g4yss: np11, np12 & np23 vhf-lf 11-12-13

G4YSS Activation of NP11, NP12 & NP23 on 11-12-13.

AYE GILL PIKE on 2m-FM; 80m & 160m CW & SSB QRO.
G4YSS using SSEG Club-call GX0OOO/P. Unaccompanied.
All times UTC on Wednesday 11-12-13.


NP11 & NP12:
2m-FM: VX150 2m FM, 5W H/H with 6 x 2.7Ah Ni-Mh AA batteries.
4m-FM: IC-E90 4-Band VHFM, 5W H/H with 7.4V, 1.3 Ah Li-Ion battery.
Half-Wave J-Pole for 2m with RG316 coax.
Half-Wave Vertical for 4m with RG316 coax (NP12 only).

ICOM IC706-Mk 2G - HF & VHF QRO with CW key in mic.
Link dipole for 80m thru20m on a 5m CFC mast with 1m end sticks. Home-Brew tuneable loading coils for 160m. 2 x 4.4Ah Li-Pos in parallel.
Half-Wave J-Pole for 2m with RG316 coax.

As per last week the main targets were winter bonus and walking. Again there was the luxury of low pack weight, at least for the first two activations. I opted for HF QRO accepting a bigger carry for NP23 because it had never been offered on Top Band before.

I exited the house carrying a bottle of hot water for the frosty car windows and locked up. A sudden fear of not being able to get QSO`s on the first SOTA of the day forced me back into the house to put on an alert for NP11. Now there was pressure to deliver.

I left Scarborough at 04:50, driving 112 miles via Snainton, A64, York, Harrogate, Skipton and Ingleton; arriving at the start of the dirt road, which leads off the Ingleton to Dent gated-road at White Shaw Moss (SD 7232 8226). The time was 07:40am. The walk start time, in daylight, was 07:55.

Route to NP11:
Initially this track is rough; the worst part being a steep and nasty section at SD 7176 8224 which is not negotiable with 2WD. The one time I tried it in 2008 it ripped the exhaust system off my old Fiesta and breached a brake pipe. Today I walked the track so there were no such antics. I dont know about the legalities of it but with a 4WD you could now get as far as the gated wall-stile which accesses the open fell at SD 7064 8237. This is because the smooth gravel road has been extended some 190m since I was last there in 2008 and it now goes as far as SD 7077 8211. Thus a deeply rutted peat bog which only quad bikes could negotiate, has been completely eliminated. After that its a bit rough and muddy as it always was.

From the aforementioned gate you go diagonally up the grassy flank, through a fallen wall to the saddle at SD 7019 8287. After that you follow the ridge-wall north but today I found a useful path going from SD 7025 8258; SD 7021 8275; SD 7021 8298; SD 7019 8325 and through another wall gate (which is new and also within the activation area) at SD 7016 8333. You can cut across to the summit from there via SD 70135 83425 or alternatively stay to the right of the wall; walking along two sides of a triangle and over a wall stile at SD 7016 8350.

There is a choice of walls to suit any wind direction or there is a hole in the ground if you prefer. Today I set up near a stile at SD 7006 8353. The sun had already risen and its not yet warming rays were scooting low across the grass. Vapour trails of airliners were in evidence against the blue sky above. It promised to be a good day for SOTA`ing and so it turned out.

G/NP-011 GREAT COUM, 687m, 4 pts, 08:45 to 09:27, 5 Deg.C, 15 mph southerly wind. Sunshine (all day) and good views. No lying snow - no walkers. Orange (EE) phone coverage from all parts of the route. LOC: IO84SF - WAB: SD78.

145.300 FM - 6 QSO`s:
After setting up the J-Pole and connecting the VX150; a 2 Watt CQ was put out on S20 at precisely 09:00; the alerted time. Mike G4BLH assumed that I had waited for the arrival of the advertised time but it was pure fluke that all the events required to put the station on top of NP11 timed out to the minute.

After Mike the following stations were waiting and duly logged with 5 Watts on channel S12: G1OHH Sue in Lancaster; GW3GUX John on Anglesey; G4UXH Colin in Milnethorpe; G0TDM John in Penrith and M6CVD Clive on Walney Island. Reports ranged from 53 to 59 but then the QRG dried up with no further QSO`s even after recourse to 145.500.

70.450 FM - NIL:
Using 5 Watts to the 2m rubber duck with welding rod extension, Roy M3RDZ was heard but could not be worked. G4BLH Mike later stated that he heard nothing from me either.

Descent and drive to NP12:
A return to 145.500 produced no further QSOs so I was away earlier than Id hoped and back to the car for 10:10. The drive via Dent, Millthrop and up the Garsdale road, passing numerous signs stating, Road Closed Ahead, took until 10:44. The walk for NP12 - Baugh Fell started at 10:54.

Route to NP12:
With one exception, when Grisedale was the start point, I have traditionally assaulted Baugh Fell`s southern aspect from Garsdale, parking off the road next to the entrance Aye Gill Farm at SD 7337 8989. The easily missed start point is just across the road where there is a footpath sign and narrow gate. A public footpath contours a short distance along a steep slope through trees and up through a farm-yard at SD 7340 9001. A little later there is a small gate into a pasture where the path becomes indistinct. The public footpath, which heads for East Rackenthwaite, leaves the field via another gate up ahead. Just before that it must be abandoned in favour of a very steep walk up rough grazing land to your right, accessed through an open gate beside a small building at SD 7338 9019. Beware, this area can be very muddy.

This 2.2 km (one way) route is desperately steep in places until the gradient finally eases at SD 7382 9106. Ascent is a very significant 480 metres (1,575 feet) which is probably why, as in the words of a chaser today, it isn`t often done. In four visits, I have never been stopped from walking this route. The way in from Grisedale is less steep but much longer.

G/NP-012: BAUGH FELL, 678m, 4 pts, 12:01 to 13:00, 7 Deg.C, 10mph southerly wind. Sunshine (all day) and good views. No lying snow - no walkers. Orange (EE) phone coverage from all parts of the route. LOC IO84TH - WAB: SD79.

The wind today was to the wrong side (south) of the wall, so to avoid having to climb it twice I had to accept operating without a windbreak. It wasnt bad at all and it seemed Id picked the right day. Whilst my home town on the east coast of England suffered under a cold blanket of fog, here was wall to wall sunshine. The 2m vertical was soon erected on top of the wall and the 4m one partly made ready.

145.300 FM - 10 QSOs: For the second time Mike G4BLH called in first then the following stations were worked with the VX150 and 5 Watts to the J-Pole: G1OHH; G4UXH; G0EVV/P; G4OBK; 2E0YYY; G4WHA/M; M6JOG; GIHSO and M3RDZ. G0EVV/P Dave was on LDO-070 - The Knott and 2E0YYY Mike was operating from Shining Tor - G/SP-004. These and all the fixed stations were coming in at 57 to 59 but apparently lift conditions were in force which was the cause of a station in Coventry calling CQ on the frequency. Coming in at 52 to me, he couldnt hear my puny signal but Phil G4OBK kindly got him to QSY after which the local chasers were worked without further interruption.

70.475 FM - 3 QSOs: The 4m vertical was hurriedly assembled using parts in common with the 2m aerial. Mike G4BLH who wasdue to go out in the next two minuteswas first entered into the log at 59, following a hurried assembly of the 4m antenna. My report was 55 but there was a big improvement once the antenna was lifted up from the wall against which it was leaning. Roy M3RDZ was also 59 and he was followed by Colin G4UXH who told me that he had activated all 116 outlying WOTAs, getting at least one 4m QSO from each. A notable achievement with 4m being so quiet.

Descent and drive to NP23:
During the knee crumbling descent of NP12, I phoned some friends of mine who live in Garsdale. I was looking for permission to access Aye Gill Pike (they refer to it as Rise Hill) literally from their back yard. Approval was duly granted and what`s more, the kettle would be on!

Arriving back at the car by 13:38, I spent 10 minutes repacking the rucksack with HF QRO gear for NP23 with the intention of christening Aye Gill Pike with its first ever 160m SOTA operation. Because it was closed at Garsdale Street (the road had fallen into the river 5 weeks ago) the normally busy A684 was almost deserted. The distance was less than 2 miles and I arrived at my friend`s house at 2pm. There was a nice welcome with mince pies, biscuits and a gratefully accepted cup of tea. The latter and some electrolytes, set me up for the forthcoming big carry. After we had caught up with the news in front of a roaring fire, the ascent of NP23 got underway at 14:26.

Route to NP23:
This goes up from Garsdale from an ASL of 190m, crossing private property. Ascent is 370m and distance one-way is 3.3 km. The route doesn`t use any paths as such until it reaches the spine wall, which it follows to the summit trig point. Some of the advantage of a shorter approach is negated by the lack of paths, steep ground, reed beds, fallen walls with hidden rocks and tussock which all have to be negotiated. There is still a significant distance to walk once the top path is reached. That said, having walked this route in the past, twice descending in the dark and mist, at least I knew the way. Or so I thought!

The ascent took 50 minutes the first time I tried it. This time with QRO and me 10 years older, it took 65 minutes and the top path seemed interminable. This would be my fourth activation of this hill and I remember it being a miserable undertaking on one occasion, due to an agonisingly slow QSO rate and a strong sub-zero wind blowing snow off the surface and down my neck, as if the intervening wall hadn`t existed. This time it was sunny with a mere breeze. There is a wire fence which parallels the wall with perhaps a 4m gap between. A stile in the fence gives access to the wall, broken down in places and trig point. The surrounding area is wet and boggy.

AYE GILL PIKE, NP-023, 2pts, 15:31 to 17:37, 5 Deg.C (falling), 10mph southerly wind. Sunshine; sunset; nightfall. No lying snow - no walkers. Orange (EE) phone coverage from all parts of the route. LOC: IO84SH - WAB: SD78.

The reason for the HF gear was Top Band but there was a second advantage; namely the ability to put out 50 Watts on 2m-FM. NP23 is not the best for VHF propagation. In fact prior to my first activation of it in 2003, I did an analysis of where I thought a signal would have a chance of reaching with just QRP to an omni. Morecambe, Blackburn and Furness were the obvious conclusions, though it proved better than that in practice.

Working behind the north side of the wall opposite the trig point, I set up both the dipole in readiness for 80 and 160 and the vertical J-Pole for 2m. I also intended simple 4m-FM operation later but not with an external aerial. In the end time ran out and 4m was the casualty.

145.400 FM - 13 QSOs: To be fair, Sue G1OHH in QTH Lancaster was first back to a CQ call but Geoff G4WHA/A in Penrith got prioritised owing to the fact he was looking after the shop. After these came: G4UXH - Milnethorpe; G3IEJ/m - St Annes; GW1CJJ - Colwyn Bay; G4BLH - nr. Nelson; G0EVV/P on WOTA LDO-012; G0TDM - Penrith; G4OBK - Pickering; M0SSD - Dalton in Furness; G6WRW/m - descending Brown Clee; M6TDP - NE of Blackpool and GW7SBO on Anglesey.

Incoming reports for my 25 Watt omni signal averaged around 56 but 50 Watts were needed to complete a couple of QSOs. One of these was Phil G4OBK, who is badly screened from the relatively low NP23. It still came as a surprise when we exchanged at 53 both ways but it was Phils WX report that impressed me most. Dank fog all day in comparison to my constant sunshine made me feel very fortunate! This session took 18 minutes to 16:15.

3.557 CW - 15 QSO`s:
Mike G4BLH picked up the announcement of the next QSY from 2-FM along with other planned frequencies and posted them on SOTAWATCH. This was invaluable in saving precious time as the light gradually faded.

A 40 Watt CQ was answered by my friend Nick in Scarborough G4OOE with a 579 RST. A few more stations followed: G4FGJ; OH9XX; DJ5AV; EA2LU and GI4SRQ but the channel was becoming unusable due to someone sending very fast CW over the top of chasers. Maybe I didnt check the frequency properly before starting but I cant read CW that quick. However, a nudge up 400Hz cleared the problem bringing in: OK2QA; OM7OM; ON4FI; OK1MLP; LA1ENA; G4OBK; DL6AP; PA0SKP and LA8BCA. Most incoming reports were around the 559 - 579.

3.724 SSB - 12 QSOs: All QSOs on here were with British stations and for over half these I used 100 Watts; the rest 70W. Featuring in the 80m-SSB log were: G4FGJ; M6KBM; G8FC; G3VCG; G4OBK; MOMDA; G0RQL; M0JLA; G8VNW; MM0USU; G6ODU and finally G6MZX. Geoff was yet to check the spots but just happened to hear me.

G8FC is the club station of RAF Cosford which today was manned by Martin. He was attracted by the triple oscar callsign I was using. Someone kindly acquainted me of the fact that G6ODU had been calling me on VHF all day without success. Bob was soon in the 80m log for NP23 at least.

1.832 CW - 4 QSOs: At 17:00 came the real purpose of lugging heavy QRO gear up NP23. However it was pitch dark and difficult to find the antenna wire in order to insert the loading coils. I have reflective strips on my mast and end sticks but the wire is difficult to find quickly in a headlamp beam. When I did get the coils fitted, the system was resonant on 1.9 MHz so adjustments had to be made. These needed to be reasonably accurate bearing in mind the planned SSB frequency operation later and the systems lack of bandwidth.

A 100 Watt CQ brought Phil G4OBK back for a 599/ 589 QSO. Then I heard Nick G4OOE - QTH down the hill by the hospital in Scarborough, coming through clearly at 559. After Nick came G4FGJ - Gordon and finally a minor surprise in the form of DL1NKS with an easy 579 both ways. I was disappointed (for them) that I didn`t log some of the other regulars but I had given little notice.

By this time I was getting quite anxious. Not about climbing down in the dark - I am well used to that - but about how long it would take to drive home with the recently discovered A684 closure barring the way. There was little I could do about it but I resolved to drop 4m-FM and QSY`d to 160m-SSB, hoping it would be a quick final session.

1.845 SSB - 4 QSOs: Stations worked in 10 minutes with 100 Watts: G0RQL - Don; G6WRW - Carolyn home by now; G4OBK - Phil and G6TUH - Mike in Brighton using25 Watts to a bit of wire!` He was actually 55 to 57 so conditions must have been improving.

Final Descent:
There was quite a lot of gear to pack up; something of a challenge in the dark using a headlamp. Finally all was stored away in the pack so now off with the coat which was rammed into the top and the mast secured to the outside. Radio 2 FM for company to stop me getting frightened of the dark and we were away with a cold wind in the left ear. After I dropped below 500m ASL, I noticed the lights of Sedburgh glinting below.

This time I went a little further along the wall-path, only turning right at SD 7071 8964 and going down beside the forest. At first I found a path heading my way but that petered out putting me among tussock, tall reed beds and the beginnings of Kiln Haw Gill`s minor valley. At the bottom corner of the wood I should have turned left but having had a couple of shaky gates to climb on the way up and thinking I could find a better way, I carried straight on.

There were more obstacles to negotiate on steep ground and mistaking the lights of West Mostards for Kiln Haw, I went too far east. Thats when I discovered that the compass in my GPS had actually switched itself off. With that problem sorted and after a lot of hard walking on painful feet, I found myself in my friends back field at last. The descent had taken 51 minutes.

I would have loved the cup of tea offered but it was now 18:28 and I knew I was facing a significant detour via Sedbergh and Kirby Lonsdale.

Drive Home:
The return via Kirby Lonsdale, Skipton, Harrogate and York took from 18:40 to 21:28. Here was something new for me. I played my MP3 player via a low power 87.5 MHz transmitter to the car radio. It was a resounding success, making the long drive far more bearable than a DJ`s random choices.

Ascent and Distance:
NP11- Gt.Coum: 244m (801 ft) ascent, 5.1 miles (8.1 km) up & down.
NP12- Baugh Fell: 480m (1,575 ft) ascent, 2.8 miles (4.4 km) up & down.
NP23 - Aye Gill Pike: 370m (1,214 ft) ascent, 4.1 miles (6.6 km) up & down.
Total: 1,094 m (3,589 ft) ascent, 11.9 miles (19.1 km).

QSOs: 29 on 145-FM (Used on all Summits) 3 on 70MHz FM (NP12) 15 on 3.5-CW (NP23) 12 on 3.5-SSB (NP23). 4 on 1.8-CW (NP23) 4 on 1.8-SSB (NP23) Total: 67 QSOs.

19 SOTA points.
252 miles were driven in the day.

I am fast running out of available summits, as they march ever westward across my map. These three were not the most efficient way of making an honest bit of bonus. Though the walking was quite hard, its always the driving which is most off-putting. I could buy a quality car like Geralds or stay overnight in the area, though I would prefer not to. I could borrow my wife`s car and sleep in it like Karen 2E0XYL does in hers. I wish I still had that old Sherpa camper van but then again at 23 mpg on petrol, I could afford an up market hotel room.

What is there to say about the day? Gt Coum is a fairly long walk and Baugh Fell is too steep for comfort. For a 2-pointer, Aye Gill Pike isnt a pushover either. Though its easy to carry, the price of simple VHF-QRP omni gear is a decided lack of QSOs in the log and all but a few chasers missing out on the points. This adds up to less satisfaction and the desire for something more inclusive is never far away. In this case fulfilment came with NP23 and the successful Top Band activation. I just added 80m for the many who cant get on 160.

There are only 8 hours of available daylight but at least conditions were cool and for December (so far) the WX quite kind. I can`t complain about constant sunshine for all three activations at this time of year.

Where was G4SSH you may wonder? Roy was down in London for the second week running due to an ongoing family health crisis. His phone-a-spot service was sorely missed and I had to modify the modus operandi somewhat. 145.500 usually gets QSOs and stations worked on there did the valuable spotting work for me. It was much appreciated. I was only sorry that Roy wasnt there to work me on Top Band, though he only missed 2 points and I did at least get Nick G4OOE, Phil G4OBK and a few others.

The purpose of the final activation of the day was to air G/NP-023 - Aye Gill Pike on 160m and that was successful.

Thanks to all stations worked and to G4BLH; M6JOG and G4OBK for spotting. Thanks also to Edward G4LWW and XYL Mary for their hospitality and permission to route up from their house.

73, John G4YSS
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call).