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G4YSS: NP13, NP19, NP18 on 15-12-16

G4YSS: Activation of NP13, NP19, NP18 on 15-12-16

GX0OOO/P (G4YSS) on:
G/NP-013/ 4 The Calf.
G/NP-019/ 4 Yarlside.
G/NP-018/ 4 Nine Standards Rigg.

2m-FM QRP on NP13 & NP19.
80 & 160m CW/ SSB QRO on NP18.
All times UTC. G4YSS - unaccompanied.

EQUIPMENT NP13 & NP19:
Moonraker MT270M; 2m/ 70cm, 25/ 10 Watt Mobile
(MT270M: No TX modulation)

Icom IC-E90 4 Band, 5W V-UHF H/H in reserve.
IC-E90 required on both NP13 & NP19 after failure of MT270M
One 6 Ah Li-Po battery for both summits
Home-brew vertical J-Pole for 2m.
Two-section short aluminium mast.
Mizuno Twin Canopy Golf Umbrella (630gm) used NP19 only
Packweight: 7.9kg (17.4 pounds) inc. 500ml water

EQUIPMENT NP18:
FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver
MX-P50M HF (80 thru 10) 50 Watt Linear Amplifier with 160m capability
Adjustable link dipole for 80-40-20 with loading coils for 160m
5m home-brew CFC mast with 1m end sticks
One 6 Ah Li-Po battery
Black umbrella (355gm) not used
Packweight: 10.6kg (23.4 pounds) inc. 500ml water

Other:
Garmin Geko 301 GPS
Hitachi MP3 Player
DAB112 Technika Radio (Tesco)

INTRO:
The lead up to Christmas is a busy time so not wanting this to run into next week, I went for a fixed day that was convenient. Within limits, the weather would have to be accepted. There was also a card and calendar to deliver to our friends in Garsdale which mostly determined the summits chosen.

After a 2-summit 40-80-160m activation last time out and the anticipated cuppa and chat at my friend’s house, I was looking for short summit times. For that reason and also the weather, these activations were planned for 2m-FM only.

There aren’t many multi-summit rounds in NP SOTA but the Howgill pair is one walk that can be done without an intermediate return to the car. Despite the short day, once these two were safely in the log, I would be looking for a third activation; the most convenient being NP12 Baugh Fell. In the event, plans changed for a number of reasons.

The MWIS mountain forecast was for 20 to 30 mph southerly winds with constant low-cloud and the possibility of patchy light rain. Summit temperatures were predicted to be 3 to 5C. This was not particularly inspiring considering the lack of any shelter on the Howgill Fells and the complete elimination of views by hill fog. Still, I would not be staying long so it didn’t worry me.

EXECUTION:
I left Scarborough at 04:50 for the 109 mile drive via the A170-A168-A1 and A66, arriving at the Cross Keys Temperance Inn on the Sedburgh/ Kirby Stephen road (SD 6983 9695) pre-dawn at 07:17. By 07:47 there was sufficient light to see without recourse to a headlamp so I set off walking. It wasn’t raining but low-cloud could be seen on the climb ahead.

NP13 ROUTE:
After crossing the footbridge (which now has new top rails) and turning left, you head for Cautley Spout waterfall on a path up the valley via SD 6833 9751. After a stiff climb, Swere Gill is crossed at SD 6798 9752 (430m ASL) which is where I entered cloud today. The path goes up the right bank of Red Gill Beck, then via Force Gill Beck - SD 6719 9687 to a ‘T’ junction with a major path at SD 6688 9677. Just turn right for the summit trig.

G/NP-013 THE CALF, 676m, 4 pts, 09:02 to 10:07, 5 Deg.C, 25 mph southerly wind, low-cloud, no lying snow. (LOC: IO84RI, WAB: SD69, Trig: TP6361). Orange (EE) Mobile phone & DAB radio coverage.

145.400 FM - 7 QSO’s:
Just before arriving, I fired off an SMS to G4SSH whereupon Roy alerted the chasers for me. Apart from the trig pillar itself, the only thing which suggests offers any shelter is a shallow ditch beside the path a few metres away. Unfortunately, the wind was paralleling the ditch today. I had with me my new Mizuno golfing umbrella (recommended by Dave G3TQQ) but it remained furled as I was only planning a 20 minute stay.

Apparent Rig Failure:
‘Apparent’ because the problem has yet to be investigated but using the 25 Watt Moonraker MT270M, I ensured that 145.400 was clear before calling on S20. All that came back were five second bursts of noise at 59 plus. I ignored the QRM, assuming it was caused by breakthrough that the rig’s filters weren’t up to rejecting. Anyway, that was just a red herring.

Persevering with multiple calls on both channels on and off for 15 minutes, I started wondering whether the rig was actually working. The power bar was going across the scale but there was no response. Eventually someone put me out of my misery. I later discovered that this was John MW1FGQ who announced, ‘Whatever station is calling there is only a carrier and no modulation.’ I tapped the mic and pushed the plug fully in but it made no difference; I would have to resort to the reserve rig and 5 Watts.

Once the tried and tested IC-E90 was connected to the antenna and a Li-Po battery, we finally got some action. Geoff GM4WHA/A called in telling me that he’d come to the conclusion earlier that it was me who was having trouble. I think he’d announced something too but I didn’t hear him, maybe due to flicking between channels. I was very grateful to these two ops for helping me. There was a cold wind blowing and it saved further delay. The sound of the brisk wind blowing across the mic was noticed by more than one chaser. Next in, also from Penrith was John G0TDM then the other John - MW1FGQ who I normally find on 70.450 MHz.

The next ten minutes was spent trying and failing to log G4LQM/P who was evidently wandering the fells somewhere and whom I first thought was on his way to a summit. Initially he was 59 to me with some flutter caused by movement and he had part of my callsign. He asked me to standby so that he could walk into a better position but maybe his assumptions regarding my location were less than accurate as his signal only got worse until after several tries from both ends he disappeared altogether. I thought it all rather strange as he was strong at first and there should have been reciprocity. I was also slightly confused regarding the /P versus the walking.

Next I tried a several CQ’s but time went by and I wasn’t answered in spite of Roy’s spot. John G0TDM came back in to give me an ‘insurance QSO’ using his ‘B’ call - G7GQL. This I readily accepted on the basis that it would satisfy the database if push came to shove. That said, I was prepared to stay put for an independent QSO for as long as it took and it came in a few minutes. Yet another John GW4ZPL/P, who had just stepped into his caravan and switched on the rig, exchanged with 59/ 55. What a relief.

The final two callers were Dave G6LKB - among other things, collecting trig point TP6361. Finally GW1CJJ/P Phil called in from ‘a high point near Colwyn Bay.’ The responses to my 5 Watts and J-Pole were: 59; 57; 59 plus; 57, 55, 59 and 55 respectively.

Cold and damp from the tenacious wind-borne clag, I wasn’t sorry that there were no more takers and quickly packed up, leaving the antenna partly assembled. I had been up there for over an hour instead of the anticipated 25 minutes.

Walk to NP19:
A little slower than normal, the walk between The Calf and Yarlside took 56 minutes today. I dropped out of cloud to cross the 415m low point at SD 6806 9823. The direct but pathless route up the steep grass of Yarlside’s western flank is demanding to the point of painful but though it was buffering wildly lower down, the DAB radio was adequate distraction.

G/NP-019, YARLSIDE, 639m, 4 pts, 11:03 to 11:45, 5 Deg.C, 20 mph southerly wind, low-cloud, no lying snow. (LOC: IO84SJ, WAB: SD69, No Trig). Orange (EE) Mobile phone & DAB radio coverage.

145.400 FM - 5 QSO’s:
The wind speed was slightly less here but once again the terrain couldn’t help me as it was blowing along the spine of the hill, which is grassy and quite smooth. The 50cm-high cairn, about the diameter of a dog bed, is no help either so after setting up, I deployed the Mizuno. What a beast this is and it made such an effective windbreak that I had to unzip both of my two coats a little to avoid overheating. Dave’s (G3TQQ) idea to guy it is a sound one; I had to employ the rucksack to hold it down and this being merely a VHF activation; the weight was insufficient.

Again another quick and simple activation ensued. Chasers who had picked up my intentions on-air from NP13 were soon in this log too. I didn’t expect many QSO’s from NP19 as I have struggled when using 2m-FM QRP in the past. With 5 Watts and the J-Pole I logged: John G0TDM; (and as G7GQL just in case); G4WHA/A Geoff at work in the shop; Dave G6LKB and John MW1FGQ. I tried more CQ’s on both the 145.400 & 145.500 and left the rig on while packing up but nothing further was worked.

Today 33 minutes were needed for the steep descent via Ben End to Cross Keys but I detoured slightly to swap muddy ground for puddles where I could wash my boots. This was in anticipation of G4LWW Edward’s living room carpet which is where I was headed next. It was now 12:18.

Fortunately, the HF gear had been put into the car boot the night before. With a QSO count totaling a dozen so far and with NP19 just barely qualified, I didn’t have much confidence in VHF any more. Before moving off, I spent some time transforming the rucksack from VHF QRP to HF QRO.

Drive to G4LWW in Garsdale:
A 10 minute journey had me there at 12:45 and I soon had a welcome cup of tea in my hand. Among other things we discussed SOTA and potential afternoon targets. From where I sat I could see Rise Hill through the window. This is known in SOTA circles as Aye Gill Pike - NP23. All that was needed was a nod from Edward and I could open the back gate to access a privileged short cut like several times in the past. I must say I was tempted to do the two pointer but I’d originally planned for NP12 - which was a five minute drive up towards Garsdale Street.

It may be of interest that Edward and Mary unwittingly helped in a small way with the start of SOTA. Its co-founder John G3WGV contacted them when he was house hunting. Mary regularly sent all the local area estate agents literature to John until eventually he settled near Penrith and began to think about SOTA. They asked if he was still active on the bands. I saw a post from him on the SOTA reflector fairly recently which is a good sign. His other interest is flying but John’s SOTA log cites 2012 as the year of his latest activation; 2005 being the one before that. We could do with John back and doing SOTA activating again.

A glance at the clock showed I’d been there an hour and with just 8 hours daylight available, that was all the down-time I could afford. I thought about the next target but the respite from cold summit winds and fog had almost ruined me for further action. It was a bit like doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks and dropping in at the Hill Inn on the way around the 5,000 foot/ 23 mile trek. It’s very hard to get back to work again!

With its steep one-hour approach from Garsdale, I couldn’t face NP12 Baugh Fell, so I went for something ‘easier’ - Nine Standards Rigg G/NP-018 near Kirkby Stephen - a half hour drive away. Surely this would be safer to descend in the dark as I’d done exactly that several times before. I tried my best to forget about the widespread low-cloud that had affected the Howgills in the morning.

Drive to NP18 Start Point:
The drive via Kirby Stephen took from 13:45 to 14:22, stopping briefly on the way to text G4SSH with my intentions. Roy was surprised but as always, anxious to help. The ensuing alert got the ball rolling and I gave an estimated QRV time of 15:40, a start frequency of 3.557 CW, promising QSY to Top Band at the end. I later found out that Roy had emailed Mark G0VOF with this information and alerted Nick G4OOE via 2m-FM. Mark’s response to this was to ask his boss if he could leave work early!

I was away from the car at 14:28 after half a litre of water and some electrolytes. The parking place was clear of fog at that time but the summit was covered.

ROUTE to NP18:
From the B6270 at NY 8084 0429, a path goes via NY 8079 0464 where you turn right, passing through two gates in new fences at NY 8081 0469 and NY 8091 0483. The path swings right at NY 8096 0499 crossing a beck at NY 8128 0515 and going via NY 8138 0529 and a boggy section (amongst other places) at NY 8151 0554. It then descends a little to cross Rollinson Gill at NY 8157 0564 before veering left and up to a small shelter - NY 8156 0573. The Coast to Coast Walk guidepost is at NY 8173 0577.

After this there are only minor fluctuations in direction via NY 8219 0610 up to NY 8233 0618 where you can veer off right to the trig at NY 8254 0611 or continue left on the path to the Nine Standards via the viewpoint at NY 8242 0632. There’s a low ruined building at NY 8251 0651 which can provide some shelter but it’s screened for VHF. The higher reaches of the path are very boggy and I’ve been known to lose it even in reasonable visibility.

A bit like Wheeldale Moor on the Lyke Wake Walk, NP18’s boggy bits can be hard to cross. It’s a matter of how far left or right you need to go to find reasonable ground. Most were soon overcome but I totally misjudged an apparently benign but particularly bad area further up today, sinking in 30cm and with both feet.

It took a while to extract the left boot as the suction was terrific and once out it soon got stuck again when trying to extract the right. Pulling and lifting vertically upwards proved impossible and the heavier HF rucksack just added to my troubles. The correct technique was difficult but only when the foot was tilted forward with the heel uppermost was there any chance of freedom. The saving grace was a shelf of normal ground just ahead where I could get purchase with my hands and after several tries I managed to reverse out with an arched back.

Annoyed with myself for falling for such an obvious trick that mountains throw at you from time to time, with black sludge half way up my best walking trousers, filthy socks and matching fingernails, I trudged on. Luckily the stuff was too stiff to penetrate my boots much further in than the cuff; something I was truly grateful for but also the reason why it is so dangerous.

G/NP-018, NINE STANDARDS RIGG, 662m, 4pts, 15:21 to 17:03. 5 deg.C, wind 12 mph - decreasing. Low-cloud. No lying snow. Dark around 16:15. (IO84UK, WAB NY80, TP-5129). Orange (EE) mobile phone & DAB radio coverage from start point to summit.

Today, in deference to WAB chasers, I went to the trig point. There is a level 500m long path which runs from the Standards to the trig but I was keen on saving time by cutting the corner. Leaving the ascent path and crossing rough ground in the direction I thought best, the target was hard to find in the mist. I fumbled with the GPS and luckily found a waypoint.

It turned out that I would have missed the trig point by 70m and only with the GPS did I get there without delay. Fortunately I arrived with plenty of time to set up before darkness set in. This monolith is not made of concrete but is stone built like the one on Wild Boar Fell but in much better condition.

3.557 CW - 12 QSO’s:
Leaning against the trig pillar which blocked most of what was left of the southerly wind, I checked VSWR on the dipole which has to be done with the amplifier off. No callsign yet, I only sent three morse 'V’s and G4SSH was straight back with a 449 report. That’s service for you! A spot followed and the info about G0VOF leaving work early. It was also encouraging regarding propagation. This close to dusk, I worried that skip might be too long for Roy on the east coast and I really needed his help.

Using the new CW toggle switch, which was fitted after a failure on 1st of December, I rattled through the following chasers in about 15 minutes: G4SSH; PA7ZEE; GI4ONL; DL2HWI; G4CMQ; G4OOE; G3RMD; G4FGJ; DL1FU; SA4BLM; DJ5AV and F5SQA.
QSB and some QRM were the main difficulties and despite several tries, HB9CGA did not come back after his initial call. Nick G4OOE went into the log on the second attempt.

Reports on my 50 Watts were mostly in the range 559 to 579 with one 599 from Vic GI4ONL and a couple of 449’s. Good old 80m - doing the work again.

3.724 SSB - 11 QSO’s:
With lots of signals on the band it was a surprise to find the routine SSB channel unoccupied. I nipped back to CW and sent ‘Usual’ in case Roy should hear but that was overtaken by events. On returning to the channel I heard G0RQL Don’s voice issuing loudly from the speaker. The exchange was ‘59 plus’ both ways.

After Don’s entry the log reads: M0MDA; G8VNW; MK3FEH; G4WHA/A; G4IAR; LA8BCA; G0EVV; G7GLT; PC9DB; G4HXX.

In actuality Mick in Leeds was not really the first in this list. We failed in the initial attempt due to QSB but I brought him in later for a successful exchange of 59/ 57. Dave G0EVV thanked me for the complete. In the noise, Karl M3FEH couldn’t hear me at first but all went well after a few tries. Try as I might over and over again, I could not complete a QSO with 2E0HPE so he was lost. Geoff G4WHA/A with the same signal level as Karl, was barely hearing me in the QRN generated by his shop in Penrith but nevertheless, we made the 44/ 33 exchange quite quickly.

I think G8VNW in Threshfield had some ‘Watts on’ and he was a good 59 as was Dave G4IAR looking for the SOTA, the trig and the WAB square. ‘Three QSO’s in one’ is very satisfying; adding to make an activator’s efforts worthwhile. Norway was easy to work as was G7GLT Alan in Bolton. The PC prefix is not one you come across often but we made the QSO with 57/ 11. I thought the ‘11’ a bit bizarre but that’s what I was given so that’s what’s in the log. I shall treasure it because I get very few.

G4HHX Richard in Dover brought up the rear but it was immediately clear that he was no SOTA chaser and didn’t understand the situation. However we had a brief but pleasant conversation; Richard giving me his locator of JO01PD in exchange for my summit reference, WAB area and Trig point ref. and promising to ‘work me later in the evening when conditions improved.’ I dearly wished the conditions would improve but not primarily band conditions. It was just about dark by now to say nothing of very foggy and I was jittery and impatient to get Top Band done in the full knowledge that the return would be difficult.

1.832 CW - 4 QSO’s:
How is it that when you’re in a hurry, Murphy introduces further delay? It was fully dark by now and using the headlight I went out into the murk to fit the loading coils. I had a job on just finding where to insert them. In the thick mist, there was no helpful reflection from the fluorescent tabs on the end sticks so I had to look up and follow the wire. Tricky on tussock grass.

The sliders were both set to 4.7 the same as on December 1st but on returning to the rig I found that we were resonating down around 1.81 MHz. A second sortie into the night across the wind direction improved matters a little but unusually I had to make a third set of adjustments and also try to raise the coils a bit higher by increasing the tension in the system. I.e. moving an end stick. Even then we were slightly LF but it would have to do. Dear to my heart as it is, I was thinking less of Top Band and more about getting down safely. Time was leaking away with nothing to show for it.

Thankfully G4SSH came back to my first call and put a spot on. The exchange with Roy was 559/ 339 and he reminded me to listen out for Mark G0VOF who was just then speeding home from work on his motorcycle. Next in was David G3RDQ with 569 both ways but there was a weaker signal underneath him. I tried after we’d exchanged but sad to say, I couldn’t ‘dig out’ the other caller.

Calling CQ I worked Frank in Cheltenham G3RMD with 579 both ways. A glance at the meter showed that this was quite optimistic but there was a lot of QSB and numbers in the log are more important than accuracy in these situations. At the best of times, attention is mostly on the log itself and not on the signal meter. It was not only dark and foggy but the display was ‘steamed up’ on the inside right above where the ‘S’ meter is. That didn’t come as surprise, the operator was pretty damp too but it could have been much worse. It still hadn’t rained at all.

You could almost hear the dying roar of a motorbike engine as G0VOF called in. Mark had made it in time and we swapped reports of ‘589’ and ‘579 with deep QSB’ coming back. There were no further takers so I moved off quickly to SSB.

1.843 SSB - 7 QSO’s:
On arrival here I could hear a faint signal in the background. After checking the frequency I called CQ. Mark was there again to help steer the situation in case I had to QSY and signals were 57 both ways. After Mark I worked steadily through the other stations but half way through, the QRM rose to gigantic proportions. A French station came gradually up to 59 plus 20! I worked G8VNW Nick (55/ 37); G0RQL Don (44/ 44); G3RMD Frank (56/ 56 when in the clear); PA0SKP Sake (58/ 53 to 59 QSB); GI4ONL Vic (58/ 44) and finally the unmistakable voice of Geoff G4WHA/A at Penrith (53/ 33).

I looked for a clear frequency to QSY to but it was hopeless. I would have needed to go up the band a considerable way and that would have meant another protracted dipole tuning exercise. Most of the chasers would have been faced with this also and there was the further difficulty of power. I was running 50 watts. I had to go back and tell Mark I was staying out despite the QRM.

Although Frank was a good signal when the band was clear he was inaudible when the QRM came up and each time it took out his report to me. It was very frustrating. 59 plus 20dB of QRM trumps 56 but eventually we made it, though I couldn’t hear anything else that Frank said to me. Maybe skip distance was at play here and possibly Frank was too near to the continent to hear the QRM quite as badly as I could.

Skip distance cursed us further when Sake called in and we had two QSO’s in progress at the same time. All this made the QSO with Frank the most difficult of the day but the main thing is that they’re both in the log and how they got there doesn’t really matter.

A Tricky Retreat:
Despite past experience, in terms of navigation, getting back over two miles to the car after dark and in thick fog was at best slightly outside my comfort zone and at worst a somewhat frightening proposition. On the one hand NP18 isn’t that steep but you are crossing a vast peat bog. Just the place names surrounding the summit say it all. ‘Standards Mire’ ‘Standards Hagg’ ‘Rollinson Haggs’ ‘Lady Bog’ ‘Black Hill’ etc. Throw in a few ‘Areas of Shake Holes’ and ‘Disused Shafts’ into the mix for good measure and you can readily see that keeping to the path is of the highest priority. On the plus side, there is very little to fall down such as cliffs etc but there are peat haggs and outcrops of limestone causeway that you wouldn’t want to get into.

To avoid initial mistakes, the first thing I did on arriving was to place a pointy rock on top of the trig to indicate the way off. Setting off in this direction and intending to walk north on the path to the standards, I was lost within thirty metres. This just increased the apprehension as I backed off towards the now invisible trig to start afresh.

Groping my way along, I soon came to the conclusion that increasing the distance to be walked would just add to the stress, so biting the bullet I turned and walked over featureless land with the intention of intercepting the descent path from its east side. For this and the rest of the walk out, I needed total faith in the GPS and in less than 5 minutes I was relieved to be on the path and heading SW. First hurdle.

This didn’t last long. The path curves around in a gentle arc and I was off it as much as on it; each time having to do a minor navigational exercise to determine whether the path was left or right of me. It was like walking along inside a balloon while wearing slightly steamed up spectacles; the indistinct tussock grass and peat moving under your feet like a conveyer belt. In fact, a little surreal.

The ground was too far away from my headlight to see any detail in the fog so I couldn’t see very far ahead. That improved when I deployed a small black anodised flashlight, holding it just above knee level pointed downwards but I was still in a bubble and seeing ghost features to each side which were not really there. You keep thinking you have an eye defect with a blurred image and vignetted peripheral vision.

The GPS is key to security in these situations but I could only see that properly with my reading glasses on. Each deviation from the path had to be carefully addressed by looking at the GPS map page showing the vital track made in daylight on the way up. Only on arrival at each waypoint, carefully marked in previous sorties, could I be sure I was OK.

Abruptly, I saw a black patch just ahead but thought it was just another bog. In fact this was firm ground but on an incline and covered in slimy peat. The fall was swift but at least the landing was soft. Struggling to get up off my now filthy backside, I noticed that for some reason, probably down to the shock of impact, that the GPS had switched itself off and furthermore that my torch was missing.

An illuminated torch should be easy to find but looking behind, I could see nothing but mist, grass and black slop. In fact the business end of the black torch had buried itself in black peat making it invisible. Now the filth was up to fleece level and not just the fingernails but my hands too were covered in grime.

Going off the path at intervals, the journey seemed to be taking a long time but eventually I did pass the odd recognisable landmark such as the stream crossing points, the path-side shelter and the Coast to Coast guide post. These gave reassurance but still with a fair way to go, I was not yet totally safe. At this point the brolly, which must have dislodged from its velcro fastening in the fall, decided to drop off. Luckily I noticed it and stuck it under my arm, as if I hadn’t got enough to carry.

Next came the fences and gates discovered on the way up but I missed the first gate and had to walk both ways along the fence until it appeared out of the mirk no more than five metres away. The second gate was more considerate and had not ‘moved’ its position. I marked both with the GPS.

After that I was on grassy tracks which were less easy to lose but it was only when the GPS stated ‘final destination 101m’ that full confidence was restored. Nonetheless, I was less than 15m from the car before I saw the side of it in my headlight beam at 17:54 and what a relief that was!

Drive home:
On the narrow lonely road it wasn’t easy to see much and there was a slight danger of driving off it. The clag didn’t ease until I got three quarters of the way down to Nateby village. Kirkby Stephen was beautifully decorated with long strings of lights criss-crossing the wide main street. It was great to see something man-made. I’d had enough of nature!

Fog was again encountered along much of the A66 and up on top of Sutton Bank (which had been closed from 8am to 4pm for barrier work) but the 104 mile drive home via A66-A1-A1M-A168-A19-A170 was completed between 18:05 and 20:20. Tired and a bit stiff but elated, I dragged the dirty kit into the house. Job done!

QSO’s:
NP13 - 2m-FM: 7
NP19 - 2m-FM: 5

NP18:
80m-CW: 12
80m-SSB: 11
160m-CW: 4
160m-SSB: 7
(Subtotal: 34)
TOTAL: 46

Ascent & Distance:
NP13 & NP19: Total of 715m ascent and 9.5 km
NP18: 172m ascent, 6.8 km
TOTAL: 887m (2,910ft) ascent, 16.3 km (10.2 miles) walked

Distance driven: 240 miles
(Comprising: 109 to Cross Keys; 7 to Garsdale; 20 to NP18 and 104 home)
Good DAB reception throughout all walking routes except in the NP13/ NP19 col.
Activator points: 21.
Chronology:
04:50: Left Scarborough
07:17: Arrived Cross Keys (Odometer - 109 miles)

07:47: Walked for NP13
09:02: Arrived NP13
10:07: Left NP13 for NP19

11:03: Arrived NP19
11:45: Left NP19
12:18: Arrived Cross Keys
(Swapped VHF for HF in rucksack)

12:30: Drove for Edwards (G4LWW)
12:45: Arrived Edwards in Garsdale (Odometer - 116 miles)

13:45: Drove for NP18
14:22: Arrived NP18 start point (Odometer - 136 miles)

14:28: Walked for NP18
15:21: Arrived NP18
17:03: Left NP18
17:54: Arrived car

1805: Drove for Scarborough
2020: Arrived Scarborough (Odometer - 240 miles)
Continued below…

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OBSERVATIONS:
Partly because I wanted an easy life this time and partly due to the meagre hours of daylight just a week from the solstice, this was planned as a three SOTA, one band, one mode activation on 2m-FM with a visit to friends thrown in.

That all changed because of two events. Firstly my 16 month old Moonraker MT270M - 25 Watt Mobile rig appeared to fail on NP13. The symptoms of no TX modulation are still to be investigated but I was forced to resort to the spare rig and 5 Watts. Secondly and perhaps partly due to the above, it was a struggle to find sufficient contacts to qualify NP13. NP19 was even worse with five callsigns but just four different chasers in the log.

Apart from the drudgery of Yarlside’s western flank, it was a pleasure to be back on the Howgills again but activity on 2m-FM doesn’t get any better. It was dedicated chasers who saved the day. A dozen or so casual listeners, lurking either in or out of the ‘woodwork,’ is a thing of the past. Being a weekday getting on before 9am, when mobiles are on their way to work, might have helped. Even had the rig not failed and despite setting out at first light, I was just too late.

A little shaken by events on this pair of summits (nobody wants a situation where a lot of effort is put in for zero points) the strategy was changed for the final activation. To be honest it was a relief to take on NP18 without the worry of not qualifying. Also, I would be returning to my favourite bands of 80m and 160m. As an insurance policy accessible in the car boot, the FT817 with its 50 Watt linear along with a dipole and mast was the day saver. Granted this gear is heavier than the VHF kit but although NP18 is quite a long walk-in, it’s not at all steep to climb.

Next I went to see my friends in Garsdale and perhaps stayed a little too long. Tea and a sit down was very welcome but it left me feeling a bit too comfortable.

A late decision but why NP18? Knowing I would be benighted on the last activation, it wasn’t the ideal choice but neither was NP12 Baugh Fell. That said, I’ve been on Nine Standards Rigg in the dark three or four times and that trig point was the QTH of choice for a New Year summit camp 2004/ 05. There was not much remaining after the year’s NP expeditions and most were in this corner of Cumbria. From Garsdale, the less remote NP12 is much steeper though both would take a similar time to climb. NP22 is steep also and NP23 is a two pointer. The Three Peaks and Great Coum were a little too far away to consider.

Band conditions on 80 and 160 were adequate and did a reasonable job but QSB and to some extent QRM, especially on 160m, were the two main detractors. Once again at this time of day, 80m allowed contacts around the UK and out as far as Germany and Scandinavia.

It was pleasing to qualify on 160m CW, though I didn’t manage to work outside the UK this time. The most distant chaser in CW was Frank G3RMD in Cheltenham. PA and GI were easily reached on 160m SSB and the summit was qualified in that mode too though I don’t know how I would have coped without the burner.

Getting off NP18 at the end is the one thing which will stand out in my mind for a while into the future. Yes, we’ve been there before on numerous summits and survived but groping your way through low-cloud in darkness on an often indistinct path over boggy ground doesn’t come highly recommended. Mildly foolhardy or at least outside the bounds of normal practice perhaps describes it best. However, life has its risks and I think we can all agree that these days there is too much emphasis on ‘health and safety’ and not enough on adventure and common sense. Yes, it was uncomfortable but with the right equipment and experience it’s not so bad.

Navigation in these conditions is very dependant on GPS and more specifically on the waypoints it contains along with the all important breadcrumb trail recorded on the ascent. Back-lighting is essential as is a good overview and understanding of the situation. It helps greatly if you’ve been there before but what if the GPS should fail, as electrical items can and do. Recourse would then have been to the map and compass carried in the rucksack. There would be choices. Either to attempt to follow the path visually which would prove to be very difficult indeed or take short bearings and try and intercept the path at right angles should it be lost.

Another option is to take a bearing on the car position, making off to one side to try and intercept the road so as to know which way to walk along it. It would have been very time consuming in planning and execution over pathless unknown terrain. As the distance was two miles, you would need a good idea of your start position. My main dread was GPS failure and having to resort to the old methods.

I also had a fully charged phone with GPS position display and an atlas type map showing the B6270 and Nine Standards Rigg. That would have helped too. If all else failed, it would have been down to one of two phones carried. NP18 is well covered by the network but if it hadn’t have been, there’s always amateur radio.

Though a bit windy, the weather was reasonable in that it was quite mild for the time of year and there was no rain. The constant low-cloud blanketing the high places was the main drawback. That doesn’t bother me as I can picture the views from previous expeditions and out of all the mountains I’ve been on, a third of them must have had the clag down so it doesn’t put me off. The lack of visibility may have had something to do with it but I saw no other walkers all day.

Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED - a very loyal bunch of chasers providing good support, especially on 160. Thanks to Mark G0VOF for sticking around on 160m SSB until the end. Frank often does this too.

Thanks to John MW1FGQ and later Geoff G4WHA/A for reporting the lack of modulation on the VHF mobile rig in the morning. Thanks also to spotters: G4SSH; G4WHA; G0VOF; G0TDM and G3RMD and to Roy G4SSH for SMS text liaison. The teamwork undertaken by Roy is pretty well essential when plans are changed drastically at short notice.

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

Photos: 1-3-4-11-27-32-34-36-38-41-43-44-47

Above: River Rawthey foot bridge near Cross Keys just before dawn.

Above: Footpath notice on the start of the climb up to Cautley Spout Waterfall.

Above: Cautley Spout Waterfall just after first light.

Above: Activation in a shallow ditch near the path at GNP-013 trig point

Above: Activation of GNP-019 Yarlside on 2m-FM

Above: River Rawthey foot bridge, this time in daylight

Above: Our friends at Garsdale. Mary & Edward G4LWW. NP23 is right outside the window

Above: On the way to NP18. New fence and gate at NY 8081 0469

Above: Path to NP18. Coast to Coast Walk sign at NY 81732 0577

Above: G/NP-018 trig point activation. A rare selfie showing the op and a steamed up FT817

Above: G/NP-018 - Top Band

G/NP-018 trig point on the edge of visibility

G/NP-018 trig with way-pointing stone on top. Time to go.

5 Likes

Hi John,
Glad I worked you on 80m but it sounds as though you were sailing very close to the wind. Even with GPS, mountain night navigation in fog, while alone is scary and inherently dangerous. You don’t want to become a statistic.

Merry Christmas
David G0EVV

Thank you John for yet another informative and scary report. It brought back memories of my activation of The Calf and Yarlside with Barry M0IML a few years ago…and yes I’ve sat in that gutter whilst activating The Calf. Your report reminds me that I need to put Nine Standars Rigg on the ‘to do list’ for 2017 but I’ll have to start out early in the morning and on a clear day :slight_smile:

Happy Christmas to you and your family and to all those on this Reflector.

73 Allan GW4VPX

Hi John,

I was monitoring S20 and S16 at work as I knew S16 is your normal operating frequency and I kept hearing a carrier but no audio on and off for quite a while. Unfortunately I could not get to the radio to say anything as I was with a customer for quite a while. However once I was free I said there is no audio being transmitted and hoped you would get my message!. I suspected it was yourself as yours was the only alert up. At least you had a spare rig!

Many thanks for all 3 summits and especially working you on both 80m and 160m on NP-018. Not easy from work with all the QRN etc. Thank you for your patience when working me on 80 and 160.

Have a good Christmas and New Year and look forward to working you when you are next out.

73’s Geoff GM4WHA / G4WHA/A