G4YSS Activation Report: LD11, LD18 & LD17 on 01-12-14
HIGH STREET - STONY COVE PIKE - RED SCREES. 80m-40m-QRO.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P.
All times UTC.
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver for HF & VHF.
SainSonic MX-P50A, 50 Watt HF Linear Amplifier.
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20 with coils for 160m.
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks.
One 6 Ah Li-Po battery.
One 2.2 Ah Li-Po battery in reserve (not used).
Reserve rig/ PMR: Vero VGC UV-X4; 2W VHF/ UHF, 5oz H/H (not used).
12v to 5v USB Voltage converter for above (not used).
Half-wave vertical J-Pole for 2m-FM (not used).
Packweight: 10.8kg (23.8 pounds) including 0.5 litre electrolytes & 0.5 litre drink.
With just one WAB turnout (an OV00 sortie in October) and no summits since September, it was the onset of winter bonus which got me interested again. Admittedly I have been walking around Scarborough area with Sasha the borrowed Lurcher, covering 5 miles on most days but Oliver’s Mount is hardly what could be called training for SOTA by any stretch of the imagination and the fitness to carry loads up steep gradients is soon lost. That was confirmed the next day in muscles I never knew I had.
With the majority of G/NP’s in the 2014 log there wasn’t a lot of choice left in that region. Wild Boar Fell, Baugh Fell and Burnhope Seat had been the ones in mind since mid November but they add up to a substantial total of ascent. Why not have one visit to G/LD and leave the nearer NP’s until later in December. The weather might deteriorate later in the month which would make the shorter drive to NP’s more attractive.
LD is generally harder than NP and my only thought from now on are winter bonus points, so I would have to try for three in the day if possible. With the Helvellyn range activated in March, just the other two major rounds were available; namely the Gable range and High Street with it’s associates. I regret with questionable fitness, I didn’t fancy the former. The barely nine hours of daylight available at this time of year made the choice easier. Just the walk-in from Honister to Pillar takes three hours so I chose High Street & Stony Cove Pike with vague thoughts of Red Screes if there was enough ‘left in the tank.’
I promised myself that just 2m-FM would be used for most of the winter but once again the lure of HF won the day. It was too much hassle to separate the FT817 from its amp so QRO and a bigger battery ‘imposed themselves’ into my rucksack. Why I continue to torture myself with weight, I will never know.
The start point as usual was to be Hartsop but as far as the route was concerned, I tried to leave two options open. Mostly, I like to knock off LD11 then LD18 (or vice-versa) and return to Hartsop so I can drive up Kirkstone Pass to add LD17. This time I thought it might be different. It’s almost as broad as it’s long to walk all the way to LD17 from LD18 via Kirkstone Pass, then walk down the road to Hartsop and the car at the end. I did think of leaving my folding bike at the Pass but then again, it might have disappeared and besides that, it has no lights. The new option might put me on the last summit quicker than going back for the car but I wouldn’t have to mind walking down a main road in the dark. A decision, based on the weather, the time of day and the state of my legs, would be made after the second activation (LD18).
It’s normally better to get to bed before midnight when you know you’ll be up early but somehow it didn’t happen. With less than three hours sleep behind me, the alarm sounded at 03:15.
Set off from Scarborough at 03:45 driving via the A170, A1 & A66. At 4am there was an incident that upset me. Just before Thornton-le-Dale a fox crossed the A170 right to left. I managed to brake down to about 45 mph and then aimed right to miss it. Unfortunately, at the last minute the fox reversed direction and was instantly hit. Going back, I turned around and switched on the hazard lights. There was nothing to be done for the poor animal apart from dragging its lifeless body onto the grass verge. It was surprisingly heavy and the brush thick and springy. To make matters worse, its eyes were open and they seemed to be staring at me accusingly. I couldn’t listen to the radio after that and drove on in silence hoping that it wasn’t going to turn into a bad day.
I had been eyeing up laybys on the A66 with a view to a catnap but all seemed to be full of lorries. Apart from a single unoccupied car, the Hartsop car park was deserted when I arrived at 06:41. It was still very dark so half an hour of sleep seemed a good addition to a lack of enthusiasm for ‘getting out there.’ At 07:25 I was reluctantly traipsing away from the car in half light.
The route goes via Hayeswater Reservoir and The Knott. On the way I noticed a new footbridge about a furlong downstream from the reservoir but the former bridge by the dam wall is conspicuous by its absence. Whilst managing to cross on half submerged stones, I wondered why? It seems that the reservoir is now surplus to requirements as well as being hard to access. The owners; United Utilities will shortly start the process of draining it and removing the dam, after which time it will return to being a natural tarn. Presumably the new footbridge will be served by a new path up the hillside but if it was there when I passed, I failed to notice it.
Low cloud was reached at around 500m ASL and sadly that’s how it would be for the rest of the day. LD11’s deserted trig point showed itself out of the mist at 08:48. I set up the dipole and began the process of tuning the Top Band coils using the 817’s SWR meter with the linear out of circuit. This took some time but my alert time was still half an hour away.
HIGH STREET, G/LD-011, 828m, 8pts. 08:48 to 10:11. 5 deg C. Wind 2 mph. Low-cloud. (IO84NL, WAB: NY41). No Orange Mobile phone coverage.
1.832 CW & 1.843 SSB: Nil.
Conscious of the time, which might be precious by the afternoon, I took the chance of putting 160m on 15 minutes earlier than alerted. Several 50 Watt CQ’s on the CW and SSB frequencies between 09:13 and 09:21 produced no result which was not that surprising. I soon found out that 80m was in bad shape too. If anybody looked for me on 160m at the appointed time, I apologise for coming on too early. Phil G4OBK may have been one of these. Mark G0VOF later told me it he’d been at work from 06:30 making him unavailable.
3.557 CW - 7 QSO’s:
Using 50 Watts, I managed to make contact with Roy G4SSH at 09:22 but he was only hearing me 339. Going on to work another half dozen, all of whom apart from Phil G4OBK, gave me a maximum of 559, I realised my error. 80m was planned for the first summit in the mistaken assumption that it might work better than 40m before mid morning in December. In fact it was a twenty minute struggle to log even these. Stations worked were: G4SSH; G4OBK; G3RDQ; GI4ONL; G4FGJ; G4WSB and G0NES.
3.717 SSB - 4 QSO’s:
If 80m-CW was bad, this was even worse. First of all my alerted frequency had a QSO on it. Luckily Roy picked up the alternative in CW and posted it. I managed to work: G8VNW; G8ADD; G4WHA/A and G6ODU. Reports were pretty dire for the latter two but amazingly Brian in Birmingham gave me a 58! He mentioned that he had listened on 160m earlier but had heard nothing. I was on here for just 6 or 7 minutes.
After such a poor showing the logical thing would have been a QSY to 40m but unfortunately all the resources, in terms of battery power and time allocated to this, the first of (possibly) three activations, had now been used up. Forcing myself off an 8-pointer with just 11 QSO in the log, was not easy but there was a lot to do in the day and I had to be disciplined if I was to avoid a dark descent down a tricky path in the late afternoon. Nevertheless, I was more than a little disappointed with the 80m band choice. The band can often be better than expected early and late but not today.
Walk LD11 to LD18:
With constant low-cloud prevailing, everything was wet including my Primaloft jacket which I stuffed into the rucksack on the outside of the liner. Again with musical accompaniment to distract from the unpleasant conditions, I headed off on the one hour walk into the clag, bound for Thornthwaite Beacon and LD18. There were no playful horses and summer breezes at the beacon today. You almost had to collide with it to see it. After the steep descent into Threshwaite Mouth, it’s a scramble in places and the rocks had a greasy feel to them. Proceed with caution! Once up onto the grass it was easier but I could never see further ahead than about 30 metres and photos today were merely for the record.
STONY COVE PIKE, G/LD-018, 763m, 6pts, 11:11 to 13:07. 5 deg C. Wind 5 mph increasing. Low-cloud. Occasional light drizzle. (IO84NL, WAB: NY41). No Orange Mobile phone coverage (or so it seemed?).
After erecting the antenna, I settled down behind a poor sort of dry stone wall at NY 4180 0993. By now I expected the low-cloud to have given way to some sunshine but instead a light drizzle started. At least it wasn’t too cold; just very damp. There were still no signal bars on the phone.
7.033 CW - 22 QSO’s:
No mistake this time. 40m was the band of choice and the first thing I did was to establish contact with G4SSH who could provide a spot. It didn’t take long to rub in the 80m mistake from LD11. 40m was ‘jumping’ both from within and without the UK. Roy was 599 to me as was Kevin G0NUP who lives in the next village. Power was set at 30 Watts (2.5 Watts excitation from the FT817 into the Sainsonic Linear.)
Chasers from the following entities were logged: G; HB9; EA; DL; GI; LA and ON. Under the mad pileup I heard a snippet of a signal which sounded like a ‘/P’ It took a couple of attempts to part the wall of eager fixed stations but Heinz HB9BCB/P on HB/BE-145 got the priority he deserved and 559 both ways. Dave G4ASA/P was S2S on G/TW-004. Quite good for me; the 22 QSO’s were worked in 27 minutes. Better still Roy heard the QSY choice of 7.128 and posted it. Things were looking up.
7.128 SSB - 32 QSO’s:
First in was G8VNW Nick in Threshfield (59/ 59) followed by our SOTA friend and ‘Bradford lad’ from the ‘old days’ MM1YAM - Clive (now at QTH Lairg). More or less all the callers on here were SOTA and/ or WAB chasers familiar to me. The following areas were worked with 30 Watts in 40 minutes: G; GM; EI; GW; SM; EA and DJ.
There was another rapid exchange with Geoff G4WHA/A who has shop customers to serve. I worked an S2S with Ricky MW6GWR/P on GW/NW-041. Both 2E0HPI/P Carl on a beach at Hartlepool and Geoff M0IDL in Poole Dorset were truly 58 to 59 on my meter. What’s so special about that? They were both using 1 Watt from an FT817 to modest antennas; a measure of just how well 40m was performing today. The down side was the realisation that I probably need not have lugged the burner and a big battery around three sizeable summits. I asked about G6TUH, Mike’s Greyhound rescue dog Bertie, as I regularly walk one like him. New to me was M3FEH, Karl in SX45 Cornwall.
Towards the end of this session my phone rang. How ironic after trying all day to get a message out, here was a lady loud and clear, trying to sell me a subscription to Trail Magazine! I gave out a ‘QRX’ then explained the situation. She did ‘reel me in’ 2-days later but when all said and done, it is a very useful mag for SOTA activators. Next for me was lunch but only while taking the antenna down. No rest for the wicked!
Discipline was superb but I had to keep making lists which I have heard some ops do not like. A counter argument is that at least a chaser knows that he has been heard and if he is in a position to hang around for a few minutes he will get a QSO; conditions allowing of course. People have their lives to live so if any chaser doesn’t come back when called in, I don’t just forget about him but will try my best for a QSO at some stage. Also, knowledge of the situation allows me to adjust my speed of working to suit. I can give out all the particulars in one sentence, to all who are waiting.
As an activator in control and more importantly with very a low noise level, I recognise that I have by far the easier job! (From the radio viewpoint that is). Another point; if a chaser is not satisfied that he has made the QSO, I would prefer he call in again later to check rather than live with the doubt, even if he is already ‘solid’ in my logbook.
Walk LD18 to LD17:
I had lately decided to walk directly to Red Screes but precious minutes were wasted poring over the map to locate the correct path. I walked around peering into the mist, eventually realising that the path I had been sitting beside for the activation was likely to be the one I wanted. This state of affairs arose because I had no pre-programmed GPS route for this section and had only walked it once when I did these three in reverse order from Brothers Water with the walking group in July 2003. The forecast intimated sunshine in NE Lakes by this time which would have put me on ‘VFR.’ Instead this tenacious fret continued to rule the roost proving that when it comes to UK WX, few things can be guaranteed.
Walking off at 13:07, I followed a path by a wall which gradually changed its direction until the Pass was straight ahead, confirming the earlier assumption. Mobile phone coverage was finally available so I banged off a reassuring first text of the day to the XYL. There were some boggy sections and some uphill too but eventually I came to a gate near some windmills at NY 4029 0816, where I could hear traffic sounds. Minutes later the Kirkstone Inn appeared out of the murk at exactly 14:00.
Looking at a signboard there, I noted that all bus services had been suspended for the winter. Obviously, no help was coming from that direction and I was destined to walk down the road following the forthcoming final activation. Having reached civilisation, I was tempted to enter the warmth of the pub to recover, call a taxi back to Hartsop and drive home. Just a thought.
Wasting no time, I crossed the road and car park to the gate. Here there was a soggy poster, which I stopped to photograph, appealing for info regarding a collie dog called Dorothy, lost on Dove Crag on 25th November. I hoped she had been found. Six days is a long time to be lost on these fells. I remember the worry that we suffered a few years ago when William & I lost his spaniel on Kirk Fell for just 2 hours. It is not a nice feeling.
After ensuring that the GPS was doing what it should, I set off up the steep winding path to Red Screes. This is a path that can be lost if care is not taken and I tried to memorise what I could. I didn’t intend walking back down in the dark but if I ended up doing just that in this fog, I would need all the help I could get. Off to the side are dangerous rocky gullies making LD17 a bad choice for your final SOTA in December. Unused to this level of activity since March, the climb felt like hard labour and frequent stops were necessary. Concious of the lack of time before day’s end, it seemed to take a very long time. In fact it took 40 minutes which is not much longer than last time but the time from LD18 was more than an hour and a half making it a questionable decision as against going down to the car from LD18 then driving up to the Pass to do 17.
There are few feelings better to an activator than the knowledge that he or she won’t be ascending a single additional metre for the rest of the walk. It wasn’t quite true as some minor uphill was encountered later on the main road to Hartsop. The summit was deserted and likely to remain so, thus giving a full choice of QTH’s. The wind was roughly SW and had increased to 15 mph making the best place just over the NE looking edge. The dipole was stretched along from the trig point along the lip. Not all of it was needed; just the 40m band sections. After bungeeing the rucksack and its valuable contents to a rock so it couldn’t roll over the steep drop, I set to work by calling Roy again.
RED SCREES, G/LD-017, 776m, 6pts, 14:40 to 16:02, 5 deg.C, 15 mph wind, low-cloud. (IO84ML, WAB: NY30). Orange phone coverage was not checked but it was available earlier at Kirkstone Pass.
7.033 CW - 26 QSO’s:
The 6 Ah Li-Po already had two activations to its credit, so to try and stave off the inevitable, I reduced power to about 10 Watts. (1 Watt excitation from the FT817ND into the Sainsonic Linear.) I really couldn’t afford the time it would take to root out and connect the 2.2 Ah standby battery should the 6 Ah fail prematurely.
This was just a repeat of the Stony Cove Pike LD18 activation except that I was weary and not understanding the Morse so well. Both Roy G4SSH and Phil G4OBK sent me questions but the jumble of letters that I wrote on the log could not be deciphered. This shall ever be a weak point of mine but it doesn’t stop me preferring CW to any other mode.
After working Roy, his resulting spot featuring ‘‘Quick QSO’s Please - Dark Soon’’ in the notes, brought 26 stations inside 30 minutes in varied call areas as follows: G; SM; DL; GI; ON; OH; PA; HB9; F; OE; OK and LA. There were no S2S’s; perhaps more sensible activators were on their way home? No matter. It takes longer to work another summit. Their modest signal must be ‘dug’ from under strong signals and the exchange necessarily contains more information. Normally an S2S is very welcome but the light, never good all day, was already starting to fade further. After announcing the SSB QSY QRG to G4SSH, another station snuck in. This was G0NES Don by the skin of his teeth.
Signal reports were just as good as they had been on LD18 but with less power producing them. I expected greater QRM but that would come soon enough.
7.108 SSB - 19 QSO’s:
I had informed Roy that there might not be an SSB session if CW went slowly. In fact there was still a bit of time left if the chasers could be quick as advised. They didn’t disappoint! Starting with Mike G6TUH I worked 19 of them in QRM that had come up after I had gone back to CW to announce the channel. This happens to me too often so if no copy, it’s best to check for me either side. Most of the chasers were in ‘G’ with the exceptions of: EI2CL; DJ5AV (Mike gave me ‘28’); DJ6OK; EA2CKX; DL8DXL and HB9AGH who were all receiving my signal with difficulty.
In the mix was Geoff G4WHA/A from the shop in Penrith for summit number three and I also worked G4OOE in Scarborough. Nick and I were even able to have a brief chat with only 10 Watts in QRM. What a good job 40m had done today. Mark G0VOF had now returned from work, Bob G6ODU was as grateful as ever and Roy called in with his ‘alter-ego’ 2E0OOO callsign. The 19 stations were worked in as many minutes and I couldn’t have been more grateful to the chasers. It really was getting dim!
In the last QSO of the day; Ambrosi HB9AGH really did cut it fine (both in terms of time and battery power) and the exchange was 48/ 45.
The Final Descent:
Packing up the station was almost complete when a Skipton man turned up to ask me about the equipment going into the rucksack. When I explained he mentioned that he had seen one of ‘our number’ on Tryfan in N. Wales trying his best to QSO through a loud noise caused by scores of people waiting their turn to jump from Adam to Eve. He told me that he had covered 16 mountain miles today and had developed a knee problem. We agreed that we’d both left it a bit late to get down safely and I told him I would catch him up. Donning head torches, which were not that useful due to back-scatter from low cloud, we walked and scrambled down the worst bits together. My expected apprehension was more than offset by a good conversation and in what seemed like no time we had reached Kirkstone Pass safely.
The 6 km walk down to Hartsop was duly started. As the cars came up, so did my head with it’s head torch. Apart from one which came a bit too close for comfort on a bend, the drivers all gave me a wide berth on the opposite side of the road. There were traffic lights at road works some way down and later on I passed the Brothers Water Inn advertising, ‘Rooms Available Tonight, 26 GBP per night for B&B - phone 017684 82239.’ With a 130 mile - 3 hour cross country drive ahead of me I was sorely tempted but there’s no place like home.
At NY 4037 1194 a car slowed down and a lift was kindly offered. This was a local Glenridding man and he gave me a lift to the Hartsop Turnoff - a saving of 1.3km. By the time I’d ‘dismasted’ and got me and my rucksack into the car and out again, I don’t think I saved a lot of time but every little helps and I was truly grateful. A third of a mile walk got me back to the car at 17:23 and I was home in Scarborough for 20:30.
As always, Top Band was put on more in hope than expectation and it didn’t help that I jumped the gun.
A sad waste of an 8-point mountain; 80m let me and the chasers down badly on LD11 today but 40m more than made up for it on the other two. 40m was working so well that I could have done 90% of what I achieved with a barefoot 5 Watts from the 817. That said, the QRO system carried is not quite as heavy as in the past with the IC706. (And less recently with 7Ah SLAB’s in addition).
In constant low-cloud, this was a damp, dull and miserable walk and I saw few people out and about. The MP3 player is essential equipment on a day like this but the DAB didn’t work everywhere. Good company on the dark, misty final descent was most welcome. It wasn’t too cold, windy or rainy so I will take that as OK for December. Some of the SOTA equipment went defective after this sortie; namely my left knee and my right hip so I was definitely out of condition. With hindsight I might have considered a couple of easier summits.
The battery really would not have done another QSO. Had it failed at that late stage, the brutal truth is that I likely wouldn’t have stayed to fit the spare. (Activator’s prerogative).
I can barely believe it but according to the database I haven’t activated Red Screes for almost 7 years! It was great to be back.
The chasers are always good but they were great today especially on the last one with little time to spare before a tricky climb down.
3 down and 21 to go. I hope to be out again fairly soon but can’t promise HF.
Ascent & Distance - LD11; LD18 & LD17:
Route: Hartsop-Hayswater-The Knott-LD11-Thornthwaite Beacon-Threshwaite Mouth-LD18-Kirkstone Pass1-LD17-Kirkstone Pass2-Hartsop-via main road.
Ascent for above Route: 1,179m (3,868ft) with 20.2 km (12.6 mls) walked.
Deducting 1.3 km lift in car, actual distance walked today: 18.9 km (11.8mls).
Miles driven: 264.
03:45: Left Scarborough (130 miles)
06:41: Arr. Hartsop (30 min sleep)
07:25: Walking from Hartsop
08:48 to 10:11: G/LD-011
11:11 to 13:07: G/LD-018
14:00: Via Kirkstone Pass
14:40 to 16:02: G/LD-017
16:30: Via Kirkstone Pass
17:23: Arr. Hartsop (Road walk. Lift in car for 1.3km)
20:30: Arr. Scarborough (130 miles)
LD11-LD18: 60 min
LD18-Kirkstone Pass: 53 min
Kirkstone Pass-LD17: 40 min
LD17-Kirkstone Pass: 28 min
Kirkstone Pass-Hartsop: 53 min (1.3km lift)
Total: 5hr-17 min (2.2 mph)
LD11: 1hr-23 min
LD18: 1hr-18 min
LD17: 1hr-22 min
Total: 4hr-3 min
QRO pack: 10.8kg (23.8 pounds.)
6 AH Li-Po: 100% of ‘useable’ power. (Discharge tester would not latch indicating a VCC of less than 10.5 Volts at 4.8 Amps.) (Reserve 2.2 Ah Li-Po was not used. H/H not used.)
0 on 160m CW.
0 on 160m SSB.
7 on 80m CW.
4 on 80m SSB.
48 on 40m CW.
51 on 40m SSB.
25 activator points inc. 9 WB points.
THANKS TO ALL STATIONS WORKED AND TO: G4SSH for spotting and liaison via the radio only. That is, without the aid of mobile phone.
73, John (G4YSS).
(Using The Scarborough Special Events Group club-call, GX0OOO/P)