G4YSS Activation Report for NP6, NP15, NP9 on 22-02-18
G/NP-006 /6 GREAT SHUNNER FELL
G/NP-015 /4 GREAT KNOUTBERRY HILL
G/NP-009 /6 BUCKDEN PIKE
NP6: 160m-80m CW/ SSB QRO
NP15: 2m-4m FM QRP
NP9: 160m-80m CW/ SSB QRO & 2m-FM QRP
G4YSS - Unaccompanied
All times UTC
Sun times: 07:13 and 17:32
HF: NP6 & NP9:
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF (80 thru’ 10) 50 Watt linear amplifier 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
VHF: 2m & 4m-FM:
Icom IC-E90 4 Band, 5W V-UHF H/H (Used NP15 & NP9)
UV-5R 2 Band, 5W V-UHF H/H (NP15 - 2 QSO’s)
NP6: One 5 Ah Li-Po battery
NP15: Icom & Baofeng H/H integral batteries only.
NP9: One 5 Ah Li-Po battery. One 2.2 Ah (not used)
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB Cube Radio
NP6 & NP9: 10.8kg (24 pounds) inc. 250ml water
NP15: 8kg (18 pounds) inc. 250ml water
It’s hard to admit but this activation was the opener for 2018. A throat and chest infection wiped out most of January. The light at the end of the Top Band MG tunnel got a bit brighter last year but still more summits need to be qualified on 160m.
After pondering which mountains to activate, I opted for a carbon copy of February 5th last year. Boring perhaps but this was mostly about gaining Top Band points and the outcome would be more predictable. Planning work is reduced and it’s easier to write the report.
160m loves the dark, which means as early and late as practicable. From a convenience angle, by late February we are starting to lose the 160m time windows. You can’t expect chasers to get out of bed at 6:30am. Moreover to meet a QRV time that early, I would need to leave Scarborough before three in the morning and I would prefer that kind of thing to remain in the past. To avoid returning home after 9 or 10pm, the converse applies. Inconvenient times potentially reduce the number of chasers but balanced against that is the obvious fact that those who do come up on 160m are not short of enthusiasm.
As well as alerting the previous day, I took the liberty of emailing a few of the regular Top Band chasers. Sorry to pester.
From SD 8688 9570 on Buttertubs Pass the track goes up via Coal Pit to the fence corner at SD 8694 9639 (turn left). The fence bends again at SD 8680 9653 at Grimy Gutter Hags. There’s another direction change - left (WSW) at SD 8586 9707. The track passes the end of a wall at SD 8542 9687 and after some steep sections you eventually reach a stile (optional) at SD 8503 9723 not far short of the summit. There’s not too much ascent but it’s a longish slog (2.2 miles) over wet ground with a few steep bits.
Left Scarborough at 03:50, driving on empty roads, arriving via the A684, at Buttertubs Pass before sunrise, at 06:07 (83 miles). There’s just enough space to park on the verge where the grassy track leaves the road (SD 8688 9570). The weather was good. Clear with a cold breeze. MWIS were predicting minus 1C at the top with early low-cloud, 10mph winds and no precipitation.
I got walking in darkness by 06:28, on a grassy track with snow patches, most of which were sufficiently frozen to bear weight. After 15 minutes it was light enough to dispense with the headlamp and continue up to the summit, where there were a few sizeable snow patches but none in the shelter. The top was in thin cloud.
As usual, with no visitors expected, the station was set up in the shelter with the mast jammed in behind the wooden seat. The ground was only partially frozen, allowing the end supports to go in quite easily. I noticed a plaque commemorating a deceased Pennine Way walker.
G/NP-006: GT. SHUNNER FELL, 716m, 6 pts. 07:14 to 09:23, Minus 2C. Wind: SSW at 10 mph. Low-cloud with antenna icing conditions. A few minutes of hazy sunshine at sunrise. Small amounts of frozen snow. IO84VI, WAB SD89. Trig Pt: TP-3468 integral with shelter. EE phone signal.
1.832 CW - 5 QSO’s:
The antenna coils tuned up first time allowing a QRV time 12 minutes earlier than advertised. Bill G4WSB (Swindon) picked up the weak CQ followed by Roy G4SSH in my home village of Irton. After these there were no further callers so I went straight to SSB (see below).
Upon returning to CW 20 minutes later, I managed to work a further three stations: G4OBK; DL2JES and DJ5AV. The last two were unexpected as I had feared all along that it would be too light for overseas propagation by this time. Power was 50 Watts for all QSO’s. Incoming reports ranged from 339 (G4SSH) to 569 from DJ5AV but there was little or no difficulty to complete with each station.
I half expected Mark G0VOF to call me before work but he must have been unavailable.
1.843 SSB - 4 QSO’s:
First to call in was G4IAR in Loughborough. Dave had already taken the trouble to relay my SOTA alerts onto the WAB reflector. Next in the log was G8VNW Nick (QTH Threshfield) at a range of 36km followed by Phil G4OBK (Pickering) and Terry G0VWP in York.
The exchanges were 55/ 55; 58/ 47 to 57 (QSB); 57/ 55 and 55/ 55 respectively. There was one gotaway who was obviously hearing me but I called him in several times without any success in copying a callsign. This station was very weak and I thought it might be G8ADD but Brian later reported that he had failed to make the Top Band session in time.
Power was 50 Watts. When there were no further answers to CQ’s, I made my return to CW but it was necessary to clear the ice from the antenna before doing so. That said, icing conditions caused by the freezing fog were not as severe as a year ago on this summit.
3.557 CW - 11 QSO’s:
G4SSH came right back to my call on here. After Roy was logged, stations worked with 50 Watts were: DL1FU; G4WSB; F5SQA; G0RPA; G0HIO; DJ5AV; PA0RBA; ON4FI; GI4ONL and SA4BLM. Signal reports were all good and the session took 13 minutes; quick for me. Power was about 30 Watts.
3.724.8 SSB - 18 QSO’s:
After some pondering about whether to use 7.160 or not, I settled for the familiar 3.724 with a slight variation to avoid QRM.
It was Bill G4WSB who responded to my ‘QRL?’ enquiry. Further stations were logged as follows: G8ADD; G0VWP; GW4VPX; GW0PLP; G4IAR; G4NVF; G4TJC; EA2CKX; 2E0VMD; G6NHW; GI4ONL; G4WHA/A; G6MZX; G0RQL; G0TDM; M3FEH and G4SSH Roy came onto SSB to check my intentions. Apart from a handful of 57’s, everybody was coming in at 59. Power for the 27 minute SSB session was 30 Watts.
Descent of NP6:
It took a mile of walking before I warmed up but I made it back to Buttertubs Pass at 10:02, which was a nice bit earlier than last year. Like last year, I had to spend 15 minutes removing the HF gear from the rucksack and adding VHF for NP15.
Drive to NP15 (10:17 to 10:38 - 13 miles):
I ignored the notice which stated, ‘Coal Road closed due to Winter Conditions.’ Good job too. I found that there was no snow to block the way, only a few banks of the stuff at the sides after the plough had dealt with it.
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. It’s indirect and boggy in places but better than the bee-line I used to take. The ascent was started at 10:47.
G/NP-015: GREAT KNOUTBERRY HILL, 672m, 4 pts. 11:16 to 12:23. 1 Deg. C 10 mph SW wind. No low-cloud. Bright and briefly sunny. Deep snow drifts adjacent to the wall. IO84KP; WAB SD78. Trig Point TP3461. (EE phone signal).
I set up the J-Pole in the top of the shelter seat and connected the UV-5R handheld.
145.400 FM - 8 QSO’s:
Knowing Geoff might just be listening at the shop in Penrith, I called G4WHA/A first. My reward was an immediate QSO (57/ 42) accompanied by a spot.
Next I worked Phil G4OBK, enquiring about his recent VK SOTA activations. Ten had been completed with 5 on one day and QSO’s with ZL and Colorado. He walked with a local VK amateur called Gerald and Phil’s XYL went along on one activation.
Phil also had quite a few SSB QSO’s on 10MHz, which proved a useful band. It wouldn’t be allowed here of course. ZL could easily be reached on 40m, 30m and 20m depending on the time of day. The price? Phil was still suffering severe jet lag a week after returning to the UK!
While Phil was relating this, I could hear G0TDM calling at about the same strength but John, who had been phoned by Geoff, couldn’t hear Phil. Neither did John come back to me when I called him in and I tried several times. Maybe the UV-5R was being ‘flattened’ so I swapped to the IC-E90, which took 3 minutes. It was no different. John never did reappear except to say that he was being ‘wiped out by severe noise’ and he remained ‘off the hook.’
The other six stations worked with 5 Watts were: MW0ISC Steve at a high QTH near Mold; G7OEM Tony at Blackpool; G4VFL/P Andrew S2S on Ingleborough G/NP-005 (he’d just arrived); G4RQJ Rob in Ulverston who told me of a beacon he monitors on 1.854 MHz; G4SPC Brian over in Thirsk and 2E0MIX in Whitehaven. Derek had recently activated Blake Fell, climbing it from the west.
Signal reports were 51 to 59. With the exception of Geoff (57/ 42) who was suffering noise from computers, there was little difficulty in copying either way. The session took over half an hour but I wasn’t hurrying. Fleeting thoughts of trying to ‘shoe horn’ NP16 Dodd Fell into the program had already faded. Why kill yourself? Andrew mentioned that he’d be on 4m-FM from NP5 later.
70.450 FM – 1 QSO:
When 2m dried up at 12:10, I heard Andrew G4VFL/P appear on 70.450. We made a QSO first call with 59 both ways. I was using my IC-E90 Handheld with an extended 2m band rubber duck. I was astounded by the speed of working that Andrew was achieving from Ingleborough. The rate was at least five times my own when I’m on FM and possibly ten times in some cases.
QRT came at 12:12 followed by a walk down while listening to the BBC World Service on DAB. On the way, I came across a dead Grouse; not seen on the ascent. There was not a mark on it. I was opening the car door again by 12:47. Another few minutes were used up re-packing the rucksack for NP9 and Top Band.
Drive to NP9:
Going via the A684 and Aysgarth (a distance of 22 miles) took from 13:00 to 14:07 but a stop-off was made in Hawes to buy Wensleydale cheese and a Cornish Pasty (if I dare call it that) for the drive home later. This was when I discovered that my preferred route, via Langstrothdale, was closed for 2-days. The Hawes delay was around 25 minutes but the two routes aren’t much different in distance or time.
From the quarry parking place at SD 9455 7996 (413m ASL) the way goes initially up the tarmac, through a gate at SD 9454 8000, across fields then through a second gate at SD 9475 7979. A path crosses a pasture to connect the two.
From the second gate you can cut across boggy ground but I normally follow a sheep path (indistinct in places) via: SD 9493 7964 and SD 9514 7965, then up to SD 9521 7966. Pass through a gateless gap in the wall at SD 9534 7954 and up steep ground to SD 9539 7951. Next you cross Cow Close Gill beside by the wall at SD 9546 7947, loosing a few metres here. As is often the case, the stream was completely dried up.
From the Gill crossing, swing right (south) to pick up the meagre path again at SD 9547 7936 and SD 9551 7933. Less than 300m later this wall-path joins the major path coming up from Cray, at SD 9565 7921. The Cray path now takes you all the way to the top, via SD 9609 7885 but what was once fine gravel is now mostly mud. There are steps up the steep ground. As was the case on the other two summits, I met no one.
BUCKDEN PIKE, G/NP-009, 702m, 6pts, 14:56 to 17:43. Minus 2C initially; minus 4C by the sunset. 10 mph wind. No low-cloud. Occasional sunshine. A mostly snow-free summit except for a large drift adjacent to the E-W running wall. Nil EE mobile coverage, Vodaphone not tried. LOC: IO84XE, WAB: SD97. Trig Point TP-1744 (not valid on this occasion – 30m rule).
The station was set up north of the wall that runs east-west just south of the summit proper but this was less than satisfactory. The wind was from the SW and the wall would have made a good wind break apart from the fact that a large frozen snowdrift had bagged the best spot. This was at least three feet (1m) deep, sloping out from the wall for about ten feet (3m) and running along for many metres.
As is often the case there was a ‘V’ shaped gap twixt wall and snowdrift but this particular example was not wide enough to settle down in. Neither could I widen it. The snow was frozen and my ice axe was down in the car boot.
There was no alternative than to sit at the edge of the snow and that was a windy place. Deprived of a backrest, discomfort seemed inevitable but we’ve known worse of course. Wind chill, potential logsheet loss, a choice of numb fingers or number mittens could be added to the mix.
I put the rig on the grass and wedged the rucksack behind me to act as a backrest. At least the snowdrift made it easy to set up the dipole mast but operating, particularly logging, was bound to be slow.
145.400 SSB - 6 QSO’s:
At 15:20, I called G4WHA/A. No sign of Geoff but Phil G4OBK came back to give me a 54 report and a spot. Next in was an old hand M0XLT who I often used to work from summits 15 years ago. Kevin has been involved with three club stations over the years. One was for the Craven District Radio Club, the next for the YHA and lately a new radio group called Aries.
The other stations worked were: G0TDM John copying me 42; M0RSF Chris in Leeds; G6LKB Dave in Ulverston and finally MW0ISC Steve near Mold.
Working conditions were the IC-E90 with 5 watts to a vertical J-Pole. There was no attempt to try 4m-FM.
3.557.8 CW - 10 QSO’s:
Starting on schedule at 15:58 the following stations were worked with 30 Watts: G4WSB Bill; first in again, then MW0BBU Steve; G4OBK Phil; DJ5AV Mike; G4SSH Roy; G0TDM John; ON4VT Danny; G1OCN Dave; OE7PHI Hans and GW0PLP Don.
Outgoing reports were mainly 579 to 599. Reports on my signals were between 559 and 599 with one 439 and a 449, the latter from Roy G4SSH. Regrettably and despite around eight attempts to get a report back to him, G0FVH - David in Poole - didn’t make it into the log. This was the case last year from here. I tried again on SSB when he called in later but the only thing he was hearing were my CQ’s. In my experience, that appears to happen quite a lot. Urban noise levels will be to blame, no doubt. We summiteers don’t know we’re born! Chasing is much harder.
Holding the mic (which houses the CW key) and writing the log proved to be slow and difficult. The mic kept slipping from my hand, the log was moving in the wind and the writing was awful. The session took 20 minutes.
3.724 SSB - 25 QSO’s:
Continuing with 30 Watts the following stations were logged: G4WSB, Bill leading the way again; G8ADD Brian; G4IAR Dave; MM0XPZ Steve; G0RQL Don; G0VWP Terry; M3FEH Karl; G4WHA Geoff; G6MZX Geoff; EA2DT Manuel.
Then G4HME Steve; G0TDM John; G0NES Don; GW0PLP Don; MI1AIB Paul; G4FGJ Gordon; EA2CKX Pedro; G8VNW Nick; OK2APY Alena-(YL); EI3GYB; M0NTC Gez; G4RGV John; M0PVA Mick; ON7DQ Luc and LX1CC Mill.
Almost everyone was 59 to me, the exception being Geoff G4WHA/A in Penrith who was in the noise at 44. Being at work, I know Geoff is very limited for antennas. With what he’s got, he does well. Because he is ‘/A’ at work, he gets priority immediately on calling in and I would urge others to do the same. There were two 55’s going to Spain and a 57 for Karl running 10 watts.
Incoming reports were mostly 59 and some as much as 59 plus 20dB, except for a couple of 57’s with 52 & 53 coming back from Spain. I got 47 from Penrith due exclusively to local noise in the shop.
The session took 27 minutes and at one point I had nine stations calling. The callsigns were duly entered into the log and I did my best to work through them quickly, calling them in one at a time. EA2DT was concerned that I hadn’t heard him but Don G0RQL put his mind at rest, ‘Your on the list, Manuel.’
1.832 CW - 6 QSO’s from 16:55:
Adjusting the coils for resonance took a couple of attempts, possibly because of the sizeable snowdrift right under the wire and a wall-top wire fence running parallel. I was glad of the physical activity but hands were kept in pockets as much as possible.
The tuning method is to try a coil slug setting and fire up the TX barefoot on 5 Watts. Next twiddle the VFO either side to see what happens to the VSWR and whether the coils need more inductance or less. While doing this I heard a response. Suspecting it might be Phil, I called him in and back he came, giving my 5 Watts a 579 report. Phil is 85 km East of NP9 and close to being line of sight.
Now with the maximum power of 50 Watts I was about to call CQ when I heard G3RMD. Frank (Cheltenham) was about the strongest I’ve heard him on 160m (599/ 579). I then called G4SSH and Roy came back with a 339 report. He was 559 to me and had already spotted me.
Next into the log was G4FGJ Gordon also with 599/ 579 to Biggleswade. Job done – four QSO’s from NP9. Another CQ brought in G0HIO Mike in Burton-on-Trent (559/ 449) and finally G3SNN Tony also in Cheltenham with 599/ 559.
Further CQ’s went unanswered but time was getting tight and I was anxious to get onto SSB. Phil G4OBK posted the mode change. With no problems to speak of, the 160m CW QSO’s were logged in just seven minutes.
1.843 SSB - 11 QSO’s from 17:04:
With the power setting left at 50 Watts, I logged the following chasers:
G6MZX Geoff at Thornton-in-Craven (55/ 53); M3FEH Karl in Saltash, Cornwall (55 both ways); G4OBK Phil in Pickering (57/ 55); G3RMD Frank - Cheltenham (58/ 57); MM0XPZ Steve just north of the Clyde at Greenock (58/ 47).
Next G8VNW Nick in Theshfield (6 km south of me and 59 both ways); EI3GYB Michael in Mayo (55/ 51); G0VWP Terry in York (2 x 55); G3RDQ David in Hampshire (58/ 57); G8ADD Brian in Birmingham with his antenna only 4.5m AGL (44/ 55) and finally G4IAR Dave who’d more or less bolted his evening meal to be there Dave was using an 80m dipole extended for 160 (58/ 56). What a goodly haul!
The only glitch I can remember was having to ask Michael to repeat my report. However, I was suffering massive intermittent QRM throughout. A very loud screeching signal which sounded like a cross between someone tuning at high power and a data signal. It would go for maybe five or ten seconds then drop for two. Somehow I was still hearing most of the callers through it but they were being suppressed down by the rig’s AGC action. I was glad the get the phones off after that.
I don’t know who else was suffering it. I checked with Phil in Pickering and he certainly wasn’t but I later found that it was present in Nantwich as my son was listening to the activation on the internet receiver based there.
By now the time was 17:20 but it was still quite light. However I knew sunset was around half past five and by 6pm it would start to be tricky to see. I dug the headlight out and checked it. This was a cheap one from Wilkinsons in Scarborough bought a couple of years ago as a spare. Good job too; I had wasted hours the day before the expedition, looking for my best Petzl Zipka, which seems to have been lost. That gave an even flood of bright light whereas the modern ones are more spot beam which I don’t like as much.
With HF and a VHF aerials to take down, packing up took twenty minutes but I was under way and passing the trig point by 17:43. It was dark at the end but without needing the headlight, it took 32 minutes to get back to the car, arriving there at 18:15.
Removing walking boots is a chore after a hard day at the ‘office’ but it is also a ritual which marks the end of suffering.
The 77 mile drive home (18:30 to 20:30) was via the A684, Thirsk and Sutton Bank with a short stop at Masham to text home.
Radio Caroline 648 MW:
I was surprised when switching on the car radio, to hear Radio Caroline coming in so well on 648 kHz, though it is good on the east coast during daylight. Considering they only run 1kW from Orford Ness, the signal held up very well most of the way home. It wasn’t perfect but as an old hand at MW reception, I can put up with an awful lot. In fact a bit of QRM and some fading enhanced the experience for me as I listened to the album countdown.
Total: 105 comprising:
NP6: 38 (5 on 160m CW; 4 on 160m SSB; 11 on 80m CW; 18 on 80m SSB)
NP15: 9 (8 on 2m-FM; 1 on 4m-FM)
NP9: 58 (6 on 2m-FM; 10 on 80m CW; 25 on 80m SSB; 6 on 160m CW; 11 on 160m SSB)
NP6: One Turnigy 5 Ah Li-Po battery (87% discharged)
NP15: Handheld integral battery only
NP9: One Turnigy 5 Ah Li-Po battery (55% discharged)
One 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery (Carried but not used)
Round Trip Ascent & Distance:
NP6: 195m (640ft) ascent, 7.1 km (4.4 mls). Times: 46U, 39D
NP15: 176m (577ft) ascent, 3.9 km (2.4 miles). Times: 29U, 24D
NP9: 297m (974ft) ascent / 4.8km (3.0 miles). Times: 42U, 32D
TOTAL: 668m (2,192ft) Ascent - 15.8km (9.9 miles) Walked
Times: 1hr-57 min of ascent; 1hr-35 min of descent
Total walking time: 3hr-32 min at 2.8mph ave.
Summit times: NP6: 2h-9m. NP15: 1h-7m. NP9: 2h-47m
Arr. Buttertubs (83 miles): 06:07
Walk for NP6: 06:28
NP6: 07:14 to 09:23
Rtn. Buttertubs: 10:02
Drive to Coal Rd (13 miles): 10:17 to 10:38
Walk for NP15: 10:47
NP15: 11:16 to 12:23
Rtn. Coal Rd: 12:47
Drive to Bishopdale (22 miles): 13:00 to 14:07 (25 min stop in Hawes)
Walk for NP9: 14:14
NP9: 14:56 to 17:43
Rtn. Bishopdale: 18:15
Drive home (77 miles): 18:30 to 20:30 (5 min stop in Masham)
Distance driven: 195 miles (83+13+22+77)
Activator points: 25 (inc 9 WB)