G4YSS Activation Report for NP15, NP16, NP31 on 15-03-22
Issue-1 Please report errors
G/NP-015 /4 GREAT KNOUTBERRY HILL on 2m-FM QRP
G/NP-016 /4 DODD FELL HILL on 2m-FM QRP/ QRO
G/NP-031 /4 BIRKS FELL on 2m-FM QRP (160m attempted)
Here also is the account of the rucksack left on a grass verge near NP31
Accompanied by Finn – my Grandson’s Lurcher
All times UTC
All Three SOTA’s:
UV-5R 2m/70cm, 5W V-UHF H/H with Sotabeams 2m-band BPF
2m Band J-Pole on 2-section mast
UV-3R 2m/70cm, 2W V-UHF H/H (top pocket)
Moonraker MT270M , 2m/70cm, 25W Mobile Transceiver with…
PYE Cambridge Tunable Antenna Filter Type AT29908/AB, 132-174Mcs (0.6kg)
Turnigy 11.1V, 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery for above combination
Sotabeams 3-ely Yagi (carried but not req’d)
3m x 2-section mast (carried for Yagi but not req’d)
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 5-section mast with 1m end sticks
Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po battery
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Windbreak (NP16 only)
Water/ wind proof dog coat
8m retractable dog lead
LED dog collar
Dog food/ treats/ water/ sardines
Lightweight down jacket to cover dog
Pack weights (approx inc. 500 ml water & Primaloft jacket)
NP31: 10Kg (HF/VHF)
These were my first activations of 2022 and all routine repeats. The last expedition was on Boxing Day 26-Dec-21 in the Lake District. After that winter bonus complacency set in. My excuses were Covid-19 which my XYL and I caught in January (just after I was asked to teach the local scout group navigation and emergency signalling) and successive winter gales.
A lack of motivation and an aversion to driving the four or five hours round-trip to the nearest summits of any significance continue to be a disincentive. The older I get, the worse it is but an email from Colin M1BUU, who was wondering where I’d got to, helped to spur me into action.
On another positive note Finn, my Grandson’s Lurcher who is now 2-years old, was available to accompany me on this trip. Including the latest three, he’s now had experience of seven SOTA’s including an overnighter on NP6 last year. His indoctrination in the presence of sheep is ongoing but we’re not there yet. I was hoping the sheep would all be down for lambing in the lower fields at this time of year which proved to be the case except for NP31.
The Yorkshire Dales MWIS forecast was very encouraging. A good job too. This couldn’t be postponed to a later day or there would be no winter bonus! After picking up Finn in Cayton, we got underway at 07:15 while listening to harrowing news from Ukraine on the BBC-WS. The 92 mile drive via the A170, A684 and the Coal Road was completed by 09:57. There was no lying snow anywhere in the Dales that I could see.
NP15 ROUTE (again):
Leaving the Coal Road at SD 7796 8805 you walk via the track, turning left at the gate and sheep pens at SD 7768 8744 and thereafter, up beside the fence. The ascent was started at 10:20 and the usual minor detours round boggy areas followed. Finn was on his 8m retractable lead and he seemed to be enjoying life after the car journey. I was forced to lift the Finn’s 27kg over both summit fences as he doesn’t do stiles.
G/NP-015: GREAT KNOUTBERRY HILL, 672m, 4 pts. 10:51 to 11:35 . 2C and 15 mph cold SW wind. Sunshine. No lying snow. IO84KP; WAB SD78. Trig Point TP3461 (Vodafone signal)
The J-Pole was set up by weaving the mast into the pig wire at the top of the wall then connecting it to the UV-5R via my Sotabeams 5W BPF.
145.550 FM - 1 QSO:
While I was doing that I heard a call coming from my shirt pocket. Using the UV-3R with 2W to a rubber duck on 145.550, I worked Shane G6WBF/P, S2S on Great Shunner Fell G/NP-006 . A great start to the day.
145.400 FM - 2 QSO’s:
Now using the UV-5R setup, a 5W CQ on S20 brought in two more stations – G0UOK/M and M7SHZ/M. Mark and Sharon, both fellow 807 ARO members, were currently employed in climbing Pen-y-Ghent but I would work them at the summit later in the day. Further CQ’s on S20 were not responded to. Besides, there was now QRM from a QSO which had suddenly started up on .400 making it unusable so I moved ‘down two.’
145.350 FM - 4 QSO’s:
Next came the reason for carrying the pocket rig. I was expecting Colin M1BUU/P as he said in his email he’d be up on Birks Fell NP31 today. Now here he was answering my CQ. We had a brief chat before Colin QSY’d to 10MHz CW to try out something he called a ‘Soda Pop 30.’ I tried looking this up, initially only coming up with photos of coke cans, one with an FM radio in it before eventually finding a picture of a Soda Pop 40. By all accounts it worked as expected.
Next in were GM1VLA Tony near Eaglesfield (a friend of Peter GM3VMB); M7MCG Mick in Barnoldswick and finally G6LKB Dave in Ulverston. Thanks for the spot Dave. Due mainly to the several moves back to S20 to call CQ, the session spanned 25 minutes and 5W was used throughout. No report was less than 55, in or out. Checking S20 one last time, there were no further callers and it was past the time to leave.
With the dog beginning to show frustration with things radio, we made our way back down to the Coal Road, arriving there at 12:03 . Having checked for sheep on the way up and finding none, I let the energetic mutt off his lead part way down for a good run around. Boy can that lad go! By way of a change, we walked along a path at the north side of the fence as far as SD 7825 8736 where there is a cross fence. If anything this path is less boggy but then you have a fence to get over. I could stride across but Finn needed lifting again. ‘Swings and roundabouts.’
Drive to NP16:
At 12:17, just after leaving the NP15 parking place I worked G4YTD/P on 145.525 FM. Tim was on an LD SOTA in fact G/LD-017 Red Screes, having climbed up from the Kirkstone Pass. I was using 50W from an FT1802 to a home-brew 5/8 on a mag-mount.
The 15 mile drive round via Hawes and the 1,900 foot ASL Cam Houses Road took from 12:15 until 12:55. The first gate was closed but the other three are now bypassed with cattle grids making the process much less time consuming.
While driving along I called M0KPW/P on SOTA G/LD-003 Helvellyn. Though I’d heard him fading to nothing two minutes before, we exchanged 59 reports on 145.475 FM as I turned onto the PW at 12:52. Chris mentioned that he was using a Yaesu FT60 H/H linked to a home-brew ladder-line Slim Jim antenna and that it was pretty cold where he was. I replied that I was between summits and if he was still there in half an hour, I’d give him NP16.
As is normal now, I didn’t stop at Kidhow but drove some 320m north up the Pennine Way to save time. Parking on the grass verge at SD 8304 8367, a glance at the schedule told me that we were running more than 30 minutes late. Too much sniffing and leg lifting (not me) and not enough walking.
NP16 ROUTE (again):
A minor path leaves the Pennine Way track at SD 8339 8434 but it is not obvious and easily lost. From there it’s steeply up via SD 8344 8435, crossing a beck at SD 8352 8432 and following a boggy track via SD 8364 8434, SD 8376 8439, SD 8386 8443 and SD 8397 8453 to the ‘moated’ trig point.
Leaving the car at 13:06 , we reached the boggy top in 22 minutes but it was too late for an S2S with Helvellyn. Listening to Chris on the handie as we walked along, he’d gone QRT at around 13:15.
Until we could ascertain that no sheep were present on this hill, Finn stayed on his lead all the way up but I wish he’d pulled on it a bit more than he did. On arrival I erected a windbreak, more for him than for myself, as there was the ever present cold wind with nothing on Dodd Fell to stop it. Thinking he’d welcome some protection I was surprised when at first he refused my offer of a foam mat in its lee, preferring instead to sit out on the waterlogged grass visibly shivering in the wind. Eventually after I’d put his fleece lined windproof coat on, or rather the one that had once belonged to Sasha bless her and not really his colour, he seemed happy to come over and sit next to me.
Just as I was about to start the radio bit, two couples with two dogs arrived to ask what we were up to. The dogs came over to meet Finn and fortunately he barely reacted. He can’t have seen them as a threat but it helps if I make a fuss of the dogs we meet and ask to give them a treat. He seems to have an aversion to the Boxer breed as I think he sees their facial features as aggressive and it scares him. Time was slipping away but while holding Finn by the collar throughout and the lead wrapped around my thigh, I explained the SOTA system and its aims to our visitors.
G/NP-016: DODD FELL HILL, 668m, 4 pts, 13:28 to 14:37 , 3 Deg. C 15 mph cold SW wind. Overcast. LOC: IO84VG, WAB: SD88. Trig: TP2795. No lying snow. Sparse Vodafone mobile signal.
145.400 FM - 2 QSO’s:
Described by a fellow SOTA activator at Scarborough radio club recently as a S*** Hole, which probably refers to the boggy ground and considering its 2,200 foot height, Dodd Fell is pretty dreadful on VHF with 5W to a vertical. However, that’s initially what I had set up and CQ’s were not answered for quite some time. However I thought my fortunes had turned when at 13:50 the J-pole and filtered UV-5R brought in M1BAC/M. ‘I’ll just work you before I go down the hill into Skipton.’ By the time I’d reeled off the SOTA ref and a report he was gone, never to return and I don’t even know if the callsign was correct.
Further CQ’s produced greater success in the form of double-act G0UOK/P Mark and M7SHZ/P Sharon S2S on G/NP-010 Pen-y-Ghent. Sharon mentioned the cold wind and a decision to don thermal base layers. ‘Too warm on the ascent but glad of them on the summit’ was her comment. The next several CQ’s produced only silence so now to ‘Plan-B.’ A five fold increase in power.
145.450 FM - 4 QSO’s:
The Moonraker MT270M 25W miniature mobile rig (570gm) was dragged out of the rucksack with a big filter and battery in tow. The receiver in this rig can suffer badly from overloading. The Sotabeams filter only handles 5W so I had to use an alternative.
Since I was only carrying VHFM gear to Dodd Fell, I’d brought a PYE filter which weighs 607gm (see ‘Equipment’). It is a two stage unit adjusted for 145 MHz but can be made useful anywhere between 132MHz and 174MHz. Evidently designed for the PYE Cambridge, it is solidly constructed and easily capable of the 25 Watts asked of it today.
With this set-up, which included a 2.2 Ah Li-Po, I worked stations that were not reachable with 5 Watts: G7KUJ Nathan nr Colne; G7SXR Mark in Leeds; G6XBF Walt in North Leeds and G0PMJ Dave at Darlington, enjoying 12C and sunshine which I wasn’t.
More CQ’ing on 145.500 added nothing further to the log but at least now, Plan-C, the mast and Sotabeam, wasn’t needed. I let Finn wander around while I packed up all the equipment. We walked off at 14:37 and he had another run around until reaching the PW.
The descent was completed by 14:55 at which point the rucksack was repacked with HF kit. The 10 mile drive to Redmire Farm between Hubberholme and Buckden followed at 15:01 and I was parking there by 15:45.
NP31 Route (new to me):
I have used this start point to directly access Birks Fell’s 608m summit cairn a few times in the past but never via this particular route. It is actually the bridleway to Litton which conveniently passes close to the trig point. The trig point is not the proper summit but it is in the AZ and seems to be popular with activators. Nonetheless, Colin M1BUU/P had made the extra effort to put on NP31 from the small cairn, which denotes the recognized summit, that morning and not from the trig. Though there is only 1m of height difference, the distance between the cairn and the trig is 1.7km, well over a mile!
Directions (Redmire-Trig) are as follows:
The road, called Dubbs Lane, widens out at a minor bend - SD 9356 7753. This is 100m or so NW of the Redmire Farm entrance and a small car is out of the way if positioned as close to the dry stone wall as possible. An alternative is to park down by the bridge at SD 9395 7734 but that’s a longer walk.
Take the Redmire Farm track from SD 9365 7747 and cross a cattle grid. A few years ago Sasha took-on the one near the parking place for NP8 Gt. Whernside, injuring her thigh with a nasty graze in the process. Fortunately Finn doesn’t attempt to cross those but a neat double-gated corridor bypasses this one to the right. Follow the gravelled track uphill, swinging right at SD 9355 7734 and then left past SD 9344 7739 to SD 9335 7678.
Leave the track to the right just after fording Water Gill (no water today) at a wooden sign SD 9334 7681 which points the way up the bridle path. Follow the path all the way up the hill initially over grass & mud SD 9304 7595 to gravel and later pavement at SD 9280 7550. Follow the wall and pass through a gap in it at SD 9259 7524. Once the gate is reached at SD 9245 7492, turn left for the trig point - SD 92597 74838. This is a somewhat longer walk coupled with slightly more ascent when compared to the route from Litton but it saves 11 miles of driving if you’re coming down Langstrothdale from Dodd Fell via Oughtershaw.
The Birks Fell walk got underway at 15:36 but I knew that unlike the first two, this would be a more challenging climb. With tired legs and Finn trying to drag me in all directions, we eventually reached the trig point at 16:42 . Even though there were none after half way, the dog had to remain on the lead throughout because of the many sheep on the lower slopes.
G/NP-031: BIRKS FELL, 610m, 4pts, 16:42 to 18:16. 6 deg. C. Less than 10 mph wind. Overcast. No lying snow. LOC: IO84WE, WAB: SD97, Trig: TP-3179. NIL Vodafone mobile coverage.
I secured Finn to a mast section stuck in the ground and then set up the link dipole parallel with the dry stone wall’s NE side, trapping the end strings under coping stones then interposing the 160m coils at the 40m break points. Finn couldn’t relax. Every time I got up to do something, he tried to follow me.
1.832 CW/ 1.846 SSB NIL QSO’s:
I had alerted the day before for 16:30 but by the time we’d set up, we were half an hour late. For this reason I chose to go straight to Top Band and next came the tuning process. I couldn’t announce my QRV because the phone had a big no entry sign where the signal meter should have been. No amount of CQ’ing with 50 Watts of CW or SSB brought in any replies but I did hear a French station further up the band. It’s still daylight at this time of day in mid-March so I thought it best to try 2m-FM and come back to 160m later.
145.400 FM – 2 QSO’s:
With the J-Pole mast persuaded into the top of the wall and 5W from the FT817ND, I worked two stations: G0DFO Jim in Nelson and G7SXR Mark in Leeds. There were no further takers and the 2m band seemed dead apart from a faraway QSO on one channel. No worries though, Top Band will surely provide the third and fourth QSO’s.
1.832 CW/ 1.846 SSB NIL QSO’s:
As a return here quickly proved, it wasn’t to be. I tried 3.760 SSB – the WAB frequency to no avail but skip was long. I twice answered a CQ from DF2SJ in CW but he never heard my 50 Watts, probably due to his local noise levels. Back to 2m but unlike NP16, I only had 5 Watts, a vertical and no means of spotting.
145.400 FM – 3 QSO’s:
I wouldn’t say that this was either quick or easy but after what seemed a long time, MW1FGQ John in Flintshire finally came back to my CQ followed by 2E0XLG Chris in Thornton-in-Craven who had heard my increasingly desperate pleas via his smartphone. The phone was being used to monitor a receiver in the Yorkshire Dales Shack up at 1,600ft ASL but would he be able to work me from his home down in the Aire valley? Yes, it proved easy.
With the 4th contact in the log, the anxiety receded so Chris and I had a good chat about this high shack and VHF contesting, which he’s given up. In his words, ‘Burnt out after winning every award under the sun.’ I was invited to try the shack out at any time. Apparently you can drive to 1,000 feet ASL on the road then walk the half mile to the shack, gaining 600 feet as you do so. Chris has a sister at The Flask on the Whitby Moors which is not too far from my home QTH in Scarborough.
What turned out to be the final QSO of the day was with M7MCG Mick in Barnoldswick, who had chased NP15 in the morning. Further CQ’s brought nothing but NP31 was finally qualified plus a spare.
I paused to give an increasingly restless Finn a can of sardines and some tasty buffalo treats before a final and once again fruitless try on 160m. I wasn’t at all concerned about that though. The rules were met and though a very modest day from the radio standpoint it had been a great one weather wise and my friend Finn had helped make it too.
This was a mostly dark descent but there’d been countless examples of that going back through the twenty years of SOTA. What could go wrong? The answer – nothing did. Well not with the descent at least, except that it seemed like a long way; but afterwards.
We reached the car at the end of the Redmire Farm track for the final time at 19:04 . Dumping the pack down, I unstrapped the HF mast from the outside and put that and Finn in the rear of the car. After removing his coat, LED collar and securing him to the seatbelt system, we got underway at 19:08. Reversing the morning route via A684 and A170, we shared some leftover food on the way and I dropped Finn off at his home at 21:28.
See Part-2 below