Gt.WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008 / IO94AD VHF-NFD / SOTA Campover, 02 & 03-07-11
G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P).
VHF-NFD on 4m-2m-70cm (Ninth consecutive year on NP8).
SOTA on 160m-80m-40m-2m.
Non-radio: BST (UTC plus 1).
Radio ops: UTC (‘z’).
IC706-2G HF-VHF-UHF 100W multimode. 9-ely parabeam for 70cm. 3-ely SOTA-Beam for 2m SSB. Half-wave vertical for 4m FM. J-Pole for 2m FM. 80m link dipole on 5m mast for MF-HF. Loading coils with slug tuning for 160m.
4m Band: IC-E90 Quad-band 5W H/H with integral 7.2V / 1.3Ah Li-Po battery.
2m-FM Scarborough link: Jingtong mono-band 2W H/H with integral 7.2V / 0.6 Ah Nicad.
BATTERIES – Li-Po: One 13.2 Ah. Two 9.0 Ah. One 8.6 Ah. One 2.2Ah. 42 Ah total. (3.42kg inc paralleling harnesses.)
85 litre rucksack with antennas strapped to outside.
COOKING: ‘Stove’ made from 5 pieces welding rod (see discussion). 4 tablets of hexamine. Fruit tin 3.3” dia by 3.5” high used as a boiling vessel after contents eaten. Wire end-cutters used for handling / pouring out.
LUXURIES: Airbed (0.6kg). 4 tea bags & dried milk. One radish from my garden.
Ascent: 28.6kg, (63 pounds) including food, 1 ltr Drinks, 1.25 ltr water & 2 ltr ice. (21kg in 2010). Descent: 22.6kg, (45 pounds). (Plus masts for VHF & UHF beams hand carried -1kg.)
Set off from Scarborough at 16:00 on Saturday 2nd July-11.
Arrived Top of Park Rash above Kettlewell (SD 9863 7573) at 18:05.
Trig Point/ photos: 19:10.
Camping place / QTH: 19:16 Saturday to 17:20 Sunday.
Descent to car: 17:57 Sunday.
Drive home: 18:08 to 20:03 Sunday 3rd July-11.
(Drive: 154 miles both ways).
After tolerating bad WX on NP8 last year when the noise of flapping fabric, beating rain and beams swinging into wind unbidden made things difficult, the Mountain WX forecast this weekend was very encouraging. There was to be a settled high pressure for two days, which is why the decision was made to go for a summit camp-over. Also I haven’t indulged in one since bringing in the New Year on NP4 in 2007-8.
As always, the idea was not to enter the contest, just to enjoy the increased VHF activity, to give out a few /P points to people whilst satisfying the SOTA chasers at the same time. There was also the possibility of 6m operation confined to Saturday but that didn’t happen. I did try 6m on Saturday evening but could not reach any of the stations called. I was using the HF dipole and although it has worked before, the VSWR was sky high on 6m this time.
A path, boggy in places, goes SE via a wall with step-gate and a couple of steep gullies to a stile at SD 9963 7522, where the gradient eases. The well-defined path takes minor detours around outcrop and is marked by a series of yellow-topped posts (at SE 0005 7468, SE 0019 7429 and SE 0022 7414). The trig-point is at SE 00205 73905. Ascent is modest at 211m (692ft) and distance is around 5.5km (3.4 miles up & down).
Though wet in places, the enormous flat top makes an ideal VHF takeoff whilst allowing a huge choice for setting up. The surface is grass on peat, which will readily accept masts and tent pegs to any depth required.
It took well over an hour to prepare the camp and station consisting of an old ridge tent, half of an 18-ely Parabeam (my son’s) atop a 2.2m (hand-carried) alloy tube, a modified 2m-3ely SOTA Beam supported in identical manner and an 80m link dipole on its 5m mast. The 2m J-Pole was fixed on the ridge tent’s front pole. The 4m end-fed aerial was just placed on a 1m carbon rod.
Time was saved because extra storm guys and pegs were not needed this year. The beams are positioned either side of the flysheet near the front, so that they can be rotated with one hand under the side but the presence of an inner tent this year meant that this was not so easy. The HF dipole needs to be out of the way at the side of the ‘camp’ and was oriented east/ west.
The IC706-2G was canted up on and connected to the 13.2Ah battery but it needs to be wrapped in aluminium mesh if it is to function on the 2m band without ‘taking off. The IC-E90 handles the 4m FM requirement very well and was left connected to the 4m vertical and a 2,2Ah Li-Po for the duration. I have no equipment for 4m SSB.
Up to and including the 2008 NFD, either old RS Dryfits or an aircraft battery with a rating of 36 Ah was the power source. The latter weighs 10.8kg, inflicts agony on the lower back when carrying it and results in pack weights in excess of 60 pounds just for a single day operation. The 2009 solution was 40 Ah in the form of three 7.5 Ah SLABS (8kg) and 17.6 Ah’s worth of Li-Po’s (1.45kg). Total weight – 9.5 kg; still heavy (55 pound pack) and not all used. Last year there were more Li-Po’s and less Lead-Acid resulting in a pack weight of 21kg. Though costs have been no less than astronomic, this is the first VHF-NFD without any SLABs at all but with 42Ah of lithium doing the job.
This year I took 4.25 litres of water & drinks. About 0.75 litres of ice was discarded before the descent. Last year a 0.75 ltr. drink and a can of sardines was depoted with rocks piled on top. These were still there but I swapped the sardines for a new tin, bringing the old one home to return to the cupboard. Anyone can use these items if they so wish. There are watercourses but well off the sides of the hill. There are plenty of WW2 aircraft wrecks too; more than on any summit I know of.
GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008, 704m (2310ft), 6 pts for SOTA. 19:10 Saturday to 17:20 Sunday. Approx 17 Deg.C. 10 mph west wind dropped to zero mph overnight. Sunshine both days. WAB: SE07. LOC: IO-94-AD.
Reliable mobile phone coverage (O2 & Orange) is still lacking on this summit but occasionally the network ‘pops up’ unexpectedly. A text message may need 4 attempts to send but they can be received after a delay.
Unfortunately GB3YC Scarborough, which used to be easily reachable with a watt or two, is now off the air for good, having been replaced by a digital repeater on the same site at Octon. Thus safety is reduced. The alternative was the setting up of a 2m FM link back to Roy G4SSH at Irton (Scarborough). This provides a useful safety and operational service and was successfully set up using 5W (later a 2W Jingtong) to the half-wave vertical on the front tent pole. At 102km from Irton, NP8 is the closest 2k to Scarborough.
I was not always good readability to Roy but he was 57 with his 70W. Sometimes I had to change to the 706 and use 50W to get through. I could not hear Scarborough stations Kevin G0NUP or Nick G4OOE on this setup but they were workable on 2m CW via my SOTA beam canted at 45 degrees to provide a vertical component for their aerials.
NOTE: This expedition featured a lot of band / mode ‘flitting.’
Times (UTC) are therefore shown.
Index to operating:
Saturday – SOTA only:
- 145.400 FM – 3 QSO’s from 20:00z.
- 144.050 CW – 2 QSO’s from 20:09z.
- 1.831 CW - 15 QSO‘s from 20:56z.
- 1.842 SSB - 11 QSO‘s from 21:26z.
Saturday – NFD & SOTA:
- 4m FM – 1 QSO at 22:05z.
- 2m SSB - 12 QSO‘s from 22:43z.
Sunday – NFD & SOTA:
- 145.400 FM – 3 QSO’s from 05:57z.
- 1.832 CW - 2 QSO‘s from 06:05z.
- 3.556.5 CW - 1 QSO at 06:20z.
- 1.832 CW - 4 QSO‘s from 06:34z.
- 145.400 FM – 1 QSO at 06:51.
- 144.050 CW – 2 QSO’s from 06:55z.
- 144 SSB - 8 QSO‘s from 07:31z.
- 145.400 FM – 1 S2S at 08:49z.
- 3.557 CW – 1 QSO at 09:00z.
- 144.050 CW – 1 S2S at 09:12z.
- 7.032 CW – 1 S2S at 09:21z.
- 144 SSB - 7 QSO’s from 09:27z.
- 4m FM – 4 QSO’s from 09:58z.
- 144 SSB - 8 QSO’s from 10:32z.
- 4m FM – 1 QSO at 11:13z.
- 144 SSB - 1 QSO at 11:26z.
- 432 SSB - 21 QSO’s from 11:30z.
- 144 SSB - 20 QSO’s from 13:10z.
- 4m FM – 1 QSO at 13:56z.
- 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 13:57 to 13:59z.
Sunday SOTA only:
- 7.032 CW – 22 QSO’s from 14:08z.
- 145 FM – 17 QSO’s from 14:42.
- 145.400 FM – 3 QSO’s from 20:00z Sat:
All was ready for a sked with home at 9pm local. Stations worked with 5W to the vertical were G4SSH & M6YLS. Roy & Hazel. This was Hazel’s first QSO of any distance and her first ever chaser points. She was only licenced on 20th June and was shaking with nerves, desperate to get it over with. Fortunately Roy & Nick were on the channel to guide her through it.
Hazel was 51 to me and sounded OK apart from speaking too far from the microphone; a problem that was soon rectified. She was quite excited to have succeeded using 5W from a VX150 to a Slim Jim on the chimney but very relieved to have got through an ordeal that she had been dreading. She is not the only one who can be microphone shy. I know it still gets to me sometimes even after all these years.
Though I could hear Nick G4OOE, he could not be reached with this setup because his QTH is down near Scarborough hospital, so a move to higher power and an antenna change on my part was required. For Nick’s QSO my 3-ely SOTA Beam and mast were canted over at 45 degrees and 50 Watts of FM applied from the IC706. Nick was now hearing me 44. Even so, I don’t know how this worked knowing Nick’s location but somehow it did.
144.050 CW – 2 QSO’s from 20:09z Sat:
Again using the SOTA Beam at 45 degrees and the IC706 set to 50 Watts, Roy and Nick were re-worked in CW. Instead of 41 on FM, I now got readability 5 from Nick who like Roy is primarily a CW op. For G4SSH it was 579 both ways. Roy is a purist and unless a station is worked in CW, it doesn’t count for him at all. He has only recently started to class the handful of VHF CW SOTA QSO’s he works as acceptable to add to the database if there’s no HF alternative. Roy uses an FT897 on 144 CW.
1.831 CW - 15 QSO‘s from 20:56z Sat:
The arranged time for this was 22:30 BST but after a message from Mark G0VOF, who was due to help on an overnight RAYNET exercise, I brought it forward by half an hour. One of the reasons for staying overnight was to get good conditions on Top Band, unavailable on summer days.
The aerial was soon set up for 160 but for some reason the VSWR was high. The ‘peaky’ minimum is usually well under 1.5:1 but tonight it was almost 3:1 and seemed flatter. I now have a tiny purpose built continuity buzzer which can be used to test wire aerials quickly. After installing the buzzer to the BNC coax plug, I walked one end of the dipole round to the other and fitted a shorting link. Immediately the sound of the buzzer could be heard from the tent, meaning the aerial, the coax and the 160m loading coils were all continuous, so what was wrong? I also found that the minimum SWR points seemed to have moved HF when the 80m & 40m bands were selected. This needs further investigation but there was no time.
The handy VHF link to G4SSH told me that 1.832 was unavailable so I called Roy on 1.831 CW and logged him at 20:56z. After that using a power of around 50W, the following stations were worked: G0VOF, G4OOE, EI2CL, G4OBK, G3WPF, G0TDM, G3RDQ, G4WSB, ON2WAB, G4CMZ (not to be confused with G4CMQ), GI4SRQ, GW0DSP, M0COP and later on at 21:57z during the 160m SSB session, G0NUP. To work so many stations was a pleasure and the fact that Peter ON2WAB got a QSO too was a bonus. Most ops reported moderate to strong signals; much better than in the day of course but you don’t get anything for nothing. Background noise, absent on summits by day, had built up to around S5. (See discussion at end).
- 1.842 SSB - 11 QSO‘s from 21:26z Sat:
Again the announced QRG of 1.843 was in use so 1.842 was used. It might have been better to have had the SSB well away from this busy end of the band but the aerial wouldn’t allow this without fiddly adjustment in the dark. With the power set to around 70W, 11 stations called in with moderate to strong signals: G4WSB, ON2WAB, G4JZF, HB9BIN, G4OBK, PA0SKP, M6WSB, G0NES, G0NUP (Kevin was also worked in CW) then G3JMJ and about 15 minutes later, G8ADD. This proved to be a very worthwhile exercise with the bonus of the three overseas stations and a few first chases on 160 but the steady stream of chasers had now dried up. (See discussion at end).
VHF-NFD & SOTA:
With Field Day, the best option seems to be to dip into a band & work across it a couple of times, exchanging with all stations which can be heard. After that it’s a good idea to park on a spot and call CQ for a while on different beam headings until that ploy dries up. One advantage is that the latter gives SOTA chasers half a chance. Thanks go to Roy G4SSH for spotting some of my fixed frequencies with SOTA chasers in mind. When fresh stations become hard to find, a QSY to another band without delay is the best recourse. You can repeat the process after new stations have appeared. Nearer the end of the contest it’s not a bad idea to sit on a spot and call CQ provided sufficient battery power is available.
4m FM – 1 QSO at 22:05z Sat:
MW1FGQ John answered my 3 Watt CQ on 70.450 FM. 59-001 both ways started the NFD contest ball rolling.
2m SSB - 12 QSO‘s from 22:43z Sat:
NFD stations were mainly chased down apart from the last three worked on 144.235. Prefixes included: G, MI, MM & EI0W/P. SOTA chasers Phil OBK & Bob ODU were in this batch. G4FZN/P Clive was with a North Yorkshire Radio Group located near the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge above Kirkbymoorside.
QRT was at 22:36z whence I retired to my sleeping bag a little earlier than planned. It was so still that I could hear music coming up from below - probably from the youth centre at Hagg Dike. Serials 002 thro 013:
ZZZZZzzzzzzz: Was it a dream? ‘G4YSS from G4SSH - copy John?’ This was Roy on the 2m link. He had called in to see if I was still operating into the new day as it was now 00:07z on Sunday. I couldn’t even find the radio at first; only slowly realising that I would need headlamp and glasses just to do that.
Roy didn’t copy my 2W return signal so I hooked up the 706 to call him back. We tried a sked on 1.823CW but after several calls using 100W at the summit end, we decided that we were not going to work. Roy was hearing me OK but I couldn’t hear him; a reversal of the daytime conditions on 160m. Band noise was above S5 with a few static crashes thrown in. In my dopey state I didn’t think to try 144.050 CW; it would have worked immediately and given Roy the points he’d deprived himself of sleep for.
Back to sleep.ZZZZZzzzzzzz……….
145.400 FM – 3 QSO’s from 05:57z Sun:
After a few wakeful periods and the dawn chorus I woke to the radio again. ‘GX0OOO/P from G4OBK.’ It’s a good job Phil called me. It wasn’t that long before the Top Band Sked time or so I thought in my befuddled state. After a while Mike G4BLH and Roger G4OWG added to the group. I tried to sound at least half awake but probably failed. Without time for breakfast a QSY to 160m was made.
1.832 CW - 2 QSO‘s from 06:05z Sun:
I assumed I was five minutes late but Phil OBK was soon worked and Roy followed for his second batch of 6 points. After these the band was quiet and sounded flat and lifeless. Following a few CQ’s with no response, I decided that nobody else was hearing me and booked a spot with Roy for a QSY to 3.557CW in the hope that waiting frustrated 160m chasers could copy me on 80m.
3.556.5 CW - 1 QSO at 06:20z Sun:
Several CQ’s got me a QSO with G3XIZ Charlie in Biggleswade – as far as I know not a SOTA chaser. The first battery (13.2Ah) would have to go flat at this moment wouldn’t it? After allowing me to give a short warning the rig cut out. How embarrassing but perhaps fortunate? Someone – probably Roy broke the news on 2m that the assumed sked I’d just had on 1.832CW had been half an hour early and was now due! No wonder the regulars were absent. I scrambled back to 160 ASAP to be greeted with further success.
1.832 CW - 4 QSO‘s from 06:34z Sun:
One CQ and the band seemed alive with signals. Well there were four anyway – not bad for Top Band in daylight. Power was 100W. Stations worked: G0VOF, G3RDQ, G4BLH and EI2CL. Mark was very strong with his good aerial and could now get off to bed after a night of RAYNET’ing. David was moderate but the two Mikes took a bit more work – 229 reports coming back from them. They went into the log and that’s all that counts. Conditions were nothing like the night before. The sun had been up for far too long and the D-Layer was now mostly in charge. Next was one more sked with home again on 2m, then back to NFD.
145.400 FM – 1 QSO at 06:51 Sun:
This was a second sked with home for Hazel M6YLS. Roy guided her onto the frequency again for another 6 points for the new day, again using 5W from a VX150 to a Slim Jim on the chimney. She was 53 and I gave her NFD contest serial No 014. She sounded more confident than on the previous day as if she was starting to enjoy it.
144.050 CW – 2 QSO’s from 06:55z Sun:
Roy G4SSH was 579-015 on the IC706 (50W) to the vertical then 2W0IBM called me for contest QSO 559-016 from IO83LD.
Breakfast: Tea, Pot Noodle, Scotch Eggs & a sandwich.
144 SSB - 8 QSO‘s from 07:31z Sun:
Using 50W I worked G & GM contesters with the 3-Ely.
145.400 FM – 1 S2S at 08:49z Sun:
Nick, G4OOE just arrived at the summit of Buckden Pike G/NP-009 and was erecting a mast for his 7 MHz dipole. NP8 & NP9 are ‘twins’ and he was only 6km distant. The state of play with regard to Nick was relayed down to Roy so that Nick could be alerted for 7.032 at 09:30z. The QSO with Nick, in addition to being an S2S, was also good for VHF-NFD (59-024 / 59-001 – IO84XE.)
3.557 CW – 1 QSO at 09:00z Sun:
G0NUP & I failed to work on 2m CW but Kevin got his points for the new day on 80m via a quick sked arranged on the 2m link with Roy. Power was 70W (339 from Kevin).
144.050 CW – 1 S2S at 09:12z Sun:
Nick, G4OOE at the summit of Buckden Pike G/NP-009. 599 in the new mode.
7.032 CW – 1 S2S at 09:21z Sun:
Nick G4OOE with his third band/ mode variation from G/NP-009. 40m CW seemed ‘confused’ today. There was a QRP contest running on it but I think Nick found some SOTA chasers amongst the mayhem.
144 SSB - 7 QSO’s from 09:27z Sun:
G & GM contesters logged with 50W to the 3-Ely but also including PE1EWR 55-028 / 57-056 in JO11DL. I used 144.306 for the first five QSO’s starting with SOTA chaser Geoff G6MZX until G3NFC/P worked me whence I had to apologize before QSY’ing. Apparently I had been splashing onto their operation from Alton Towers on 144.305. I had checked the frequency was clear but maybe they were beaming away at the time. These things happen but it is a very friendly contest. I never heard any anger.
4m FM – 4 QSO’s from 09:58z Sun:
Following a CQ and using 3W to the vertical on 70.425 FM, M3RDZ (Roy), G3UCA (Peter), M3VVV (Jonathan) & GB4BTS/P (Alan) were logged for NFD.
144 SSB - 8 QSO’s from 10:32z Sun:
After a request on the 2m link, whence Roy spotted me on a fixed frequency of 144.241 MHz, SOTA chasers G4JZF and G4WSB were logged along with six contesters. Used 50W from IC706 to the 3-Ely horizontal.
G3TPW called in. Steve was walking on the hill above Malton and using an FT817 to a halo antenna. We had a chat as I brewed my next cuppa and Steve advised me to try PG Tips Strong teabags for enhanced flavour!
After one more contact, the second battery – a new 8.6 Ah Li-Po, became exhausted.
4m FM – 1 QSO at 11:13z Sun:
G4FVP/P 59-044 / 59-092. 3W to the vertical.
144 SSB - 1 QSO at 11:26z Sun:
Dipping back into 2m SSB before a QSY to 70cm, I worked M0RRC/P 59-045 / 59-092 on 144.206.
432 SSB - 21 QSO’s from 11:30z Sun:
I think this was the most rewarding session of VHF-NFD with twenty one G, GM, EI & GI stations worked in under an hour and a half with the IC706 and 20 Watts to the 9-Ely Horizontal Beam. All but the first four were worked on a fixed frequency of 432.229 which was spotted following a request on the 2m FM link to Roy G4SSH in Scarborough. Roy was doing a fantastic job for me and he had also been spotting for Nick on Buckden Pike.
Some of the stations worked: G0FBB/P in JO01LD, EI9X/P in IO62OM, GI4FUM/P in IO74DT, GM3HAM/P in IO74WV and old friends; the Goole Radio Club G0OLE/P in IO93PX near York. Roy’s spot enabled SOTA chaser Roger G4OWG to work me on 70cm.
G0EHV/P Eddie was part of a North Yorkshire Radio Group located near the Lion inn on Blakey Ridge above Kirkbymoorside. G4FZN/P Clive, worked Saturday at 23:27z on 2m SSB, was also part of that group. G4DAX of the Scarborough Amateur Radio Society is a member but he stopped operating before I could work him.
144 SSB - 20 QSO’s from 13:10z Sun:
G, GM & GW in NFD. All stations worked with 50W on a frequency of 144.222 posted by Roy which also brought in SOTA chasers G6ODU, G0NES & G0TRB.
4m FM – 1 QSO at 13:56z Sun:
G4BLH Mike with 3W to the vertical.
144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 13:57 to 13:59z Sun:
Final NFD stations: GW3ATZ/P, G5RV/P & GM4PPT.
By now the third battery – a 9Ah was flat.
END of CONTEST.
7.032 CW – 22 QSO’s from 14:08z Sun:
This was probably the best place to boost the QSO total. Using 60 to 100W because power saving wasn’t important this late in the proceedings, I worked: DL1FU, DL6UNF, G4SSH, LA1ENA, 9A4LW, DL3JPN, G4AFI, EA1DFP, PA0WDG, OK1AOV, DL6KVA, F6LWF, HB9AAQ, F6ENO, OK2QA, OE7PHI, G4WSX, DJ5AV, DL4FCK (Gerd), G3WPF, OK1AU & F5SQA. Despite the use of QRO 40m seemed a bit of a struggle at times. The VSWR was quite high though – the minimum was at around 7.150 or was it just band conditions?
145 FM – 17 QSO’s from 14:42 Sun:
Another place to boost up the total. Amongst regular chasers and hitherto unknowns were Colin & Heather G4UXH & M6UXH. One of the operators of the VHF-NFD station G2AS/P worked me under his own callsign G7NNZ/P. A much more confident Hazel M6YLH came in with an update about life in Scarborough and young Jordan M3TMX was also logged. The final contact of the day was an S2S with G4MCQ/M handheld at the summit of Scafell Pike G/LD-001. Steve was on holiday from Bristol and I think it may have been his first intro to SOTA as he wasn’t sure of his SOTA Ref. The time was 16:17 BST (15:17z).
If I was to get home for 8pm, VHF-NFD / SOTA on NP8 was over for the ninth year running. Getting the extensive ‘encampment’ back into the rucksack was the next priority. Last year it took 70 minutes in rain & high winds but this year in benign conditions it was done in around an hour. Half a litre of water and a bit more of ice were jettisoned prior to the descent which was started at 17:20 local.
The Wimbledon men’s final had now ended so it was England being beaten at Cricket by Sri Lanka in a ODI on DAB radio that took my mind off the descent. I was back at the car by 18:00. It always gives me a boost when it’s still there especially after being left in the middle of nowhere for 24 hours.
Total 42 Ah of Li-Po’s were 86 % depleted. I.e. 36 Ah used from the available supply; leaving 6Ah. (One partially discharged 9 Ah Li-Po with 65 min remaining at the 4.8 Amp test current).
The 2.2Ah Li-Po which ran the ICE-90 over 22 hours, was 94% depleted.
The 1.3 Ah IC-E90 battery was not used.
The Jingtong 0.6 Ah nicad was not fully discharged at the end.
Ninety Serial numbers were given out for VHF-NFD contacts, mostly on 2 & 70 SSB with a few on 2m & 4m FM. If you are entering, it’s now the practice to start at 001 on each new band. Life is hard enough with a multi-page paper log in a tent and no electronic aids, so I just use the old trusty method of incrementing the serial numbers regardless of band.
To my mind NFD is just for enjoyment, to give out points and the SOTA summit without the bureaucracy of submitting a contest entry. I am never going to make an impact anyway given that there are limits to the quality and quantity of aerials and other equipment that can be carried up to 2300 feet single-handedly. Also, my operating skills would need to be a lot better than they are now. I keep taking food, tea & ‘ache’ breaks to say little of the usual interruptions for a male of my age group!
Again operating was gentlemanly and hassle free throughout and I often ‘threw in’ the SOTA Ref and sometimes the summit name with the LOC in case any one wanted it. There was some interest in the location.
Generally speaking, the time and effort taken to get the exchange correct and confirmed, especially for marginal contacts, was commendable. One thing that I am a bit lazy about is to periodically turn the beam north to give our GM friends a chance. Because of the overnight stay with an inner tent inside the flysheet, turning the two beams using a hand under the flysheet was more awkward this year.
Great Whernside provides good radio paths up and down the east side of the Pennines relatively unhindered. It’s simple to climb from a 1500 foot parking spot and the huge area of grass on peat makes it quick and easy to install a moderately comprehensive station.
The ‘big lift’ required for NFD can be tolerated for the short time it takes to get up there. Route-finding and paths are generally good. Mobile phone coverage is unreliable to say the least.
The airbed, which served both night & day, was worth the extra weight but I must get a wider sleeping bag as I never did get it zipped right up. Had it been a cold night I might have suffered. You cannot stand or sit very easily in a small ridge tent but with the airbed doubled and lashed at one end and a rolled up sleeping bag inside the rucksack, I found I could recline in relative comfort throughout the day. In previous years on one elbow with my head unsupported throughout this event, I have suffered with a stiff neck for days. Not so this year.
I couldn’t afford the weight of a proper clam-type hexamine stove let alone one that runs on butane. The solution was my five-piece welding rod stove weighing just 0.75oz plus the hexamine (4 tablets). This was simply made by bending one section of rod into 8 zig-zags to make a platform with two prongs at right angles and surrounding it with four straight pan supports (1.4mm dia x 25cm long mild steel gas welding-) rods all stuck in the ground. With a half tablet of hexamine on the platform and an aluminium foil windbreak I was able to boil water quickly in the leftover tin-can for tea or re-hydrating food. The can was better than a pan because its lip stabilised it on the four supports. The contents were of course eaten first.
Staying overnight probably had more positives than negatives. On the one hand I had to walk up with more weight than ever on a hot afternoon but I didn’t need to get up at 02:30 to drive there. I will admit to feeling pretty well broken by the 63 pound pack on the steep bits earlier in the ascent and had to stop frequently. It was a special moment when I put that pack down at the top. The fact that it was 6kg lighter on the way down helped immensely if only psychologically.
Operating on 160m was the main reason for staying overnight and was all the more successful because of it. I usually run 160m on the Sunday morning after arrival when the station has been set up. (07:00z in 2009 & 2010 but at 15:20z in 2008). This year it was scheduled earlier because I was already there but band conditions were no better because of that fact. Daytime conditions are long established by 06:00 in early July which made the late evening session all the more important. The fact that six contacts were made in the morning still rates as good however.
As one would expect, the band is completely different in late evening compared with daylight hours. Instead of no background noise we had about S5 of hiss and static, with a few crashes thrown in for good measure. On the plus side propagation was enhanced and serving a much wider audience, which enabled 15 QSO’s in CW plus 11 more during a rare sortie to SSB. Once the rush had died down I didn’t pursue futher (non-SOTA) contacts mainly because of time and power constraints but 26 QSO’s for the evening is quite a satisfying number.
The geographical breakdown was somewhat disappointing. The SSB QSO with Juerg HB9BIN (21:35z – 57/55) indicated that the signal was getting into the continent quite well so I would have expected many of the stations I normally work on 40m during the day to give it a go on 160. The fact that I didn’t hear them may mean that they either don’t have 160m antennas or they had dismissed the chances of making a QSO on 160 as zero. Probably the reason is again down to noise level which is a real Top Band spoiler especially in the towns and cities but time zoning further east may have been a factor. As for the aerial, many ops work me regularly on antennas which were never intended to work on 160m.
It is worth reiterating that G4SSH (Scarborough at 102km) and I tried to make contact on 1.832 CW at 00:15 UTC (01:15 local) but failed. He could hear me but I got nothing but S5 or S6 of noise. Either the noise level was too high for the signal or propagation / skip had become way too long to make it possible, given the prevailing noise level. Roy & I have worked successfully from both LD37 and NP4 after midnight in the past so I think it must just have been the QRN.
The total of 32 QSO’s added to nine in previous years, will bring NP8 into second place behind NP15 for Top Band QSO’s.
Saturday : 44
TOTAL: 174 QSO’s.
2m SSB: 58
70cm SSB: 21
4m FM: 7
2m FM: 4
Total (Contest): 90
Non-Contest / SOTA
160m CW: 21
160m SSB: 11
40m CW: 23
80m CW: 2
2m CW: 5
2m FM: 22
Total (SOTA): 84
Ascent/ Distance: 211m (692ft)/ distance 5.5km (3.4 miles up & down).
Times: Ascent: 46 min. Descent: 37 min. Summit time: 22 hrs-4min.
Pack weight: See ‘equipment’.
Drive home: 18:08 to 20:03. This was SSEG’s 9th successive VHF field day on NP8, Scarborough’s closest 2k at 63 miles line of sight and a mere 154 miles round trip by road.
Thank you to spotters: Roy G4SSH, ON2WAB, G4JZF, G4OBK, G0VOF, DL1FU and G4BLH. You all did a great job for me.
Thanks to all SOTA chasers and contest stations for the most enjoyable VHF-NFD since the G4YSS/ G0UUU days!
Special thanks to Roy G4SSH who manned the 2m FM link and spotted without respite up to 01:30 Saturday and again from about 06:50 Sunday!!
73, John G4YSS
(Using Scarborough Special Events Group callsign; GX0OOO/P).