G4YSS, LAKES WEEK 2008. Eight LD SOTA’s, June-08

G4YSS, LAKES WEEK 2008. Eight LD SOTA’s, 02 to 06-June-08.
G/LD’s: 04, 23, 07, 22, 10, 21, 20 & 19.
(Skiddaw, Knott, Fairfield, Seat Sandal, St.Sunday Crag, Robinson, Dale Head & High Raise)
All times BST (UTC plus 1 hr.)

HF: Yaesu FT817ND – 5W to a link dipole on 5m mast. 4.4 Ah Li-Po battery.
VHF: Yaesu FT817 or VX150 H/H – 5W to a vertical half-wave, J-fed.

Intro: This activation report relates to our annual five-day holiday in the Lake District with a six-man walking group assembled from Worthing, Birmingham and Scarborough. Group leader, David Barnes devised the routes mostly based on Lakeland Walker Magazine. David was to have problems with a new GPS-60 but those were solved later in the week. Two XYL’s came along but did not do any of the main walks.

Monday 02-Jun-08:
SKIDDAW, G/LD-004, 931m (10 pts). 12:24 to 15:40. Low-cloud - overcast - sunny. 13 Deg.C, wind 10mph.

Route: We really were off to a great start! David’s route from the high car-park at the bottom of the Jenkin Hill route for Skiddaw (NY 2802 2534) was to take in Lonscale Fell and Gt.Calva. It would be a simple matter to do Lonscale (new to me) then separate from the group and follow the fence to Jenkin Hill. From there I would be back on ‘The Skiddaw Motorway.’

At 10:03, five of us started in dull conditions, entering low cloud after leaving the Cumbrian Way for the Lonscale Fell path at NY 2904 2589. This grass path, ill-defined in some places, meets a fallen gate at NY 2848 2635 where it turns NE to go via NY 2862 2661 to the 715m summit cairn marked at NY 2854 2717. Because it takes the SOTA activator well out of his way, there is a danger of dismissing this approach out of hand. However on reflection, I think it is a very pleasant way to gain most of the height required in that it bypasses the worst parts of that hard, stony Skiddaw path at its steeper lower end. The walk (through a tiny rain-shower) from Lonscale to LD-004, took a further 49 minutes. There is a little re-ascent after Lonscale Fell.

I would say that LD4 is the easiest of England’s three 10-pointer’s; the return was direct and took 48 minutes. Frank (G3RMD) told me on 80m later that his son had recently run up and down Skiddaw in 1 hr-42 minutes. I thought this was impressive; then he told me that Keswick town centre was the start and finish point! Fit or what? He can carry my lead-acid’s any day!

Radio: Progress was slow on all bands and QSB was mentioned many times, as was QRN. That said; this turned out to be the best day for HF. 160m was a total freak! Expecting little or nothing, I was amazed to hear G3RMD in Cheltenham. Despite not being able to get back to Frank, QSO’s were logged with GM0UDL and GM4FAM in Inverness. Andy gave my 5 Watts 559 after sending the word ‘easy’ then Cris sent me ‘519!’ I was left wondering just how it had happened but I wasn’t complaining. Suffice to say that this good fortune on Top Band was not to be repeated.

12.5km - 695m ascent - 3.1hrs walking - 6.4hrs gross.

QSO Summary:
80m CW: 13
80m SSB: 15
160m CW: 2
40m CW: 23
40m SSB: 3

Tuesday 03-Jun-08:
KNOTT, G/LD-023, 710m (6 pts) 12:51 to 15:55. Low-cloud - overcast - sunny. 13 Deg.C, wind 10mph.

On the 3rd the group announced a sortie to Little & Great Scar Fells and Knott, with a start point to the NW, on the C-road at Longlands. A path goes all the way via Charleton Gill with a retreat taking-in Trusmadoor.

Last year the Knott activation was made rather unpleasant because of the activities of inch-long caterpillars. David told me that these Antler Moth larvae can infest the area in a big way about every five years. In June 2007 there were up to 30 per square foot at altitudes above 500m, for miles around. Today, there was none of this irritation, nor would it take an hour to get four VHF QSO’s, as in 2007. While the group turned immediately for ‘home’ in the fog, I settled down for a long activation on HF/LF.

Route: Three or four cars can be parked near Longland’s Farm (NY 266 358). After the gate, take the track NE as far as NY 2755 3646 (before Charleton Wath) where a right turn (SE) is made. A grass path runs over the two Sca Fells (Little - NY 2895 342; Great - NY 2914 3389) descending via a 640m Col (NY 2925 3347) then climbing to Knott. The path is easy to follow but be aware of a LH bend at NY 2818 3479. An unhurried walk-in, mostly in fog and photographing a ‘lost’ Skylark fledgling, took us 104 minutes.

My solitary return via Trusmadoor marked at NY 2791 3342, was badly planned; I should have had the map handy. Also, I had been distracted in the search for a crashed Wellington Bomber which just like last year, I didn’t find at NY 287 330. In the event I floundered in bogs and got myself in the wrong valley; having to back-track and reascend near Uldale. Nonetheless, I did finally locate and mark the path at NY 2728 3451, which enabled an easy return to the car. This journey took 61 minutes. Apparently the group had faired better, finding a path most of the way.

Radio: The first nine customers were worked on 3.557 CW but poor band conditions made themselves felt; it was taking a long time and a lot of repeats. Maybe the Ionosphere improved but it was actually easier on 80m SSB with 12 in the log.

I tried 160 twice, working 15 on 40m CW in between. On the second attempt I logged just one QSO; Phil G4OBK on 1.832 CW but I did hear Cris GM4FAM and Andy GM0UDL calling sporadically. Regrettably, repeated attempts over half an hour, failed to convert these to QSO’s and it was time to leave.

12km - 540m ascent - 2.8hrs walking - 5.8hrs gross.

QSO Summary:
80m CW: 9
80m SSB: 12
160m CW: 1
40m CW: 15

Wenesday 04-June-08:
FAIRFIELD, G/LD-007, 873m (8 pts) 13:26 to 13:57.
SEAT SANDAL, G/LD-022, 736m (6 pts) 14:28 to 15:05.
St SUNDAY CRAG, G/LD-010, 841m (8 pts) 15:53 to 16:30.
Mix of sun/overcast. 13 Deg.C, wind 10 to 15mph. All VHFM only.

By Wednesday, David really was excelling himself! The planned walk was from Brother’s Water, via Scandale Pass, to Dove and Hart Crags. The group would return along the ridge named ‘Hartsop above How’ and it was suggested that I might like to continue and activate Fairfield. No encouragement was needed and I soon had designs on the other two nearby SOTA’s in addition. Given the time constraints of mealtimes, there was never any question of putting these on HF like last year when I had added Helvellyn and Place Fell to the day’s ‘haul.’ This would be strictly 2m FM and I would have to almost run around.

Route & Radio: With the prospect of a very tight time schedule, I ‘dumped’ my XYL’s car at Patterdale and continued in Rob’s luxurious Mercedes to Cow Bridge (free) car park at Brother’s Water (NY403134). First following the west side of the lake, a good path passes through a green and pleasant valley to begin its climb beside Caiston Beck, to Scandale Pass; NY 3880 0956. The walk from Brother’s Water to Hart Crag (at which point I detached from the (lunching) group) took form 10:26 to 13:11 but we had a short break at Scandale Pass. It was sunny with a cooling breeze; but for some haze, viz was good and the high route glorious.

With the knowledge that 17:30 in Patterdale was the deadline, I set off from Hart Crag at as fast a pace as I could manage and within 15 minutes was assembling the half-wave vertical on LD7. Earlier, Roy & I had been cut-off in a phone call and I’d ended up giving him a totally wrong time estimate for an LD7 appearance on 145.375 FM. Thanks to Dave at G6LKB; vigilantly monitoring 145.375, the word was soon out on the internet. Working down to the noise and with announcements on S20, I had 12 in the log in 20 minutes. All understood the fine time-line and I was walking again, going the wrong way at first, to find the next one; Seat Sandal.

I had forgotten that the path down Fairfield was so steep and loose but at least there was no snow and ice to impede me this time. Excluding antenna assembly etc, LD22 took almost half an hour of radio work but this time 15 got the points on offer. I still had to pack up the station and deploy it one more time so off I shot, down Seat Sandal to pick up the ‘slant path’ up the flank of St Sunday Crag. This was not a path I’d used before so taking the trouble to mark it, I jogged along where I could. There are junctions with other paths at NY 3492 1177 and NY 3536 1220. After these it’s via NY 3568 1237, bending right and more steeply-up at NY 35963 12614, hitting the main Fairfield to St.Sunday ridge path at NY 3609 1258. Turning left here brings you to St.Sunday, LD10 in a further 1.3km.

Opening at 15:00, Mike (worked on an earlier summit as G4BLH/M) responded immediately to my breathless CQ. 14 stations were logged in 25 minutes using 5W on 145.400 FM. Just like the QSO’s into GM on Top Band two days earlier, I was equally baffled as to just how Graham G3OHC, on the ‘flatlands’ of Selby managed to fire a (cross-polarized) 2m-FM signal into my omni vertical on LD10 and actually work me 51/41! Graham couldn’t work it out either but he wasn’t about to worry with yet another ‘new one’ in his chaser log.

Les G3PUO/M had worked all three SOTAs from his 22 foot sailboat on Lake Windermere. At one stage he was becalmed whilst I enjoyed fresh breezes. However, he was last heard making good progress toward his landing jetty at Ambleside. The last time I worked Windermere, it was that ‘magic’ fourth QSO which took me to MG status in May 2004. Martin M3ZOO in his Kayak officiated on that memorable occasion.

With the three SOTAs completed in two and a half hours, it was now just a question of ‘bailing off’ to Patterdale. The descent is steep at the end but leg pain can be tolerated for a short time. Besides, leaving a car there had probably saved me an extra hour of walking and I was driving away by 17:19. Apart from a minor error on the way to the A66, getting back to Keswick was easy and done in around 45 minutes. The intended rapidity had been fulfilled and there would be time enough for an unrushed shower before our evening meal in the town.

18.7km - 1175m ascent - 4.5hrs walking - 6.9hrs gross.

QSO Summary: (All 2m-FM)
LD07: 12
LD22: 15
LD10: 14

Thursday 05-June-08 morning:
ROBINSON, G/LD-021, 737m, 6pts, 11:39 to 12:23. Overcast, 1mph wind, 12 deg.C. (VHFM only)

The group were going to do High Seat and Bleaberry Fell before walking back to Keswick. I gave them a lift to Ashness Bridge for this purpose. This looked like a nice walk but I was not attracted because of the lack of SOTA potential! I decided to go it alone for this one day and drove a little further south to activate Robinson & Dale Head from Honister Pass. (YHA grass-verge - NY 2260 1359). From the outset, I had in my mind (falsely as it turned out) that I would run out of time if I did both summits multi-HF-style, which is why I went for 2m FM for the first one. This turned out to be a sad error of judgement.

Route: If the above start-point is employed, Dale Head and Hindscarth must both be climbed twice in the day. In other words, 5 ascents to work 2 SOTA’s. I find this a bit tedious but keep on going back to Honister for these two. In reality a little effort can be saved; the very top of Dale Head can easily be ‘contour-skirted’ at the 700m level, on the way over to Robinson.

Setting out from Honister at 10:16, I performed the aforementioned skirting tactic but at 720m; arriving LD21 at 11:39. It was ‘horse work’ at first and there was hardly a breath of air. Roy gave 10 minutes notice on SOTAWatch for me but it was a ‘Skiddaw foothill’ that I worked first. Simon M5TNT/P (a teacher) was helping with the remote supervision and communications for a 200-strong ascent of Skiddaw, by pupils from his school in Keswick. A day later, I spoke to two walkers who had seen them top-out that day. Despite the huge number, these children were apparently very well behaved; the witnesses being quick to point out that ‘we heard no bad language.’ It just goes to demonstrate that it’s a small minority that cause the problems. Simon & the school should be congratulated for organising this for these lucky children particularly in the current, wretchedly ‘H & S’ fixated climate.

After waving the bright lining of my fleece at Latrigg, in a failed attempt to get a ‘binocular-visual’ report from Simon over the intervening and hazy 12km, I set about working the pile-up. Or so I thought. I worked just 5 more stations from here. Further CQ’s on S20 produced nothing. My recourse should have been to erect the dipole but unfounded worries about time lingered on, causing me to march-off promptly for the 45 minute journey to Dale Head.

Thursday 05-June-08 afternoon:
DALE HEAD, G/LD-020, 753m, 6pts, 13:08 to 16:05. Sun / overcast, 8mph wind, 12 deg.C. Multiband HF (LF)

Finally realising that there would be no time shortage, I settled down for 80m CW where 13 chasers (including 2 later on the SSB QRG) eagerly awaited. Only five more were worked in SSB; QSB and QRN and my weak signal being the problem once again.

The change to 160m brought in Reg (G3WPF) in short order but with mouse-power at my end, Phil G4OBK took some considerable time to successfully receive his RST. I heard Andy GM0UDL calling from Northern Scotland but he heard nothing from me.

Both G and EU stations faired much better on 40m CW where 23 made it through. A change to SSB at 7.056 (the nearest clear QRG to 7.060) brought in just 3 ops who I suspect may not have been SOTA chasers. Because of this, I tried a ‘last gasp’ on 60m channel FE but this only produced another two, G0HNW & G3RMD (Paul & Frank) before it was time to go down to Honister; arriving at 16:30.

11.2km - 840m ascent - 2.6hrs walking - 6.2hrs gross.

QSO Summary:
2m FM: 6

80m CW: 13
80m SSB: 5
160m CW: 2
40m CW: 23
40m SSB: 3
60m SSB: 2

Friday 06-June-08:
HIGH RAISE, G/LD-019, 762m (6 pts), 12:09 to 15:54. Overcast with some sunshine, 15C. 0 to 7mph wind. Midges!

Route: This one isn’t hugely popular with activators but somehow, I keep turning up here. David and his final route of the week was the reason once again. By now we were down to just three walkers and the start point was Stonethwaite. The approach was made via Greenup Edge and Low White Stones with an intended retreat via Stake Pass and Langstrath Beck. I joined David & Roger at the trig point for my first lunch of the week. My one square inch of flapjack (left over from Suilven) resulted in some mirth while, as normally happens, the other two tucked into what looked like a significant proportion of the daily output of the Keswick sandwich shop. With little chance of catching them on their longer Stake Pass return, I decided to use HF/LF for the activation then retrace via Greenup Edge.

Radio: After demonstrating to my friends, how a sophisticated amateur transceiver connected to a lot of wire, can also be useful for getting the Test Match Cricket score, I phoned Roy and decided to have a bit of a change in procedure. For once, EU stations would get the first chance. This was a moderate success in that, led by Alain F6ENO, fourteen DL’s, F’s, HB’s, ON’s, HA’s and an S58MU easily took the six points on 10.118 CW.

Tuning ‘downhill’ another 18 made it through on 7.032 and amongst these were five G’s. SSB on 7.060 was a complete failure but ten more G’s & our two EI friends picked me up on 3.724 phone. Descending further to 3.557 CW put 7 more into the log, starting with a patiently waiting (considering all his sterling work with phoning & spotting) Roy G4SSH.

The final QSO was with Reg G3WPF on 1.832 CW. He was 579 and my QRP, 449 to him. No further stations could be worked on Top Band, so I ‘called it a week’ and descended wearily to Stonethwaite for 17:08. HF would never have come about if I hadn’t returned to the car for the dipole after covering the first 50m out from Stonethwaite in the morning.

12.8km - 670m ascent - 3.4hrs walking - 7.2hrs gross.

QSO Summary:
30m CW: 14
40m CW: 18
40m SSB: 0
80m SSB: 10
80m CW: 7
160m CW: 1

In Conclusion:

This year, the routes chosen seemed to be more favourable for adaptation to SOTA activity. Where they deviated or when time was a consideration, detachment from the group at some point became necessary. Last year, summit time had to be severely limited and 2m FM was the prevalent method but this year half the total, were put on HF (LF) which included 160m. If the purpose of the holiday is to walk with a group then I think that every effort should be made to do so whenever possible. Only one of my five days was independent. Of the four days remaining, up to half of the walk was completed before detachment. Pre-annunciation facilities were unavailable but short-notice was given via mobile phone to Roy G4SSH, in most instances.

The walking was enjoyable, some places were new to me and despite some warm conditions, a cool breeze moderated the effect of sunshine for the major part. Apart from (welcome) low-cloud on the mornings of 2nd and 3rd and some haze at a distance, good visibility was a feature and there was almost no rain. It is particularly noticeable when the habit is to walk alone that good company is very welcome, particularly in taking one’s mind off long ascents. Finally, the group seem to have become accustomed to my ‘radio antics’ and have gradually learned to expect them.

My use of the 2m band now seems infrequent. Long gone are the days of 2002 when half a dozen QSO’s could seem hard to get. In 2003, 04 & 05, 145-FM enjoyed quite a revival in the mountainous areas of England but now it may have declined slightly, though not to its pre-SOTA level. Maybe I was just on the wrong summits, the notice was too short and neither my aerial nor RF-Ouput are anything to write home about. Of the four days I used LF it was a surprise to work someone on 160m each day. The enhanced propagation of the first day never did return but at least that way, my article in the next SOTA news won’t seem so pessimistic.

The (5 day) week’s 56 points compare well enough with previous efforts but fall short of the 82 points of 2005. Thanks to all ops who worked me. You were good company, though on 2FM I had to rush. We had another good holiday, with benign WX and convivial walking company. Thanks go to David Barnes for (as always) first class organisational abilities, route planning and leadership.

Thank you to G4SSH for the ‘SOTA Control’ service and to Roy, GW0DSP, G3RMD, GM4FAM, G8ADD, 2E0KEA, G4OBK, EI2CL, G4OWG, 2E0PXW, G6LKB, G0PZO, G4BLH, M3TMX, G6MZX, DL4FCK, G6CRV & G3WPT for important spotting throughout the week.

TOTALS (for five days - 2008): 8 SOTAs - 56 pts - 238 QSO’s.
Dist walked 67km (42 mls) with 3,920m (12,861ft) ascent
(at the rate of 70m ascent per SOTA point).
16.4hrs walking - 16.1hrs activating - 32.5hrs total.
Average net walking speed: 4.1km/hr - 2.56 mph.

B & B on Southey St, Keswick cost £30/nt.
Typical 2-course evening meal £15.
Diesel: About £50 for approx 450 miles.
Total cost: £600. (For two)

73, John G4YSS using GX0OOO/P (Scarborough Special Events Group, Club Call)


June SOTA SUMMIT Ref:G/ Pt. Time (BST)
3rd Longland’s Farm-220m 11:07 W
3rd Charleton Wath W
3rd Little Sca Fell-635m 12:25 W
3rd Great Sca Fell-651m 12:33 W
3rd KNOTT-710m LD-023 6 12:51-15:55 D
3rd Trusmadoor 16:18 U
3rd Longland’s Farm-220m 16:56 U
3rd Multi-HF inc 160m - 37 QSO’s
Totals: 12km - 540m ascent - 2.8hrs walking - 5.8hrs gross.

June SOTA SUMMIT Ref:G/ Pt. Time (BST)
4th Cow Br, Brother’s Wtr-160m 10:26 W
4th Scandale Pass-570m 11:46 W
4th Dove Crag-792m 12:33 W
4th Hart Crag-822m 13:11 D
4th FAIRFIELD-873m LD-007 8 13:26-13:57 U
4th SEAT SANDAL-736m LD-022 6 14:28-15:05 U
4th St.SUNDAY CRAG-841m LD-010 8 15:53-16:30 U
4th Patterdale-150m 17:19 U
4th (VHF only, 41 QSO’s total)
Totals: 18.7km - 1175m ascent - 4.5hrs walking - 6.9hrs gross.

June SOTA SUMMIT Ref:G/ Pt. Time (BST)
5th Honister Pass-330m 10:16 U
5th Skirted Dale Head at 720m U
5th ROBINSON-737m LD-021 6 11:39-12:23 U
5th DALE HEAD-753m LD-020 6 13:08-16:05 U
5th Honister Pass-330m 16:30 U
5th (LD21-VHF. LD20-HF - 54 QSO’s)
Totals: 11.2km - 840m ascent - 2.6hrs walking - 6.2hrs gross.

June SOTA SUMMIT Ref:G/ Pt. Time (BST)
6th Car-Stonethwaite-100m 09:58 W
6th Greenup Edge-605m W
6th HIGH RAISE-762m LD-019 6 12:09-15:54 D
6th Car-Stonethwaite-100m 17:08 U
6th Multi-HF inc 160m - 50 QSO’s
Totals: 12.8km - 670m ascent - 3.4hrs walking - 7.2hrs gross.

W With Walking Group
D Group Detachment Point
U Unaccompanied

Absolutely brilliant stuff as usual John. Thanks for writing it up, a very enjoyable read.


In reply to G4YSS:

A great read John, thoroughly enjoyable and superbly written.

Thank you.