G4YSS Activation Report G/NP-031 on 27-09-18
BIRKS FELL G/NP-031 /4
2m-FM only - QRO
Times BST (UTC + 1). UTC for radio operations (denoted ‘z’)
G4YSS and Sasha - Lurcher (Greyhound-Staffy Cross)
Icom IC-E90 4 Band, 5W H/H with standard 1.3Ah battery
TC150V 50 Watt Linear Amplifier powered by -
One 11.1V, 5Ah Turnigy Li-Po Battery
Two-section Carbon rod/ PVC tubular mast.
Reserves (not used):
UV-5R 2 Band, 5W H/H
UV-3R 2 Band, 2W H/H
One 11.1V, 2.2Ah Turnigy Li-Po Battery
J-Pole vertical for 2m with 2-section ali mast
Pack Weighed at 9.55kg (21.1 pounds) inc 750ml water and lunches.
I was detailed to pick up my XYL and her friend in-bound from Guernsey to Leeds-Bradford Airport, so this was first an airport run, second a dog walk and lastly a SOTA activation. Hence nothing ambitious and a short summit stay was planned, which usually means VHFM with a handheld.
Knowing that Birks is only a foot over 2,000ft and has some bigger neighbours, I was slightly concerned that I might not get 4 contacts, particularly considering how 2m band occupancy has been declining of late. I say ‘of late’ but it’s been going steadily downhill for a few years now. There’s little or no SSB outside contests, there’s precious little FM on some days and the repeaters are all but dead. Perhaps it started way back with the demise of the ‘B’ licence. All those enthusiastic VHF experts are not getting replaced.
To help the cause, I took along my little-used 50W amp. A black heatsink, containing the necessary ‘gubbins’ and a label on the front announcing ‘TC150V.’ Weight is about half a kg (560gm inc coax flying lead and power cable). To further enhance my chances, I strapped the trusty old 3-ely Sotabeam to the rucksack along with a two section mast, which lifts the beam to a little over head height. The night before, I put an alert on Sotawatch for 08:45z.
Against this was the fact that my chief spotter, Roy G4SSH was on holiday and mobile phone coverage on NP31 is usually nil.
I have the pleasure of walking my Grandson’s dog Sasha on a daily basis but for the last two weeks, with her family on holiday, she’s been with us 24/7. Usually enthusiastic and bounding upstairs to greet me, poor Sasha wondered what had hit her when I woke her at 05:50. In fact she didn’t even get up immediately, preferring a lie-in while I rushed about getting ready.
We left Scarborough for the 88 mile drive to Litton village at 06:28 arriving via Sutton Bank, the A1M (N), Ripon, Pateley Bridge and Grassington by 08:40. Sasha slept a lot of the way. Who could blame her but she got more interested when we got onto the smaller roads. In her eyes, a minor road means there might be a walk opportunity coming.
I whipped the UV-3R out of my top pocket while passing through Threshfield on the off chance that Nick G8VNW might be listening on S20. When you think about it, why would he be constantly monitoring in the Wharfe valley, when the only activity he ever hears is SOTA.
Breakfast was served for both of us and we set off walking at 09:03. There were sheep about so I put the dog on the lead. You can’t be too careful, though I do trust her with regard to sheep, much more than I used to.
Half way up, while I was huffing and puffing, I noticed Sasha wasn’t even opening her mouth to breathe. Next time it’s panniers for her and less in my pack! Only joking.
The climb took us 47 minutes but one stop was needed to attend to doggy matters, plus quite a bit of sniffing at the sides of the track. Not all the distinctively shaped dung was down to sheep, some of it was obviously produced by rabbits, so I could understand her preoccupation. More of that later.
The route is via a well used Bridle Path, GPS marked in the dim and distant past. Bear left onto the bridleway from the Queens Arms pub and through the farm yard, which was unusually clean underfoot today. At SD 9093 7411 leave the concrete farm road and go straight on through Gate 1. Going downhill on grass (losing about 7m) pass between walls to a footbridge at SD 9114 7409 then up to Gate 2 at SD 91289 74064. Gate 3 is at SD 91455 73966.
Continue to follow the path where it bends sharply left at SD 91707 73888. The next point is Gate 4 at SD 92041 74383. Gate 5 is set in the spine wall at SD 92450 74920 and it’s also well within the 25m zone. Today we turned right to activate near the trig point located another couple of hundred metres further at SD 92597 74838.
G/NP-031: BIRKS FELL, 610m, 4 pts, 09:50 to 11:00. 11 deg.C. 15-20 mph SW wind. Overcast with minor drizzle at the start. Continuous sunshine from 11am, when we left. No Vodafone mobile phone coverage. LOC: IO84WE, WAB: SD97, Trig: TP-3179.
After some rather dreary photos due to the weather, we set up by the wall where very likely, some kind SOTA op of the past had placed some flat stones to sit on. There was a cold wind leaking through the wall, so I put Sasha’s coat on. She snubbed my efforts of carrying up a dog-sized piece of foam in favour of wet grass, which she settled down into and dozed off. There’s no accounting for taste, as they say.
145.400 FM - 9 QSO’s:
At 09:03z and after first checking 145.400, I put out a 5 Watt call on S20. There was no response so I switched on the linear and tried again. With the beam pointing over the wall, a direction since determined to be approximately SW, my 50 Watts brought in John MW1FGQ, a diligent monitor of both the 2m and 4m calling channels. The exchange was 59 both ways so I told him about the amplifier.
To see if it was working I switched the ‘burner’ off. With that, John amended his report from S9 plus 40dB down to S9 plus 30dB so perhaps he was using a preamp. He also reported some instability in the form of an audible oscillation but it wasn’t reported by any subsequent station. I think it may have been another signal on the channel combining with mine.
After John gave his 73, three stations called in at once. ‘Great’ I thought, if I handle this well, the summit will be qualified. I worked these without delay starting with M6OXO, Brian in the Wirrall (2 x 59). If he builds them, Brian must surely house his home-brew QRP rigs in a red and white square tin box! Next was 2E0LKC, Peter about 2 miles from Manchester Airport and last of the three, G4MY - Art in Briarfield (Nelson). Art was 59 to me, reporting my sigs as 59 with 50 Watts and 54 barefoot from the 5W H/H.
A return to S20 was the next thing and in came Walt G6XBF in North Leeds. Not having worked for some time we renewed acquaintances, swapping 59’s and a list of our respective aches and pains. To an outside observer it would have sounded like 80m on a Sunday morning.
From a short distance down the Wharfe Valley in Threshfield, called Nick G8VNW. Nick, who was 59 to me, gave me 59 for my QRO efforts, dropping to 52 with just 5 Watts. He also said that my signal was wavering, which I would put down to the wind blowing the beam around. At times the boom must have deviated 15 degrees from the horizontal. Normally working HF, I’m not that used to this kind of thing. Nick provided a welcome spot which brought in further chasers.
Next came a nice chat with G1OHH, now a Great Grandma and also nursing a broken bone in her arm which hadn’t been properly attended to. Sue, who was 59 to me, confirmed the observations of previous callers. Namely 59 with 50W and 53 with five. Having used this amp only once or twice before and with varied success, I was gathering a lot of positive data on it today. I reached down to see how hot it was but it was barely warm. It can’t be too inefficient.
Who should call in very unexpectedly but Allan GW4VPX from Pencader. Thinking the latter was somewhere just south on Anglesey, I looked up Pencader. It turns out that it is pretty much in South Wales with a Swansea postcode and 282 km from Birks Fell with plenty of lumpy bits in between. There’s no wonder Allan said, ‘Birks Fell is a good one for me on VHF.’
Both using 50 Watts, I was pretty pleased with this QSO even though we only exchanged 51 each way. Allan’s signal was getting badly chopped up by the rubbish that my receiver was pulling in, including some music at one point! When I did finally see Allan’s signal on the ‘S’ meter I gave him 55.
This is the price you pay for using a handie on a gain aerial but this was only going to be a dog walk so why worry? I wish I had worried more about the station and brought along the more selective FT817ND. The dog might have been the looser however. Less lunch and definitely not the can of sardines she was about to enjoy.
The last station to call was G4ZRP, coincidentally the second ‘Brian in the Wirral’ of the day. Brian requested the WAB square and trig point number. The exchange was 51/ 51 at first and 54/ 51 once I’d seen the meter without the overpowering noise.
I tried a couple of CQ’s after this but there were no further responses that I could hear. The mic was dropped and lunch served up. By the time I’d fed the dog and myself, the time limit had been reached, so I never did get around to calling again. The last thing I wanted was a flea in my ear from the missus for being late at the airport. After all I was driving her car and using it for SOTA.
Just before we walk off the sun made its appearance. Under blue skies at last, it took 40 minutes to get back down to the car at 11:40. The journey was not without incident however. Seeing how far I could trust Sasha in the presence of sheep, I let her off the lead. I have been steadily training her for some years now and it would seem that progress has been made; she looked at the sheep but that was all.
Just before the final section where the path turns sharp right into the track, the dog’s ears shot up. Head down and quickly up to top speed, she shot forward and down the track hard on the heels of a rabbit, which tried to escape by ‘doing a 180.’ It certainly out-turned its pursuer but the advantage was temporary. Now both animals were coming back at me at a rate of knots but she’s no slouch at this game, having been used as a lamper before running away then being rescued. The unequal encounter was rapidly concluded but the rabbit’s end was at least quick.
The first time this happened she took the carcass out of my reach and consumed the lot. This time she stood over it, looking at me as if to say, ‘Aren’t you going to pick it up then?’ It might have been an idea but I had enough to carry, so coaxing her on we continued down to the car without further incident.
The 123 mile drive home was via Ilkley, the A1M and the A64, calling at LBA to collect the Guernsey girls. Timing was good apart from the fact that there was too much of it so I hung around for an hour or so in a layby near the airport. Picking up is free but like some of those disreputable night clubs I’ve heard about, it costs you to get out; in this case £3. We were home for 16:30 but the hard bit was taking the dog back to her family after two weeks of staying with us.
NP31: 371m ascent, 5.5 km (3.4 miles). 47U, 40D (Litton-Trig.)
Distance driven: 211 miles.
9 on 2m-FM.
4 SOTA points.
All in all it had been a grand day out with the emphasis on an easy activation to fit into the time available. The simple approach made a change from six hour summit stays and multi-band HF operation. I often say I’ll do more like this but I keep drifting back to HF.
Everything went according to plan apart from the rabbit incident. It was dull and cool in the morning until 11am when we were coming off but at least we got the views on the way down.
Local SOTA friends tell me that it can be hard to get the required four contacts from some summits on VHF these days, so despite the 50 Watts and gain antenna, helped by Nick’s spot, I may have been lucky getting nine in the log midweek.
One thing that came out of this activation was increased confidence in the TC150V linear amp, which I think is Italian in origin. Revisiting the scantly labelled circuit diagram and my photos of it’s internals, it does appear quite well made and output filtering can clearly be seen. It works well with the IC-E90 and FT817ND but not with my Vertex VX150, which flips back to receive within a second of pressing the PTT.
The IC-E90’s receiver barely coped with the RF that was around. People were cutting in and out and there were some dreadful noises at times. The FT817 would have handled this much better but the trouble is, it’s not a simple matter to separate it from the 817/ HF linear combination that I currently use. I could do with a spare FT817 but there again, I could do with a few things.
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED. Best ‘DX’ was Allan GW4VPX, 10 miles north of Carmarthen. Many thanks to the day’s only spotter G8VNW.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)
Above: Sasha arriving at G/NP-031 Birks Fell trig point TP-3179
Above: G/NP-031 Birks Fell trig point TP-3179, showing the original OS pillar number.
Above: Activation of G/NP-031 Birks Fell on 2m-FM (QRO)
Above: Activation of G/NP-031 Birks Fell on 2m-FM with Sotabeam. SOTA’s Pen-y-Ghent G/NP-010 left of centre and part of Fountains Fell G/NP-017 extreme left.
Above: Trig looks better in sunshine. G/NP-031 Birks Fell
Above: Leaving on the path from the top gate on G/NP-031 Birks Fell
Above: Path back down to Litton from Birks Fell
Above: Another view of NP10 Pen-y-Ghent (centre) from Birks Fell
Above: Birks Fell path. Gate-4
Above: Prized possession
Above: Green lane linking farm to fell
Above: Track through farm, Litton Village
Above: The Queens Arms, Litton Village
Above: Front lawn at the Queens Arms, Litton Village
Above: Back at the parking spot, Litton Village. Next stop LBA, then home to Scarborough