G4YSS: LAKES WEEK 2011. Six LD SOTA’s in 4-days from 06 to 09 June 2011.
G/LD-005 & G/LD-014. G/LD-004. G/LD-008. G/LD-018 & G/LD-011.
GREAT GABLE & KIRK FELL, SKIDDAW, BLENCATHRA, STONY COVE PIKE & HIGH STREET.
(Includes the Hall’s Ridge Route for Blencathra LD8).
All times BST (UTC plus 1 hr.)
HF: ICOM IC706-2G providing QRO to a link dipole on a 5m mast from a 9 Ah Li-Po battery.
4m FM: ICOM IC-E90, 4-Band H/H to 2m rubber duck, extended for 4m and quarter-wave counterpoise.
2m FM: ICOM IC-E90 to Home-Brew Half-Wave Vertical J-Pole.
This activation report relates to our annual five-night break in the Lake District with the usual walking group assembled from Worthing, Birmingham and Scarborough. Accommodation was in Keswick. Group leader David Barnes devised the routes based on Lakeland Walker Magazine.
Apart from LD3 which I’d already done, just one SOTA summit (LD5) was visited by the group. There was a requirement to limit activation time, on LD5, LD14, LD8 & LD18 where VHF only was used. Generally speaking, if a SOTA summit is reachable from some part of a planned walk, an effort is made to activate it. If this was not possible a solo expedition is mounted and where these are single-summits, a full HF/ VHF QRO activation is possible. No advance alerts were made.
Operations were limited by breakfast times at the B&B and evening meals in the town of Keswick. In addition to time considerations, the usual problems of distance / ascent versus weight also came into the equation when deciding equipment. The company of others is very welcome and I wish there could have been more of it this year.
The WX was very good for walking on the 6th and on the 9th until early afternoon but the two days in between were spoilt by low-cloud, heavy rain or hail showers.
MONDAY 06-Jun-11: GREAT GABLE LD5 & KIRK FELL LD14.
GREAT GABLE, G/LD-005, 899m (8 pts). 12:38 to 13:33. Hazy – some low-cloud. 11C. Wind 10mph. 12 QSO’s on 2m FM. QRP-VHF (IC-E90). Orange phone: ‘Network busy’ today.
Our leader decided to bring this walk forward to fill the only day on which we could trust the weather. Eight of us started from Honister Pass at 10:11 walking slowly up the winch-way via the drum house site to Green Gable. There we found Avro Anson aircraft DJ410 which crashed 100m SE of the summit (at NY 2154 1065) in October 1942. Unsurprisingly, considering its close proximity to a path, other than a few small pieces of aluminium & steel, there was very little to see. Only the two engineers amongst us were interested but finding this really made my day.
After that it was down to Windy Gap for the minor scramble up Great Gable (LD5) to have lunch for the group of four remaining and a quick VHF activation for me. For the group the planned return was via Haystacks but time forced them into a direct return to Honister Pass while I transferred to Kirk Fell. Sadly this was to be my first and last walk with the group. The routes on subsequent days either contained no SOTA’s or featured ones which I had already done earlier in the year.
4m FM (nil):
No stations replied.
2m FM (12):
The omni vertical brought in twelve stations beginning with MM1MPB Mark in Annan and ending with his activating buddy G4WHA/M – Geoff. Without exception all contacts were with keen chasers and power was half a Watt. After the activation the walking group and I found that we had been sitting on opposite sides of the summit without the other’s knowledge. We did the photos, had a look at the crossed left over from the Remembrance Day service there, then went our separate ways.
Some time after leaving I stopped concentrating on walking; instead listening to test match cricket on my new DAB radio. A couple ahead of me shouted back. They had come to a serious drop. Sure enough we had wandered off the path and had to make a significant correction in this area where one SOTA op badly sprained his ankle some years ago. It is steep, rough ground and the path can be hard to follow. In this case it was not a problem; the correct route was in the GPS. I just wasn’t looking at it!
The route up Kirk Fell’s fence line is easy to find. After that there’s a grassy path which skirts the secondary summit on its south side. The move from LD5 to the quieter LD14 took 45 minutes.
KIRK FELL, G/LD-014, 802m (8 pts). 14:18 to 15:22. No low-cloud. 10 C. Wind 8mph. 16 QSO’s on 2m & 4m FM with 5 Watts QRP-VHF (IC-E90). J-Pole for 2m & Extended duck for 4m.
2m FM (15):
Just like on Great Gable, I think all the operators worked were ‘SOTA people.’ The (WOTA) S2S was with two stations, 2E0MIX/P Derek & M6MNT/P Steve, both located on Latrigg – LDW-206. A coincidence was the fact that I was sitting near a rock marked with Derek’s callsign.
4m FM (1):
My one QSO, made on 70.425, was an S2S with Dave, M0TUB/P on Fair Snape Fell – G/SP-007.
70cm FM – Nil.
There were no replies to a CQ on 433.500 MHz.
Adding Pillar would have cost another 3 hours so I retraced my steps down a deserted Kirk Fell to Beckhead Tarn after which some unwelcome re-ascent is necessary. Other than that the path back to Honister Mine is well-defined, fairly straightforward and apart from a brief stop to depot a 500ml drink in a cairn for next time, got me non-stop back to the car in 1hr-24 minutes (at 16:46). That turned out to be about half an hour behind ‘the boys.’ Today was VHF only with the luxury of a light pack and 16 points gained for not too great an effort. 28 QSO’s – 16 points.
TUESDAY 07-Jun-11: SKIDDAW LD4.
SKIDDAW, G/LD-004, 931m (10 pts). 11:25 to 14:28. Sunshine, 8C. Wind 25mph. Low-cloud with the odd break. Heavy rain showers & a hail shower with associated static. 40 QSO’s on 160-80-4m. QRO HF & QRP VHF. Orange network coverage.
Group-leader David’s low-level walk for today was to St. John’s in the Vale & Latrigg so I headed to Jenkin Hill car park (NY 2802 2534) for a solo attack on Skiddaw (LD4) and a relatively easy, unrushed ten points. The ‘Skiddaw Motorway’ boring as it is, always proves an efficient way up this one especially with a heavy QRO pack because it’s so well graded. It wasn’t a day for sightseeing anyway. Leaving at 10:10, the non-stop ascent took 75 minutes from car to trig; a minute less than last year and this time in cooler though unpleasantly wetter conditions. The high start point is an advantage which affords much satisfaction as you drive steeply up to it from Keswick.
I found a minor shelter to set up in, about 40m from the trig point overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake (when that landmark was actually visible). Getting anything to stand up in the loose rock top, which has been described as a ‘slag heap’ by one SOTA op, can be challenging. I was forced into building a small cairn to get one of the dipole end sticks anchored.
80m CW (16):
Roy G4SSH was first in the log after a phone call. Conditions on 3.557 MHz seemed very good with many of the incoming reports proving it. If the outgoing ones seemed a bit stingy, it was because I had 20dB of attenuation accidentally switched in, as I cannot easily tell red from green! This was discovered after the activation so I hope it didn’t cause any missed calls although possibly Kevin G0NUP/A was one of them. Power was mostly 30W with 100W at the end to bring in some of the closer stations such as G0TDM in Penrith and G4BLH near Nelson.
80m SSB (17):
3.724 captured another 17 regulars starting with Graham G4JZF. Signal reports were almost all good with 70W used throughout.
At 13:04, as the session ended, the sky was looking angry enough to deliver something special. When it came it consisted of wind-driven hailstones mixed with rain. In a rush to defend myself, I managed to turn a large umbrella inside out not once but twice. When I finally got organized the QSY to Top Band was due. Addition of the loading coils would just have to wait until normal service could be resumed. Static levels were rising rapidly and I would have heard little if anything. Added to that, the minor shocks emanating from the CW key made anything but sitting it out pointless. I managed to phone Roy while gripping the umbrella for grim death with my knees and my spare hand. Roy put things on hold for a while. I lost a rig to static on Skiddaw some years ago. I hoped it would not affect the IC706 which was not earthed at the time.
160m CW (4):
After the worst of the WX had passed, 100W of CW on 1.832 MHz brought in Phil G4OBK in Pickering, John G0TDM in Penrith, Frank G3RMD in Cheltenham and Andy GM0UDL near Inverness. I hope the inclement WX delay did not cause problems to the chasers. From my view point it was worth the wait but there again, I was in no rush today apart from a desire to get away from the weather. Conditions on 160m seemed to be well above average today.
4m FM (3):
Geoff G4WHA/M, Mark MM1MPB and John G0TDM responded to a call with 3W to a set-mounted aerial and counterpoise. This took place from the southernmost shelter; about 3 minutes walk from the trig.
The return to Jenkin Hill car park by 15:16 took 48 minutes. LD4 still seems to be the easiest of England’s three 10-pointer’s. 40 QSO’s – 10 points.
WEDNESDAY 08-Jun-11: BLENCATHRA LD8.
BLENCATHRA, G/LD-008, 868m, 8 pts, 12:03 to 13:15, 6 deg C, 25 mph wind, low cloud, one heavy rain shower during activation. IO84LP – NY32. IC-E90 4-Band 5W H/H to vertical half wave for 2m & 4m. 23 QSO’s.
The walking group had announced early on in the week that Sharpe Edge was to be one of the targets this year but it would have to be dry. This was ‘music to my ears’ but as further wet days passed the idea was forgotten. Having done Sharp Edge twice in the past, once with the kids in poor conditions in 1993 when they were 12 and 14 and once for SOTA in perfect weather, I knew the score. This was a wet day with low-cloud and for reasons of speed and safety, I thought it prudent to forget Sharp Edge. Nevertheless, I fancied a change and suddenly remembered that my walking friend Will had expressed a desire to ascend via Hall’s Ridge. Though I doubt if the route up from the Blencathra Centre can be beaten time-wise, it can be quite boring so maybe I could give Hall’s Ridge a try today?
I elected to start from Gategill Farm where there is room to park 3 or 4 cars at NY 3262 2582 (178m ASL). This route was not improved by being saturated and the rocks were slippery. Fortunately the grip on wet grass was considerably better but quite a lot of rock, some of it with water flowing down it, still needed to be negotiated. There were ‘cop-out’ paths available; otherwise it’s like a mini version of Sharpe Edge on the higher sections.
Access to the route is made up the Gategill Farm track and through a gate after a signpost. Following that it’s a path over open fell after crossing the beck near NY 3243 2619. You go NE up the path to NY 3272 2666, thence NNW to the top. I was on rock before NY 3252 2740, emerging onto the summit just after NY 3235 2770.
This route which is only about 2.3km long one-way, delivers you directly to the diminutive trig point which is something that the Blease Fell one certainly doesn’t. It is far more challenging from the terrain viewpoint and would have been better done in dry conditions with good visibility. The ascent (around 695m) took me 1 hour 18 minutes from 10:45 which seemed disappointingly slow considering the short distance and light (VHF) load. It was however a new route to me but there was time to spare. The rock scrambles and navigation needed care and the later needed properly recording in the GPS.
I overtook a large group of walkers from on holiday from Derry about half way up and later on there was a man descending via this route. In the wet conditions, I didn’t expect to see many people at the top but in fact well over a dozen passed during the time I was up there. There is no shelter on Blencathra so I had to crouch on a wet grassy bank right in the wind and rain a few metres from the trig point. It was far from pleasant but a stout umbrella (not the one which folded on Skiddaw the day before) made it bearable. The minimal equipment and quick, simple VHF activation helped make it more bearable.
2m FM (19 QSO’s):
I must thank Karen 2E0XYL for the spot. After Karen came many familiar chasers. Notable were: G4OBK using 100W from his home QTH in Pickering, M6UXH Heather in Milnethorpe and an S2S with Grasmoor LD9 (WOTA 20) via operator Steve M6MNT/P. By this time wind-driven rain was beating heavily on the black brolly making holding it whilst logging and operating the rig difficult. The frequency of 145.450 finally dried up; the next stage being to QSY to 4m. Because of the WX I elected not to use the 4m aerial and stuck with the 2m Half-Wave in the hope there’d just be local stations and a bad match wouldn’t matter.
4m FM (4 QSO’s):
It was surprising and encouraging to get a ‘59’ from G0TDM in Penrith on the 2m aerial and I was even more shocked when Dave MW0TUB/P called me from GW/NW-054 (57 both ways). By 12 hours UTC, G4WHA/M and MM1MPB had rounded off the activation with 59 reports.
The J-Pole does OK on 70cm, with an SWR of about 2:1 but I later found that the VSWR of the 2m J-Pole on 4m using the MFJ-259 was well into the red though the resistance reading was 50 ohms. Nevertheless it performed far better than I expected with 3 Watts on half its design frequency.
After deciding to be cautious and take another route, the rain stopped so I shuffled carefully down the same ridge starting at 13:15, making it made it back to Gategill Farm by 14:12. None of the alternatives would have dropped me close to the car except perhaps Doddick Fell which though looking good on the map, was in fact an unknown quantity. Hall’s Fell Ridge had at least provided a little excitement and ‘a change is as good as a rest’ but I don’t know that it’s any faster than other choices. The rain kept off for the ascent and descent, only being troublesome for the actual activation. 23 QSO’s – 8 points.
THURSDAY 09-Jun-11: STONY COVE PIKE & HIGH STREET LD18 & LD11.
STONY COVE PIKE, GLD-018, 763m, 6pts, 11:25 to 12:03, 9 deg.C, sunshine, SW wind 10 mph. (IO84NL, WAB: NY41). 15 QSO’s on 2m & 4m FM. QRP-VHF (IC-E90). Orange phone coverage.
The group were doing Helvellyn from Thirlmere today but I’d already done it in a 4-summit round from Patterdale in March with Nick G4OOE. The worst of today’s WX was to be in the west. Radio Cumbria’s daily mountain forecast at 07:30 (on 95.6FM / 96.1FM / 104.1FM) had actually mentioned High Street for the fewest showers. That reminded me that it was still on my ‘to do’ list so it was not hard to decide with some regret, that I wouldn’t be joining the group today either.
Both LD18 and LD11 can be accessed up the paved way in Pasture Bottom but I didn’t use it. The route to LD18 from Hartsop over Hartsop Dodd is initially very steep but it is more direct and avoids two visits to Threshthwaite Mouth if LD11 is to be added later.
For shelter there is a low wall, ruined in places but the today’s weather was perfect so I set up a few metres from the summit cairn. (There is no trig point). Equipment consisted of simple 2m FM and omni vertical. I had full HF kit with me including sufficient battery power to do two summits multi-band. What was in short supply, as is too often the case, was time. Basically, I could only afford to spend two hours on one summit today so LD18 had drawn the short straw for a quick & simple activation. We were booked in for an early evening meal at the Pheasant Inn, Keswick. My XYL was with me on this holiday so being late was not an option I could afford as I value my life.
2m FM – 12 QSO’s:
One call on S20 with a QSY to 145.400 got quick results with G4UXH, G0TDM, G1OHH, 2E0XYL, MM1MPB, G6ODU, M3OCZ, G3VUS, G6LKB, G4WHA/M, G4ZRP and G7KSE/M. Power was 5W to the half-wave vertical J-Pole. Most of the responses were 59 apart from Karen (2E0XYL) who had difficulty probably because of screening. (I was 41 to her).
4m FM – 3 QSO’s:
Using the same IC-E90 with extended 2m duck, counterpoise and 3.5 Watts, three stations were worked: G6LKB, G0TDM and G4WHA/M. In the latter case Geoff & I exchanged 41 reports but his signal was so weak that it was necessary to de-squelch the rig to make him audible. This was in stark contrast to our earlier QSO on 2m FM where the reports were both 59. What caused this apparent anomaly, I cannot guess but experience has shown that an extended 2m duck with counterpoise for 4m surely cannot be 50dB down on a 2m half-wave.
The transfer to High Street via the rough terrain of Threshthwaite Mouth and Beacon, took 54 minutes with an arrival time at the LD11 trig-point of 12:57.
HIGH STREET, G/LD-011, 828m, 8pts. 12:57 to 15:14. 6 deg. C. SW wind - 20 mph. Sunny at first then cloud, rain/ sleet. (IO84NL, WAB: NY41) IC706-2G QRO – 9 Ah Li-Po for HF. IC-E90 for 4m FM. Orange phone coverage.
80m CW – 6 QSO’s:
Even using a phone call to set them up, 100 Watts on 3.557 only just managed to make QSO’s with Roy G4SSH and Kevin G0NUP in Scarborough. This was sufficient evidence that 80m was not working anywhere as well as it did from Skiddaw 2 days before. Only a further four chasers got the 8 points on offer after Roy spotted me. It wasn’t so much that signal reports were dire; it seemed that many of the regulars could not hear me at all.
80m SSB – 8 QSO’s:
This was a struggle too but it helped that Roy posted the QSY and Geoff G6MZX was waiting on 3.724. Geoff alerted me to the fact that MI/ON4TA/P had been recently heard on 7.115 SSB so maybe I could look there later for a possible S2S. Power was 100W throughout.
40m SSB – 9 QSO’s:
I had missed MI/ON4TA/P who had been chasing on 7.115 but this frequency now seemed vacant. It’s a long time since 40m SSB has featured in one of my activations and I can’t remember operating above 7.1 before so this was a new experience. Once again, M6MZX was first to answer the CQ. After Geoff: G0TDM, DJ5AV, MM1MPB, ON5QRP, DF5WA, G4WHA/M, ON4CAP and DJ1SD. Power was 70W and I expected more QSO’s. Reports were not particularly good and it seemed that 80m was not the only fickle band today.
160m CW – 1 QSO:
Neither G4OBK nor G0VOF were available today but 160 had performed really well 2 days earlier from Skiddaw where 4 QSO’s were logged including Gloucester and Inverness. With similar hopes CQ’s were put out. After working nearby G0TDM, it became evident after another 10 minutes that 160m had joined the list of ‘bone idle’ bands today so it was off to try 40m again to see if condx had improved. This time it would be 40-CW.
40m CW – 8 QSO’s:
DJ5AV answered a CQ on 7.032 and 7 stations followed. Countries: DL, G, OK & LA were worked. Again there was not the pileup expected of 7032. Power was 100W just to try to bring more stations in but the trickle dried up once more.
4m FM – 3 QSO’s:
Calls on 70.425 using 3.5 W from an IC-E90 via the extended duck produced QSO’s as follows: G1KLZ Doug in Bentham, G0TDM John in Penrith and G4WHA/M Geoff also in Penrith. Though I was behind the wall, sleety rain was starting to effect the operation as the activation came to a natural end. It had been hard work and the battery was not spared. Nevertheless from 6 band/ modes this summit had logged only 35 stations.
As I started packing up the gear I received a nasty static shock from the BNC on the HF dipole feeder.
The walk back to Hartsop via The Knott and Hayswater Reservoir took 54 minutes to 16:08 and apart from our group evening meal at the Pheasant Inn, that was more or less the end of another Lakes week.
On the way back through Glenridding I saw a young couple thumbing a lift. It must be 40 years since I participated in hitch-hiking from either side of the kerb but seeing that they were just non-threatening walkers, I stopped this time. It proved interesting. One was from Melbourne Aus, the other from Krakow. Though it added a little to the journey time, I decided to drop them near Penrith for a train to Manchester. They had been walking around the back of Ullswater.
This year, the routes chosen by David did not include the number of SOTA’s I would have liked. Last year only one of my four days was totally independent of the group. This year it was the opposite but at least activations had taken place on four out of four days available.
HF & MF (which included 160m) was a feature on two days only. Apart from that, summit times were limited by meal times or distances. Very short-notice alerting was given via mobile phone to Roy G4SSH, for other than VHF only activations.
In 2009 (we missed out 2010) there were comments like, ‘When John is faced with the choice of walking with us or operating his radio equipment, he always chooses the latter’ but I think now the group have come to accept what they regard as mildly eccentric behaviour. If we are in the Lakes I get bad feelings if I can’t make each day count SOTA wise. That’s partly due to a creeping aversion to driving huge distances for a day’s walking.
B&B was £34 pppn (£4 up on two years ago) at the Sandon on Southey Street, Keswick and evening meals (two courses & a drink) at the Casa Bella Pizza & Pasta place (for instance) ran at about £20 each. It’s expensive but that’s how it is in the Lake District. Also good was the Queen’s Hotel where there is a large eating area, good menu and slightly cheaper prices. Many places were willing to put tables together to accommodate our 11 strong group.
The 4-day week’s 48 points compare well enough with previous years but fall well short of the 82 point max of 2005. Thanks to all ops who worked me.
Thank you to G4SSH for the ‘SOTA Control’ service on the occasions when it could be accessed by mobile phone. Thank you to all chasers and the spotters: G4SSH, G3RMD, 2E0XYL, G6LKB, MM1MPB and G0TDM, Your help in making this a successful trip was much appreciated.
LD5 & LD14 partly with group:
13.3km - 880m ascent. 4hrs-36min walking. 1hr-59min summits. 6hrs-35min gross. 28 QSOs.
10.6km - 666m ascent. 2hrs-6min walking. 3hr summit. 5hrs-6min gross. 40 QSOs.
4.6km – 695m ascent. 2hrs-15min walking. 1hr-12min summit. 3hrs-27min gross. 23 QSOs
LD18 & LD11 solo:
13.3km - 838m ascent. 3hrs-2min walking. 2hr-55min summits. 5hrs-57min gross. 50 QSOs
41.8km – 3,079m ascent. 11hrs-59min walking. 9hrs-6min summits. 21hrs-5min gross.
(26 miles walked at 2.2 mph – 10,102ft climbed – 48 Activator points – 364 miles driven).
73, John G4YSS using GX0OOO/P (Scarborough Special Events Group, Club Call)