero, windy night which made the tent draughty, though thankfully not half as draghty as a year ago. Added to that was the usual discomfort of lying on grass tussocks in spite of choosing the best ground where quad bikes had rolled it a little flatter. However, the herbal remedy did work to some degree. I must have got about five hours on and off which I rate as exceptional considering the past.

Later in the night there was a temperature increase, the frost on the stiff flysheet melting somewhat as the wind came round to a warmer direction (SW from SE). At first light the wind increased in speed again. With base layer, fleece and lightweight insulated jacket, I was never more than just warm enough and only then if the sleeping bag was properly sealed. Cold seemed to be striking up from below so I think the carry mat wasn’t thick enough. I had Grandson Jack’s spider man airbed with me too but was too lazy to inflate it.

Another Tent? Can’t be?
Morning finally came along with a reluctance to get up. There was no reviving mug of tea available as I had no stove. Soon I had to get outside to remove the Top Band coils ready for 80m. When I did get the zips open, expecting low-cloud it was a joy to see a bright sky in the east with the beginnings of sunshine but then my attention was drawn to something totally unexpected.

In all the summit camps I’ve done over the years I have never had company but just twenty yards away, in the half light, was what looked very much like another tent. Left speechless I could only gawp but then took a photo to prove I hadn’t imagined it. Seemed I had neighbours but just when they’d ‘moved in’ was unclear. They’d made not a sound pitching but it did explain a cough that I thought I’d heard in the early hours but dismissed as just a sheep; not remembering that I’d seen no sheep 400m ASL on the way up.

While seeing to the loading coils and photographing the sunrise with white cloud in the valleys below, I took a closer look. It certainly was a tent, actually a modern dome tent and I noticed a window at one end. There was no associated antenna ‘farm’ so this wasn’t SOTA competition. Then I thought of all the loud ‘yakkering’ I’d been doing on the radio until 1am. How embarrassing! I made a mental note that when we met I would apologize but by 09:30 when I went out to break camp the tent had vanished – again completely silently. A stealth camper! Now I’ll never know who this mystery visitor with the same idea as me, was.

See Part-2 below



Back to Work:
145.550 FM – 1 QSO’s (G4OOE) at 08:30:
Flicking through the 2m band while waiting for my 80m-CW self spot to ‘take’ I heard a familiar voice. The strident patter of a fresh, alert operator, unlike me who by then was feeling somewhat jaded after 18 hours on the summit. This was my friend G4OOE/P who’d just driven from Scarborough to Bishop Wilton Wold and Nick seemed to be having a great start to the day giving out New Year greetings. We exchanged at 55 both ways but with the 80m CW ops possibly by now wondering where I’d got to, the chat was necessarily brief.

3.557 CW – 6 QSO’s from 08:35:
Power was set to 50 Watts. Last New Year’s day I started by working G4SSH but Roy is now in a home at Scarborough, the Briar Dene and has no access to equipment; not even 2m-FM until he moves into their new building.

This time Frid DL1FU was first in the 80m log with a 599/ 579 exchange followed by Phil G4OBK who was 599 plus. As always happens on these overnighters, a weary brain started to cause problems, especially when I noticed how fresh everyone sounded in comparison. SA4BLM called next but he had to repeat twice before I got his callsign written down. Lars was 599 and he gave me 539.

Next I thought I’d heard EI7CC Pete call in but after writing his call in the log and asking for confirmation by sending ‘EI?’ I got back ‘EA’ - ‘EA.’ Rubbing poor old Pete out I overwrote him with EA2DT and worked Manuel at 599/ 339. Manuel doesn’t usually appear in CW so that further confused me. After this, things really went awry when the key started sticking and spraying dots endlessly. This despite the pre-expedition dose of Electrolube! It got worse when Damien M0BKV called but I managed to log him with 599 both ways.

By now I just wanted the nightmare to end but then I heard M0MDL - Elizabeth in Colchester. Goodness knows what she thought with chains of dots, over compensated with too many dashes assaulted her ears. She must have thought that I’d lost the plot entirely but we did (I hope) manage to make a QSO out of it with a 599/ 589 exchange. Then thankfully it was over and off to SSB to talk gibberish there no doubt.

3.788 SSB – 7 QSO’s from 08:55:
At last, after more than 19 hours on the summit, we’d come to the final pre-alerted HF session. 3.760 was the intention but it was occupied not by familiar WAB’ers but by something called ‘The Horizontal Net.’ So the WAB freq. was out and I couldn’t get beside it either, eventually checking 3.778 and doing a self spot.

3.778 turned out to be a good clear channel but I found out afterwards, it wasn’t so for everybody. A few days later my son Phil, who at the time was monitoring my QSY’s on various on-line receivers, mentioned that there was a 59 plus 20dB data transmission right on top of my signal. However this was confined to northwest England and to a lesser extent, Wales. It was clear in London.

First in the log was Don G0RQL, who hadn’t yet managed to hear a thing from Buckden Pike up to now. Propagation was good at this time on 80m so we swapped 59’s and New Year greetings.

After Don the frequency started to hot up somewhat with: G4IAR Dave in Loughborough 2 x 59 (thanks for keeping the WAB’ers informed Dave); G0EVV Dave in Morpeth, Northumberland 2 x 59 plus; 2E0FEH Karl at Saltash, Cornwall 2 x 57; MM0XPZ Steve in Greenock and QRP-5W at 58/ 59; EI7CC Pete – Dublin 59/ 55 and M1TES James in Bungay, Suffolk 59/ 57. Noteably there was no one from the data QRM’d areas.

G0EVV said something like ‘rather you than me’ and I mentioned seeing his MG SOTA photo in a back issue of PW I had been given. I couldn’t recall Steve’s name only his QTH of Greenock but I managed to apologize to Pete when I found out it really had been him calling in CW earlier. He wasn’t upset at all and I took the opportunity to pass my regards on to Mike EI2CL who also lives in Dublin but is QRT at the moment. The time was now 09:15.

Preparations to leave:
It had been a long cold night but the physical activity of ‘siding up’ as we say in Yorkshire and the sun impinging on the tent, brought some comfort and a sense of well being. Much of the kit was now in the rucksack including the HF gear. I noticed when I took up the mat that the groundsheet had leaked a little. Outside the door was a puddle only evident when you stood up in it. This certainly is a boggy top.

Deserted Summit:
Now came the time to egress and possibly meet the mysterious neighbours with whom I had presumably shared the summit all night and put it right with them about the noise. Nothing! No tent, no people, nothing but a patch of flattened grass but great minds think alike as they say. They too had pitched where the quad bike wheels had padded the tussocks down a little. I’ll never know who they were, when they’d arrived nor exactly when they left. I got busy while monitoring S20 with the IC-E90 and J-Pole.

145 MHz FM - 6 QSO’s from 09:20 to 10:20:
Monitoring S20, I was half expecting G4IPB/P Paul to call from Burnhope Seat G/NP-003, as I’d seen his alert before leaving home. In the event he decided on 80m instead and I don’t blame him. NP3 is terrible on VHF. There was also the possibility of hearing Simon G7WKX/P who was due on The Calf NP13.

While waiting for these I worked two S2S’s as follows: MW0XRT/P Dave on GW/NW-044 (2 x 59 on 145.475 at 09:20) and GW4TQE/P John setting up on GW/NW-043 (59/ 57 on 145.450 at 09:25). Weather reports from Wales were the same as mine – bright sunshine but in my case white cloud below.

Half an hour later I heard Simon arrive on G/NP-013 reporting thick mist with a cold wind at the top of the Howgills. ‘I can barely see the XYL!’ ‘We won’t be doing Yarlside!’ He was H/H but we swapped 59 reports at 09:55 on 145.300, Simon’s choice of operating frequency.

Next came Chris M0RSF in Leeds and he was specifically calling me on 145.500. Stumbling over his name with my weary brain, at least I got his QTH, sending 59 on 145.525, with 57 coming back.

Continuing on 145.525, Chris 2E0XLG and I had another QSO at 10:10 with 59 both ways. Once again he offered his 1,600 foot ASL shack, extolling its virtues – wood burning stove, antennas, rigs etc. I thanked him and said I’d think about it. It isn’t on a SOTA but I’m sure my son Phil G0UUU, who does a lot of VHF evening contests from Scarborough, would love a 1,600 foot QTH for a change.

The last QSO of the two-day expedition was provided by G4MYU – Art in Briarfield near Nelson at 10:20. The final HNY’s were swapped along with 59/ 57.

With the rucksack all but packed it was almost time to leave but I’m always reluctant. These SOTA summits take some getting up to so why would you want to leave, especially on a nice morning like this one? But then the mist temporarily rolled in, which encouraged a move.

Shouldering the now lighter load, donning gloves and using the mast bottom section as a steady on the steep bits, the climb down was slow and thankfully uneventful, getting back to the car in 35 minutes at 11:21.

The 78 mile journey back to Scarborough; took from 11:30 to 13:33 via a different route as follows: A684, Leyburn, Bedale, Northallerton, A168, bypassing Thirsk then the usual A170 via Sutton Bank and Pickering. Quick new roads, unrecognized by my ancient satnav, made this far less stressful than going through Masham, a road of many bends and ‘slow-coaches.’

Ascent & Distance: 297m (974ft) ascent / 4.8km (3.0 miles) up/down.
Battery utilization: Three 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po’s were 97% depleted (14.6 Ah used from 22 Ah)
Activator Points: 6 + 3 bonus x 2 years = 18
Distance driven: 155 miles

Car to Trig: 47 min
Trig to Car: 35 min
Walking Time: 1 hr-22 min
Summit Time: 21 hrs-19 min

160m CW: 12
160m SSB: 19
80m CW: 9
80m SSB: 8
20m CW: 7
20m SSB: 10
2m FM: 14

Chronology (UTC):
10:10: Left Scarborough
12:25: Arrived Bishopdale
12:40: Walked for G/NP-009
13:27: Arrived G/NP-009 Buckden Pike
14:55: First QSO (20m-CW)

09:13: Final HF QSO (80m-SSB)
10:20: Final VHF QSO
10:46: Left G/NP-009
11:21: Arrived Bishopdale
11:30: Drove for home
13:33: Arrived Scarborough
Sun times: 08:28 and 15:55

This was my 20th SOTA summit camp and the fifth for New Year. I’m getting a little long in the tooth for this type of thing but still enjoy the challenge. One reason for it is good Top Band conditions but it can’t be the only reason as I was doing this long before SOTA.

It wasn’t difficult to chose NP9 as this years target, the big consideration being the dry-stone walls providing shelter from any of the four winds and its proximity to home. Equally, there was very little anguish associated with weather issues, it being fairly settled and a relatively benign forecast, considering the time of year. Yes it was cold but not desperately.

The schedule was more or less a carbon copy of the 2016-17 and 2018-19 New Year over-nighter’s on Pen-y-Ghent in the snow and Cracoe Fell in high winds. Top band is always going to be the central activity and there were three chances to chase NP9 on 160m. The first and third 160m sessions produced the most QSO’s; the second one at 10pm adding just one more. The QSO tally for 160m was 31.

20m was a real joy and a great band to start off with. As well as UK and EU, I was fortunate enough to work a handful of USA stations, one Canadian and one caller that really surprised me – a PY from Rio de Janeiro. This got me in the mood for more radio and with a summit stay of this length, that’s needed. I wasn’t out to make record numbers of QSO’s, only ending up with a very modest total 79.

Closely following the example of last New Year, 80m was very poor in the late afternoon of New Year’s Eve but far better the morning after. Apparently around 15:00, 80m all but closed. Contacts were no doubt missed but I was doing 20m at the time and you can’t do it all.

Though not the main reason for going, as usual 2m-FM was the over-midnight preference but the number of people on the band at 24:00 seems to decrease a little each year. With my modest 5 Watts and a vertical half-wave, I did a lot of CQ’ing at times but only ended up with 14 in the log. Added to that was the fact that NP9 is not the greatest SOTA for VHFM as it overlooks fewer population centres than for example NP4 Whernside or even the site of last year’s campover - NP32 Cracoe Fell. That’s lower in stature than NP9 but covers Bradford and Leeds well.

NP9 with 2m-SSB, 50 watts and a beam on an RSGB VHF contest evening, would be a different world of course. Despite the above, 2m-FM was very busy late afternoon on NYE. In fact most channels were in use. I missed out there as well.

Discomfort, weariness a lack of sleep and neglecting to drink enough for the umpteenth time despite experiences of the past, made me feel like I had only half a brain on New Years Day morning. The sticking key just added to the embarrassment. The newly arrived activators that I worked on their various summits seemed ‘super alert’ compared to how I was feeling but soldier on we must.

While on the subject of sleep, the three Valerian Root capsules I took at 1am really did help towards a longer sleep. I think this is a fair enough aid. I wouldn’t take anything stronger in any circumstances. Proper ‘knock out drops’ are out of the question in case an emergency should arise in the night.

I took about the right amount of food this time but then fretted early on that I wouldn’t have enough. Had Sasha been with me in the tent, I would have had to take significantly more. A good intake is as essential as good clothing or a sleeping bag for keeping warm in winter, especially when you’re not moving much for hours on end. Talking of Sasha, she was sadly missed. When I looked to where her bed would have been there was only an inanimate rucksack.

Just who the mystery camper was, when they arrived and left will probably remain a mystery. We didn’t get to meet as I thought we would. The tent was only a cricket pitch away from mine but when you think about it that area was more or less the only option when considering the wind direction. It’s rare that you see people on summits outside ‘office hours’ let alone camping without apparent good reason. It could be just for the pleasure of being there of course. I for one can readily see that.

Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED and for the times you had to come on. Thanks to Phil G4OBK for spotting. Also to the SOTA self spotting system which provided 13 spots. To Phil G0UUU for monitoring and text backup.

Finally, thanks for all the kind and sympathetic comments ref. Sasha, on the air, on the reflector and via email. It’s much appreciated and what a great lot of dog lovers you all are! It’s sounding like the owner will be getting another dog quite soon. A bit too soon I thought.

73 and best wishes for 2020 and the 20’s in general.
John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club station GX0OOO/P)

Please Report Errors

Photos: 6-7-17-18-33-37-39-40-45-48-62-68-73-76-81-82

Above: Climbing up Buckden Pike G/NP-009. The Cray Path

Above: Summit of Buckden Pike G/NP-009. TP-1744

Above: Rodent Trap, Buckden Pike

Above: Home for the next 21 hours. Buckden Pike G/NP-009

Above: It’s a braw brec moonlit nite the nite

Above: No need to explain, you’ve seen these before

Above: Icy tent

Above: A rare self portrait

Above: One and only photo of the mystery tent ‘next door’

Above: Impending sunrise, G/NP-009

Above: Temperature inversion

Above: Ready for off

Above: Buckden Pike - New Year visitors

Above: Cow Close Gill on the way down

Above: Descending to the ‘sheep contour’ in Bishopdale

Above: Bishopdale. The old quarry parking place and car


Excellent write up and photo’s John. Im not far from Walt G6XBF so a similar path to G/NP-009 for me. I’m glad we had a short QSO while you were packing up. You had every reason to be tired after your efforts.

I wasn’t aware that you lived in Wrose for a while. A friend and I who have been Mountain Biking since 1992 found the old Thackley railway line only last year and now use it as a link section for one of our rides.

73 and HNY Chris M0RSF

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Great report and a great read as ever John. It must take you longer to write the reports than walk up the hill!

I agree about Mike G4BLH’s inception of the HEMA programme. It was the perfect solution for both those that wanted to activate the HuMPs, and those that did not want the criteria for SOTA summit qualification relaxed. I was an early participant and supporter of the scheme as a result.

What a pity therefore that Mike passed the stewardship of the scheme to someone that holds a personal grudge against me, and who swiftly blocked me from both the Facebook discussion group and the HEMA Database, deleting all my existing HEMA activator and chaser logs in the process. Even Jimmy M0HGY has been blocked from both resources too - just because he is my son!

I’m hoping the administration of the scheme will change hands again at some point, as I enjoy activating my local HEMAs.


Hi Chris,
Thanks for your reply.
Sorry for stumbling over your name - a problem which is now worsening as I get older and don’t get on as much added to weariness of a 21 hour summit stay. It doesn’t help that I mix your ‘M0’ up with Mick M0MDA also in Leeds.

It’s a mystery that you were able to give me a 57 over the same path when Walt couldn’t hear me at all the night before. There did seem to be some ‘crackle’ or ‘hiss’ the night before however and of course you and Walt will not have the same working conditions or noise levels etc.

I’m impressed Chris. One of the few people who have heard of Wrose. All I know about that railway line is the double tunnel. Only one side was open in 1969 when we walked through the disused side. It’s 1400 yards with a bend in it and we had no torch. My friend’s Labrador was shaking by the time we emerged so I hope you’re not biking through that!

The live tunnel was great for flattening pennies while sitting in an alcove 2 feet from the track. Not with the dog I must add. Happy days!
Take care down there,
73, John

Hello Tom and a Happy New Year to you and Jimmy.

You are right, it takes quite a bit more time to clear the aftermath of a SOTA expedition than the 21 hours I spent up on NP9. Typing with one finger doesn’t help and it seems to take longer as each year passes. I just like to keep proper records - crazy really.

Yes, Mike did very well getting that going and I remember vaguely the build up to it on SOTA. Come to think of it I remember much ‘frank’ discussion on the subject. Better to have kept the two systems separate though. I for one wouldn’t have liked a reduction of the SOTA specification having started activating it. Changing goal posts is often a bad thing. I wasn’t aware that you were excluded along with Jimmy. I hope that changes as there’ll be plenty of HuMPs around where you live; well east of you anyway.

As for my two ‘handy HuMPs’, I walk over them both approx. twice a week and if I get on a downer about all the driving, they are the way to experience a similar activity without the anguish and frustration of Britain’s dreadful cross-country road system.

Good luck with the coil manufacture if you decide it’s a spec. If not, I don’t blame you - a bit fiddly to get right. I usually send out the required toroids (I have loads) but thin ferrite rods have also been used successfully and glued in place with a hot glue gun. Both Mark M0NOM and John MW0XOT had that approach last year. John used 20mm long x 4mm dia and later 3mm/ dia ferrite rods, making cut-outs in the plunger flanges to accommodate them. I think Mark just glued his into the corners. Both found that there was plenty of frequency range; in fact a bit too much at first. In my case I barely ever go above 1.850 and could probably reduce the range but it’s good to have the option in case one coil falls out in rain and snow, (which happened on NP10 at New Year camp) or to go up to 1.985 to work WAB in the evenings - (eg Jake G1YFF).

This was a step forward on my originals and the ones I made last year to replace the lost pair because you don’t have to smash up toroids into dust on the garage floor to mix with Araldite. Much easier.

73, HNY and thanks for the reply,
John G4YSS


The keys have been in essentially the same places for nearly 140 years so all you need to do to improve is to break the habit of looking at the keys and simply remember where they are.
UK keyboard.

Get a clean hand towel and cover up keyboard. Slip hands under the towel. Now, no matter how hard you look you cannot see them. You have to use muscle memory and learn where they are and because you can’t hunt and peck, you use more than 1 finger. Feel around the keys, you can find backspace, space, return and shift easily. Type. You make mistakes. Backspace and correct them. Like learning CW, don’t give up. Just keep not looking. You’ll make fewer mistakes with a day or two than with hunt and peck. Just practice and you’ll see how quickly you improve. Two weeks of this and you’ll be 10x quicker than now, using three or so fingers on each hand. Not proper touching typing but so much better than now.

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Hi John @G4YSS,

Happy New Year to you & the family.

Thank you for the S2S last week. It was indeed a cold, windy and cloudy activation:

I also found QRM to be an issue on the handie. The VX-5R struggled on a number of 2m frequencies, only 145.3 seeming clear. It made no difference using the standard antenna or my SlimJim on a 6m pole, so I used the pole in the end just to be sure I managed the four important contacts :slight_smile:

73/Kind regards,
Simon (and Nic)

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Thanks Andy.
That’s very comprehensive and good of you to take the trouble. I tried it briefly and my fingers haven’t a clue where to go but I accept, like anything it takes much perseverance. I’m afraid I come from an era where only women typed and then only secretaries and office typists. The only men that did so worked for CSOS. Then computers came along and everybody and his dog can type except me.

There’s also the issue of thinking what to write and I would have to see which is the limiting factor, that or the one-finger typing, which is perhaps faster than you might imagine. I tried it against the clock and typed 25 words in a minute out of my head - not copying text which would be slower. That’s not including error correction. Only the middle finger of the right hand is in use but it seems to know where to go without 100% looking but maybe 90% admittedly. If I injured that digit I’d be sunk unless I can learn your system.

OK, I’ll try it again but I don’t hold out much hope, though my XYL says I need to stick with it. She types with four fingers, two per hand but still looks at the keys a lot. Faster than me of course. Maybe I should just do summary reports.

Off to see Roy this aft. He can touch type but I think he’s slowed down a lot lately. By the way, he was chuffed to bits to get the SOTA MT Christmas card. Made him feel important - which he is of course! He got one from Phil G4OBK too.

73, John & HNY

Hello Simon & Nic,
Yes, thanks for the S2S. I was expecting you which is why the H/H stayed out until the last minute while packing up. It does look cold and dank in the photo but we’ve seen many like this over the years. In fact I should think 30% of my activations have been done in low cloud and it used to be nearer 50% when I was working and had less choice of activating days.

I’m almost certain that I’ve had similar problems of nasty noises on that summit several times but Yarlside is always better probably because it doesn’t overlook much in the way of ‘civilisation.’ I see you got five in the log so well done in qualifying it, despite the noise. CUAGN for another S2S I hope.

Thanks for the reply,
73 & HNY,