G4YSS Activation Report NP15, NP16, NP31 & NP17 on 19-02-14
G/NP-015 /4 Great Knoutberry Hill.
G/NP-016 /4 Dodd Fell Hill.
G/NP-031 /4 Birks Fell.
G/NP-017 /4 Fountains Fell.
2m-FM QRO only.
All times UTC. G4YSS - unaccompanied.
Kenwood TM702-T; 25 Watt 2m/ 70cm Mobile.
One 6Ah Li-Po Battery.
Home-brew vertical J-Pole for 2m.
Two-section short aluminium mast.
Icom IC-E90 4 Band, 5W H/H in reserve (not used).
Pack wt: 8kg (17.6 pounds) inc 250ml water.
This has been a most frustrating winter bonus period with Atlantic Low after Atlantic Low sweeping in on an almost daily basis since mid December, which is the last time I activated SOTA. It`s not surprising that people have been putting UK SOTA on the back burner since it emerged that 2013-14 was the wettest winter on record with 0.5m of rain delivered in 30 storm systems; 15 of them severe. All that and nature has not finished with us yet.
There have been a handful of short; sometimes as little as half-day weather windows but I have contented myself with walking within 5 miles of home in an attempt to keep fit. Actually the WX in Scarborough has not been too bad; with westerly winds the Pennines get a big wetting which leaves much less for the east coast. This gives the impression of missing out but daily glances at the Ingleborough and Skiddaw webcams have rarely been encouraging, particularly considering the travelling involved to get there.
I did put the HF gear in the car boot for this trip but there it remained. It was intended as an easy day, carrying simple gear for short summit stays, albeit on several mountains. The many complexities of multi-summit, multiple QSY
s and mode changes could not be covered for me by G4SSH on this occasion. Sadly Roy who usuallyoils the wheels` for me in this way, was attending the funeral of his eldest son in London. This was the end of a long, harrowing saga.
The WX forecast was for light southerly winds but with constant low-cloud and some drizzle. I know some people who will not walk in cloud, but it doesn
t bother me, especially since these werehardy annual` summits which I have seen many times and I know the routes like the back of my hand.
The previous weekend SSEG had run GB100SWD for TDOTA with HF on the Saturday. However on the Sunday; with 100 Brownies to put on the air, we had used a small 2m mobile rig which I recently bought for 40GBP from a local amateur who was selling up. Getting the idea from Nick G4OOE, I thought I could try this out for a spot of higher power 2m-FM SOTA.
I left Scarborough for the 90 mile drive at 04:33, arriving via the A684, at the Coal Road by 06:52. Drizzle and low-cloud greeted me here and I couldn`t summon the enthusiasm to get going. Falling asleep was the far more preferable option but by 07:32 I was booted up and walking; minus the drizzle.
This was the same as last year but there was much less snow to walk through. In fact the only snow was a 2 foot deep, 8 foot wide drift at the wall-side on the summit. Leaving the Coal Road at SD 7796 8805 you walk via the track, turning left at the gate and sheep pen at SD 7768 8744 and thereafter, beside the fence. I used to
launch off on a pathless bee-line to access NP15 but the above
two sides of a triangle is far more civilised and less demanding on the feet. The ground was wet but no wetter than usual for the time of year and the ascent took just under half an hour.
G/NP-015: GREAT KNOUTBERRY HILL, 672m, 4 pts. 08:00 to 08:58, 3 Deg.C. Less than 10 mph wind. Overcast with low-cloud. Lying snow: 0.5m x 2.5m drift along length of wall only. IO84KP, WAB SD78. (EE - Orange phone signal.)
G4UXH - Colin responded immediately to a 25 Watt CQ call at 08:15 and we QSY
d to S16. Actually Geoff GM4WHA/M (changing during the QSO to G4WHA/M) on the M6, was worked first. There followed: G6MZX; G4OBK (Pickering); 2E0JCM/M; G0TDM; G0VOF; G6XBF (Leeds); M0OAT/P (S2S on Place Fell LD27) G6ODU; G8TYH and finally Tony and Sara M3NHA/ M6NHA near Manchester Airport. Power was set at 25 Watts for the first two and last two QSOs with 10 Watts for the rest. There were 13 QSO`s in total.
The descent took until 09:21 followed by a 30 minute drive to Kidhow Gate along a snow-free Cam Houses road. All three gates were open saving valuable time and I took the liberty of driving an extra 320m up the Pennine Way track to a point by a wall where the snow covering started in earnest.
An official road sign on the outskirts of Hawes read,
Road to Buckden Closed due to Snow & Ice. If I had heeded it`s warning, this sign would have cost me Dodd Fell and an even longer drive round to Birks. Snow was confined to the verges only and there was no ice.
At Kidhow Gate, park near the gate at SD 8298 8339 and walk up the Pennine Way North. (Today I drove as far as SD 8305 8370 along the PW.) A minor path leaves the track at SD 8339 8434 but it is not obvious and easily lost. From there it
s steeply up via SD 8344 8435, crossing a beck at SD 8352 8432 and following a boggy track via SD 8364 8434, SD 8376 8439, SD 8386 8443 and SD 8397 8453 to themoated` trig. Today a few early detours were required in order to avoid some extensive and quite deep snow patches.
The start time for the ascent of NP16 was 10am. Once again I had thoughts of setting up for the activation somewhat short of the highest point which would have saved time. However, thinking of Phil G4OBK off to the east and potentially screened by terrain, I elected to go right up to the trig as I have always done in the past. Signals fire east along Wensleydale relatively well from there.
NP-016: DODD FELL HILL, 668m, 4 pts, 10:24 to 11:04, 6 Deg.C. Less than 10 mph wind. Overcast with low-cloud. A few areas of lying snow. EE (Orange) phone signal - unlike last year. LOC: IO84VG, WAB: SD88.
Sitting on grass in a shallow depression, I called CQ on S20 with 25 Watts. I know from a (literally) bitter experience on 31st of December 2002 that Dodd Fell is not a good VHF location especially with QRP to an omni. Though I had more power available today, I had tied a SOTABeam to my pack, just in case. True, I wasn
t overwhelmed with callers but strangely I managed an easy 166 km contact to G3SMT Peter in Oswestry, Shropshire. Peter was using 10 Watts to a whip on the house gutter but was still just about 59 to me. I got a 57 report. I can only surmise that all the valleys between NP16 and Oswestry are somehow perfectly aligned as there was no QSB or apparentlift.`
Before working Peter I logged: G4WHA/A; G4UXH; G1PIE (Mark - WAB enthusiast who I worked from OV00 last October); G4OBK; 2E0MIX and afterwards, G8YBO (Darlington). The power output remained at 25 Watts to the omni-vertical for all seven QSO`s and the beam was not needed.
A drizzly descent with umbrella held low, was completed by 11:25 and the longish drive around to Litton followed within two minutes. I stopped at the Buckden shop on the way but found that it closed at 11am in winter. The cafe was closed too. I parked at SD 9070 7409 in Litton and set off walking at 12:30 after removing the beam aerial from the rucksack and adding a spare battery instead.
The route is via a well used Bridle Path which I GPS marked last time. Bear left onto the bridleway from the pub and through the farm yard. At SD 9093 7411 leave the concrete farm road and go straight on through Gate 1. Going downhill on grass (losing about 7m) pass between walls to a slippery footbridge at SD 9114 7409 then up to Gate 2 at SD 91289 74064. Gate 3 is at SD 91455 73966. Continue to follow the path where it bends sharply left at SD 91707 73888. The next point is Gate 4 at SD 92041 74383. Gate 5 is set in the spine wall at SD 92450 74920 and it`s also well within the 25m zone.
Today I turned right to activate near the trig point. Going left gets you to the summit stipulated in the SOTA database; a point more easily reached when starting at Redmire. Either way, the rules are met.
G/NP-031: BIRKS FELL, 610m, 4Pts, 13:16 to 14:05. 5 deg.C. Less than 10 mph wind. Overcast with low-cloud most of the time. Lying snow: 0.5m x 2m drift along length of wall and at the top of the path. No EE (Orange) mobile coverage. LOC: IO84WE, WAB: SD97.
There was just sufficient RG316 for the antenna to be set up on top of the wall whilst still allowing the op to sit on grass. After an unsuccessful 10 Watt CQ on S20, 25 Watts was used throughout. Stations worked: G6ODU; M6VGU; 2W0JYN; M6AIA (Dewsbury); G4WHA/M; G0HRT (worked the weekend before with SSEG
s TDOTA GB100SWD callsign); G6MZX; G7LAS/P (S2S Boulsworth Hill SP8); G8VNW (down in Threshfield); G4OBK; G6XBF (Leeds) and M3CTW (Fred at Holmfirth). 12 QSOs in all.
At some point the mist cleared to reveal the first views of the day but it quickly returned and the sky darkened. Thankfully there was no rain however and the descent was completed by 14:39. The six mile drive along via Halton Gill to Fountains Fell took from 14:41 to 14:55 and I was underway for the fourth summit at precisely 15:00.
Once again the walk started at Blishmire cattle grid SD 8531 7233 following the wall all the way up in a direct line. There are reed beds to negotiate but eventually a level platform precedes the
final push up the really steep part. This 80m long section is at an angle of just over 30 degrees but though the grass was a bit slippery, there was almost no snow to impede progress today.
G/NP-017: FOUNTAINS FELL, 668m, 4pts, 15:29 to 16:44. 2 Deg.C. 5 mph wind. Overcast with low-cloud until the final 10 minutes. Lying snow: 0.5m x 3.5m drift along length of wall only. LOC: IO84VD, WAB: SD87. (Intermittent Orange phone signal.)
As per NP31, the lightweight vertical was wedged in the wall top but this time I was forced to level out a sitting platform in the snow drift. The rig was set to 10 Watts for the CQ and first seven QSO`s. After that 25 Watts was the output. I was by now slightly concerned about the battery; a 6Ah Li-Po which had already serviced the three earlier summits. In fact it just managed this activation too, albeit with the power turned down to 5 Watts for the final QSO. The spare was not needed.
Stations Worked: G4IBS; G4FQW; G6ODU; M6ANX; 2W0JYN; M0VCM/P (S2S John on Billinge Hill SP17); MW0SHJ; G6XBF; M6ERW/M; G4CPA (Geoff in Crosshills); M0PVA (Mick in Clitheroe); M3NHA; M0RSF; M1EYP/P (S2S Tom on The Cloud); M6NHA; 2E0MIX; G7LAS (S2S Rob on SP5 Pendle Hill); 2E0HTC; G6ZGB; G4OBK (Phil in Pickering with slow and deep QSB) and finally G6HMN with 2 Watts due to the rig cutting out on 25 Watts.
Whilst working the final QSO
s the hill fog which had spoilt todays views suddenly lifted to reveal a sunlit Pen-y-Ghent across the valley. For some reason this vista is always breathtaking for me. For a moment I imagined that I might be able to fit in its activation but thought better of it when I realised the grief I would face from the XYL if I arrived home after 10pm! Also coming down the northern craggy end in the dark would not have been easy and could have been dangerous.
The final return to the car was made by 17:02 with the 100 mile drive home via Settle, Skipton, Harrogate, York and the A64, completed between 17:15 and 19:25. On the way, I managed to spill 1kg of raisins around my feet when the car ahead braked hard, so there was a sticky mess to clear up from under the clutch pedal the next morning.
Total: 53 QSO`s on 2m-FM only; comprising:
Round Trip Ascent & Distance:
NP15: 176m ascent, 3.9 km. (2.4 miles). Times: 28U, 23D.
NP16: 94m ascent, 3.6 km (2.3 miles). 24U-21D.
((NP16 is usually 4.2 km from Kidhow. Reduced by driving 320m along the PW today)
NP31: 371m ascent, 5.5 km (3.4 miles). 46U, 34D.
NP17: 241m ascent, 2.9 km (1.8 miles). 29U, 18D.
TOTAL: 882m (2,894ft) Ascent - 15.9km (9.9 miles walked).
(Times: 2hr-07 min of ascent; 1hr-36 min descent. Total: 3hr-43 min at 2.7mph ave.)
Distance driven: 232 miles.
Activator points: 28.
Good DAB reception (Smooth Radio UK) throughout all walking routes.
Leaving aside the extra power, the one band, one mode approach felt like the early days of SOTA again. Yes, the distant stations missed out completely but 90% of the pressure to deliver was removed from my shoulders along with a lot of weight!
There were no other walkers on any summit or their approaches and the ground was probably no more boggy than usual, despite so much rain. The lack of a widespread snow covering, light winds and just a short period of drizzle made up for the 99% low-cloud encountered. NP`s are relatively easy to activate because they can mostly be done singly which means few supplies need to be carried up. These four summits only rated 3000 feet of ascent but out of the four, NP31 is the hardest.
It was pleasing to get a few S2S`s, if only for the second hand experience of other summits and it seemed that the WX was much the same on the other SOTAs worked.
The easy going QSO rate, a lack of pileups was a refreshing change from HF but I fear that VHFM only is becoming something of a habit.
The newly acquired (40 GBP in the local small ads) Kenwood TM702-T 25 Watt FM Mobile rig coupled to a single 6Ah Li-Po Battery was put to the test. It performed well but more surprisingly, the battery lasted through all four activations featuring 53 QSO
s with 25 Watts output for two thirds of these. With FM, that is a battery killing scenario. Unfortunately the rig weighs 1.4kg but at 140x40x200mm, it isnt too large and RF power is selectable (2W-10W-25W).
Thanks to ALL STATIONS WORKED; not least for the friendly conversations throughout the day and to the spotters: G4OBK; G6ODU; M6VGU; GM4WHA and G4UXH who did splendid work for me in the absence of G4SSH.
73, John G4YSS.
(Using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)