G4YSS Activation of G/NP-007, G/NP-012 & G/NP-023 on 16-12-14.
WILD BOAR FELL, BAUGH FELL & AYE GILL PIKE on 2m-FM QRO.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P. Unaccompanied.
All times UTC on Tuesday 16-12-14.
Kenwood TM702-E; 25 Watt 2m/ 70cm Mobile.
6Ah Li-Ion battery No1 (NP7 & NP12).
6Ah Li-Ion battery No2 (NP23).
Home-brew Half-Wave J-Pole for 2m with RG316 coax.
Two-section short aluminium mast.
NP7 & NP12: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHF/ UHF (not used).
NP7 & NP12: 2.2Ah Li-Ion battery (not used).
NP23: Icom IC-E90 Four Band (6-4-2-70) H/H (not used).
At this stage the sole target is winter bonus any way I can get it. A 2m-FM only activation is rather non-inclusive (especially from these three summits) but it’s simpler and results in a lighter pack. Moreover, setting up is easier and much quicker, especially in cold conditions. I just couldn’t face another three summit HF QRO effort like the one in G/LD on 1st December. A down side of simple VHF as against HF is the slight risk of not qualifying the lower summits. This risk can be offset by choosing the right power and antenna for the job.
I left Scarborough at 04:25, driving what should have been a 92 mile journey via the A170 Sutton Bank and A684; arriving at the start point at 07:03am. Unfortunately 11 miles extra was clocked due to daydreaming my way past the Moorcock Inn turnoff to Mallerstang which forced a U-turn west of Garsdale Street. No matter. Due to leaving the house earlier than was strictly necessary, I had time to spare and the walk wasn’t started until 07:31 when rain showers decreased and the sky began to lighten.
Route to NP7:
At SD 78274 99749 about 30m north of the farm track, there’s space to park (if like me you don’t mind your car getting intimate with the dry stone wall.) Caution is required however. I have been up to my axles in mud on this verge in the past and was forced to employ a hand-winch to extricate the car on one occasion.
The start point is at SD 7827 9975 where the farm track leaves the road. The farm is bypassed to the left via SD7799 9976. Take the tunnel under the railway at SD7787 9960. Zig-zag up then cross a beck at SD7774 9975. From there you go up to the left (west) on a good path via High Dolphinsty (NY7655 0002) and The Nab (SD7637 9918).
There is a vast activation area. Today I planned to stop as soon as I entered it rather than going on to the trig point but VHF forced me into a better position beside the standards at SD 7617 9850 where there is a three sided wind shelter overlooking Mallerstang. Intentions to stop short of the highest point went out of the window for all three of today’s activations.
WILD BOAR FELL, G/NP-007, 708m, 6 Pts, 08:31 to 09:26. 0 deg.C. 15 mph wind. Overcast. No low-cloud but some patches of lying snow. (IO84TJ, WAB SD79.) Orange (EE) phone coverage (and DAB radio) on the higher sections & summit.
145.400 FM - 8 QSO’s:
After setting up the J-Pole and connecting the TM702-E; a 10 Watt CQ was put out on S20 at 08:45; just earlier than the alerted time. Geoff G4WHA/M set the tone for the day by answering immediately and 59 reports were exchanged. By the time we finished the QSO, Geoff was within 200m of his work QTH in Penrith and John G0TDM spotted me a little later. That was a big help considering this mediocre (from the VHF viewpoint) summit.
After M6CVD Clive - Walney and G0TDM John - Penrith, I increased power to the full 25 Watts, where it stayed for the rest of the day. Further additions to the log were: M6ANX Peter - Barrow; 2E0DXB Phil - Blackpool; M0MDA Mick - Leeds; M6TOB Joanna - Holmfirth (5W) and finally M0XVF Jeremy - Spennymoor (Durham).
The QRG dried up with no further QSO’s even after recourse to 145.500. I was surprised to log Mick in Leeds (56/ 54) and also Joanna who was a very weak signal (41/ 48 reports). For the latter QSO, it took several exchanges to get all the details but it was worth it in the end. Mick M0MDA had just seconds to spare before leaving for work.
The evening before was the SARS (Scarborough Amateur Radio Society) buffet. For these sessions the self imposed rules regarding cholesterol are relaxed but by now I was regretting ‘stuffing myself’ quite as much as I did. That aside, Dave G4DAX and I had a conversation on the way out. He asked if I was doing any VHF SOTA any time soon. The upshot was that he would point a 9-ely vertical beam at Wild Boar Fell at 9am the following morning. I did knock the squelch back for this activation but sadly nil heard from Dave in Goathland on the NYM. His QTH must be blocked from NP7.
The rig had played up at the start of this session. There was nothing displayed upon switch on. A sharp tap cured it but back came the glitch a few minutes later. I didn’t worry too much as I had the H/H if required but it would be serious were it to happen on NP23 at the end of the day. I think the cold had affected the rig but I wasn’t carrying HF kit in the car.
Descent and drive to NP12:
Due to the VHF operation and just eight QSO’s, I was descending earlier than I’d hoped and got back to the car for 10:18. That included a 5 minute stop on the way down to adjust the rucksack. The drive via Moorcock Inn and down the Garsdale road took until 10:37 and the walk for NP12 - Baugh Fell started at 10:47.
Route to NP12:
Baugh Fell’s southern aspect from Garsdale was again the route of choice. There is a small area for parking near Aygill Farm at SD 7337 8989. Today I had to shoe-horn the car between a large rock and a pile of gravel. The easily missed start point is just across the road where there is a wooden public footpath sign and narrow gate. The footpath contours a short distance along a steep slope through trees and up via a farm-yard with gates at SD 7340 9001. It is clearly marked with signs.
A little later there is a small gate into a pasture where the path becomes indistinct but actually proceeds diagonally across the field. The public footpath, which heads for East Rackenthwaite, leaves the field via another gate up the slope ahead. A few metres before that it must be abandoned in favour of a very steep walk up rough grazing land to your right, accessed through an open gate beside a small building at SD 7338 9019. This area can be very muddy but after that you can take your pick where you walk. I usually walk up past a tree at SD 7358 9041. After that it’s worth heading for the wall gaps at SD 7366 9045 and SD 7374 9094, though the former has an old rusty gate jammed in it.
The 2.2 km (one way) route is desperately steep in places until the gradient finally eases at SD 7382 9106. Ascent is a very significant 480 metres (1,575 feet) which is probably why it isn’t often done this way. Strictly speaking there is no right of way up this flank but I have never been stopped from walking this route. The way in from Grisedale, which I have only used once, is less steep but much longer.
Today, I laboured up slowly in bright sunshine and a cold wind. There were many stops! Buckden Pike seems to be the home of rabbits and it could be argued that Baugh Fell’s speciality is mice. They were everywhere today and I must have been startled a dozen times by their sudden movements; rushing from one borrow to another along carefully trampled ‘U’ shaped runs through the grass on the sunny south facing slope. These are large mice, not unlike the one that bit me so badly on Cross Fell, except that they are much darker in colour. Apparently they don’t hibernate.
The plan to stop short at the minus 25m contour was again ignored. I went all the way up to the top wall over which could be seen Baugh Fell Tarn and the Howgills.
G/NP-012: BAUGH FELL, 678m, 4 pts, 11:50 to 12:38, 3 Deg.C, 15mph westerly wind. Sunshine and good views. Small patches of lying snow. Orange (EE) phone coverage (and DAB radio) from all parts of the route. LOC IO84TH - WAB: SD79.
Conveniently, the wind and sunshine were on opposite sides of the dry stone wall, upon which the 2m vertical was quickly erected.
145.400 FM - 11 QSO’s:
For the second time Geoff G4WHA/A called in first; this time I was merely checking channel occupancy. He quickly had me spotted which saved time. The following stations were worked with the TM702-E and 25 Watts to the J-Pole: G0TDM John - Penrith (Q5 but I wasn’t moving his meter); G1CCL/M Dave - Heysham; G4IBS Geoff - Darwen; G1HSO/M Mark - Blackpool; G0NAJ John - 7 mls NE Mchr; MM0OAT/M Graham at a Borders TX site NE of Carlisle; M1LSD/M Lee parked on the Sedbergh - Kendal road at M6-J37; G1OHH Sue - Lancaster (we had a nice chat); G6ODU Bob - Ormskirk. Finally there was an unhurried QSO with MW0WML/P Gerald S2S on GW/NW-048 with his XYL (53 both ways).
Descent and drive to NP23:
During the ‘leg aching’ descent of NP12, I phoned my friends who live in Garsdale. Once again, I was looking for permission to access Aye Gill Pike which they call Rise Hill, from their back yard. Approval was duly granted and what’s more, the kettle would be on!
Arriving back at the car from NP12 by 13:17, I spent 10 minutes re-packing the rucksack with a battery change for NP23. On Wild Boar Fell the TM702-E display had blanked out twice, making it hard to trust. Since NP23 is pretty dire for VHF, I packed the 5 Watt Handie to act as spare rig in place of the 2 Watt one. If something went wrong with the mobile rig on this well screened SOTA, I would need all the Watts I could get!
The A684 was exceptionally quiet today. The distance was less than 2 miles and I arrived at my friend’s cottage at 13:32. There was a nice welcome with home made biscuits and a gratefully accepted cup of tea. The latter and some electrolytes, set me up for the final summit of the day, though I was not looking forward to it. After we had caught up with the news in front of a roaring stove, the ascent of NP23 got underway at 14:09.
Route to NP23:
This goes up from Garsdale from an ASL of 190m, crossing private property. Ascent is 370m and distance one-way is 3.3 km. The route doesn’t use any paths as such until it reaches the spine wall/ fence, via a stile at SD 7071 8964. A path follows this Garsdale/ Dent boundary up to the trig point, crossing walls via gated stone stiles.
Some of the advantage of a slightly shorter approach is negated by the lack of paths, steep ground, reed beds, fallen walls with hidden rocks and masses of tussock all of which have to be negotiated. There is still a significant distance to walk once the top path is reached. That said, having walked this route in the past, thrice descending in the dark and more often than not in mist also, at least I knew the way.
The ascent took 56 minutes and I listened to England being thoroughly beaten by Sri Lanka at cricket on DAB. This was my fifth activation of this hill so I knew all about the potential for slow QSO rates on VHF. The J-Pole was set up in the wall top for the final activation of the day and I hoped all would be complete in time for a descent in daylight for a change.
AYE GILL PIKE, NP-023, 2pts, 15:05 to 15:44, 2 Deg.C, 10mph westerly wind (decreasing). Overcast. No lying snow. Orange (EE) phone coverage (and DAB radio) from all parts of the route. LOC: IO84SH - WAB: SD78.
145.400 FM - 6 QSO’s:
With 25 Watts from a (fingers crossed) well behaved TM702-E, I worked the following stations immediately: Geoff G4WHA/A, who spotted me, then G0TDM John - Penrith who had been alerted by Geoff via text message. After this it became difficult. There were no further takers; neither on the operating channel nor on 145.500. I tried several times, eventually enticing G6HMN ‘to the rescue’ via increasingly desperate CQ’ing. Ray was in Winewall (Colne) and reported Q5 but no ‘S’ Meter movement. ‘Good enough’ I thought as I gratefully entered his particulars into the log. That was number three.
Geoff G4WHA/A must have noticed that things were not going well for that ‘magic’ forth QSO and kindly spotted me again; adding an appeal in the comments box on SOTAwatch. I am not often in this position and to avoid just this situation last year, I had taken HF up this summit and worked Top Band while I was at it. Now I was stuck with VHFM. Whether it was Geoff’s spot or me ‘weeping into S20’ that did the trick, I at last managed to get that forth QSO in the form of G4FQW - Brian in Accrington.
Just like busses, in fact I logged two more after Brian: G4YLB Jim - Darwen and Phil G4OBK in Pickering. Phil was 55 to me but he really struggled to make the QSO. My 25 Watts to a vertical were giving him 3 by 2 but we made it after a few exchanges. The six stations took more than 20 minutes to work but it could have been much worse and I was grateful.
Simple VHF stations don’t take a lot of packing up so I was away smartly. Striding out with the onset of darkness in mind, I listening on DAB to the final demise of England’s chances in the final cricket ODI. Eventually after climbing two slimy moss covered gates and nearly injuring myself after slipping off, I found myself in my friend’s back field at last. The descent had taken 43 minutes to 16:27 and it was now dark.
After another cup of tea and some more biscuits (sadly I had to politely decline the meal offered), the 94 mile drive home commenced at 17:03. I arrived home at the early time of 19:28.
Ascent and Distance:
NP07- Wild Boar Fell: 432m 5.1 miles (8.1 km) to stone standards up & down.
NP12- Baugh Fell: 480m (1,575 ft) ascent, 2.8 miles (4.4 km) up & down.
NP23 - Aye Gill Pike: 370m (1,214 ft) ascent, 4.1 miles (6.6 km) up & down.
Totals: 1,282m (4,206ft) ascent, 11.9 miles (19.1km) walked.
Left Scarborough: 04:25
Arr. Mallerstang: 07:03 (103 inc 11 miles in error)
Walk for NP7: 07:31 (awaited first light)
NP7: 08:31 to 09:26 (60u/47d)
Rtn. Mallerstang: 10:18 (inc 5 min stop)
Arr. Aygill Garsdale: 10:37
Walk for NP12: 10:47
NP12: 11:50 to 12:38 (63u/39d)
Rtn. Aygill Garsdale: 13:17
Arr. G4LWW’s: 13:32
Walk for NP23: 14:09
NP23: 15:05 to 15:44 (56u/43d)
Rtn. G4LWW’s: 16:27 (Arrived in darkness)
Drive home: 17:03 to 19:28 (92 miles via A684 & A170)
Walking time: 5hr-8min at 2.3 mph ave.
Summit time: 2hr-22min (three summits)
QSO’s (All on 145-FM):
8 on NP7
11 on NP12
6 on NP23
Total: 25 QSO’s.
21 SOTA points including (the all important to me) 9 bonus points.
208 miles driven in the day (including 11 miles in error on the way there.)
NP7 & NP12 - 6Ah Li-Ion battery No1 was 63% discharged in 18 QSO’s (Tested).
NP23 - 6Ah Li-Ion battery No2 was 20% discharged in 6 QSO’s (Estimated).
Unless you are a chaser of unique summits, by December you can almost run out of available SOTA’s which can only be found progressively further from home. These three are certainly not the most efficient way I can think of to make winter bonus, particularly in 8 hours of available daylight but it was Hobson’s choice. Not only that but they are some of the worst for VHF’ing, especially considering the height of the first two at well over 2,000 feet. Another ‘excuse’ for doing these was to visit and deliver the traditional calendar to my friends in Garsdale.
The three add up to more than 4,000 feet of climbing and the better part of 12 miles of walking but I didn’t feel the after-effects much compared with the three LD summits of 1st of December, where a roughly equal amount of effort was expended, albeit with a heavier pack. It shows that fitness is hard earned and easily lost.
Summit temperatures were about average for December with the added bonus of bright sunshine for the noon activation of NP12. The only shower was of rain on the ascent of NP7 at around 8am. Apart from a necessary detour on the way up NP7, there was insufficient lying snow to impede progress or cause danger from slipping.
Simple VHFM activations are a world apart from multi-band HF QRO and such a refreshing change. That said, it won’t take half a day to enter this expedition into the SOTA database and my Excel log; a fact which must add up to a lot of disappointed chasers further afield.
There is not much to report on the hills themselves apart from the numerous mice on Baugh Fell and the beauty of a snow scene around NP7’s stone standards when a burst of early morning sunshine showed itself. Apart from sheep lower down, all the summits and their routes were completely deserted. There was good phone coverage and the same went for DAB radio; a good distraction from the relentless pain of ascent.
‘Phone-a-Spot’ Roy - G4SSH was down in London for a couple of days but a call on 145.500 usually gets QSO’s. Geoff & John (G4WHA/A and G0TDM) stood in for Roy and did an admirable job which on the last one at least, could have made the difference between qualifying in reasonable time with hours of delay and yet another dark descent. It was much appreciated as always.
Thanks to all stations worked and to G4WHA and G0TDM for spotting. Thanks also to Edward G4LWW and XYL Mary for their hospitality and permission to route up from their house to Rise Hill (NP23) for the fifth time.
6 down and 18 to go!
73, John G4YSS
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call).