G4YSS: G/NP-032 NEW YEAR Summit Camp, 2018 to 2019

G4YSS: G/NP-032 NEW YEAR Summit Camp, 31-Dec-18 to 01-Jan-19
Mad Englishmen and Dogs Go Out in the Midnight Mist - For Double Points.

G4YSS using SSEG Club Call GX0OOO/P on 160-80-20m QRO and 2m-FM QRP
Accompanied by Sasha (Lurcher – Greyhound/ Staffy)
All times UTC. Sun times: 08:28z and 15:56z

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
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 (not used)
Viper-2 Ridge tent (1988. Fly, inner, pegs & poles - 2.2kg)
Mountain Eqpt. Nova-II, synthetic sleeping bag 1.2kg (new to try out)
Foam mat (54 inch)
85 Litre Rucksack

Short (half size) foam mat
Sleeping bag (child size)
One tin dog meat
Two handfuls of dried food
Plastic bowl and water bottle
Fleece base layer and snood
Fleece lined waterproof top coat
FM TX (100mW)
DAB112 Technika DAB/FM Receiver (used as dog monitor)
Headlamp with flashing facility (fixes to top of coat)

Pack-weight: 18.7kg (41.3 pounds) inc 1 Ltr fluids

If you think this is just a way of doubling your rewards for no extra effort, you’d be right but there’s more to it than that. There’s something special about overnighting on a summit, which despite the pain it causes, continues to attract. Yes, at my age I should know better but it’s been going on since The Cheviot in 1981 and I have yet to get it out of my system. I just love the wild places.

Previous New Year SOTA Summit Camps:
2004-05: G/NP-018 Nine Standards Rigg
2007-08: G/NP-004 Whernside
2016-17: G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent

Weather is right at the top of the list when it comes to SOTA activating but that applies to an even greater degree for summit camps in winter. The main things at work here are the fact that it’s a fixed date and you need not one but two reasonable mountain weather forecasts. In Britain particularly, the prerequisites are not often favourable. No wonder then that it would be foolhardy to try to do this every single new year.

When December comes round these thoughts occupy my mind but that can be very frustrating when nothing can be planned until a day or two beforehand. More often than not the forecasts are totally unsuitable, the most common factor being high winds and sometimes deep snow. When that happens I am left with a mixture of disappointment and relief. ‘Off the hook, thank goodness’ and life can go back to normal. Another important factor is health. Colds, sore throats bronchitis are all show stoppers and I suffer too often from the latter two.

WEATHER - Mountain forecast at 600m ASL (Yorkshire Dales)

Monday 31st December 2018:
Wind westerly 25 to 35 mph, overcast with cloud base 600m and fine drizzle here and there. Walking arduous in some areas with sudden gusts lower down. Temp at 600m: 4C and 7C to 10C valleys.

Tuesday 1st January 2019:
Wind north-westerly 25 to 35 mph decreasing to 15mph after dawn, overcast with cloud base 600m and fine drizzle here and there. Temp at 600m: 6C dropping to 3C and 9C to 10C valleys.

The best thing here were the ‘high’ temperatures of 4 to 6C and the fact that MWIS forecasts often err on the severe side. Unlike Whernside, Cracoe Fell at 508m should be below the cloud base.

Choice of Summit?
This is never as straightforward as it may seem. With ten NP’s already activated in 2018, what was there left to chose from? I like it to be at least a 4-pointer, better still a six but if wind speeds are going to be high there has to be some form of shelter to hide the tent behind. Summit shelters are out of the question. For one thing the ground surrounding them is often rocky and secondly they need to be left for other walkers to use. Fortunately quite a few Pennine hills have dry stone walls running across their summits.

Four pointers and above hitherto unactivated (in 2018 by me) were: NP3 Burnhope Seat; NP1 Cross Fell, NP7 Wild Boar Fell, the Howgill hills - NP13 and NP19, NP14 Rogan’s Seat, NP16 Dodd Fell and NP18 Nine Standards. Apart from NP1’s high spec and newly rebuilt shelter, all these have what I call windswept summits and I was nearly blown off NP18 at 2004-05 New Year. NP20 is a long way to drive.

Though I have overnighted on it three times in the past, NP2 is a special case and now out of the running. So what of the ones with walls? The Calf NP22 from Barbondale and Baugh Fell NP12 from Garsdale are on the steep side for a 40 pound rucksack and though there’s a depression in the ground, the Calf’s wall is in a poor state.

Rejecting all of these, I’d more or less settled on a reactivation of Whernside NP4, to pick up the 2018 bonus plus an additional 9 points for the 1st of January. Apart from milestones, I don’t think of points much anymore, except in terms of value for chasers. Anyway, NP4 went by the board with the forecast. The predicted strong westerly wind would have forced me to the east side of the wall, where there is a stony path and barely enough room.

So now we come down to 2-pointers. This was something of a let down but of the three, Cracoe Fell was an easy decision, which at least looks like a hill, unlike Hoove. Aye Gill Pike, though having a wall, is a long drive.

Digging out some photos of NP32, I could see the ideal place to pitch on the east side of a particularly high wall, between it and some large rocks. At some point in the planning, it seemed I would be dog-sitting so Sasha would be coming along. Now the only question was, could I get a 27kg dog over a tall ladder stile?

Route to NP32:
The upper part of Fell Lane gives way to the open fell via a second and third gate at SD 98713 59825 and through a sheep fold. A distinct but boggy path goes initially east from here and through a reed bed. The path continues via SD 98763 59815; SD 98974 59833 and SD 99258 59788 at which point it turns to a more agreeable southeast and begins to climb more steeply.

The higher reaches of the path can be followed via SD 99302 59739 and SD 99331 59678 to a small cairn located at SD 99351 59621. After that it seems to peter out giving way to a series of gullies and grass tussocks, to the summit ridge at SD 99578 59146. A ridge path then parallels the wall giving easy access to the obelisk at SD 99316.
The path may actually make a sharp right turn after the cairn?)

Starting at 10:00, the 82 mile drive via A64, A59 and B6265, took until 12:15. The journey as far as Harrogate was ‘shortened’ by talking to first Roy G4SSH then Phil G4OBK and Terry G0VWP on 145.400-FM.

The parking place is on a grass verge up Fell Lane, next to a fence and gate which go across the track. One car can be left within 6 inches of the wall without blocking anything at SD 9828 5988, a distance gain of 500m from the main B6265 road.

Pre-packed the night before but now with the tent and mast strapped on, getting into the loaded 85-litre rucksack was the usual challenge. After some preparation and a false start, the walk was started at 12:45 in dull overcast and breezy conditions. There was no sign of low-cloud or drizzle. The dog was visibly relieved to be off after the journey and what she sees as a lot of unnecessary messing around.

Detours had to be made on the boggy path lower down and not liking to get her feet wet or muddy if it can be avoided, Sasha is quite good at finding the best line too. As we got higher and it got steeper, she got more excited. Running ahead, she left me panting behind. Going up steep ground with a big pack is noticeably safer than going down, though it’s far harder on the lungs. It soon became apparent that I’d forgotten just how steep Cracoe Fell is.

The obelisk and WW1/ WW2 memorial was sighted earlier than I expected but its proximity turned out to be an illusion. It’s always a massive relief when the ascent is complete. Eventually we were photographing the war memorial plaque and some poppy crosses at its foot but it was hard to stand up out of the lee of this large structure. In fact I was pushed sideways and overbalanced by a powerful gust the first time I tried to get unto the plinth. The sooner we could get behind that wall, the better.

CRACOE FELL, G/NP-032, 508m, 2pts, 13:31 on 31-Dec-2018 to 11:06 on 01-Jan-2019, 4C (later 6C), 30+ mph wind on 31st and 15 mph on 1st. No lying snow (or anywhere in the north of England). (LOC: IO84XA – WAB: SD95, No Trig). Constant Vodafone mobile phone coverage from all parts of the route and summit.

Ladder Stile:
Soon we were at the wall stile, which looked bigger than ever. I climbed over and dumped the rucksack, an act that made me feel like a helium balloon. Going back for the dog, I tried to lift her onto the platform at the top of the steps. I could get her sixty pounds to the required level but then she was at completely the wrong angle with legs horizontal. When I tried to get her front paws onto the woodwork, she panicked, resisted and pushed off rather than trying to help. I shot back, almost falling and we ended up with me arresting her fall by grabbing her hindquarters in ungainly fashion. After a second and third attempt we were tantalisingly closer to success but no further forward in our quest. With aching arms, I was starting to realize that we were not going to be camping on the leeward side of this wall.

A few metres from the ladder there was actually a jagged hole through the wall, about a foot (30cm) in diameter. The heavy copings were still in place above the damage but it looked very unstable and would have needed enlargement at which point it would certainly have collapsed. Despite the fact it could have caved in any day soon, I was not prepared to help it on its way.

Just then a middle-aged couple came along and I explained the situation. Coming up from Rylstone, they had passed a break in the wall at some point but could not remember where. I walked along for a short distance but could see nothing and I tried the other way too.

Another couple, younger this time, turned up and offered to help me lift Sasha over but I had to decline. How would we get back over in the morning or in an emergency? Standing there, being buffeted by the wind and getting colder by the minute, it was beginning to look like two choices. Get four quick contacts on 2m-FM then go back down and abandon the overnighter altogether, or accept a wild night on the west side of the wall.

In the end we decided to try and find a location on the east side of and as close as possible to the obelisk. Knowing that the wind was not forecast to ease until ‘before dawn’ and was also predicted to change direction from W to NW, this situation was far from satisfactory. After a lot of walking around, the tent was unrolled and pitched with difficulty, adjacent to a large rock. Before the job was even finished, one peg had flailed out which meant recourse to the bag with extra pegs and extra guy ropes.

In the end the tent had three rear guy lines with four at the front. Fortunately the ground comprised short grass over firm soil and not too stony. My Boxing Day activation of Dale Head LD20 had been affected by high winds and flapping fabric but that situation only had to be endured for 2 or 3 hours. This would be different but there was nothing more I could do.

It took another half hour at least, to get everything inside and laid out satisfactorily. Then there were the aerials to deploy. An early priority was to get the dog into her sleeping bag as she was shivering and that was with two coats on. The noise was without respite and the tent’s sides were moving in and out wildly, pumping air from one side to another, keeping us from warming up. Occasionally there would be a loud ‘crack’ from the fabric like a pistol shot.

Summary of Sotawatch Alerts:
31-12-2018 Times:
15:30z: 14.052.6-CW/ 14.285-SSB
17:00z: 3.557-CW/ 3.760-SSB
18:30z: 1.832-CW 1.846-SSB
19:30z: 145.400/ 145.500-FM
22:00z: 1.832-CW 1.846-SSB
23:43z: 145.400/ 145.500-FM

01-01-2019 Times:
00:30z: 1.832-CW 1.846-SSB
08:30z: 3.557-CW 3.760-SSB

14.053 CW - 6 QSO’s from 15:32z:
The dipole was satisfactorily VSWR tested on 80m, indicating that all sections were integral, before pulling the 20m links. I tried the self spotting system for this session and it worked in a very short time. Unusually, I could even see my own spot just afterwards.

A single CQ brought in George N1GB in VT with a 599/ 579 exchange. With 30 Watts at my end, it was immediately evident that conditions weren’t all that bad. Next in was K3TCU Gary in PA with 579/ 559 then EA5AER Javier 599/ 559.

Back over the pond we went again as the familiar N4EX Richard called in from NC with 579/ 539, followed much more locally by Phil G4OBK coming in at 589 but struggling a bit with my signal in noise at 439. Finally Phillip VE1WT – Nova Scotia exchanged with me at 589/ 559. As with all QSO’s, New Year Greetings were passed across both ways and after a couple of GA’s, I remembered to send ‘GM’ to the remainder.

The unfamiliarity of non-EU callsigns beginning with N, K and V introduced more errors than usual in the sending but apart from that, after the fight with the tent, things were looking up. However, my feet which were rapidly chilling.

14.285 SSB - 2 QSO’s from 15:56z:
Just two stations were worked on 20m SSB. CT1MH Antonio 59/ 57 and AA1VX Dave in Maryland, struggling at 57/ 22. Again the power was set to 30 Watts - 2.5 Watts excitation to the MX-P50M amp.

145.550 FM - 8 QSO’s from 16:07z
Remaining with 2.5 watts set on the FT817ND and connected to the J-Pole, which was fixed to the top of the front tent pole, I had a short chat with the following stations: G4OBK Phil in Pickering, North Yorks; G6XBF Walt in north Leeds. Next to call were M1MAJ/M and M3ZCB/M Martyn & Caroline having returned to their car following an activation of Fair Snape Fell (a fair walk I hear).

The final four: G4JNN Paul at Dudley Hill, Bradford coming up with all sorts of familiar local place names like ‘Swain House’ where I went to school; G4BLH/ M - Mike was driving up and down the street to find the optimal position to work me from outside his neighbour’s house in Clitheroe; G1DZC Geoff (Leeds) who worked at International Harvester in Bradford, overlapping with my three years there from 1966 to 1969; we were both apprentices and finally (for the time being) M0IUK Dave in Sheffield.

It was enjoyable but I’d done too much chatting and as a result missed the 80m QRV time by 10 minutes. Quickly rushing out a self spot, I went out to close the 20m links and QSY’d to 3.557 which was being used.

3.558 CW - 8 QSO’s from 17:17z:
First to see the self spot was Lars SA4BLM. Though very weak, we were able to successfully complete at 339/ 539 and swap HNY with one another. Next came G4WSB but Bill was not hearing me well. In QRM and QSB he found it difficult. In a similar vein was Dave G0EVV then G0HIO Mike. With just 4 QSO’s in almost 20 minutes, 80m was having an off-day indeed. The noise and QRM were terrible and the skip was somehow not right. Furthermore, there was still no sign of Roy G4SSH. 80m is usually a breeze for him.

Grappling my way slowly down the log: G4OBK Phil; G3RMD Frank; GW4VPX Allan and G3RDQ David.

With the exception of Lars, outgoing reports were in the range 559 to 599 but coming back was anything between 339 and 539. I checked the amp. Was it still working or was I just running 2.5 Watts from the driver? Well it was switched on with the right filter selected and I think later sessions proved that, yes it was OK.

Power was 50W with 30W for the first two. The 8 QSO’s spanned 35 minutes and used up an awful lot of battery power. Even Phil G4OBK could only give me 459.

3.760 SSB - 4 QSO’s from 17:56z:
Another struggle ensued but Karl M3FEH (55/ 56) was waiting on the channel and spotted me. He also flagged up on the spotting page, the fact that I was giving out the wrong WAB square of SD09 – a typo. The correct one was SD95. Karl didn’t have the heart to tell me until the next day. Ashamed does not say it. I could have my WAB books taken off me for this! Banned from the WAB net. Next in the log was G4IAR Dave, a seasoned WAB op who would ‘know the truth’ immediately but we were not good signals to each other.

Don G0RQL followed and for a change, he was wiped out by noise too. I got 37 from Don. At 18:10 I logged Michael EI3GYB in Mayo 56/ 46. By the end of this session, the first of the available four 5 Ah Li-Po batteries was fully discharged. It was hardly surprising.

As time passed I was in increasing discomfort and much of the time the dog was looking worried from inside her sleeping bag, especially when a crack of fabric scared her. If I lay down on my side the supporting elbow gave me gyp and after 10 minutes the upper arm felt as though it was about to break. If I knelt, my legs soon hurt and my shoulders were touching the tent sides which were moving with enough force to push me over onto the rig. Sitting without a backrest was shear hell, though women seem to be able to do this with impunity. It’s always the same but you tend to forget how bad it can get. At least it was time to go out and add the 160m coils. Boots on and stiffly out through both doors.

Top Band Coils & Dog:
It was black dark outside and looking round I saw that Sasha had followed me out so I took the precaution of switching her headlight on. This fastens to her coat in the middle of her back and it can be made to flash. After finding the end sticks with my headlight and helped by reflective tape, it didn’t take long to fit the coils via their electrical connections but thinking they’d be needed over the coming hours of buffeting, I then struggled to fit the clasps with cold fingers.

The distraction of the Dog wandering around and the potential for her to run off, made me abandon the task, the risk being that one or more coils could fall out, which happened on Pen-y-Ghent precisely 2 years earlier. In fact Sasha put her head down and started heading along the path we’d come up at a fast walking pace. The low-cloud hadn’t yet arrived and seeing the light bobbing along in time, I ran for all I was worth and grabbing her collar, bundled her back into the tent. What she was thinking of I’ll never know but I assume she was spooked by the sound of the wind and its effect on the tent. I tucked her back into the warmth and I think she eventually came to terms with it. An hour later she was blissfully snoozing with just a nose sticking out of her sleeping bag.

1.832 CW - 11 QSO’s from 18:39z:
Eagerly anticipated, it was now time for 160m. Using the full available power of 50 Watt’s (or thereabouts) I called G4SSH Roy, who had failed to show on 80m. Nothing was heard but a CQ brought in Frank G3RMD with an easy copy 599/ 559. OH9XX Marko followed with 599+/ 569 and HNY.

Settling into a rhythm: G3RDQ David 579/ 599; ON7DQ Luc 579/ 559; G4IPB Paul in Teesdale 599/ 579; DJ5AV Mike 579/ 569; EI7CC Pete in Dublin 579/ 559; SM6CNX Dan 579 x 2; G4OBK Phil 599 x 2; LA9XGA Tor 599 x 2 and US0TA Anatoly – Ukraine 569/ 559. There was still no sign of Roy when the channel dried up at 19:09.

1.846 SSB - 11 QSO’s from 19:17z:
This frequency was far from clear but it was the one advertised. G8ADD in Birmingham was first with 56/ 57 and Brian’s advice was to stick with it. Next came GM4WHA Geoff 33 x 2; G4OBK Phil 59/57; EI3GYB Michael 59/ 56; G4IPB Paul 59/ 48; G4IAR Dave 58/ 57; GI0AZB Ian 58/ 33; G3RMD Frank 59/ 57; M3FEH Karl 55 x2; GI0AZA Esther and MI1AIB Paul 58/ 55. Power was 50 Watts and both Top Band sessions were posted by my son Phil G0UUU listening on the Nantwich web RX.

Just in case there was anybody QRM’d ‘out of existence’ with the general racket plus loud music playing on 1.846 (I could hear every lyric); at the end of the session I sent a self spot for 1.853 SSB but there were no takers. It would be difficult not to be pleased with the sight of the 160m log and I was very grateful that so many paused their New Year activities to come up and work the station.

The time was now 8pm and wearing just a base layer and fleece in a draughty tent, thoughts turned to my brand new sleeping bag. This Mountain Equipment synthetic Nova-II is a recent purchase and in this situation, turned out to be well worth the 105 GBP I paid for it. It has a good loft, a comfort temperature of 3C, a comfort limit of -3C and weighs 1.2kg. Hitherto I have never used a sleeping bag which cost more than 20 quid so sliding into this one was a real pleasure, not to sleep for now but just to keep warm.

145.425 FM - 6 QSO’s from 20:23z:
After the QRM on 160m SSB, which could only be described as hellish, the pure sound of FM was welcome. With 2.5 Watts again, I worked: M0XLT Kevin in Gargrave; G0WUY Alex in York; M1DHA Alan at Barnoldswick (IC706-2G to a big amp constrained to 80W); M0RSF Chris in Leeds using 2.5W like me; G0HRT Rob at Southport with an FT8900 – 50W to an X50 and G0FLI Neil QTH Worrall north of Sheffield at 850ft ASL.

Time off:
With an hour and twenty minutes before the next scheduled session (Top Band at 22:00) this was the opportunity to take some time out. The older I get, the more I need a break from being scrunched up operating radio. A mug of hot tea would have been very welcome at this stage but no stove meant no hot food or drinks. Besides there was enough going on without adding cooking to the work load. Sasha did have her evening meal however and a few bits of my sandwich besides.

Some time was spent sending texts of ‘HNY’ to various family members and friends, giving the dog some attention and knowing I would be up until well after 1am, trying for some shut-eye. The latter wasn’t readily available mainly due to the loud noise generated by high winds outside and the nervousness wondering whether the ancient tent would stand up to it for the umpteenth time.

My Brother-in-Law once told me that from his experience in a Scottish gale, ridge tents could stand up to more punishment than the more modern type. Being where we were just then, I hung on his every word of 30 years ago and fervently hoped it was true! Shelter is the first priority and if anything went wrong with poles, pegs, guy lines, shock loops or fabric up here, my four-legged friend and I could be in some danger. There’s only so much you can put right.

1.832 CW - 3 QSO’s from 22:00z:
This session was mainly for any ops who were unable to take the earlier Top Band opportunity. With a power of 50 Watts I was hoping for some European stations as well as extra UK ones.

First in the log in response to my call was Roy G4SSH. I had given him up for lost but surprisingly this session brought him in when I least expected it. The exchange was 559/ 229 but we still managed to swap a little information and a new year greeting. Next in was Frank, G3RMD an easy copy at 599/ 579 and better than the QSO of 18:39 which had produced a 599/ 559 exchange.

The rig cut out at this point and I had to quickly install 5Ah battery No3.

Perhaps propagation was running a little further than in the earlier session but it was only after a struggle that I managed to work Sake PA0SKP. Reports were 559/ 229 and many repeats were necessary in QSB.

1.850 SSB - 1 QSO at 22:35z:
Just one QSO in SSB and it was with Nick G8VNW in Threshfield. It was hardly surprising that reports were 59++ both ways; Threshfield is 3 miles distant and line of sight from Cracoe Fell. We were able to have a brief chat. It was almost like 2m-FM.

145.425 FM – 7 QSO’s from 23:40z thru’ 00:20z:
For the run up to midnight on New Year campover’s, I traditional go for 2m-FM. Is there a better choice? Probably not.

Two CQ’s on 145.500 brought nothing. A third was answered by a lady with an unusual callsign; G6QA Linda in Bolton 59/ 54. I now wish I’d asked from which relative she’d inherited the callsign. Linda’s QRZ page gives the issue year of 1928 for the now rare G6QA.

At 23:59, in the dying gasp of 2018 and after a couple of CQ’s, in came 2E0XLG Chris QTH Thornton-in-Craven. Chris can often be worked in a radio shack at 1,600 feet ASL somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales. We have worked before and I worked him again the next day on the drive home. Trouble is my old brain doesn’t always recognize callsigns quickly enough to make it count.

31st December 2018
2018 gives way to 2019:
1st January 2019


At 00:01 reports of 59 were re-exchanged between Chris 2E0XLG and I for the first QSO of 2019; well at least on this frequency and in this area. Chris could now claim double points but I still needed three more QSO’s to secure my five extra points.

Waiting in the wings to deliver HNY messages and my double points were: G8VNW Nick; G0HRT Rob; G6XBF Walt and G4OBK Phil. Everybody was 59 to me. Walt and Phil gave my 2.5 Watts 57 with a 53 coming from Rob. Phil said, ‘See you on 160m.’

1.832 CW - 5 QSO’s from 00:30z:
As per the alerted time, Phil was first on the frequency for a 599/ 579 report swap. Next a weak signal but immediately recognizable as Roy who gave me 339 in response to 559 from Cracoe Fell. After G4SSH; G0HRT Rob 579/ 599; G0BPU Mike 589/ 339, G4WAB Jake (G1YFF) 589/ 579 and EI7CC Pete 559/ 339. Power was 30 Watts with 50W for the final QSO.

1.846 SSB - 2 QSO’s from 00:40z:
Now Karl had the chance to air his new callsign which had changed from M3FEH to 2E0FEH at midnight. He also got his first SOTA chase of 2019 at 55 both ways. Tying the ribbons before retiring to bed was Brian G8ADD with 55/ 44 from Birmingham.

Finishing at 00:55 this was the last item on the schedule for some hours. At long last the time for sleep had arrived but the 160m coils still needed removing in preparation for the next session 80m CW at 08:30.

01:00z: ‘You wouldn’t turn your dog out in this’
Well I didn’t. Sasha was left undisturbed in her sleeping bag while I went outside to remove the loading coils, zipping up the tent behind me and talking the whole time by way of reassurance. It was nothing short of foul; in fact it was despicable. The wind was blowing as hard as ever but as well as being as black as pitch, there was now thick fog too. As if that were not enough, we can add wind-borne drizzle to the mix. One really can feel out on a limb in this situation but at the same time reassured by the presence of the tent and its contents. A surrounding pool of reflected light which moves with you as you walk makes it all seem slightly dreamlike.

As usual in these circumstances it’s hard to know what direction is which and it’s a case of standing by the mast and looking up with the headlight for some guidance about which way the dipole is going. At least then you can walk in the right direction towards the end sticks until the wire is low enough to grab. The job was soon done but not without a wetting. I was equally surprised and grateful that the improperly secured coils hadn’t fallen out during any of the 160m sessions.

Sleep for a change:
On most of these summit overnighters, I end up with not much more than an hour of poor quality sleep. As far as I can tell, this one was better with 3 hours at least, albeit in short periods but I actually came close to sleeping through the 80m QRV time at 08:30. Was it the new sleeping bag? I was never cold but probably not. The wind had started to drop at around 3am, accompanied by a steady decrease in sound level. The alarm went off, the one in my head that is. It was 08:23. Lucky I’d alerted for 08:30 and not the usual 7:30am. The dog’s breakfast would have to wait, it was back to work. She wasn’t for getting up yet anyway.

3.557.6 CW – 9 QSO’s from 08:33z:
I started by calling Roy G4SSH and he came straight back with 339 in response to a 589 from me. Like a few of the other dedicated ops, Roy had probably squeezed in around 6 hours sleep.

Two minutes later, in came EI7CC Pete. Did this mean our difficult Top Band QSO of the early hours was a non QSO or was Pete just adding an extra band? I will assume 160m was good unless somebody tells me different. Pete and I exchanged at 589/ 539.

Then Europe made itself heard in the form of Frid DL1FU 599/ 559 and ON7QR - Donald with 599’s. Appropriately, mountaineer Declan EI6FR (Dublin) got the summit with a 599/ 579 exchange and G3RMD Frank followed with 599’s.

Alerted by the distinctive ‘XX,’ I realized that I hadn’t worked Lothar DL3HXX (599/ 559) for quite a while but after working David G3RDQ (579’s) there was another batch of ‘XX’s’ this time from OH9XX. I genuinely thought at first that Lothar was after a rework but then on hearing the full call, HNY’s were swapped with Finland. This of course was Marko (579/ 449).

3.762/ 3.766 SSB – 15 QSO’s from 08:58z:
At last, after more than 19 hours on the summit, we’d come to the final item on the agenda and the relief to have got there without incident. 3.760 was the original target but it was kind of occupied. To be accurate there was a continental QSO going on on 3.759 so I moved up 3kHz to clear it. Roy heard ‘3762 SSB’ sent repeatedly on 3.557.6 and spotted both the initial QSY and the slight adjustment later. This was backed up by a text.

First to hear my CQ was MM0XPZ Steve in Greenock on the Clyde, with 58/ 57. Next to call was Paul MI1AIB in the guise of special event station GB50WAB – 58/ 55. It was quite obvious what this was for so I quickly arranged to QSY and leave Paul next to the WAB channel, ready to jump on there the moment it was clear. I went up 4kHz to 3 .766 and some time later I heard Paul working a pileup on 3.760.

With Roy’s 3.766 spot in operation, things quickly settled down into a steady stream of callers as follows: G4OBK Phil 59/ 58; G4OOE Nick with G3TQQ Dave S2S on Bishop Wilton Wold G/TW-004 (59’s/ 58’s); G4WSB Bill 59’s; ON4VT Danny 59/ 55; G0RQL Don 59’s.

Continuing: 2E0PCL Garry, ex SARS member living in Bridlington 57/ 58; GI1AZA Esther; MW6IUT Brian 59/ 54; 2E0FEH Karl (new prefix from today) - 56’s; ON5SWA Francois 57/ 47 and G4IPB/P Paul S2S on Burnhope Seat G/NP-003. Paul and I had a brief talk. If the wind speed had been below 10mph we would have been eyeballing right now rather than QSO’ing.

The final QSO of the day, at 09:40 was with Brian G8ADD in Birmingham, an easy copy this time at 59 both ways. Power for both modes on 80m was 30 Watts, apart from the initial call to Roy G4SSH, for which I used 50W.

Thoughts of finishing on 2m-FM were quickly put to bed. There was no time. Sasha finally got her breakfast at almost 10am. When we at last opened the tent door we were greeted by a sunny morning and a much reduced wind. After fighting the wind to set up in the first place, then being battered through the night, this was a relief. We nipped over to the obelisk war memorial to see it again, this time in good lighting. I checked the tent for damage but perhaps a little surprisingly, there was non that I could see.

Packing Up:
Because of the much reduced wind speed, breaking camp was a breeze (excuse the pun) compared to the battle on arrival and an even greater simplicity compared to New Year 2017 on Pen-y-Ghent where overnight snow had turned to ice and glued everything together.

Light wind it might have been and sunny too but it was still chilly. Despite that, once outside Sasha refused to go back into her prison of many hours, while I took the aerials down. Instead she found some long vegetation, scraped a hole into it and curled up in the resulting hollow. From start to finish it took just under an hour and not the usual 70+ minutes to get everything into and onto the rucksack. That said there was no finesse; just a desire to get down ASAP.

The dog seemed more pleased to be off than I was and we made our way along the path then swung left to find the gullies we’d walked up on New Years Eve. This next section of the path is either indistinct or I’ve never managed to find it and mark it properly but the track-log on the GPS kept us on a course that relocated it lower down. I suspect the right-angle bend at SD 9935 5961 may have a lot to do with it. (The path turns sharp right there when you’re coming up – maybe I have been missing this and going straight on?).

I was very grateful to leave the steep part behind as I was feeling dizzy and light-headed. Also my legs felt uncharacteristically weak and wobbly, not a good thing when carrying what remained of our 41 pound load but I knew the cause. It happens on summit overnighters and is due to severe dehydration. Since leaving the car the day before I had only consumed 0.7 litres of fluids. In fact, in spite of multiple offerings, most of them thrust under her nose, Sasha had consumed none at all since before we left home. What a pair! After returning home, it took almost half a gallon of fluids, taken over a period, to restore me back to normal.

The descent took from 11:06 to 11:45 and with the valley wind at zero, it felt comparatively sultry back at the car. Once the latter was sighted 100m ahead, Sasha stopped walking and made to turn around. The look on her face said it all. ‘You lock me in a cloth box for hours on end then you won’t even take me for a decent walk!’

After loading the heavy rucksack into the front seat and putting the seat belt on for it, we were on our way letting an engine do the work for a change. The return route avoided Harrogate and the northern York bypass, both jammed up on the way. I just couldn’t face them. We went home via Threshfield, B6265 - Pateley Bridge; Ripon and some funny little ‘C’ roads, going I know not where (satnav) to A168 & A170 Sutton Bank, Pickering and Scarborough.

The journey of 77 miles took from 12:05 to 14:15. This was 5 miles shorter than going via York and Harrogate and 15 minutes faster too. Phil G4OBK was dead right!

QSO’s - 98 comprising…
20m-CW: 6
20m-CW: 2
2m-FM: 16
80m-CW: 8
80m-SSB: 4
160m-CW: 14
Subtotal: 62

2m-FM: 5
160m-CW: 5
160m-SSB: 2
80m-CW: 9
Subtotal: 36

The above tally makes no allowance for duplicated band and mode QSO’s of which there were several.

Battery Utilisation (Li-Po’s):
3 x 5 Ah and 10% of a fourth 5Ah
(from 4 x 5 Ah + 2.2Ah (22 Ah) available)

Ascent & Distance:
Cracoe, Fell Lane to Obelisk & back: 270m (886ft) ascent, 4.5 km (2.8 miles).

Walking Time: 1hr-25 min
(46 min up/ 39 min down)
Summit Time: 21hr-35 min

Distance driven: 159 miles
Activator points: 2 x 2 + 2 x 3 bonus = 10 (One Summit)

Chronology (z):
10:00: Left Scarborough
12:15: Arrived Cracoe, Fell Lane.
12:45: Walked for G/NP-032
13:31: Arrived G/NP-032 Cracoe Fell

00:00: Let in 2019 with 2E0XLG Chris on 2m-FM
11:06: Left G/NP-032
10:45: Arrived car
12:06: Drove for home
14:15: Arrived Scarborough
Sun times: 08:28 and 15:56

This was my fourth New Year summit camp for SOTA and also the fourth summit camp of 2018. Summer is one thing but an overnight stay on a UK SOTA in winter is not without its potential hazards. However, good prep should minimize the risk. The choice of summit is very important, the main factor being high winds versus shelter. If the camp can be set up on the lee side of some solid summit feature such as a dry stone wall for instance, half the battle is won.

That is what was aimed for on this occasion but the plan went awry when we were defeated by a ladder stile, the price of taking along a four legged companion. Ironically, if a deer had jumped the wall in front of Sasha, she’d have found a way of following it. On further consideration, perhaps not; that particular dry-stone wall is bigger than most.

Other than the predicted wind speeds, the forecast was almost ideal, the main saving grace being the high temperatures of 4 to 6C but also the lack of significant precipitation. Once we were committed to pitching to windward, we had to make the best of it or retreat. Luckily for us, the wall wasn’t the only windbreak on the summit. There was the obelisk – not much use in itself as I couldn’t get the tent near enough but the raised ground it is built on added to a large rock did help to avoid the full furry of a moderate gale.

Once the accommodation is in place and made as secure as possible, mindful of the 15 hours of high winds and darkness ahead, the schedule can be worked through in relative comfort and safety. As far as comfort is concerned, ‘relative’ being the operative word. In fact the pain of confinement (no – not that sort) must be endured.

For a schedule, I merely re-wrote the one from New Year 2016-17. It was not too demanding, having sufficient gaps for chores, meals, rest and to give the dog a bit of attention.

The agenda’s centrepiece was Top Band again and what better chance to show off its capabilities, than hours and hours of night conditions. I was more than happy with the number of 160m QSO’s but slightly disappointed that it didn’t propagate a little further. I don’t mean DX, just a little deeper into Europe would have been good but even considering the special date, time zones are different to the UK, meaning fewer ops available.

Generally the total QSO count was well down on two years ago but I did drop one of the 2m-FM sessions.

80m was pretty awful in the late afternoon of New Year’s Eve whence it even failed to bring in Roy G4SSH but it was far better the morning after.

Once again 20m turned out to be well worth doing. As well as UK and EU, I was fortunate enough to work a handful of USA stations and one Canadian. A self spot brought them in without delay and propagation was good. I think the time of 15:30z before dusk, was pretty well spot on, especially for North America.

A schedule over the date change without 2m-FM included would have been a poor one indeed but there didn’t seem to be as many stations on 2m this time. That said, I was only using 2.5 Watts to a half-wave, albeit NP32 is close to population centres in the West Riding. Chris 2E0XLG had the distinction of working right across midnight this time.

After the last time, I left a reminder note to myself about drinking more. Once again this wasn’t heeded with the result - dehydration. The reasons are clear but time has to be made for such things.

I bought a snazzy new sleeping mat for this expedition. As usual, it was purchased for its light weight rather than performance but the latter is not at all bad by all accounts. This was an Exped Synmat Hyperlite with a weight of 365gm and cost of £131 (GBP). It is made of 20 denier nylon and comes with its own inflation bag and stuff-sack. This is not a mere airbed but has synthetic insulation inside it as well as air. A ‘Winterlite’ version, with more insulation, is available but it’s a bit heavier. Sad to say that I left the Exped at home and took a cheapo foam mat instead. The reason? Sasha has very sharp claws!

The new sleeping bag; a Mtn. Eqpt. Nova II synthetic (regular) gave good account of itself. Considering that this is not four season rated and weighs only 1.2kg (my example) it had good loft and was certainly warm enough. In fact after the wind started to drop in the early hours, it was possibly too warm. There was noticeable wind-chill inside the tent up to about 5am because the sides were moving in and out, pumping air around.

Yet again I took more food than we could eat but having a safely margin allows more options should anything not go to plan. Besides, I had an ever open door with me. Speaking of Sasha, she was really good, careful not to trample anything and particularly in that situation, provided really good company. For my part I looked after her, ensuring she was well fed, properly covered up and warm enough during the long night.

Just a footnote:
The correct WAB square was SD95 and not SD09 as was given out. Apologies for this.

Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED, especially when you consider some of their QSO times. Not only that, a few will have sneaked away from family get togethers or the pub for however long it took to bag the SOTA.

Thanks also to spotters: G4SSH; G4OBK, G0UUU, G0HRT and Andy’s ‘SOTA Spotter’ phone ap. To Roy G4SSH for SMS text liaison,

Finally, thanks for all the kind comments on the air. They make a big difference when you’re feeling isolated.

Thanks to Sasha for the company and shared experience.

73 and best wishes to all for 2019.
John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club station GX0OOO/P).

Photos: 4-5-8-13-22-25-24-32-42-45-46-49-54-65-71-78-85-87-93-96-99

Above: The top end of Fell Lane, Cracoe with NP32 behind

Above: 41 pounds of equipment (18.7kg)

Above: Cracoe - Fell Lane track

Above: The summit in sight but lacking a sense of scale

Above: NP32 summit. Looking from the obelisk towards the wall stile

Above: Ladder to relative calm but we were defeated!

Above: Hole in the wall a few metres from the ladder stile

Above: Ridge tent with storm guys and antennas.

Above: Snug as a bug in a rug. Sasha

Above: Out at 1am to remove the 160m coils. Tent and 2m-FM vertical. High winds, fog and drizzle.

Above: 00:10. Out to remove the 160m coils - BRIEFLY.

Above: Untidy tent. 5am - wind dropping

Above: Sunshine on New Year’s Day

Above: Cracoe Fell’s obelisk and war memorial plaque

Above: Breakfast time at long last!

Above: G/NP-032 - Cracoe Fell’s obelisk

Above: On the way down

Above: On the way down and looking back. A couple out for their New Year climb

Above: Reed bed lower down with typical boggy path

Above: At the sheep pen, looking back where we came from.

Above: Back on Fell Lane, Cracoe. Not far to go now.


Previous New-Year summit camps – links:
2004-05: G/NP-018 Nine Standards Rigg:

2007-08: G/NP-004 Whernside:

2016-17: G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent:


Thanks for another brilliant report, putting up with my ropey CW and the S2S. Burnhope Seat 2020???


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John thanks for the report, I always enjoy reading them. You’re an inspiration and every year I think I must try an overnight in the hills, but always a combination of family commitments and probably laziness prevent that from happening. If you ever want company to share the load (I have a newer tent :wink:) let me know and it might tip me over into action!

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Hi John Another great report pity that I missed you .A better route up cracoe fell is from Rylstone .There is a land rover track vitually all the way to Rylstone cross Its any easy and flat walk all the way from there keep to the opposite side of the wall to the cross easy flat walk from there.73 Geoff

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Hi John,

I enjoyed reading about your New Year’s double points adventure. Very challenging and inspiring! Hope to be one of those USA stations in your log some day!

Paul K9PM
Wintering in DM22

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Hi John

Thank you for yet another great report and of course the contact on cw. Sorry no contact on New Year’s day so a belated Happy New Year and looking forward to the next adventure.

73 Allan

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It was good to work you. Fair Snape is about 2 miles from the parking at the parking at the Fell Foot junction. It’s a reasonably pleasant walk, and for some of the way there is a wall you can walk either side of, so we chose the more sheltered side. The worst bit of the walk is the steep initial climb up Parlick - on the way back we took the path that contours round the east side which avoids about 30m of re-ascent. We operated from near the trig point where there is a well constructed but slightly muddy 4 compartment shelter. We have visited the true summit about half a mile way on a previous activation but didn’t bother this time - the VHF take off is much better from near the trig point.

Summit shelter (the other two compartments are the other side).

Cairn, shelter, HF antenna & trig point

Descending back towards Parlick.

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An excellent report John and thanks for the 2-way 2.5W QSO on 2M FM. I recall you saying that my Diamond V-2000 antenna was doing much of the work but your elevated position helped too. I have done Cracoe Fell via the Rylstone Cross and the way that you ascended via Fell Lane which I think is much easier. I parked in the Farm Shop and after my activation called in the café there for a brew and a warm sandwich.

73 Chris M0RSF

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Sorry OT

Chris where did you get the topo map from please?

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Hi John
Admirable activation and report,
I followed you on sotawatch, I wish I was in your log but I didn’t copy you.
I amazed that your qso in the big band!
Sasha is so pretty, I have a sota-dog too.
Could you tell me about dog tracking system (FM TX 100mW )? (also in private if off-topic)

iw2obx Roby

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Here is the link that I used…


I do a screen grab then use a simple photo editing program to cut out the piece I want and add call signs.I had a nice 2M FM QSO with Mark M0NOM/P who was on G/LD-50 Gummer How.

Not bad running 5W from my Yaesu FT817ND to a Diamond V2000. Obviously lift conditions as the same day I worked Phil M0AYB/P who was on LDW-052 Grey Friar.


73 Chris M0RSF


Mourne stiles are a bit easier for the dogs!


FYI the new SMP can do those elevation profiles including the fresnell zone for selected frequencies.

Find the button in the lower-left area of the map.

73 Joe

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Thanks for all the comments and just to reiterate – a Happy New Year. Apologies for not replying to the posts on the previous two reports but I did eventually get around to reading them. Thanks for those - much appreciated.



Burnhope Seat would require a very good forecast and preferably low prior rainfall as it’s not well drained. You have recent experience of the soggy top of course. As for the report, with a few variations, if you’ve read one of mine, you’ve read them all! For some reason, I feel the need to record these things in detail. Not sure why but I had a lot of reporting to do at work. I don’t miss work a bit but maybe there’s a subconscious thing going on.

Thanks for the QSO’s, especially on 160m and the S2S. Your Morse is absolutely fine – keep calling. Mine is full of sending mistakes, partly due to the key which is a toggle switch and I can only read calls and reports with any accuracy but I soldier on.

73, John.



Ah, family commitments have a lot to answer for but they are priority. I used to say: ‘Family, Hobbies and Work,’ now it’s just Family and Hobbies. It helps if you can get rid of work but unfortunately the price is usually age.

Yes you should try an overnighter. Try it in summer first. You are only a prisoner of darkness for maybe 6 to 8 hours instead of about 18 and the kit required is a bit less. Thanks for the offer. Better still each on a separate summit for a midnight S2S!

73, John


Thanks Geoff.

Also thanks for the route description. I have heard the Rylstone route being preferred a couple of times before, so I will have to try it. Phil G4OBK told me that it was the place where the ‘Calendar Girls’ came from. Once I get used to a particular way of doing things, I tend to stick to it. Laziness really.

What is it they say?

‘We do it once and it’s new’. We do it twice and it’s routine. We do it three times and it’s always been done it that way.’ Something like that anyway.

Good to hear from you on here but we need you on the wireless more! Come back soon.

HNY, 73, John


Hi Paul and welcome,

Yes, the tradition started when SOTA was small. You had to be out through a long, dark night here (and still do of course). Nowadays it can be done either side of lunch if you’re in the right place on the planet. HI.

It would be a pleasure to get K9PM in my log from South Dakota. Concentrating as I do on the lower frequency bands, it is a refreshing change when I work over the Atlantic.

Hope to work you soon,

73, John



Great to get you in the log again. Your enthusiasm is infectious. Adventure? Haven’t thought what to do next. Camp on another summit maybe but not until warmer weather. There’s always one of the RSGB VHF contest evenings again which my son goes in for from high spots around here. Possibly some NP’s for WB next. I start off thinking easy peasy 2m-FM will do it but by the time I get to it, I’ve often gone HF. There is a real danger of not qualifying on 2fm these days with simple gear on certain summits.

73, John


Caroline & Martyn,

Thanks for the photos of Fair Snape Fell and tips of where to operate. 4 mile round trip is quite a long way for one point but it looks a like nice one. If I remember right I think it was Mark G0VOF who activated and described that one a few years ago. It was the day that he and I got a rare S2S on 160m. I was on Cross Fell.

I didn’t imagine for a minute that it would have a shelter, let alone such a good one. It must be well known to mere mortals and not just SOTA ops but I’d be the first to say, I’d never even heard of it before SOTA. Just shows, we’re never too old to learn something new.

73, John


Chris (Andy & Joe),

Thanks for the profile and QSO of course. I was unsure about the ‘sticky up bit’ in the middle but then I realised you live in Bramley which is nearer to NP32 than Leeds is. Reports were good for 2.5 Watts.

Yes I ought to try that other route for myself but it might be a long time before I’m up there again and by that time I’ll have forgotten no doubt. It was circumstances that got me there this time. Almost forced into the conclusion of activating NP2. I like the sound of a cafe, especially lately. If you do it between activations it can be very difficult to get back into the mind set again. After the final one is fine.

All the best, John


Roby (IW2OBX),

Thanks for your interest from Italy. I’m glad you found the report so you can expand on the bare bones of the spotting info. It sounds like you were after a 160m QSO but skip was nowhere near long enough even in the middle of the night. That’s a pity. I would have been very pleased working as far as Italia on the ‘big band’ as you so rightly call it. Trouble is it’s so noisy and I can only carry 50 Watts (sometimes 100W).

I see from your QRZ page that you are an activator too. I like the photos of the rocky mountains on there and incidentally the aliens that had the cheek to land right next to your mast.

OK on your SOTA dog. There are quite a few spread over the World. Sasha has only 66 activator points so far but she has done three summit camps this year. Yes, you are right about ‘pretty.’ She gets a lot of admiration from people despite being 10 years old.

She is precious to me so I am worried when she runs off after a rabbit or deer. She is so fast and quickly gone. I lost her for 55 minutes once! Now I put a light on her and a small TX which has a short range of 200m maximum. It is not a tracker as such but it helps me to find her if she’s nearby. Email me (QRZ.com) and I’ll send you a link but there will be better things than this for dog location. The trouble is most of them rely on mobile phone networks which don’t work in remote areas when you really need them.

73, John


Hello Esther,

Thank you for the photo. Mourne stiles look altogether better with flat rungs. Those little dogs are having no problems at all. Sasha would not make it over even that stile. I have to lift her a lot: Gates, fences and nettle beds. Flat-out she clears 5-bar gates and barbed wire fences but you ‘ask’ her to do it when she’s not chasing some cuddly, furry beasty and she just refuses to cotton on.

I walk her miles round home, up to 50 per week but I’m nervous of her seeing something and running after it. I try to look ahead and it’s an advantage having a higher view point. It’s a case of getting the lead on fast but it’s not always possible. Over the local horizon in 10 seconds. She’s been to the vets three times after dew-claw injuries. It cost up to 150 quid each time. Now I put on dew-claw protectors but they eventually fly off. In her former life, before rescue, she was a lamper and I think she thinks she still is.

Thanks for all the QSO’s lately and Ian too.

73, John


Hope I haven’t missed anybody.
Here’s looking forward to the next time we make contact.
Thanks to all HNY (inc. the MT!) and good SOTA’ing in 2019
John G4YSS



Unless it has eroded 21m since I last did it. Fair Snape Fell is worth 2 points or 5 points in WB period.
INKy from the flatlands of Lincolnshire :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

…or maybe a general campoverfest!

Hi Steve,
Oh yes, what an idiot. It’s the memory! There was a day when I knew that. Looking at Caroline’s photos, I thought it was well appointed for a little 'un. I see you have done it 8 times Steve so it’s high time I tried it too.

Let’s hope we see you leaving those flatlands and heading west more often in 2019. I’m sure the chasers must be missing someone so prolific of QSO’s.
Happy New Year and best wishes for 2019 from me.
73, John