G4YSS: G/NP-010 NEW YEAR Summit Camp, 2016 to 2017

G4YSS: G/NP-010 NEW YEAR Summit Camp, 31-12-16 to 01-01-17
A wild night out on Pen-y-Ghent’s summit for New Year and double points!

Issue-2; 09-01-17. Minor additions in QSO’s section, two callsigns etc
Planning: GX0OOO Campover on G/NP-010

G4YSS using SSEG Club Call GX0OOO/P
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
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
2 x 5 Ah and 2 x 6 Ah Li-Po batteries (22 Ah)
IC-E90 4 Band VHF-UHF 5 Watt Handheld in reserve (not used)
Viper-2 Ridge tent (1988/ 2.2kg)
Sleeping bag 1.6kg synthetic
Goretex Sleeping bag cover (Bivvy Bag) 820gm
Airbed (Cheap - 4 GBP ebay) failed in first hour (490gm)
Packweight: 18.9kg (41.7 pounds) inc 1.75 ltr water

Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB112 Technika Radio (Tesco)
Goretex Bootees worn for use if leaving the tent

Overnighting on summits is something I have greatly revelled for many years. Starting with The Cheviot in 1981, a memorable night on Ben Bheula in southern Scotland in the same decade, Cross Fell, Ben Macdui etc and four sessions on NP8 for VHF-NFD/ SOTA. A night on NP17 specially for the first Top Band S2S in 2004 is another that comes to mind.

None of these have been particularly ambitious and all have been in the summer or autumn season. Since SOTA came along, I have developed a taste for New Year activations. This was chiefly for the experience but also for the pleasure of giving out New Year’s greetings from a SOTA summit. Some think it’s just a way of getting double points for no extra effort. Actually, they’re right!

Previous New Year SOTA Summit Camps:
2004-05: G/NP-018 Nine Standards Rigg

2007-08: G/NP-004 Whernside

Each time I do this, when weather forecasts are on a collision course with a fixed date, I agonize long and hard. There’s enough concern about the weather before any SOTA activation but this is entirely another thing. Being a born worrit, it is difficult for me to keep the lid on the ‘demons’ and that situation was no different this time.

With the right conditions, a hill like Pen-y-Ghent is benign but in really bad winter weather, it could be down right dangerous. What if I was forced to retreat in high winds, snow, ice or whiteout, in the dark down those steep crags at the northern end? With forces pulling in opposite directions, I was loosing sleep just thinking about it.

For some days before the event, the BBC and Met Office had been predicting a band of heavy rain crossing the country. With each passing day the cursed thing would not budge from the Yorkshire Dales at the very time I wanted to be there. In late December at over 2000 feet, heavy rain can soon turn into something more sinister. A couple of degrees lower and it can be a different story, so the decision to ‘go’ or not to go could never be taken lightly.

WEATHER - MWIS mountain forecast at 600m ASL:

Saturday 31st December 2016:
Gale to near gale SW wind of between 40 and 50 mph, overcast with persistent low cloud, pockets of drizzly rain. Summit temps 5C; minus 8C wind chill with overnight rain to follow. ‘Walking arduous across the hills, particularly higher tops in the Yorkshire Dales.’

Sunday 1st January 2017:
Sustained overnight rain followed by snow. Northerly wind of between 25 and 35 mph, no low-cloud, probable sunshine and snow flurries. Summit temps of minus 1C and falling.

Neither the MWIS nor the BBC forecasts were at all inspiring. The only thing they had going for them was the ‘high’ temperature of 5C on the 31st and a chance of some views on New Years day morning.

Why Pen-y-Ghent?
With 75% of NP’s already activated in 2016, I had just a few to chose from. On the short list were NP10; NP17 (nearby Fountains Fell) or NP5 (Ingleborough.) As the time got closer and nothing changed with the forecast, I knew I was up against it. Any advantage to be gained had to be exploited.

I know at times that the MWIS forecast can be prone to slight exaggeration, particularly with wind speeds but with ‘up to 50 mph’ appearing in print, the essential thing on this occasion would be a dry stone wall. That immediately ruled out Ingleborough which was a pity as its 6 point status would be more attractive to Shack Sloth chasers. Leaving it as late as possible, I checked the wind direction predictions against the wall angles shown on the 1:25k map in an attempt to find best spot to pitch and on which of the two remaining contenders; NP10 or NP17.

The problem was not so much the wind speed; a good high wall can largely protect you from that but the varying directions over the two days in question. Starting in the south-west, this ‘gale or near gale force’ wind was going right around to northerly in one night! Finding a wall to protect from all of the predicted directions would entail a lot of luck.

Yes, NP17 had walls but to exploit their protective powers I would have had to climb one of them; not something I wanted to be doing with close to 20kg on my back. It came down to NP10 with its north-south running wall which jagged to SW-NE near the trig point. It may not fully cover me initially but things should improve through the night. Trivial as it may seem, the result of this research was central to an eventual decision to go ahead. NP10 also has a marginally better VHF takeoff than NP17.

The Plan:
Leaving Scarborough on the morning of the 31st, the first thing I did was to call Roy G4SSH on 145.400. We had a short discussion about the schedule I had just emailed to him. A list of sked times for the proposed NP10 summit camp. Proposed it was - even at that late stage. With an (at best) marginal weather forecast the only option was to go there and assess it for myself. That would mean climbing with the overnight pack then deciding. If it was a no go, I would make a swift appearance on 2m-FM then go back down. All the meticulous prep would be wasted and my back would still hurt from the heavy rucksack without the compensation of an extended activation. If conditions at the summit gave me at least one good vibe and if I could get the tent up and firmly anchored, I would SMS Roy in order for him to drop the schedule onto the SOTA reflector.

That was the plan but it suffered a minor stumble just 15 minutes in. I had omitted to print myself a copy. Stopping the car near Thornton-le-Dale I wrote while Roy read out the list over the air. What would we do without him!

Starting at 09:40, the 101 mile drive via A170, A168, A1M, Ripon, A59, A65 and Malham took until 12:20. Yes, I went the wrong way - blame the satnav. There’s space to park next to the honesty box near Dale Head Farm (SD 8426 7145) now 1GBP- short stay and now 2 GBP - long stay. 100% inflation! The view of Pen-y-Ghent was encouraging then. It was cloud free but that was to change in the next 30 minutes.

Heaving a 42 pound pack up from the ground is never going to be easy but at least it wasn’t the 61 pounds I’d sweated with on NP18 on New Year’s Eve 2004. Li-Po batteries rather than Lead-Acid made most of the difference but I also carried more food and water back then.

Leaving the car at 12:45, I soon fell into a good pace. I find that the pain of a big carry needs to be as short in time as possible. By modern standards the seldom used 85 litre pack, bought in 1989 for an expedition to Shian Bay on Jura’s west coast with my 8 year old son Philip (now G0UUU), is not particularly well designed but I’m too tight to replace it with a new high tech one.

The DAB radio helped with the discomfort of ascent as did plenty of stops on the steep craggy bits where great care was needed; particularly with balancing the heavy load in the strong wind. Despite the dull windy day and poor forecast, there were plenty of people going up and down. One chap saw the tent strapped on the back of the pack and asked if I was camping. I just about had sufficient breath for a brief explanation and he would later wish me ‘good luck’ as he left the summit.

The stone path at the top section was a sight for sore eyes as it meant that all the awkward bits had been overcome and I topped out to a busy trig point at 13:28. The ascent had taken 43 minutes, less than half the time for an NP10 overnight camp of August 2015 with my 8 year old Grandson Jack. Admittedly he was claiming to be ill and the poor lad proved it beyond doubt in the early hours.

I took a few summit photos but they were very much for the record. The clag was down and you couldn’t see far. It was to stay that way until morning.

PEN-Y-GHENT, G/NP-010, 694m, 4pts. 13:28 on Saturday 31-12-16 to 09:40 on Sunday 01-01-17. 4 deg C dropping to minus 1C overnight. SW wind of 35 mph decreasing a little and veering northerly in the early hours. Overcast with low-cloud. Heavy rain 21:00 to 03:00 and snow after that. No lying snow until morning, then approx. 3cm. LOC: IO84VD. WAB: SD87. Trig: TP-5414. 90% reliable EE phone coverage.

Survey & Assessment:
The decision of whether to stay over or not rested on finding a good pitch for the tent. It wasn’t raining at the time so the weather aspect had already passed scrutiny. With the wind direction in mind (SW - later N) I’d worked out that the best place to shelter from it would be near a bend in the wall at SD 8377 7334, 100m SW of the trig. Going there briefly, I wasn’t impressed. The surface wasn’t very even and the gradient too great for comfort. It was also at least 10m below summit height; a fact that would spoil the VHF takeoff NE to the Tyne & Tees areas.

After probing the ground with a length of GRP rod brought for the purpose, I settled for a patch of smooth grass where the gradient was very slight. This was just 28 paces SW of the trig point and a metre east of the wall at SD 8383 7337.

For rapid deployment, the tent and fly sheet are carried outside the rucksack and the latter has its poles, guy lines and home-brew carbon pegs ready attached. The single-handed job usually takes less than 3 minutes after which the tent is hung inside and pegged down in 6 places. This is almost 30 years old but a tried and tested Lichfield Viper-2 ridge tent weighing under 5 pounds.

You can call me old fashioned but ridge tents have their advantages. They have exposed pole tops which can easily be adapted to take VHF verticals. They can also be double guyed when there is a need to counter high winds. This was one of those occasions.

Today it took longer to pitch because of the addition of four extra guy lines and multiple extra pegs which I’d brought along for insurance. Though a few needed minor repositioning due to rocks in the sub-soil, the ground was mainly ideal and all pegs but one went in like a dream. A few people waved as I worked, wishing me luck as they left the top.

That tent wasn’t going anywhere and the final decision was made for a protracted stay. I text Roy G4SSH accordingly and he got the ball rolling by posting the schedule on the SOTA Reflector. It took the better part of another hour before I was entirely satisfied that everything was in its correct place but there was time for a short break before a 2m-FM session at 3pm. The wind, not yet behind the wall but more along it, battered the tent. Sometimes the fabric went with a loud crack but I found comfort in the knowledge of the extra pegs and guys.

145.400/ 145.350 FM - 12 QSO’s from 15:00z
The dipole on its 5m mast was supported at the southern end on a 1m rod and tied to the last fence post at the northern end. The J-Pole was fixed on the top of the front tent pole.

The opening session started at 15:00z (31-12-16). It was not on the Reflector schedule but I had alerted it in case conditions were not suitable for camping. If that were the case, the summit would at least be qualified before descending.

Using 5 Watts from the FT817 to the J-Pole I logged the following local stations: G0VOF Mark; M0CQE Paul; MW1FGQ John; M0GNA Alan; G0WAB Terry (Wirrall); M3RDZ Roy; G0WRE Paul; MW3UDA Gareth; G4MYU Art; MX0YHA Kevin (M0XLT in Gargrave) and M0RSF Chris in Leeds.

When after 25 minutes the channel dried up, an earlier tip off was followed up. I QSY’d down to 145.350 and worked the only S2S of my stay - Gerald MW0WML/P on GW/NW-028 (59/ 58).

14.052.6 CW - 8 QSO’s from 15:46z:
With the FM session over, there were 90 minutes before the next scheduled activity, which was 80m CW and SSB. I had brought 22 Ah of battery power so surely I could afford to insert another band. Why not a higher one? Wouldn’t it be great if I could pass a ‘Happy New Year’ or two over the pond? A quick phone call to Roy soon had me spotted for 20m CW and SSB. I also got to know that the band was open to North America, which was a real bonus?

I was surprised when Mark G0VOF answered my CQ and I logged him at 579 both ways. OK2PDT Jan followed and then it was over to the USA with N4EX Richard in NC; worked in the past. VE2JCW was next - St.Jerome QC. Three USA stations easily bagged the points: N4DA Luther in GA; AC1Z Robert - NH and N1GB George in Vermont. VE1WT was last in - Phillip in NS.

Incoming reports were in the range 339 to 559 with a 229 from N4EX and 599 from VE1WT. Power was 30 Watts to the inverted Vee. I don’t mind how low the reports are, so long as the chasers get into the log.

14.265 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 16:00z:
As was the case for the rest of the day, Mark G0VOF was ready and waiting to give me a report on 20m SSB. This was 57 both ways. He was followed by HB9BHW - Hans near Zurich (57/ 55) and VE2JCW John (56/ 43).

The final two stations logged were: EA7JUR - John (AKA G1WUU) in southeast Spain (IM87WH - 59/ 57) and G8VNW Nick, a few miles away in Threshfield, Wharfedale. We exchanged at 53/ 43 QRM and I think Nick was hedging his bets in case he didn’t hear me on 160m later. Again the power was set to 30 Watts - 2.5 Watts excitation to the amp.

I now had nearly an hour to rest but there were a few things to do like eating for instance. Looking outside I could see only fog. All the people had gone and it was now getting dim. A long lonely vigil was certain. No going back now!

3.557 CW - 13 QSO’s from 17:00z:
First item on the schedule was 80m CW at 17:00 and that was the exact time of the log entry for the first caller, G4OOE Nick followed shortly by G4SSH Roy. Following were: G4FGJ Gordon: G0HIO Mike; GI4ONL Vic; G0IBN Andrew; F5PLR; G4WSB Bill; SA4BLM Lars; EI2CL Mike in Dublin; G3YPE Mike; DK6YM Sebastian and G0VOF Mark bringing up the rear. Most of the incoming reports were 599 with a couple of 579’s and 559’s from EI2CL and G3YPE respectively. Power was 30 Watts again.

I must say it was a pleasure to hear that distinctive keying coming out of Dublin once again. Mike EI2CL was a regular chaser on 160m until his QRN got so bad as to make it almost impossible.

3.717/ 3.719 SSB - 18 QSO’s from 17:25z:
Roy G4SSH picked up the ‘QSY SSB’ and spotted the intended frequency. 3.724 was in use and the band was almost full. With power remaining on 30 Watts the following chasers called in: GM0AXY Ken; GM4YMM Ken’s XYL Christine; G0RQL Don; MK3FEH Karl; G0VOF Mark; GM4WHA Geoff and G4IAR Dave.

At this point a slight adjustment to the operating frequency was required to dodge serious QRM which had come up without so much as a ‘QRL?’ A spot was forthcoming from Mark G0VOF. Continuing on 3.719, I went on to log: GI0AZB & GI0AZA Ian & Esther; G0FEX Ken; G8ADD Brian; PA0SKP Sake; G3XXR Roger; GW4VPX Allan; M6COJ Glyn; G4WSB Bill; F4GSO Olivier and finally 2E0SCS Stephen.

Top Band Coils:
The time was now 6pm and it was as black as pitch and foggy outside. There was still no rain however so it was easy to fit the Top Band coils into the 80m dipole at the 40m break points. I set both slugs to ‘4.3’ and went back to the tent to get out of the strong, cold wind. I really should have taken more care with fitting the coils.

I designed the coils to have a small clasp at one end that is intended to fasten around the antenna wire. This is in addition to the two electrical connections. The coil nearest the trig point was secured easily but the one in the other leg had a clasp that had been broken for years. I was to regret not replacing it but I almost never fit the clasps especially in light winds and/ or for short durations but this was very different.

I intended that this should be my final sortie out into the elements until morning. With high winds and a band of heavy rain six hours wide heading my way, I had no intention of QSYing the dipole to any other band than 160m. Sticking my neck out just by being there on my own in the middle of winter, I had no intention of getting soaked and bringing all that back inside my tiny tent. It was going to be cold enough without that. When I had unpacked the gear, some of it was in bags secured by rubber bands. As I removed them they were put together in a safe place in case I needed one but now I couldn’t for the life of me remember where that safe place was! This is the price of tidiness. I would have been better just throwing them everywhere, I might have found one and been able to secure the coil to the dipole before coming back in.

My son Phil G0UUU will laugh when he reads this. He has been telling me for years that my methodical approach is entirely wrong. I hoped the coil would stand up to hours of violent movement just with its electrical connections but this was asking too much and it would come back to bite me later on.

1.833 CW - 3 QSO’s from 18:22z:
Now down to the main attraction - 160m. A Russian station was calling CQ on the normal channel but it was clear one kHz up. Sticking with 30 Watts, a CQ brought in Mark G0VOF for 589 both ways. When you look at the map, you can see that there is more or less a clear takeoff from Pen-y-Ghent to Mark’s QTH in Blackburn. Hence the strong and QSB-free signals.

Just two more stations were logged in CW: G4SSH Roy near Scarborough 559/ 449 and G4AZS Adrian in Shrewsbury, 579/ 559. It was quite important to me to qualify the summit on Top Band if possible but several minutes of 50 Watt CQ’s added nothing further.

1.843 SSB - 9 QSO’s from 18:40z:
Once again Mark G0VOF was first in, 58/ 57 and a spot followed. I clearly heard Karl - MK3FEH calling but try as I may, he couldn’t hear me. I kept on going back to this problem throughout the session but Karl never did manage to receive very much at all from me, least of all a report. It was a pity because he had declared on the reflector that he would dearly like to add a 160m SOTA QSO to his collection.

Continuing on, I worked: G0RQL Don 58/ 47; EI3GYB Michael 58/ 56; PA0SKP Sake 58/ 57 and G8VNW Nick 48/ 47, the latter was almost swamped by heavy QRM which had appeared from nowhere. A QSY was rapidly arranged and also spotted by G0VOF - Mark who found 1.850 to be a somewhat clearer channel. I didn’t want to go outside to adjust the coil slugs but found I could just manage a QSY this far up the band without doing so. Nevertheless the SWR was quite high and dancing up and down in time with the wind outside.

Next in were: G8ADD Brian in Birmingham 47/ 37; ON7ZM John 57/ 57; EI9O Eoin in Co.Longford 59/ 57 reporting ‘heavy rain’ and finally G0HIO Mike at Burton-on-Trent; 54 both ways.

Power for this session was 50 Watts and by the end, the first of four Li-Po batteries (a 5Ah) was fully discharged. The time was 19:25z and wearing a base layer and 200 gram fleece throughout, I felt the need to get inside the sleeping bag. I told Mark that I’d be on 2m-FM after a short interval.

145.300/ 145.350 FM - 6 QSO’s from 19:36z:
After fitting a fresh 5 Ah battery (No.2) I set the FT817ND to 5 Watts and called CQ on S20. The QSY needed to be right down at 145.300 as the band was quite busy. I had left the radio in the car on and tuned to this frequency and now imagined it booming out near the honesty box on the road below. Why I did this I don’t really know. It was probably down to some subconscious and misguided thoughts about safety.

First in was M0PXP - Chris in Stainforth just 4 miles from me. This turned out to be an interesting encounter with a sequel the next day. Chris had been in the habit of climbing Pen-y-Ghent every New Years Day before dawn in order to watch the sun rise from there. He was working late at a caravan site where a New Year party was going on but nevertheless promised to come up and see me at around 7am in the morning. It was to be a late night for him, being the one who had to take many of the revellers home in a minibus in the early hours. In his own words, ‘I’ll need to be sober!’ I asked him to ‘knock’ on the tent door.

There followed: G4DEE Tony in Bury; M3LIU Ian Burnley (with a 59 plus 40dB for me) and G4BLH/M Mike now moved to Clitheroe from Nelson. It’s a while since I worked Mike and it was an appropriate time to renew our acquaintance. He was the one who ‘stood guard’ for me when I did New Year 2007-08 on Whernside.

After a QSY to 145.350, to avoid a net that had shown up on the frequency, the session was continued with G3ZHE in Warrington, running 20 Watts to a Diamond vertical and M0MOL Gareth with whom I had a conversation about Rawlinson Street near his QTH in Barrow. Reports were mostly 57 to 59 with 54 from G3ZHE Albert (an ex Venture Scout Leader and a ‘Dirger’ like myself but with five crossings to his name). Mike G4BLH/M gave me 52. New Year greetings were once again exchanged with all stations.

Take a Break:
The time was 20:40 which made it an hour and twenty minutes before the next scheduled item at 22:00; a repeat of Top Band for those who missed it and hopefully others farther afield who might take advantage of the later hour.

Owing to the cramped positions that have to be adopted when activating in a confined space, I was glad of the rest and something to eat. A cup of tea or soup would have added greatly to morale but I never once got around to using the rudimentary stove I had available.

With little else to do, I should have used this time for sleeping but it didn’t happen. For one thing with the airbed flat, the ground was both hard and cold. For another, I was too hyped up to switch off. After texts of ‘HNY’ to various family members and friends, I went round the stations on the tiny DAB receiver but was disappointed not to log Scarborough’s brand new station, Coast and County which actually is meant to cover the whole of North Yorkshire.

Heavy Rain:
Sometime around 9pm, I heard the first spots of the forecast rain on the flysheet. Mark G0VOF had warned me more recently when he’d gleaned an update from a radar site. The question was how long would it last? I certainly didn’t want it hanging around until morning.

Repeaters on 2m-FM:
I passed some of the spare time by going through the repeaters in the FT817’s memories to see which ones responded. With 5W to the J-Pole: GB3HG (FSD); GB3HS; GB3LD; GB3TP; GB3MP; GB3RF and GB3YW. I wasn’t expected from here but there was no response from dual mode repeater GB7RW at Robin Hood’s Bay.

1.832 CW - 8 QSO’s from 21:55z:
With a power of 50 Watts and scheduled for 22:00z, this was supposed to bring in a few Europeans as well as extra UK stations, particularly Karl MK3FEH who had narrowly missed out earlier. It was handy that the advertised frequency was clear and this time we suffered very little QRM.

Stations logged: G0VOF (Mark who spotted me); G4SSH Roy with 559/ 339; G4VHH Fred 599/ 459; GI4ONL Vic 599 both ways; G4OOE a friend - Nick in Scarborough, 559/ 339; PA7ZEE Geert 559/ 519; G7ROY (AKA G4SSH) 569/ 559; OH6KSX 559/ 339; DJ5AV Mike 559/ 539 and SA4BLM Lars 579/ 559. Rather than adding previously worked callers to the tally (G0VOF & G4SSH) I have just counted QSO’s new to this session.

Skip didn’t seem to be that much longer than it had been three or four hours earlier, which was surprising. I was mildly annoyed by this fact; not for myself but for would be overseas chasers. Still I couldn’t complain with PA, SA and OH in the log.

1.847/ 1.985 SSB - 6 QSO’s from 22:46z:
This session started off well but later technical difficulties caused a 25 minute delay. Power was again 50 Watts and first in was G0VOF Mark to give me a report and spot. Unless there was really bad QRM Mark, at 58 both ways, was mostly armchair copy making it easy to pass information quickly either way. This facility would be needed shortly.

High VSWR:
The session proper opened with G6WRW Carolyn who gave me 55 in exchange for 58. Later, as I remember, we came up to 59 both ways. At some point a few minutes later Carolyn was reporting a sudden and massive drop in my signal. Mark came in to confirm it and advised me to run VSWR checks. Sure enough the SWR was sky high which meant that finally, the long suffering dipole or its loading coils had been disrupted in some way by the heavy rain and relentless buffeting wind. Considering its strength, this wasn’t surprising.

I don’t remember whether I had a fully working station or not for the following two callers but both were a struggle. In fact the first, MK3FEH Karl could not get his report from me at all, despite coming in at between 55 and 58. Poor Karl, he’d failed yet again in his quest to log his first Top Band SOTA but try as I may, over and over again, the system remained stubbornly one way only.

Next came Geoff GM4WHA and he was so ‘back of the box’ that I couldn’t read him at first. However, it wasn’t long before we exchanged successfully at 22/ 31 and I heard him saying, ‘Many, many thanks and a Happy New Year’ from somewhere down in the noise.

At this point I suspended operations so that an investigation could be carried out regarding the antenna system. Whatever happened, I had resolved that I was not going out in darkness, fog and atrocious weather just to get soaked and drag it all back inside. I had waterproofs with me but what if the fault couldn’t be fixed anyway? I would have gained nothing and lost a lot. After all, I would be confined to this small (and apart from a bit of condensation caused by equipment pushing inner tent into outer) dry tent for the next nine hours or more. This was my world, it was all I had and I had to protect it at all costs.

I decided to see what could be done from inside and if the dipole was truly defunct, it would be 2m-FM from now on in. The crux would be to discover if I still had resonance somewhere and that would give me the means to work out what had gone wrong. Switching off the amp and using the FT817’s built in VSWR meter, I quickly found that the antenna had ‘moved’ up the band somewhere above 1.975. This was great news. I’d expected to find it working at some useless frequency like 2.3 MHz for instance but this meant I could carry on the 160m session without having to repair anything.

The Solution - 1.985 from 23:20z:
I relayed the good news to Mark G0VOF on 2m and he put a spot on accordingly. 1.980 was busy so I chose 1.985 for a continuation on SSB and for use on both CW and SSB for the session after midnight. In fact when 1.985 MHz was set up as an SSB frequency, it changed to 1.985.7 when CW was selected. I did have reservations however. Firstly, would all chasers be able to follow this major QSY perhaps using tuners etc? Secondly I was reminded by Mark that the power limit drops to 32 Watts at the top end of the band but that is the main reason I use 1.832/ 1.843.

Once the change was noticed by the chasers I began to get contacts again: G4WSB Bill 57 both ways; PA7ZEE Geert 56/ 31 and M6BYW Debbie (Bill’s XYL) 55 both ways. CQ’ing brought no further chasers so at 23:40 I QSY’d to 2m-FM. As far as 160m was concerned, the day was saved.

2016 to 2017!
145.400 FM – 8 QSO’s from 23:45z thru’ to 00:20z:
With just 15 minutes of 2016 remaining, I put out a 5 Watt CQ on S20. MW3UDA Gareth in Holywell answered and we exchanged 59/ 58. Gareth said he’d keep me company until midnight. We chatted for a while until called with an end stopping signal by Geoff G6MZX at nearby Thornton-in-Craven with his XYL Joan on the side. Geoff, who is an ex RR engineer and restorer of vintage tractors, is also a long-term chaser of the SSEG club call. Joan was about to make a night cap but couldn’t be persuaded to bring one up Pen-y-Ghent for me. Next in was 2E0REG Reggie in Kirby (59’s). Great callsign Reggie and not often you can get your name in it.

At this stage Gareth came in once again to continue our chat but with just a minute of the old year left, I called Mark G0VOF in the hope that he could lead us through into 2017. After all he had been in attendance since 3pm that day and had helped sort out the mini disaster involving Top Band. Guess what; he wasn’t there! Mark must have been poised for Big Ben and the fireworks so Gareth was handed the job of spanning two years with one QSO.

After synchronising my watch with a radio-controlled clock the evening before, I had the precise time. As the second hand swept inexorably towards midnight, I allowed the rare leap second to pass before sending Gareths callsign and report once again. That was it – 2017! Over to the south or south-east of my lofty position and overpowering the racket produced by the weather, I could hear the distant explosions of fireworks.

Double Points:
G6MZX Geoff came back in to claim his second batch of four chaser points and I soon had my 2017 activator points for a qualification of GNP-010 after QSO’s with G0VOF Mark and then M3RDZ Roy. One more op; M6HHA - George in Leyland, Lancs answered a QRZ and then the channel went quiet. As far as double points was concerned, the job was done almost without moving a muscle; the third time I’d managed to take advantage of this unique loophole.

1.985.7 CW - 3 QSO’s from 00:25z:
At 00:25 this was the last item on the schedule for some hours, the next being a repeat of 160m CW at 07:00. Stations worked on 2017’s first offering of 160m SOTA: G0VOF Mark; G0HIO Mike and G4WSB Bill. Power was 30 Watts.

1.985 SSB - 5 QSO’s from 00:40:
With the headphones on and AF gain turned up to drown out wind and rain, this session brought in: G0VOF Mark 57/ 58; G8ADD Brian 31/ 34; G4AZS 31/ 22; G6WRW Carolyn 55/ 44 and GM4WHA – Geoff, validated with difficulty at 21/ 22. While sending 73, Geoff came up to 31.

Just what was going on here was unclear. Reports were well down on what I’d hoped after midnight but if skip had gone a bit long for the ‘locals’ there was no evidence of it coming from Europe. An absence of EU contacts may have been less down to propagation but more to do with the fact that it was New Year. After staying up beyond midnight, ops further east on CET would have retired to bed following their celebrations well over an hour earlier.



G4YSS: G/NP-010 NEW YEAR Summit Camp, 31-12-16 to 01-01-17

In the hope of drowning out the noise outside, I started off with the radio but the next 6 hours passed by very slowly. After some food, lights out was at 2am and I did initially get some sleep until 3am after which I noticed a change in the weather. The band of heavy rain appeared to have passed over and the wind had decreased a little, or at least veered behind the wall, evidenced by a subtle change in sound. It was more like the hissing of pressurised air being forced through the gaps between stones, than the buffeting I had been getting up to now. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell if snow was now falling but it was certainly expected.

This was when I wished for a simple foam carry-mat instead of the punctured airbed that gave neither comfort nor insulation. With only two sides and one back I was shuffling about every 20 minutes; the longest time I could stand before getting a frozen hip. After a couple of hours of this I came up with a partial solution. The spare hat in my pocket was pressed into service as padding and an insulator wherever the pressure was greatest. At least most of me was warm. The sleeping bag and Goretex bivvy combination was working well but it was certainly too cold to stick your face out for more than half a minute.

At 6 am I gave up all ideas of sleep and switched on the headlight. There wasn’t much on 2m-FM and Top Band was dead. At this point I’d planned a brew but really couldn’t be bothered. Also I didn’t have the heart to disrupt the two neatly packed bags, one of food and the other equipment. Slowly the minutes of discomfort dragged by until at last the time for the next radio sked drew close.

I was expecting visitors from below so I tidied up a little. Unzipping the tent and lifting the flysheet confirmed that snow had fallen after the rain. There was perhaps an inch of the stuff but on grass, it’s hard to estimate. It was still black as pitch outside but judging by the absence of back-scatter from my light, I could see that the hill fog had at last cleared.

1.985.7 CW and 1.985 SSB from 07:00z - Nil.
Now for the moment of truth. After taking a few more hours bashing from the weather, would the antenna still be serviceable? After several SWR checks through the night a final one proved resonance but at 07:00 and for at least 20 minutes after that, CQ’s were not answered. I knew Roy would be listening because he’d failed to hear me and get his points during the session after midnight but no amount of calling produced anything.

At around 07:25 I gave up both modes. It was a good job that I’d gone onto 160 after midnight. At least the summit was qualified for New Years Day and on Top Band too. The 7am session was just for people who had missed the earlier one.

M0PXP - Eyeball:
Minutes later, I heard voices outside and someone shouted my name. ‘Hi Chris.’ Just as arranged the previous night on 2m-FM, Chris M0PXP and his mate had climbed up in the hope of a sunrise. After unzipping the flysheet, with some difficulty because of frozen snow, a heavy glove was doffed and we shook hands. I offered sweets; some left over from Christmas that I’d brought up with me. It was then that I noticed that snow was still falling. Falling is the wrong word; it was being blown over the wall in the brisk wind. I was doing my best to photograph it and the two intrepid lads who had been as good as their promise, despite the weather.

The antenna:
Chris did me a big favour that eliminated the need for me to boot up and venture out. He removed the Top Band coils so I could get on 80m. It took him quite a while. Both were glued to the dipole with a coating of frozen snow and Chris had to thaw them out before they’d budge. Critically he found that one of them was hanging with only one end connected; the reason for the VSWR going awol on 1.847 MHz the night before. If the coil had dropped to the ground I may not have found it in all that snow so I was relieved when Chris brought it to the tent door. Those coils take a bit of making.

After a few more photos, Chris and his mate disappeared back down into the darkness but not before another four people arrived at the summit following their headlamp beams. ‘ Wow, this place is popular.’ There must be something of a New Year’s Day tradition surrounding Pen-y-Ghent.

3.557 CW – 4 QSO’s from 07:35z:
Starting at 07:35, this was my last chance to get my friend Roy a QSO for New Years Day. There had been no path between us at 1am so thinking it would be easy nearer daylight, I started by calling G4SSH. After several 50 Watt calls, nothing was heard so I SMS’d Roy to reassure him, adding that daylight should sort out the problem. It was still pretty well dark and in those conditions he was probably too close or it could have been that radar QRM again. I could busy myself packing up other equipment and leave the radio until last.

Calling CQ brought in PA7RA Rien 579/ 599; ON7DQ Luc 579/ 559 and SA4BLM 579/ 559 but there was still no sign of Roy. A little later he called me and we managed a tentative QSO swapping 559 for 229. The band was changing from dark to daylight conditions making QSB rife. There was also a DL6 in there somewhere but he didn’t come back when called. Oh well, four QSO’s on 80 SSB was four better than my efforts on Top Band.

3.726 SSB – 3 QSO’s from 08:15z:
This was the last item on the agenda and it was a relief to have finally got there. After 18 hours of close confinement and one hour’s sleep, stamina, patience and the will to live was running thin. As far as the three chasers who worked me were concerned, this was vital because none of them were in the New Years Day log.

I asked Roy to spot me on this QRG which was a little higher up than was customary to dodge QRM and I was soon found by chasers. The spotting system is central to success nowadays and I for one, don’t take it or its spotters for granted.

Straight in with his customary big clear signal was G0RQL Don at Holdsworthy in Devon and 59 both ways. Afterwards came EA2ECA Joseba with 51/ 33 and finally at 08:25 ON5SWA François with 59/ 59. There were no more callers so I left the frequency to Don and François to have a chat and switched off for the last time. Thoughts of finishing on 2m-FM were fleeting. I still had to get myself packed up and safely off this mountain.

Packing Up:
The two-day expedition had at last come to a close. As far as on-the-air activity is concerned, it started like a lion and went out with a whimper but the weather was a different matter. There was still plenty of energy in the wind and there were now slippery surfaces to walk over.

Looking out, at least it was daylight if not sunny, there was no low-cloud and it had stopped snowing. There was still a cold wind of 25 mph or so but otherwise I had struck lucky for the conditions to dismantle the camp in. I noticed that the dipole wire was festooned with ice as was the mast on the windward side. The weight was dragging everything towards the ground with the mast bent over significantly. It’s a mystery that the dipole had stood up to this for so long. It is designed with weight in mind and not strength. The wire is only 24 AWG.

Wearing a fleece but no coat and doing as much as possible from inside, I gradually packed the rucksack with all the equipment followed by the inner tent. The antenna systems were difficult to dismantle mainly due to snow that had turned to ice but also because there was a general snow covering in which things can get lost in if you aren’t very careful. The J-Pole was frozen into its socket on the top of the tent pole and its whip was similarly frozen in. The lower two HF mast sections were frozen solidly together and would not budge. The other two joints are screw threads. It was easy enough to walk the dipole both ways with a gloved hand sliding along the slippery PTFE wire but there was only one way to tackle the ice accretion on the mast and J-Pole. Just as Chris had done in the dark that morning with the 160m loading coils, I had to use my teeth to remove most of the ice, then my mouth to melt the rest until the various items would part company with one another.

There is another method for tackling iced up equipment but I won’t go into that here. Besides, I had become very dehydrated over the past 20 hours after having drunk only 0.25 litres of fluids - far too little. I have no sense of thirst and the problem was compounded when I downed just another half litre from the 1.5ltr left over, then routinely tipped the rest into the snow. As I would find out on the way down, this wasn’t the most sensible thing to do.

It had taken 70 minutes to pack everything away which considering the difficulties with the antennas, was not bad when compared with similar summit camps.

Even this wasn’t without its challenges. By now the brisk wind was a freezing cold northerly and I wasn’t looking forward to it blowing me down the crags on the steep southern tip of the mountain. The 300 metres of paved way from the trig to the crags was treacherous with sheet ice; the only safe way was to take to the grass at one side or the other. Every time I swapped sides I had to turn across the wind and put a foot on the icy slabs. Any powerful gust was then able to swing me round due to the size of the pack on my back, and its strapped-on gear.

When I got to the first crag, which was carefully negotiated due to patches of ice, I met people coming up. I was carrying nearly 40 pounds, including bits of stubborn frozen snow rolled up in the flysheet. Because of dehydration and a dire lack of sleep, my balance was none too good either. Very carefully I got myself down to lower, safer levels and then back to the car but it took as long as it had to come up the day before. The descent took from 09:40 to 10:23 – 43 minutes.

After loading the heavy rucksack into the rear seat and the icy tentage into the boot, a sit down on a comfy car seat seemed like the height of luxury.

Before setting off I noticed that Pen-y-Ghent’s snow line was now half-way down from the summit to the road. The 104 mile drive home via Stainforth (where I called Chris M0PXP on the off chance), the A65; A59; A1M; A168 & Sutton Bank, took from 10:30 to 13:05. The traffic in Harrogate put me off going via York so I turned north.

QSO’s - 111 (109 unique see note) comprising:
2m-FM: 21
20m-CW: 8
20m-CW: 5
80m-CW: 13
160m-CW: 11
Subtotal: 91 (89 unique - see note)

2m-FM: 5
160m-CW: 3
160m-SSB: 5
80m-CW: 4
80m-SSB: 3
Subtotal: 20

Note: Four QSO’s made on 31-12-16, two of which are described in the above narrative were duplicated and therefore don’t appear in the SOTA database entry. There were no duplicates on 01-01-17. The SOTA Database shows 109 QSO’s made up of 89 on 31-12-16 and 20 on 01-01-17.

As far as unique QSO’s are concerned, the database is correct. I had many different sessions which must have caused some chaser confusion as it certainly confused me at times. I logged some of the same band-mode callers but not all. People were either coming in for another chat on 2m-FM a few hours after the first or were carrying out the important function of confirming my output and the propagation between us at the various times of day or night. The latter is important for 160m especially. I need to know the best times to use it; who is likely to hear me and who probably won’t.

Details as follows:
15:17 MW3UDA - 145MHz-FM (Worked later at 23:45)
21:55 G0VOF - 1.8MHz-CW (Already worked at 18:22)
22:00 G4SSH - 1.8MHz-CW (Already worked at 18:23)
22:46 G0VOF - 1.8MHz-SSB (Already worked at 18:40)

Battery Utilisation (Li-Po’s):
2 x 5 Ah and part of 1 x 6 Ah (14 Ah) used from…
2 x 5 Ah and 2 x 6 Ah (22 Ah) taken

Ascent & Distance:
G/NP-010: 284m (932ft) ascent / 5.5 km (3.4 miles)

Walking Time: 1hr-26 min.
(43 min up/ 43 min down. Ave: 2.4 mph)
Summit Time: 20hr-12 min.

Distance driven: 205 miles
Activator points: 2 x 4 + 2 x 3 = 14 (One Summit)

09:40: Left Scarborough
12:20: Arrived Honesty Box - Dale Head Fm.
12:45: Walked for G/NP-010
13:28: Arrived G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent

00:00: Let in 2017 with MW3UDA on 2m-FM
09:40: Left G/NP-010
10:23: Arrived car
10:30: Drove for home
13:05: Arrived Scarborough (detour on way)

After seeing the forecasts I would not have risked an overnight stay on a summit without a wall and it needed to be the right wall. With wind direction varying from southwest by at least 135 degrees overnight to north, Pen-y-Ghent with its north-south dry-stone wall was close to ideal. Believe me, I was glad of that barrier throughout a long, wild night and actually thanked it in the morning! I can only admire the people who built it.

Once all the walkers have left and night takes over, you feel a real sense of isolation. The tent becomes your best friend. Not only that, it beats the usual way of doing SOTA; shivering in the open air and I could stick my cold feet in the sleeping bag.

When the 160m antenna system failed, I was not prepared to leave the tent in the horrible conditions prevailing. As well as darkness there was fog, high winds and heavy rain to contend with. Yes, I could have done so but it would have taken me 15 minutes just to ‘tog up’ to go out and then half-fill the tent with water afterwards.

Despite (as was later discovered) a coil dropping out, it seems that I ‘came up smelling of roses’ when an alternative resonance was found within Top Band, allowing a continuation. That part of the band did have a radar on it and that may well have scuppered the chances of G4SSH and possibly others to hear my signals. However, I have noticed in the past that by midnight, skip is often too long for close inter-G work. The strange thing this time was that it didn’t seem that good into Europe either.

When Chris M0PXP came up in the dark at 0720, he did me a big favour. In driving snow he removed the 160m coils, finding partly detached. Chris really earned the half dozen Cadburys Roses sweets I gave him! Thanks Chris & friend, it was an unexpected pleasure to meet you, especially considering the ‘QTH.’

Last time I did New Year (NP4, 2007-08) I had with me a miniature ATU (See G-QRP Sprat magazine133) and ran-out a 30m wire counterpoise across the fell-top. After strapping the dipole’s BNC connector it proved surprisingly easy to tune the entire 160m-configured dipole and feeder to 80m, using this home-brew item. ‘So what’ you might say but this arrangement was designed to eliminate the need to leave the tent to alter links or fit coils in bad weather.

I was slightly put off using it on NP10 because of the trip hazard to other walkers had I needed to pitch next to the path to the north of the trig. For that reason and the extra weight - the latter being something it’s easy to become fixated with, I omitted it from the pack. However, it is good insurance if the antenna breaks. Whatever you are left with can be tuned to some frequency or another.

My apologies go to those who failed in the chase because I wasn’t on the ‘right band.’ This was mainly a 160m activation, with anything else a bonus. I felt very sorry for Karl MK3FEH who started the evening with high hopes of his first 160m SOTA QSO but I think it was mainly bad luck. High chaser noise levels are a big problem and almost nobody can put up what you might call a proper antenna for this long wavelength. I’m sure he will succeed in future.

It was evident that quite a few callsigns were absent from the tally; which is understandable at a holiday / family time. HNY is extended to them also and especially to Phil G4OBK, who I’m certain would have joined the Top Band party if he’d had an antenna so to do. Lets hope Phil will be back soon.

The spur of the moment decision to try 20m turned out to be a good one. As well as UK and EU, I was fortunate enough to work a handful of USA and Canadian stations. Roy’s spot brought them straight in.

80m allowed contacts around the UK and out as far as Germany and Scandinavia. I like this band and would have liked to have tried it closer to midnight.

With hindsight, I should have found the time to try 40m or perhaps 30m on New Years Eve afternoon. The trouble is there is only one op and he had much work ahead of him.

The descent on icy surfaces was slow and tricky due to a large, heavy backpack and balance affected by dehydration and lack of sleep. Despite almost 19 kg, it was easier to climb the mountain than it was to go down.

18 hours prone in the small tent with an airbed which burst in the first hour, added to constant noise caused by the WX outside, put paid to any real sleep. I have better sleep-mat options but this PVC ‘toy’ lilo is the lightest. All the stress caused by the weather forecasts which refused to co-operate robbed me of valuable sleep for two nights before the event. There was also an aftermath. Low energy and dizziness when rising from chairs and the XYL’s inability to me up.

Next time (if there is one?):

  1. Drink more.
  2. Try to get more sleep on the two nights prior.
  3. Bring a more reliable sleeping mat.
  4. Take only food required plus a safety margin.
  5. Arrange for better weather!

On reaching home, everything was unpacked to be hung up to dry. The sensible place for the flysheet was the garage and judging by the frozen snow which fell to the floor when it was unrolled, I would have been very unpopular had I chosen the conservatory. Eight days later the inner tent is dried and rolled up but the fly sheet is still hanging. The legacy of this expedition will continue for a little longer as will the great feelings it produced.

Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED - loyal chasers who must hone their skills to contend with high levels of noise. From the radio viewpoint, we activators have it easy in comparison. Special thanks to the many who stuck with me during unsocial hours, especially those who were up early again on the 1st, perhaps risking the rough edge of a tongue or two!

Thanks also to spotters: G4SSH; G0VOF and PA7ZEE. To Roy G4SSH for SMS text liaison, help with planning, band state information and alerting. To Mark G0VOF for shepherding me around the various frequencies plus help and advise when the antenna failed.

To Chris M0PXP and his friend who took the trouble to come up so we could meet and for their help with the iced-up 160m coils in a snow storm. To the people who built Pen-y-Ghent’s summit wall (or more appropriately their descendants) a heartfelt thank you!

Finally, thank you for your kind comments on the air, your warmth and friendliness. It makes all the difference when you’re out on a limb. We need a volunteer for next year!

73 and best wishes to all for 2017.
John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club station GX0OOO/P).

Photos: 2-5-9-13-30a-45-46-51-53-64-68-78-75-81-85.

Above: New Year’s Eve. On the way up. Grey, murky, windy day. Path up NP10’s north end.

Above: Walkers hiding from the strong wind at Pen-y-Ghent’s summit.

Above: Pen-y-Ghent tent site looking NE. Trig point just peeping out from wall.

Above: Pen-y-Ghent camp and the last time the airbed was seen alive!

Above: Inside the tent at 22:30 on the ‘dead’ bed. Log, Rig & mic with CW key on 1.832-CW.

Above: Visitors at around 07:30 on New Year’s Day. Chris M0PXP and friend working on a 160m coil.

Above: 07:30 on New Year’s Day. The 160m coil which tried to make a bid for freedom during the night.

Above: Chris M0PXP and friend up to see the sunrise from Pen-y-Ghent and about to descend. No hope of sun!

Above: Pen-y-Ghent tent site on New Year’s Day morning. I’ve seen worse but the weight of ice on the dipole is bending the mast.

Above: Pen-y-Ghent New Year camp site from trig point TP-5414/ WAB SD87/ IO84VD, SOTA G/NP-010 - 694m. Looking SW.

Above: Pen-y-Ghent QTH on New Year’s Day morning with icy dipole and path down.

Above: Preparing to leave. Pen-y-Ghent without the tent. Rucksack and my best friend for the night; the wall.

Above: The icy paved way in a high wind. To be avoided!

Above: The path after the tricky crags.

Above: Back at the car. A telephoto shot of Pen-y-Ghent G/NP-010 with its overnight dusting of snow.


Hi John
Thanks for a brilliant report of a memorable New Years Eve on PYG. A small part of me wishes I was up there too but there again a very large part of me doesn’t! I am looking forward to reading about your next adventure.



I did think about John being in the wilds in the dark playing radio over New Years Eve. I thought about the WX he would be exposed to as I mixed another large Vodka Martini and relaxed in the warm!

John, nice report as per. I can sympathise with the inflatable not staying inflated. The weight penalty of a proper carrymat is something to be endured. You may not have slept better due to the WX etc. but you wont have slept any worse and would have been insulated from the ground.

However, as someone who has self-inflicted metabolism issues (poor lifestyle, poor diet leading to early type II diabetes), don’t skip the meals and drinks. A cup of hot tea would have helped your spirits and even a Snot Poodle (Pot Noodle) would have helped. Failing hot food, and this will hurt you as a life long Yorkshireman, go to the supermarket and buy some chocolate bars and/or breakfast bars just for the trip. They’re not heavy nor bulky but will pack a useful boost to ailing blood sugar levels.


I did entertain camping out on G/NP-028 in order to try for a 160m S2S but my XYL’S reaction to my idea wasn’t favourable! :smile:

73, HNY Colin

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Hi John

Thanks for mentioning Scarborough’s new radio station, Coast and County. All news to me, I walked past their office in Northway yesterday and listened to the station for the first time this morning. Of course other stations are available - hi hi!


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Hi Nick,
I really can recommend a New Year SOTA overnighter. You could do the NP across the valley and we could arrange an S2S for midnight. I plan and agonise every year but the WX is rarely even half reasonable. The usual pattern is that we get appropriate weather for most of December then right at the last minute it cracks up or I get a disease of the ‘hooter’ or ‘loud speaker.’ Only three times have all the requirements coincided. Do it wrong and you could be in trouble. This time only the wall sealed it.

Coast and County got the last space on the N.Yorks multiplex so unlike YCR on FM, or Radio Scarborough - internet only, it’s Yorkshire-wide and proper broadcasting. Well, nearly proper – it is after all digital. These DAB licences are a bit expensive and I’m told a local fish & chip ‘magnate’ put up a few thousand to get them going. Of course our old friend Jerry Scott who was on the MV Ross Revenge in the 1980’s, is involved with C&C. When he worked for Radio York 4 or 5 years ago, he covered the Irton Tree when we were all camped out under it, turning up in the Radio York van, every day with a 10W link to Row Brow. He is on in the mornings and at other times.

They don’t seem to be stuck to a tiny play list like many other stations I could mention so you get massive variety. Of course, you don’t want to be listening when an ‘alien’ brand of music is on but you don’t get many stations playing tracks that are 20 minutes long. I was amazed to hear the full version of Arlo Guthrie’s, Alice’s Restaurant Massacree with full orchestration and five-part harmony.

They are finding some advertising, which is a healthy sign and have some great old jingles from the 1960’s re-mixed for C&C. I listen now and again when I’m out walking after Roy has gone QRT on 145.400 when SOTA dries up. It’s not just the music; since Radio 270 in 1966-67 from the Oceean-7, Scarborough has had a history of broadcasting and that interests me. If I can’t get C&C or the Test Match, I often go for BBC-WS, Radio-4, Radio-2 or Smooth. Keeps the mind off long hard ascents, particularly important with huge rucksacks.

Thanks for the 160m QSO. Well done on that from your QTH behind the hill amongst all that noise. I have rooted out those toroids and will get them to you. No worries if you decide not to go ahead; I have a jar full, just chuck them in the bin or keep for EMC probs.

Hope you’ll be out again soon. Me too! 73, John

Hi Andy,
Thank you for sparing me a thought freezing at the top of NP10 while you did the Hogmanay thing in a nice warm house albeit presumably also in a draughty kilt?

You are right about insulation from the ground. I read about its importance decades ago and now had a chance to prove it. It is much more important than ‘cushiness’ unless presumably you’re on rock or it’s very lumpy grass like on NP8 - Great Whernside. I knew the risks as it’s the second cheapo airbed that’s failed on a summit camp but weight is critical too. I got caught out again this time though. Just a scratty bit of 1/8” foam 2ft square would have made all the difference but I think you are right. I will have to think again or at least back it up.

Yorkshireman I know but after a life of self denial, skinflinting, mending everything that broke and making the rest, it suddenly dawned on me that I was ‘getting on a bit’ and shrouds don’t have pockets. Therefore I did have the specified choco bars with me. No less than four toffee crisps that were on offer in Scarborough for a quid plus a lot of other stuff I didn’t eat. I did enjoy the M&S mince pie though – the last one in the packet that my XYL had her eye on. It didn’t matter, by the time she discovered it had gone, so had I.
73, John.

Hello Colin:
It’s a pity your XYL didn’t go for that idea. Rombalds Moor - NP28 would have lent itself well to a rapid deployment and probable S2S. Where I think you went wrong was not to offer this as a recreational break for the whole family. A frame tent would have taken some getting up in that wind though but it would have been a good proving ground for no less than four Top Band coils and your marriage too!

73, John.

HNY to all and thanks for the replies here and on the pre-planning thread.

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Hi John a detailed and interesting report as always.

I just happened to check into Sotawatch late in the evening to see you were spotted on CW so tuned my rig to hear you making contacts. Your signals were very good varying from 559 to 599 so was reasonably confident that we could make a good contact on SSB so didn’t need to inflict my very poor CW on you again :o) I was unfortunately out during your earlier sessions so cannot comment on how the propagation had changed during your stay.

When we first made contact on SSB the signals quickly improved from 55 while we exchanged details. Soon after your signals had improved to near 59 (both ways) then suddenly you dropped to my noise floor which as that time was around S2. I knew we had exchange enough information for me to claim the chase and guessed something catastrophic had happened at one or other end of the link. I soon realised it was your end when I could still hear people calling you. I didn’t hear your QSY so I’m not able to comment if there was any difference in signal level between the two frequencies. My antenna is resonant near the data/WSPR end of the band so knew it would be pushing my tuner to allow a reasonable vSWR for my rig to work higher in the band. Whatever happened the antenna was going to be very inefficient.

I feel usual perceived discourse about 160m is that you can only reliably use the band with enormous antennas that are far too large to fit the usual urban garden. The antenna that I use from home for 160m is a Cushcraft MA160V (a vertical!) which I purchased third-hand from someone who said they couldn’t ever get it to perform very well. Only after getting it home I found a short strap had been incorrectly fitted which had caused the previous owners the problem. Add to that the bandwidth of the MA160V is very narrow making initial setup quite critical.

Your after-midnight CW session was very much weaker than earlier with a higher noise floor, which I put down to my end of the path being compromised with an antenna giving an impression of a random bit of wire. Because your chasers were also weak I nearly called you on CW!

However I waited for you to change modes and was pleased to get the second contact of your overnight activation.

Thank you for putting on yet another adventurous activation and look forward to hearing you again.


Hiya Carolyn,

It’s as good to hear from you on here as it was on 160m. You write a good ‘letter!’

I was interested to read how the activation sounded from your end of the link and also about how you tackled the difficulties. As you read in the account, it was a coil that dropped out of the same dipole that I showed you at Blackpool Rally a few years back. Despite having done several, I am not really geared up for lengthy summit stays of over about 6 hours. The equipment is made with weight in mind first and foremost so despite it often featuring good materials of aircraft standard, it errs on the side of flimsy. I could make stronger accessories but they would add to the extra weight of camping gear so you can’t win. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to get a longer mast and full size aerial such as Mark uses but going too far down that route is limiting. If anything I’m going backwards. I started 160m in 2004 with 100 Watts but now I use 50. Presumably like all activators, you quickly realize that you can’t do everything that might be desirable.

If you’d been there you’d have agreed with my conclusion that it wasn’t worth gearing up to go out and fix it in that weather. Much easier to stay put and make use of whatever was left of the capability, even if that was only 2m-FM QRP. I didn’t expect to get back on Top Band until maybe morning and was relieved to find that I could still tune part of it. Though I still don’t know whether the coil was part of the live antenna or just the isolated leg (it didn’t drop off at both ends), I will know more for the future but much depends on being able to convey the changes. Mark G0VOF was key to that on this occasion and as you will know, I also I rely on Roy G4SSH a lot. It was a wild night but I loved it and can’t stop thinking back to it.

Sometimes I think it’s a shame that 160m is such a challenge. More often than not you get between zero and three chasers in daylight or shall we say in established daylight and that makes it mainly a dark activity. Dark means overnighters or at least very early starts and hanging around at the day’s end. Since daylight lasts ‘forever’ in summer, it also means facing mostly winter weather, something you (for one) know all about!

Your MA160V vertical did surprisingly well and it was giving you a very strong signal for the most part. Sounds like your perceived ‘random wire’ and tuner did unexpectedly well later on too. Roy G4SSH just tunes up his Butternut (designed for 3.5 MHz and above) as best he can and more often than not manages to get through. In this case though on 1.985, he had radar QRM. Most of the others are using anything but a proper 160m antenna. You can’t get the gardens these days. I’m very lucky. Our 1938 semi-detached is in the middle of a plot with 200 feet between back and front boundaries so I was lucky enough to get a full sized 160m dipole up. Even then, one leg had to be folded sideways and the centre was only at 40 feet.

Almost any antenna that’s not dedicated for 160m will have a tiny useable bandwidth. That said, I was quite surprised when mine didn’t exceed 3:1 when moving from 1.843 to 1.850.

We are really missing Phil G4OBK. All the chasers relied on him to know if they had any chance of a SOTA contact with me. Basically if Phil was down at 579 they knew they had little chance. Sadly we won’t be hearing the likes of Phil’s big signal on Top Band for the foreseeable future. It must be a hard thing indeed to have to brutally downsize your station but a massive garden like Phil had, takes an awful lot of keeping up to.

Thanks again for your interest and input Carolyn and thanks for the 160m QSO’s. I hope there’ll be some more. I know I usually do CW first but call in CW if you want. I can drop to Farnsworth and send everything two or three times. All we need are the reports and just enough familiarity to recognize your own callsign. If you don’t read it, just send di-di-dah-dah-di-di (?) and we’ll try again. Better a CW QSO in the log than nothing at all.

73, John.