G4YSS Activation Report, G/LD-013 Old Man of Coniston on 80-40-20 & 2m
G/LD’s: Day-1 LD8; Day-2 LD4; Day-3 LD3; Day-4 LD13; Day-5 LD10-LD7-LD22
G/LD-013 Old Man of Coniston on 80m-40m-20m QRO & 2m-FM QRP
All times BST (UTC + 1). UTC for radio operations (denoted ‘z’)
G4YSS using GX0OOO/P
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier (80 thru 10) with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20. (160m loading coils not taken)
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One Turnigy 11.1V, 5 Ah Li-Po battery
IC-E90 4-Band, 5W, VHF H/H for 4m-FM
2m Band Vertical J-Pole on 1m (pink) carbon rod
Extended set-top helical for 4m-FM QRP (not used)
Reserve Rig: Baofeng UV-3R, 2W, 2m/ 70cm H/H
Pack-weight: 9kg approx
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB Cube (not used)
This was Day-4 of our annual ‘Lakes Week’ holiday; a six night stay in Keswick with only three serious walkers in the group including me, the sole radio enthusiast. Neither David nor Rob were available today so I chose the easiest 8-pointer in the Lake District, despite it being a fair way from the B&B.
The drive down to South Lakes from Keswick took the best part of an hour, in fact 58 minutes, the satnav taking me through Grasmere and via ‘C’ roads, to join the A593 near Skelwith Bridge. There’s a right turn at SD 3014 9750 in Coniston Village where a steep road goes up to the Walna Scar Road car park at SD 2889 9704 (230m ASL). You have to open a gate to gain access to it but there’s plenty of space with over-spill available in disused quarries.
Today I was following another car and the passenger, a lady, got out to open the gate. Quickly rooting around for a pound coin, I offered it out of the left front window. She was suitably embarrassed, the intended result but she wouldn’t take it, not even ‘for the kids.’ I thanked her and drove on while she stood there holding the gate, shaking her head and laughing. The same thing happened at the end of the day but this time it was a male walker who held open the gate. He wouldn’t take the cash either.
It strikes me that the local kids are missing out on a bounty, especially in summer. It would make a healthy alternative to video games. Maybe, they’ll be there in the school holidays, opening the gate for us tourists and pocketing the tips tax free.
In bygone years, I used to drive up the Walna Scar dirt road as far as SD 2827 9685. It was perfectly legal until they introduced a restriction about driving on green roads and byways. Now it is unclear whether it’s acceptable on this particular road or not. Being a rebel I would go for ‘Yes it is’ as the answer to that one but being also something of a coward, I left the car in the car park.
After throwing a ball for an eager dog a few times, I walked the intervening 650m along the track. The decision to park in the ‘proper place’ turned out to be a bad judgement; a Land Rover was parked right where the OMC path branches off to the right. Starting there would have left me with only a 2 x 2.2 km walk and would have knocked 2 x 10 minutes from the walking time. I wasn’t at all bothered today but in the past, when doing three or four SOTA’s on a winter’s day, every minute counts and 20 minutes can be very significant indeed. It can mean the difference between coming down the final one in daylight or in the dark.
The quiet and more direct southern route for LD13 is mostly grassy whereas some of the alternatives use rocky paths through heavily mine-worked areas. It’s not marked on my 25k map but in case anyone’s interested, here it is again: SD 2827 9685 - SD 27954 96946 - SD 27795 97048 - SD 27352 97075 - SD 27463 97307 - SD 27297 97547 - SD 27234 97698. (More intermediate waypoints are available). There is just a little re-ascent involved but it’s a lot quieter and easier on the feet than the miner’s path over loose rock.
Don’t fall into the trap of taking the winding track up to the disused mine. It leaves the Walna Scar road at the same place as the path - SD 2827 9685. Take the steep grassy path up to the left of the mine track. In the past there was a painted sign on a rock saying, ‘Old Man of Coniston’ and an arrow pointing up but I didn’t see it today.
Lightly laden in good daylight and clear conditions, I used to go up this route from the ‘advanced’ parking spot (SD 2827 9685) in under 45 min and come down in less than 30. In mist or in the dark, it can be quite difficult to follow as it weaves around unexpectedly and is not well defined in places.
Leaving the car park at 10:18, the climb took 68 minutes. Not too bad for HF QRO in warm weather.
OLD-MAN-of-CONISTON, G/LD-013, 803m (8 pts), 11:26 to 15:12. 20 deg C. Sunshine and 2 mph cool northeasterly breeze. IO84KI, WAB: SD29, Trig Point: TP-2382. Vodafone coverage.
After talking to some of the many walkers already at the summit I was free to set up, or so I thought. One chap pointed at distant peaks to the north and asked me if I’d been here before and which ones they were. Replying, ‘Yes’ and ‘I haven’t a clue’ in that order, I started examining the GPS in the hope it would tell me. Luckily I had all the LD summits in the memory and ‘Go-To’ requests helped us to name some of them one by one, starting with Great Gable and Scafell Pike; though it was a slow process.
I set up on gently sloping grass about 30m SW of the very substantial summit cairn. While I was thus employed, I had a look around to see if it would be possible to pitch a tent, should the ‘need’ arise. There are a couple of grassy places where the ground is more or less level but they’re not very big and neither have ideal surfaces. The level areas near the trig point are very rocky. Just a thought. LD13 could be an ideal RSGB VHF Contest QTH, overlooking the Midlands and South of England but it’ll likely never happen, not for me at least.
It didn’t go unnoticed that there were midges and green flying beetles on this summit. At least, they appeared green to me but I’m colour blind. Not wanting to resort to a head net unless it became absolutely necessary, it looked like I might be in for a trying afternoon.
3.557 CW – 5 QSO’s:
Using 30 Watts, I ‘opened the innings’ with G4SSH at 10:53z with a 589/ 339 QRM exchange. Roy’s spot attracted the attention of another four chasers as follows: G4RQJ Rob; G0TDM John; G4WSB Bill and G0HIO Mike. Outgoing reports were 559 to 579 with 339 to 579 coming back and 599 both ways from Rob.
3.760 SSB – 7 QSO’s:
Callers on 80m SSB were: EI3GYB Michael ‘26C in Mayo’; G0FEX Ken; G0GWY Geoff; M3FEH Karl; MM0XPZ Steve in Greenock; G4WHA/A Geoff and G4RQJ Rob.
50 Watts were employed for this session but reports were somewhat down on CW. Rob’s exchange was 58/ 57 ranging down to 41/ 55 for Karl and a barely detectable 22/ 31 for Geoff, who was hidden behind an awful lot of Lake District rock; QTH Penrith.
7.032 CW - 11 QSO’s:
Using 30 Watts to the inverted-vee at 5m, the following stations were worked: G4SSH Roy; F5LWF Bernard; F6GUF Alain; DL3HXX Lothar; DL1FU Frid; G0FVH David; PA0INA Frans; IK2LEY Fabio; G4OIG Gerald - still patiently awaiting his op; G0BPU Mike and OH3GZ Jukka.
Outgoing reports were 579 or 599 with one 599 coming back. Incoming ones ranged from 559 to 579 with a 439 from Lothar, 339 from Frid and a 449 from Fabio.
By now the flies had become a little annoying and the beetles kept landing on me, the latter causing a few interruptions in CW transmissions.
7.165 SSB - 12 QSO’s:
The ratio of UK to continental stations worked in this session was 7 to 5 as follows: DJ9BX Michael; G0FEX Ken; HB9BIN/P Juerg S2S on HB/BE-169 (56 both ways); G4WSB Bill; G8ADD Brian; HB9MKV Rudi; M3FEH Karl; EA2CKX Pedro; EA3HP Dan; G4GEW Peter; G0ELJ Dave and G1SDK Sid in Hertfordshire. It was a pleasant change to work Juerg in SSB and hear his voice. Usually it’s a CW QSO.
Power was 30 Watts but signals were nothing to write home about. I received just two 59 reports and a 58. The rest ranged between 55 and 57 with a 41 from Rudi and 52’s from the two Spanish ops.
14.052.6 CW - 6 QSO’s:
Top activator - Jan OK2PDT was first in on 20m CW with a 579/ 559 exchange. After Jan there followed: SP9AMH/ QRP Mariusz; G0TDM John; IK5ISS; DL4UNF Frank and 2E0CWP Terry.
‘G’s are not usually expected on 20m but the exception had been in operation all week. Also, it is unusual to work a 2E in CW but having said that, early 2E0 callsign holders had to pass a 5 WPM Morse test to qualify for their licence. They were also given just 3 Watts on UHF and a few HF ‘backwaters’ on160-80-30 & 15m. This was the real and proper incentive licencing of the 1990’s.
Power was 50 Watts to the dipole and reports were all 579 or 599 except two 559’s; one going to QRP op Mariusz and the other coming back from Italy.
14.285 SSB - 10 QSO’s:
Maruisz SP9AMH was attentive and his 5 watt station sufficient to be first in the 20m-SSB log with 55/ 33 reports. Afterwards: HB9DBM Mark; G0TDM John; G4WHA/A Geoff; G0HRT Rob; DL8DXL Fred; OE7HPI Hans; G6NHW Pete; HB9AGH Ambrosi and OH6GHI Peter. Again a fair number of stations on shorter than normal skip and/ or a bit of ground wave thrown in for good measure.
With not a lot of activating time remaining, due to an earlier than usual evening meal booking at the Pheasant in Keswick, power was left set at 50 Watts. Reports ranged from 55 to 58 with 59’s going to Mark and John. My signals were reported mainly between 53 and 57 with a 33 from Austria and 31 from Geoff in the Penrith computer shop. QSB was also reported and the session took 20 minutes to complete.
After packing most of the HF station away, I relocated to a point approx. 15m NW of the trig, on the edge overlooking Low Water. A Raven was perched close by, tucking in to someone’s discarded (or possibly - stolen) sandwich.
145.400 FM - 12 QSO’s:
With time constrained by the early meal booking, using just 2.5W from the FT817ND to a vertical J-Pole, I worked the following stations between 13:45z and 14:06z: G4WHA/A & G0TDM/M Geoff & John in Penrith; M0NOM Mark - Windermere; G7CDA Dougie nr.Garstang and MW0BYT Ross in Bangor.
Then: GB2CRS Glynn - AKA G4MVA/ ZC4CZ. (Roy G4SSH was once Glynn’s QSL Manager and like old acquaintances do, we chatted for a while). After Glynn: 2E0MIX Derek at Whitehaven; G4VFL Andrew - Egremont; MW0ISC/M Steve nr. Mold; G1HIB Mike at Morecambe; 2E0BLL Mike in Warton and G0HRT Rob in Southport.
Signals were strong and everybody got 59 from me. Five gave me 59 and from the others I received between 53 and 57. In the rush to get off in time for the meal, I completely forgot about 4m-FM.
Today was much the same as the rest of the week; I got lots of visitors to the station. I did try my best to be out of the way but they could hardly miss me on this summit. The most memorable enquirer of the day was a man called John who was ex RN and aged seventy eight and a half; the ‘half’ seemingly quite important. He looked as fit as a fiddle and sat with me asking questions at length while I was working CW on 40m.
John said that he’d, ‘Never seen anything like it before’ and he seemed to mean that as a compliment. He was interested in who I’d worked so I went down the logsheet pointing out the countries. After he’d got over his obvious amazement, he left me to get on with the activation, coming back after a while to watch. He told me that he was from Portsmouth, which made sense with the RN connection and handing me a notebook, went on to ask if I could write down my name, callsign and how he would be able to find out more details afterwards.
A second man was coming up the grass on his final approach to the summit, which took him past the antenna. He stopped and asked, ‘How much DX have you worked?’ Obviously someone with a bit of background, he told me that he’d passed the RAE in the 1980’s but done nothing about a licence. He was an ex BT engineer. After chatting for a while, I advised him to look for his pass slip.
Finally, after I changed position for the VHF activation, a couple approached me asking similarly well informed questions. We had a brief conversation and I found out that the lady was licenced as G7ITZ – name Barbara and I think they were from Surrey. A photo followed and she shuffled obligingly across to pose beside the VHF vertical for this.
It took 43 minutes to get down using the same path I’d come up and I only met two people on the way. Time at the car was 15:55, so I’d arrived just ahead of schedule. The home drive, round the longer way through Ambleside, got me back to Keswick in 52 minutes which was six minutes quicker than via the ‘short cut’ on the drive down.
Back with plenty of time to spare, we enjoyed a great meal at the Pheasant Inn that evening. It and the Casa Bella are our favourite eating places in Keswick, year on year. We know the manager, Andrew at the Casa Bella and just for devilment, ask him for custard with our sticky toffee pudding. ‘This is an Italian restaurant, we don’t do custard!’
We also use the George and Royal Oak pubs. Evening meals are expensive in the Lakes. You are lucky yo get change out of £40 for a couple, after you’ve added the tip. B&B is also up on many other areas. The excellent Sandon, which closes in October due to retirement, is £47 pppn.
5 on 80m-CW
7 on 80m-SSB
11 on 40m-CW
12 on 40m-SSB
6 on 20m-CW
10 on 20m-SSB
12 on 2m FM
10:18 Left Walna Scar Road Car Park (230m ASL)
11:26 to 15:12 Old Man of Coniston summit
15:55 Arr. back at car
1hr-8min up/ 47min down
Drive from/ to B&B: 58min/ 52min
Summit time: 3hr-46min
Ascent & Distance: 583m (1,912ft)/ 5.7km (3.6 mls)
Another solo activation; the walking group opting for a lower walk.
The weather was hot and sunny but I coped quite well after four days of acclimatization. I couldn’t measure the summit temperature very accurately due to sun on the thermometer but it was certainly around 20C. Michael EI3GYB reported 26C in County Mayo. Just like Helvellyn on the afternoon prior, the summit of The Old Man of Coniston was a sunbather and picnickers paradise. This turned out to be the warmest activation of the week.
Unfortunately the cool breeze wasn’t available where I was sitting for the HF part of the summit stay. Only when the station was moved to the edge of a vast drop to the NE was there respite. It meant that flies and flying beetles had a field day but to be fair, the flies were nowhere near as ruthlessly vicious as their Scottish brethren – thank goodness. As for the beetles, they were only really annoying when they tried to fly down your neck or crawl between your hand and the log.
Signal strengths were generally down on the best propagation day of the week, which was Tuesday 5th June on Skiddaw. QSB was doing its mischief again but that was no different from the rest of the week.
80m was better than on most previous days, being more ‘open’ and good enough for 12 contacts. From the viewpoint of QSO numbers, 40m was a down on the days prior; just 18 contacts were made on there.
20m did well in bringing in 16 chasers but there was no DX. In fact the only day I worked outside Europe was the solitary Japanese contact from Skiddaw.
Regrettably, I forgot about 4m-FM but there was little time at the end. Thinking about it later, I doubt whether I would have managed to get through to two of the 4m enthusiasts in Penrith with the available kit.
For the second day running, a dozen stations were worked with 2.5W on 2m-FM. By the time I got around to VHF, I was in a tearing great hurry, concerned about being late getting back, so I must apologize for any brusqueness. At one point I said, ‘Callsign and reports only’ then I spent time talking to Glynn which must have confused and possibly annoyed those waiting. Such is amateur radio but it was good to meet an old friend.
Both having a lot to do with Scarborough, Glynn and I had a few things in common and I haven’t worked him or seen him for several years. I have great admiration for him as a DX’er. Goodness knows how many thousands of QSO’s he must have worked over the years from Cyprus and other places. He certainly kept Roy busy QSL’ing and cards were still coming in more than five years after he came back to England. I remember Roy telling me of Glynn’s disappointment, after having come back from his final tour of exotic locations, when he called CQ with his G4 and nothing happened!
For the third day running, I had plenty of visitors to the station. Ofcom/ RSGB insist that GB stations make access for the public in order to promote the hobby but it seems that SOTA can do equally well if the weather is good.
Thanks to all stations worked for your loyal support and to spotters: G4SSH; G4WHA/A and the SMS self spotting phone ap. which I am lately getting the hang of.
Thanks to Roy G4SSH for telephone liaison and to Geoff G4WHA/A for 2m/4m-FM monitoring & VHF spots. This was to be the final day of HF activations. The last day featured 2m-FM only.
(G4YSS using Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call GX0OOO/P)
Above: Walna Scar Road car park. Start of popular route via mine track (not taken) in background.
Above: Walna Scar Road car park. View of LD13 over Walna Scar road
Above: Walna Scar Road. A Land Rover parked at start of OMC path (grassy path centre frame - SD 2827 9685)
Above: Looking back from OMC path. Track to disused mine snaking up to left
Above: Looking back a little further up the path. Disused slate quarry, Coniston Village and Coniston Water beyond
Above: Summit in sight
Above: Summit cairn - Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: Summit trig point TP-2382 - Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: Substantial summit cairn - Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: HF Inverted-Vee. Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: The oldest man on Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013. John Nundy, ex-RN aged 79 next birthday! Fascinated by CW.
Above: Flying beetle and RG178 coax feeder - G/LD-013
Above: Ten QSO’s on 14.285-SSB. Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: Looking towards Coniston Water from Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: J-Pole for 2m-FM on carbon rod mast. Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: Looking down to Low Water 260m below. Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: ‘Eyeball Eyeball’ - Barbara G7ITZ on Old Man of Coniston G/LD-013
Above: On the way down Old Man of Coniston. The only two people I saw on this little used path.
Links to other Lakes Week 2018 reports:
G/LD-008 Blencathra: G4YSS: 'Lakes Week' G/LD-008, 04-06-18
G/LD-004 Skiddaw: G4YSS: 'Lakes Week' G/LD-004, 05-06-18
G/LD-003 Helvellyn: G4YSS: 'Lakes Week' G/LD-003, 06-06-18
G/LD10-LD7-LD22: G4YSS: 'Lakes Week' G/LD10-LD7-LD22, 08-06-18