G4YSS Actn Reprts for Great Coum NP11 & New Year Camp-over on Whernside NP4, 31-Dec-2007 to 01-Jan-2008.
DANGER: TOME! (Posted this yesterday but couldn’t find it today: hence re-post)
All times UTC. G4YSS using GX0OOO/P. Unaccompanied.
Eqpt: NP11-Gt.Coum: QRO IC706 Mk2G, link dipole at 5m. 7.5 Ah SLAB.
Eqpt: NP4-Whernside: QRP FT817ND, link dipole at 5m. 3.3 Ah, 2.2 Ah SLABs and 11 X 2.7 Ah AA pack. (Internal 8 x 2.7 Ah and spare 8 X 2.4 Ah were not used.) VX150 5W H/H with 2.7 Ah battery.
As some will know, I have always enjoyed overnighting on summits. Nothing too drastic of course (for more adventurous stuff, refer to GM4ZFZ and others!) New Year 2004-05 saw me on the 4-point Nine Standards Rigg (NP18). See: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Summits/message/8054. It had been a success, being similarly mild like this year and just for fun it had presented the SOTA management with a quandary. Could I claim double points? Apparently a meeting was called; the basic conclusion being that if I was daft enough to ‘new-year’ at that height then I could have my double quota and welcome! Thank you SMT!
Going into this December with a modest 9 ‘NP’ summit target, I had managed 7 by the sixteenth. It was a gamble against the WX, that Whernside NP4 might be reserved especially for this purpose. Many summits come in pairs and NP4 & NP11 sit well together. It would be uneconomic to do NP11 on its own, so it would be a sad loss of 16 (or 25) points if nature refused to cooperate.
With the forecasts on a collision course with a fixed date, I had been worrying about the WX for a week before the event and it was becoming difficult to keep the lid on the ‘demons.’ With the right conditions, a hill like Whernside is benign but in really bad WX, it could be quite vicious. What if I was forced to retreat in high winds, snow or whiteout, in the dark? With forces pulling in opposite directions, the decision to abort or not would be a difficult one.
I wouldn’t say the final forecast was ideal but considering the time of year and after a lot of detailed preparation, I hit the ‘go button’ at short notice. They intimated there’d be a lot of rain but did the forecasters have one critical thing right? Namely the temperature. A couple of degrees lower and it could have been a different story, so this decision was not taken too lightly.
I left Scarborough at 05:43, arriving at the bridle way, on the Ingleton to Dent gated road (SD 7232 8226) at 08:35. The intention was to leave home an hour later but concerns about the latest WX forecast for the afternoon, got the better of my nerves and stopped me sleeping much.
First NP11, then the final decision: Set off walking at 08:45, in daylight this time. The good surface of the bridleway gives way to peat bog at SD 7094 8207. At SD 7064 8237 there is a gated wall-stile, which I can’t remember seeing before. From this it’s up diagonally, X-country, through a fallen wall to the saddle at SD 7019 8287. From there you follow the ridge up, to operate near the summit wall. I made an error with the WAB area. It seems that that NP11 is in SD78 Cumbria. Apologies to Graham G4JZF.
G/NP-011 GREAT COUM, 687m, 4 pts, 09:32 to 11:27, 5 Deg.C, 20 mph southerly wind, overcast with occasional thin low-cloud but no rain. WAB: SD78 Cumbria, IO84SF. IC706 2G, QRO to link dipole.
80m SSB: Having no mobile phone coverage and being 45 minutes early, encouraged me to answer a CQ on 3.726 from non-SOTA op Bernard G3PNH. I could occupy my spare time with this and chasers would know that I was ‘installed.’ Later when chasers were heard calling, Bernard gifted his frequency to me, which I thought was rather good of him. Though CW was posted first-up, at that point it would have been churlish to do other than continue in the SSB mode. 29 ops were worked using 30 to 60W; Dan ON4ON and Mike EI2CL being the only extra-UK ones. The total was boosted when the entire WAB net came down the band from 3.760.
80m CW: 13 chasers followed on 3.727 CW but this time there were 4 from outside the UK, namely Frid DL1FU, Mike F6GEO, Dan OQ1C and Pete EI7CC. The IC706 2G was mostly set on 20W for this.
160m CW: Now for the challenge of Top Band where QRO is not only an advantage in daylight but a must have. Roger G4OWG and Phil G4OBK were easily worked using 60W on 1.832 CW but Mike G4BLH, needed 100 W and a bit more time. I was hoping to reach Mike EI2CL but he has serious QRN problems on this band.
I enjoy top band, though it’s perhaps a bit of a gimmick in daylight. Nonetheless, a small but growing number of regular chasers seem to enjoy it too and I knew that it might have a major part to play in getting the medium-distance, after dark contacts during the SOTA camp-over on Whernside.
Before I got back to the car at 12:06, I had already decided that the current WX, balanced against the forecast, was reasonable enough to enable a safe overnight stay on NP4. After all, it seemed too mild for snow and it wasn’t yet raining; the latter being something which was about to change. However, despite impending rain, winds were light and the decision, in the end, wasn’t too difficult to make.
The start of the NP4 path at SD 7219 8184 is a mere 450m drive away but I had to change rucksacks and run-down a checklist for transferring essentials. Despite the ‘new’ pack weighing in at 49 pounds (22.2 kg) I was overcautious enough to add even more food and an extra standby battery. For convenience I decided to ‘lug’ all the water; a quantity of 3.5 litres but largely due to QRP kit, it was better than the 61 pounds that was carried up NP18 for New Year 2004-05.
Set off for NP4 at 12:33 in increasing drizzle. Whernside is not difficult from the west. Though it’s steep in places it’s only around 2km to the top requiring a height gain of approx. 280m. I chose it for this reason along with its 6 point chaser value, a good VHF takeoff and a grassy top to take tent pegs and to lend some much needed comfort.
I was surprised to meet a 20-strong walking group ‘dripping’ their way down. They soon spotted the mast tied to the pack and asked what I was doing. ‘Is it a weather survey?’ ‘No it’s amateur radio gear destined for the top.’ ‘You might attract lightning.’ ‘I hope not but we amateurs are all a bit barmy and anyway, it gets us out of the house.’ The carry-mat gave away the fact I’d be staying-over and for that I got an embarrassing cheer.
G/NP-004 WHERNSIDE, 736m (2415ft) 6 pts. (13:16 on 31-Dec-07 to 09:55 on 01-Jan-2008.) 3 Deg.C. 15mph wind from due-south dying to almost zero during the night. Low-cloud throughout. Light rain in afternoon, sustained heavy rain throughout the night. WAB: SD78 N.Yorks. IO84TF. FT817, 5W to link dipole. (VX150 2m-5W H/H)
There was the better part of 3 hours remaining to the posted QRV so I was in a good position, time-wise. Aside from the wind inconveniently paralleling the wall and the increasing rain, things looked OK to stay. Importantly, there was mobile phone coverage on both Orange and O2. There were plenty of people around so I walked north into the mist, pitching the 2-man ridge tent at SD 7387 8152, next to a long snow-filled depression which runs beside the wall. It took an hour to be ready, with tent, dipole (running N to S) and 2m j-pole deployed. There were still plenty of inquisitive people but overhearing their remarks, the consensus still seemed to be ‘Weather Monitoring.’
40m CW, 14:29Z: A quick phone-call to Roy G4SSH got me posted for 7.032 CW whereupon 13 French, German & Swiss stations claimed the points starting with Lionel, F5NEP and ending with DQ0A. A mistake was forgetting to try 40m SSB.
3.760 SSB, 15:07Z: Following 40m the 3.760 WAB net, with Brian G0BFJ in charge, received some attention and Peter ON3WAB just happened to be there to collect NP4 / SD78 along with 4 others.
80m CW / SSB, 15:21Z: After a noisy start on 3.726 CW, Roy G4SSH suggested a QSY to a clearer 3.729 where 24 mixed-nationality CW stations were logged in lengthening skip. In this group were familiar callsigns such as: HB9AAQ Fred, G3VQO Les, F6GEO Mike, GM0AXY Ken, DL7RAG Heinz and DL4FDM Fritz. By 16:16 it was time to give the SSB’ers a look-in and some of the usual UK regulars, 8 in number, transmitted their New Year greetings. Richard G3CWI related an account of a new-year camp which he took part in years ago, near the top of LD1. They emerged to find all their gear buried in deep snow and had to use cutlery to dig it out! Since it was raining more heavily now, this prompted me to check my thermometer; still at a ‘safe’ 3 to 4 degrees, thank goodness!
160m CW-1, 16:46Z: I went out into the dark, foggy rain just long enough to add the top-band coils to the antenna and set them to No5. The tent was becoming a real friend and with all the walkers gone, there was now a sense of isolation. It beats the usual shivering in the open air, for sure and I could stick my cold feet in the sleeping bag. With just 5W available, there were some doubts as to the effectiveness of 1.832 but I need not have worried. Phil G4OBK was on the ball and first up on 1.832 CW with a huge signal. Next was Roy G4SSH but only reading me 229. We soon got into the routine; Roger G4OWG, Geoff G4CPA, Des G3HKO, G3WPF (Wilmslow) Frank G3RMD, Ken G3JMJ, Pat F6ACD, George G3IPG and Mike EI2CL. Joachim DL7UKA (579 / 559) usually found on 40m, was a nice surprise. Others were David G3RDQ and Steve G8HKF, Dan ON4ON and finally Mike G4BLH at 17:26. That made 16 in all; many of them chasers and a few non-SOTA, most with quite strong signals. As everyone knows, 160 is a completely different experience at night. Remember how ‘Caroline on 199’ used to blast-in after dusk!
2m FM-1, 18:20Z: 145 FM would keep until after my evening meal had been cooked. (‘Cooked’ in loose terms only). I did have an hour on the Scarborough repeater GB3YC for a QSO with my ‘lad’ Phil, G0UUU and a work friend from the 1980’s but after that it was supposed to be ‘domestic chores.’ I was about to light the first of six hexamine tablets, when I heard on S20. ‘Can anyone tell me if I’m getting out?’ Like a fool I answered and after a QSO with Kevan MW3KML on 145.475, I was called by seven regular chasers including Steve M0IGG and Geoff as G4CPA followed by his alter-ego; MX0BCQ. Mick 2E0HJD was worked on S18; a quieter channel at his Clitheroe QTH. Priorities shall be flexible but the company was more than welcome.
Somehow it took the next 2 hours to complete the ‘just add hot water’ meal but I did use some of this time to rig-up a miniature ATU and run-out a 30m wire counterpoise, across the fell-top to the SW. I had also pre-arranged a strap for the dipole’s BNC connector. The reason for this was the weather and the desire to avoid carrying water into the tent by periodically going out to QSY the link dipole. It proved to be surprisingly easy to tune the 160m-configured, strapped and now counterpoised dipole to 80m, using this home-brew item (which incidentally is featured in this month’s G-QRP Sprat 133 magazine). (The setting was ‘T’-C8-C6-L8). I could try this system out later but for now I would enjoy the gastronomic highpoint of the evening; a mince pie broken up and stirred into hot, thick custard!
160m CW-2, 21:04Z: A call on 1.836 CW resulted in a lengthy CW QSO with G3TYB John but after that Pete M0COP had success. G3YPZ, (229) I only realised afterwards, was asking ‘what county?’ (YSN). After that, came regulars G4RQJ, GW0DSP, G0HIO, G4SSH, EI2CL and DJ4EY, Jo in Warstein. In the middle of the session was a QSO with G4BLH on 145.400 FM. Mike was kindly keeping a listening watch on there, ‘In case you need anything.’ That was quite reassuring.
CQ’s on 3.724 CW / SSB and further calls on 1.8 produced nil result but Mike called in again on VHF with some welcome ‘customers’ in tow.
2m FM-2, 23:17Z 2007 to 00:25Z 2008: Apparently Mike G4BLH had found some Craven-Radio-Club ops talking on a nearby channel and convinced them that they really needed a QSO with the highest ‘New Year party’ in Yorkshire. Enterprising stuff, I thought and first up on 145.400 was a 2m FM SOTA old-friend Kevin M0XLT in Gargrave. Kevin used to tell me that pre-SOTA, Gargrave was a real dead-spot on VHF. After that I worked M3XLG Chris, G4JNN Paul from Dudley Hill, M3VPQ Steve and 2E0ZLD Zofia in Briarfield. As more stations called in, it was looking like this session would be the one to take us into 2008. I felt quite honoured to work Mike’s XYL Louise G8CME, a rare callsign since she seldom operates. After that came M0JFE John, and Ian G7KXV. Ian’s QTH is Preston and he was possibly blocked by Fair Snape Fell, so I could only hear him. G4BLH QSP’d ‘HNY greetings to him from NP4.’
‘HNY’ 01-01-2008: At 23:59 it was entirely appropriate after keeping me such good company on FM throughout the evening, that Mike G4BLH should lead us through into 2008. (In 2004-5 it was Simon G1AVV). Not only that, it was a double celebration when the new day’s points took Mike exactly to the 15,000 chaser level! Well done Mike; it sounds like an unattainable ‘giddy height’ to me!
Positioned as I was at 2415 feet ASL, I could hear loud explosions from fireworks mainly to the SE and later to the SW, marking the close of 2007. At 00:02 Mike GW0DSP was next in and as expected, followed by stations who’d had old-year QSO’s, just minutes before. Another special treat was G4RQJ Rob’s XYL Audrey, who came on the air for a rare greetings message. It all went by in a blur and the time of the advertised QSY from VHF to LF was fast approaching. What a great way to let in the New Year!
160m CW-3, 00:30Z: Again Roy SSH helped me move away from potential QRM and posted the new QRG of 1.833. Minutes later I was logging CW QSO’s again. There was Des G3HKO in ‘my’ town and with a little difficulty, Roger MW0IDX in Llandudno. After that came Mike EI2CL and Richard G3CWI. All were coming up to collect their ‘shiny new 2008 points’ and to wish me ‘HNY.’ I certainly needed the earphones for the weaker stations, to keep out the ‘local QRM’ of heavy rain drumming on the flysheet.
80m CW / 80m SSB / 160m CW, 01:05Z to 02:00Z: By neglecting to drink enough, I had developed a headache and felt quite dizzy. All my bones ached too; it being difficult (at 6ft 2in) to turn around in the space available and to lie on Whernside’s not so gentle curves. Up on one elbow or kneeling, I just couldn’t get comfortable, weariness was setting in and my head seemed to be ringing with CW tones, even with the radio switched off! Still, you don’t get opportunities like this every day, so from 1am it was a case of search and find, alternating between 3.724 +/- CW / SSB, on 1.836 CW and on 145.500 / 145.400, in the hope that any ‘post-party’ chasers would hear my CQ calls.
Straight away, Roy G4SSH found me on 80m. I was trying out the ‘ATU lash-up’ described earlier. Reports were pretty good for 5W so I must have had the motley collection of wire in the air versus wire on the ground tuned up OK, though I was probably better off not knowing what the radiation pattern might look like. At 01:26, swapping CW for SSB on 3.730 brought in a delighted Steve GW7AAV, followed by Brian G8ADD deftly ‘tweaking’ his DSP to bring out my ‘mouse sponsored’ signals. Then followed Ian G7KXV with a 31 report. It was still better than on 2m FM where he couldn’t copy me at all. Pete EI7CC didn’t get his 58 RS but Geoff G4CPA (the music-man) was 59 to me.
It was going on for 2am but there was still someone missing. Phil G4OBK told me in an email that he would collect his new-year points after a night out with XYL Judy, at the Forest & Vale in Pickering. Now up he came, apologising for possible slurred speech. If he was worse for wear, he disguised it pretty well and I had my final conversation of the night with him. That was it. I thought of singing Auld Lang Syne into the microphone; they wouldn’t come up here to arrest me for it, would they? I neither had the required alcohol, nor the energy.
The 2m FM H/H was left to monitor 145.400, or so I thought! In the morning I discovered it had somehow got QSY’d to 145.350, so I apologise to anyone who tried to raise me. The FT817 (left monitoring 3.730) couldn’t be properly squelched because of widely varying band noise, so in the end it had to be switched off. Between 02:30 and 05:00, I managed some poor quality sleep. The constant racket of rain outside was the main problem but there were no complaints. I’d had a great time and at least I was warm and dry.
160 CW, 80CW / SSB and 2mFM from 07:20Z. After first lifting the 2m H/H out of a puddle, I started rotating CQ’s on 80, 160 and 2m FM but none were answered until 07:54 when I heard something unmistakable on 1.836 CW. It was Mike ‘making music’ out of ‘EI2CL.’ Along with Roy G4SSH, Pete EI7CC (another with a musical trademark) and Des G3HKO, Mike wasn’t expected to rise this early, having been on the bands in the wee small hours of a New-Years day. This is impressive dedication indeed from these ops! Mike G4BLH was in this category too but in contrast to VHF earlier, sadly failed to receive my report on top band CW at 08:21. F6CEL also made the trip on 160.
80 CW was an instant success after a spot by Roy SSH and a QRS QSO with Quentin GW3BV was a nice feature here. Before a fruitless QSY to 80 SSB, Frid DL1FU turned out to be the final QSO of the expedition on 3.727 CW. Nice that it should be one of our German friends to help tie the ribbons.
Packing up was a chore that I was determined was not going to take all morning. The drill is to dump any spare water (2 litres) flat-pack the bottles and gradually fill the rucksack whilst still inside the tent. The last item in, is the inner tent and only after that did I have to don waterproofs and venture from under the flysheet to take the aerials down in the rain. After yet another pointless photo, no less murky than any previous one, it was off via the trig point and due west, down the very soggy path; arriving at the car at 10:23. Being weary, I was trying to be careful but Whernside had the last laugh with a small rock hidden in grass. I knew instantly how a rigwelted sheep must feel. Getting back on my feet proved impossible at first with such a huge weight on my back but there was nobody to laugh at me as I rolled into a better position. After that, the car was a sight for sore eyes.
After driving off, I was hearing ‘ghost’ Morse again but this time it turned out to be the whining of my 15-year-old gearbox. The 116 mile drive home in pouring rain and flooded minor roads, took under 3 hours. Richard G3CWI was right to warn me; if what had fallen overnight had been snow, I would have been under 9 inches of it!
Thanks to all stations worked and to: G4SSH, G4BLH, G4OBK, EI2CL, GW0DSP, M0COP, GW7AAV, ON3WAB and G8ADD, for SOTAwatch spotting. This was even more appreciated than normal but special thanks must go to Roy G4SSH for unstinting ‘remote support’ from beginning to end and also to Mike G4BLH for his ‘warden’ and ‘sheepdog’ duties on 2FM.
QSO’s: 45 on NP11, 123 on NP4 totalling 168, breaking-down as:
13 on 7-CW.
43 on 3.5-CW.
47 on 3.5-SSB.
38 on 1.8-CW.
26 on 145-FM.
(2 on the superb GB3YC Scarborough: Phil G0UUU and Mark M0EBR)
It was evident that quite a few callsigns were absent from the tally; which is understandable at a holiday / family time. HNY is extended to them too.
NP-011: 244m (800ft) ascent, 8 km (5 miles) walked.
NP-004: 281m (921ft) ascent, 4.2 km (2.6 miles) walked.
Total: 525m (1722ft) ascent, 12.2 km (7.6 miles) walked.
25 activator points for the two summits……honest!
232 miles driven.
NP11: IC706 2G: 95% of 7.5 Ah SLAB.
NP04: FT817ND: 100% of 3.3 Ah SLAB, 100% of 2.2 Ah SLAB, 90% of 11 x 2.7 Ah AA pack.
NP04: VX150 FM: Estimated 1.6 Ah used (from 2.7 Ah) mostly on 2W o/p.
NP04 total: 9.5 Ah (71% of that available).
In conclusion: What was I worried about? Apart from heavy rain, nature had cooperated quite well in the end and plenty of chasers got double points. The tent seemed to shrink in size as time went by and it did leak a bit, or was it just condensation? Now aged 20 with a weight of 5 pounds, it was bought for backpacking over to Shian Bay on Jura’s west coast. I took far too much Christmas cake in particular and food in general but the enjoyment derived after lugging it all up, will stay with me for a very long time to come. Thanks to all who joined in the fun.
73, John G4YSS
(using GX0OOO/P; Scarborough Special Events Group Club Call)
A very happy & healthy 2008 to all ops and their families.