G4YSS: NP3 with a 2-Yr Old, 23-04-10

G4YSS Activation Report: NP3, 23-04-10. GX0OOO/P

G/NP-003 (BURNHOPE SEAT with a 2-year old ‘third harmonic’)

All times BST (UTC + 1)
G4YSS – Accompanied by 2-Year old Grandson Jack & Mum Hazel.

EQPT: QRP – FT817ND, 80-60-40-(30)-20 (160) link-dipole on 5m H/B CFC mast.
2.2 Ah Li-Po. (IC-E90 4-band/5W FM H/H and 2m SOTA-Beam as reserve.)
Pack weight 20 kg (44 pounds) consisting of Radio Gear, Baby Carrier with spare nappies and Jack (11.5kg).

His Mum Hazel has been successfully introduced to the mountains so it had to come; an attempt on a SOTA with Jack. No rush, he’s only 2 you may think but there is a ‘capability gap’ between about 3 and 6 when children are too heavy to carry but not strong enough to easily climb it themselves. I experienced the frustration of this with my own children; they were around 5 years old before they could get themselves above 2000 feet without too much complaining.

The requisite equipment has been to hand since last September; a strong, well designed child carrier obtained from the internet at modest cost. http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/NEW-BABY-BACK-PACK-BACKPACK-CARRIER-RUCKSACK-IN-BLUE_W0QQitemZ330427325992QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Baby_Carriers?hash=item4cef00de28 Moreover this item comes with its own ‘boot space.’ A roomy compartment underneath where the child sits can easily swallow an FT817, battery, dipole, coat, sit-mat and some basis requirements for the passenger. The mast I would have to carry like a walking stick.

So which summit? Despite the fact that Jack has been transported the 4 to 5 miles to Scarborough on a regular basis, we needed an easy target so that if Jack ‘played up’ or became chilled, he could be got down to the car quickly. The three that came to mind were Fountains Fell, Great Knoutberry or Burnhope Seat. None of these require much in the way of effort in terms of ascent and none are far from their respective start points. The one thing they don’t have going for them, with the exception of Fountains Fell which is perhaps rather steep for this kind of undertaking, is a lack of direct assault paths. I had Hazel to consider as well but tussock grass is bearable over a short distance.

There is a limit on how early one might like to get a toddler out of bed. That sentiment is perhaps balanced against a sense of getting your own back. 06:30 was decided upon. We were able to start the 102 mile drive at 07:38 to make an arrival at Darngill Bridge (NY 7741 3719) on the B6277 at 10:17. The walk started at 10:42. Normally this bee-line ascent takes 20 minutes as there is no real need to go to the trig point (which is not the highest point anyway) but we had nothing else to do today other than NP3.

There is a ruined building on the way, at NY 7770 3719 and a faint Quad / Argo track at NY 7810 3738 but I have yet to find a path that’s any real help for any useful distance. The summit is extensive, large and grassy. There is no shelter, either natural or man-made and it has a tendency to be very boggy, with pools of standing water particularly just west of the trig. This may be the easiest 6-pointer I know of but I have found that for basic 2m FM, it’s almost useless. Yes, I have had VHF QSO’s from here but considering the ASL of 746m, it’s as poor in terms of QSO’s per metre of ascent, as Skiddaw.

BURNHOPE SEAT, G/NP-003, 747m, 6pts:11:22 to 13:15, 12 deg C, <10 mph wind, overcast with hazy sun later. (IO-84-UR, WAB NY73).

As far as I knew, Roy G4SSH was on his way home from Cornwall by train, having been marooned there by Air Southwest (through no fault of their own but due to Icelandic volcanic dust) so could not spot for me. I did not wish to pre-alert when the primary concern was not SOTA this time but my Grandson. I find that the best option in these circumstances is to call CQ on 7.032 CW in the hope someone will hear me and the ‘someone’ was the operator of F6SQA. Once spotted (thanks) it’s much easier of course.

40m CW (20 QSO’s):
Conditions must have been good on 40 today because most incoming signals were 599 and my meagre 5W was getting through consistently well with reports mostly in the range 539 to 579. After a slowish start I logged 20 stations as follows: F, HB9, ON, G, DL, PA, OK, OE, I and SP. Just after the start of the 40m session, I had a surprise phone call from Roy G4SSH whom I was able to advise of my intentions. The G stations worked on 40CW were: G3RDQ, G0TDM, G4WSX and G4CMQ. It’s just as well for them that they could hear my QRP signal on there because we would later discover that 80m was in a really bad state. The session took an hour and the power was the 817’s max output of 5W on 7.032.

After that came a ‘have some fun with Jack’ time. This took the form of hurling a tennis ball high into the air and trying to catch it to the accompaniment of giggles when it hit me or I fell over. NP3 proved an excellent choice for these antics. The top is large and safe apart from uneven tussock that frustrated the 2-year old’s mobility somewhat. In the end, he did show some interest in the radio gear so we will try to foster that. Furthermore, Mum lifted him up to a dipole link where he was able to assist with a QSY from 40 to 80m.

80m CW/SSB (4 QSO’s CW, 4 QSO’s SSB): As mentioned above and without the option to run ‘real’ power, CW on 80m was hard work today. After 10 minutes of CQ’ing on 3.528, I phoned Roy for assistance. He and I did eventually manage to work and in the end it wasn’t that difficult. However we had to pick our moment in really severe QSB. Roy’s 200W was barely 229 one minute and 559 the next. The only other station worked on 3.528 was Ric GM0OGN. After that my CW CQs were not being heard so I decided to try SSB. In the end 3.724 fone was a similar challenge which is when I decided to revert to a mix of CW and SSB on this SSB QRG. The tactic met with some success in the form of G0HIO and G4RQJ on CW and GW7AAV, G3OHC, M6WSB and G4GRG using SSB. I could hear others calling; e.g. Mike EI2CL in SSB but attempts to get my 5W into Dublin failed whichever mode I tried. These 8 contacts used up 35 minutes.

By now I could see that my little Grandson, good as he had been, was becoming hard work for Mum so I gave up the struggle. There was no point in trying 160m CW with a measly 5W at midday, especially considering the fact that G4OBK Phil was evidently not at home. 2m FM would have been almost as hard and with no decent aerial, 4m too so that was it; time to get the lad in the jackpack and quit while we were ahead.

The walk back down to the car took 22 minutes and we arrived at 13:37. Another 102 mile drive followed (13:50 to 16:24).

Just how much Jack enjoyed the outing or otherwise is anybody’s guess but he seemed to. He took an interest in the sheep, the snow patches on the way up, the radio part of it and running around the summit. Logistically we pulled it off; we had everything needed for him including adequate warm clothes, gloves, food and drink. Should he have had an ‘accident’ we could have coped with that also. Finally, there was good mobile phone coverage there (Orange) and as always, we had notified what the target would be. SOTA wise this was just an unannounced token effort but 6 points are not to be sniffed at.

NP03:160m (525ft) ascent, 2.4 km (1.5 miles).
6 activator points.

4 on 3.5-CW.
4 on 3.5-SSB.
20 on 7.0-CW.
Total: 28 QSO’s.

Thanks to all stations worked and for spots via F5SQA and G4SSH. Thanks to G4SSH for telephone messaging.

73, John G4YSS (Using SSEG Club-Call GX0OOO/P)

In reply to G4YSS:
Hi John,
'I experienced the frustration of this with my own children; they were around 5 years old before they could get themselves above 2000 feet without too much complaining. ’

Thank you for another great account of your activation----and family outing. Sorry I missed you again, been a bit busy.
My grandson had completed all of the Wainwrights before his 6th birthday, so get young Jack walking soon! Hi.
73, and hope to catch you on your next outing.