G4YSS: LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10 on 80m & 160m,13-03-16

G4YSS Activation Report, LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10 on 80m & 160m 13-03-16.
PART-1; Main Report (For Comments and Photos, see Part-2)

SOTA’s: G/LD-003, G/LD-022, G/LD-007 & G/LD-010.
G4YSS using SSEG Clubcall GX0OOO/P on 80m & 160m QRO (44 points)

All times: UTC.
Mobile phone coverage on all tops inc LD7 - EE (was Orange) network.
Sunrise: 06:25 UTC, Sunset: 18:13 UTC

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF (80 thru’ 10) 50 Watt Linear Amplifier with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-60-40-(30)-20 with loading coils for 160m
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
Two 5000 mAh/ 360gm, Turnigy Li-Po batteries. (99% and 94% depleted)

Reserves - Not Used:
Jingtong JT208, 2W, 2m-FM H/H (modified to take a 7.4V Li-Po)
Baofeng UV-3R, 2W, 2m-FM H/H
Home-brew vertical J-Pole for 2m

Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB112 Technika Radio (Tesco)
Thermoball hooded jacket (summits only - 395gm)
Stubai steel crampons (790gm)
Grivell Mount Blanc ice axe (490gm)
1.5 ltr water with electrolytes (ENO’s).
(Further 0.5 ltr water collected from beck on Dollywaggon - Iodine added)
Packweight: 12.4 kg (27.3 pounds) at the outset.

Taking in four sizeable summits, this is the best place in England for collecting 44 SOTA activator points in one swoop. This was my ninth Patterdale Round for SOTA plus some variations so I know the route without recourse to a map or the GPS. I think this was only it’s second set of activations on 160m and 80m with high power equipment. In 2009, I used an IC706-2G and some early Li-Po’s. This time it would be the FT817 and a 50 Watt amp. Nevertheless, by the time I’d got half way up Helvellyn, I dearly wished I’d settled for HF-QRP or even simple 2m-FM kit but the trouble is that daylight 160m is difficult enough with 50 or 100 Watts let alone 5 Watts.

Although efficient with respect to points gathering, this round is still a significant undertaking being roughly 12 miles and 5,000 feet of ascent. To gain the maximum advantage, obviously it must be done in winter and for maximum daylight that means as close as possible to the cut-off on March the 15th. More often than not the two approaches to Helvellyn are snow affected at this time of year and there is often ice too. Striding Edge is a non starter; it takes an hour longer than Swirral but both have a reputation. In fact out of the two it would appear that Swirral has killed more walkers in the past 10 years than the alternative and that is always due to a slip on ice.

As an ordinary walker and not a climber, every new incident focuses the mind until real fear sets in every time the place is mentioned. Foolishly, to save weight and take more radio gear in the past, I risked it with just ordinary boots and sometimes an ice axe half a dozen times. Coming to the conclusion that my luck must surely run out this year, I took crampons and wore them for the very first time. They were a Godsend for about 200 metres but I had to carry their dead weight for the remainder of the round.

Three of the four SOTA’s on the round have rocky tops which slow down antenna work but today I was able to employ snow fields for the supports which saved some time. That was fortunate; I being very slow on this expedition; having only done 5 summits previously this winter. I fret about up-coming SOTA trips too early anyway but continual thoughts of this notorious approach to LD3 lost me two night’s decent sleep; helping to further ruin my performance. Life is better when you’re young; you don’t worry so much.

The alarm sounded at 02:45 but why did we bother with it, I’d been awake most of the night anyway. I left Scarborough at 03:01, arriving at the Patterdale Hotel Pay & Display car park (NY 3960 1593 - still £4.50) in darkness at the end of a 129 mile drive by 05:53. This was later than on some previous occasions. There was a road closure and diversion in force at the A66/ A592 Ullswater road junction, forcing me to go around via the parking place for Great Mell Fell. Sadly parking up Grisedale Lane which runs from the main road to the start of the path to the Hole-in-the-Wall allowing a flying start, was banned a few years ago.

After ‘prehydrating’ with a litre of water, I left the car park in early daylight at 06:12. It didn’t take long to realise that I seemed to be having something of an ‘off day’ which was later evidenced by a personal worst ascent time for LD3. The paved way starts at NY 3618 1555 and just after this was today’s snow line. At the Hole in the Wall ladder stile I got my first look at Helvellyn, Swirral Edge and the route ahead; there being none of the low-cloud which was forecast.

After the Hole in the Wall, there was more snow on the paths to impede progress than elsewhere, though some of it could be avoided by walking on grass. It helped that the snow was still partially frozen in places but when it came to cross Red Tarn Beck I was forced to risk a snow bridge with the possibility of falling a metre into the water below if it should collapse. It held. Just after this I caught up with three lads who had camped the night beside the frozen-over Red Tarn and were now heading up towards Swirral. After noting the amount of snow above, I sat down to put on the crampons, just where the path bypasses the ridge crest to the left. Fortunately a bit of prior practice and the removal of excess strapping at home cut the time down a little.

Now came the crux of the whole day’s walking; getting up the ever steepening Swirral Edge. I soon realised the benefits of crampons and with confidence growing, I wondered why I had never bothered to use them before. With these and the axe handle rammed into the snow, what could go wrong? In fact pausing for photographs, it was a simple matter to overcome the final ramp onto the summit beside the marker cairn.

After topping out I reached the trig point in clear but overcast conditions with only a very light breeze, at 08:32. The climb had taken 2 hours and 20 minutes, a slow time indeed but the feeling of deliverance easily balanced that out. Not just that but there is always a degree of excitement when setting foot on the summit of one of England’s best and a ten pointer to boot!

There was plenty of lying snow but some of the surface had been swept clean by the west winds; the snow being dumped over the east side to form a substantial cornice. After texting my wife about my safe arrival, I banged off a message to Roy G4SSH to tell him of the time slippage of 30 minutes, “Hoping to be QRV for 9am.” Next came the photos.

Despite the early hour, there were one or two people around which put me off setting up in the shelter. Getting the aerial up over gravel is usually difficult but a significant depth of snow made it quick and easy today. Setting up parallel with, but sufficiently far back from the overhanging cornice of the east headwall in an almost static airstream, was easy enough. Just before starting the activation, two lads came up the hill carrying mountain bikes on their shoulders.

  1. HELVELLYN, G/LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 08:32 to 10:06. Wind 2 mph, 4 deg C. Overcast and dull but no low-cloud. Substantial lying snow in and around shelter. A cornice but large areas swept clean. LOC: IO84LM, WAB: NY31/ Trig point TP-3724. EE Mobile phone coverage.

1.832 CW - 6 QSO’s:
Sitting down on the map case after flattening out an area in the snow, I called Roy G4SSH right on cue and was immediately surprised by the exchange of 559 both ways. I expected much less or nothing being, as it was, two hours after sunrise. After Roy came: MK0BKV, Damian with his Cornish callsign variation and 559 both ways; G3RDQ, David in Hampshire also 559’s; G4OBK, Phil in Pickering an easy 599/ 579; G0VOF - Mark in Blackburn 589/ 579 and G3RMD, Frank in Cheltenham at 529/ 339.

All were suffering marked QSB but it was a very pleasing start. I hope it was worth it for the chasers after getting up early on a Sunday morning then having to wait 30 minutes past the alerted time because of my slow ascent. 50 Watts were used for all contacts.

1.843 SSB - 2 QSO’s:
Mark answered my CQ on here then promptly spotted the mode change. The exchange was 57 both ways but there was plenty of QSB. Just as I was thinking about a QSY to 80m, I was pleased to receive a call from Nick in Threshfield G8VNW (56 to 57/ 47 to 57 QSB). Power was again 50 Watts but there were no further responses.

3.557 CW - 6 QSO’s:
Stations worked with a power output of approx. 30 Watts were: PA0SKP Sake (599 both ways); DL1FU Frid 579 both ways; G4SSH Roy 599/ 579; HB9IAB Eric 579/ 559; G0TDM 589/ 599; John and G4WSB Bill 599/ 449.

A satisfactory result but surely considering the distances worked, scope for a few more. That said, not everybody can fit an 80m aerial into their garden but at the same time, maybe too much reliance is made on 40m. 80m can be surprisingly good and sometimes it’s when you least expect it.

With other walkers taking an interest in the station, I must apologise for the occasional disappearance but one of these at around 09:27, was caused by finger trouble. Intent on turning up the AF gain, I rotated the wrong control which took me up one memory channel from 3.557 to 3.560. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why nobody was responding to my frantic CQ’s after I’d heard several callers minutes earlier. I genuinely though that the QSB had taken them until that is, I rooted out my spectacles.

3.722 SSB - 10 QSO’s:
I think Roy acknowledged the mode change but John G0TDM spotted me too after he and I exchanged at 59 both ways. After John there were: G8VNW Nick; G6WRW Carolyn; GM4WHA Geoff; G0RQL Don in Devon; G8ADD Brian in Brum; G4SSH Roy in Scarborough; 2E0MIX old friend Derek in Whitehaven; G4FGJ Gordon and finally G4IAR Dave who does the equivalent of Barry’s job in issuing the certificates for WAB. According to my son Phil G0UUU, who is now a keen WAB activator, Dave trawls through the SOTA alerts at 8am every morning, transposing them to the WAB reflector wherever trig points are involved; which includes Helvellyn (TP-3724). Thanks Dave for your help and enthusiasm. 50 Watts this session.

The few photos I got were certainly worth having but a little sunshine or just a bit better lighting would have really set them off.

Total QSO’s for LD3 was 24.

This and the rest of the route is described in previous reports but I was now behind schedule. Today the path was mostly snow covered but where there was no snow the crampons were causing me to fall sideways. The reason for retaining them after LD3 was the unknown condition of the non-path section from the col twixt Nethermost and Dollywaggon, down towards the bottom of Seat Sandal. It was safer to remove them but now I had to bungee them to the rucksack waist strap should I need them shortly.

More time was wasted at NY 3420 1275 where I paused at the beck that runs off Dollywaggon, to supplement water supplies which I knew would be insufficient for the full round. Though it had to be carried, the additional half litre with iodine added just in case, proved invaluable later in the day. This section can be a little hard on the ankles on rocks, tussock and bog lower down and there were steeply inclined snow fields to cross higher up. There were some Herdwick sheep grazing this hillside. Their grey coats give them a certain dignity, if you can use that word when describing sheep?

I made it to the 574m col at around 11am and began a slow climb up the partially snow-covered path to Seat Sandal. I really was having a bad day with thoughts of bypassing one or more of the forthcoming summits. With leg muscles burning and with frequent stops for rest, drinks, brow mopping and one two mouthfuls of snow, it came as no surprise when I overheard one descending walker comment to his companion, “Look at him! And I thought it was only me.”

The higher than recent temperatures and lack of even a significant breeze didn’t help. I was overheating but didn’t remove my fleece. Doing so would have further loaded the rucksack and would have denied handy access to items in the pockets. On the plus side, I had built so much slack into the schedule for this section that I was now a few minutes ahead of time and could afford the snail’s pace which had become the norm. Onward and upward - if slowly.

  1. SEAT SANDAL, G/LD-022, 736m, 6 pts, 11:26 to 13:09. 7 deg C. <1 mph wind. Overcast with no low-cloud. Patches of wet lying snow. A grassy top with a wall and cairn. LOC: IO84LL. WAB: NY31 (No trig). EE Mobile phone coverage.

3.557 CW - 8 QSO’s:
Setting up with the mast shoved into the sizeable summit cairn kept me away from the main throughway. G4SSH had asked on Helvellyn what my next moves might be and we agreed that it would be more reliable if for the rest of the day, I started on 3.557 CW, calling Roy first for a spot. This resulted in a 599/ 559 exchange with the FT817/ amp combination set to 30 Watts (2.5 Watts of excitation).

After Roy: MK0BKV; PA0SKP; DL1FU; G0TDM; G4WSB; G4APO and GOVOF. Mostly I was giving out RST’s in the 559 - 599 range, getting back in return 559 to 579 with a 599 from Mark G0VOF and a 229 from Frid in Germany. At midday on 80m, I thought the DL contact quite good. Sake in PA-land was noticeably good also and these two QSO’s demonstrate how efficient the band can sometimes be for determined overseas chasers in daylight.

3.724 SSB - 12 QSO’s:
Roy picked up my ‘SSB’ transmitted several times and soon there were a dozen callsigns in the log as follows: G0VOF Mark; G3RMD Frank; M0MDA Mick in Leeds; G0RQL Don; G0FEX Ken in Leicester; MW0LUK Chris - Pontypool; G0TDM John; G8VNW Nick; 2E0TTK Morgan in Knaresborough; GM4WHA Geoff; G8ADD Brian and uncharacteristically using the SSB mode, Roy G4SSH. Power was 50 Watts and reports mainly in the range 52 to 58 with a 59 for Ken and a 37 to 57 from Geoff in Annan. If anything, the QSB was becoming more pronounced as the day went on.

Eyeball G0GSJ Dave:
After working the first station - Mark G0VOF, a man came by to ask about the operation. He seemed more knowledgeable than the average walker asking; “Is this SOTA?” He introduced himself as Dave G0GSJ and sat down beside me for a brief chat and a photo taken with my camera by the YL who was accompanying him. It turns out he is from Walney Island so I should have asked if he knew Rob & Audrey. He said he would take a handheld to the hills in future.

1.832 CW - 2 QSO’s:
With the coils fitted and the maximum 50 Watts applied, just two stations were reachable on here: Mark G0VOF with 579/ 559 and surprisingly considering his antenna, Roy G4SSH with 229 both ways, though he did come up a little better than that in QSB. No more to be said apart from ‘CQ SOTA - Nil’ and ‘QSY SSB.’ Phil G4OBK was not available at the time, having nipped out of the shack to photograph the Flying Scotsman on the NYM Railway just north of his QTH near Pickering.

1.843 SSB - 1 QSO:
Only Mark G0VOF heard me in SSB. The exchange was 51 to 58 QSB for Mark who responded by averaging my report out at 559.

Ken G0FEX had mentioned on 80m that my son Phil G0UUU was out mobile in Derbyshire, putting on SK WAB squares so I had a brief look on 7.160 hoping to hear him. There was no sign of him and they sounded very busy, so I didn’t call in.

The QSO count for LD22 was 23.

The NE flank of Seat Sandal is steep and loose in places requiring a bit of care. The climb up to Fairfield from the col is also steep and gravelly but today there were minor patches of wet snow best avoided if possible. The euphoria of recent Top Band QSO’s soon evaporated. I was now firmly back in my place as a slave to gravity, sweating upward, captive inside the unwanted but necessary fleece, made worse by a brief period of bright sunshine. I must have looked a sight!

Eyeball M1BUU Colin:
I was stopping often; sometimes to exchange a few words with passers by, but who was this speaking my name and offering his hand? Back on Helvellyn I had received a text from Roy informing me of another activator intent on travelling around the summit group I was now on. Though I hadn’t recognized him, this was M1BUU. Colin was on his way down Fairfield, his second summit, having just put it on 18 MHz and 14 MHz. We had a really nice chat which included a look at the 5-Watt, 5-band kit-built MTR-5B HF rig he was carrying. I must say so compact and beautifully made, especially the orange painted, home-bent aluminium enclosure with its neat lettering. He looked cool and collected in his smart Mountain Equipment tee-shirt, versus me in an old sweaty fleece with dripping hair, or what’s left of it.

At first confused about how he knew me, it came to pass that ‘this Colin’ was one and the same Colin who had successfully built and used a pair of my 160m loading coils a few years ago. I wrongly assumed he had given up SOTA but explaining he had merely reverted to his ‘B’ licence callsign because it was ‘better on CW,’ all now became clear. It’s embarrassing when something like this happens but in my defense I am getting to the age where it is becoming the norm; poor old chap! We parted after 10 or 15 minutes, which provided a welcome rest for me, with Colin on his way to LD22. Basically we were swapping summits and our operations to some extent complimented each other. Colin was putting on the higher HF bands whereas I confined myself to the lower ones.

The climb was completed in a few minutes and I headed for a large snow field, it being the easy option for the erection of a 40m long dipole with its mast and two end sticks. The job once took me 30 minutes in the past on this bare, rocky summit due to snagged wires, a stiff breeze and falling down mast. Pacing out the space required was essential today and one end stick ended up quite close to some serious cornices at a gully overlooking a place called Flinty Grave; an uninspiring name in the circumstances.

The Fell Runner:
During the earlier LD22 activation, Frank G3RMD had told me about a party of three fell runners; some members of his family and their friend, who were training for the Bob Graham Challenge; a 42 summit epic to be run in 24 hours!! A slim girl ran past me while I was putting up the aerial and we had a brief word. I think this was the remainder of ‘Frank’s’ party, the others, who had incidentally already completed the challenge in the past, having dropped out due to injury. Apparently they had already run over Skiddaw and Blencathra in the morning. Remarkable stamina some people have but how they manage to do it over such steep, rough and today snowy ground, is a mystery to me. Presently the young lady passed by again, this time travelling in a roughly southerly direction.

  1. FAIRFIELD, G/LD-007, 837m, 8 pts, 14:18 to 15:28. 6 deg C. <1 mph wind. Overcast with no low-cloud. Large areas of lying snow with cornicing but mostly a bare rocky top. LOC: IO84ML. WAB: NY31 (No trig). EE Mobile phone coverage

3.557 CW - 9 QSO’s:
In anticipation of the failure of the first 5 Ah battery, which had already done two summits, I checked that the power was set down to 30 Watts. Mark G0VOF called, with Roy G4SSH coming in second. They were both peaking at 589 but QSB was worse than ever. As I watched the S-meter, which on an FT817 digitally announces the S number, Roy was varying between S1 and S8 which is over a 20dB difference!

Phil G4OBK, newly returned from the railway sightseeing sortie, called in with his big signal and it was as if the QSB didn’t exist. Replying to an enquiry as to whether the Flying Scotsman photos were safely in the can, it seemed that he’d suffered from the digital camera syndrome of being so slow versus a moving target, that framing becomes difficult.

After Phil we fought the QSB to log: G4APO in Rotherham; G3RMD; G4WSB; GOTDM; G0NES Don at Hollywood, Birmingham and finally DL1FU again proving it can be done from Europe, albeit only with a 229 RST. Frid was 559 to me. The battle with QSB would likely have been lost, had I been using 5 Watts at this stage but signal strengths both ways were good enough to overcome it. I did however increase power to 50 Watts at the end for Don & Frid.

An analysis shows that Frid has worked me 161 times (all CW, from 2007) and 60 of those QSO’s have been on 80m, so why more continental stations don’t try 80 is unclear?

3.724 SSB - 7 QSO’s:
Once again Roy picked up the QSY announcement and posted ‘Quick QSO’s please.’ Concerns about getting finished before dark were gradually increasing.

With the power at 50 Watts, the first CQ was answered by G8MIA Andy in Staffs (59/ 55). Next in the log was Ken G0FEX WAB op and newsletter editor in Leicester, who recently added SOTA chasing, (and evidently activating too) to his repertoire.

Around this time battery-1 failed and was replaced by an identical 5Ah Turnigy Li-Po. After Ken came Mick M0MDA in Leeds; G0RQL; G0VOF; G0TDM and finally G8VNW, Nick in Threshfield (Wharfe Valley). All reports exchanged were in the range 57 to 59 apart from 55’s from Andy & Mick, who were suffering most at the hands of QSB.

1.832 CW - 3 QSO’s:
Here began another significant response to 50 Watts on 160 in the form of G0VOF Mark 599/ 579 and G4OBK Phil - 599. I later learned that I was S4 to S7 on Phil’s Beverage with almost nothing heard on his TX antenna. Finally against all odds, Roy G4SSH made his third Top Band appearance with 559 both ways; surprisingly strong signals for three in the afternoon!

1.843 SSB - 3 QSO’s:
Phil and Mark, G4OBK and G0VOF made re-appearances in SSB. More in hope than expectation, I called G8VNW. Nick surprised me by coming back immediately with a 37 report. He was 55 to me but more importantly, his QSO completed my qualification of four different ops on Top Band.

The QSO total for LD7 was 22.

As well as worrying about the time, I wasn’t looking forward to what Coffa Pike might have to offer in the way of snow. Colin M1BUU had come up it earlier and declared it more or less safe but going down is always harder and it has caused me trouble in the past. One time it was solid ice and without crampons I was forced to backtrack down the path towards Seat Sandal, then contour northeast along Fairfield’s steep flank to reach Deepdale Hause. That was an epic in itself as the snow was deep.

With ice axe in hand and the knowledge that crampons were available if required, the summit transfer was started. At first, too far to the left to properly hit the Coffa path, that error was soon corrected. I was then confronted with a large sloping snow patch most of which was avoidable but there were two tricky bits lower down when inclined snow had to be crossed. Steadying by the ice axe shaft and taking my time were key to safety and fortunately there were no slips.

The final ascent of the round was soon behind me and passing the summit, I set up in yet another snow field near the path at NY 3695 1350. About 13 vertical metres below the maximum height, this was easier than using the rocky top. I think that’s acceptable on HF but I always try to put on VHF from the highest point no matter how rough or windy it may be. In the past, the same has applied to daytime and/ or QRP Top Band where line of sight can play a major part.

The depth wasn’t sufficient here to support the mast so I was forced to pile snow around it and stamp it down. I don’t guy. A young couple appeared at the summit and these were the last people I saw before getting back to Patterdale later.

  1. ST.SUNDAY CRAG, G/LD-010, 841m, 8 pts, 16:22 to 17:53. 6 deg C. Overcast with periods of hazy sunshine. No low cloud, almost no wind. Large patches of lying snow surrounding exposed rock at the summit. LOC: IO84MM. WAB: NY31 (No trig). EE Mobile phone coverage.

3.557 CW - 8 QSO’s:
I first worked Roy G4SSH (599/ 559) and he spotted me. With 30 Watts output there followed: G4WSB Bill; PA0SKP Sake; G0VOF Mark; G0TDM John; GI4ONL Vic (recent of EA8/ GI4ONL); GM0AXY Ken and SM7DIE Tor in Rodeby, Sweden. All reports were 599 apart from 559’s incoming from Roy and Tor. The band was really peaking up.

3.724 SSB - 16 QSO’s:
This time with the power at 50 Watts and another spot from Roy, into the log went: G4OBK; G0TDM; G6MZX Geoff in Craven (not heard for quite a while); M0MDA; G0NES; G4WSB Bill; G6TUH Mike in East Sussex (thanks for the QSL card Mike); G0RQL; GW2HFR Jonathan near Wrexham; 2E0SCS Stephen (Bill’s son in Chippenham); G3RMD - Frank (filled me in on the Bob Graham Challenge); G0VOF an animated Mark; G1BLJ Steve - Wolverhampton; M1MAJ & M3ZCB (Martyn & Caroline in Cambridge) and finally another rare appearance in SSB for Roy G4SSH, mainly to ask about any further plans.

Mark G0VOF, recent from a “Motorhead CD and a few beers” seemed oddly changed compared to how he sounded from the last summit but perhaps it was just me getting tired? Martyn and Caroline were quite weak and I logged the latter as 2E0ZCB at first. Thanks to Frank and Mark the log error was duly amended and I overheard that information being relayed to Caroline while I stood up to fit the Top Band coils for the final time. A good QSO in the end Caroline!

Reports were almost all 59 apart from a 55/ 48 exchange with Martyn & Caroline; 57/ 55 with G1BLJ; ‘49 to 39 QSB’ from Mike G6TUH; 59/ 59 with Mick M0MDA and 55 both ways with Roy. The band was certainly delivering but when it dried up I took the hint to QSY rather than put out more CQ’s. Time was getting short.

1.832 CW - 5 QSO’s:
During this session my third from the four summits was qualified on Top Band as follows. G4OBK Phil (599’s); MK0BKV Damien 599/ 579; G4SSH Roy once again with 55’s! G0VOF Mark (589/ 579) and G3RMD Frank with 559’s. Power was 50 Watts.

1.843 SSB - 2 QSO’s:
The last session was rushed, it being just half an hour to local sunset. At 17:35 G4OBK - Phil (59/ 58) and at 17:38 G0VOF - Mark (58/ 57). Power remained at 50 Watts.

I discussed further possibilities with Phil but he was of the opinion that I should leave it at four summits today. I trust Phil’s judgement, beside the fact it was precisely what I wanted to hear. It reconciled the two halves of my mind; one saying ‘Go home’ and the other, ‘Go and do Little Mell Fell.’ Even then I left it in abeyance, telling Roy I would text him if there was to be anything further.

Mark told me he’d had his best day in the shack in three months but that comes as little surprise when you consider he is SOTA’s official Top Band reporter and it’s probably the first time he collected 32 points on 160 in a day, though a handful of chasers may have exceeded that in the past.

The QSO total for LD10 was 31.

The station was torn down and packed up in about 10 minutes. All that was now required was to get back to Patterdale in one piece. The steep sections down to about 600m ASL and the bit you forget about - Thornhow End are the hardest on the legs but I didn’t stop, preferring constant pain to impending darkness. Managing to get about half way down before needing the headlight was a bonus but the rest of it went OK. Before loosing signal I banged off texts to my XYL and to Roy informing them. “No more today.”

I was back down by 19:04 in full darkness, having kept to Grisedale Lane rather than cutting across the footpaths to the Patterdale Hotel. The descent had taken 71 minutes and my old car, left there almost 13 hours earlier, was the sweetest sight in a long time.

Drive Home:
The journey back to Scarborough spanned 19:12 to 22:01. From the last summit, LD10, I had asked John G0TDM if he’d be monitoring 2m-FM just in case I decided to activate a fifth summit, which would have been Little Mell Fell close to his home QTH. On the way past Penrith, I called John on 145.500 to let him know there would after all be no further activations from me that day. We had a brief chat until distance and topography got the better of us but it passed the time giving me a flying start on the long, boring drive home. Thanks for the QSO John.

1,510m (4,953ft) of ascent / 19.1 km (12 miles).

Up at: 02:45.
Left Scarborough: 03:01
Arrived Patterdale (129 miles): 05:53
Walk for LD3: 06:12
LD-3 Helvellyn: 08:32 to 10:06
LD-22 Seat Sandal: 11:26 to 13:09
LD-7 Fairfield: 14:18 to 15:28
LD-10 St Sunday: 16:22 to 17:53
Returned Patterdale: 19:04
Drive 137 miles to Scarborough: 19:12 to 22:01

Walking times:
Patterdale to LD3: 2hrs-20 min (Ice & snow)
LD3 to LD22: 1hr-20 min (snow)
LD22 to LD7: 1hr-9 min (inc. 13 min with Colin on the LD7 path)
LD7 to LD10: 54 min (a little snow)
LD10 to Patterdale: 71 min
Total time spent walking: 6hr-54 min gross (6hr-24 min net - see Comments)
Average walking speed: 1.7 mph gross (1.9 mph net)

Summit Durations (minutes): 94+103+70+91= 358
Total time spent at summits: 5hr-58 min
Walking plus Summit time: 12hr-52 min
Gross time (home to home): 19 hrs
Distance driven: 266 miles

QSO’s per SOTA:
LD3: 24
LD22: 23
LD7: 22
LD10: 31
Total: 100

QSO Breakdown for the day:
31 on 80m CW
45 on 80m SSB
16 on 160m CW
8 on 160m SSB
Total: 100
SOTA Activator points: 44

END OF PART-1. SEE PART-2 ‘Comments and Photos’ Below:


G4YSS: LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10 on 80m & 160m, 13-03-16
PART-2; Comments and Photos.

The first thing evident is the poor average speed. I was feeling very lethargic having lost sleep for the two nights prior and having done only five previous SOTA’s in the entire winter. Underfoot conditions were poor in a lot of places due partly to soft snow but also to some frozen snow ascending Helvellyn early in the morning. Other factors were the heavy pack weight to meet the spec for an HF-QRO activation along with relatively high temperatures combined with almost no wind. According to Weatherline and the fell top assessor, ice axe and crampons were essential and these add weight as well as slowing you down in use. There were stops totaling about 30 minutes to don and doff crampons on Helvellyn, to collect and purify water below Dollywaggon plus the eyeball with Colin when we met on the Fairfield path.

The loss of sleep was caused by worries centred on the infamous Swirral Edge but also on the driving and walking in general. Just like the air traveller who routinely flies over many years, you get the feeling that statistically your time will soon be up and an accident of some sort is almost inevitable. The likely reality is that accumulated experience decreases the chances of an accident but try telling my brain that and there is always the danger of some random truck driving into you on the A66.

80m Band:
Enough of that pessimism; what about the activations? 80m turned out to be a good choice as it reached out over the UK and into near Europe and according to the WAB’ers, 40m had been poor the day before. As well as the UK, it brought in DL1FU; PA0SKP, HB9IAB and SM7DIE. One UK op; it may have been Carolyn G6WRW, remarked what a good job 80 was doing but my aim had been a shed load of QSO’s I wouldn’t have been on these bands.

Top Band:
160m doesn’t pretend to be an inclusive chaser choice but merely an indulgence and still rare speciality in SOTA. The day’s QSO tally for Top Band was 24 which includes both modes. It is a totally different band day and night but today some of the night characteristic hung over well into the day. In fact it could be argued that propagation was slightly better than would normally be expected in the middle of the day. I only had 50 Watts and a very low inefficient antenna but I was consistently working more than the 50 to 80 miles which might be expected on a ‘flat’ day. For instance, G4SSH is 170km (106 miles) distant from Helvellyn.

It would have been nice to stay on LD10 until after dark to enhance 160m operations but this is an 8 pointer in LD and not a grassy NP. Besides, after setting of at 3am, 10pm is already late enough to arrive home.

In times past I routinely ran 100 Watts on 160m which could make the difference between a QSO and not being heard. Today as always, Phil G4OBK provided the standard but I wasn’t expecting to get as far as Cornwall at 9am when the sun had been up for more than 90 minutes. Had I been on time, it might have been even better. 559 both ways is a rare situation between Roy G4SSH and northern SOTA’s but it happened on all summits apart from LD22 at lunch time (229 both ways).

Looking at the logs it would seem that two stations - Mark G0VOF and Roy G4SSH managed the full compliment of 32 chaser points just on Top Band so well done to them. Had Phil G4OBK not been absent for LD22 he would undoubtedly have been the third. There were other qualifiers, for example G0TDM and G0RQL, who were similarly successful using 80m. All the chasers operated well and were quick.

Aerial erection on LD3, LD7 and some parts of LD10 is usually difficult and time consuming but today it was quick and easy to set up in snow fields. This was further improved by the lack of wind.

There was no low-cloud and photography was quite good despite it being a little dull much of the time. There were plenty of people out today and as is always the case on this round, Fairfield is the most populated. That might be more a function of timing than popularity but even Helvellyn saw up to ten people on it before I left at 10am.

Power usage was 97% of the 10 Amp Hours available (tested result) with an output no less than 30 Watts and much of the time 50 Watts, so it looks like I was very close to running out of power by the end. If that had happened the only recourse would have been to a 2 Watt Jingtong JT208 H/H hooked up to a half-wave vertical for 2m-FM. Failing that I had a Baofeng handy in my top pocket. Likely to be useless in much of Scotland, these as backups are fine on a lot of the higher English and Welsh summits.

I regret not appearing on 2m-FM and to some extent on 40m but knowing the operator that I am, I would probably have still been going round at midnight. 4m-FM would have been a treat too. There will be 40m and above in the future but my interest has mostly been the lower bands.

I particularly enjoy talking to everybody I meet in the hills and often explaining the hobby but it is particularly pleasing when you meet like-minded individuals such as other activators or radio amateurs. It’s not often you can do that twice on a single day so it was great to meet Dave G0GSJ on Seat Sandal and Colin M1BUU on the path up to Fairfield with that special home-brew rig he was carrying. Judging by the spots, it would seem that Colin completed his objectives on the higher bands while I took the lower option. Thanks to Colin for easing a slight feeling of guilt that I had through not targeting chasers further afield. It seems that we covered most things between us.

Objectives met:

  1. To get all four of these summits on Top Band (three of which were qualified on 160).
  2. To get my winter summit tally off the worst performance ever of 5 summits to a little more respectable 9 summits.

There we have it. Not the best of operations from a physical viewpoint by any means but things did gradually improve as the day progressed allowing completion, albeit with gritted teeth.

To ALL STATIONS worked; for the QSO’s and for your patience with the time slippage. For getting up early on a Sunday and your enthusiasm for 160m. To G4SSH; G0VOF; G0TDM; 2E0TTK and G4OBK for time saving spots. To Mark G0VOF for his meticulous recording of 160m SOTA operations World-wide. For the umpteenth time, special thanks to Roy G4SSH for liaison via his ‘Text-a-Spot’ Service.

Next SOTA? No plans yet but I think it will be something easy with my 4-legged friend.

73, John G4YSS
(Using Scarborough Special Events Group Club call - GX0OOO/P)

Photos: 15-28-47-49-62-77-88-102-114-120-124-139-141-157-173
Note: Many of the photos were taken in dull conditions.


Above: The snow-covered path, Helvellyn (G/LD-003) & Swirral Edge seen from the east, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: A snowy Swirral Edge about to be climbed, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: Climbing over the steep lip from Swirral Edge to Helvellyn’s summit, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: Deliverance! Looking NE down Swirral Edge from above. Left: Catstye Cam (WOTA) and Ullswater. Right: Red Tarn, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: G/LD-003 Helvellyn’s corniced summit. Striding Edge and a frozen Red Tarn below G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: G/LD-003 Helvellyn’s summit shelter looking SE, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: G/LD-003 Helvellyn activation on 80-160m. Summit shelter to the left, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: The short cut down Dollywaggon’s SW flank with hardy Herdwick sheep grazing at over 2000 feet ASL. Seat Sandal G/LD-022 is right of photo and the top of Fairfield G/LD-007 - left-centre distance, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: Seat Sandal G/LD-022 activation and chance meeting with Dave G0GSJ (right of photo). G4YSS is left of photo, 13-03-16

Above: Looking NE from Seat Sandal G/LD-022. From left to right: Flank of Dollywaggon Pike; Grisedale Tarn & Valley; St.Sunday Crag G/LD-010; Fairfield G/LD-007 with its ascent path where Colin (M1BUU) & I later met, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: The path up Fairfield G/LD-007 from Seat Sandal. Colin M1BUU on his way down and heading for LD22. Note Colin’s 5 band-5W, HF-CW rig, MTR-5B. This was a welcome break for me and a real pleasure to have met Colin! G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: Looking SE from Fairfield G/LD-007 activation point. Great Gable and the Scafell Range visible under a moody sky. Note the distant fell runner. Was this the girl practicing for 42 summits in 24 hours mentioned on the air by Frank G3RMD? G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: Fairfield G/LD-007 activation point. Cornice overlooking a gully named Flinty Grave, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: The next and final target of the day. St.Sunday Crag G/LD-010 from the lower reaches of Coffa Pike, G4YSS 13-03-16

Above: The fourth and final activation of the day in late afternoon sunshine. St.Sunday Crag G/LD-010 looking north, G4YSS 13-03-16


Excellent report as usual, John. Thanks for my first summit and trig on 80m - and the mention!

Juist to let you know that I was copying you on Top Band from LD-010 but with deep QSB. You went down into the noise in QSB during a QSO and I didn’t hear you again so couldn’t call. You were peaking at about 4 by 5. I then got called for dinner!


Great report as usual John!

Very pleased to finally meet you in person. I was worried about taking up too much of your time, you still had at least two more activations to complete at the time we met, whilst I was on the home run with just a short meander up Seat Sandal to go.

My QSO count was low, the higher HF bands didn’t seem to be working very well for me. My MTR-5B is still under review, I haven’t fully signed it off yet. (I have a 2 band MTR built for 30m/20m and that’s definitely my favourite rig!) I had made up a special 15/17/20m dipole the previous day. I had found the previous week’s three summit round of LD-017, LD-018 and LD-010 quite difficult physically, so I wanted to lighten my load as much as possible.

I too found the temperature quite a problem, I spent most of the day in just my T-shirt. I’d elected to wear a short sleeved T-shirt because I had worn a long sleeved one the previous week and been too hot. I again underestimated the amount of water I needed, I stopped by the stream on my return to the car quite fancying to indulge myself but I’d left the chlorine tablets at home and I didn’t fancy risking it. I had water stored in the car at Grasmere so all was fine. I reached my car at around 1700, arriving home a little after 1900.

It was a good day in the hills, I was pleased that the forecast hill fog wasn’t in evidence.

I left you a message on St Sunday Crag G/LD-010 in the snow in case we didn’t end up meeting, just below the trig point, it said ‘73 G4YSS DE M1BUU’

My snow graffiti

Lightweight 20/17/15 dipole, 208g

This was my operating position on St Sunday Crag, I think you would have been making your way from Helvellyn to Seat Sandal at this point and you can see the mist (cloud inversion?) in the gap between Fairfield and Seat Sandal, as you can in your picture.

Hi viz orange colour scheme!

You didn’t mention the Fairfield Raven in this report, although I know you have done in previous years. The Raven was scouting for any dropped lunch, flying around each party of walkers on the summit! My picture really doesn’t illustrate the size of this confident, noisy bird, it was the size of a chicken!

The Raven decided that he didn’t fancy my lunch!

Grisedale Tarn was perfectly flat throughout the day.

73, Colin


Thanks, guys, for some lovely pictures! I can’t get out very often and my XYL’s mountaineering days are definitely over, so posts like this bring back lots of good memories!


Ahhh… enjoyed that “post breakfast read” whilst waiting for activators to appear and chase this morning…

Thanks for the information on your activations John & Colin, an area I love and know well, but not as well as John!

73 Phil

I neglected to mention that I saw what I can only assume to be a fox run across the flanks of Fairfield as I was just coming down off Cofa Pike

One of the originals

Zoomed in

Fox clearly seen to have moved - it was moving at a fair pace.

I only had my phone with me to take pictures unfortunately.

73, Colin


I thought the callsign sounded familiar, I met G0GSJ on Ben Lui, GM/SS-003 way back in 2009, or rather he introduced himself to me.

Some nice photos, thanks for posting those, if conditions in Arrochar are anything to go by the snow will beaten a rapid retreat over the last few days.


Apologies for the marginal signal. Our main home chasing antenna is a linked dipole cut for 40m and 60m. A while ago I made some rough and ready extension wires for 80m, but they were coiled up in the garage. When we heard your activation I rather hurriedly deployed the extensions but there was vegetation in the way and it was all a bit of a mess. The antenna wasn’t matching at all well, and we were only using an FT-817, so we were fairly amazed to get through at all. I doubt we were radiating more than a watt.

Martyn M1MAJ

To All,
Thank you for your interest on this topic and all the replies, almost too numerous to acknowledge individually but I will try albeit briefly.

G4IAR Dave:
Thanks Dave. Phil came round today and we were talking about you and WAB in general. It was a pleasure to hand out the trig. I contemplated 7.160 but with such a full day, there really wasn’t time. You have to stay focussed and stick to the plan. Thanks for the info on GM/WS-001. We will have to climb even higher next time then?

G8ADD Brian:
Thanks for trying Brian. The one thing I remember about starting to offer SSB on 160m is being surprised when I managed to work you down in the Midlands. It’s sad that you won’t be up these places in person after an amazing life of climbing Brian but glad you liked our photos.

Colin M1BUU:
…and I you, Colin. The timing couldn’t have been better. I was feeling pretty jaded by then and new enthusiasm came with both the rest and a talk to you about SOTA. Glad you got round them all but sorry about the HF bands that day. 40m apparently was poor also so we possible didn’t miss much there.

It seems we both needed the extra water. Having found my iodine tabs in the form of a fine power, I went into Mountain Warehouse yesterday to buy chlorine pills to put in the kit. They taste foul but who cares when all you want is rehydration and fast. I have had silver ones in the past but only seem to need one every 5 or 10 years so why pay out?

I remember seeing a pair of Ravens on one summit; not too close but took little notice at the time. Excellent pics. Your fox photo is a rare one! I have seen mountain hares, Ptarmigan etc and have seen ‘mountain’ fox tracks but never the animal itself. Well done on getting the pics. On the day I saw tracks on the ‘Dollywaggon bypass’ but they looked like a dog. (Wider than fox). However there were no boot tracks beside them so who knows?

I think you will end up approving the rig for use after you get a day with better band conditions.
Thanks for the message in the snow. I missed it as I walked to activate past the top but a nice though.

G4OBK Phil,
Glad you were ‘transported’ for a while Phil. You too know every inch of this round plus every WOTA to each side of it. That was an epic of yours and if I remember right the same day I was on NP1 shooting thro’ snow bridges and getting badly bitten by a mouse, there was plenty of snow about. You even backtracked to Catsye Cam too.

Thanks for all the QSO’s particularly on Top Band. Keep up the ‘datum work’ with the massive signal. When you come on the other chasers know if they have a slim chance or none at all!

MM3WJZ Iain:
That man Dave must get around a bit. I sent him the report link by email and got a reply - extract below.

I have never done Lui but some friends have years ago. There’s a crashed WW2 aircraft on it. I think you are right. The snow will recede fairly quickly but it’s not gone yet so take care. See the link at the bottom of this post.

G0GSJ Dave’s email:
"I will be on Skiddaw tops on Sunday (20th Mar) and might take my 2/70 id51. You have got me interested in Sota and into doing more on the tops. I walk with the Barrow Ramblers. Sunday’s walk= Milbeck, Slades beck, Skiddaw, Great Calva, Knott, Great Sca Fell, Meal Fell, Great Cockup, Bassenthwaite. (Quite a walk and two SOTA’s - Skid & Knott)

M1MAJ Martyn and Caroline:
Glad to have got you two in the log. You were somewhat ‘in the back of the box’ to quote CB parlance and now I know why but you made the effort in double quick time and got through. There’s the credit! It’s amazing what will work. There are plenty of people who work me on 160 who tune up what they happen to have and a few on 80m too as it’s a big aerial for most gardens. I like ‘two for the price of one’ QSO’s so thanks again.

Now to a not so light note: Yet another accident on Swirral Edge.

  1. From Weatherline: “The readings for today are estimates. The Fell Top Assessor witnessed a person falling from Swirral Edge, and he was the first person on the scene, so the afternoon became one of calling for and then assisting the Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team”

  2. Patterdale MT: http://mountainrescue.org.uk/incident?jobno=2016_014

  3. http://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2016/03/19/critically-injured-man-airlifted-to-hospital-after-650ft-helvellyn-fall

Take care on the hills and we all need a bit of luck too.
Thanks again for all the replies here and QSO’s on the day.
Loyal chasers!
73 John

Hi John,

A superb report as always & thanks to both you & Colin for sharing some photos of the conditions that day. I’m not scared of heights but the view at the lip from Swirral edge to Helvellyn’s summit would bother me a little! On a similar note I watched the video of the guy skiing from the summit of the Matterhorn last night, that is seriously scary!

I had been up & listening from well before 0800z on 1832KHz & conditions seemed quite good, my local noise not being as bad as it can be. I could hear French stations quite easily early on so I was hoping for good things when you appeared on the band. I did hear Frank G3RMD in Cheltenham & Phil G4OBK whilst we were all waiting for you & I seem to remember the three of us exchanging quick reports, though I didn’t log them at the time.

When you did fire up from G/LD-003 Helvellyn you were a very good signal, although there was deep QSB so I listened whilst you quickly qualified the summit on Top band, which was very nice to hear :slight_smile: Our QSO was quite easy with your signal mostly 579 in Blackburn & much easier copy than on your last outing a few weeks ago when conditions were much worse. It was very nice to hear Frank G3RMD make it into your log as I know he had been listening since early on that morning.

On your announced QSY to 1843-ssb I quickly changed mode & spotted you & although my noise was hovering around S6 you were a good 57 so despite the odd dropout due to QSB we had one of the easiest SSB QSO’s I can remember in a long time. I was very pleased to hear Nick G8VNW call you, & he was a good signal in Blackburn too. Once you had no more callers on 160m I spotted your band change to 3557-cw then departed to read the GB2RS news on HF/VHF.

Sometime after 1100z I had finished my News duties & after several hectic months at work, as this was the first Sunday in a while when I could relax & spend a bit of time on the radio I thought an afternoon following you on the radio would go well with some cold Beer. Just after arriving home from a trip to the shop to re-stock my fridge I had a call from Roy letting me know you were QRV on 3557-cw from G/LD-022 Seat Sandal where you were easy copy at 599 although QSB was quite deep at times. As I was almost late catching you on CW I managed to be first to work you on 3724-ssb after also catching the announced change of mode. Here you were also a good signal but again with QSB. For the middle of the day conditions were fairly good on 160m hence we managed QSO’s on both CW & SSB although deep QSB was present. It is always nice to meet other activators on summits to put a face to a callsign so it was good that you bumped into Colin M1BUU who made three of only seven Top Band SOTA QSO’s ever made from G/SP-005 Pendle Hill using your design of tuning coils. As you say, Colin does build some exceedingly nice radios! A few minutes after you had closed down on Top Band I heard Phil G4OBK chasing on 30m so realising that he had returned from following the Flying Scotsman I phoned him to let me know of your plan to head for G/LD-007 & that you were at that stage running about an hour behind your alerted times.

By the time you appeared on 3557-cw from G/LD-007 Fairfield, I had anjoyed a couple of the beers I bought earlier & found you a good signal on 80m though still with QSB. After your mode change to SSB I listened as we had already worked on CW but you very quickly disappeared, Don G0RQL in Devon said that he had lost you & I let him know that I had lost you too. From your report above it is clear that this is when your first battery had failed. You were soon up & running again & after exchanging quick reports I returned to listening until your QSY to Top Band. Conditions on 160m had improved from earlier & It was nice to hear Roy G4SSH making it into your log again & Phil’s big signal from Pickering. On your change to SSB it was very pleasing to hear Nick G8VNW joining me & Phil in the log as that meant you had qualified LD-007 on Top Band.

By the time you were QRV from G/LD-010 St Sunday Crag I had consumed somewhat more cold beer than I realised. This became apparent when I called you on 3557-cw & although I could read you fine, my sending was terrible. This was confirmed when I called you on SSB a short time later, the level of my inebriation being a surprise to me also. My apologies for what I can only imagine sounded terrible. Thankfully you were still firing on all cylinders after a good run on 80m QSY’d to 160m where signals were improved again from earlier in the day. A run of 5 contacts on CW again meant you qualified on 160m, which I know you appreciate, followed by me & Phil on SSB. Whilst there was earlier talk of a possible 5th summit I agreed with Phil that 4 summits was enough as it was by that time not far off sunset.

Thankfully you made it down & home in one piece, as the news of a person falling from Swirral Edge less than a week later indicates that despite being very popular with walkers, winter can make the fells a dangerous place, even for those with experience.

Thanks again for a very enjoyable day chasing & for the 32 chaser points, although as my chaser log in the database is now several years out of date I have no idea how many chaser points I actually have. In any case, I chase (and occasionally activate) for fun, with any points gained simply being a bonus :slight_smile:

Thanks & very best 73,

Mark G0VOF

Hi Mark,

Thanks for that very detailed post ref your slant on the day. I didn’t mind about the beer at all; we have almost all drunk as little too much at some point in our lives. In my case it was as a student and sadly before that when Landlords weren’t that bothered if you were only 15 or 16 (tall for my age! HI) . I had one further event. Stag night when they poured spirits into my beer.

I don’t think we’ll have a Top Band day like that one for a long time if ever but I plan to try some more though more basic in nature. The trouble is that the day is getting longer than the night and hanging around for darkness or even its approach can be a lengthy process that makes you very late home or too early for both me and the chasers. I will have to take my chances in solid daylight or camp over. No plans for that yet.

I am hoping to be out tomorrow - Good Friday but just a single summit with the dog. I will likely try 160 though. There’s a better chance being a bank hol though the timing will be wrong. It’ll behave more like 2m but I will take 50 Watts and give 80m a go too. It’ll be east NP which is bad for Lancs unfortunately.

Yes, Swirral Edge is becoming infamous! I lose sleep just thinking about it but it was not as bad this time than some occasions in the past when I didn’t use crampons. I did meet two experienced lads on LD3 who had been up Swirral in the same conditions (apart from low-cloud) the day before and with just boots but the repeated dire warnings on Weatherline demand attention. Coming from a gung ho background, I am now supposed to be a responsible adult.

Colin is a keen activator, that’s for sure. I could do with his enthusiasm and drive. I had it in abundance until I was in my late 50’s and retired. I would think nothing of leaving work in Kirkbymoorside at 1pm on a Friiday and putting two and a few times, three NP’s on 2m-FM in winter bonus period.

You will have some work to do for the news this month. Thanks for following me round and the great support from you and everybody.

Hope CU on the air if you’re in the shack but no worries if you’re going out. I can always add another band if 160m is a ‘Nil.’ Either way it’ll be a bit of exercise and I think the dog will enjoy it. I will alert when Sasha’s owner and I can agree on how early I can pick her up on a non-school day.

73, John.

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That would be almost amusing to a snow and ice climber - I find it hard to visualise it ever being much harder than a Scottish grade I, perhaps on the easy side of grade II in particularly icy conditions. Perhaps the problem is that some people wouldn’t think to replace their walking poles with an ice axe - walking poles are not designed for walking on or climbing up icy rocks, they would not be a lot of use for stopping a slide on steep neve.

It can never be too strongly emphasised that hill walking in hard winter conditions is not an extension of summer hill walking but a completely different discipline with an entirely different set of essential skills.


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Thanks Brian,

Couldn’t agree more and you’re right about Swirral; it is pretty harmless if you have the right gear. I thought little of it in the early days of SOTA but now I am older and a bit wiser. It does seem to have a reputation though (the young man in Newcastle Hospital would agree) and I think that it can easily catch out the unwary. In some ways climbing it on significant snow with spikes and an axe, after it’s filled in all the hollows and covered the loose rocks and gravel, may well be easier than in summer, especially on a wet day.

I always imagined the winter climbers smiling at Swirral and my mention of it but there are activators who have yet to experience these kind of surfaces, so it’s probably fair to make them aware.

In answer to your second paragraph; I still haven’t been on a winter training course. For me, most of the risk is in the past such as Ben Hope 2005 but I should have had training early on. I know it in theory of course but it’s the practical skills that bring confidence and safety. Let’s hope there are no more accidents at least for a long time.

I see the (experienced) couple from Bradford, missing for a few weeks on Ben Nevis, have recently been found. Don’t know what happened to them yet but it’s dreadful for their families.

All the best,

Avalanched in some way. You can have all the experience in the world and still be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Wind slab is a sneaky bitch! Some quite famous climbers ended their careers that way.

I had a week at Hamish McInnes’ cottage in Glencoe (now sadly infamous) in March '74 for a winter climbing course - grade IVs in Glencoe were quite a shock after the easier stuff I had done before, but I loved it. Summer rock climbing was quite eclipsed!


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