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.
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:
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
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.
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