G4YSS: LD's: 3-22-7-10 & 37, 14-03-12

G4YSS Activation Report, LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10-LD37 on 14-03-12.

SOTA’s: G/LD-003, G/LD-022, G/LD-007, G/LD-010 & G/LD-037.

G4YSS using SSEG Clubcall GX0OOO/P on 80-40-4-2m (49 points)

All times: UTC.
Mobile phone coverage on all tops except LD7 - Orange network.

FT817ND QRP. Adjustable dipole 80 thru 20. 5m mast; 1m end sticks.
IC-E90 4-Band FM, 5W H/H with extended ‘duck’ and 7.4V /1.3 Ah Li-Ion detachable battery.

Battery power:
One 8.6 Ah Li-Po for LD3, LD22, LD7 & LD10 QRP (40% depleted).
One 8.8 Ah Li-Po for LD37 VHF QRO (Part depleted).
QRP pack: 10.5 kg (23 pounds) inc 1.5 litres drinks (1ltr used) food and coat.

Over the years this has proved popular with me mainly because of the SOTA ‘pointsfest’ of 44. Ten years ago 2m FM equipment was the norm and some summits were missed out simply because I didn’t realise they were SOTAs. With the coming of Germany to SOTA, HF QRP and later QRO became a worthwhile option. Very often by March most of the snow has gone; there is good daylight and the round has good escape routes between summits.

One year ago to the day, Nick (G4OOE) & I tackled this round Helvellyn first. It was an exciting day especially the climb up Swirral Edge on snow & ice. This year the plan was to do it in reverse (LD10 first) that idea coming from Phil G4OBK and his February expedition which also included WOTAs. My reversal of it didn’t happen due to a last minute decision. Old familiar habits die hard especially when you’re faced with walking in the dark.

Another feature this year was a return to QRP to reduce pack weight on this 12 mile / 5,000 foot round. To say little of the extra supplies required when you are away from the vehicle for 12 hours, every kg saved on radio gear would be significant when multiplied by the distance and ascent. I had become weary of lugging the IC706 and its batteries on big rounds and badly needed a break. Out came the FT817 for the first time in ages. A huge (for an 817) ‘fit and forget’ 8.6 Ah Li-Po was coupled to it and pack weight was still 2 kg less than QRO.

With four big SOTA’s on the round, three of which have rocky tops which slow antenna work, summit time would need to decrease to an hour and a half absolute maximum. My recent experience on Mellbreak and some comments from Nick G4OOE, who had nearly ‘frozen solid’ on Birks Fell, made me fight shy of putting 40m on, at least until I could see how things were panning out. I wanted to have a go at Little Mell Fell - the ‘steal’ for an extra 5 points on the way home so I decided to use 80m on the first two. That must have seemed like a pretty naff idea to chasers who missed out on 16 points but I thought I might make up for it on later summits by offering 40m if there was time.

NO 160m:
It was quite simple really. With just 5 Watts 160m was likely to be a waste of time and time was by far the most valuable commodity of the day. Nevertheless, the loading coils were first removed from the rucksack and then put back in again - just in case. I must really love them!

I try to prepare for these things as best I can. It’s possible to get some walking in both around home and on expeditions but I’m never satisfied that I’m totally on top of fitness these days. The one thing I can’t get right is sleep. I start fretting about up-coming SOTA trips too early. Phil G4OBK seems to have suffered from this prior to his magnificently successful execution of this round plus Great Mell Fell, in February.

A lack of sleep the night before is obvious when you’re only in bed for 3 hours but the night before that has become a problem for me too. I routinely retire close to 1am but brought that forward to 11pm for the two nights prior. Even so, with too much stuff flying round in my mind, I got even less sleep than normal. As the expedition approaches I worry about the lack of sleep which causes a lack of sleep. Maybe I take SOTA too seriously but this problem along with the distance to the hills, has become something of an impediment and the reason why I have enjoyed local HuMP activating so much lately. Half an hour of prep followed by half an hour of walk from my front door and I can be on the air.

I think some people are concerned about fuel costs too, which is understandable but I can’t steel myself to go often enough for that to bother me.

Much to the distaste of my XYL, the alarm sounded at 02:00. I left Scarborough at 02:15, arriving at the Patterdale Hotel Pay & Display car park (NY 3960 1593 - £4.50) by 04:50. Parking up the lane which runs from the main road to the start of the path to the Hole-in-the-Wall has been banned for a couple of years now. This change needlessly adds an extra half-mile ascent and 10 minutes each way to the round which firstly annoys me no end and secondly significantly changes the planning of an already full day.

After downing a litre of water to save carrying it, I left the car park using a headlamp at 05:21 which was half an hour ahead of what was planned. Because of the early start time it wouldn’t be light for over 30 minutes so the clockwise plan was ditched as I headed for the familiar Hevellyn path. From Patterdale, LD3 is marginally further than LD10 with more ascent. The change would eat up some of the unwanted time and help to bring me closer in line with the alerted on-air time of 08:30.

At 06:00 it was more or less light but by the time I’d reached the paved way, which starts at NY 3618 1555 and goes up towards the Hole-in-the-Wall, the cloud was down. Half way up Swirral Edge the light improved markedly and there was a hint of hazy sun. I thought that I could hear distant voices coming from the Red Tarn area. Near the top the clouds folded back briefly to reveal the yet substantial remnants of Helvellyn’s snow cornice seen against a deep blue sky complete with jet trails. After topping out beside the large cairn, I reached the trig point in intermittent sunshine and thin cloud propelled by a cold wind, at 07:15.

At about 07:20 and whilst setting up at the crossed wall shelter I heard voices again, this time getting louder. After 3 or 4 minutes a large group of walkers emerged from the cloud which had temporarily reestablished itself. I heard someone say, ‘There’s someone already here.’ Then, with a hint of indignation, ‘You said we were the highest people in England!’

This turned out to be a group of about 15 lads from BAE Systems in Barrow - the submarine builders. They were apprentices and had spent the night down at Red Tarn. They quipped about being out of place this far ABOVE sea level then I found out that their leader knew Scarborough. His father had run the ghost train on the seafront many years ago. Naturally they wanted a full explanation of what I was doing there and why this early? They’d set off from Red Tarn at 06:30 and must have climbed up the headwall. By the time the dipole was up, they’d disappeared into the cloud again.

Getting an aerial up here is not that easy but the mast can be leant against the shelter or wedged in broken masonry. With gravel and rocks, the end sticks are troublesome. After building a miniature cairn for one, I found I’d inadvertently pulled the mast over so had to rebuild it 5 metres closer to the shelter.

  1. HELVELLYN, G/LD-003, 950m, 10 pts, 07:15 to 08:46. Wind 20 mph, 1 deg C - later 3 deg C. Alternating sunshine & blue skies and low-cloud. LOC: IO84LM, WAB: NY31. Orange Mobile phone coverage. QRP 5W.

3.557 CW - 9 QSO’s:
Ironically, I had started the day with ‘managed’ time wasting; first at the car park and now at the summit, to try and bring my start time closer to 08:30, which I’d stupidly put on as an alert. To be fair it wasn’t stupidity, merely a lack of conviction stemming from a fear of being late on parade after the debacle on High Stile the week prior. Roy said he’d be listening from 08:00 and I was reticent about disturbing him earlier. It was my fault - he’d offered 07:30 but I said it wasn’t necessary.

After a slow breakfast I called CQ at 07:45 and it didn’t take too long to be rewarded with an answer. This was not Roy as it normally is but Mark G0VOF. As we exchanged RST’s (599/559) and sent the revised SOTA Ref, I felt relief that, if at all possible, a spot would be duly applied. It was! Not only that, I later found out that Mark had phoned G4SSH to tip him off. Sure enough, just 3 minutes later Roy was in the log too and we were half way to qualifying, which even now must still be regarded as the first hurdle especially when you only have QRP and so soon after a major solar event. Roy’s report to me was 559.

In fact the band was working reasonably well but with only 5% of the normal power available it was never going to be easy for the chasers with their noise levels. I consoled myself with the fact that there are fewer chasers about at this time. I also knew that three of the four ops from the Scarborough area, who would normally work me, were all away. The other stations worked were: G3RMD, M0MSW, EI2CL, G3TJE, G0UBJ, ON4FI and G4MSR. Some had been worked on CW. The ‘gottaway’ coming in at 559 was S51ZG but I was quite encouraged to work an ON and the more distant UK stations.

3.724 SSB - 6 QSO’s:
Roy picked up the QSY and after spotting it, G0TRB was first on the scene. After Roger came: G6MZX, G0VOF, GW7AAV, G3RMD and G0VWP. Apart from the first two, the incoming reports indicated pretty average conditions and I think it was Frank who commented that the absorption had increased noticeably since QRV. With no more answers to CQ’s, it was almost time to pack up but not before 4m FM had been given an airing.

70.450 / 70.425 FM - 3 QSO’s.
Stations worked between 08:39 and 08:42 following a CQ on 70.450 were as follows: M1LSD Lee; G6CRV Dave & M3RDZ Roy. 5 Watts from the IC-E90 with integral battery to an extended rubber duck and counterpoise from the summit shelter were the 4m working conditions. All reports in and out, were 59.

The few photos I got were certainly worth having. The temperature inversion was in charge today. Parts of Swirral and Stridding Edges, Catstye Cam and one or two other high spots were sticking up through the clag into sunshine. Other than that, the breathtakingly white blanket was complete in all directions as far as the eye could see. With cloud periodically rising and falling, Brocken Spectre conditions were perfect but I saw none. Total QSO’s for LD3 was 18.

This and the rest of the route is described in my report of exactly a year ago but for the third time I did my best to ruin it by trying to go down to Thirlmere instead of past Nethermost. This is usually caused by fiddling with a broadcast radio or trying to text the family on the mobile. The error-making path is very clever in its deception technique and full attention at the junction NY 3429 1446 is essential. After returning, I added some extra GPS waypoints which should prevent a fourth cross country next time.

The non-path walking from the col twixt Nethermost and Dollywaggon, done in fog this time, doesn’t get any better and I wonder about the wisdom of passing up the chance of a path round the top of Dollywaggon and down the wall path to Col 574m.

  1. SEAT SANDAL, G/LD-022, 736m, 6 pts, 09:48 to 11:09. 3 deg C. Damp, swirling low-cloud. 20 mph southerly wind. A grassy top with a wall. LOC: IO84LL. WAB: NY31. Orange Mobile phone coverage. QRP 5W.

This is the only summit on this round with both easy antenna arrangements and decent shelter from the wind. The mast is easily stuck in the grass to leeward of the wall and the end supports can be wedged in its broken top. To my mind, LD22 is more reminiscent of an NP than an LD SOTA.

3.557 CW - 7 QSO’s:
I phoned G4SSH and we tried out 80m with a few dashes from my 817. Even now the band seemed to be working reasonably; if I could get a signal to Roy’s ground-mounted vertical, then other stations would hear me too. After some indecision on my part about whether to migrate to 40m for this one, I settled on 3.557 and called CQ after working Roy.

Worries about absorption on 80 further receded when a minute later Mike EI2CL got his RST in one. Most stations were around S7 to me with my 5W signal producing reports from them of 219 to 579. After EI2CL I logged: GI4ONL; M0MSW; G4RQJ; G0NES and ON4CAP Andre. If anything band conditions had gone down since LD3 but not nearly so much as expected. The D-Layer had been at work for two more hours but its effect seemed minimal. An ‘ON’ had still got a QSO. Later in the day a few stations reported that they hadn’t heard anything from me on 80 and in a phone conversation, Roy and I agreed that it would be foolish if not wasteful of time to try 80 again today.

3.724 SSB - 9 QSO’s:
I think Geoff G6MZX had been monitoring 3.724 for a while. He replied to my QRL enquiry immediately. Stations worked between 10:35 and 10:51 were: G6MZX; MW6GWR; G8ADD; G6WRW; G0TRB; G0RQL; G6LKB; 2E0NHM and MM0USU. Incoming reports ranged from 31 to a single 57 from Andy in Falkirk (USU).

It was clear that chasers had struggled long enough with 80m. Thus far, a fairly tight rein had been kept on the time schedule, the next SOTA (s) could be offered on 40. Maybe the approach had been overly cautious.

70.450 - Nil QSO’s.
A few calls on here at the end of the activation were unsuccessful. I know Mike G4BLH was away today but this hill was also the lowest in the group.

I make a point of not walking in my coat. No matter how cold it is, I normally use no more than a microfleece base layer topped with a (now ancient) 200gm pertex-lined fleece. The coat became soggy from the effects of the low-cloud. It took some ramming into the pack but I was quickly off and hoping for better things on Fairfield. The QSO count for LD22 was a mere 16.

The NE flank of Seat Sandal is steep and loose in places but I have few issues with walking downhill. The climb up to Fairfield from the col is also steep and has gravelly bits. This is where Nick & I parted a year ago. Every time there’s an ascent any sense of enjoyment evaporates as one becomes a slave to gravity. Stopping, starting, wheezing, sweating and cursing seem to characterize my progress uphill these days - or has it always been like this? To help take my mind off the pain of these relentless ascents, I really would have liked my DAB radio but unknown to me the charging lead had gone faulty and the thing was dead.

I knew time was of the essence but after a wasteful circumnavigation of this boulder-infested ‘battleground’ I found all the shelters occupied. Probably more crestfallen than I should have been - I was starting to get a little weary by now - I walked to a meagre pile of rocks that might afford a little shelter from the cold wind and started to deploy the station which, due to the surface, took almost half an hour.

  1. FAIRFIELD, G/LD-007, 837m, 8 pts, 11:57 to 13:41. 5 deg C. 20 mph wind increasing. Alternate sunshine and low-cloud. LOC: IO84ML. WAB: NY31. NO (Orange) Mobile phone coverage. A solitary Raven seemed to have made its home here. QRP 5W.

7.032 CW - 21 QSO’s:
I called Roy several times on the prearranged frequency of 7.034. He must have been temporarily distracted. There were plenty of other SOTA stations up today and judging by his chaser score, Roy has a habit of working them! 40m CW is one place where you don’t have to worry about being spotted as there will normally be a dozen stations visiting 7.032 every five minutes just to see what’s happening. Indeed this appeared to be the case with DL3HXX answering my second CQ call and kindly spotting me. After that, contacts were many and I needed my wits about me in the pileup that rapidly ensued.

From 12:30 to 15:54, 21 stations from the following countries were worked: DL; PA; G; EI; GI; ON; F and GW. Reporting on my 5W signal was better than I could have hoped for; generally in the range 539 to 599. 40m was being very efficient again today!

7.085 SSB - 21 QSO’s:
As there was no phone coverage here (my text messages stayed in the outbox) I think I must have sent the QSY freq at the end of the CW session and Roy pre-spotted it for me. G4SSH was first in the SSB log at 12:56 followed by another pileup (quite orderly I might add) of 20 stations. Curiously all these were Brits apart from DL1DVE Tom. With 59 coming my way quite often, signal reports were becoming barely believable but there was QSB about and I think most of the reports refered to the peaks. I did get a 59 plus 10 dB but on the other hand there was a 22 to 57 with QSB report. It was true though; the band was working so well to G that everbody was 59 or 59 plus to me. I made lists and tried to work down them fairly quickly.

Midway through this session, I began to suffer because of the cold wind. I didn’t have much shelter apart from my coat and hood. It was necessary to don a pair of mittens which really slowed me down by making it difficult to keep the log and handle the PTT. My concentration lapsed here and I failed to pick up GW0DSP/P in reasonable time for an S2H with HuMP GW/HNW-007. Mike was a good signal and we did work at 13:17 (59/59) but I fear I delayed him. Fortunately, he didn’t take the hump! ‘Groan.’

It was good to work Hazel M6YLH, using my old but trusty FT77 with 10 Watts into my home QTH Windom aerial (58/57).

After the lack of success earlier on LD22 and the necessity on this summit to walk over to the southern edge for a better VHF takeoff, I didn’t try 4m FM from LD7. The QSO total for LD7 was a more respectable 42.

Last year there was verglas on Coffa Pike which held me up somewhat. This year I was tired but still trying to move as quickly as possible. I talked to a couple on the way down Coffa Pike. They must have seen my setup on Fairfield and asked what the mast was for. Non amateurs don’t always know it’s radio gear. Some think you’re gathering weather data, which was the case today on Helvellyn when I met the BAE apprentices. I always explain and they usually look puzzled, so I explain some more and give them the web address. You can often sense what they’re thinking; ‘WHY?’ My answer to their unspoken question is; ‘Oh, it’s just a barmy hobby which gets me out of bed in a morning and up to these fine places.’ We laugh, they agree and we get on fine.

100m short of the final rise to the summit and about 15m down from it, I spied a large and obvious flat area of grass which I hadn’t really noticed before. I will never know why but this (at NY 3685 1335) is where I set up today. It was far easier and quicker than activating from the very 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.

  1. ST.SUNDAY CRAG, G/LD-010, 841m, 8 pts, 14:20 to 16:01. 8 deg C, sunshine with some low cloud, 20 mph wind. LOC: IO84MM. WAB: NY31. Orange Mobile phone coverage. QRP 5W.

7.032 CW - 32 QSO’s:
Despite the fact that no advice on an LD10 QRV time could be given from LD7 due to lack of phone coverage, Mike EI2CL was waiting to answer my CQ call and thankfully spot me. Later I found that Roy had been called across the road by his neighbour and was at that time trying to fix her printer. This was followed by a friendly cup of tea which made it appear rude to rush back. This minor mishap placed G4SSH way down at number eleven in the LD10 CW log! I can only hope that this revelation won’t adversely affect his reputation.

If conditions on 40m from LD7 had been excellent, these were possibly even better. The miniature (CW) toggle switch in the 817’s microphone has a different feel to it than the one on the 706 but after a bad start, I’d finally got used to it and a good job too. Apart from some QSB, the 5W signal did another fine job with 32 stations worked from an energetic pileup. Discipline seemed good again but it is not easy to pick out individual callsigns until most stations have been worked. They all merge together to form a single note with no CW audible at all. With QRP I was afraid that my returns would not be heard under late callers so I sent each chaser call twice. This seemed to work OK and gradually the log filled up.

At 14:48 HB9BIN/P called in from HB/SO-012 for an S2S. The mountain was called Roggenflue and it’s ironic to know that he was up at 993m ASL getting 1 point, whilst I sat at 841m bagging 8! This must have made it very difficult for Jurg to obtain his mountain goat status but the fact is that he did and in a relatively short time, is worthy of recognition. So, congratulations to Jurg for a magnificent effort and thanks for making my Scarborough colleagues G4SSH, G0NUP & G4OOE happy with chaser points on an almost daily basis.

Countries worked from 14:38 to 15:20 were as follows: EI; G; DL; OK; OE; HB9; HA; PA and F. Incoming reports ranged from 559 to 599 and everbody apart from the more distant HA (579 but picked out and logged at an early stage) was 599 or better to me. This session was exciting if a little wearying.

7.085 SSB - 28 QSO’s:
This is where I may possibly have started to talk rubbish and to dither a bit. If so it was due to tiredness and getting up at 2. Also I had done my usual thing which was to underhydrate - only 1 litre since the start, some 10 hours earlier. All this tends to addle your brain and the brisk, still cool wind made it slow down further. I had to try and shake myself out of this when I realised that here was another pileup that I needed to deal with.

The QSY was correctly guessed by M6MZX who was waiting on 7.085 simply because that had been the channel used on LD7. Geoff came straight back to my ‘QRL?’ which was merely going to be a prelim to returning to the CW channel to announce a QSY, or phoning Roy. The fact that I didn’t need to was a relief and just another small thing that helps you through a long day. Before long the QSY had been spotted by G4SSH.

Similar to LD7, the unexpected happened. SSB produced a 28:1 split between UK and overseas stations worked whereas the CW proportions were 11 to 23 for this summit. Why this consistently happens I don’t know. It may just be that they can’t understand my Bradford accent!

Again incoming RF was strong with almost all stations 59. The reports of my signal ranged from 55 to 59 plus, apart for G4WHA/A (57/31) who was struggling on an indoor antenna at his shop. The one overseas station worked was Sake - PA0SKP (59/56).

Young, enthusiastic foundation op Ricky MW6GWR called in for his 3rd chase of 'OOO in the day and Hazel M6YLH for her second from Scarborough. While on the subject of Foundation licencees, I also worked M6BGM and M3XIE. This may be the first licence stage but you really wouldn’t know it.

The final stations were hunting LD10 as a team. Ken and XYL Christine; GM0AXY and GM4YMM, neither of whom I have worked for a while. Just before this Roy G4SSH called in to get my intentions for a possible fifth SOTA. Ken was audibly shaken. ‘Was that G4SSH on a microphone?’ ‘What is the World coming to?!’

I should apologize for garbling callsigns, forgetting names and uttering, ‘Thank goodness for that’ when presented with dead air at the end of this session. It was nothing personal, just a tired brain. I use the same excuse for not calling on 4m FM after the 40m SSB session. The QSO total for this hill was a much improved 60.

On the way off I picked up some rather nice rocks with hexagonal quartz crystals in them. Though I can’t tell you what frequency these were, they look good on our mantlepiece (though I suspect they won’t be there long!)

I have grumbled before about the ‘sting in the tail’ for this round on the steep section down to Thornhow End and the extra half mile I have to walk through the actions of ’double-yellow line merchants.’

I was back at the car by 17:12 which gave sufficient daylight for a crack at the diminutive 2-pointer, LD37.

TO LD37:
The 7-mile drive round to Little Mell Fell was completed in under 15 minutes after a rehash of the rucksack; exchanging the 817 for the IC706 and adding a 3-ely beam and a new 8.8 Ah Li-Po battery.

There is a small layby to leave your car and I started walking for LD37 at 17:36. The route is initially over a stile then through some ‘squidgy bits.’ Soon you are on steep ground but the pain is short lived. To be honest, the main object of doing this one at the end, in the final gasp of winter bonus season, was the extra 5 points in exchange for minimal effort. I hoped a few chasers might benefit also but they would not worry if they missed 2 points. For that reason but mainly because of the already long day, I would carry HF but avoid its use if at all possible.

  1. LITTLE MELL FELL, G/LD-037, 505m ASL, 2 pts, 17:50 to 18:28. 9 deg C, 15 mph wind. (IO84NO, WAB: NY42) IC706-2G and 8.8 Ah Li-Po No 2. Orange mobile phone coverage (overlooks Penrith & the M6). QRO 50 W.

After a couple of photos, I set up the 3-Ely SOTA-beam vertically polarized next to the trig, plugged it into the 706 which was then set to full power. This hill has a terrible reputation with me for bad VHF. That was long ago and with QRP to a vertical but I had no time to mess about today. From the outset, I would be applying all the brute force I could muster.

At 17:58 I put out a CQ on S20 and back came G0TDM. This was a good start and John made it his priority to spot me and then directly alert MM1MPB and GM4WHA in Annan by means of text messages. I swung the beam north with the result that Mark and Geoff were quickly in the log. Geoff gave me a fourth QSO via his ‘B’ callsign of GM6SMW, ‘Just in case.’

Roy G4SSH, who had been sitting on 3.557 CW with Nick G4OOE just on the offchance, phoned me to ask about HF. I was hoping not to have to use it but I still needed one QSO to (unambiguously) meet the rules. I told Roy that I would phone him back.

After a few more minutes John’s spot did the trick and Dave G6LKB called in from Ulverston with 50 watts and a beam. We exchanged at 53 both ways. Turning the beam south increased that to 59 both ways and probably enabled others to hear me. I then worked Karen 2E0XYL in Cheshire; Nigel 2E0NHM - Preston; Brian G4ZRP (very weak in the Wirrall) Gareth M0MOL in Barrow and finally Geoff G6MZX at Thornton in Craven.

In the end it wasn’t primarily the ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach which got me through here but more the finesse of the internet spot by John G0TDM. Partly because this little fell has seen me ‘weeping’ into S20 on a dark, cold night for a final QSO and partly because I was anxious to start home, I am extremely grateful to John and the small band of chasers his spot alerted. I must also say thank you to Roy & Nick for hanging around on my behalf with no result. There just wasn’t time for any more.

A final CQ with squelch disabled produced only noise and so I sped off in the last remnants of daylight, arriving back to the car by 18:36. The 137 mile drive home was quick at just over 2.5 hours and I arrived home at 21:11 which was the better part of an hour earlier than I’d told the family.

Patterdale-LD3-LD22-LD7-LD10-Patterdale: 1,510m (4,953ft) of ascent / 19.1 km (12 miles).
LD37: 125m (410 ft) of ascent / 2 x 0.7 km (0.9 miles).
TOTALS: 1,635m (5,364 ft) of ascent - 20.5 km (12.8 miles).

Up at: 02:00.
Left Scarborough: 02:15
Arrived Patterdale (131 miles): 04:50
Walk for LD3: 05:21
LD-3 Helvellyn: 07:15 to 08:46
LD-22 Seat Sandal: 09:48 to 11:09
LD-7 Fairfield: 11:57 to 13:41
LD-10 St Sunday: 14:20 to 16:01
Returned Patterdale: 17:10
Drove away from Patterdale: 17:20
Arrived The Hause (7 miles): 17:34
Walk for LD37: 17:36
LD-37 Little Mell Fell: 17:50 to 18:28
Back to car: 18:36
Drive 137 miles to Scarborough: 18:39 to 21:11

Gross time (home to home): 18hr-56 min.
Distance driven: 274 miles.

LD3: 18
LD22: 16
LD7: 42
LD10: 60
LD37: 10
Total: 146

QSO Breakdown:
16 on 80m CW.
15 on 80m SSB.
53 on 40m CW.
49 on 40m SSB.
3 on 4m FM.
10 on 2m FM.
Total: 146

SOTA Activator points: 49

With 15th March looming there was urgency to log some extra winter bonus before it was too late and the Patterdale round is the perfect place to do it. With the exception of a cold wind and low-cloud, the WX was quite benign and underfoot conditions could hardly have been better.

Swirral Edge has something of a reputation with two deaths on ice last year. In contrast to our experience precisely a year ago to the day, when Nick G4OOE and I climbed up it in marginal conditions, there was no snow and the only ice I saw was clinging to the Helvellyn trig and shelter. Helvellyn still had the remains of a cornice for quite a distance around the east facing rim but this did not need to be crossed.

80m was not the ideal band for chasing Seat Sandal LD22 but I would not like to argue which was the best HF frequency for Helvellyn at 07:45. I could easily have put it on 2FM but by far my greatest fear was getting embroiled, which can be especially dangerous with non-SOTA chasers. An expedition of this nature is always going to be a compromise.

The high workload day didn’t allow summit overstays. Every action whether it be putting up a second antenna or risking a sortie onto 40m has a time penalty. If you are not disciplined, all these times can add up to a loss of later summits. As it is, aerial work on LD3 and LD7 is difficult and thereby time consuming, though it won’t be difficult on LD10 next time. When you analyse it, actual airtime is just the tip of the iceberg but at the same time it’s the only thing ‘seen’ by the chaser. It is necessary to minimise walking time as much as possible by not having breaks or food other than whilst activating at the summit or hyperventilating on the inclines.

I haven’t properly analyzed it but I think one station managed the full compliment of 34 chaser points; the first, second and fifth summits being crucial to this. This was G6MZX. Congratulations Geoff - you always managed to be in the right place at the right time! Hard on the heels of Geoff were a few ops who worked all of the four big ones which counted for 32 points.

Top Band was omitted because QRP was used. I have Top Banded this round with QRO a couple of times in the past but I don’t know if I’d do it again because of the extra weight not to mention my own personal extra weight! I passed a few WOTA’s that last December Phil G4OBK had added over and above the summits I did today. The thought alone produced breathlessness!

The QRP FT817 did me proud. On 40m at least, any extra power would have been superfluous and effort lugging it wasted but I was lucky with conditions on there. I have had bad times with QRO on bands that are in bad shape let alone tackling them with QRP. It would have been nice to have put a better signal out on 80 and to have done 160m and even 2m but you can’t have everything.

4m FM worked well from Helvellyn but not at all from Seat Sandal. There wasn’t time to try it from the other summits but other than G4BLH who I knew would be absent, there are one or two callsigns that I no longer seem to hear on a regular basis.

To ALL STATIONS worked, for your patience in pileups and help where needed. To G0VOF, G4SSH, PA0ALW, EI2CL, DL3HXX & G0TDM for time saving spots. Once again, special thanks to Roy G4SSH for liaison, his ‘Phone-a-Spot’ Service and for staying back at the ‘office’ after hours. Also to Nick.

The next time we hear from Roy will by as 5B/G4SSH (Cyprus) on 14.058 +/- CW at around 10:00z on Tue 20th and/ or Fri 23rd of March 2012 (revised times / QRG 20-03-12). As for my next SOTA? No plans yet.

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

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

I was wondering where your report was for your latest marathon trek, but after reading through it I can fully understand that you may well have needed to catch up on some sleep. It’s strange how trying too hard to sleep can actually keep you awake longer, I sometimes suffer from this myself.

I had received early notification of your trip the night before, & although Top Band activating is certainly something special, I do appreciate that this more often than not means a heavy pack. Just because you were not to activate on 160m does not mean I won’t be listening :wink:

Aside from my “miss” of you a couple of weeks ago, I generally am around to chase your first summit of an expedition if your QRV time is before I have to leave for work. On Wednesday 14th I was up at around 0710z & rather than Radio Lancashire, which I usually listen to in a morning, I tuned to 3557 KHz & put BBC Breakfast on the TV with the volume turned low while I did some web browsing to see what had been going on in the world while I had been asleep.

I knew you were only going to be running QRP so I estimated that you may be a little earlier than your alerted time, & while debating whether or not to start my morning ablutions, I heard some CW on 3557.

The time was about 0740z.

I was very pleased to be first to answer what must have been your first call, & even more surprised that there was not the usual “10 minute warning” spot from Roy G4SSH. We exchanged reports, I gave you 559, & you gave me 599, which you confirmed over the air & I don’t think you expected a reply to your first call being over 45 minutes early!

During our exchange I did suffer a bit of “very” local" qrm in the form of two mobile telephones on which I have set alarms to sound at around 0740. These are my “Last opportunity to get up & get to work on time” alarms, & they both went off during our QSO. Hence the gaps, & other cock-ups with my CW, as I was not wearing headphones.

I received G/LD3 from you during our initial exchange, but as this was a different summit to any you had alerted for I asked you to confirm the SOTA Ref before signing clear. You confirmed G/LD3, which if nothing else, suggests that I should start to trust my initial instinct more when receiving Morse :slight_smile:

After posting a spot, I phoned Roy G4SSH. I knew that Roy, if not by his radio, would at least be awake & I was not sure whether you had mobile coverage on LD3 as from memory I recalled that it could be patchy.

Roy was as surprised as I was that you were already QRV, but not that you had started your day on a different, higher summit, & it was very nice to hear him call you within seconds of our phone call ending.

I listened for several minutes until you had easily qualified the summit then began my ablutions. While cleaning my teeth I heard 3557 go quiet & assumed that you had QSY’d to 3724 KHz SSB or thereabouts.

That frequency had been in use earlier, but by the time I got back in the shack I heard Geoff G6MZX signing with you so the previous QSO must have finished.

QSB was more apparent on SSB & coupled with a higher noise level on 3724 I could only give you 55, although with 5 Watts on 80m that is pretty good going.

80m itself has been up & down over the past few months, certainly not as good as this time in the previous few years. That said, it does bring surprises, & it looks like you made the most of what appears to have been one of it’s better days :slight_smile:

I listened to the rest of your 80m session & it was good to hear the activation going so well.

A short while later, I had to switch off & go to work, hence I missed the rest of the day.

Thanks again for an excellent report & for chancing that early CQ call, sometimes there are chasers listening :wink:

Very best 73,

Mark G0VOF

In reply to G4YSS:
Well John yet another cracking report.I was very plesed that I managed to work you on all the summits.Now looking forward to working you again on your next excursion .best 73 Geoff G6MZX

A fantastic effort John and a brilliant report to match. I will always remember with great affection, my first challenging SOTA day with you when I completed half of the Patterdale Round last year. Sorry I missed your first three summits this time (somebody has to work - hi hi!) but it was great to just catch you on number four!

Nick G4OOE

In reply to G4YSS:

Thanks for the great report, John. Sorry no HF antenna up at present but thank you very much for the 50w from Lt Mell Fell - the first time I’ve managed to work that one!

I too have difficulty sleeping the night before an activation, just when I need it most. I seem to end up doing so many walks with just 1 or 2 hours sleep and as a result I struggle with the longer ones.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk the full Patterdale round but I’ll be quite content if I can manage Seat Sandal, Fairfield and St Sunday Crag together.

Very well done.

Karen 2E0XYL

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John

Thanks for an interesting and detailed report and well done on earning 49 points in a day using HF in the Lake District. There aren’t many of us who would set off from home on a testing activation at 2.00am! Too early for me. In Bill Birketts Mountain Navigation book he states that you should always allow 20% extra time on any fell walk to allow for darkness at the end of the day. He never assumes one will set off in the dark! I was with your reasons for doing the round anti-clockwise as I know the first 3 miles up to Hole in the Wall are on tarmac and good paths. One point about the Patterdale Car Park charges - at the time you arrive you could park free in the layby past the White LIon and Post Office on the right hand side. There is always room there before 8.00am. The toilets there are clean, heated in the winter and left unlocked overnight. (Thanks Eden District Council). In your opinion you were travelling light - only 23 pounds weight on your back - I would disagee. Not light for me, I would call it pretty heavy!

I was curious about the campers from yold firm BAe (brrr!) near Red Tarn. I’m not sure which way they went up Helvellyn from the Tarn - you said you thought they had climbed up by the headwall. Glad Swirral Edge was safe. Weatherman - I have found the same with being mistaken for the lad who goes up Helvellyn every day to check the fell top weather for the LD Fell Tops Report. I was mistaken for him twice on my last round there and was only using a rucksack special at the time, not the larger pole you used for HF! I’ve never operated HF from Helvellyn and it sure sounds hard work rigging the antenna in that type of terrain. That cross shelter in my opinion is not conducive to acting as a support for a pole of any sort. You took 62 minutes by my reckoning to get from Helvellyn to Seat Sandal - blimey! You were flying…and you didn’t slow up between Sandal and Faifield either. I have met the Raven you spoke about, the last time I was on Fairfield. Steve GW7AAV (when on air) quoted a proverb about Ravens at the time when I mentioned the Raven had sat down next to me - I can’t recall the details, some folklore, and it went well over my head at the time. Perhaps if Steve reads this he may like to repeat it for the benefit of all…

I don’t know about you but after the Cofa Pike descent that slog from Deepdale Hause up to St Sunday Crag seems to go on and on to me. It only took you 39 minutes to get from FF to SSC! As you say the highest point in essential for VHF but on HF you do right to stay off the coldest part of the hill and have a little comfort away from the worst of the wind.

But the time you reached there I was back in the shack after returning from a short holiday and we had two 40m QSOs. It was pleasing for me to be part of your round as one of the chasers.

It was a clever move when you were minded to take up a decent antenna and more power up Little Mell. The results proved it - a summit that it is always easy to fail on with low power and a non directional antenna on 2m.

Well done on making what I believe to be 142 QSOs and giving the many chasers in EU a lot to smile about. The money summit for QSOs was undoubtedly St Sunday Crag - 60 contacts, obviously longer spent there as you knew you had time in hand. I’m looking forward to winter 2013 now when I intend to tackle that round again, taking the easier option of 2m FM only with a pack weight of around half what you were carrying I guess!

73 Phil G4OBK

In reply to G4OBK:

Steve GW7AAV (when on air) quoted a proverb about Ravens at the time when I
mentioned the Raven had sat down next to me - I can’t recall the details, some
folklore, and it went well over my head at the time. Perhaps if Steve reads this
he may like to repeat it for the benefit of all…

I can’t remember what I said but it was probably a line or two from a poem called The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, a particular favourite of mine. Full text here… Poe's "The Raven" With Explanations for ESL Learners

Great to get John on two of the summits, one before I went to bed off nights and one when I got back up to go in for the next one. I always consider point caught when I am working as bonus points.

73 Steve GW7AAV

In reply to G4YSS:

  1. LITTLE MELL FELL, G/LD-037, 505m ASL, 2 pts, 17:50 to 18:28.

FYI, Caroline and I heard you on our handheld (rucksack antenna) calling from G/LD-037 as we were descending from GW/SW-002 approaching our parking spot on the Gospel Pass. I reckon that’s a path length of 290km with Red Screes in the way. Signal was a bit scratchy but no doubt about the identification. We also heard G6LKB and 2E0NHM calling you.

There was a spectacular inversion and we had just descended from a warm sunny summit into cold fog.

Martyn M1MAJ

In reply to G4YSS:

Great report John.

Your trip seems to include a lot of similar themes to my own at the beginning of the week.

I too have trouble sleeping before a major SOTA activation!

OK on the difficulty of getting the antenna up on Fairfield and Helvellyn. Prior knowledge of the stony nature of the summits is very valuable. I was thinking about this particluar issue on the day before I set off to do Helvellyn. I called in at my local camping shop and bought some ‘Rock Pegs’. In the end, I decided that they were very heavy, but they had given me an idea. I remembered that I had some 7 inch nails left over from a garden project. They are quite thick and look to be made from steel. I took four nails from the pack and added them in with my mast guys.

The nails worked perfectly on Helvellyn, I set up about 30-40ft I away from the trig point. I bashed the nails in at 45 degrees with a piece of rock that I picked up. The inv vee dipole stayed up for the entire activation without problem, despite high winds.

I used the same nails for Fairfield last week. St Sunday Crag and Seat Sandal had enough grass to use the ordinary alloy pegs.

Two large Ravens were on the summit of Fairfield with me on Monday - they must be residents!

Your signal reports on 40m seem to tally quite well with mine - I was running about 150mW CW on LD7, LD10 and LD22 on Monday and most reports were around 559, I was quite surprised by this. I don’t have much experience of CW on 40, but I can see how both of us chose wisely to use this band.

You are right about Seat Sandal - the terrain is very much like an NP summit rather than an LD.

I took quite a few pictures of my three summit expedition and some may be seen at my blog page http://m0cgh.blogspot.com

Well done on achieving 49 points in one day - makes my 31 points last Monday look like a stroll around the park!


In reply to G4YSS:

Many thanks for another hugely interesting report John. The round of activations undertaken is something that a mere mortal like me can only marvel at! :slight_smile:

A lack of sleep the night before is obvious when you’re only in bed for 3 hours but the night before that has become a problem for me too… Maybe I take SOTA too seriously but this problem along with the distance to the hills, has become something of an impediment…

This happens to many of us. I certainly empathise with you on this issue. When you are operating to a tight schedule which includes a lengthy drive, you are bound to be “on edge”. I find I sleep much better staying away from home on multi-day activations which involve stop-overs in Travelodges. This is partly on account of the short journey to the summits on the second and third days, partly due to those days having a later start out time of around 06:00 and partly down to having had a day out in the fresh air on the hills. The initial day usually starts with a long drive at 03:00. I have considered a later start with just single summit on the first day, but getting value for money wins every time… and besides, the traffic is so much easier when you travel early.

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to ALL:

Mark G0VOF:
Hi Mark,
Thanks for the comments and especially the first spot of the day. It was my fault you phoned Roy as I told him ‘Don’t look for me before 8am!’ I have been up on Helvellyn a few times at 7am or before so should have known better. Trouble is, as my old Mum used to say, ‘Don’t tempt providence.’

Your assessment of 80m was about right. 80 was better than I expected. I normally expect it to be difficult. What surprised me was that it hadn’t changed that much by 10am but it was hard with QRP. 40m was spectacular even for QRP. I couldn’t offer 40m on all summits but with hindsight I could have done more on the 10 pointer even if 2FM. Too scared of getting embroiled especially with non-chasers. It’s good to hear the chaser side of things so thanks for the description.
73, John.

Geoff G6MZX:
Hi Geoff, You excelled. You got all 5! Well done for persistence. I saw in your log you worked many others too - a big points day. No plans for the next one. Building the grandson’s play shed! 73, John.

Nick G4OOE:
Hi Nick, Thanks for your encouragement. Sorry that, like Mark G0VOF, you had to be at the salt mine. I hope your Skiddaw adventure goes well. It’s always a pleasure to be activating a 10 pointer. A bit special in this country as we only have a measly three!
73, John.

Karen 2E0XYL:
Glad to be of service even if it was only 2 points. Martyn has posted (above) about hearing me at 181 miles. Must have been good condx.

It seems that I have touched on a subject close to the heart of more activators than I would have imagined. It just demonstrates how hard activating can be. By far the worst thing for me is not the physical bit but what’s in my head and why I can’t sleep. Brains need an on/off switch like eyes!

I think if you could possibly get the sleep you could add Helvellyn to the three of which you spoke. My thought is that while I’m up there I might as well try to do four but with the proviso that I can bail-off from any of the cols in between each if I feel any worse than normal and believe me, I feel bad as bad going uphill.

If you ever come up with a solution to this sleep business please tell me. Vice versa! Nice to work you - haven’t for a while. I needed the QSO’s. By the way, you have some lovely activation pics on QRZ.
73, John.

Phil G4OBK:
Hi Phil, Thanks for the car parking tip. I think you may have told me that before and I’d forgotten. Brian G8ADD told me about a youth hostel car park and I haven’t tried that either. I know the toilets you mean. Both Will & later Nick showed me where they were. On the grounds that it’s expensive enough making are car (even my wreck) go so why should I pay to make it stop, I have always refused to pay for parking anywhere but I will do it for SOTA. What annoys me is when the car park option forces significantly added effort. I also begrudge the 5 minutes it takes to fiddle with money in the dark. The Pen-y-Pass charge is nothing short of Diabolonian Ethics.

I forgot about your connections with BAe Systems. Not the underwater branch though. Those lads were in high spirits but I don’t know how they found the strength to chatter that loud whilst waking uphill. Oh to be young again. I forgot to photograph them for the record - regrets.

There’s a broken bit in the seat of the shelter. You can kind of poke a thin mast in but it ends up at the wrong angle. Soon this bit will fall off (especially if we poke masts into it!)

It’s great about that Raven. He must live nearby. What envy - living in an 8 point activation zone! I looked up the poem which is a bit high brow for a tyke but I liked it. I found I needed to print it, relax & read it quietly. I had a mind to feed the LD7 Raven but had nothing directly to hand. A few years ago, one kept me company on a foggy, deserted Gt. Gable and not too long before dark. He got half a sarnie in bits in return for his friendship, while I ran down 2FM.

Yes, the LD10 final ascent seems a long way. I keep consulting the GPS. How far to go? Oh, am I only at that height? A good place to activate HF. A pale coloured grass patch. I saw the same bit in Colin’s photos from Monday with his mast stuck in it.

LMF was a lot better with 50W and a beam but I still had little faith in getting 4 QSO’s. John’s spot made it happen but I know you are right - it’s a hard one. You managed last time and from GMF but only just. I’ve had bother in the past so I was grateful when I got it done. The climb is relatively easy (only LMF - not GMF) but the radio isn’t.

I’m glad you seem to like that 4SOTA round. You certainly wrang the juice out of it twice this winter. Loads of WOTA and SOTA! Well done on that; it was brilliant and you are that much nearer goatdom.
73, John.

Steve GW7AAV:
Hi Steve, seems you’re another poor unfortunate who has to work! I always regarded work as something to get out of the way in order to start life. It’s dreadful. They want all the best hours and days of your life and you’re left with the dreg ends - dark winter evenings and weekends when 40m is overloaded! I remember sitting at my desk and working out how many days to go? It came to over 3000 but I bettered that in the end! At least you are on nights which leaves you with days, after your sleep that is.

Always a pleasure to work you. Ur always a cracking signal and very often first in. Your Raven poem was a pleasant read,
73, John.

Martyn M1MAJ:
Hi Martyn, Thanks for the information on how far the LD37 signal went. What’s surprising is that you were getting down in ASL near the car parking place when you heard all three of us. VHF does supply a few surprises sometimes even when it’s flat band (which it wasn’t apparently). I don’t have a great deal of experience with long-range 2m but with higher powers and beam antennas (& CW or SSB) you begin to notice QSB and the whole experience is like another world when compared to a handful of Watts & a vertical. That gets out well enough. I was pretty well astonished to work Don G0RQL in Devon from a HuMP (189m ASL) next to Scarborough the other day. Red Screes is quite big so I don’t know how I got to you but thanks for the SWL report.
73 to you & Caroline. John.

Colin M0CGH:
Yet another poor (pre-SOTA) sleeper! It seems it’s quite common problem. I sometimes feel like borrowing some of my XYL’s pills but I wouldn’t of course. I’d be even worse the next day! I kept track of your activation on Monday because my local friends G4SSH, G0NUP (and maybe G0OOE) were working you on 7MHz and discussing it afterwards on 2FM.

I must say I admire your approach of very low power and have looked art all your photos of the rigs and summit. Looks like you stuck your mast into the same bit of grass that i did on LD10! The rockmite seems very neat and light. I built three QRP single banders a few years ago. An 80, a 40 & a 20. They are G-QRP club Sudden RX / OXO TX & run a Watt. I took the 80m one on a SOTA to NP2 in 2002 but with no spotting system and no signals heard on the band, I gave it up for 2FM. When the time is right, I would like to give my 40m one a try after reading about your escapades. It has a 7030 Xtal and all three have built-in keys & keyers. They’re compact & light. I etched PCBs from scratch. They also have a switchable VFO so you can listen to the whole band and a pullable (with miniature rotary cap) VXO for TX.

Amazing about these Raven! Familiar to many. I have seen this species on a few tops but it seems it’s almost guaranteed on LD7. I have noticed it is the most popular of the three (22-7-10) so they are likely just snaffling the odd bread crust etc.

OK on the nails. Probably ideal for the job since nature left handy hammers all over the surface. Keep up the QRP. Great to see people building - what it’s all about. Shame on me. I sold out to the 'black box.'
73, John.

Gerald G4OIG:
No Gerald - I’m in little doubt that you & Paul have the wherewithall to do those four. They are not too bad because of the staged nature of the work you have to do which isn’t strictly evenly spaced but near enough. At least the last one is not a big ascent and you get nearly half the climbing over at the 1st one. There are good paths and no danger if no ice / snow. You have done LD7-22-10 in a day. You could have a go at adding LD3. You also have plentiful experience of doing a lot of summits in a day so you know what it’s about radio wise.

I read your words of wisdom with regard to the sleep and edginess. Everything you have written is spot on. Yes, it is a lot easier when I stay in Keswick with the walking group every June. I think the best option is just to move house but I’m far too set in my ways for that. I think one or two others inc Phil G4OBK have used the Travel Lodge method to their advantage. I suppose I must give it some consideration and stop complaining. I actually think that the absolute ultimate is a camper van but I sold mine in 2001. Maybe I should get another and sleep at the jump-off point but I doubt I could get anything nice for what I got for the old one (£180). You are ‘right thinking’ from another aspect too. Fuel costs must balance off to buy your accomodation almost for free these days!

You seem to be operating below my radar of late. I think you are using your ‘B’ calls but I haven’t connected with them yet.
73, John.

Thanks again to everbody who posted here, worked me or spotted. My 10th anniversary of SOTA activating is coming up early in April (NW1). It’s been a life changing experience alright. No doubt about that. I can never thank the MT enough for running it.

73, John.

In reply to G4YSS:

Hi John,

"a camper van… I doubt I could get anything nice for what I got for the old one (£180).

A standard VW camper “appeared” in a local garage for £5k recently - it was on the forecourt for less than 24 hours. Not even time for me to discuss the possibility of purchase with the XYL!

“You are ‘right thinking’ from another aspect too. Fuel costs must balance off to buy your accomodation almost for free these days!”

Indeed, by carefully choosing the dates, Paul and I have stayed at Travelodges for as little as £9 per room per night. Usually we manage to book rooms at £19, but the last sortie which was based at Dumfries got us rooms each at £15 a night. It’s a no-brainer when the distances that we need to travel to get to and from Scotland are considered.

“You seem to be operating below my radar of late. I think you are using your ‘B’ calls but I haven’t connected with them yet.”

We had a few “training” sorties operating our ‘B’ calls during the winter months after G completion using the ‘A’ calls. Now we are back into the fray of Uniques activating and planning some ventures in GM/SS this year, but family issues at this end are currently limiting the scope of operations. Further “training” might be a possibility to activate some of the summits we’ve enjoyed in the past as these ventures can be arranged at relatively short notice as single days out.

Enjoy the shed building. I’ll get back to sorting out the kitchen and utility after a refit. :frowning:

73, Gerald G4OIG

Hi Martyn, Thanks for the information on how far the LD37 signal went.
What’s surprising is that you were getting down in ASL near the car
parking place when you heard all three of us.

It’s perhaps worth clarifying that this point was nevertheless at a height of around 550m. Spot height at the parking place is 538m. If you’d been a few minutes earlier when we were on Twmpa (688m ish) we might have managed a contact.

We were more or less at the boundary between the fog and the sunshine, so that may have had something to do with the propagation.