G4YSS: G/NP8 VHF-NFD Campover, 5&6-07-14

Gt.WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008 / IO94AD VHF-NFD / SOTA Campover, 5th & 6th July 2014

G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P).
VHF-NFD on 2m & 70cm (12th consecutive year for VHF-NFD on NP8).
SOTA on 160m-80m-40m-2m. Unaccompanied.

Non-radio: BST (UTC plus 1) UOS.
Radio ops: UTC (‘z’).

IC706-2G HF-VHF-UHF QRO multimode. 9-ely parabeam for 70cm. 3-ely SOTA-Beam for 2m SSB. 80m link dipole on 5m mast for HF. Loading coils with slug tuning for 160m.
IC-E90 Quad-band 5W H/H with integral 7.2V / 1.3Ah Li-Po battery in reserve. (Not used)

Li-Po Batteries: One 13.2 Ah (100% used). Two 6 Ah (87% used). Two 4.3 Ah (not used).
33.8 Ah total carried. (Total of 23.6 Ah used). Three paralleling harnesses.

COOKING: ‘Stove’ made from 5 pieces welding rod. Three tablets of hexamine. Fruit tin 3.3” dia by 3.5” high used as a boiling vessel. Wire end-cutters used for handling/ pouring out.

LUXURIES: Cheap (ebay) airbed (0.45kg - found to be punctured and of no use). Plastic folding stool (1.1kg - left on site 2013 - disappeared by 2014). 3 tea bags & dried milk. Home-brew voice keyer (0.18kg).

Pack weights:
85 litre rucksack with 3.6kg of antennas, poles, tent etc strapped to outside (included in figures.)
Ascent: 22.7kg, (50 pounds) including food, 1 ltr Drinks, 1 ltr water & 1.5 ltr ice. (Not including masts for VHF & UHF beams and some canes which are hand-carried - total 1kg.)
Descent: 18.2kg, (40 pounds). Approx.1.3 litre unwanted drinks discarded before descent.

Set off from Scarborough at 17:10 on Saturday 5th July-14.
Drove via Bedale to avoid Tour de France route through Masham. (81 miles).
Arrived Top of Park Rash above Kettlewell (SD 9863 7573) at 19:35.
Walking: 20:00 precisely.
Trig Point/ photos: 20:40 precisely.
Camping place / QTH: 20:47 Saturday to 15:40 Sunday.
Descent to car: 16:13 Sunday.
Drive home: 16:25 to 18:30 Sunday.
(Drive: 81.3 + 76.0 = 157 miles both ways).

This was the twelfth consecutive G4YSS/ GX0OOO/P Great Whernside VHF-NFD. Of these there have been three campovers in 2011; 2013 and now in 2014. The decision to stay overnight was not made lightly because of two factors. Most importantly the mountain weather forecast stated, ‘Heavy thundery showers will develop in the afternoon.’

Secondly the Tour de France and a couple of million spectators were packed into Yorkshire that day. The ride was from Leeds to Harrogate via Wharfedale, Swaledale and Wensleydale a route which completely surrounded Great Whernside and something I’d had in the back of my mind for weeks! According to ‘letour.yorkshire.com’ the A684 through Masham was scheduled to reopen by 18:00 but the roads might still be congested after that. In fact a small route variation via Bedale seemed to do the trick. Queues of eastbound traffic at Bedale were nearly two miles long but not so for me heading west, whence the delay was less than ten minutes.

After a 60 pound carry in 2013, I tried hard to decrease the weight of equipment needed this year. I took fewer batteries and less food/ drinks. Those and other changes resulted in a pack weight of 50 pounds this time. Added to a personal weight loss of 28 pounds since last year, the 10 pounds saved resulted in a faster ascent of 40 minutes as against 51 for 2013. This was just about non-stop but it needed to be. The agony in the shoulders and back of a large, seldom used rucksack of questionable quality, far outweighed the usual limiting factors of leg pain or respiratory overload. I have long needed a better rucksack for these occasional big carries but as we say in Yorkshire, I can’t ‘thoil it.’

I traditionally park at the top of Park Rash at SD 9863 7573 and the route, boggy at first, is described in previous reports. Ascent is a modest 211m (692ft) and distance is around 5.5km (3.4 miles up & down).

As usual the road was blocked by highland cattle. On returning to the car after the 2013 descent, I found it ‘half wrecked’ with scratches down both sides from sharp horns and it was the second time that real damage had been sustained. Every window had been systematically licked and both door mirrors were internally destroyed and hanging on their cables. I could not risk a repeat this year with my posh ‘new’ 500GBP wonder so I was forced to park in a waist-deep nettle bed on the ‘safe side’ of the cattle grid (at SD 98610 75673.) This is no more than 50 metres from where I usually park but the ground is uneven to say nothing of the potential for being stung.

The SOTA QTH is a couple of hundred metres NE of the trig point. It takes more than an hour to prepare the camp and station I listened to Johnny Walker on Radio 2 while this boring task was underway. Fortunately, there was sufficient daylight to complete the job. The 9-ely Parabeam atop a 2.2m (hand-carried) alloy tube and a modified 2m-3ely SOTA Beam supported in identical manner, were positioned either side of the flysheet near the front, so that they can be rotated with one hand under the side. Since last year, in order to know which way the beams are pointing without going outside, I have painted a line down one side of each mast. A groundsheet and six pegs was used to cover the grass but I didn’t take the inner tent.

The 80m link dipole on its 5m mast was positioned to one side. The 2m J-Pole was deployed but never used. To save weight, I didn’t take the 70 MHz vertical which made the IC-E90 redundant apart from its role as a token 4-QSO backup rig should the IC706-2G fail.

GREAT WHERNSIDE, G/NP-008, 704m (2310ft), 6 pts for SOTA. 20:40 Saturday to 15:40 Sunday 6th July 2014. 15 Deg.C/ 7C overnight. 5 mph west wind dropped to zero overnight; 10 mph on Sunday. Full or hazy sun both days with periods of overcast on Sunday. No rain except 10 minutes of light drizzle at 7am on Sunday. No low-cloud. WAB: SE07. LOC: IO-94-AD. Intermittent but mostly non existent phone coverage (Orange-EE).

Where’s my stool?
On arrival, I searched for my little storage cairn where I should have found a folding buffet and other small items. The cairn was nowhere to be found but where it had been was covered in a thick and solid layer of fresh peat. Sheep have been known to disrupt my stored equipment over the years but this was evidently human activity. Why? I know not but it looked like a machine had dumped this slab here and it was too solid to dig with no tools. No worries, I had lost nothing of monetary value and I still had the airbed to sit on. (Or so I thought!)

Index to operating 2014:
Times: UTC

Saturday – NFD & SOTA:

  1. 144 SSB - 7 QSO’s from 21:33z. NFD.
  2. 1.832 CW - 4 QSO’s from 22:00z. SOTA.
  3. 1.843 SSB - 6 QSO‘s from 22:13z. SOTA.
  4. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 22:48z. NFD.

Sunday – NFD & SOTA:

  1. 144 SSB - 7 QSO’s from 07:06z. NFD.
  2. 3.557 CW - 5 QSO’s from 07:32z. SOTA.
  3. 3.724 SSB - 11 QSO’s from 07:46z. NFD.
  4. 7.032 CW - 9 QSO’s from 08:21z. SOTA.
  5. 144 SSB - 11 QSO’s from 08:39z (inc 6 on 144.183 - SSH spot) NFD.
  6. 432 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 10:09z. NFD (inc EI9E/P).
  7. 432.233 CW - 1 QSO at 10:18z. NFD (G0FBB/P).
  8. 144.310 SSB - 1 QSO at 10:31z. NFD (promoted on 70cm by EI9E/P).
  9. 432 SSB - 6 QSO’s from 10:43z. NFD
  10. 144 SSB - 10 QSO’s from 11:25z. NFD.
  11. 145.400 FM - 22 QSO’s from 12:50z. NFD/ SOTA.
  12. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s from 13:53z. NFD.

Sessions in detail:

SATURDAY 05-07-14:

  1. 144 SSB - 7 QSO’s from 21:33 thru’ 21:57z (NFD 001 to 007)
    Starting with G3CKR/P in IO93AD and using 50 Watts to the 3-ely with horizontal orientation, I worked everybody I could hear between 144.150 and 144.350. This used up some spare time before the 160m session, advertised for 22:00z. The other stations were all signing ‘/P’: G4ZAP in JO01; G3ZME in IO82 (on The Long Mynd); M0BAA in JO01; G5LK in JO01; G0OLE - The Goole Club on Millington Heights IO93PX and finally GW3ZTT in IO82.

  2. 1.832 CW - 4 QSO‘s from 22:00 to 22:10z. (SOTA):
    As was true of last year, 160m was the highlight of Saturday. The loading coils tuned first time. Using 100 Watts to the centre loaded 80m band dipole, the following stations were worked: G0VOF Mark; G0NUP Kevin; DL4NAC Martin and G4SSH. As it was dark the frequency was a little noisy but largely clear of QRM. Roy G4SSH in Scarborough was a barely audible (229 both ways) but most other reports were better with 569 to 579 RST’s for both incoming and outgoing.

  3. 1.843 SSB - 6 QSO‘s from 22:13 to 22:42z. (SOTA):
    Six ops made use of the SSB session as follows: Mark GV0VOF in Blackburn; Brian G8ADD in Birmingham; PA2QXT Michael in Rotterdam; G7RHF Al in Ludlow (100W to Inv-L) and G6WRW Carolyn in Kidderminster. Best ‘DX’ was Pista the Hungarian SOTA chaser and activator HA5TI. Looking at the spots afterwards, it became obvious that Pista was delighted by this Top Band contact and he was not the only one. Incoming reports for my 100W signal were 57; 58; 47; 57; 58 and 44 respectively. This was certainly a pleasing and worthwhile session. As might be expected, Pista’s QSO was the most difficult and my report to him was 35.

  4. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s 22:48 to 22:57z (NFD 8 thru’ 10):
    Again with 50 Watts and some beam swinging, I worked the (apparently to me) new contest arrivals on 2m SSB: G4RFR/P; GM3HAM/P at 197m ASL and M0RCU/P. (IO80; IO74 and IO93). EI9E/P was heard on 144.249 SSB but could not be worked.

Radio wise, there was little more I could do after a light supper so I prepared to sleep. It was then that my heart sunk. The cheapo airbed had sprung a leak and I was consigned to a very lumpy sleep with at least ten awakenings. Not only had the operators buffet been nicked or buried, now I was without padding for the night. At least by now the loud music and firework sounds drifting up from Kettlewell had ceased but it got quite cold in the night which made the thin sleeping bag not really adequate. There was no wind and the fluttering of small birds seemed intrusive in the early hours. It was a relief to get up to a tin of fruit, a pot noodle and a large cup of Yorkshire tea.

SUNDAY 06-07-14:

  1. 144 SSB - 7 QSO’s - 07:06 to 07:29z. (NFD 11 thru’ 17):
    There was time to spare prior to a QSY to 80m for SOTA, so I combed the 2m band for ‘new recruits.’ I used 50 Watts on 2-SSB throughout. Apart from Graham G4JZF, who I just happened across on 144.274 calling for me, all stations worked were portables as follows: G4VFL in IO84; G5TO - Christine in IO93; G8SRC in IO91 (Swindon Club); G0ROC in IO83; GW2OP in IO71; G4JZF in IO82 and GA6NX in IO76. At 59 plus 40dB on the meter, G5TO was the strongest signal of any station worked on any band on either day.

  2. 3.557 CW - 5 QSO’s - 07:32 to 07:40z. (SOTA):
    Using a trained ear, Scarborough station G4SSH Roy responded to nothing more than my ‘QRL?’ Other chasers worked: G4OBK Phil; G0VOF Mark; G4FGJ Gordon and weak at first GM4COX Jack. The latter station was much stronger after a brief tune up. I used 100 Watts and received two 599’s (Phil & Mark), two 559’s (Roy & Jack) and a 449 from Gordon.

  3. 3.724 SSB - 11 QSO’s - 07:46 to 08:13. (SOTA):
    With power unchanged the following were logged: G0VOF; G0RQL; G0TRB; G4JZF; G8VNW (Nick down in Threshfield). After these and reducing power to 70 Watts; G6WRW (Carolyn); M0JLA; G6TUH; G4OBK; G3RMD and G6DTN. Phil G4OBK told me that had done a full day as a Tour de France marshal the day before. I took the opportunity to congratulate him (& Nick G4OOE) on a magnificent Euro expedition just completed.

  4. 7.032.6 CW – 9 QSO’s - 08:21 to 08:31. (SOTA):
    Not knowing how many NFD stations that were still destined to enter the log, I reduced power to 50 Watts for the 40m session and worked: G4SSH; DL3HXX; OE/DF3MC/P; DL1FU; OE7PHI; G0TDM; HA5TI; G3XQE and DL2KAS. Expecting more than these, it came as a surprise when further QRZ’s came to nought. Conditions can’t have been up to much but at 08:23z, Martin OE/DF3MC/P was easily worked as an S2S on OE/TI-645. The exchange was 559 both ways.

  5. 144 SSB - 11 QSO’s - 08:39 to 09:57z. (NFD 18 thru’ 28):
    Another case of ‘search and destroy’ up and down the band. This moving target method is no good for SOTA chasers but now and again someone would follow an NFD exchange with a ‘please 5 up etc.’ Again 50 Watts; the most you can get out of a 706 on VHF, was employed. The ERP with a 3-ely seemed mostly adequate whilst at the same time, not being too critical on aiming. These were the stations worked: G0BWC/P in IO83; MM0CPS/P in IO84; G2OA/P in IO83; G0RQL Don in IO70; M0MDA Mick in IO93; G3TDH in IO83; G8TYV in IO83; G4OJY in IO94; G4EFX in IO83; G0IVR/P in IO91 and GI4GTY/P in IO74. I clearly heard Frank G3RMD calling me at 09:25 but couldn’t get back to him.

G0BWC/P operated by Dave G7GLG was ‘almost’ an S2S. He was on Winter Hill alright but was unfortunately using a generator.

After the first three stations, I went out and walked around the summit for a while trying to make the phone work. It had worked briefly the day before when I was near the trig point. I found that if I stood next to the dipole with its wire running between my ear and the phone, coverage would suddenly start up after about 20 seconds. Whether this was coincidence or not I never proved but I did manage to shoot one or two texts off to the family using this apparent aid on a couple of other occasions.

The gist of the ensuing message to Roy was, ‘please spot me on 144.183.’ Roy obliged and I soon had a mini pileup of six regular SOTA chasers. For this the home-brew voice recorder was employed for the CQ’s. It is very basic but the best I could do. After pressing the trigger button, its speaker has to be held up to the mic. on the IC706 whilst the mic. is keyed but at least it saves your voice whilst relieving the boredom of repetition. Unfortunately its three AAA batteries chose this moment to go flat and had to be changed which is not a straightforward exercise.

  1. 432 SSB/ CW - 4 QSO’s - 10:09 to 10:27z. (NFD 29 thro’ 32):
    Normally the QSY to 70cm is done at midday but because of possible lightning in the afternoon, the whole activation had to be pushed forward this year. The nice thing about changing bands is that no exhaustive log check is required before each QSO. It’s alright for the big stations with their computers but it’s another matter with several sheets of A4 lying haphazardly in the bottom of a tent. Despite apparent careful checking, I twice suffered the embarrassment of calling previously logged stations when I was operating on 2m SSB. They quickly and politely put me right but you still feel a bit of an idiot when this happens.

The IC706 puts out 20 Watts on 70cm but I use 9 elements of my son’s 18-ely Parabeam to add some ERP. There was to be no working into Europe; in particular PA-land this year but I did hear F6KCP/P on 144.238 but failed to work him. The furthest I managed was Southern Ireland. One station was calling all day in CW so that’s the mode I worked him in. QSO’s were logged with: G2OA/P and G0ROC/P both in IO83; G0FBB/P in JO01 (the CW contact) and EI9E/P in IO62. G0ROC/P was located on Hailstorm Hill which seems familiar as a SOTA but like the Winter Hill QSO this was invalid as an S2S owing to the use of a generator.

Half way through the QSO with G2OA, the first battery (a 13.2 Ah) went flat and the rig cut out. It was somewhat embarrassing but I managed to get the message across by turning the power down and saying, ‘Carry on, I’ll be back soon.’ Three minutes later, I worked this one with two fresh 6 Ah Li-Po’s in parallel and the op was very understanding.

  1. 144 SSB - 1 QSO at 10:31. (NFD 33):
    The operator of EI9E/P mentioned on 70cm that they were running a 2m band station on 144.310 MHz and I might like to work it. I had already tried the day before without success but this time I had more luck and they heard me. This was a quick QSY then it was straight back to finish the work on 70cm.

  2. 432 SSB - 6 QSO’s - 10:43 to 11:10. (NFD 34 thro’ 39):
    There were further 70cm contacts - all Portables: G0VHF in JO01; G3CKR in IO93; G3FJE in IO92; G5TO in IO99; G3ZME - Robin in IO82 and MW0UAL in IO82. G5TO tail ended the QSO with G3FJE and moved me up a few kHz. I think it was my IO94 square that motivated this. Quite a few ops thanked me especially for it as there are not many ops who do the contest from IO94. Pointing the beam north didn’t help me to work GM3HAM/P; this being the first failure in many years. Operating MW0UAL on Long Mountain SOTA GW/MW-026 was SOTA enthusiast Adrian G4AZS.

  3. 144 SSB - 10 QSO’s - 11:25 to 12:15. (NFD 40 thru’ 49):
    This was almost my last chance to work ‘proper’ contest stations. With the recently changed battery and 50 Watts I logged: G8NPH/P in IO92; GW8ZRE/P in IO83; G8WSM/P in IO81; G3KMI/P in IO91; M0MDG/P in JO00; GW3SRT/P in IO82 (SOTA GW/NW-026 Long Mountain); G3WM/P on the White Cliffs of Dover in JO01; 2E1SKA Bill in IO93; ON4WY in JO11 (best ‘DX’) and G3WIM/P in IO91. GW8ZRE/P tail ended the QSO with G8NPH/P on 144.272 to request a Backpackers contest exchange. 144.266 was used.

The last op worked in this session made a comment about GX0OOO being an illegal callsign. Just what was meant by that is not immediately clear but it could have been the ‘X’. I think I have read in the distant past that you can’t use a club callsign in the contest but since I was not in a contest and never have been over the twelve years I have done this, I have a clear conscience. I don’t do VHF-NFD to make an entry. It’s just for fun, the challenge of getting all the required equipment above 2000 feet and to help boost VHF band occupancy if only once a year and for SOTA chasers. It is also to give the serious stations one more station to work and a ‘/P’ at that.

While I was changing the polarization of the 3-ely beam from horizontal to vertical, I got a visitor who had seen me taking photos of the aerials from the summit cairn. He walked across 200m of boggy ground just to ask if I wanted to be in one of the photos. I think he was curious too so I explained the reason for being here. His pastime the was ascent of every Marilyn in England.

  1. 145.400 FM - 22 QSO’s - 12:50 to 13:48. (NFD 50 thro’ 70/ SOTA):
    This session was added mainly for SOTA chasers but also to boost the VHF-NFD QSO count. It can be hard work on 2-FM as half the stations don’t know about contest exchanges. However FM is still a valid mode. The battery power needed for constant carrier FM indicates the desire for a fast QSO rate. In fact with all the explaining I had to do for a few ops who were not familiar with procedure, it was anything but fast; spanning an hour. In this instance electrical supply was not an issue; I had large reserves of that but the weather was a worry. The sky had some dark looking clouds in it by now and thundery showers were forecast.

After the single visitor to the expedition had departed, I turned the SOTA beam east and asked if the frequency was in use. In previous years, I had benefited from a 2m-FM link to Roy G4SSH for spotting. We had discounted it this year due to a coax feeding a temporary 40m dipole at G4SSH which touches Roy’s 2m J-Pole in places. This we found attenuates signals going west. In fact I couldn’t get through to Roy last month from NP8’s ‘sister peak’ NP9 Buckden Pike even with 50 Watts to a vertical. Nevertheless, Roy came back to my first call today and he was almost 59. I found that 15 Watts to the vertical beam was more than adequate for Roy to hear me from NP8.

With that first QSO in the bag, I continued with: G6XBF - Walt in Leeds; 2E1DNB - Peter in Leeds; M0BKQ/P; G4ASA/P; G6HMN - Ray in Colne; G0OLE/P - Andy on Millington Heights (Goole Radio Club); M0XLT - Kevin in Gargrave; M0LGH - Geoff in Darlington; G4BLH - Mike in Briarfield; GW4TJC/P - Simon; M0ETY - Steve in Briarfield; M0TYM/P; M6NHA; M3NHA (Sara; Tony); G1HZR - Keith in Doncaster; G0WUY; M6AIA - Andy in Dewsbury; G7CBR - Alan in Redcar; M6EPS - Steve in Grimsby; 2E0CWB - Mo in Bacup and G0KVL - Craig in Middlesbrough. Serial numbers were exchanged with all but one station. G0OLE/P (op Andy) had already been logged on 2m SSB the night before. Almost 100% of these stations were located in IO83, 84, 93 and 94 squares.

GW4TJC/P - Simon was S2S operating from GW/NW-047/ IO83EB and the exchange was 55 both ways.

M0TYM/M Alistair was a visitor from the Midlands up on the Woodhead Pass watching the second stage of the Tour de France (York to Sheffield). Research seems to indicate that he was in IO93CM square.

Ex RSGB Morse tester G0WUY Alex, an acquaintance of Roy G4SSH, was transmitting from York. I thought Roy might hear Alex 40 miles away in Scarborough but out of all the stations that I worked on 2-FM, he only heard me.

Two stations were located on other SOTA summits: G4ASA/P - Dave on G/TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold and M0BKQ/P on G/SP-029.

  1. 144 SSB - 3 QSO’s - 13:53 to 13:59 (NFD 71 thro’ 73):
    A final return to SSB initially brought in G7KXZ/P (IO91) on 144.295 MHz. When I threw in ‘NP8’ he came back with SOTA ref G/SE-001 but there was no time to ask about his power supply arrangements. I then settled on a spot frequency of 144.280 MHz not expecting much response to CQ’s at this late stage but in the final three minutes of the contest, I was called by G4BEE in IO83 and G7LAS/P in IO92. The radio controlled clock then flipped over to 14:00z. A scan across the 2m SSB band 30 seconds later detected absolutely nothing; just a resounding silence. A eerie experience and somewhat strange after 24 hours of ‘CQ Contest.’

Very often when I stop contesting, I start SOTA in earnest but that had already been inserted and somewhat reduced in scale. Because of the lightning warnings for the afternoon, by the time the contest ended at 15:00 BST a sizeable proportion of kit had already been packed away. Instead of the usual hour to pack up, I was actually underway and walking off the summit at 15:40 BST which got me back to the car by 16:13.

The vehicle was still where it had been left in the nettle bed. Parking it at the south side of the cattle grid had indeed eliminated the scratches, scrapes, smashed door mirrors and licked windows of last year. That said, there was no sign of the culprits on any part of the road though I have got some nice shots of their cute looking calves obtained the day before. By 16:25 I was away, arriving home at the very early time of 18:30.

Battery utilization:
A total of 33.8 Ah was carried from which 23.6 Ah was used. (For details see ‘Equipment.’)
The IC-E90 was not used.

VHF-NFD discussion:
73 Serial numbers were given out for VHF-NFD contacts. Most were on 2 & 70 SSB but 22 were on 2m-FM. From where I stood and taking into account previous expeditions, VHF band conditions were if anything disappointingly flat. As usual I incremented the serial numbers regardless of band because I don’t submit a contest entry.

As in the past, the conduct of participants was exemplary. I didn’t come across anything which could have been construed as bad manners or bad operating. My SOTA Reference and often the summit name along with the LOC was given out in almost all exchanges. Though we don’t use names very often in a contest, I think people have become familiar with the SSEG callsign. Even so, because it is a little unusual I always gave it out twice when calling anyone.

I may be wrong but I think I can claim the highest VHF-NFD QTH in the country each 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 easy to install a moderately comprehensive station plus overnight accommodation as was required this year, last year and in 2011. 2013 was a bumper year with 167 contacts. This year’s total was just 109 but I found the reorganized routine created less pressure on me.

Mobile phone coverage is unreliable to say the least but I did manage to send and receive texts on an EE phone, though some got stuck in the outbox. Whether it’s coincidence or not, I did have some success by trapping the 80m wire dipole between my ear and the phone. This would be impractical in bad weather. I didn’t try it inside the tent using the coax.

The folding plastic stool (GBP 1.24 from Dunelm Mill last year) was sadly missed this year. Why anyone would want to wipe out my meagre depot by burying it under a slab of peat is a mystery to me. The investment of labour carrying its 1.1kg up there last year was wasted for the long term.

The cheap and flimsy PVC airbed which can be lashed to make a low chair was found to be punctured at an early stage. I get these for 4GBP from ebay. I bought several with the intention that they would be a ‘use once’ item. This one had already done NP7 Wild Boar Fell and NP8 so I would be well advised to stick to my own rules in future. Despite an OAT which did not go below about 7C, the thin sleeping bag was barely adequate. This was partly due to the lack of insulation offered by the flat airbed.

The five-piece welding rod stove weighing just 0.75 oz plus three hexamine tablets was invaluable again in supplying me with three large cups of tea and a pot noodle and a 1.5 litre bottle of ice kept food and drinks cool as well as supplying water. The WX wasn’t as hot as last year but I did have to lift the rear of the tent on canes to give a through draught in the afternoon of Sunday.

I was shocked to see that literally miles of fencing interspersed with metal gates has appeared on the summit since my last visit in July 2013. The mountain was more or less natural before this. I can’t say I like it but no doubt it is required to keep stock in. By ‘stock’ I hope I mean just sheep. I would be somewhat annoyed if the horned bovine vandals that wrecked my car twice in previous years, appeared on the summit to make short work of the tent and antennas.

Conditions on 40m CW were disappointing. It would have been nice to put on 40m SSB but I relied on 2m-FM and 80m SSB for phone chasers. Of course this would not suit all distances.

Operating on 160m is always a good excuse for staying overnight. Propagation between 22:00 and 22:45z on Saturday evening was good enough to reach Hungary and Germany which is not bad when you think that by the time this 45 minute session drew to a close, it had been dark for less than 2 hours. With a ratio of 6 to 4 QSO’s SSB to CW, it was certainly worthwhile using a voice mode.

I could have continued CQ’ing into the night but once the SOTA chasers were worked I was satisfied. The morning Top Band session was of little value last year and was thereby eliminated. Phil G4OBK was missing from the 160m log but we can forgive him for that, having been on his feet all Saturday doing his duty as a Le Tour marshal.

Others including Mike EI2CL were also absent and that may be because I didn’t give sufficient warning. The decision to go overnight can only be taken after it becomes fully clear what is happening with the WX.

I worry a great deal about weather and particularly lightning conditions or heavy static. To be caught at night at 2,300 feet, in torrential rain with lightning and ‘one hour’s worth’ of equipment deployed not to mention four lots of metal in the air is my worst nightmare. I am probably over reacting but past experiences do nothing to calm my nerves on this subject. Neither does it help that as part of a CAA approval procedure, I had to do a three day course on the effects of lightning on aircraft. (Just for interest, a ‘standard’ lightning stroke which Culham Labs use for tests is 200,000 Amps with a rise time of 6 microseconds.)

The ‘new’ car:
This was its first SOTA and apart from minor problems it went very well.

QSO Summary.
Saturday : 20
Sunday: 89
TOTAL: 109

VHF-NFD Contest:
2m SSB: 42
70cm SSB: 9
70cm CW: 1
2m FM: 21
4m FM: Not used
Total (Contest): 73

Non-Contest / SOTA:
160m CW: 4
160m SSB: 6
80m CW: 5
80m SSB: 11
40m CW: 9
2m FM: 1
Total (SOTA): 36
Grand Total: 109

Ascent/ Distance: 211m (692ft)/ distance 5.5km (3.4 miles up & down).
Times: Ascent: 40 min. Descent: 33 min. Summit time: 19hrs.
Distance Driven: 81.3 miles via Bedale plus 76 miles via Masham. Total: 157 miles.

Pack weight: See ‘Equipment section’.
Drive home: 16:25 to 18:30.
This was SSEG’s 12th successive VHF National Field Day on NP8, Scarborough’s closest 2k at 63 miles line of sight.

Thank you to spotters: G0VOF; HA5TI; G4JZF; G8VNW; G6TUH and G4SSH for telephone and 2m-FM liaison when it was possible. Thanks to all SOTA chasers and contest stations for a very enjoyable VHF-NFD.

73, John G4YSS
(Using Scarborough Special Events Group callsign; GX0OOO/P)

In reply to G4YSS:

Interesting read as always John.

The X isn’t mandatory in the callsign. The docs says you may use X (or P,T,H,N,S,C) instead of the normal secondary locators. Drop the X and it looks like a normal call.


In reply to MM0FMF:
Hiya Andy, Nice to hear from you.
Yes that’s a good suggestion which I might try if I ever make an entry which is not likely. I have put check logs in previously but after a report, GPS records, photo labelling, drying, mending the broken and putting away piles of equipment to say little of entering QSO’s in the database, I don’t have a lot of energy left. HI.

Thanks for reading and for your comments. I have just gone through and corrected numerous errors that only come out of the woodwork once you’ve pressed the upload button! I’m certain they weren’t there before that.

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:

Thank you for the write up, John, it is interesting to read details of how you approach the event, and how it works out.
It was good to work you from Long Mountain using MW0UAL/P, and I’m glad to see that you worked our 2m station GW3SRT/P too :o)

Conditions seemed pretty flat to us, too, btw, but a good time was had by all.



In reply to G4AZS:
Hi Adrian,

Thanks for reading this rather long report. I often wonder why anybody does but since you were taking part you would be interested.

I see that you were on GW/MW-026 but don’t know if it counts for S2S or not (generator or batteries?) I worked one or two SOTA’s but with geni’s. It doesn’t matter to me either way as I don’t collect but nice to work you and also your mate on 2m. Your personal call and name was in the margin of the log though I didn’t know until now where SRT was.

I have added this detail to my report now. While I was at it, the other scribbled notes have been added such as the ones that got away etc.

It seems MW26 is a noisy place with that big mast so hope you didn’t suffer too much. Reassuring of you to confirm the flat condx. by the way and very pleased to hear that you too had a good experience.

It’s strange that I keep on doing this year on year but never make an entry. I just love being a part of this event. A minnow mixing it with the big fish of VHF! In fact it’s the major radio highlight of the year to me. I used to take my son who is licenced but he found it a bit difficult. Every June I mention the mere 211m of ascent and the easy mile and a half of walking but he counter claims that it’s ‘Mount Everest.’ Pity, as he’s such a good op and loves VHF even more than HF. He say’s he’ll come if they put a road up. Well maybe they’ve made a start this time, with a fence.

Thanks again for the comments Adrian. I hope we are both there to make a VHF QSO next year. I look forward to it.

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:
Hello John,

Thanks again for the detailed report. A comment about the problem of damage from animals, I have had the bonnet of a past car thoroughly ruined by horses rubbing their teeth on the metalwork,doing a good job of removing paintwork!
I have taken my piece of wire down (80/160M)from the tree now and when the rain stops in Sussex I am going to re-route it which will improve things I hope.

Best wishes

In reply to G6TUH:
Hi Mike,

Thanks for reading and commenting.

It seems that I am not the only one to suffer from this then. I wasn’t in the least worried when I had an ‘old’ old wreck but in May I bought a ‘new’ old wreck and until it matures and starts to look like the previous one with it’s rust patches and ‘trophy’ dents, I will be quite proud of it. In fact this one is posh enough to take our British 100,000 chaser G4SSH to the railway station in!

You do very well and many more like you on Top Band, with bits of wire up trees, tuned up aerials for other bands, assorted bedsteads, TV coaxes, wet washing lines etc etc - you name it. The main thing is that you make contact much of the time on 160 and/ or 80.

You are lucky if you can get a 160m half-wave dipole in a garden these days. My house was built in 1938 and it has 200 x 30 foot garden with the house in the middle. They wouldn’t do that now. Even so, when I had a Top Band dipole up here, I had to fold one end back along some trees to get it in. It was at 45 feet in the centre and I was quite proud of it but I was easily out performed by big verticals, inverted L’s with ground systems etc.

Keep up the good work and thanks for the QSO on 80-SSB from NP8. 56/ 55 isn’t bad on 80m considering daylight (08:00z) a good few hours after sun-up in sunspot high and over that distance.

Looking forward to working you again,
73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:

I see that you were on GW/MW-026 but don’t know if it counts for S2S or not.
(generator or batteries?)

Hi John, we were outside the AZ - and so well away from the commercial mast QRM, and also running on a generator, so no S2S I’m afraid.

Yes, hope to be there again next year, and look forward to working you again!



In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

Thanks once again for putting G/NP-008 on the air on Top Band. I had been listening for a while on 1832KHz & heard your QRL? I didn’t answer straight away in case Roy was listening & was calling you as I know it is usually a difficult path on 160m to Roy’s QTH. Once I answered your CQ you were a good 579 with me in Blackburn using my 80m horizontal loop. The noise I always suffer from was not quite as bad as usual so you were easy copy. Sadly I couldn’t hear those calling you so I fired up one of the now numerous WebSDR’s so I could hear both sides of the QSO’s.

Well done on the QSO with HA5TI, both of you must have very good ears as he wasn’t even audible on a dedicated 160m WebSDR with a good antenna!

I am certain I heard you on 1843KHz SSB earlier on, before you returned to 1832KHz CW & announced a QSY to SSB. In any case, I picked up your announcement & spotted your QSY.

Again, it was very worthwhile giving SSB a try, especially at that time of night & it was very nice to hear several familiar calls working you. I have struggled on SSB in the past due to my local noise, but this time you were 100% readable :slight_smile: Not everybody uses CW & it is good to be able to give SSB chasers a chance if you have that ability.

It was nice to catch you in the morning on 80m, & nice to hear Phil G4OBK getting to work you after being busy with the Tour de France the day before. 80m in the daytime is quite a struggle at present for me but you did quite well, with most stations also audible hear in Blackburn despite my urban noise level.

I followed you to 7032KHz CW & heard your first call, but as you were answered straight away & I only had a few minutes before my news broadcast I didn’t call you. Sorry to hear that 40m CW didn’t yield as many contacts as usual. Personally I now find 40m a little poor(& noisy)in the daytime & 30m has now become my primary band for SOTA chasing, being very similar now, to how 40m was a few years ago.

I was hoping to catch you on VHF at some point during the day but as it happened I didn’t get on VHF at all that Sunday :frowning:

Thanks again for an excellent write-up & I look forward to the next time.

Very best 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0VOF:
Hi Mark,

Thanks for your impressions from Blackburn of the Top Band session on Saturday night. You are right I did try an early call on 1.843 before officially QSY’ing there. When nobody comes back to a few calls in CW, I often go up there to see if anybody is anticipating the mode change. Keen as ever, it seems you were in the right place at the right time! As luck would have it the VSWR was equally good on both frequencies which must mean I was tuned to a centre freq half way between the two. It’s not often I am rewarded at first guess. It would seem that 1.843 is the lowest freq I can use SSB on. Also, I chose these because you can use QRO on both so I don’t have to think about that.

It is testament to the drastically different noise levels of SOTA/P to fixed station that you could not hear the other customers but even more surprising that the same was true with an internet receiver - for Pista at least. Judging by his spot afterwards I think he was pretty pleased with getting a QSO and I certainly was.

Yes, Phil was whacked after a day helping with Le Tour. He told me on the air that his knees and general fatigue were noticeably worse than for a full day’s SOTA’ing and I can understand that. 2 hours doing charity street collections in Scarborough and I can barely stand upright for back pain. I have to limit to 1 hour max. What is more terrible considering all the trouble he went to and work done was that he saw not a single bike because the Harrogate crowd was 10 deep.

I should have used 10 MHz instead of 7 but I thought 9 in the morning might be too early for medium and short skip. I would have followed with 7 SSB but after such a poor CW turnout, I assumed the band was in bad shape. 80m did a fair job of bringing in a few chasers though. I do like 80.

Thanks again Mark for coming up at the late hour of 11pm. XYL’s have been known to hang people for less! Thanks for the spots too and finally for your report in the news.

My niece who I haven’t seen since 1973 is coming over from Maryland soon. She doesn’t know it yet but she might find herself slogging up some NP SOTA or other possibly carrying some batteries!

Hope to work you soon.
73, John.